New research has found that approximately 12 million adults in the UK have no savings to fall back on.
The study also goes on to state that almost half of those that do, save less than £100 per month. Although the study suggests we are getting better (one conducted in 2016 put the figure closer to 16 million), that’s still a huge swathe of the adult population who aren’t putting any or enough money aside.
If you’re reading this and you’re part of the statistic, at least you know you’re not alone. However, it’s a lot easier to start saving than you think. We look into systematic saving, which much like sensible spending, is something you can steadily build into your normal budgeting.
Here are five straightforward strategies you can start doing right away to get a better handle on your savings.
Born between 1981 and 1996? Check out money-saving tips for millennials.
Set yourself up for saving
Before you start putting money aside, you need to get your saving infrastructure in order. Do you have an ISA? How easy is it to transfer money from your bank to a designated savings account? And when do you need money in there to cover bills? These are all examples of questions you need to ask yourself so you can start saving efficiently.
Before starting to save it’s a good idea to get yourself the right account to put your money aside in, based on your circumstances. If you are getting an ISA for example consider what the money's for (a Lifetime ISA is the best choice for someone saving to buy a first time home for example). Can you afford to set up a direct debit or standing order once a month for a set amount as well?
Figuring out a sensible monthly amount and the right account to put it in is the most basic way to save. From there you can increase the amount or incorporate other strategies as you get better at doing it.
Use an app
Arguably even easier is using an app to do the saving for you. The internet makes it easier to save than ever before, and one of the best ways to do this is via a specific savings app.
These make it easy to transfer money from your current account to a savings account. They also use Artificial Intelligence software to do some smart analysis of your spending, which could help you become more economical and save money on your expenses as well. They do this by reading and processing your expenditure, and then comparing your spending to market prices.
Plum, Squirrel and Moneybox are three examples, with Plum free at all times and the others offering a free trial and a small subscription monthly fee afterwards. They also offer you the chance to round up the difference on your purchases, so if you spend £14.53 on food 47p is transferred to a savings account (what type of account you can decide for yourself, with various ISAs and investment options included).
Each has their own pros and cons (as do alternatives on the market), so it’s worth reading up on which is best suited for you. You can also use specific budgeting apps like Money Dashboard which will help you better manage your finances as a whole, giving you an idea of what you are overspending on.
Cut out spending for a month
Could you minimise your spending for a whole month? Setting yourself a challenge based around a set period of time (you could downgrade to a week or upgrade to a longer timeframe, e.g. for Lent) will invoke your competitive spirit. It will then mean that without any spending (or even with less than normal), you’ll have extra cash available which you can transfer to a savings account of your choice.
How you go about it can take a variety of different forms, such as making your work lunches at home, cutting out trips to the pub, or walking when you would normally get a train or bus (see more ideas on how to save money). You can’t cut out spending all together (we certainly wouldn’t advise paying bills to be stopped for example), but you should be able to save some money by following this step.
It can be an enlightening experience as well as have other benefits, such as discovering your cooking creations are healthier than the office canteens (at least we hope so).
Sleep on your purchase (for 30 days)
People often sleep on impulse buys to stop them doing so, but the 30-day rule takes that even further. Essentially, for any purchase you are considering, set aside the money needed in a savings account and then wait for 30 days.
Once the 30 days has elapsed, if you've changed your mind leave part or preferably all of the money within your savings account. 30 days is picked because it’s a solid figure of a standard month in length, but you can adjust it to whatever works for you. Even waiting a few hours before making a purchase can be enough time to cut out frivolous spending.
This isn’t always appropriate, particularly when something urgent crops up (say a broken boiler for example), but it will make you less likely to make purchases that you don’t need. And if you do still buy it, at least you’ll benefit from 30 days interest on the amount.
Play by the (other) rules
That’s not the only rule with savings. In fact there’s an abundance from which you can go by to start saving.
American senator Elizabeth Warren coined the 50/20/30 rule, which suggests you should spend 50% on things you need, 20% on your debts and savings and 30% on things you want. Then the 10% savings rule suggests you should put aside 10% of your income on retirement, so as to make sure you have a big enough pot to maintain a comfortable lifestyle when you stop working.
You can either stick steadfastly to these, incorporate others or make your own adaptations. Or better yet, create your own. So, for example, if you had high living costs you could allocate 10% after bills rather than 10% of your income. If you can, plan to gradually increase the amount you save as well.
Whatever you go by, setting a basic requirement you endeavour to deliver most months (never beat yourself up about missing it when your finances dictate otherwise) will start you consistently incorporating savings into your finances. This will push you to being a habitual saver, which means putting money aside will soon become the norm.
Focus on getting out of debt
One of the best ways to start saving is to work on removing one of the biggest drains on your finances: debt. There are two popular ways of doing this, focusing on the higher interest accounts first or the smallest amounts owed, known as the snowball effect.
Whilst the former will comparably save you more money if you pay the same amount month-by-month on clearing debt, the snowball method pushes the idea that you will become more motivated by clearing individual debts. And it’s been proven by study after study to be more effective.
You can then combine either of these strategies with putting aside the money you would be spending on interest payments into a savings account, which will potentially increase month-by-month as your debt gets smaller. You can, of course, use your savings at any time to clear your debt, although some might charge you early settlement fees.
Saving, like anything financial, is a personal thing. Don’t feel pressured by plans or ideas which seem unaffordable to you. If you can start saving any amount, even a small one, just work on improving the amount you set aside each month. Good luck building your pot of cash!
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