I put money away in pots/boxes every week for different things.
Dd got a set of stackable boxes one year at Christmas, she never used them so I "borrowed" them and set them up as boxes to put money away each week.
I go to the bank once a week (generally a Friday) and withdraw a set amount each week. From that amount I put $20 in one box for Christmas, I put $20 in another box for birthdays, and $10 in another box for special occasions. I also transfer $60 a week into the ING account for vacation.
Now the goal behind all this is that when Christmas comes I am not scrambling to find money to pay for things. I put money in there every single week of the year, so there is always some money in there, so when I see something I want for Christmas there is always money there to pay for it. This has been a life saver for me, as I find Christmas very, very stressful, and this is one thing I don't stress out about, having money to pay for everything. Now $20 works for me, you may find you have to save less or even save more weekly, but believe me this is so worth while.
The idea behind the birthday box is the same. Having that money in there, is great so any time there is a birthday, there is always money in there to pay for it. The only draw back to this box is that it takes time to get going. As no doubt like many of you, we have certain months of the year that are very busy for birthdays and certain months of the year, where there are no birthdays. So I found it took over a year to make sure there was always money in the box to cover what birthdays were coming up. It does work though, and again is a life saver.
The special occasions box came about a couple of years ago when dd was turning 21 that year. 21 is a big birthday for the British as is the 18th birthday. So we gave the kids money to invest both times, I decided to put $10 away each week, there that I didn't have to scramble trying to find $500, or whatever weeks before her birthday. We then went on to have a couple of 60th birthdays and some special anniversary's etc. So again this box has proved to be a great help. I know when it was dh's 50th this year I was able to pay for a full set of golf clubs in cash for his birthday, as I had put the money away weekly for him.
Then there is the vacation "box" which isn't technically a box, as I transfer money into the ING each week for that. That $60 a week, doesn't actually pay for the full vacation, but it generally pays for the bulk of it each year. Again I don't miss $60 a week, whereas I would struggle to come up with $3,000 just like that for a vacation.
So basically what I am saying, finding a small amount each week to put away in an account or a box is a heck of a lot easier than probably coming up with $500 just like that. If you think you will "dip" into the pot/box and "borrow" money then by all means don't set up the pot system, move money directly into your savings account. I like the birthday money on hand, it's easier for me, the same with the Christmas pot. It's funny I rarely "borrow" money from the pots, and if I do, I do put it back in.
Just to say, the amounts I have mentioned works for me, however if you can't afford that much or you want to save more, go ahead, its the idea behind all this that I am hoping may help you.
Hopefully this has given you food for thought? Also if you have a minute I got this article in my in box this week with more money saving tips.