When it comes to help with money, it’s not just investments, super or buying a house that many of you want to know about — it’s how to save more.
It kept coming up when we asked you to send in your burning questions about money, and so we picked it as something to answer.
Corrine, a 45-year-old single mother who lives near Brisbane, is saving to build a house.
“I do the best that I can, but if I had some strategies that could make it easier to save, that would be great,” she told ABC Life.
We were also asked about tools and apps for budgeting and saving. “What are the best, simple, easy-to-use budgeting tools?”
1. Start with a single goal, and stick to it
If you’ve made a resolution to get your finances in order, the best way to start is to set yourself a realistic goal, says Shungu Patsika, senior financial counsellor at the National Debt Helpline.
Who asked the question?
Corrine, from Kurwongbah, recently became a licensed builder. She has two children, aged 8 and 10, and wants to save to build a house for her family.
She wrote in asking about strategies for saving money and apps to track her money goals.
Here’s his advice for choosing a goal and working towards it:
- Start with a target. It might be that you want to save an extra $25 each week.
- Think about how you might reach it.“Maybe it’s eating out less, or buying less coffee, or making your own lunches,” Mr Patsika adds.
- Give yourself a timeframe, and try to stick to it.
- Don’t get discouraged when unexpected things happen. That’s life.
- Once you’ve started to change some of your habits, you can start to get creativeabout how to find extra savings.
Many of us equate saving with deprivation or hardship, and spending with happiness. But the link is not so black and white, says Mr Patsika.
While it does feel nice to buy nice new things, remember that the feeling quickly wears off. (If only it was the same for the expenses on our bank statements.)
2. Use technology to your advantage
More than ever, there’s technology and tools that can help us sock away money automatically, without even thinking about it, says Natasha Hall, an independent financial planner based in Melbourne.
Other questions you asked:
- What are the best, simple, easy-to-use budgeting tools? For instance, apps, websites, service providers, etc.
- Can you recommend a good, free app to help me budget?
- I have a shopping habit that costs me. Clothes and accessories are my big weakness. I have trouble saving as I spend it. What can I do?
“Some of the apps that are now available [can] round up spending and put the extra cents into investments or savings accounts. It can help bring some frequency to savings, even though it’s just happening in the background,” she says.‘Do something you’re going to stick to’: Three methods of budgetingWhen it comes to budgeting, it’s important to find a method that works for you. So, we’ve looked at the pros and cons of three common methods you can use to do a budget.Read more
Here are some apps that you might like to investigate:
- TrackMySPEND is a simple, free budgeting tool from ASIC, Australia’s corporate regulator;
- ASIC’s TrackMyGOALS app is great for tracking and managing savings goals, whether it’s for a holiday, wedding, school fees, house deposit or anything else;
- Your bank’s app is a good starting point for paying bills and setting up transfers. Some have more extensive features, such as “round ups” (like Ms Hall described) and ATM finders;
- There are a number of budgeting apps available such as Goodbudget, YNAB and Pocketbook. Some are free, others paid, and some that rely on monthly subscriptions;
- If you live in NSW, the FuelCheck app from the State Government can help you find the cheapest petrol near you. For those outside NSW, there are other options such as PetrolSpy, Motormouth or Fuel Map Australia;
- Cashback providers such as Cash Rewards and Shopback have apps that may be able to save you money on some purchases. They work by refunding some of the commission they get for referring business to retailers;
- Bill splitting and quick payment apps such as Splitwise or Beem It can be helpful if you are regularly splitting bills or expenses with other people.
Some banks and other financial services providers offer apps that work with a service called IFTTT (short for If This Then That), which you can use to boost your savings in creative ways.
If you have a fitness tracker, you could set up IFTTT to automatically transfer some money to your savings account after you reach a steps goal. Or if you’re trying to cut down your social media time, you could set up a trigger to save money each time you post a photo on Instagram or share something on Facebook.
It’s a bit like the old swear jar!
3. Embrace the 30-day (or seven-day) rule to curb impulse purchases
We all have weaknesses when it comes to spending. For me, it’s coffee. For financial planner Kate McCallum, it’s shoes.Is your shopping habit a problem?Do you find yourself regularly browsing the shops on your lunch break or mindlessly scrolling online stores at night?Read more
Her strategy to deal with her weakness is simple: she has a strict 30-day rule before making a purchase.
“Nine times out of 10, I decide I don’t really need them. That’s one of my favourites — I do that with virtually everything.”
If 30 days seem a bit extreme, or if you’re worried the item might not be available for much longer, try a week instead, Ms Hall adds.
The important thing is to remember that we can often get carried away while treating ourselves to some retail therapy.
4. Take time to review ongoing expenses
Whether it’s phone plans, electricity and gas bills, or your mortgage, it can pay to shop around, Mr Patsika says.
“There’s opportunities to save money … by using some of the great comparison sites out there,” he says.Laura’s money makeoverWith bills piling up, and more spending on the horizon, can 41-year-old Laura find herself out of a financial hole?Read more
Looking at your utilities bill is a great place to start, Mr Patsika adds.
The federal government runs an energy provider comparison website, which can help you look at your options and see if you’re getting a good deal.
If you’re in Victoria, the Government will even pay you $50 if you use its service to compare offers. It’s as simple as finding an old bill and plugging in the numbers. For a few minutes of your time, you could save hundreds of dollars over the course of a year or two.
5. Try to plan ahead to avoid spending big on food
Buying your lunch at work or using delivery service for dinner is convenient, but the costs can really add up, says Ms Hall.
“If you’re eating lunch out three times a week, because you’re in a role where you’re busy or always out, it really adds up,” she says.
“When you lay on top of that entertainment and eating out for broader social reasons, it can add up to be a significant amount.”7 healthy dinner recipes for busy peopleIt’s not always easy to eat healthy, especially when your days are frantic and full.Read more
Here are her tips for keeping costs to a minimum:
- Do a big grocery shop during the week and plan ahead. When you’re tired after a long day at work, and there’s no food in the fridge, getting food delivered is going to look mightily tempting.
- Saving money on coffee doesn’t mean you are stuck with the instant stuff. If you work in an office, you could try bringing in a coffee maker and beans.
- Alcohol is another category that can really add up. Ms Hall is trying a dry January: “I’m noticing the savings and I’m thinking about making it a dry 2019.”
Whatever your goal is, the most important thing is to get started. Given a bit of time, those few dollars here and there really will add up.