How to save money
By Nicholas Renotte
How often have you said “I want to save money“ but haven’t actually followed through? It’s not easy right? Saving money means giving up things that you could be buying. It’s no fun.
How on earth do other people do it? There always seems to be that one person that manages to buy all the things they want yet can still save up for that dream holiday.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. The biggest barrier to saving is… YOU!
There’s no magic pill for saving. You already know how to do it. It’s a matter of willpower. That’s not to say you can’t have a helping hand.
Cue the three step plan to saving. I’ve sliced and diced to bring you a simple guide on how to make sure you save. Read on to get started.
1. Set a goal
But more specifically write down your savings goal.
There’s a famous study that was conducted on the Harvard MBA class of 1979. Graduates were asked “have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”. Of the students surveyed 84% of the students said they had no goals, 13% said they had goals but had not written them out and the remaining 3% stated that they have clear goals which were written down.
Ten years later the same group of MBA graduates were surveyed. The 13% of students that had goals were earning twice as much as the 84% that had no goals. But the real kicker, the 3% who had goals which were written down were earning on average ten times as much as the the rest of the class combined!
Make sure your goal is a SMART goal. It needs to be sure it’s Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. Then write it down. I’ve put together a savings calculator and commitment page for you to use to help you set SMART savings goals.
If there’s something in particular that you’re saving for, it helps to take a picture of the item and put it alongside your written goal. By visualising what it is you’re actually saving for, you’re more likely to achieve your goal. You have to believe it before you can achieve it! Andrew Carnegie’s famous book, Think and Grow Rich, was founded on this basis.
Once you’ve got your savings goal, stick the goal on your bathroom mirror. That way everyday, bit by bit you begin to believe you’ll hit that goal .
Action: Have you written down your goal?
2. Plan your attack
Once you’ve set down your goal it’s time to move on to phase two. Planning your attack, or put simply how to achieve your goal.
Note: If you haven’t downloaded the savings calculator yet, i suggest you grab it now! It’ll help massively with the next step.
Assume you’ve written down that your savings goal is to save $20,000 in one year. The first step is to enter 20,000 in the first orange cell (See Figure 1). This establishes the amount you want to save.
Next, you need to enter your timeframe. Based on our example, we want to hit our savings target in 1 year or 12 months. (Hint: By entering in the timeframe in months the calculator gives you the amount you need to save per month, check out figure 2 for how to do this.
You now know that in order to hit the $20,000 savings target in one year you need to be saving $1,667 a month. The key to hitting this target is making sure you’re explicit about how you’re going to achieve it. You need to make a solid commitment as to what you’re actually going to do to make sure you hit that savings target.
You might have noticed that there’s a second page to the savings calculator. This page is what I like to call the Commitments Page (See Figure 3). This page gets you to commit to your goal and your approach to achieving it. This is hyper important.
Saying you’re going to save more and how much you need to save isn’t enough. By writing down how you’re going to hit that monthly goal you’re one step closer to actually achieving it.
It’s a good idea when doing this to revisit your budget. Focus on putting the big rocks in first. More often than not you’ll find that there’s a big chunk of money you’re spending which with a little willpower you could cut pretty easily. For example, I realised this week that I spent $11 a day on energy drinks. EVERY DAY! If i multiplied that by the number of work days in the year it would add up to $2,860. Make sure you focus on the big things first.
Once you’ve completed your commitment page. I want you to do something which is vital.
Then tape it to your bathroom mirror.
You’ll see the list every morning and be reminded of what you’re aiming for. Remember the 3% of Harvard grads and what they achieved by having their goals written down. I did this in high school during the examination period. I would have post-it notes all over my bathroom with the number 95 written on it. That was the entrance mark i was aiming for. And you know what, i got 96. I busted my ass because of post-it notes. You’ll end up busting your’s to hit that savings goal!
Action: Have you completed filled out the savings calculator and filled in your commitment page?
You now know how much you need to hit your target. So it’s time to execute and get it done.
The best way to do this is to automate your savings. Take it out of your hands. Once you’ve worked out how much you need to save. Set up an automatic savings plan and an account which is a nightmare to get to. Set it up so that as soon as your pay comes in for the month the amount you need to save is taken out and put away in another account, which is hard to get money out of.
You’ll now have what you need to live off left in your every day spending account.
There are certain things you can cut out completely for example eating out. However there are always going to be those expenses that you can’t avoid. Lucky for you however, you can negotiate.
I know negotiation can be quite intimidating for a lot of people. Steven Cohen outlined that the three keys to succeeding in a negotiation are Power, Time and Information. So how do we translate these into negotiating lower bills.
- Power – For the majority of your expenses there is going to be more than one available supplier. For example there a multiple insurance companies that you could insure yourself through, the same applies to utilities and a lot of services. The power is on your side in this situation, if your current provider doesn’t want to budge you can always find a new one. This may not always be the case as there could be cancelation fees or high switching costs.
- Time – Keep time on your side. Don’t rush negotiations, keep your tone steady and remain calm. Any timeframes you impose are imposed on yourself. Let the negotiation take as long as it needs to.
- Information – Do your research. Know the suppliers’ competitors. Do they offer a cheaper rate? What differences are there? Use this as your leverage.
My personal favourite when kicking off negotiations is to ask:
“Is that your best price?”
It’s easy to slip in and will get the ball rolling. Assuming they say “Yes” (as they sometimes do), you can bring the information you’ve collected into play.
“XXX supplier has offered me savings of XXX. How much can you save me?”
It puts the ball in their court. The worst thing that can happen is they say that they can’t match it. In which case, it might be time to find a supplier that is willing to help you save. So get negotiating!
Follow the steps above and you’ll be on your way to hitting any savings goal you’ve ever had. The key is setting your goal and sticking to it. Put the rocks in first and execute.