There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is now.” You can make plans in life all you want, but sometimes, when you least expect it, things get in the way of them. With each new bill you get being slightly higher than the last one was, and prices going up across the board, putting a bit aside for a rainy day seems all but impossible. But when it comes to saving money, it’s never too late to make a start! First things first: cast a critical eye over your daily spend. As another famous Chinese proverb puts it, “A [financial] journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Here are some tips on how small but effective changes to your everyday routine can help you save.
1. Set yourself goals and stick to them
The more defined the goals you set yourself, the more you can focus on achieving them. It’s important to get it clear in your own mind what you’re saving for and how much you need to put aside for it. Next, decide on a realistic timeframe.
Say, for example, you’re an enthusiastic amateur photographer and want to get yourself a new camera. Apart from anything else, if you get good enough to start earning money from it, it could be a very smart investment in your future. Do some research: work out how much you’re likely to have to pay for the camera, adding in a bit of a buffer, just to be on the safe side. Based on the price, decide how long you’re willing (and able) to save up for it and the amount you’ll need to stash away each month. If you can stick to this plan, you’ll see the €€€ steadily piling up until you’ve cobbled together what you need. You’ll also see that saving money is, in fact, possible.
2. Pay yourself
When it comes to money matters, pay your bills, sure – but also pay yourself! Once you’ve covered everything you have to each month, put a little in your piggy bank as well. It could very well come in handy one day. If, say, your car unexpectedly conks out on you at some point, you won’t then have to wait till the next pay day to get it fixed.
3. Check what you’re splashing out on
It’s often the little things we spend money on from day to day that cause our bank balances to dwindle – that coffee you grab on the way to work each morning, that quick bite in the little café you love during your lunch break, those Netflix bills you set up a standing order for and never even notice you’re paying (never mind the fact you hardly ever watch anything on it)... Over the course of a year, all of these seemingly insignificant daily or monthly outlays add up. Try to keep a note of your spending for an entire month and then decide what you can forgo. It might be an idea to invest in a high-quality thermal travel mug and take your own coffee to work, doing the right thing by your bank balance and the environment. And why not take a packed lunch with you? Look at your streaming services, and do away with any you rarely if ever use. Instead of paying for films and TV shows, grab a book from a library, or buy one second-hand and sell it on once you’re done with it.
4. Resist the temptation to impulse-buy
Ooh, look, 50% off! Bargains are hard to pass up, right? But discipline is the cornerstone of financial planning. Think carefully about what you need. Ask yourself these questions before giving in to temptation:
There’s a good reason people sleep on decisions, including whether to buy something – by the next morning, the impulse has often passed. So don’t rush into anything, and think about why you actually want to buy whatever it is that’s caught your eye.
5. Turn things (and talent) into cash
Make more money by selling things you don’t need. There are almost always unwanted items in people’s homes that others might be interested in buying: books, clothes, electronics... They mightn’t have any value in your eyes anymore, but they could still prove useful to someone else. Plus, recycling is a step in the right (i.e. environmentally friendly) direction. But don’t waste any money you make from selling things – squirrel it away.
Also think about your skills and talents and how you could turn them into a revenue stream in your spare time. Perhaps you’re good at handicrafts, or a keen gardener whose green thumbs could be of help to others? Turn something you enjoy doing into something that also makes you money.
Planning for tomorrow
Saving is often possible, even if it isn’t always easy. Draw up a plan, starting with at least one of the tips set out above. After a while, take a look at whether you’ve actually managed to save anything – bearing in mind that where financial planning is concerned, patience is very much a virtue. Good luck!
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