There are essentially only two ways to pay for goods and services. One is out of money you have and the other is out of money you borrow. Unfortunately borrowing money can be very expensive (if it’s possible at all). Credit is often the only realistic way to buy very expensive items (like houses), but it is possible to avoid financing costs on smaller items by building up savings to cover them. Here are three key tips to help.
A penny saved is a penny earned
Effective saving is essentially all about priorities. To put it another way, by reducing the amount of money you spend on things that don’t really matter to you, you will have more money left over to spend on things that do. Only you can decide what your priorities are but here is an example to give you some food for thought. If you buy a morning coffee for £2 on your way to work, that’s £10 a week. Let’s say £500 a year to keep the maths simple. What else could you do with that £500? It’s your decision. You don’t have to give up your morning coffee, just buy a reusable mug (with a lid) and fill it up before you go.
Pay yourself first
Most people are paid monthly these days and a month can be a long time. The most straightforward way of saving money is simply to get through the month, see what is left over and bank it. This is certainly better than not saving at all, but, as so often in life, a bit of forward-planning and will-power can often give better results. In preparation for your first month’s money-saving drive, get a copy of your bank statement from the same time last year and one from the previous month and review them. The reason you need both is to pick up on any infrequent bills (like annual membership fees) as well as to make sure you pick up on all current bills. This is the perfect time to review your outgoings to see if any can be jettisoned and to make sure that you are getting the best possible deal on the essentials.
Make sure there is money set aside to pay these. Whatever is left over is your budget for that month. Now take out the amount you’d like to save and put it into another account. It will still be there if you really need it, but it will be removed from immediate spending temptation. Keep a spending diary and record everything you spend. Everything means everything. Keep all receipts and make a note of anything and everything you buy without a receipt.
At the end of the month, review your spending. If you had to dip into your savings target, why was that? Did you have a genuine emergency? Did you not notice an expense you had to pay? Was your savings target unrealistic? Alternatively did you just let your will-power slip a bit too often? If you did manage to get through the month without touching your savings – congratulations! Could you save more next month? Go through the same process as you did at the start of the previous month, it’s crucial that you always have bills covered and see if you can trim your spending any more.
Keep track of your progress and your goals
We live in a hectic world and many people often feel that there are too many demands on their time, but money saving is simply too important a part of life to be ignored. Keeping a close watch on your outgoings is only part of the story. You need to be aware of what you want to achieve with your finances in the short term (buy a birthday present), the medium term (replace a washing machine) and the long term (put down the deposit on a house). By knowing what your goals are you will be able to judge your progress towards meeting them and to take informed decisions as to whether you need to cut your spending further (even if it means a bit of short-term pain) or if you can ease off a little and afford a few treats.
This article was written by personal finance advice blogger Liam, he enjoys helping people save money and set goals.