Almost every year brings some big purchases with it. Some, like vacations or school supplies, are predictable. Others, like unexpected home maintenance, are less so.
Check out these six major spending categories to see what you should start saving for now.
Vacations aren’t always cheap. A 2016 American Express survey found Americans planned to spend an average of $941 per person on their vacation — almost $4,000 for two parents and two kids.
As you start saving, remember that vacations involve more than airfare and hotel bills. You’ll pay for meals, attractions, and those souvenir t-shirts. Also consider extra household expenses that you may incur while you’re on your trip, such as the cost of boarding a pet or paying a neighborhood kid to check your mail or cut the grass while you’re gone.
2. Back to school
If you have kids in school, then not too long after that summer vacation it will be time to get them geared up for the new school year. And that may mean new clothes, school supplies, and anything else they need to achieve.
According to the National Retail Federation, in 2017 families with children in K-12 schools planned to spend an average of $687.72 per child on back-to school purchases.
You probably won’t know everything you’ll need — or your children’s clothing sizes — until July or August, but you can still estimate how much you’ll have to spend and save toward that goal. And you may be able to spot sales on items you know you’ll need, such as paper, pencils, and book bags, throughout the year.
3. Home maintenance and home improvements
Americans are devoted to home improvement — there’s a multitude of books, magazines, and TV shows devoted to the idea of renovating or improving homes. Professional help for home projects can be pricey, but even if you’re handy, you’ll still need to pay for supplies and materials.
The bottom line? You should set aside money every month for home expenses. And if you’re planning a major home improvement project this year, shop around early to figure out how to keep those costs under control.
4. Major vehicle repair or a new vehicle
Americans spent, on average, $713 per month to cover the fixed and variable costs associated with owning and operating a car in 2016, according to AAA. Costs for larger vehicles — such as minivans and SUVs — can be even higher.
And as your car or truck gets older, you’ll probably pay more in repairs — until the day comes that you decide to buy a new vehicle.
So whether you’ve got just a few thousand miles on a shiny new ride, or you’re driving a treasured vehicle you’re likely to replace this year, make sure you’re saving enough in your monthly budget to handle scheduled maintenance, surprise repairs, or even a down payment.
5. Special occasions
Think about the major events that will be happening in your life in the coming year. Maybe you’ve got a child graduating from high school or college — or getting married. Maybe you’d like to do something extra special to celebrate a family milestone.
If you’ve got a special event on your calendar, now’s the time to start planning — and saving — for it. By planning ahead, you may be able to negotiate better rates for facilities or catering, take advantage of travel deals, and find other ways to keep your costs down.
6. Major household purchase
Thinking it might be time to upgrade your flat-screen TV or home theater system? Maybe you’ve got your eyes on a high-end grill for the back deck. Or perhaps you want to replace your noisy, old dishwasher with a new, ultra-quiet model.
If you’re thinking about a major household purchase, don’t make it an impulse buy. Do some comparison shopping, figure out how much you’ll need to spend, and then put together a plan for saving the money before you buy.
No matter what you’re saving for, the important piece of the puzzle is to set goals and try to attain them. You may find that having separate budgets toward different goals allows you to achieve more than simply saving with no destination in mind.