If you are trying to save money, it helps to have a goal.
Whether it is for retirement, starting a business or paying for an education, Americans are putting money aside — but many aren't saving enough, and some, not at all.
In fact, 21% of working Americans aren't saving anything, according to a recent survey by Bankrate. Earlier this year, the personal finance website also found that only 40% of people in the U.S. are able to cover an unexpected $1,000 expense, like a car repair or emergency room visit, from savings.
CNBC + Acorns recently asked Americans what they were saving for as part of a #SavingUpContest, which was meant to encourage conversations around saving and investing money, as well as to challenge people to be more mindful of their habits.
Contestants submitted a video that laid out how they were saving and what they were saving for. Ten winners were then chosen and awarded $100 Acorns gift cards.
Here are some of the winning responses.
Kristina Baum wants to put aside enough money to pay for all her cancer treatments so her parents don't have to take on a financial burden helping her.
Baum, 37, is in active treatment for metastatic melanoma, which has spread to her brain. Diagnosed at age 30, she has medical insurance to cover some of the costs and has received assistance from her mother and father.
She doesn't have a set savings plan, in part because her medical treatments vary from month to month and some can be more costly than others.
"It's taking it little by little each month and trying to put it away to help offset some of the costs for my family," said Baum, who lives in Washington, D.C.
She also recently decided to open a vacation savings account because she hasn't taken a "real vacation" in quite a while.
"I learned that each day is a gift and the things that are so valuable are people," she said. "I'd rather be able to have memories with my family than just memories of struggling to pay down medical expenses."
Stay-at-home mom Ashley Keinath has dreams of being a yoga teacher and starting a business that would allow her to travel to schools and senior centers to "introduce the world of yoga to everybody and anybody who wants to try it out." She also wants to teach at her local yoga studio.
Her goal: to save $3,000 for a three month, 200 hour training program that would enable her to become a certified yoga teacher. She just signed up for the program, which starts in June.
Keinath, who lives in Linden, Michigan, was able to start socking away money after her husband set a budget.
"For the last couple months we've been cutting back in places where we can," she said. "I've also been big into couponing and eating out less … [and] doing what I can as a mom."
She also works at her yoga studio when she can to bring in some extra cash.
College graduate Maya Isiah is saving for a car — but it really is much more than that. Currently a part-time line cook, she sees the car as her ticket to furthering her education and getting a new job.
"They key to my future is the keys to a car," said Isiah, who lives in Encino, California.
While most of her money goes toward bills and other household expenses, Isiah has managed to save $2,500 by putting 10% to 15% of her paycheck toward her car fund. Once she has wheels, Isiah can ditch the bus and get her teaching credentials for special education.
"I can finally look for jobs outside of the valley and become the best teacher I know I can be," Isiah said.
Andrew Cook proposed to Katie Durkin in January and the couple is now saving for their future as Mr. and Mrs.
Fortunately, their parents are helping with the wedding costs. However, they need to pay off student loans and pay for a honeymoon. The couple, who are based in Lowell, Massachusetts, also want to buy a home before their August 2020 wedding date arrives.
"We are taking a financial class to help us learn some strategies for saving," Durkin said. "We are making good progress."
Cook is also writing a book he hopes will provide additional income.
Weddings, of course, can be costly. The average cost of getting married in the U.S. is $33,931, according to the wedding website The Knot. When it comes to the honeymoon, couples spend an average of $4,500, according to the Wedding Wire 2019 Newlywed Report.
Zillow puts the the median home price in the U.S. at $226,700. The amount of money needed for a down payment varies, depending on the loan and the interest rate. Typically, buyers put down 10% to 20% of the purchase price of the home but can go as low as 3% — or even no money down in certain circumstances.
College student Jeff Wang, currently attending University of Wisconsin in Madison, has big plans to go to law school.
"I know college in the U.S. and grad school is very expensive," he said. "So I've devised several ways for me to pay for law school later on."
He has a job at his university's law school and started a savings account so that he can put money aside and "not touch it" before he goes.
The tuition at University of Wisconsin Law School for the 2018-2019 academic year is $23,517 for state residents and $42,213 for nonresidents.
Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.