One of the most common questions I get asked is “how do I stick to my budget?” It can seem that no matter how much you earn or how hard you try life has other plans for your bank account.
So if saving money feels like a case of one step forward, five steps back, here are some suggestions to help you along the way.
While none of these on their own may seem like a big expense, you will be surprised how quickly it all adds up!
#1 Pack your lunch This simple habit can put over $2,000 a year right back in your pocket!
#2 Swap coffee for tea or water Its no secret Aussies love our coffee. But at an average $5 a cup that’s a $1,800 a year habit. Now might be a good time to revert to the basics.
#3 Walk or cycle instead of Uber Not only is it good for the environment but it’s a great way to squeeze in some exercise into your daily routine, and save some cash while you’re at it!
#4 Reduce your bills A couple of phone calls to check on our home and contents premiums and I saved a whopping $1,300 a year! So set aside some time to shop around for your phone, internet, energy and insurance providers.
#5 Swap to a more economical car If you drive a gigantic fuel-guzzler, it could be time to downsize to a more economical ride. If you are a family, consider dropping down to one car (it’s easier than you think!).
#6 Check the emotional eating, drinking or shopping Oh yes, retail therapy. Whether we are happy, sad, or bored, emotional spending can be a big drain on your savings. To curb your spending, keep a daily spend journal for a week to check in on your impulse spending and see if you can identify what is driving you to the checkout – then brainstorm ways to address the emotional trigger behind it so that you can put the savings towards a goal that’s important to you.
#7 Remove temptation The problem with the internet is that the temptation to spend can follow you wherever you go with daily specials to your inbox and targeted google and social media ads. Now is the time to declutter your inbox and unsubscribe from all the sales!
#8 Never shop without a list Get in the habit of shopping with intent – this means putting together a list of what you need and only buying what is on that list.
#9 Check your bank statement These days its all too easy to opt-in to a free trial and forget to cancel the subscription. Check your bank statement regularly for any incorrect charges or services you no longer use.
#10 Introduce a cooling off period Impose a 7-day waiting period before buying something on an impulse. Chances are, once the week has passed, you won’t want it anymore!
#11 Start volunteering Volunteering has to be among the best ways to curb emotional spending. Research has found that volunteers are happier, healthier and sleep better than those who don’t volunteer.
#12 Compromise A weekend catch-up with your girlfriends can easily set you back $20. That’s $1,040 a year! Try swapping out brunch for coffee or better yet, catching up while going for a walk instead.
#13 Negotiate your interest rate If it’s been a couple of years since you refinanced, one call to your bank can see your interest rate drop by 0.30% or more. On a $500,000 mortgage that’s a $1,500 a year saving!
#14 Consolidate your debts If you are struggling with credit card debt, taking advantage of a balance transfer card or switching to a personal loan could save you thousands in interest.
#15 Reduce your energy use Little things can quickly add up. Simply by switching off unnecessary lights around the home and washing your clothes with cold water you can reduce your energy bill. If you use a dryer, throwing in a dry towel with a wet load can reduce the drying time by 25%!
#16 Rethink your rent If you are a renter, consider moving to a cheaper area. Alternatively have a look at sub-letting if you aren’t already. Do you have friends or family you could stay with, even just for a month or two to help kick start the savings? Or perhaps house-sitting is another option.
#17 De-clutter Take a look around your home and closet and see what items you can afford to sell to kick start your savings – it’s never been easier!
#18 Maximise your tax deductions As an accountant, I can tell you that most people think their “tax return is simple” and don’t even realise they are leaving money on the table! Make sure you speak with a good tax agent and get support with reducing the tax you pay (the legal way).
#19 Shop second hand If you’re not in the habit of shopping second hand, now is the time to give it a try. You will be amazed at the quality of second-hand goods you can find, whether that’s your car, furniture or clothing. At the end of the day no-one but you knows how much you paid for it, so you may as well pocket the savings!
#20 Buy cheaper groceries Switching to Aldi or no name brands can shave thousands off your annual grocery bill.
If you have tried all of these ideas and you are still struggling to save – then I think it’s time to consider if you have more of a low income problem, than a spending problem.
If that is the case, focus your efforts on finding ways to boost your income long term, for example by upskilling or changing jobs. We live in the age of the gig economy so there’s no excuse not to earn some extra cash. Uber, Airtasker, Airbnb or freelancing are just a few of the options available to you.