5 Life Hacks to Save Money While Living the Good Life
Building savings is essential to long-term financial well-being. However, with all the unavoidable expenses that you need to cover, it’s easy to feel like there’s barely anything left to save.
You’re not really splurging money on crazy expenses. Your daily spending consists of toll fees to get to and from work, a Starbucks coffee on the go, lunch at a regular restaurant and a pizza or Chinese takeout for dinner. Then, there are your regular expenses of utility bills and groceries. But add all these together and it seems like there’s no room for savings, whether it's for short-term plans like buying a new car or long-term plans like retirement.
But financial experts argue that you can always save money without depriving yourself of the basic necessities and comfort in life. It’s all just a matter of strategizing.
Here are some money hacks to help you save money without changing your lifestyle:
1. Save at least 20% of your take-home pay.
Most experts recommend saving at least 10 to 20 % of your take-home pay. You can also follow the 50/30/20 budget rule, which was popularized by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren.
This strategy allocates 50% of your monthly after-tax income on needs (bills and other basic necessities), 20% on savings, and 30% on wants (short-term goals, like concerts, vacations and other expenses that are not absolutely essential).
2. Open different savings accounts for different goals.
A financial goal gives you a reason to prioritize saving and keeps you motivated to hit your target. Experts recommend opening different savings accounts for different goals, including:
- Emergency Fund—This will be the traditional savings account that you turn to during emergencies, like a job loss or illnesses that are not fully covered by your insurance. Your emergency fund must hold about three to six months worth of your living expenses.
- Superannuation Account—Also called a company pension plan, superannuation is an employer-sponsored retirement savings account. Aside from your employer contributing to your super fund, you can top it up with your own money by directing some of your pre-tax income. Upon retirement, you can withdraw your super fund as a lump sum, regular income stream, or a combination of both. If you choose to take it as an income stream, the money that you're not using continues to earn interest for you.
- Life Goals Account—Use this account to save for other financial goals beyond emergency fund and employer-sponsored retirement account, like buying a house or going on a family vacation. There are plenty of mobile apps that can help you achieve your long-term and short-term savings goals, like Qapital, Mint and MoneyBrilliant.
3. Automate your savings.
The best way to save money is to pretend that you never had it in the first place. There is no better way of doing this than automating the saving process.
- Open a savings account that is separate from your checking account then set up automatic transfers.
- If your employer offers direct deposit, go for it. Aside from your pay going directly into your bank account on payday, you can also split your paycheck into different accounts and designate a portion of your paycheck to one of that accounts.
- Additionally, there are mobile apps that automate your savings, like Acorns, which rounds up your spending to the nearest dollar, then puts the “spare change” in an investment account.
4. Strike a balance between saving and paying off debt.
Know when to pay off debt before saving or the other way around.
- Generally, it’s best to prioritize debt before saving, especially if you have high-interest consumer debt, like credit cards and personal instalment loans. This will help cut your interest payments.
To pay debts, create your budget based on your expendable income and include debt payment as a significant part of the equation. For credit card debt payment, you can open a balance transfer credit card, which allows you to consolidate all of your debt onto one low-rate card. This will help you save money on finance charges.
- If your debt has a very low interest rate, it is wise to save first. Build an emergency fund of three to six months’ worth of expenses, before focusing on paying the debt.
5. Budget your spending cash.
There are plenty of ways to budget your money. One of the classic ones is the Envelope System, which is a cash-only method. You would need envelopes labelled with categories and allocated amount (e.g. “Bills $15,000”, “Groceries $10,000, “Entertainment $500”). Then, you would fund the envelopes with the allocated amount every pay period and use the money according to each specified spending category.
If you’re not a fan of the cash-only method, you can adopt the 50/30/20 budgeting rule and create your budget based on the 80% money for spending. There’s also the 60 % Solution, which limits committed expenses (aka recurring bills and other necessities) to 60 % of your gross income.
Regardless of the budgeting methods you follow, make sure that your budget must cover all of your needs, your wants and savings for future expenses.
There are plenty of mobile apps that you can use to track your expenses, including:
- TrackMySPEND. Designed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), this app is a great help for those who are just starting out with budgeting.
- Pocketbook. Instead of manually entering your expenses, this app syncs to your bank account to give you a complete view of your spending.
- ATO. This Australian Taxation Office’s all-inclusive app is a great tool for tracking expenses of all things tax related.
Don’t forget to regularly update your budget plan. Since your income, expenses and priorities change over time, your budget should be adjusted accordingly.
Saving money doesn’t really require lifestyle sacrifices, but lifestyle modification. By learning how to save and budget your finances wisely, you can pay for all the things you need without wasting your hard-earned money.
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