Don’t get me wrong, I love an ambitious savings goal. It’s how I work best: save, save, save, and then take the great trip or buy the cool thing I’ve been saving for. BUT, it can A) be a bit boring to cut back on spending on the things you’d like to have; and B) make you feel like you’re broke all the time. If you really want to stick to your savings goal without losing your mind (or giving up on it entirely) here are my top tips.
Start with a plan
The first thing to do when you have an ambitious savings goal is to work out how much you can realistically put towards it each week or each month. The important word here is realistically. If you’re like me, you might want to put as much as you can towards it and just live off pasta and tinned tuna so you can reach your goal quicker, but this is a recipe for making it feel crazy hard and on the tough days you will want to take what money you’ve saved and spend all of it. Not the best idea.
Work out what you need to spend money on: bills, food, etc; and what things you might be willing to sacrifice: magazines or store bought lunch or coffee from the cafe on your way to the office. Set a budget of what money is coming in and what is going out and what you have left that you can save. Also look for some savings in what you’re already spending. Sometimes there are things you’re paying more for than you need to be and it’s not too much hassle to switch.
Build in fun money
When you’re working out your budget, it’s a great idea to build in a little ‘fun money’ so you don’t feel like you’re too broke to do anything. Fun money is where you allocate some money towards doing something that is a treat for you. It could be for dinner and a movie once a month or even (if you’re like me) a trip to the Lululemon outlet for some new fitness gear – guilt free.
Fun money allows you to still feel like you’re reaping the rewards of making the money you do, but also helps to keep you on track with your savings goal. It’s a way to treat yourself for being a good saver without feeling like you’re digging into your savings, as it’s part of the plan!
Make allowances for special occasions
If you know that you have some special events that you either really want to attend or will be expected to attend (like conferences, concerts or weddings) make note of them and how much they will cost you, so you can include that in your budget. Sometimes these things need to take priority to your savings, but if you prepare for them in advance, then you will know that some months the amount you can save will be less than others. It can also give you the chance to look for possible savings on clothing for the event or accommodation deals if you book far enough in advance. This will also help you not to feel ‘cheap’ when the event comes around and allow yourself to enjoy it!
Celebrate the milestones
Another thing you should include when you’re looking to stick to an ambitious savings goal is milestone points. Particularly when you’re saving for something big like a house or a car or an overseas trip, having milestones that remind you just how far you’ve come are so important. When I was saving for my big overseas trip in 2012, I kept track of what percentage I was towards my goal and added each deposit total to it as I added more to my savings. It was great to see it hit 25% and 50% and even those really tricky ones towards the end of 80% and 90%.
Don’t forget to celebrate these as you reach them. You don’t have to do it in an expensive, or opulent way, but just do something to mark the occasion. It could be a night off cooking or even just a dance party at home! Just something to say “hells yeah!” when you reach a milestone!
Remember what you’re saving for
When you start to feel a little overwhelmed and like you’re losing your mind because of all the saving and not spending, remember what you’re saving for. Have a little folder with information on the trip you’re working towards or some great photos of the car you’re looking to get. Or even have something about the great suburb/town/city you’re saving to move to. Something to remind you why you’re doing the hard work now and what you can have for your hard work at the end of it.
Be kind to yourself
Saving for something big is a commitment. It’s not easy, but in the majority of cases, it’s totally worth it. The important thing is to remember to be kind to yourself throughout the the process. It can be easy to feel like you’re not making enough progress or that you feel broke and it’s just no fun anymore. That’s when the fun money needs to come into play. Remember that whilst with most money goals, we set a deadline, it’s ok to adjust that where we need to. Sometimes it takes longer than we think at the beginning and that’s alright.
An ambitious savings goal can be a great way to keep yourself motivated, but it doesn’t have to be at the expense of how you feel. Be realistic in your goals, and you never know, you might surprise yourself by getting there when you hoped you would or maybe even a little sooner. It’s ok to move the goal posts. Just remember to also take care of you!
Are you a saver? What’s your number 1 tip?