Money

One Tiny Trick To Actually Enjoy Saving Money

So, saving money can sometimes feel like a late-90s fad diet: carefully tracking what’s coming in and going out, only to end up feeling restricted, guilty and empty anyway. (And unable to eat burgers). But it definitely doesn’t have to be that way.

I saved around $16,000 before I was 20 through a lot of careful scrimping and this one easy trick that’s completely changed my mindset towards saving money. Now, I no longer feel worried when I go out for dinner, I don’t consider every purchase with the guilt-inducing thought, “How much would I save if I didn’t buy this…” and, importantly, I really appreciate what I do spend my money on, instead of chastising myself to the point of not enjoying my new things.

 

Do you feel the same towards spending and saving? This trick can help.

 #1: Figure out what’s coming in

This whole idea turns on changing your perception of what your money is for, so to start, you need to understand how much you have to work with – basically, what you earn.

Money from wages, reimbursements, allowances, dividend payments, welfare payments, rent, birthday cash, a trust fund, the clothes you sell online… whatever’s coming in, note it down, and average it out to a weekly or monthly figure.

When I first started saving I liked tracking this figure weekly, not monthly, because I was working the same weekly shifts at a local bakery and I knew exactly how much would come in every week. If you get paid monthly, allocating yourself a monthly allowance may work better, so cost all your incomes and expenses per month.

#2: Figure out what’s going out 

This is the awful, calorie-counting equivalent step in this budget process, but bear with me: go through this once, and you won’t have to think of it again.

Add up everything coming out of your bank account that you have to pay: rent, phone bill, internet, petrol, groceries, pet food, etc. Don’t forget to factor in a proportionate contribution for the one-off payments that you don’t come across every day, like annual license fees and occasional vet bills.

We haven’t forgotten beer money and yoga classes, I promise! The totally unavoidable stuff needs to come out of the budget allocation first, so the rest of your funds feel free and unburdened.

Once you know how much you need to spend per week to survive, you can continue this trick without sitting down to your sums each week, so you don’t find yourself at the front of the bar at 6pm on a Friday madly switching single-digit sums from one account to another as your bartender holds your bank card hostage.

Once you know how much you need to spend per week to survive, you can continue this trick without sitting down to your sums each week, so you don’t find yourself at the front of the bar at 6pm on a Friday madly switching single-digit sums from one account to another as your bartender holds your bank card hostage.

#3: Add a regular savings figure to your expenses

Even if it’s just $5. Seriously. You’ve probably heard it a hundred times before, but there’s a good reason for that: even the smallest contribution will build up over time into a handy stash for emergencies. Losing five bucks each week from your pocket money won’t feel like anything, but six months from now could cover the surprise speeding fine or new pair of running shoes that would have otherwise blown the whole year’s careful budgeting.

Even the smallest contribution will build up over time into a handy stash of cash.

I saved so much money because my rent was cheap, and I could transfer $100 per paycheck to my savings account each week, but the key is setting aside however much you can afford and then forgetting about it.

By factoring regular savings into your weekly expenses, you’re putting yourself in a position where you don’t have to choose between saving money and enjoying yourself, because your sensible savings deduct before your money becomes yours for play. Never again will you stand longingly outside your once-daily café with a homemade flask of instant cofee, because this savings plan makes sure you’ve got money stashed aside before you start your spending.

#4: What’s the difference?

Ok, time for some maths. Add your expenses to your savings and subtract from your income. You’ll likely be left with a small, but positive figure – literally, a positive number, but also, some good news! That money is now play money, pocket money; whatever you want to call it: it’s entirely yours to spend however you like, free from guilt or obligation, and without needing to hold your breath as your card payment processes.

#5: Now, spend without guilt

Instead of splitting the dinner bill down to the last dollar, YouTubing fitness videos alone in the lounge room, or getting accidentally wasted at pre-drinks because you can’t afford a drink out, you now have money in your pocket to spend on whatever you’d like – and, importantly, a plan to make sure it’s not a one-off.

Assuming your income and essential expenses remain fairly steady, you should be able to roughly subtract and end up with the same magic number for pocket money each week. Your beer budget may not be quite as large as it was before you started saving, but with this trick, you always know where your money goes, you know you’re saving steadily every week, and you can still do things like drink with friends or buy a record or go out for coffee without feeling guilty, restricted, and limited.


Sophie Raynor is a writer and list-maker from Perth living in tropical Timor-Leste. She loves ethical development communications and taking about sweating, and tweets at @raynorsophie.

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