Spending money is way more fun than saving it.
This means that for anyone wanting to save money, there’s an ongoing battle taking place. The battle is between your inner spender that wants that sweet, sweet dopamine hit and your inner saver who knows when you save more money faster, you accelerate how quickly you’re getting ahead.
If you want to eventually replace your salary by investing, how much you save and invest is going to be the single biggest driver of your rate of progress.
In Australia today, the average annual income is $92,029 or $1342 per week after tax, which based on our average savings rate of 8.7 per cent means the average Aussie saves $117 per week.
Saving more is clearly better than saving less. But most people underestimate the power of small changes here. If you were to double this savings rate and find an extra $117 per week ($16.71 per day) you’d unlock some serious financial potential.
Based on the long-term (30-year) return on Australian shares of 9.8 per cent, investing $117 per week into the sharemarket would grow to $102,675 over the next 10 years. Keep this going, and over 20, 30, and 40 years this extra savings would grow to be worth $375,162, $1,098,307, or $3,017,442.
The power of time and money is a wonderful thing.
But saving isn’t easy. Life can be expensive, and there are so many nice things you can spend your money on. And money management can get complicated and confusing, making it hard to manage your money in a way that makes it easy to save.
The good news is that there are a few hacks and tricks you can use to make it easier to save more and spend better.
Lay out your spending
The first step to increasing how much you save is to get clear on your spending. This might sound a bit counterintuitive, but an important part of confident saving is knowing you’ve put money aside for all the spending that’s important to you.
Use a spreadsheet or budget calculator to lay out all the money you have coming in and going out so you can see what’s left.
When doing your budget and savings plan, look forward, not backwards. This means you don’t need to stress or spend too much time figuring out exactly how much you spent in the last 12 months. Instead, focus on how much you want to be spending in the year ahead.
Once you have all of your income and expenses laid out, it’s time to boost your savings number. Your savings is what’s leftover, but it’s not the least important thing – prioritisation is key here.
Everyone’s priorities are different and there’s no magic one-size-fits-all approach. Look through your expenses and think about which are most important to you. It’s easy for expenses and spending habits to creep into our lives that don’t bring much real enjoyment or happiness. These should be the first on your hit list.
Work through your expenses, and look closely at anything you don’t think is important. Cutting these out will free up cash you can direct to savings.
Increase your income
Being in control of your spending is an effective way to free up more money to save. But, there’s a limit to how much you can cut back on your expenses – there’s no limit to how much you can increase your income.
Increasing your income can be done in two ways. It can be done immediately by taking on more work, like getting a second job or working a gig economy job like driving Uber.
The second and potentially more powerful way to increase your income is by accelerating or changing your career, potentially through upskilling or reskilling to work towards a significantly higher income.
These strategies can work, but only you know how well they might work for you. Think through your options so you can have total confidence in the path you choose.
Segregate and automate
I think everyone (myself included) has created a budget that didn’t work. Where things most often fall down is through your day-to-day banking and money management. Once you have a great savings plan, you need a system to turn this into savings results.
I’m a big fan of the bucket system for banking, where you have different bank accounts for different types of expenses. This ensures you have the right money in the right places at the right time to cover the spending that’s important to you while you save more.
There are only so many types of expenses we have – fixed costs like bills, general spending, debt payments, short-term savings and your long-term savings. Categorise your spending so you can automate your banking and saving, and you automate your savings success.
Do something smart
Once your savings system is in place, to actually get ahead you need to put your money to work. There are only so many options available for you to build your wealth: You can save in cash, buy shares or ETFs, cryptocurrency, invest through property or crank your superannuation.
Most often the best approach is a combination of several options, and if you want to get ahead you’ll need to actively make a choice and take action.
To figure out the best approach for you, understand the pros and cons of each option and set your strategy. If things are complex or you’re working with a decent amount of money, think about getting some good professional advice to help with your decision.
Saving more money is one of the biggest drivers of getting ahead faster. The more you save, the more you can direct to building your wealth – and through the power of compound interest small changes will make a big difference over time.
But it’s not easy. What feels good in the moment is often in conflict with your money success, so to make it easier to get the results you want you need to take a tactical approach.
Build a solid savings system, and it will help you save more today. A good savings system will also help you build better spending and saving habits that will serve you well in the years ahead.
Ben Nash is a finance expert commentator, podcaster, financial adviser and founder of Pivot Wealth, the host of the How to be Successful with Money podcast, and author of the Amazon best-selling book ‘Get Unstuck’.
Ben has launched a series of free online money education events to help you get on the front financial foot. You can check out all the details and book your place here.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Therefore, you should consider whether the information is appropriate to your circumstances before acting on it, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a finance professional.