Living Life on the Sunny Side of the Street: Is It Time to Start a “Sunny Day Fund”?

So you’re sitting on a little nest egg, huh? You’ve got some money put aside – good for you! But what are you telling yourself you’re going to use it for? If you’re like a lot of people, that money is earmarked for a “rainy day”: you’re trying to expect the unexpected, and outsmart that unfortunate law of the universe that says that if something can go wrong, it will. So you’ve been saving a little when you can in case of a medical emergency, a necessary car repair, or even a literal rainy day that results in a basement flood. 

And all of that is very responsible, but you know what? There’s more to life than rainy days, and shelling out your hard-earned money on the bad things in life. So maybe it’s time to start a “sunny day fund,” and plan for the things in life you want to do, without going into debt.

What’s Your Sunny Day?

While having an emergency fund and a rainy day fund is really important for those “life happens” kind of things, having a sunny day savings fund can help you make the good stuff in life happen. So what kind of things might you want to build your sunny day fund for?hat, camera, a book and sunglasses

  • A fabulous vacation – Did you know that the average cost of a vacation for a family of four is around $4,600? That’s well over $1,000 per person, and that’s a whole lot of money to put on your credit card! Not to mention, the interest you’d be racking up while paying off the debt from your trip. Using money from a dedicated sunny day fund will save you from going into debt in order to visit your dream destination.
  • Time off of work – Around 54% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, and many more don’t have the funds to ever take time off from the daily grind. Being in this situation, with no hope of taking breaks from work, can wear you down, but having a sunny day fund could allow you to take a little sabbatical or even mini-retirement somewhere down the road. Having money in the bank could also mean the flexibility to leave a job that you don’t love, and pursue your passion.
  • An “unnecessary” renovation project – Sure, you have to fix that leaky pipe or roof, get the dishwasher repaired, etc, etc, but all of those necessities can be taken care of by your rainy day fund. Your sunny day fund can be used for something more “fun,” that will improve your quality of life, like an outdoor kitchen, or a new jacuzzi bathtub. 
  • Splurging – Do you find it difficult to treat yourself with your hard-earned money? We get it: you’ve been told to put any extra money aside, and try to forgo all of those impulse buys. But here’s the thing: financial experts actually warn against completely depriving yourself, because that could actually lead to you sabotaging your financial goals – kind of like dieting! So yes, put that extra money aside, but put it in your sunny day fund, and then use it for something – anything – that you really want. And creating a sunny day fund for splurges will do double duty: you’ll have money that will allow you to treat yourself without going into debt, AND you’ll put the brakes on impulse buying. Why? Because you’ll have to save up, which will slow down your purchases and give you time to decide if what you thought you wanted to splurge on is what you really want to spend that sunny money on. 

How to Start Your Sunny Day Fund

Hopefully the ideas above got your mind working, and got you itching to start putting some sunny day money aside (or maybe you already knew exactly what you’d spend some extra cash on)! So how do you get started? It’s actually easier than you might think, you just need a plan. Here are some steps you should be following to get you to your goals:

1. Make sure you have a rainy day fund first

Your sunny day fund should not take the place of your rainy day fund – these should be separate. And it’s super important that, before you start splurging, you know you have money to cover both emergencies and unexpected necessities. In fact, financial experts suggest that you have both an “emergency fund” of around $1,000, if possible, and at least 3-6 months of living expenses in case of a more major life event. 

The unfortunate fact, though, is that around 46% of households don’t have adequate rainy day funds. So how can you get this money socked away, before you start your sunny day fund? Most experts recommend following the 50/30/20 rule, which means that 50% of your paycheck should go towards necessities, 30% can go toward discretionary spending, and a full 20% should go into savings, some of which can go toward the future, and some of which can go into an emergency fund. If you’re still having trouble figuring out how to balance debt and savings, check out our look at building debt and wealth snowballs here!

2. Figure out your goal amount

woman's hand punching in numbers on a calculator
Try to figure out how much things cost beforehand. 

Aimlessly daydreaming about tooling around on your boat, taking that dream vacation overseas, or even changing careers is fun, but if you’re really serious about making those things happen, you need to know how much they cost. Knowing at least a ballpark figure will really help you to start saving for your goal. Calculate, for example, a rough figure for airfare, hotel, food, and tourist attractions, or the cost of a boat plus storage, or how much money you’d need to take time off and get a new degree or get a business up and running. Knowing this will also keep you on track and stop impulse splurging: as you watch your sunny day fund grow, you’ll know you’re getting close to that big number that means a wish fulfilled!

3. Break your goals down into smaller goals

Maybe that “big number” will seem a little overwhelming, so try a little psychological trick on yourself. Instead of keeping the number, say, $2,000 in your head, break that goal amount down into smaller goals. For example, if you’d like to have $2,000 in your sunny day fund in six months, look at it this way: divide $2,000 by 6 and you get $333. That means you only have to save $333 a month, or broken down even further, $83 a week (333 divided by 4 weeks in a month) to get to your goal! Sounds much more doable, right? 

4. Gamify your saving

Everything’s easier when it’s fun, right? So try and make saving for your goals into a game: try a challenge to keep you on track, like the $5 bill challenge, in which you save every $5 you get, or the weather savings challenge, where you save the number of dollars that corresponds to how high the temperature was that day. There are a number of challenges you can try, so find one that seems fun to you – and maybe challenge a friend to join you, so you can keep each other on track.

5. Try a side hustle

If you’ve got a little extra time, and you really want to jumpstart your sunny day savings, you can take on a side hustle. There are tons of ways to make extra cash these days, with as little or as much commitment, time or otherwise, as you’d like. You can do anything as casual as food delivery or ride-share driving to things that require more skill and time, like writing, proofreading, or graphic design. Check out our handy guide to side hustles here

6. Pay casha man holding cash in his hand

Finally, try not to touch that sunny day money until you’ve reached your goals. And when you are ready to start spending on the things that you want, use the money you’ve saved, and pay for things in cash. No debt, no stress – just the feeling of freedom that comes from knowing the things you’re buying are already paid for.

We know that splurging is not within everyone’s reach, but we also know that that can start to feel pretty depressing. And that feeling that you’ll never reach big goals can actually lead to impulse splurging that keeps you from saving – and the cycle continues. So, if you’ve got the ability to do it, try creating a sunny day fund for yourself, even if it’s a small one at first. Saving for something that will bring a little joy into your life might actually be the way to get more organized when it comes to your finances, and keep you on top of your budget. And remember: life shouldn’t be only about necessities and fixing the things that go wrong, so we hope that you can fit a little fun into your budget. Don’t forget to tell us what YOUR sunny day goal is!

Don’t Wait! Start An Emergency Fund Today

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that sometimes the unexpected happens. Unfortunately, has also taught many families that they are financially underprepared for a crisis. In 2019, research by the Federal Reserve revealed that 22% of Americans regularly expect to forgo or make late payments on some of their bills. In fact, 40% of Americans can’t afford a $400 emergency. Many of us are that close to financial danger. That’s one veterinarian’s bill, two flat tires, or a few days of missed work. caucasian man and woman sitting on a couch looking worried with a piece of paper in the womans hand

Financial insecurity means more than overdue bills and missed payments. Debt causes stress that can have pretty drastic physical and psychological repercussions. If you are worried about your financial future, or if you feel like you’re in dire straits right now, know that it’s not too late to turn things around. We’ve compiled some financial tips and tricks from the experts to get you on the road to rebuilding your savings account and starting an emergency fund. 

The Physical Side of Stress

If financial issues have you feeling overwhelmed, you’re not alone: 62% of adults report often feeling stressed about money. That stress can wreak havoc on our bodies. Considering that American debt has increased by a whopping 300% since the 1980s, is it a coincidence that we are also experiencing higher rates of chronic diseases? Experts have mixed opinions, but there is some speculation that the amount of stress Americans are under is the culprit, along with other systemic, environmental, and psychological factors. For example, high levels of stress   are associated with:

blood pressure machine with a weekly pack of pills in front of it
Being stressed out can lead to high blood pressure , which can lead to other serious health conditions with your heart.
  • High blood pressure. Often linked to heart attacks, strokes, and a myriad of other health issues, high blood pressure can be triggered by stress. This could be due to the body’s overproduction of stress hormones like cortisol, or due to poor coping mechanisms like binging on snacks. 
  • Diabetes. Evidence suggests that chronic stress can increase the risk of diabetes in adults. To make matters worse, financial uncertainty can limit a person’s access to healthy foods and time or ability to exercise, which can further add to the problem. Evidence also suggests a link between a family’s financial struggles and the incidence of type 1 diabetes in children.
  • Digestive issues. There is a well documented connection between stress and gastrointestinal issues. When under heavy financial stress, many don’t follow regular eating habits. Healthy food may not even be accessible or affordable for those in financial trouble. In addition, 27% of people with high debt stress reported having ulcers or other digestive tract problems, compared to just 8% who did not report high levels of financial-related stress.
  • Muscle tension. Over half of all people who experience high debt stress report muscle tension and back pain. When you’re worried about supporting yourself, or your family, it really can feel like you’re “carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders”. To help relieve these symptoms, consider simple stretching and de-stressing exercises

Of course, it doesn’t help that people who are under financial stress often avoid seeing the doctor out of fear of medical bills. In fact, 1 in 5 people say they have skipped or have considered skipping a routine or sick visit to the doctor’s office. This is understandable, considering that 56 million Americans have difficulties paying their medical bills – just one of the many reasons to work on building an emergency fund! 

Turn It Around Today! 

It’s not too late to take steps towards lightening your financial load. The best way to start is by saving for an emergency fund. Having money put aside can grant you some peace of mind: you’ll know that your expenses would be covered for a while should you lose your job or become unable to work, or that you would be able to cover a surprise expense, like a large medical bill or automotive repairs. Some financial experts suggest squirreling away three to six months of expenses in an emergency fund that you can access if you need it – so, not in an IRA or 401k account. For some people, three to six months worth of expenses is an unimaginable amount of money, so start with these five small, but meaningful steps:

  • Learn about the cycles and struggles of debt. Understanding how debt compounds and impacts your psychological and physical wellbeing is the first step to breaking out of that cycle.

    pink piggy bank standing on top of some money
    Reevaluate your budget and begin saving money so you can be prepared for the worst.
  • Re-evaluate your budget. Nothing in life is constant, so it is important to evaluate your budget regularly. Turning to auto-payments is a great place to start, and reduces the risk of late fees.
  • Pay yourself first. Treat your savings account like a bill, and pay it. Some people deposit a percentage or a flat amount of each paycheck, others deposit monthly. Whatever schedule works for you, stick with it! 
  • Turn your savings into profit. Make sure you’ve got your savings funds in an account that accrues interest. It might not add up to much – the average return for most bank accounts right now is between around 0.3% and 0.8% –  but every bit counts! 
  • Turn your debt into savings. After you pay off a debt, continue budgeting for it – but, instead of funneling money into that debt, use it to overpay on another balance owed;  otherwise, put it right into your savings account. 

You’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the stress of debt and the fear of unexpected financial crises. Digging yourself out of debt is hard, but with some simple changes you can get back on track. And doing so, even with baby steps, will help to ease your mind and support your good health.