If you got hit by an emergency that required you to spend $400 right now, where would you get the money?
If your answer to this question is not ‘from my emergency fund, duh!’ then you’ve probably not been saving enough.
If you started thinking about whom you’d call to borrow this amount or other avenues you’d use to acquire debt in order to settle this bill, then it’s an emergency that you read this article.
You’re treading on very dangerous grounds but I’ve got you! I’ll teach you how to start saving money, types of savings accounts you should have, how much of your income you should save every month and how to save money fast!
“Saving money is often associated with sacrifice. However, you can associate it with freedom rather than limitation if you realize one simple truth: living below your means INCREASES your future means. The money you save this month increases your purchasing power next month.” – Atomic Habits by James Clear
How to start saving money
1. ‘Small’ money is still money
I’ve put the word small in quotes because I truly believe that no amount of money is too small.
Think of a time when you were broke, stuck in debt or had an emergency that required you to have money. At that point in time, any amount of money would have been a lifesaver.
Isn’t it interesting that when we’re in such desperate situations, we value small amounts of money differently than we do when it comes to our savings?
Any time you think that an amount of money is too little, reverse the situation and think of yourself when you were broke and desperate. That will remind you of the value of a dollar.
With this mindset, you can start saving money whether you’re a student who depends on parents, an intern, self-employed or employee. Whichever the amount of money you make per month, you should always put money towards a savings account.
When you’re starting out, it’s not about how much money you save, it’s about mastering the habit of saving consistently.
It’s about teaching yourself that you do not need a reason to save money because as Morgan Housel teaches in his brilliant book The Psychology of Money, having a reason for saving money would only make sense if we lived in a predictable world, a world without surprises and curveballs. We are nowhere close to such a world, right?
2. Set up different accounts for different goals
Yes, you do not need a reason or goals to save money. You should always be saving money.
But, having different savings accounts for different life goals makes it easier for you to tell if you’re making progress. It’s very gratifying to see your money goals become a reality with each deposit. Achieving a set goal tells you that it’s time to move on to the next milestone and also to reward yourself for being disciplined!
The 4 types of savings accounts you should have…at the bare minimum
Emergency fund account
This is not debatable. You should have an emergency fund account which acts as a cushion for when life throws painful financial curveballs at you because yes, it will. It always does.
Different financial experts quote different amounts that vary from 3 months of living expenses to up to a year of living expenses. The sweet spot for us at The Wealth Tribe, bearing all the chaos in the world is a 6-months worth of living expenses fund.
As I mentioned in the previous article on how to invest in your 20s, another way to think about your it is having it equal X months of your living expenses, where X represents the current unemployment rate in your country.
What is the unemployment rate in your country?
I wrote a guide on how to save for an emergency fund.
Retirement savings account
This could also be an investment account depending on which stage in life you’re in. Since a majority of readers of this blog are in the wealth-building stage, this should be an investments account.
This account’s purpose is to ensure that you’re saving towards retirement because age will sure catch up with you.
Experts say that we should save 10-15% of our pre-tax income EVERY YEAR of retirement. It could be more, depending on how wild and luxurious your retirement dreams are, what age you plan on retiring and many other factors.
Note that I have put EVERY YEAR in caps because you should have started saving for retirement the first year you started working. A lot of people start saving too late for this because the consequences of this bad decision are too far off. Living in poverty at 65 seems so far away and humans always favour spending today over tomorrow.
As much as you love yourself now and want to splurge on things that make you happy, extend that love to your jolly, 65-year-old self. Take advantage of the magic of compounding.
Short-term savings account
This is an account for short term goals such as furnishing your house, a vacation, buying a car, school fees etc.
These are mostly savings that you need in 5 years or less which means that you can put them in low-risk investment accounts such as mutual funds.
Long-term savings account
This is money you’ll need in 5 years or more which means you should invest it and take advantage of compounding interest.
Long term savings could include down payment of a house, school, a wedding etc. A retirement savings account is also a form of long-term savings account.
Remember to keep track of your accounts lest you forget. Yes, I’ve seen people struggling to remember all their assets. The best way to do this is through tracking your net worth using a simple excel spreadsheet that I shared here.
3. Automate your savings
In 2016, when I didn’t know the importance of saving money, my bestie forcefully signed me up to an investment policy in an insurance firm that required me to save $30 per month.
He also made sure that I paid this amount through a standing order, which meant that the money was deducted from my salary as soon as I got paid.
If he didn’t do that, there’s no way I’d have saved that money every month. My savings willpower was too weak at that point in my life.
You shouldn’t rely on your willpower either when it comes to your saving goals. We’re wired to want to spend here and now, so the best thing is to set up automatic deductions before you get access to your money.
4. Track your spending
Tracking your expenses will inform you exactly where your money goes. You can then use this information to determine which areas of your expenses you can cut back on so that you can free up more money to put towards savings.
I record all my expenses using the Toshl Finance app. Every time I record an expense, I feel a little pain because spending reduces my net worth. You can’t live without spending money so the best approach is to know exactly what you spend on which will change your relationship with spending over time. For example, I recently noticed that for the past 6 weeks, I haven’t bought anything that isn’t a basic need! It feels awesome to be in a place where you only spend consciously.
I wrote an article on how to track expenses the easy way.
5. Have an accountability buddy
We all have financial struggles. I’ve met people who earn a lot of money and I immediately assumed they have loads of savings. It always comes as a shocker when you actually realize that nope! Just because someone makes a lot doesn’t mean they save a lot.
Setting up an accountability system will ensure that you stick to your goals, both short and long term.
6. Find ways to earn more money
I added passive income and how to earn more/extra money to the list of topics I’ll be writing on because…drum rolls, please!… The Wealth Tribe is growing! I finally feel that I’m in a position to write to you about it, and genuinely write about stuff that I’ve tried and experienced results.
For now, before I write a full article on it, I’ll tell you that one of the best approaches is to upgrade your skills and use the power of technology to get gigs on platforms such as Fiverr, Upwork, or even create your own platform such as a blog, podcast, YouTube channel.
How much of your income should you save every month?
I save 25% every month. 10% goes towards my emergency fund while 15% is distributed among my other savings accounts.
Saving 10% of your income should be your starting point. It’s the bare minimum if you’re serious about being financially free. You should try your level best to make sure you don’t go below that because we’ve got to work towards a more secure future.
You should gradually work towards increasing that percentage especially if you want to retire early or if you want the freedom to whatever the hell you want with your life.
According to the popular 50/30/20 rule, you should put 20% of your after-tax income towards savings and debt payment. 50% should be spent on needs while 30% should be spent on wants.
“Make purchases that will improve your lifestyle, not your status. Status is the life other people believe you live; lifestyle is the life you actually live. Free time is the ultimate status symbol.” — Wealth Theory
How to save money fast
1. Batch cooking
Batch cooking involves coming up with a cooking plan, making a grocery list and shopping in bulk then investing a few hours over the weekend to meal prep and cook meals for the whole week. For food that can be frozen, you can batch-cook for the whole month.
For people who don’t enjoy cooking, I being part of this group, batch cooking is a lifehack. It reduces the amount of time I spend in the kitchen.
Batch cooking ensures that you get to eat healthy home-cooked meals even on days when you come home late or days when you just don’t feel like cooking. It also ensures that you always have a great meal to take to the office for lunch.
The best part is that it saves you money! Buying the ingredients in bulk is always cheaper than buying each item on a daily basis.
Even on days when you have no motivation to cook, all you have to do is warm the food as opposed to going to a restaurant or order in which will end up hurting your savings big time!
2. Get out of debt
The interest rates you pay especially on high-interest loans such as credit cards could give your savings account a big boost! Getting out of debt increases your net worth by reducing your liabilities but also gives you more money to direct towards your savings goals.
Every time I check my student loan statement, I cringe when I see the interest charges and ledger fees that I’m charged every month. It’s not a high-interest loan but still, I can’t wait to be debt-free, to put that money towards other goals.
3. Use the Ian Cassel hack
“Every time I splurge on something, I take the same amount of money and invest it. So if I want to buy a $400 pair of shoes, I also have to buy $400 worth of stocks. Makes you re-evaluate how much you really want something since you have to save 2x for it.”
I’ve tried it before and I have to thank this guy for reminding me that I’m not rich so I shouldn’t be buying all shiny objects that I desire.
It’s a good reminder that if I can’t afford to both love/treat myself now and in future, I can’t afford the splurge item.
4. Use the Jaspreet Singh hack
It’s a very simple and easy to remember rule that prevents you from buying rubbish.
If you can’t afford to buy 5, then you can’t afford it.
5. Consider becoming a minimalist
Being a minimalist is not a competition to own the least number of items as a lot of people tend to focus on. James Clear came to the rescue a few weeks ago:
The goal is not to have the least amount of things, but the optimal amount of things.
Two important footnotes:
(1) The optimal amount depends on your goals.
(2) The optimal amount is almost always less than you think.”
There’s a risk of getting recruited into the biggest religion right now, which is consumerism. You can escape it by being a minimalist which makes you very conscious of how you spend your money and only buying stuff that has real value in your life.
I am a minimalist, and it’s one of the reasons I’m able to save a lot and consistently. I wrote a guide on how to shop like a minimalist and the importance of minimalism to both you and the environment. Hopefully, it’ll convince you to join me!
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