Help Workshop a Savings Template Concept

Thanks for your feedback on the savings concept, @Mking. I’m still noodling on this.

  1. I was imagining that users would open a single, real-world account for their savings reserve and the tool would leverage that balance to monitor savings growth. The concept of integrating multiple accounts is an interesting one. I will log the concept of multiple savings accounts as a phase-2 opportunity.
  2. You are thinking ahead to a budgeting workflow— which I agree is absent from the current concept. I think a savings category could be used to budget a monthly savings amount. Using a category in this way would require breaking our Transfer conventions (normally transfers are symmetric and net to zero) when moving money from checking into the designated savings account. When a user made a transfer to the designated savings account, the inflow (to savings) would be designated as a Transfer and the outflow (from checking) would be designated by the savings budget category (e.g. “Savings”)?
  3. I’m not sure I understand your third request. It sounds like maybe it is related to envelope workflows? Or maybe your are referring to how to reconcile a category-based solution after a goal is achieved? Can you please explain?

Sorry for the delay in responding…

Hey @matt,

Thanks for the feedback. I agree that envelope budgets are more intuitive and viable for accruing & tracking toward savings goals. While many Tiller users use the Tiller (Envelope) Budget in the Tiller add-on, many more use the non-envelope Monthly & Yearly Budgets.

Frankly, I think the savings workflows in the envelope tool are viable and good enough for now.

My current focus is a viable savings workflow for non-envelope budgeters… and, unfortunately, without all the behind the scenes scripting (in the envelope tool), it is much harder to use Categories… hence the approach with tags.

Anyhow, thanks for your feedback. Your point is well taken about building a log for those transfers for traceability and I will keep that in mind as we think on our envelope-budget roadmap.



Thanks for the response. It makes sense that you’re focusing on a solution for the non-envelope budgeting, both because more people use it and because it is more lacking in that area. One thing that I love about Tiller is how customizable it is, but of course that makes your job that much more challenging designing tools for us to use.

Maybe I’ll spend some time to build out my own savings tracker for the envelope budget. I’m no expert, but the more I use Tiller the more I’m getting into customizing it for my needs. Thanks for the inspiration!


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I agree. The beauty of the platform is adapting the tools to your needs rather than having to compromise with the flaws and inefficiencies for your personal workflow with a product designed for the masses.

If you decide to build something yourself, consider sharing in Show & Tell. I’d be happy to help if you run into any stumbling blocks too, @matt.


Wow, @hfinkelstein. I love your method and write up!
It’s on point with so many problems we are working through right now for savings flows.


  • The savings category flow I wrote up earlier today (before I read your post… second bullet) is essentially how you are budgeting for savings. Traditionally, we’ve tried to have transfers net to zero. This would break that convention, but it’s good to know it is working for you.
  • I really like the Dipping into Savings category (though I wish the name were shorter). I think you’re onto something with the way you’re able to track and report on inflows and outflows— especially to your point about heavy savings months looking like large expense months (without additional filtering).
  • I’m glad to hear the dedicated savings account(s) approach is working. We usually don’t endorse that but I think it is important that there is a real-world pot of money somewhere rather than spreadsheet accumulations that may diverge from reality and result in a false sense of security.
  • Your cons: “Transfers will never tie out to 0.” I think your approach to creating a savings category is the best way forward and I agree that this is an unfortunate consequence, but probably worth the upside.
  • “Bake in goal milestones.” I sincerely like this concept, but I don’t want to overcomplicate the first pass at the tool. Perhaps we can work together on what this would look like in v2.
  • In your example with the four trips, I think there are several approaches but I’d consider a tag for each trip. Would that help with the overbudget issue?
  • I don’t really have the prioritization sorted but I think there are solutions there and they can probably be added in v2.
  • Your limitation with the proposal: “Only 1 savings account.” The tool would be easy to build with more (and your request echoed @Mking), but I wonder if most users would be up for creating a discrete account for every savings goal. It feels unlikely to me, but perhaps I am wrong. A shared savings account feels more versatile.
  • “No way to budget.” You are right that the concept lacked this. I’m a fan of your proposed approach.


  • What do you think of the idea of ganging all of savings goals into a single bank account? Is that viable? Do you need the ability to prioritize your savings goals?
  • Your cons: “… There is no way to set a goal.” I think this template could help. Do you agree?

Thanks so much for the feedback and perspective, @hfinkelstein.

Hey Randy,

Thanks for the diligent and thoughtful response. Thanks also for the kind words - Tiller has been a positive force in our family’s financial trajectory and I’m happy to share and help.

Globally, I wholeheartedly support the MVP approach you’re taking. Start with a nugget of value that is useful to some / most people and make that stable. Then start layering on more complexity / functionality as you get iterative feedback from people using the thing. Although our workflow is clunky, it works just fine and I’m content to wait until you’ve solved enough core concepts to turn your attention to edge cases more relevant to us.

To each of your points:

  • Breaking the “transfers” convention isn’t a big deal to me personally. Personally, I view the “zero out” as a controls mechanism to gauge if we are categorizing things correctly. But as long as we are careful and diligent in how we categorize, the value of looking at transfers as a category goes to nil. Practically, since transfers are hidden from all reports for us (and they never zero out anyways), we don’t even pay attention to that category. Running it this way for half a year, I don’t feel like anything has been lost on this front.
  • “Dipping into savings” has been useful for our longer-term planning around big expenses. I agree it’s long, and I guess we could have called it “Using Savings” but I think the imagery of dipping is worth the extra few characters :slight_smile:
  • The discreet savings accounts was born out of a practical need for us - it was hard to keep our savings straight. I’m an analyst by trade and work with numbers all day, so I could conceivably grok it, but it doesn’t feel intuitive or clean. My partner is less fluent with numbers, and she would frequently get tripped up trying to do the mental math allocation of a single savings account. Given that the cost of a savings account for us is effectively zero (institution-dependent, of course), it seemed easiest to just split out the goals by account. That makes the money feel more “tangible” in that the concepts are explicitly tied to specific numbers on the screen. We even nicknamed our accounts by the goal title so when we pull up our bank accounts we see “Car - $XX || Travel - $YY” and so on. Incidentally, this has also helped us fight the inclination to use our consolidated savings account as a slush fund. Now, we have $Y for travel and if we budget out a trip and it’s >Y then we know we can’t afford the trip right now. When things were in 1 account, it was easy to think “Well, we have the money in savings, so is it worth going a little over …?” The simple fact that we see a dedicated number assigned with Travel has transformed the thought process to “We do not currently have enough for this trip. If we go over, what other goal are we going backwards on to fund this trip? Is it worth “stealing” from our car / kids / whatever to do this fun thing?” Cognitively, I know the concept of a single account vs. multiple accounts is exactly identical. In practice, the precision and clarity has inspired greater diligence in our practice and it’s well worth the limited extra steps to open and maintain extra accounts. I honor that the additional complexity may not be necessary or work for everyone. Incidentally, I would recommend this method to anyone who struggles with balancing more than one savings goal, or anyone who isn’t good with mental math, because it’s so bluntly obvious when you see each goal broken out with a number in your bank screen. Just out of curiosity, why do not endorse this approach?
  • For goal milestones, we have a simple rinkidink sheet with goal title as the row header and Milestones 1, 2, 3 as the columns. Then in the table cells we put what the milestone is and check back every now and then to see when we hit that milestone. Then we high five and go do the fun thing / get the treat to celebrate hitting our milestone. It’s totally fine, but would be more visually exciting to see a horizontal line in the graph and then have our chart cross it. Happy to contribute to your progress on this concept (or really any other) in V2 or beyond.
  • For the trip concept, splitting out tags would definitely work. I try to keep my savings goals in the 3-7 range at any given time. So for me, travel is 1 category as opposed to the 2-5 trips we take in any given year because having a goal for every trip feels too granular for me. But in your system it would totally work.
  • Prioritization is a nifty concept if you could get it to flow intuitively. For us, we just do it “manually” in a psuedo-waterfall approach. Every month when we transfer to savings, we look at how we’re stacking up against each savings goal. We have a rank order #1 and budget how much we plan to save each month to meet our annual goal. After meeting budget for #1 for a given month, we move on to #2 and so on. If we’ve met every savings budget for a given month and still have more money to put away, we discuss how we want to allocate to our various goals. Most often, we dump any “extra” into #1 so we can finish that one faster. The reason I call it “psuedo” is that if we don’t have enough to meet every goal, we sometimes do a proportional allocation to each savings account instead of a strict waterfall approach. It’s mostly just how we’re feeling that month in terms of balancing our various goals. Also worth noting that our savings contributions are not static monthy-by-month because our income has a seasonality to it. That’s ultimately why we did the budgeting approach because we needed the flexibility to put a distinct number in each month based on expected income. I cannot imagine an elegant way to solve for this beyond creating a “savings” transaction type that triggers differential logic in your scripting & presentation layer. Happy to help think through various ways to crack that nut and show you how we’ve tackled it if that’s ever helpful.
  • I humbly disagree that a single savings account is the way to go based on the psychology I mentioned earlier. I get that it’s more “versatile” in the sense that it can flex in any direction as goals change, but that asset is actually it’s greatest flaw for me. I don’t have an intuition around whether more people prefer multiple savings accounts vs. a single one, but having the flexibility to do multiple down the road would solve for both use cases. I agree that starting with 1 savings account first makes sense and putting in the backlog to abstract out to multiple accounts later.

To your questions:

  • Definitely we will not be collapsing into a single savings account. Our current flow is intuitive, stable and serves the purpose much better in our dynamic than a single account did in the past.
  • I agree that your template could conceivably help once some of the functionality catches up to our use case. Until then, we’ll stick with a standalone “goals + milestones” sheet that doesn’t talk to anything else and just acts as a mental ruler for our progress.

Thanks again for the thoughtful response and I look forward to continuing to see how Tiller progresses. The work done in the last year has been very impressive - kudos to you and the team!



Randy, a few thoughts.

Overall this is a pretty cool planning (not budgting) tool for helping you set some savings goals. However, I agree with others that having one dedicated account for the savings may not work for most folks. I know for me, I have several accounts that I use for different types of savings goals. Maybe an alternate way of thinking about it is having the person set a starting amount so the whole account balance is not allocated to one savings goal.

I also dont think you should use the transfer category to track these items. As you stated, you try to keep the transfers in balance at all times. Being able to see that both sides of the transfer happened is really key and easily seeing it with a zero balance helps. This is important and I dont think you should break that rule, especially when you can just as easiliy create a new type. My suggestion, keep transfer just for actual money transfers between banks accounts. Add a new category for savings if you want to allocate funds for savings. For me this is why I created the Funding transaction sheet in my envelope sheet. It is just a way to allocate funds vs spend them.

Lastly, my only comment on the sheet is it looks very passive. It is hard to tell as I cant see how it works. but, it would be great if it actually showed what money it was assuming would be saved and then allowed you to tweak the numbers to do what-if planning.

I know I said lastly above, but really my last point is, it is awesome that you are using the community to bounce these ideas off of. Thanks for being open to the feedback.


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I love seeing this as a priority for Tiller. As others have mentioned, not being able to track savings goals is Tiller’s biggest shortfall.

I like that the template projects when goals will be fully funded and overall, I think it’s easy to make sense of. The “Progress” part for money already spent isn’t intuitive to me. I’d see that and think that that’s how much I’ve saved toward that goal, not how much I’ve already spent. It may just need a different label.

The biggest thing I’d encourage you to think about is the savings goals for what I call “Everyday Expenses”: predictable but irregular expenses throughout the year. For me, this category encompasses 13 “sub-categories” (semi-annual car insurance premiums, quarterly life insurance, clothing, gifts, summer camp, annual tuition deposit for the kids’ school, etc.). These are things that I have a pretty good idea how much I’ll spend (or at least how much I’m comfortable spending) annually, but while I might spend $1200 on clothes throughout the year, it’s not going to be in $100 monthly purchases. So I look at all those kinds of things together, figure an annual budget for them, and then break that annual budget into monthly savings goals to make sure that when those expenses arise, I’m covered. I also have several savings goals like your examples, but my Everyday Expenses must be funded before, say, Vacation, and it’s always ongoing. There’s never going to be a moment when I’ve “met” that goal.

The way I make this work in Tiller is I list out those “Everyday Expenses” as categories and I try to estimate what I’ll actually spend and when (so, for Kids’ Clothes, I know it’s going to be 2 big purchases, one likely in June and one likely in October–not the monthly amount I need to put aside to cover those). This is what’s reflected in my Budget and how I categorize on my Transactions sheet. I also have categories for “To Savings for Everyday Expenses,” and “To Savings for Other Goals” which show up as an expense and that captures what I’m actually transferring to savings for those expenses each month. When I need to draw on that money, I have a From Savings for Everyday Expenses income category. I unlinked my savings account, so the transfers only show up once on my Transactions, eliminating the problem of zeroing out transfers. If it’s going to Savings, I technically want to count that as an expense and if it’s coming from Savings, I want to count it as income. This means that in those months where I do have those big expenses, I show an equivalent increase in income. The “To Savings for Other Goals” category is how I get around the proliferating categories problem you mention. As my savings goals change, that category will remain the same.

Then I created a separate tab for Savings Categories. That’s where I track the monthly contribution toward those everyday expenses, plus whatever additional savings goals I have. So in the Kids’ Clothing example, my Category tab (or what I renamed to Checking Categories) would show $600 in June and $600 in October but my Savings Categories tab would show $100 each month. This gives me the flexibility to see when I expect expenses to actually hit (on the Checking Categories tab) AND how much I need to put aside each month to prepare for them (Savings Categories tab). And this is also where I give names to those other savings goals, like Vacation, Home Upgrades, etc. so I can track those “To Savings for Other Goals” transfers to what those specific goals are without cluttering up my Checking Categories.

Finally, I created another new tab called Savings Budget. This requires some manual updating since I don’t know how to code things but it’s set up similarly to the Monthly Budget tab and once I set it up actually updating it doesn’t take long. I have my high level savings goals, along with all the sub-categories from Everyday Expenses, and track how much of my current savings account balance is earmarked for each one, what I’ve budgeted to add to each one this month (the Savings Categories tab), what I’ve spent from each one this month (so what I’ve pulled out of savings to cover those costs), and the new Available Balance. This is key for me. I’ve regularly transferred money to savings for those everyday expenses for years, but then I never knew how much of what was there was really for gifts versus how much needed to be held back for summer camp or whatever. I can look at this instantly and know if I can really afford to buy that dress or if all the money in my savings account is already earmarked for other, more important, purposes. Or if I really want to buy that dress it means I need to cut back on how much I have available for fun outings like concerts.

Essentially, everything I’m saying here boils down to any template for savings goals needs to be able to show me the same information for my savings account as what the monthly budget does for my checking account: of the money in that account, how much is for Goal X versus Goal Y? I’m much less interested in what my total savings goal is across all goals and how I’m tracking to that total. I suppose it could be enlightening to see what percentage of my total is earmarked for each goal (like the X% of budget line on the Monthly Budget)–it might encourage me to re-think how much I’m setting aside for more frivolous categories and could help me model scenarios like if I reduce my Clothing budget by 25% and put that towards Home Upgrades, how much sooner do I get there or how much more remodeling can I do, or something like that.


Thanks for the follow up, @hfinkelstein.

  • I’m coming around on the multiple savings accounts idea. Your arguments are compelling + it appears to be a common theme in other responses.
  • Prioritization is tricky. Waterfall. Proportions. There could even be an timestamped allocation log with dates in the sheet. Lots of options, but need to find one that is robust and intuitive.
  • I’m glad to hear the tags make sense.

I’ve taken a bunch of notes from this response for a template development call with @peter & @heather later this week. We will talk through what to implement in the MVP and hopefully have something shared in the coming weeks. Really appreciate your strong opinions and hands-on experience in this.


Thanks for chiming in on this, @richl

As I mentioned to @hfinkelstein, there appears to be strong demand for a multi-account solution, so I’m leaning strongly that way.

Originally, @heather was suggesting creating a new category type. I have some anxiety about the implications for onboarding (I guess users would manually change their Categories sheet data validation?) and also compatibility with the 30 other published Tiller Labs templates… but perhaps the change is worth the trouble.

Workshopping this… Have you thought through how the new type would work in practice? Is the Category a specific savings goal (e.g. “New Guitar”) with type “Savings”? Or a generic Tranfer-like category (e.g. “Savings”) with type “Savings”? Is there any value to the Group column for these categories? If these were discrete goals, I believe I could create a budget for each savings category as a pseudo monthly expense? If Savings were a broader type (like Transfer), how would I budget for these allocations? And, with the generic savings category concept, to fund a savings category, I would make a bank transfer and then categorize both sides of transfer as “Savings”?

If reworking the Categories sheet is fair game, conceivably we could add a Savings Account column and designate where the savings is stored. Multiple savings goals could be designated with the same kitchen-sink account or each could have it’s own.

I like the idea of what-if planning. Need to think on that.

Really appreciate your insights, @richl.


Hey @ErinC!
Welcome to the community and thanks for sharing your workflow.

  • You’ve got a good point on the Progress indicator. It needs a name change at the very least (e.g. Spending Completed). Thanks for flagging that.
  • A workflow to deal with those big non-monthly expenses (e.g. federal taxes) is an important unlock for many users. In some ways, however, envelope budgeting feels like the right solution since one can estimate an allocation for the year and then keep bumping out the unspent budget to when the charge ultimately hits.
  • Your approach with the To Savings for Everyday Expenses and From Savings for Everyday Expenses categories sounds similar to how @hfinkelstein uses his Savings and Dipping into Savings categories above.
  • It’s interesting to me that you unlinked the savings accounts. I see that that helps with the unbalanced transfers, but I would think having Tiller Money Feeds pull in your savings balance would be valuable.
  • I also have a custom planner tab to show when large expenses hit for our family budget. (Instead of driving my savings planning though, it drives our budget in the Categories sheet; it helps make the budget array nimble and responsive when timing changes.)
  • I like what you’ve done with your Savings Budget. Spreadsheets are such great tools for personalizing your financial workflows.
  • Your final point about “could help me model scenarios” echoes what @richl said above about “what-if planning”.

Thanks for all the thoughts and insights.

My Opinion is having a dedicated category for each savings goal is key. This way you can see how much you have saved for your new guitar, vs a generic savings category that is used for multiple goals This makes it very intentional. I would probably say the requirement then is to have the ability to have multiple savings categories ( folks can do whatever they want with them) . Then you asked how it may work in practice. Would there be a new savings category type. Then my New Guitar category would be type = savings. That is fine up until you buy the guitar then it needs to be an expense category. I think the category may not be the right place to implement. Instead, maybe use the actual transaction and add a transactions classification ( Expense, Deposit, Transfer, Saving) you could have some default rules, like (negative amounts default to Expense, Positive amounts to Deposit,…) but you could go into that and change the default type to match the different scenarios. So if I enter a manual transactions that says monthly guitar savings $100, it would accrue $100 for my guitar and show that I met my budgeted amount for the month., because it was positive, by default it would be a deposit, which may skew my reporting. Instead, I would go and change the transaction type to a savings transaction and it would be excluded just like transfers are. When I actually buy the Guitar I would have a -$1200 transaction that I would be marked as an expense taking my balance down to $0 I can then report on expenses, deposits, transfers and savings ( i call them funding transacations in my sheet) and i can do it for multple categories without changing the defualt structure of your existing Tiller Sheets.

Just one approach.


I built something that was like this, where i have my normal budget template, and have delinked my savings accounts now from there to avoid that zeroing out transaction issue talked about previously. I now created a separate savings template. I will put money into the savings account “expense” in my normal budget, which will effectively be a transfer to my savings account. Then in the savings account i have a dashboard for each savings account and then have a category for each savings goal. Therefore, i can now assign any savings deposits to a specific savings goal and see what i have at any time.

Savings dashboard

Budget dashboard

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Tiller would be much closer to perfect if there was a really good saving category sheet. Much like the others, I would like to be able to select multiple accounts for my savings goals. I think this could be easily done by adding a column in the “Accounts” tab similar to the class override and group column. It could be Saving Goal Eligible, or preferably something catchier, with a simple Yes/No option.

I would prefer that I manually allocate the money from my bank account to my saving goal versus the example above where it’s a little arbitrary to which goal is being funded if there is still more to save. Not sure how this would have to be handled, whether a whole new Tiller Labs tool for savings allocation would have to be built, or just a dedicated transaction sheet for saving goals.

I think the tags are a good fit for the transactions tab to show when money is being used against a savings goal, but the way they would work with an emergency fund vs a vacation fund are pretty different. If I buy my plane ticket in advance, the money in the goal goes down but I do not need to replace that money and this system is perfect. If I dip into my emergency fund my money in the goal goes down, but this time I do need to replace that money and the system is less perfect. Maybe some classification for the goals can be “fixed” or “flex” like the categories to change their behavior when referenced on the transaction tab.

I hope that you are able to get this figured out. I’ve been thinking about how to get a spreadsheet to do this well for a while and haven’t had much luck.



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Here is a screenshot of how I have setup mine to live just in my main budget sheet

You can see the Moneybags to the left, indicating it is a savings goal. I then also show the balance and bunch of other various selectable insights. This has worked well for me.

Tracking multiple accounts for savings and investments

I had to delete the transactions pulled from the feeds showing interest income and dividends. And, I stopped the feeds coming from saving and investment accounts. I have several accounts.

It messes up my monthly budget tracking. The Tiller spreadsheets don’t know how to track the external accounts. The solution to this is to configure the spreadsheet to track the transaction off the book.

For instance, I go over the transactions to categorize. I see the interest income comes from savings A and B. I see the reinvestments and dividends from my investment accounts. And, there are transactions for sales and buys of securities pop up on the feeds. This transaction happens in inside the investment account. It doesn’t affect the primary account.

I would like to be able add “Investments” and “Savings” to the Income, Expense, and Transfer listing so that the incomes from savings, dividends, transactions of buying and selling have home.

I, too, am looking for a tool to track my savings rate. This number is extremely important to me as it is a fundamental piece of the puzzle on my FIRE journey.

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Welcome @jacob80 :wave:

I’d recommend checking out the retirement planner if you’re looking for something more along the lines of FIRE/retirement savings tracking.

@randy @heather Was this saving template created?


Does this help, @jennbaker4?