Saving money isn’t the sexiest of topics, but it’s a pretty essential habit to get into – whether you’ve got big life event coming up like a holiday or wedding, you want to start a family or business, or you’re simply craving some financial security.
Obviously, it’s easier for those on higher pay cheques with more expendable income to play with at the end of each month, but for those on smaller salaries, there is hope. You just have to tuck away less money and save for longer.
Here’s where to begin.
1. Work out how much you can afford to save.
Make a budget by looking at your incomings and outgoings, suggests Andrew Johnson, a money expert at the Money and Pensions Service. Figure out how much money comes into your account each month (through your salary or paid invoices if you’re freelance), and how much money goes out for essentials like rent or mortgage payments, household bills and other direct debits. The Money Advice Service website has a budget planner tool which can help.
At the same time, it’s also worth doing a bit of a household audit and looking into whether you could cut down spending in some areas (switching energy providers to lower your gas and electricity bill, for example) and saving the difference. Got two Spotify accounts in one household – why not ditch one of them and save that tenner each month? By the end of the year, you’ll have saved £120. In five years, that will be £600 in the bank. It’s a definite start.
2. Pay your debts.
“It may be wise to consider clearing any debts or loans you have before starting to save,” advises Johnson. This is because the interest on your debt repayments are likely to exceed any interest you will earn on your savings.
At this stage you might be wondering if this includes student loans. Johnson says it’s more about prioritising paying off debts such as credit cards, store cards and personal loans from the bank before putting away any savings. But you can find more advice on repaying your student loan here.
3. Set a goal and put a figure on it.
Whatever you’re saving for, make sure you set a goal. “People who have a goal in mind tend to save money faster than those who don’t,” says Johnson. “Then work out how much you need to save each month to achieve this goal.”
4. Consider opening two accounts.
You’ve figured out how much you want to put away and how much you can actually afford to put away each month. Now you need to find a savings account to put them in – and figure out how many you want to open. Johnson urges people to set up an emergency savings fund to cover unexpected expenses such as car or house repairs, or unexpected time off sick.
“Aim to have three months’ worth of money in reserve,” he says. While this might seem a lot, it’s wise to prioritise. Once you’ve saved up, you can start another account for a rainy day (your fun times savings account).
5. Schedule your standing order the day after payday.
“Saving is ultimately a good habit to get into and the best way to save is to send a portion of your earnings to a savings account as soon as they land in your bank,” says Helen Saxon, Money Saving Expert’s banking editor, whose motto is this: treat your savings like a bill.
If you immediately transfer your savings out of your current account, you then work to a different budget for the rest of the month or week, which will hopefully stop you from having to bring the savings back over into your account at the end of the month (we’ve all been there).
It also means you’re not relying on saving whatever is left at the end of the month, says a Santander spokesperson, which often means you end up saving far less. The standing order method is also useful for those who simply forget to put money into savings each month or who aren’t really on top of internet banking, as the task is done for you.
‘We saved £15,000 in a year’
Ashleigh Li, 32, and her husband, 40, from London, had a wedding and house-move to save for in the same year. Here’s how they did it.
“We needed to save as much as possible,” says Li. “Our new mortgage was £340,000 so we did all we could to save to make this cheaper. Over the course of a year we saved around £15,000 on a household income of £100,000.”
The couple had a flat to sell before they could move to their new place. But what else did they change to achieve this? “My husband picked up extra shifts at work wherever possible,” says Li. “We saved as much as possible into his current account, and I got a Monzo account to track my own spending, as I needed to break down where I was spending the most.”
Meaningful savings came from switching habits – and providers. “We cut back on things like Sky TV, we shopped around for energy and insurance, we stopped shopping at Sainsbury’s and M&S and switched to Aldi, which easily saved us £70 a week. We went from eating out twice a week to not eating out at all.”
Then there was the current flat. “We invested in sprucing it up and painted everything white. We hired a storage unit and put as much away in there as possible. I’m a stylist, and I knew visual merchandising for our flat was key to getting as many people through the door and the right offer. Turns out it paid off, as we got our asking price from adorable buyers, so jumped at their offer.
Li and her husband got married in March 2018 and sold their flat a few months later, in June. They asked for financial contributions to their honeymoon as wedding gifts so they didn’t have to fork out so much for that, either.
There were challenges along the way. “It felt like life was a bit of a grind, especially with the wedding,” says Li. “It was a little too much some days and quite stressful. We have a daughter and had to pay for her childcare, which was more than our mortgage at the time. We had to really zone in on what we wanted and that we needed to save to get the new mortgage, especially on the days where we just wanted a day out with our little one.
Their biggest tip: you have to get organised. “If you’re a spendthrift, set up a savings account and send money over to it each payday, so you don’t even look at that money. Also, set money goals! You’ll be amazed what you can save if you put your mind to it, put little notes all over your house encouraging you to save and write down the amount you want to save.”