When it comes time to consider where you’d like to be financially in a year from now, or ten, it’s often all too easy to either set unrealistic goals or fail to stick to the plan you have. If it’s any consolation, you’re not alone. So here are six easy-to-follow steps to help ensure that you stick to your savings plan in 2019 and beyond.
- Set solid goals
This one may seem like a no-brainer but it’s often the first thing that people get wrong. Far too often the goals we set aren’t clearly defined or even attainable, which leads to disappointment when our savings don’t go as planned. Knowing where you are going helps you to have a point to focus on, which in turn allows you to further break it down into smaller, achievable steps. Let’s say you want to have a comfortable retirement, or save for your child’s university studies. Write it down. Don’t be vague. State the amount you want to achieve and by when. While you’re at it, also say ‘why’ you want to save for these things. How will it make you feel to have attained your goal? Understanding the emotional reward will further drive you to keep at it.
Remember, without a goal, you won’t have a dream to make the sacrifices seem worthwhile.
Next, think about how you are going to break that long-term goal down into smaller short-term targets. For example, set yearly and monthly targets that you can adjust if needed. This way, your momentum will be maintained, morale will remain high and you will have a constant reminder of your ultimate purpose.
- Know where you stand
Here’s another one of those things that many of us don’t want to think about. Ask yourself, what is your current financial status? Do you really know how much you are worth – the total value of the assets which you own versus any debt you may have accrued? We know it may seem scary, but understanding the big picture is the first step towards knowing what you genuinely can and can’t afford. This means gathering together all of your bank statements, card statements, debts and savings in order to get a complete overview of where you stand.
Next, take a critical look at what you are spending your money on. If there’s anything that you don’t need, or that seems wasteful, stop it. The idea is to consolidate and simplify your position so that you’ll know exactly how much you have to put aside each month.
- Keep track of your spending
This is another area where even the best savings plans can become derailed. Yes, it takes a bit of effort, but it will help you to remain disciplined and committed to your end goal. What you’ll need to do is think about how much you are prepared to spend on each of the main categories, such as entertainment, groceries, school supplies and so on. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of things each month. Add up your income, subtract your spending and the rest is what you have available to put away. Over time you will have a clearer picture of how much you can save and you can look at setting up a stop order to automatically transfer that amount into a savings account each month. By doing this as soon as you get paid, you won’t even notice that the money is being saved and you will quickly adjust to making do with what remains.
- Spend smarter
There are many ways in which you can save simply by being smarter with your spending. It all comes down to putting a bit of thought into how you pay for things. For example, did you know that you can save a lot by paying school fees as a lump sum rather than splitting them over a number of months? It also pays to review your short-term insurance policies at the end of each year. Many assets depreciate in value so can therefore be insured for less. Also, quite often, your insurer will be open to negotiating a lower premium, especially if they feel that you may be looking around.
In addition, it’s worth paying attention to how you can pay off your debts sooner – particularly by prioritising those that charge the most interest, such as credit cards and other short-term debt. A little bit of thought here can go a long way towards freeing up more money for your savings.
There’s also one very rewarding way in which you can spend smarter with bsmart. As you may already know, you earn cash back on purchases made using your bsmart card at any of our over 10,000 retail partners. This is a fantastic way to put money back into your pocket which, in turn, can go straight into your savings.
Finally, consider putting the money you save somewhere where you can’t touch it, such as stocks, an investment account or a retirement plan. This will help to remove temptation should you have a rush of blood to the head and want to dip into it.
- Learn from your mistakes
Remember that you won’t always get it right first time. Don’t beat yourself up if you fail to meet your target, or have trouble with juggling all the numbers. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as you can. We mentioned earlier about setting smaller goals as you go – these are invaluable in helping you to adjust where necessary, so that you don’t drift too far off course. Hang in there, you can do it.
- Leave room for rewards
Saving should never feel like a chore, or a grudge. You need to give yourself a pat on the back sometimes, and therefore it’s important to have a break from time to time. For example, once a year, if you have met your savings target, then treat yourself to something nice – a dinner, a weekend away, or even buy yourself a small gift to say well done.
We can assure you that if you follow these six simple steps, you will be well on your way to meeting your savings goals for the year ahead.It may not always be easy, but it will all be worth it when you look back and can proudly admire how far you’ve come.
Disclaimer: bsmart does not provide financial advice. The above article is for information purposes only, to share current economic and financial topics and trends. Please consult a suitable and qualified financial services provider if you require financial advice.