How to Start Saving Money
Updated: Mar 2
Last week I went through a few different types of budgets. I asked what kind of money tips you would like to hear from me and you said – how to start saving money. And this doesn’t mean using fuel vouchers. These are my tips for building a savings account – not money saving tips for scrimping and saving a few dollars.
So, let’s talk about savings. So many people start out with lofty savings goals, only to find them wiped out when the first big bill comes along, then having to start from square one. If you find yourself caught in this cycle, I may be able to help!
My Dad used to always tell me: “you work to live, you don’t live to work”
What I took from that is money is for enjoying – so it’s important to set aside money for the things you want – as well as saving for the future. Saving money is a little like dieting. For it to work long term it has to be sustainable.
Let’s start by breaking this into easy to follow steps:
Step 1 – Assess your current situation
Start by writing out a full list of your income and expenses, as well as any current savings and debts you have.
Include only your EXPECTED sources of income. Don’t include things like lottery winnings, no matter how confident you are feeling! Include things like:
My advice is – don’t budget for windfalls like annual royalties or your tax return. If you rely on them and they are smaller than expected or don’t arrive you could find yourself short. If your regular budget functions without relying on those payments – then you get bonus money! This will definitely get you on the road to start saving money.
Next write down a list of your expenses. Be specific and realistic. If you spend $100 a week eating out – include it. You can always work on reducing it in the future.
Separate your expenses into regular and annual. It might look something like this:
You can easily see from this that your regular weekly expenses are $350, but to account for your monthly, quarterly, and annual expenses you should put away an extra $83, as well as $15 for the fortnightly gym membership.
Therefore to cover all expenses, weekly earnings should be a minimum of $450
By breaking your quarterly and annual bills into a weekly amount, you can set aside for them as part of your regular budget.
Step 2 – Set your goals
The first step to start saving money is knowing where you want to go is knowing where you are. Congrats! Now you can set your goals. This may include paying down debt, saving for the future, or saving for a specific item or holiday.
Once you’ve set your goals you can create a plan to systematically work towards them.
The most important thing for budget success is to prioritize your expenses.
Essentials such as rent, fuel, and food come first, then savings/debt repayments, then non-essential expenses like entertainment.
The best goals are SMART
Here is an example of a goal that is not smart:
I want to save money
Here is how we turn it into a smart goal:
I want to save $500 this month
By adding a time frame and an amount, this goal is now smart. It can be easily measured and (depending on your cash flow) is achievable. Read more about setting SMART goals here
Step 3 – Split your savings
The best strategy to keep your savings rather than spending them is to allocate your money. I suggest making two savings accounts. One for long-term savings and one for medium-term savings.
The purpose of the long-term account is for financial goals and the future – in extreme cases – for emergencies.
The purpose of the medium-term account is for spending. This is where the calculation of your expenses comes in. You need to put at least enough aside each week to cover these expenses, then a little extra for the things you want to save towards. If your medium-term account is healthy, your long term savings will continue to grow.
You may even choose to have a third account to separate your “bills” money from your “fun stuff” money. This will depend on your level of self-control. It isn’t much fun buying new boots from your medium-term account if you forgot your electricity bill is due next month!
Step 4 – Automate your savings
Now that you have decided how much you can afford to save each week – put it out of your control. Set up automatic transfers to your savings account as soon as you get your pay.
Having a “savings first” mentality will be life-changing. You’ll soon find when you have enough money to cover your bills your stress will decrease and you’ll be able to make better money choices, which will reap even better rewards in the future.
Step 5 – Stick to the Plan
The key to success long term is to allow yourself treats. Leave some room in your budget for the things you enjoy. Start small with your savings goals. Once you celebrate the small successes you will want to start thinking bigger.
If you are having trouble holding on to the money in your savings account in the long term – my advice is - start small. Put most of your money towards paying debts and covering expenses, and save just a small amount each week. Once you have started to foster a savings mindset, you can get more ambitious with your goals.
Saving money starts with the first small step, then you’ll soon get addicted!
Until next week
The Account Ant