No matter what stage of life you are in, there are always things to save up for. Here is a short list you should consider contributing to.

Every young working person thinks they have all the time in the world to start saving money, and every older working person in the world thinks that it’s too late to start. The truth is somewhere in between. It’s never too early to find things to save up for, but it’s also never too late.

Life is about balance. You don’t want to starve yourself of simple needs and pleasures just to build an incredible amount of money in your savings account, but you also can’t spend blindly with no regard for saving any of your hard-earned money.

If you are taking the time to read this, you likely already know that saving is critical. Unfortunately, everything costs money, and most of us have expensive tastes.

Every person or family’s list of things to save up for is going to be different. Some families or individuals will put a big value on planning for their future or no debt. Others will want to have a big house to host family events. And some, just want to go on vacation and travel the world.

Below is a list of things to save up for, but remember, you ultimately must decide what’s important to you. I’ll give a few pointers and why I justify what’s important to me, but that doesn’t mean you have to follow suit.

13 Warning Signs That You Have a Debt Problem - Debt.com

Debt:

One of the biggest things to save up for, in my opinion, is money to pay off all debt. Now, some of this may be bad debt like past due credit cards or past due payments on utilities or your mortgage/rent. But a majority of most folks’ debt is what I would call good debt.

Good debt doesn’t mean you don’t owe the banks money, but at least you have an asset that is likely worth more or the equivalent to the amount you owe on it. This would include a mortgage or car payment. Student debt would also be considered good debt, even though it’s harder to put a “value” on it. Just consider your income as collateral.

If you are in your twenties or even thirties, it’s hard to be completely debt-free. The cost of living is so high in most locations, to get a house just to meet your family’s needs will put you in the hole for twenty to thirty years.

However, if you do have some of that “bad debt” or student loans you are still paying off, I highly recommend saving up as much as possible and getting out of those sooner rather than later.

Student loans are typically low interest, which is good, but credit card debt can often be front with 18-30 percent interest. So just making a minimum payment never even touches the principal. If you do have bad debt, you should consider giving up a few luxuries to work that debt off; it will pay off in the long run.

House:

One of the most rewarding things to save up for is a house. I don’t care if you have lived on your own for years in an apartment or rental, there is just something about owning your own house that is so rewarding.

Yes, you take on some risks as far as liability for any issues that may occur to the property, but the money that you spend on a mortgage just isn’t being thrown away on rent.

In the city I live, a 2,000 square foot apartment with three bedrooms and a two-car garage can run up to $3,000 a month. That’s not outrageous, but the household must be bringing in $110-135K per year to truly be able to afford that.

I live in a 3,000 square foot home with four bedrooms, a nice yard, and a three-car garage, and my mortgage is $600 per month less. It’s absolutely insane the value you lose by renting.

On top of my savings, keep in mind that almost $900 a month of my mortgage is going towards the principal (with the rest towards taxes, interest, and insurance). That means if I want to sell my house in two years, not only should the value of my house be similar to what I paid for it or higher, I’ll get that principal value of nearly $22,000 back.

If I’m renting a place, at the end of the lease I get $0 back. And in the example above for a 24-month lease, I would be out $24,000.

So why doesn’t everyone just buy, it seems so easy? You must have a down payment. Many banks will require nearly 20 percent to get a loan which can be a large chunk of money. I don’t care if you are 24 or 54, if you don’t currently own your own home, start saving now and make it a top priority.

The only reason I put debt as a higher priority of things to save up for is you likely won’t be approved for a loan (no matter how much cash you have) if you have too much debt.

Not only can you get more bang for your buck in owning a home, the long-term opportunity to make money when selling is also tremendous.

Retirement:

When you think of things to save up for, retirement is one of the less sexy items. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get you a new sports car or boat in your early thirties, but it can provide you with a ton of stability for your later years in life.

If you have a company-sponsored retirement plan or 401(K) option, maxing that out is certainly the best idea. But you also may want to save up some money in a few of your own individual retirement accounts (IRA).

Think of it this way: if you put aside $100 per month for the next 30-years, that $36,000 investment could be worth more than $120,000 if you assume a seven percent return, which is more than achievable. For just five more years of $100 per month, that value could be closer to $180,000 for your retirement.

The saying that you can’t take it with you is true, but you also can’t work forever and can end up in trouble if you get to the end of your life and don’t have enough money to survive. That additional $120,000 could pay for a ton of medical expenses, assisted living to take the burden from your family, or for that big boat you never thought you’d be able to afford.

If you don’t receive any money from your company for a retirement plan, this is even more crucial. It’s easy at an early age to pass off retirement, but with folks living longer and the high cost of living, you don’t want to brush it off any longer.

No matter your situation, please schedule a meeting with a professional wealth advisor to take a complete look at your portfolio, and together you can come up with a plan that works best for you.

Bunching” medical expenses will be a tax-smart strategy for many in 2017 -  Marks Paneth

Medical Expenses:

When it comes to things to save up for, medical is one of the least fun ones to plan for. While not fun or flashy, it’s still extremely important.

Even if you have excellent medical coverage through an employer on an individual plan, medical expenses can add up quickly if you have issues.

I know in one year my wife gave birth to our first child and had to have minor surgery to clear up an abdominal issue. Neither of these procedures was life-threatening, but we got hit with $4,000 of out-of-pocket expenses within 30 days.

Another lesson when it comes to medical expenses is the hospital bills you for the mother, and the child. So, you don’t hit your individual out-of-pocket maximum nearly as quickly.

The bottom line: medical expenses can add up at any point in your life. I was lucky enough to deal with items that were partially covered by insurance, but in some instances, folks will not be so fortunate.

If your employer offers a type of health savings account, please consider contributing to that early. If that isn’t an option, having a nest egg specifically for medical expenses is not a bad idea. That way if/when something bad does happen, the financial burden isn’t just one more thing piling up on you.

When considering things to save up for, future medical expenses are a solid option.

I’m throwing a lot of different things to save up for at you very quickly. Let me be clear, I understand that no one has thousands of dollars per month to put aside for all the items I have listed. This is just a list of some top priorities to consider, you can then pick what works best for you.

Emergency Fund:

The next one I want to cover is an emergency fund. This is very broad but is for exactly what it says, an emergency. That could mean you lose your job and need to go without an income for a few weeks or months, or maybe the furnace in your house goes out and it is going to cost thousands to fix.

There are several catastrophic emergencies that can happen, the important thing is having some money set aside to help cover expenses.

Again, you don’t need to have $5,000 set aside for an emergency that costs $6,000. But having something even if it’s a thousand dollars will make a difficult situation slightly better.

Investments:

There are several types of investments that an individual can make. Some are stocks or bonds, some are real estate, and others can be company start-ups. If you have ambitions of investing your money, that is another great project to save up for.

While it’s easy to put little bits and pieces of money in an investment account, to get started it’s much easier to have a decent chunk. Before I started my first trading account, I saved up $500 to get it started and make my first few purchases.

Investing your money is one of the smartest things you can do. Allowing your money to do the work for you is very enticing. The only issue: it takes money to make money.

Setting aside money to start any type of investment that interests you is a great plan for your future.

Should You Renovate Your Home All at Once or in Pieces? | Real Simple

Home Improvements:

So far, I have covered a lot of things to save up for that are geared toward your future or glorified savings account. While those are all great ideas, I do have a few items to save for that would be a little more material.

As I stated in the beginning, you can’t ignore unexpected expenses or your retirement, but you also can’t deny yourself a few nice things.

Real estate is at an all-time high in most regions. So why buy high, when you can complete some home renovations with a licensed contractor or on your own. While home improvements aren’t as expensive as buying new ones, they still can add up.

When my family completely remodeled our bathroom, we set up a separate savings account and contributed into it each month. Some months we had more than others, but after about 8 months we saved up enough to completely gut our master bathroom.

Spending the money on materials was tough, but knowing we had the money set aside made it so much easier. I had a monster credit card bill for back-to-back months, but with the money already set aside, it was nearly painless.

Self-Giving:

Last but certainly not least on the list of things to save up for is self-giving. And honestly, you can look at this in two different ways.

One, self-giving can mean giving back to your community or country. Maybe you donate money to a local charity, or you sponsor a neighborhood kid to go on a school trip to Washington D.C.

The second way of looking at this is giving back to yourself. Maybe there is an expensive item you have been wanting to buy, or you want to take your family on vacation. This could even include saving for the upcoming holiday to make sure your children are as spoiled as ever.

Remember, the goal of saving is not to drain you of everyday life to plan for things that aren’t going to happen, but it’s to help you budget your money and not completely overspend. Trust me, I have been there. For a time in my life, my wife and I both worked, didn’t have kids, and we still struggled to save money because we spent so much.

The key is to find what is important to you, set some goals and targets, and live as close to those standards as possible.