While times may be dire, we are not without the tools to make things easier for ourselves. Saving money is one of the best things the average household can do – but how should you go about it?
Firstly, you will need to get a more accurate picture of your current financial position. You may be aware of your income and outgoings but formalising the figures in the form of a spreadsheet can help you understand your position better.
Your spreadsheet should take into account any debts you owe, as well as your household income and your average weekly costs. With all this information, you will be able to build a picture of how much you can theoretically save – and how much more you might be able to save with certain changes.
But before you start to make any changes to your habits or finances, you should first address your outstanding debts. Mortgages are fine to continue with, but credit debt can have a detrimental effect on your credit score over time – and, more importantly, the cost of interest on said debt will outstrip your cash savings month on month.
As such, paying off your debts should be priority number one. Do not save any money past a small ‘emergency’ kitty for unexpected costs such as a car breakdown. Everything you ‘save’ should go to your debt, until you are clear – at which point, you are free to save properly.
Create a Savings Account
Here, opening a savings account can be a helpful way to save money. Interest rates overall are currently relatively low, but the interest rates on savings accounts tend to be the highest amongst easy-access bank accounts. Having a separate saving account is also good for your saving philosophy; any money that enters it is inaccessible until you reach a specific savings goal or milestone.
With your budget spreadsheet and savings infrastructure in place, you can start to make qualitative changes to your spending habits in order to increase your savings. You should start small, though; too many major movements too quickly can have a jarring impact on your quality of life and lead you to potentially abandon your savings plan entirely.
Starting with a relatively low savings goal and ramping it up over time can encourage you to keep going, and show you the benefits of each individual savings action you take – speaking of which…
Cut Unnecessary Costs
The meat of any savings plan lies in the cutting-out of unnecessary costs. These range widely in scope and effectiveness, but together can make for a profound change in your savings situation. Again, start small; swap the Starbucks for a home-made coffee in a flask, and halve the amount of takeaway food you eat each month. Ramping up, though, you could soon be saving hundreds by taking the bus instead of driving and cutting out useless subscription services.
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