Association of Military Banks of America

Military Saves Month: Make Your Savings Goals Meaningful

By Amanda Mitchell, AFC® Candidate

They say that money cannot buy happiness, but I beg to differ. That statement is only half true. While it is true that money will not buy you deep, meaningful human connections, it can enable you to set the conditions in which your happiness can flourish. Our money and mental health are surprisingly intertwined. Money has the power to cause high levels of stress that can snowball into depression and other mental health situations. But it can also help us feel more fulfilled in our lives. The idea that the way we spend our money can make us feel that we live a more purposeful life is a powerful concept that you can use to tailor your savings goals to maximize your family’s and your happiness. This Military Saves Month, I challenge you to create a financial goal with your happiness in mind. Here is how to do it:

Figure Out What Makes You Happy

Make like Peter Pan and think happy thoughts. Try to think of the earliest happy memory you have. What were you doing? Who were you with? Write it down and keep going. Think about things that you did that made you feel good or fulfilled. Gather all the positive thoughts you can and find the commonalities among them. If you’re having trouble getting your list going, here are a few of my happiest memories:

  • Going to Baskin Robins with my family for ice cream.
  • Spending the summers at my grandparent’s house with my cousins.
  • The time my family went camping with all my aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.
  • Traveling Europe with my husband and kids.
  • Sitting on my best friend’s back porch and talking about everything and absolutely nothing.
  • The time my family went to Las Vegas and we went on theme park rides all day.
  • Taking my kids to Disney.

For me, there is a running theme here, experiences with those I love. For years my savings goals were centered around wealth accumulation and saving only for things such as bulking up my emergency fund, a down payment on a home, or a higher value purchase I needed or wanted to make. Now don’t get me wrong, all of those are worthy savings goals but, I didn’t set any goals to save for what really makes me happy. I was focused on making the right investment choices, and “things” seemed like a wiser investment over something impermanent. I had never set aside money specifically for these experiences. In the last two years, my husband and I each lost someone very important to us. For me, it triggered the realization that I want to die with a heart full of memories, not a house full of stuff. Sometimes an investment in impermanent things is worth it.

Examine the Money

No matter which way you split it, even experiences cost money. To figure out where you can incorporate more of what makes you happy into your life and budget, you have to examine the role of money and how it funded your experience. About how much did it cost? How long would it take to save for it? To simplify the process, divide your experiences into cost categories like this:

Low Cost

  • Going to Baskin Robins with my family for ice cream.
  • Spending time with my best friend
  • Spending time at my grandmother’s house.

Medium Cost

  • Camping with my whole family.
  • Traveling Europe with my husband and kids (this was a medium cost for me only because we happened to live in Germany at the time)

High Cost

  • Going to Las Vegas theme parks with my parents.
  • Taking my kids to Disney.

From here, you can start to see where your experiences will fall within the goal range spectrum. Lower cost and medium cost experiences will be my shorter-range goals. Higher cost experiences will require longer-range savings goals.

Work Some Happiness into Your Budget

Now that you have an idea of what sorts of things bring you happiness, you can begin to weed out the things that do not increase your life satisfaction. Think about each of your expenditures and ask yourself if you could cut back or eliminate it to fund something that brings you more joy. Maximize your low-cost options and start small. See if you can budget for these low-cost experiences every month. For more on budgeting, see here:

Saving on a Tight Budget

Budgeting and Saving Money

Make Some Financial Goals with Your Happiness in Mind

When creating financial goals, it is essential to develop short-term (1 year or less), medium-term (over 1 year -5 years), and long-term (5+ years) goals. Short-term goals are particularly important in developing healthy savings habits. They provide tangible results in shorter periods, which keep motivation higher to achieve your longer-term goals. Here are some ideas of goals in each range:


  • Treat yourself! Go out and get ice cream, pick up some cupcakes from a local bakery, or get a family favorite take-out meal.
  • Take your family out for a picnic.


  • Plan an overnight trip to somewhere close by.
  • Plan a trip to a local zoo/


  • Plan a longer family vacation
  • Plan a trip to see family that lives far away
  • Go camping in a national park.

In the end, your money is yours, and you should be able to enjoy it. Henry David Thoreau once said, “wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” What do you want to experience? How will you fulfill your life’s dreams? When you are older, will you look back and appreciate a top-of-the-line television, or will you fondly reminisce on the adventures you went on? Save for what makes you happy. Save for creating memories. Jumpstart your goal setting and join a community of savers by participating in Military Saves Month and taking the pledge!

Take the pledge here!