How to save for a big purchase

Stress-free saving

It’s never too early to start planning for a big-ticket expense. Here’s how to save for a big purchase while staying on track with other financial goals.

When you can predict a big expense in your future—like holiday gifts, replacing or repairing a vehicle, or your kids’ summer camp tuition—it can be tempting to take a “figure it out later” approach to paying for it. But setting and reaching saving goals for big purchases can feel rewarding—and it’s a great habit to build.

“When it comes to savings, I think of three buckets,” says Brian Ford, head of financial wellness at Truist. “You've got your emergency savings. You've got your retirement savings. Then there’s this middle bucket of major purchase savings, which not enough people talk about. There are always big things that we need to save for—and there are ways to make that saving simple and effortless.”

The highlights:

  • Prioritize your savings goals in order of importance, then do some research so you know how much you actually need to save.
  • Saving money over time is a long game. Have a target date in mind so you know the specific amount you need to save each month to hit your goal.
  • Automating your savings, trying a “micro savings” approach, and setting up a separate account for your goal are some best practices you can try.

Getting in the mindset of a super saver.


“Small, consistent actions lead to great things.” –Brian Ford, head of financial wellness, Truist


Chances are you’re already setting some money aside for savings—almost 9 in 10 Americans (89%) report saving regularly.Disclosure 1 But much of it may be going into a retirement account or an emergency fund and not reserved for a more specific purchase.

Before determining your plan to save, consider whether the item in question is a “need” or a “want.” Sometimes, you may not have the time to save up for a big purchase. If your car breaks down unexpectedly and you need to replace it, you might not be able to avoid taking out an auto loan. But if your current car is in decent shape and you want to make an upgrade, you can come up with a saving plan to help cover the cost of a new car—without having to take out a big loan.

If you’re saving for something major like a new roof, getting a few different quotes and talking to a professional can help you be prepared for any additional expenses that may pop up—will replacing the roof lead to necessary repairs in the fascia, or gutter upgrades?

Remember the saying, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Saving is a long game, but having the ability to pay in cash and avoid debt is one of the advantages of saving up for a large purchase.

“The best thing to do is just start,” says Bright Dickson, an expert in positive psychology and co-host of the Money and Mindset podcast. “When you hit your goal, you’ll build your optimism and resilience.” 

Top things people are saving for.Disclosure 1

  1. Emergencies: 53%
  2. Retirement: 43%
  3. Vacation: 42%
  4. To pay off debt: 31%
  5. Home improvements: 31%
  6. Vehicle purchase: 30%
  7. Holiday spending: 29%
  8. Home purchase: 21%
  9. Children’s education: 18%

How to save for a big purchase.

With your savings goal and timeline in mind, these tips can help you figure out how to pay cash for a large purchase.

  • Use automatic transfers. One of the easiest and most effective ways to save money is to make saving automatic. An easy way to do this is to set up an automatic transfer in your bank account the day after your scheduled payday. That way, after your paycheck goes into your checking account, a set, recurring amount goes into your savings the next day—and you don’t even have to think about it.
  • Set up a separate account with a specific name. One way to make saving more tangible and trackable is to set up a specific account for your goal. Depending on your bank, you can even nickname it based on your goal—i.e., “New car” or “Kids’ school tuition.” This keeps your money for specific savings goals separate from your emergency savings and can help you emotionally connect to the goal, Ford says.
  • Consider “micro saving.” “Small, consistent actions lead to great things, and that’s certainly true with our personal finances,” says Ford. Micro savings capitalizes on this concept. Here’s how it typically works: When you make a purchase, you round up to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference into your savings. For instance, if you spend $10.15, you’d round up your purchase to $11 and deposit $0.85 into a separate account for your savings goal. Some banks offer this as an automatic feature, but you can also try it manually—like after reviewing your spending at the end of each week. Depending on how much you’re trying to save, this method can take a long time—so it may be more helpful to use this strategy as one small part of a bigger savings plan.  
  • Reduce everyday expenses and save the difference. Take a look at your budget, including recurring expenses, and figure out where you can save. Tips for reducing your expenses include canceling subscriptions you can go without, consolidating high-interest debt, holding off on impulse buys, and negotiating for better rates on necessities like insurance, internet, or cellphone services. Once you’ve reached your goal, you can start spending the money you were saving on everyday things that bring you joy—or start saving for your next big goal! 

Next step suggestions:

  • Research your next big purchase and how much you need to save for it.
  • Build your balance, earn interest, and make strides toward your goals by setting up a savings account today.
  • Start automating your savings with a Truist One SavingsDisclosure 2 account. Whether you use a micro savings approach or automatic transfers, streamline your saving so it’s happening when you’re not even thinking about it.

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, or mental health advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, or mental health professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.