When it comes to saving money, I have encountered many people who feel more like a piggy-in-the-middle than a person with a full piggy bank. There is such a disparity between people, some seem to be able to put so much away for a rainy day, whereas others wouldn’t even have the cash for a brolly if it did rain. In all fairness, it rains so often in Britain, it’s unsurprising so many people struggle when it comes to having money leftover.
Cheesy jokes about the weather aside, I am one of those ruthless savers. I don’t know if it’s because I work in finance, or I’ve just been strict with money since I first started earning (some would say tight), or just because my Grandma always told me to save my pennies – I have always made a concentrated effort to save something.
However, for those that find it less easy, here are some simple, everyday tips to help kick-start that savings jar.
1. Know what your income and expenditure is.
Like a business, understanding your money is crucial. If you’re paid weekly and your bills come out monthly, you need to be sure that you’re putting enough away on a weekly basis to cover those. The same goes if you have fluctuating income. If you’re just as easily in the money as out, make sure you’re first tracking your income properly.
Then take a detailed look at your outgoings and break down your essential and non-essential expenditure. Be realistic. If you find that you’re buying lunch out when you have time and ingredients to make a packed lunch, or you go the cinema every week ‘because you always have’, these things are not really essential expenditure.
2. Know what it is that you’re saving for.
Once you’ve figured out your money, it’s good to try and determine where you want it to go. Be it a deposit for a house, a holiday, or even a new shirt, if you have an idea of what it is that you want to put the money towards, it makes changes less of a sacrifice, and more of a supportive choice to the end goal. Don’t treat saving money like a punishment. You’re only saving because you want to.
3. Figure out which of your non-essential expenditure you can give up.
Understand if your outcome requires long, or short-term savings, and make lifestyle changes accordingly. If you’re going to see any positive effect on your bank account, there will be things you have to stop doing.
Some really simple things to pick up on are buying clothes or goods every week at full price. Stop and look through the sale rail instead. Then start to re-think the behaviour. Do you really need it? Do you really need it now? Can it wait until it’s in the sale?
Take a look at your food waste too. It’s so easy to go shopping when we’re hungry and just buy things because we fancy it, only for it to go to waste when we don’t actually eat it all. Don’t pay for convenience if you don’t have to (I promise rice actually tastes fine when you cook it yourself than out of those pouches) and make sure you get the best deals on anything you buy by looking out for yellow-sticker reductions and deals.
By making those easier changes, it will still enable you to commit non-essential expenditure you prefer (like going to the cinema, mentioned above) and still save.
4. Only put aside what is realistic.
Be fair with yourself. If your essential outgoings match or are very close to your incoming resource, it will be harder to save anything.
Don’t be trying to stretch yourself to an unrealistic savings target, and make things even harder for yourself or it’s a habit you won’t maintain. It’s okay to have beans on toast every now and then to save a few pence, but sacrificing long-term can make you resentful.
One thing that proves effective, is setting a budget based on your known expenditure and allocating that fixed value. If you then put savings aside too, you can chose what you wish to do with the delta: bank it, or treat yourself.
5. Maximise the products available in your bank .
When you’re used to saving and you have found a rhythm that works for you, it’s worth taking a look at where you’re putting your savings into. Your current bank may not offer as favourable interest rate as you could access elsewhere, so it might be worth changing.
You will have to do some careful comparison though – some places will charge additional fees or have minimum deposit expectations, which could lower the overall benefits you receive. Don’t be reeled in by offers of joining bonuses if you’re not going to get the best out of it long-term.
Another thing you could do is setting up a standing order on a frequent basis to move money into a savings account. Some banks also have settings to help you save that you can switch on, for example, for every £1 you spend, it will move £1p into your savings account to help you save, without even thinking. If you’re happy with your bank, have a chat with them about how best to make their tools work for you.
Remember that these things all take time. You will not have saved a fortune in a matter of days. Saving money is always a learning process and little by little, it will add up.
All opinions are my own. No paid or sponsored content. Quoted and relevant links credited. All figures are based on my own calculations for the UK. Information correct at the time of publication. For entertainment only – this is not intended for advice.