The other day I read an excellent article that provides some ideas for things to do with a tax refund. I enjoyed the list because it was outside of the normal, “pay off debt, start an emergency fund” standard listing of things to do with the upcoming tax rebate checks. One item in particular really caught my eye – “add it to your sunny day fund.” What a refreshing concept. I think way back in the annals of personal finance journalism someone first wrote that we should all save for a “rainy day.” It is one of those timeless axioms that we hear repeated over and over from anyone identifying themselves as a financial expert. But what about saving for sunny days, too?
photo by: NZ Alex
Starting a “Sunny” Day Fund
If rainy day funds are for negative life experiences, it only makes sense that sunny day funds are for the good times. Maybe you save in a sunny day fund for some tickets to a place you have always wanted to visit, or for that cruise you have been promising to take your family on for years. Maybe it is something small, like saving up to take your kids to the zoo, or to take a pottery class. Whatever it is, the sunny day fund doesn’t have to be limited to just material items.
I’ve been reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and in it he advocates taking planned sabbaticals at regular intervals. A sabbatical basically involves walking away from your career for an extended period of time, usually six weeks to three months. At one time it was a growing perk, particularly in highly competitive industries with high burnout rates. The thought was that offering employees a chance to take a break made them less likely to take a permanent one.
It is hard to imagine taking an extended break from work on purpose! Most people who receive a pink slip desperately need to be re-employed because they typically have a stack of bills, and very little in savings. Imagine that same scenario if you had very few bills, and a large amount saved in a sunny day fund. No worries, right? You could live off the severance package, take an extended break to do some traveling, or whatever your heart desires, and take your time finding a new job. It is an exciting concept, but one that most people find unattainable because they continue to live paycheck to paycheck. If this is you, start thinking about ways to reduce your expenses and/or increase your income to fund a “sunny day” account.
So What’s in Our Sunny Day Fund?
I recently wrote about how much I was enjoying my new savings accounts at ING Direct. One of the best features is the ability to create “subaccounts” and give them a nickname. Our current list of subaccounts includes Emergency Fund, Christmas Shopping, Orthodontics, etc, all based on some upcoming expenses that we need to be saving towards. In addition to those accounts we also created a “Sunny Day Fund” where we are currently saving towards a vacation destination that we would like to take the kids next year. I think I’ll take Nickel’s advice, and use some of our upcoming economic stimulus payment to get a head start on the sunny day fund balance.
Ask the Readers: What kinds of things would be in your “sunny day” fund?