Having cash to fall back on lets you take unexpected costs in your stride, helps avoid expensive debt, and means extra money for treats. While that sounds brilliant – and it is! – being a savvy saver takes practice. Here’s how to get started.
1. Make a budget
Saving is much simpler when it’s affordable and realistic – so grab a piece of paper (or use the budget sheet here) and write down:
- How much money you bring in each month, i.e., wages, State benefits or, if you’re a student, any Student Finance you get. Add up your total income.
- How much you spend each month on essentials – we’re talking the payments you can’t skip: rent, utility bills, childcare or paying off existing debt. Write down your total spending.
If you’ve more money coming in than going out every month, brilliant! Work on putting some of the excess towards savings before non-essential spending.
Nothing left over? See if you can earn more or spend less (ideally both!). Could you work extra shifts or earn money in your spare time? Have you shopped around for the best deals on bills and shopping? Find ways to cuts everyday costs and put the extra towards savings.
Need to save quickly (i.e., for Christmas)? Look for non-essentials you can ditch, i.e., go without your favourite treats for a month or two to help kick-start your savings.
Start small if you have to: even saving just £1/day earns you £365 after a year (and there are ways to boost it – read on!).
2. Get a savings goal
A money goal is like having a personal trainer: it reminds you where you’re going, how you’re going to get there and, when the going gets tough, motivates you to keep at it! You might want to save for a holiday, a car, or in case of emergency. You might even decide that you want more money because you like the good things in life – just pick something you feel passionate about!
Decide when you’ll need the cash and work backwards to see how much you need to save each month – but be realistic. If you want £200 for Christmas presents, it’s much easier to save £17/month for a year than scrabbling to finding £100/month in November and December: plan ahead where you can.
3. Pay yourself first
If you’re serious about building up savings, it pays to make it a priority. Anytime you come into money (from wages or anything else), scoop off a few quid and add it to your savings before touching the rest. Use your budget to check how much you can put away – then do it!
4. Have a dedicated savings account
If you’re more comfortable with a piggy bank or coin jar, there’s nothing wrong with sticking with what works for you – but keeping your cash with a bank or credit union comes with benefits:
- It’s harder to spend cash if it’s in a savings account (just check you can withdraw easily if you need to).
- Cash stored in an account with FSCS protection is secure against loss and theft – check your bank or credit union displays the logo (most in the UK do).
- Money in a bank account can earn interest: that’s extra cash for free! Shop around for the highest interest rate, then try not to withdraw the cash (or the interest) until you really need to.
5. Make saving easier
Finding spare cash isn’t easy – but there are tactics that can help!
- Use ‘free cash’ that you won’t miss: if you use cashback sites when shopping, aim to put any reward money towards your savings asap.
- Empty your pockets for loose change every evening and stick it in a coin jar. At the end of the week tip the money out and pay it into your savings account.
- See if your bank offers ‘round-up savings’: when you spend money from your current account, the amount is automatically rounded to the nearest pound, with the extra pennies moved to a savings account for you. No maths or willpower involved!
- Have a look at auto-saving apps like Chip or Cleo. These connect to your bank account to identify how much you can afford to save each month, with that amount siphoned to a savings account.
- If you’re struggling to save, check if you can earn more or spend less – or see if planning for costs in advance could help you avoid the rough spots. Get expert advice about managing your money or coping with debt if you need to: there’s no shame in asking for help, and it will leave you better off!
The more you practice, the easier saving gets: give it a go, swap tips with friends and family, and stick with it!
Ruth Bushi is Editor of Save the Student