When you’re struggling to make ends meet, it can be really difficult to think about starting a savings account. If your car breaks down or there’s something you really want, whether it’s a holiday, a new laptop or a pot of money for next Christmas, it can be really tempting to borrow the money for it. But creating a savings buffer for yourself in case there’s an emergency can help you feel more in control of your finances, less stressed, and allow you to treat yourself when you can afford it.
Figuring out how much you can save
It can be difficult to figure out how much you’re able to save every month; the key is to make sure all your essential payments are covered first.
• Start by listing your “needs” – rent, essential bills and food shopping, and how much these cost each week or month
• When your “needs” are done, start with your “wants” like hobbies or saving for Christmas. If you can’t afford all your “wants”, you’ll have to decide which one is most important for you
• List all your income – if you have money left over after you’ve paid for all your “needs” and “wants”,
this is the amount you can save each month
• If you have more money going out each month than you have coming in, read on for some tips to reduce how much you spend, or get in touch with Pennywise for some budgeting advice
If you’re struggling each month to meet your priority payments, or you can see that you’ve got enough money coming in to cover your “needs”, but you often seem to run out of cash, it may be that you’re not paying enough attention to how much you’re spending on those “wants”. It can really help to track your spending over a few weeks:
• Keep a small notebook handy and write down everything you buy and every bill you pay
• Keep all your receipts in an envelope or shoe box
• If you have a computer, create a file for entering your income and expenses
Opening an account is a great method as you’ll be less tempted to spend the cash you’re trying to save. You can either do this online or by popping into your bank, and you can set up a Standing Order to pay in whatever you can afford each month.
If you’re just saving for one thing, one account will be enough. If you’ve got more than one savings goal you can open accounts for each of them. For example, you may opt to have one savings account for your emergency fund, and another account that you use to save for a holiday.
If you are working towards a larger goal, you may want to reward yourself as you reach some targets along the way to help you stay motivated.
This reward at the end of your goal needs to be something that matters to you without breaking your budget like:
• Taking an afternoon to hang out with friends can be motivating and free
• A day trip can be a low-cost treat, and packing your own lunch to make it cost even less
• Cook a delicious and affordable meal for family or friends
• Do something creative and crafty for you or your home
• Reading is relaxing and completely free if you join your local library. Second hand websites are great to get bargain books on your budget.
If you’re confused about which savings account would be best for you, have a chat with someone in your bank or read through this guide from the Money Advice Service
The jam jar method
This involves using several jam jars for certain payments or savings – so you can set up jars to make sure you’ve got the money to pay your electricity bill each month, or to make sure you’ve got enough cash for next Christmas.
It’s important to be strict with yourself and not use the money in one jar for another payment, don’t break into your electricity jar because you’ve used up all of your petrol money! If you often end up with spare change at the end of the week this method is great as you can just empty it all in to one of the jars, like your emergency fund.
Actions to help you save
If you’re struggling to cover your priority “needs”, or can’t find any spare cash to save up there are loads of hints and tips on this website. The tips below should get you started:
• Make your own gifts instead of buying them
• Write a list before you go shopping and stick to it
• Repair clothes instead of throwing them away
• Reduce how much you spend entertaining your kids:
Play football in the back garden
Head to the park
Plant a garden
Teach them how to ride a bike
• Clean out your wardrobes and cupboards and sell everything you don’t wear or use anymore on eBay, Gumtree or a car boot sale
• Instead of eating takeaways or ready meals when you get home, try making some simple and healthy homemade meals instead – you’ll be saving more money that you think by the end of the month
• Quit smoking and think about doing some more exercise – staying healthy can improve your mood and make you less likely to overspend to cheer yourself up
• Look into switching energy providers and reducing your usage by making sure your home is insulated properly or installing a programmable thermostat
• Try supermarket-own brands instead of premium brands
• Rent out unused space in your home. If you have an extra bedroom in your house, you could think about renting it using a site like Airbnb. This can bring in a lot of extra money
• Check out free events in town to save money while not sacrificing your social life
• Use your nearest library to learn languages, meet people, use the internet, rent movies and CDs, grab local free newspapers and borrow books
• Avoid stress-spending – it’s easy to justify spending money after a stressful day at work, but the only thing you need to beat stress is look after yourself a bit more
• Use our smart shopping tips to reduce your shopping bill
• If you’re on a low income, Pennywise may be able to help you apply for a cheaper water bill which could save you hundreds of pounds each year. Just refer yourself to find out if we can help.
All images courtesy of Pixabay