If there’s one thing I’ve stressed about more than anything else in life, it’s money. Not having enough money is a really tough position to be in. It impacts deep and beyond what you might imagine, and those worries can really affect you personal wellbeing.
I know I’m not the only one to have ever felt this way. I think it’s something most of us will experience at some point in our lives, so I wanted to take a little time to share some of the things I’ve done to help me keep on top of my money and save for the things that are important to me.
These tips are not gospel. They’re not meant to be taken as a ‘right’ way to do things. They’re just a personal account of the things I have done for myself that have worked, and that I hope may be of use to someone else. Nothing more, nothing less.
Know what you’re spending
It can be shocking to realise just how many people don’t actually know what they’re spending. For me, this is one of the most important things in managing my money and being able to save. I bank with Nationwide, and their app is my saviour. If you don’t already, I would 100% recommend registering for internet banking and finding a banking app that lets you access your accounts on the go. Being able to see in an instant what’s in your account, and where your money has gone, is the best way to keep yourself informed, and being informed will prevent any nasty surprises further down the line.
Audit your outgoings
Raise your hand if you’re still paying a direct debit for something you never use. Credit score services, anyone? Once you know where your money is going, you can see exactly where you’re spending when you shouldn’t be. Start with direct debits and cancel what you can. I stopped giving to charity, and while I felt a little guilty at the time, the impact has been astronomical, and I can also focus my charitable giving on things that mean more, which aren’t necessarily monetary. Drop magazine subscriptions, unused gym memberships and anything else that isn’t bringing value into your life.
Then go onto your bills. See if you can switch provider to a cheaper alternative. You can also get lots of good referral bonuses, so see if any friends can recommend you, and you’ll both get a reward. You can also contact providers for TV and internet services and request to cancel. Often they will offer you a reduced rate to keep you as a customer, so you can cut your expenditure that way.
Finally, really look into how much you’re spending. I looked back through a six month period of my bank statements and added up all of the money I spent on food; in supermarkets, dining out and grabbing snacks on the go. Dividing that by six, I found an average for what I was spending each month, and the result was quite surprising. You can do this for anything; cosmetics, clothes, magazines, coffee. Once you know where you’re at, you can consider where you could be saving.
Set yourself a budget, and stick to it
I, personally, have created my own spreadsheets to manage my budget, but I know there are a tonne of good apps out there that can help and do a lot of the hard work for you. The first step is to categorise all of your expenses. You’ll have things like rent, council tax, electricity, gas and TV license, and others like food, petrol, insurance and clothes.
For each category, set yourself a monthly budget. Some of these will be dictated for you, like your rent, but when creating budgets for yourself, be realistic. If you need to cut back on your spending, set your budget a little lower, but also be reasonable with what you can honestly live with. And always round up. Adding a few pounds onto each item will give you a little buffer, which should keep you out of trouble.
Also, include savings in your budget. Whether you’re saving for something in particular or not, it’s important to build up what you can. Set aside a specific amount each month so you’re consistently topping up your savings account. It might help to set this up as an automatic transfer following pay day, so you don’t have to worry about the temptation to spend it instead.
Plan your meals
Food is one of my biggest expenditures. I’m a sucker for a celebratory lunch and coffee with a friend never comes without cake! Having calculated my monthly expenditure though, I could see that I was eating most of my pay packet, and while good food is always a winner, I didn’t have an awful lot to show for that money.
One of the best ways to combat this is to plan meals. I have a menu that I fill out every week, and from there create a shopping list of exactly the items that I need. This prevents waste, and impromptu takeaways, and it’s much kinder on my bank balance. Plus, it tends to be healthier so I feel more fuelled by my food than I would otherwise.
Curb your impulses
I don’t think I would have ever called myself an impulse shopper, but having gained a lot more perspective of my shopping habits, I definitely was. It’s so easy to get caught up with consumerist culture when you’re in the shopping centre or browsing ASOS online, but do you really need that thing you’re looking at? My first step to curbing my impulse shopping was to remove myself from the situation. I don’t often go to the shopping centre, and when I do, I’m there for something in particular that I definitely need. And then, I go where I need to go, and avoid browsing elsewhere.
I’ve also unfollowed social media accounts of most online stores, so I’m not constantly faced with their marketing. While I’d like to think I’d be immune to their efforts, they know what they’re doing, and if given the opportunity I’m sure they could convince me that I really do need another pair of black ankle boots for winter. Instead, I avoid them, and keep my bank balance, and my wardrobe, under control.
I’ve also taken the advice of some minimalist YouTubers, and made myself a wishlist. I just use a secret board on Pinterest, where I keep a record of any items that I really want. Instead of buying them straight away, I add them to my wishlist and check back every now and again to see what’s there. Often, the impulse to buy that item has gone away, and I can remove it from my list. Sometimes it’s something that I would still really like, and I leave it there to consider for Christmas or my birthday, or when I have some money to spare. Occasionally, it’s an item I really need, in which case I’ll include it in my budget for that month, and buy it.
I know for a fact that these processes have prevented me from spending an awful lot of money, and, even though I haven’t bought any of those things, I’m getting by just as well as I was before. I didn’t actually need them, after all!
By implementing these ideas, and being very mindful with how I spend my money, I’ve been able to start saving to buy a house, and for a holiday to the US next year for Sam’s friend’s wedding. And I know those things are going to mean a whole lot more to me than a collection of Nike trainers!