For many people, saving is hard. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), British households are saving at the lowest rate since 1963 when the records began. This seems bewildering given everyone knows the importance of saving. We know that we need to save in order to be able to afford the deposit for the house, the car, the holiday or even just the fund for “a rainy day”. However, for some, the practice of putting money aside and leaving it untouched seems impossible. I am here to show you that “you can”, do it!
First things first If you are in debt, it is best to focus on clearing that debt before turning your attention to saving. By debt, I do not mean student loan debts or any other low cost loans. Instead, I am referring to high cost debt like credit cards. Savings are important. However, it is always advisable to save once you are not drowning in debt.
Keys to successful saving Save before you spend. Consider how you setup your bills to be deducted from your account after you are paid. Similarly, you should ensure the removal of your savings – preferably via standing order. Aim to spend what is left after your bills and savings are deducted as opposed to vice versa. You might need to create a budget. There are plenty of templates online that you can use which help you understand your spending habits, and can assist with creating sensible and appropriate saving goals. We all have differing financial situations, but the key is to ensure that saving is a priority and to fine-tune your lifestyle in accordance with your salary to ensure that you are saving the appropriate amount. If this means one or two less dinners, then so be it. Your disposable income should be what is left after you have paid your bills and saved.
If you have to deliberate each time you want to save, it is unlikely that you will – at least not consistently. As recommended above, creating a standing order is one of the best ways to ensure you regularly save. Send a pre-determined amount to a savings account, preferably in a different bank in order to avoid easy access and transfer! By doing this, you will form healthy habits and your savings will consistently grow without you even thinking about it. Another option is using an app like PiggyPot, a personal favourite of mine. By allowing you to create different goal ‘pots’ you are able to save consistently towards a tangible goal therefore making saving all that easier as you know that for instance, an amount per month is going towards a car and an amount is going towards a deposit.
What if I don’t earn a stable income?
I call it the percentage method. A friend of mine, a then freelance hairdresser, told me her saving trick stemmed from her recognising she was not earning the same amount monthly. Thus, she concocted a percentage-based system. Every time she received a payment she put a certain percentage towards her bills, another towards her savings and then another towards her daily expenses. The great thing about this method is that whether you receive £10 or £800 for your services, you are eligible. If you employ this method, you will achieve consistency even in the absence of stability.
There are many different tools and tricks that can be used to aid your ability to save. This piece however, should serve as merely an introduction into the practise of saving. Savings are helpful in ensuring financial well-being, and the discipline acts as a basis of other financial choices such as investments. As such, it is important to be sensible with your saving goals. Aim to put aside as much as is possible but you don't have to be so aggressive with your savings, that you neglect spending some cash to enjoy life from time to time. Sacrifices may need to take place but bear in mind that you are more likely to stick to your saving goals when you have enough money left over to have fun.
--Fife Oshun Fife is an Economics graduate from The University of Sheffield and SOAS, and currently works as an analyst at Accenture. Find her on twitter @feefeh_ .