Saving is a habit. And a muscle.
Imagine anything you can do well. Play guitar, play football, do calligraphy, play video games, drive a car. The first time you did this you will have sucked. But the more you did it and trained, the better you got. That’s because your muscles learned the movements, how to interact, and got stronger. You trained your savings muscle.
Everything that you can do well was learned like that. Saving is no different.
The first time you try it will feel weird and alien.
Start little with small habit changes and train your savings muscles up. Soon the tiny saved heap will get bigger and bigger and it will be easier to save instead of spend. And there is nothing more satisfactory than seeing a growing number in your savings account and getting closer to fulfilling these dreams.
Here are a few things you can try out. You can always start it as a challenge and then implement as a habit. If you do it with someone else it has the added effect to have someone who holds you accountable.
No spend day
Choose a day, any day, on which you spend nothing. Bring a thermos with your own coffee for the daily train ride to work, pack your lunch, some snacks and buy nothing. AT ALL. You may need to plan ahead, but it’s a great feeling not having spend anything at all for an entire day.
Substitute one spending habit with a free alternative
Daily flat white to go? If you spend around £3 per coffee each morning, substituting this with one you prepare at home and bring in a thermos cup saves you over £600 per year. That alone does not sound a lot, but do this for 35 work years and that adds up to over 22,000 that you could have as a pension. And that’s not counting in the magic of compound interest.
If you find that you buy books all the time that you do not read right away (which was one of my bad habits), I suggest becoming a member of the library. It is free in the UK. They have thousands of books. And videos, CDs, audiobooks.
For one week, set a budget, get the money in cash and stick to it. For example £150. Once the money is gone, it’s gone. Paying for things in cash makes you realise that you are parting with money. No one likes to part with anything. You will also learn to plan. Pub night? You need to save this in your allowance.
This “exercise” is easier if you actually remove cards from your wallets for this time.
Saving all the coins
Once you go cardless you will get change. No one likes to carry around all the small coins. So save them in a jar. That regularly adds up to lovely lump sums.
Do not save your payment information in online shops
Online shopping is a downfall for many. Because it’s so easy. You don’t think about it. One click and your money is gone.
One way of doing this is not to save your payment details for “next time”. That means should you want to buy again, you will have to get your card out and enter details. This will give the time you need to ask yourself whether you really NEED this.
This also has the advantage that this sensible data is not stored and therefore cannot be hacked and stolen.