In the spirit of writing more about topics that affect me and people similar to myself I thought I’d write about a topic that I feel I have a little bit of knowledge on; SAVING. This is a topic that comes up a lot in conversations with my friends simply because we’re all at that stage in our lives where we’re thinking more about the future. Whether it be planning a wedding, buying a house, preparing for a baby or getting ready for that dream holiday - we’re all forward planning and thinking about how we’re going to get shit done. We’re thinking about things from a logistics stand point yes, but more importantly we’re also thinking about things from a financial standpoint because let's face it money talks.
Stats show that today’s young adults are less likely to own property or to have savings and apparently we’re less resilient than 20-somethings of a decade ago. If that’s not bad enough we own less homes than 20-somethings in 2009 and between 2010 and 2014 the number of people in their 20s with savings dropped from 59% to 47%. Of course there are many other factors that come into play here such as our income and the cost of living, the social, economic and political climate etc but fact is, young people today have more debt and less savings.
Many of us grew up in houses where talking about money was taboo or just not a thing and as such we never got that financial education we needed to make better decisions with our money. I for one spent most of my teens and majority of my 20s blowing through my wages and treating my savings account like a second current account. By the time I had completed university I had zero savings, a significant amount of debt and zero idea of how I was going to fix it. I decided that things needed to change.
Having a partner who is great with money and who came from an upbringing where he was taught early on about how to save and avoid debt helped me a lot but let’s face it we’re all not as lucky and we usually have to navigate our way through our finances independently. Furthermore, you can have all the information, advice and support available but if you don’t make the decision to be disciplined and sort it out, you’ll never get to the other side and experience financial freedom.
This is the part of this post where I stress that I AM NOT A FINANCIAL ADVISER OR EXPERT and by no means should my advice be taken as gospel. This is just what I found helpful and what I personally did to get myself out of the red and into the black. Is that how it goes? Might be the other way around but yes, this is what I did to fix my financial situation and get to a place where my finances are no longer keeping me up at night.
This was probably the most important step for me because as I said I spent most of teens and 20s blowing through money fast like my name was Rick Ross with no regard for my future. I buried my head in the sand and before I knew it I was in a vicious cycle that I couldn’t get out of.
I decided I was no longer going to 'Ray Charles' my finances and I was going to face them head on! So one day, I pulled up my bank statements, my outgoings, my income and looked over my credit score (a topic needing its very own post). My stomach was in knots but I pushed through and faced it all like a big girl. I made a spreadsheet where I recorded where all my money was going including things like going out, eating out, shopping, debts, bills and miscellaneous activities. I inputted data for the 3 previous months and this gave me a very clear picture of how and why I was haemorrhaging through my money and finding it difficult to save.
It was hard and gut-wrenching and uncomfortable but after looking at all this information, I finally had a clear and honest picture of where I was, where I could make some changes and what I could do to finally start saving some money.
After coming to terms with my finances the next step was to make a realistic savings goal. What was I saving for and what period of time was I giving myself to save this amount? All very important questions.
For me it was easy to come up with this goal because I was newly engaged and thinking about my future so my savings goal became saving for a mortgage deposit and our wedding. If you’re not at this stage in your life, that’s okay - what’s most important is having a goal that can motivate you to stay on track. It could be a holiday, a new car or a Gucci bag, it really doesn’t matter. If it’s motivating you and it’s keeping you focused then that’s great.
Once you have your goal you can give yourself a time frame. It’s important that this time frame is not only realistic but manageable because the last thing you want is for saving to feel like a burden or a chore. I gave myself a year/year and a half max and for me that was going to be quite a task but it was possible to do without becoming a hermit and that was good enough for me.
After deciding on my savings goal it was time to limit the amount of money that was actually leaving my account. I knew I had to pay off my debts and that my bills had to be paid but was there really a need for me to be spending the amount I was on eating out and shopping? These two categories were my biggest expenditure so I decided to make some changes. Rather than going out to eat 3-4 times a week and buying lunch and snacks everyday I decided I would limit eating out to once a week and only make exceptions for special occasions and birthdays. We also did a grocery shop every Sunday so that me and Marcus could both take a packed lunch to work everyday and just by doing this we were able to save quite a bit of money.
With the clothing situation, I knew that with being a fashion blogger I needed to make sure I was churning out regular content to keep my audience engaged but I also knew that it was not financially feasible for me to be in Zara and H&M buying brand new outfits for the gram every week. I decided on a compromise which meant giving myself a strict monthly clothing budget and decided that rather than shopping till I drop I’d mix in more items I already had with what I bought and got from PRs to reduce the amount I was spending on clothing. This helped me keep up with my commitments online but also made it so that I wasn't over spending while doing it.
As well as these two things, I also got rid of subscriptions and memberships that I was no longer using, I began using discount codes and vouchers more where I could (Meerkat movies and Meerkat meals is the plug yo!), I got rid of my phone contract and generally just tightened up where I could and seriously, doing all these things together really brought my monthly expenditure down significantly and freed up some money to pop into my savings. The changes weren't drastic and they didn't make me feel like I was missing out on anything but they really helped me to save which was the main aim.
I was finally spending less but reality was that I needed more money to be coming in if I was going to meet my savings goals. I decided that I was going to maximise my income.
I was already earning money from my blog and Instagram but I knew that I could do more if I put my mind to it so I stepped my game up. I pitched to more brands and landed more paid work. I began using affiliate links a lot more for some extra coins and even signed up to influencer networks where I could get paid to create content. I started offering services behind the scenes for other content creators and sold products and clothes I was accumulating from brands on sites like eBay and Depop and all this together really helped to boost my income.
The point I’m making is not for everyone to go on Instagram and become an influencer but to look at the things that you do in life that add value and see how you can make money from them. If you make jewellery in your free time and your friends are always telling you how dope it is try selling it at a local fair, online or asking a local business to stock your jewellery. If you’re a photographer and you take great shots partner up with local businesses and individuals in your area and start making some extra cash. If you know how to slay a wig or beat a face then start small with friends and family and charge for your services and make that money girl! Or maybe you’re business savvy and can spot a good investment from a mile off and have a special knack of knowing how to flip your pounds into fivers and your blues into browns (legally)... It really doesn’t matter what it is (actually it does, I am not endorsing any illegal activity) - if it adds value and you can make money from it then go for it. Even if it only makes you an extra £20 a week that’s £1040 extra you have at the end of the year and every little helps.
Now that your expenses are down and your money is up it’s looking like you have a lot more disposable income. This is where the temptation to spend comes in but THIS IS A TRAP! Yes you have more money so it means you can spend more but if you’re super focused on your goal you can spend and live good while still saving if you simply budget.
At the end of every month when my money came in I developed a system; I saved first, paid my bills then whatever was left over I would split into 4 equal parts and that became my budget for every week to do with as I pleased. Some weeks I'd spend all my budget other weeks I would barely touch it and add it on to the next week or choose to save it but I stuck to my budget and never dipped into my savings.
Another thing I did was to withdraw my weekly budget and spend the cash rather than using my card for purchases because we all know how easy it can be to tap your card and forget that you have a budget. I went as far as leaving my cards at home and taking my Apple Pay off my phone at the beginning because I just couldn't get it together at first but eventually, it just became habit and I became disciplined enough to have my cards with me and not be tempted to use them.
As well as budgeting and carrying cash I tried my hardest not to impulse buy and really started thinking more about what I was buying and how I was spending my money. Yes I treated myself every now and then and I strongly support doing this, but it really made a difference when I budgeted how much I wanted to spend.
Yes budgeting is not sexy; I mean if budgeting was a pair of knickers it would be that black frumpy pair of knickers you only wear during your period but guess what it gives you the security of knowing you’re safe and you won’t have any leaks (period analogy over - sorry). So as unsexy as it is, I strongly advise having a budget whenever you plan to spend some money, it really does make a huge difference.
Last but not least is Discipline and it’s something that you’ll honestly need throughout your savings process from start to finish.
Discipline is defined as ‘the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behaviour’ and that’s basically it - you will constantly need to train yourself to stick to these new values that you have learnt and try not fall back into old habits.
It’s all about staying focused and keeping your eyes on the prize especially when it gets difficult and trust me it will get difficult but it's really not about whether you fail or not but about starting again when you fail. You won’t always get it right, and you’ll accidentally trip, fall and spend £200 on ASOS (sorry not sorry) but you know what, that one mistake doesn’t have to derail all your hard work if you have the discipline to get back on track.
Don’t punish or deprive yourself either, treat yourself and go out but just remember to stay disciplined and stick to your budget and know when to say no. Thinking about my end goal always helps me personally and I advice you to do the same. Imagine how happy you'll feel when you have that house or car or are laying on that gorgeous beach - that feeling alone will override any temporary happiness you'll feel from blowing your wages in Selfridges or Zara. I can guarantee that.
So that brings me to the end of my personal tips on how to start saving and stick to it and I hope it was super helpful. I am not a financial guru, I cannot stress this enough and by no means am I saying I have my shit together and can tell people what to do. I'm just a normal girl with normal everyday issues sharing my experience and hoping it helps someone. I never had people telling me all this stuff growing up so if I can help just one person and make a difference then I'm doing my bit.
I really hope you enjoyed this post and I hope we can carry on the conversation in the comment section. What tips do you use to save? Do you use any helpful apps? If you constantly find yourself tripping and falling back into your savings, what is your kryptonite? Lets talk about it!