Whether it’s a commitment to work out more, smile more or help out more around the house, New Year’s resolutions come in all shapes and sizes. The chance to start over again can feel so refreshing, but sticking to our resolutions is another thing altogether!
One of the most common themes for new year’s resolutions is to save more money. Without a solid strategy in place however, you may struggle to keep up your good intentions on willpower alone.
We’ve put together a list of tips and tricks to keep your money-saving resolutions on the right track. Before we get started, let’s get all Game of Thrones-y and take a solemn vow to keep us focused on this epic money-saving quest:
This year, in order to be the master of money-saving I was destined to be, I hereby swear to…
Write down my savings goals
Over the years, studies have shown that people are more likely to uphold their resolutions if they write them down as a list first. By doing this, you’re essentially making a commitment to yourself on paper, even if no one else will ever read it. Re-writing your goals once a week or month can help reinforce them in your mind.
What do you want to save up for? Be specific! There are no wrong answers here. Do you want to put money aside for someone’s birthday? Is there a big event coming up like a wedding that you don’t want to be left short for? Having a goal in mind can help you focus and prevent any temptations to squander your savings.
Put your list of savings goals somewhere you’re likely to see it every day, such as the fridge door or hallway mirror. You’re more likely to see them before popping out to the shops – a quick reminder for you to keep your eyes on the prize!
Build that budget and stick to it!
It’ll be very tough indeed to save up in the long term unless you’ve accounted for your living costs and one-off expenses such as hairdressing. You’ll need to ensure that all of your household bills are paid in full every month. Any debts you’re dealing with will need to be factored in, too.
If you’re unsure of how to build a budget, our online advice tool Debt Remedy can help you do it step-by-step.
Start small and build from there
You may want to give yourself a head start and bank a chunk of money right now. While that’s understandable, you might find it a struggle to live on what’s left over. A more sustainable way to save money is to start small, even if it’s a couple of pounds a week in a jar.
You could choose a type of coin such as a 20p or a £2, and resolve to save that type of coin every time it finds its way into your purse or wallet. By doing this you’re turning it into a bit of a fun game, and it’ll soon add up!
Save in a way that works for me
There are several different methods you could use for saving money. It’s all about figuring out what works for you. Once you know what your surplus income is each month, ask your employer if you could have some money deducted at source and put into a separate account. If you’ve budgeted correctly for everything you need, you mightn’t even notice the money’s gone after a while as it‘ll be taken away before you can spend it.
Some people like to set up a separate bank account to pay the money in themselves. You need to be disciplined and resolve not to dip into the funds next time you see a treat or gadget you ‘need’ in your life (I’m speaking from experience with that one).
I personally find that shoving coins in a special money tin that I have to physically pry open with a tin opener is a very effective way to save some cash. It also acts as a bit of a deterrent. In the time it takes to fetch the tin opener I usually talk myself out of dipping into those savings!
Squirrel away any extra income I receive
Now, I know I’ve just been talking about starting small, but one of the quickest ways to build up savings is to save any extra income you get on top of your normal income. Putting aside things such as overtime pay, utility bill rebates and tax refunds means that you can save up without potentially taking money away from your living costs.
(Please note that if you’re on a debt solution such as a DMP or IVA, you must let your debt management company or insolvency practitioner know of any extra income you receive so it can be factored into your debt solution.)
Prepare for any emergencies that may arise
There are few things more disheartening than having to dip into your savings to pay for those unexpected costs in life. Things like broken boilers, faulty car engines and vet bills have a tendency to crop up at the worst time.
One of our recent campaigns showed that if every family had £1,000 in savings, it would stop half a million of them from falling into debt. Without an emergency fund, many people find that they have to turn to things like payday loans to cover unexpected costs. This can often make a tough situation even worse.
Rather than relying on credit, we’d recommend that you take a portion of the money you’re saving and put that in a special pot for emergencies. By doing this from the start you’re setting money aside while simultaneously preparing for unwanted bumps in the road!
Kick the cigs to the kerb
As we all know, the cost of cigarettes is going up all the while. Not only are they terrible for your health, but a 10-a-day habit can cost you thousands of pounds a year! If you want to save big, make this the year you pack in – or at least cut down on – the cigs.
Being a former smoker myself, I know that packing in smoking is easier said than done. Relying on willpower alone might not be enough, and it’s often the daily stresses in life that make us needy for the nicotine. Make sure you talk to your doctor about free support for quitting smoking that’s available in your area, or visit the NHS Smoke Free website.
When you resolve to quit, take the money you would have spent on cigarettes, put two thirds of it away and keep the remaining third for yourself. Rewarding yourself is key when quitting smoking. You’re not getting the nicotine reward anymore, so try replacing it with another type of reward such as a new item of clothing each month or a trip to the cinema with a friend.
Why not ask a smoker friend to join in on the challenge? You can both save a packet!
Shop around for the best deals
It might just sound like common sense, but try adopting a ‘shop around first’ policy, especially when buying things such as gifts and appliances. There are lots of price comparison websites you can use. Don’t forget to also check Google for any discount voucher codes that may be valid for the online shops you’re thinking of purchasing from.
A great way to make savings every day is to check whether your favourite supermarket is giving you the best deals. For example MySuperMarket can tell you if you’d be better off getting the weekly shop elsewhere.
If you’re a die-hard fan of your current supermarket, MoneySavingExpert.com’s fantastic Downshift Challenge tool can tell you how much you saved if you simply swapped the premium or own brands for the no-frills version (if you’re not doing this already). Doing this could save you hundreds of pounds every year. That’s surely worth celebrating, right?
Keep a spending diary
Fancy coffees, trips out for lunch and other miscellaneous spends can take a hefty chunk out of our available cash. To really understand where your money is going, try keeping a diary and jot down any amounts you’re spending. Doing this is a great way to identify where you could be cutting back. We’ve tried various budgeting apps in the past that can help you with this.
Forgive myself for any money mishaps!
I’m going to go out on a limb here and presume that you’re a mere human. And as a mere human, you’re bound to make mistakes in life, especially when it comes to money. If you stumble one week and forget to save your pennies, or make an impulse splurge in the January sales, do NOT beat yourself up!
Being hard on yourself is a sure-fire way to kill your motivation dead and could send you back to square one. This isn’t what saving money is about. It’s about making smart decisions, and being hopeful for the future. Whatever happens, just know that we believe in you!
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Need support? there’s a thriving community of thrifty folk just like you on the MoneySavingExpert.com forum. Be sure to stop by their Old Style Money Saving thread!