My name is Claire St and I blog over at Stapo’s thrifty life hacks. I have been in debt (to the tune of £16,000), I paid back every last penny and I now have a savings account balance that I’d never have dreamt of five years ago. The best advice I can give you is to start saving today and I’m going to tell you how to do it. Even if you think it’s an impossible task.
Do the sums
First thing’s first, you have to do the sums and work out what your monthly outgoings are. Once you’ve figured that out, you’ll know what your disposable income is and you can decide how much you’d like to save. It you can’t afford much, then that’s ok, but try to find some wiggle room. Even if it means starting off with £2.50 per week or £10 per month. Starting somewhere is essential.
Look at changes you could make
If you absolutely cannot see a way that you’d be able to save money, because your outgoings are too high, then take a look at what you could cut. It might mean sacrificing Netflix for a while, or trying to reduce the food shop. Most people have something that they could cut back on if they really want to save. And it doesn’t even need to be a lot.
Little and often wins the race
Back when I was building up debt, I thought there was no point in saving, because I didn’t have much left to put aside. But I was wrong. Very wrong.
If you start putting a few pounds away every month, then it soon becomes something that you think about doing weekly, or even daily. Forming the habit of saving is as important, if not more so, than the act itself.
Plus, those small amounts add up. If you save £25 per month, then you’ll have £300 by the end of the year. Increase it to £35 per month and you’re looking at £420. Once you start saving, you’ll be shocked about how quickly it piles up and how motivated you feel to push yourself that bit further.
Pay yourself first
Once I decided that I wanted to save money, I made a commitment to making myself a priority. This means that every time my salary arrives in my current account, I pay my savings first.
Doing this not only means that I am prioritising myself, but it means that my savings payment has morphed a priority payment in my mind. I view it in the same way that I view a utilities bill; it has to be paid, without question.
Prioritise an emergency fund
When I first started trying to save and wiggle out of debt, I made the same mistake, on repeat. I kept throwing everything I had towards debt without holding anything back for an emergency. This meant that when the washing machine broke, I had to buy a new one on finance, because I had no other option.
It was a frustrating loop and it was only when I started to build an emergency fund that I broke out of it and started to see real progress.
In life, things happen, emergencies occur and sometimes we need to lay our hands on cash quickly. That’s life. So you need to prepare for something else cropping up. Otherwise you may find yourself in the position I did, where I was trying my hardest to clear debt, whilst accidentally putting myself in a position where I’d create more if something went wrong.
Turn it into a game
I used to think that saving was boring and I associated it with missing out on things and depriving myself. But I have since turned saving cash into a game.
I take part in the daily 1p savings challenge, I attempt to creatively reduce my supermarket spend, I try and recreate my favourite takeaway food for less. I make it fun. And it works.
Change your language
I think it’s important to change your language around money. So instead of saying “I can’t do that” or “I’m skint”, say: “I am prioritising something else this month,” or “I’ve decided to do something else instead”.
Saving isn’t a negative thing, so don’t talk about it in a negative way.
Snap up free money…
There are loads of ways to get free money, you just need to get creative!
It could be that you decide to complete surveys in your spare time, or that you look to clawback cashback when you go shopping. There are plenty of ways to grab £1 here and 50p there, you just need to look for them.
…But do your research
Although there are plenty of people on the internet offering opportunities to ‘make cash quick’, don’t just jump at the first opportunity you read about. For example, I refuse to endorse no risk matched betting, because I don’t think it exists. Plenty of people have had success with it, but it isn’t something I’d ever recommend, as I believe it could lead to gambling.
You know how you operate and what could work for you. So make sure that you do your own research before embarking on something. Otherwise, you might end up wasting loads of time, or, even worse, losing money.
Remember that fun can be free
If you make saving a priority then the fun doesn’t have to stop. There is so much you can do on a budget. Take a look at my budget alphabet dating ideas if you’re in need of some inspiration.
I hope that these tips help you. This is stuff that I really wish I’d known about saving. I learnt the hard way, but hopefully you won’t have to.
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