Always have money for annual costs with 'personal escrow' account

Every year in July, my bank account suddenly goes wonky as a few annual fees hit it. (One, for hosting a web site, and the other for Amazon Prime membership.) I'm barely able to recover before I'm charged my water bill (about $250 every three months) and have to pony up my portion of the Hood-to-Coast costs (my team of mamas and papas and I run a race, and vacation at the beach afterwards, every August). What a great way to spend my summer, juggling bills.

Next summer I have a better way thanks to the brilliant concept of the "personal escrow account." Much like a mortgage escrow account -- in which the bank collects a few hundred dollars a month in order to pay the annual costs of property insurance and taxes -- to run a personal escrow account, you'd estimate the annual or semi-annual bills you pay, divide them into a monthly amount, which you'd then set aside each month. Charlotte, who wrote to the excellent personal finance blog Get Rich Slowly, keeps her money in a separate bank account in order to keep it "safe" from her other expenses.