Accumulating savings seems to be an impossible exercise for many, and with the high cost of living these days, it’s no wonder that many people don’t have much left after all the bills and day-to-day living expenses are met.
Money is one of the main causes of stress in Australia and can lead to health issues, depression and anxiety. It can also have a serious impact on relationships, so it makes sense to have some savings tucked away to provide financial security and reduce stress.
So why aren’t we saving?
The good news is that there are ways you can build up savings without breaking a sweat.
1. Track your spending
In order to save money, you need to know what you’re spending it on. Sounds like a no-brainer, but the majority of people don’t keep track of their money.
According to a study by UBank, a staggering 86% of Australians don’t know how much they are spending each month.
And it doesn’t help matters that we’re paying for things simply by swiping a card or phone most of the time, so it’s easy to lose track of spending because we’re not handing over physical cash.
There’s a lot of technology at our fingertips, so why not put it to good use? There are stacks of budgeting and finance apps out there that can really help you keep on top of your spending.
Be disciplined and track your spending for a month or two. It may seem a bit of a hassle to do this, but it can be a really useful tool to give you a picture of where your money is going each month.
2. Budgeting is everything
The fact is, savings don’t accumulate without budgeting, so now you know what you’re spending money on, set yourself a realistic budget and stick to it.
Make a list of all your debts, such as:
- credit cards
- education (school tuition, HECS)
- car repayments
- personal loans
Now make a list of your everyday expenses to see what you’re spending money on:
- energy and utilities
- phone and internet
- clothing and footwear
- health services
- education and childcare
- leisure and entertainment
Take a look at the areas where you can make savings. In your everyday expenses, identify what are ‘needs’ versus ‘wants’. Cut back drastically on the ‘wants’ or cut them out altogether for a few months.
Remember that there’s no point setting a budget if you don’t stick to it – set limits for your expenses so you can allocate more in savings.
Use our budget worksheet to get started.
3. Reduce debt
Now you’ve identified where you can make savings, reduce the debts which are roadblocks to savings. The fact is, we’re not going to accumulate savings when there’s debt hanging over our heads.
Have a look at your various debts and prioritise them - work out which ones are costing you the most in fees and charges and pays those debts off first.
Concentrate on eliminating in full the first debt you’ve identified. Then, go to the next item on the list, focusing on paying it off until it’s cleared. As you clear debt, you’ll have more to put onto other debts, so it’s a snowball effect.
It’s also worth looking into debt consolidation. Debt consolidation can make it easier to manage your repayments (plus it has the psychological benefit of there being only one debt to service).
With interest rates at historically low levels, investigate whether it’s worth refinancing your home loan and absorbing your other debts into your new home loan.
You could end up paying the same amount (or possibly less) each month! If you haven’t refinanced your home loan in a while, chances are you could save a considerable amount by doing this. Just be sure to do your research and shop around to compare.
4. Avoid paying the ‘lazy tax’ – shop around for savings
Whoever said that loyalty is rewarded certainly wasn’t referring to many goods and services providers.
Unfortunately, many companies take advantage of customer loyalty and don’t pass on discounts. They know that many people find it too hard to shop around. It’s affectionately called the ‘lazy tax’ and describes the hidden financial penalty consumers pay for not regularly shopping around and negotiating.
In other words, it’s the price we pay for being ‘lazy’ (or complacent); staying for too long with a provider and not bothering to do any research on the deals out there.
There are loads of comparison sites out there to help you crunch the numbers, so get your fingers walking ... shop around to find the best price for energy, utilities, insurance and phone – even your mortgage! It could save you thousands!
5. Change your mindset
Exercise restraint and change the way you think about money – every time you are spending money on things you don’t need, you’re diverting money that you could be using to increase savings. Remember that having savings put away will improve your health, sense of security and even your relationships.
The information on this page has been issued by Maritime Financial Services Pty Limited (MFS). It contains general information that doesn’t take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. It’s important to consider how appropriate this general information is in relation to your situation before making an investment decision. We recommend that you seek financial advice before making any decisions regarding your super or investments. The information on this page is current at the time of publishing.