Achieving your savings goals can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. Take control of your finances and make your money work for you.
If you’re a Gen Z or millennial, managing your money can feel like a constant battle.
Between living life to the full, paying off debts (thanks, student loan) and hitting financial milestones (like getting onto the housing ladder), saving for your future can seem out of reach. Plus, if the F-word (you know I mean finance) wasn’t an open conversation in the family home, it may feel harder to ask the tough questions and get the answers you need to properly manage your cash.
It’s safe to say that when it comes to money, we’re probably all in the same boat, unsure of where to turn for the right advice (no wonder it feels like we’re sinking). But learning how to swim often isn’t as hard as it first seems.
Here are my six tips to help you take control of your cash before it takes control of you.
1. Set clear financial goals
It’s hard to put money aside if you don’t know what you’re putting it aside for.
The best way to start saving for your future is by setting short term and long term financial goals. Whether that’s saving short term for a car or a holiday or long term for a deposit on your dream home or starting your own business, having clear goals will keep you motivated to save money more regularly.
2. A budget doesn’t restrict you – it frees you
If you’ve never built a budget before, now’s a good time to start! But sometimes, budgeting can feel like putting yourself on a fad diet.
And most fad diets fall apart because, let’s be honest, they’re restrictive (we’ve all devoured those guilty cheesy chips after a night out, we know the feeling). But that’s the difference between a budget and a fad diet – budgets don’t have to be restrictive.
It’s simply putting down on paper (or screen): How much you earn each month, how much you spend on necessities – the needs (rent, food, bills) and how much you need to save to hit those future financial goals.
Remember those financial goals I mentioned above? A budget helps you keep track of your money so you can hit your money goals in the short term and move closer to the long term goals. Keeping those goals and financial ambitions in sight will definitely help you stick to your new budget!
Got money left over after covering your living expenses and savings? Well consider it a cheat meal – spend it on whatever you like, it’s your fun fund (YOLO and all that, right?)
3. Weigh out your wants and needs
Ask yourself: Do you really need that new pair of trainers, or is it because that one Instagram influencer you love is showing them off on her stories? Are those new kicks more of a want than a need?
Totally fine if they’re a want, but it’s a good idea to get clear on what purchases sit in which camp. Are you spending 99% of your salary on wants and neglecting the needs? It may be time to have a reshuffle of spending.
4. Don’t let your monthly bills haunt you...
...take charge of them.
Review your direct debits and subscriptions and cancel the ones you don’t use anymore (let’s be honest, when was the last time you even opened your fitness app?). And for bills like electricity and gas, shop around – if there’s one thing I know for sure, there are some amazing deals and savings to be had out there if you just take the time to look!
5. Confront your debts
The only time being a Karen works out is when it comes to confronting your debts.
Get clear on what money you owe and the interest rates that apply. Paying off loans with higher interest rates could help save you huuuge amounts of money, and the sooner you pay off your loans, the better. Maybe there’s even room in your budget to pay off higher amounts?
When you take a loan from a lender or a bank, it’s not the same as having your mate cover for you (are you ever going to pay back that tenner?).
Every bank charges what they call ‘interest’ on any money they lend to you. It’s how much they charge you for borrowing money from them. So, when you pay them back, you’re not just giving back the money you borrowed, you’re paying them for letting you borrow that money too – and that’s how they make money.
Interest rates differ depending on the bank and the type of loan, so it’s a good idea to get clear on who’s charging you the most with the highest interest rate.
6. Don’t let finance deals and credit cards fool you
Credit cards have lots of perks like points, air miles and benefits for your credit score, but they can also lead to a build-up of high-interest debt (talk about toxic, right?). So, it’s important to make sure you stay in control of how you use your credit card – don’t get carried away.
It’s the same story with making a purchase on finance - when you can buy something expensive by making payments in instalments over time (sound familiar?).
They’re tempting and seem like a great option at the start (and of course, that new car or headset really spoke to you). But you might get stuck making hefty repayments (+interest) for years, because you’re essentially taking out a loan you need to pay back. So look at the bigger picture before making any promises.
7. Use protection (…income protection)
As 20-something year olds, we’re great at overthinking every situation.
But we don’t always consider what could happen to our financial goals if our income stopped coming in (what if you couldn’t work because of a serious illness or accident?).
You don’t want that to put a damper on your savings – that’s where income protection insurance comes in. It’s a financial product that replaces a percentage of your income if you fall ill and can’t work (what a legend), so you can stay on the path to achieving your financial goals. Find out more about income protection insurance here.
Yes, managing money can be hard.
But don’t let the daunting F-word give you sleepless nights. It’s important to have open conversations about your finances, and there are loads of helpful resources out there to get your money working for you.
Say it with me: Finance. Finance. Finance. Normalise the word and reclaim control of your cash! Who knows – your mobile banking app could become the first thing you open in the morning, instead of your Instagram.