TRIM YOUR BUDGET TO GROW YOUR SAVINGS
While you know you need to save, it may be a difficult concept to relate to while you are caught up in simply making ends meet each month.
Saving can be compared to losing weight or getting fit. Although you start out with the best intentions, you tend to fall off the wagon, because the timelines or goals you set for yourself, are not realistic.
When it comes to saving, people typically save for three months or six months and then run into problems because they don’t have an emergency savings fund or they don’t have a proper budget in place. This means they give up without establishing a long-term savings habit. Here’s how to get started and stay on track with your savings plan.
- Start with the basics
Draw up a budget. This is like planning your meals in advance to avoid impulsive eating. Use your last three months’ bank statements and list your income and expenses. Understand your spending patterns and behaviour. Include every single expense – even the chocolates that go into your trolley at the till point.
- Be realistic
A diet that aims to cut out entire food groups or even all chocolate is set up for failure. You either end up bingeing on the wrong foods or you give up because it is not sustainable.
Similarly, you need to be realistic when you draw up your budget. Instead of cutting out all magazines, include a line item in your budget for just one magazine a month and stick to that. Be flexible so you are not setting yourself up to fail.
- Be accountable
Just as you would use a food diary that makes you think twice before you eat something, being accountable for every cent you spend will give you pause for thought before you make impulsive purchases. There are several ways to do this. The 22seven app can give you that automated assistance. The app allows you to see all your money in one place by linking your bank accounts, credit and store cards, investments, loans and rewards. It generates a budget based on your own, actual spending and you see exactly how much you spend and on what each month. You can also work with a financial adviser to help you stick to your budget.
Use an Excel spreadsheet on your laptop, or you could just go back to basics with a little notebook and pen that you use to jot down your purchases as you make them. Our budget benchmark tool helps you break down your budget using the 50/30/20 rule. 50% of your income goes towards essential expenses (needs), 30% goes to financial priorities (goals) and 20% goes to lifestyle needs (wants). Keeping track of your expenses in real time will also keep bringing you back to how much money you actually have in your account.
Budgeting is so simple that it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you can keep it in your head and unfortunately, it’s easy to lose track of the numbers. Make some kind of commitment that you can track –paper or electronic. This makes it easier to go back to and see how you are doing compared to the budget you drew up.
- Review and adjust
When you’re dieting or exercising, you may have days where you fall off the wagon. It’s really important not to give up entirely when you have a setback like this. You simply regroup and start again the next day. Similarly, your budget is not static but is a working document that you must review regularly. What may seem completely workable on paper when you start out doesn’t always translate well in practise. You may have once-off expenses that you didn’t initially account for, such as an excess amount for an insurance claim. Revise your budget every three months at the least.
Finally, realise that short-term planning and daily financial habits do impact on your long-term financial independence. Whether you are saving for your child’s tertiary education, a deposit on a house or for when you retire, your daily spending habits play a huge role in realising these goals.
Start with a budget and make every cent count.