Let’s be honest; everyone would like more spare cash. It’s not the money that matters, but the experiences and freedom that comes from having it. Generally; the rules for budgeting are pretty much unchanged no matter what stage of your life you're in.
Since I started my first job I've been very focused on budgeting and saving. I think this came from the period I experienced between graduating and securing my first job. Students tend to waste a lot of money and unimportant things and I was no exception. That was a time when I didn't have a ton of money, and I regretted my ruthless spending in previous years.
So when I got a job I made a point to start budgeting after the first few months. The follow steps are things I feel pretty strongly about with saving.
1. Record Everything
This one is the winner to be honest. It’s difficult to save without knowing how much you spent last month, last week or the last six months. It’s the thing that works really well for me; record everything you spend money on and you’ll easily figure out where you’re going right or wrong, build up an accurate figure of your spending and decide from there where you can make changes.
Budgeting apps are easy tools for this. Toshl is great, the appropriately named Spending Tracker works well. Search on your app store and pick one that you think looks nice. They all do the same thing and you’ll ideally use it daily so it should be something you enjoy using.
Record everything. If you love coffee and spend £3 twice a week, that could be £300 a year you haven’t recorded. (It’s perfectly fine to spend that much on coffee, or more, but it’s better to know about it). #knowledgeispower
Key takeaway: Record your spending each day. Remember that small things add up over time (including debt).
2. Have a spending goal in mind.
So this one is important, and goes along with recording everything. Whilst you can worry about setting up 15 budgets for different spending categories; don’t. You will lose interest, instead start simple with a single budget for total monthly spend. Life is too varied to stick to a dozen separate budgets. Saving should be quick and effortless.
By tracking what you spend; you can set yourself a budget that is realistic; be sure to add any recurring regular payments (calculate bills as monthly if possible) and work towards your budget.
Life ebbs and flows, so if you’re tracking it every month you'll begin to see how well you’re doing. You can’t always beat your budget every month, but over time you’ll see if you’re doing good or need to rethink your spending.
Key takeaway: Keep saving simple. Don’t give up if you have an expensive month; sometimes that’s unavoidable!
3. Money = Life
When you spend money, what you’re actually spending are the hours of your life you gave up to earn that money. The more you spend, the more you’ll need to work to keep up. Over a lifetime it’s quite a sobering thought; do you want to have freedom or be at work?
When you think about spending money in terms of spending time, it helps put purchases in perspective. You want to fill your life with things you love; not things you purchased because they were convenient. You can earn more money with more time, but you can never buy more time.
Key takeaway: Spending money is spending time you can’t get back; so make it count.
4. Have future goals in mind to help you save.
Super simple, but if you’re budgeting and trying to save, keep in your mind what that reasons are. If you want to take more holidays, hold on to that. If you’re saving so you have money for future adventures - you’ll thank yourself later if you save in advance.
But you won't be successful with saving if you won't make sacrifices or hard decisions.
Key takeaway: Use long term goals to keep motivation. If you’re always spending you’ll limit yourself later.
5. Spend less often, buy better.
Easy advice but not always easy to follow. Think about the things that you really love. A trusty laptop that’s kept you entertained through flu and rainy days, or a fierce dress that always gets you compliments. Not everything is that special; so try and be honest about the things you really need. Take a moment to mourn all those unplayed steam games, or old outfits that never got worn. Don't accept new things into your life without scrutiny.
Ask yourself some questions:
- Do I already have something like this?
- Do I love it and will it add value to my life?
- Am I buying it out of boredom?
- Could I save money now and buy something better quality later?
Key takeaway: Be honest about why you’re buying things.
6. Things vs Experiences
Everyone who is saving is ultimately savings for something bigger than the day to day. There’s a lot to be said about spending on experiences instead of things - it can add a lot of joy and amazing memories to your life in a way that all the shoes stacked to the moon and back will not.
When you’re saving money; ultimately you’re saving it to spend on something really meaningful; so keep that in mind if you find saving tough. You'll never get to where you're going if you don't make changes.
Key Takeaway: Budgeting is saving for a meaningful experiences; a less stressful life where day-to-day purchases don’t delay your dream holiday, dream home or that next adventure.
A bit of a departure from a lot of my usual posts but saving and intelligent spending is something I'm passionate about. I feel like it's helped me live a more fearless and unrestricted life (for me). I feel more in control. It's provided a lot of positives so I'm always happy to share my insights. I think the key is reshaping your relationship with money, and posessions.
I think spending in part reflects the kind of person you are; I've known a lot of people who seem to spend their lives without any financial buffer.
Happy saving and have a great week!