Remember the time you got your first salary? That feeling of empowerment in having the control of your own fate and the elaborate plans you made to save and achieve your life goals! How are you faring? Like the majority of the population, you are likely to have been caught up with life and have yet to achieve that savings target.
Whether it’s been a few months or a few years or decades into your professional life, if you haven’t figured out how to save “enough” yet, fret not, you can always turn things around. If you have just started working and are figuring out your way, learning saving techniques early will put you in an advantageous position to achieve your saving goals. Let’s jump into these easy-to-implement strategies to set you on the right track.
This simple strategy is the first step of your financial planning journey. Splitting your spending into buckets such as basic living expenses, loans and insurance, leisure expenses, and savings and investments, will ensure you are allocating the right proportion of your income to meet your needs and wants while saving consistently. Read our post on the golden rule of budgeting to ensure your spending in each aspect of life is within “healthy” ranges.
Creating a budget is only useful when you track the actual amount you are spending and stick by the budget. Use spreadsheets, tracking apps or just review your bank/card statements at the end of the month. While it might seem like work when you start, tracking your finances becomes intuitive over time and doesn’t always require conscious effort.
3. Identifying areas of improvement
You have your budget ready and are now tracking your expenses. Now it’s time to handle those areas which are falling out of your budget. Cutting down on fixed monthly expenses are the easiest and most effective ways to save. On the other hand, while variable expenses are harder to track, they have plenty of room for saving if managed properly as well. Set your priorities and identify areas which are open for compromise in order to reach your goals. Let’s look at some potential areas of saving.
- Rent: This is usually the biggest spend and hence, the easiest way to reduce your spending. Moving to a less expensive house can cut your monthly spending drastically. However, make sure you weigh your lifestyle requirements to ensure the compromises you make are worthwhile. For example, moving further away from your workplace to save on rent may increase your commuting cost, which might not be effective in saving more.
- Phone / Broadband / Cable: You’ll be surprised at how the small savings from these monthly subscriptions add up to a big chunk of your expenses. With the popularity of streaming services, you may look to cancel your TV subscription, which has high charges and limited flexibility. Also analyse whether you really need the phone plan or broadband specifications you’re using or if you can shift to more economical plans.
- Debt: Having a large amount of high interest loans can be detrimental to your saving potential. The high interest results in significantly large monthly instalments. Consider options like refinancing or paying off these loans lump sum to enable higher savings.
- Food: Generally, you have three options for food: restaurants / food delivery, hiring a cook and cooking at home, in the order of most to least expensive. You can save substantially by shifting from eating out or ordering food to cooking at home or hiring a part time cook if you lack time or interest in cooking.
- Holidays: While all of us need a break to pamper ourselves, being a little cautious with our spending there can give us choices in life that may be far more fulfilling than a spa retreat. Look for budget flights, opt for ordering food online instead of room service, and always travel within your budget. It’s never a good idea to use a cashline for travel expenses.
- Others: Relook at areas such as skipping the expensive Starbucks coffee, or reduce your electricity bills by using fans instead of air-conditioners, and LED lights instead of traditional bulbs. Be sure to ask about discounts and look for deals for other purchases.
4. Automate your savings
Once you have budgeted, tracked and improved your spending habits, it is time to put things on auto-pilot. Simply split your saving funds from your spending funds right at the point of salary debit. There are auto transfer features offered by many banks to transfer a fixed sum from your main account to a separate savings account.
In addition, you can set up a monthly SIP from your savings account to grow your funds and ensure its value is not eroded by inflation. Before you implement this strategy, make sure you have built up sufficient emergency funds in a liquid saving or deposit account.
5. Set your goals and priorities
We save to achieve our life goals – from meeting our living needs to fulfilling our dreams. As such, the most effective way of planning your savings that you should strive towards is to adopt a goal-based approach instead of just saving the surplus. Jot down your financial goals e.g. buying a house, planning a vacation, doing an MBA, etc. Then calculate the inflation adjusted amounts you need to meet these goals and the monthly savings and investments required. We will be coming up with intuitive tools to help you through this journey in the coming months. Stay tuned!
Budgeting, tracking, improving, automating and prioritising – that’s the starter pack to set you on your way to financial freedom. Whether you have just started working and don’t know how to save or have been working for a while and feel like you could do better with your savings, these steps are applicable for all. Take your first steps towards your goals. Start today.