Saving money in today’s economy can sometimes feel impossible. Do you often find you earn an okay amount but don’t seem to have enough at the end of the month? Taking a good look at our spending habits and recognising how we use our money can go towards re-evaluating and cultivating a life where we only spend what’s necessary.
8 Daily Habits That Drain Your Money Unknowingly
What can you do to help stay mindful of what you spend your money on? It’s all about adopting habits to help you be aware of how you spend your money but these are common habits we have that drain our money more easily.
You Justify Buying the Cheap Stuff
We think we’re saving money if we opt for the cheaper options but in truth, quality lasts longer. Looking at more expensive options as an investment rather than an unnecessary expense is a better mindset to have but we seldom think like this because in the moment more expensive equals more money.
Spending money on items that last rather than cheap ones that need replacing more often will save you money in the long run.
You Justify Buying Sale Items
We’re led to believe that buying stuff on sale is saving money. If you’re in a supermarket and what you intend to buy is on sale, then great. But we can get caught up thinking we’re getting a bargain when really we’d never have bought that item in the first place were it not on sale! So curb unnecessary purchases – don’t get sucked in to the sale items and justify buying them because you believe you’re saving money – you’re not.
Your Savings Account is Too Easy to Access
It’s so easy these days to with internet banking, to have easy access to our savings. While your good intentions are slowly piling up in your savings account, if it’s easy to get to, you can sometimes delve into it if you feel you’re down on your money.
So find savings accounts that aren’t so accessible and can’t be linked to your current account. This will help you think twice about transferring that money if it’s not so easy to do.
You Don’t Wait 30 Days Before Big Purchases
This is a good trick if you’re more of an impulse buyer. Impulse buying can drain our money extremely quickly and we can be very good at justifying why we need an item. If it’s a big purchase then do this 30 day rule before going ahead with it. You’ll be surprised at how much your mind can change in this period and often you’ll realise you probably don’t need to buy it or, even better, find a cheaper alternative in the meantime.
You Don’t Set Realistic Goals
When we set the intention of saving money, we can get lots of big ideas on how to do this but most of the time, although it feels good and productive to set these big goals, you can’t realistically stick to them in the long term. This then begins demotivation. So for example, instead of setting the goal of not eating out in the next month, set a more manageable goal of letting yourself eat out once a week instead of your normal 2 or 3 times.
You Don’t Write Lists of What You Need Before Shopping (and Stick to It)
This is similar to the impulse buying but more so when we’re food shopping. When you’re hungry, you will buy around 20% more food than if you went on a full stomach. Being purposefully mindful before you leave the house by making strict lists of what you need, will cut down more spending than you realise. Research recipes in advance and stick to only what you’ve written down. If it’s not on the list, it doesn’t make the cut!
You Waste Time Finding Cheap Deals
The emphasis here is on time. We spend so much of our time researching in order to find the best deals and often in these moments the best deals actually pass us by or sell out. Think of time as money too – overthinking and overanalysing can waste you money despite thinking that you’re ultimately saving it.
You Don’t Carve Out Time to Declutter Your House
Decluttering your living space is one of the best things you can do to save money. Not only because you can sell many of your old items and actually make money, but also it transforms the space in your mind as well. Once you realise that you don’t need so many possessions to make you happy, it will shift your mindset and make you more aware of unnecessary spending in the future.
Cultivating this mindset is what will save you the most money in the long-term and help you to re-evaluate what’s important to you. So adopt the mindfulness of spending your money to create a better way of saving it.
Personal finances can push anyone to the point of extreme anxiety and worry. Easier said than done, planning finances is not an egg meant for everyone’s basket. That’s why most of us are often living pay check to pay check. But did anyone tell you that it is actually not a tough task to meet your financial goals?
In this article, we will explore ways to set financial goals and actually meet them with ease.
Table of Contents
4 Steps to Setting Financial Goals
Though setting financial goals might seem to be a daunting task, if one has the will and clarity of thought, it is rather easy. Try using these steps to get you started.
1. Be Clear About the Objectives
Any goal without a clear objective is nothing more than a pipe dream, and this couldn’t be more true for financial matters.
It is often said that savings is nothing but deferred consumption. Therefore, if you are saving today, then you should be crystal clear about what it’s for. It could be anything, including your child’s education, retirement, marriage, that dream vacation, fancy car, etc.
Once the objective is clear, put a monetary value to that objective and the time frame. The important point at this step of goal setting is to list all the objectives that you foresee in the future and put a value to each.
2. Keep Goals Realistic
It’s good to be an optimistic person but being a Pollyanna is not desirable. Similarly, while it might be a good thing to keep your financial goals a bit aggressive, going beyond what you can realistically achieve will definitely hurt your chances of making meaningful progress.
It’s important that you keep your goals realistic, as it will help you stay the course and keep you motivated throughout the journey.
3. Account for Inflation
Ronald Reagan once said: “Inflation is as violent as a mugger, as frightening as an armed robber and as deadly as a hitman.” This quote sums up what inflation could do your financial goals.
Therefore, account for inflation whenever you are putting a monetary value to a financial objective that is far into the future.
For example, if one of your financial goal is your son’s college education, which is 15 years from now, then inflation would increase the monetary burden by more than 50% if inflation is a mere 3%. Always account for this to avoid falling short of your goals.
4. Short Term Vs Long Term
As a rule of thumb, any financial goal that is due in next 3 years should be termed as a short-term goal. Any longer duration goals are to be classified as long-term goals. This bifurcation of goals into short-term vs long-term will help in choosing the right investment instrument to achieve them.
By now, you should be ready with your list of financial goals. Now, it’s time to go all out and achieve them.
How to Achieve Your Financial Goals
Whenever we talk about chasing any financial goal, it is usually a two-step process:
- Ensuring healthy savings
- Making smart investments
You will need to save enough and invest those savings wisely so that they grow over a period of time to help you achieve goals.
Ensuring Healthy Savings
Self-realization is the best form of realization, and unless you decide what your current financial position is, you aren’t heading anywhere.
This is the focal point from where you start your journey of achieving financial goals.
1. Track Expenses
The first and the foremost thing to be done is to track your spending. Use any of the expense tracking mobile apps to record your expenses. Once you start doing it diligently, you will be surprised by how small expenses add up to a sizable amount.
Also categorize those expenses into different buckets so that you know which bucket is eating most of your pay check. This record keeping will pave the way for cutting down on un-wanted expenses and pumping up your savings rate.
If you’re not sure where to start when tracking expenses, this article may be able to help.
2. Pay Yourself First
Generally, savings come after all the expenses have been taken care of. This is a classic mistake when setting financial goals. We pay ourselves last!
Ideally, this should be planned upside down. We should be paying ourselves first and then to the world, i.e. we should be taking out the planned saving amount first and manage all the expenses from the rest.
The best way to actually implement this is to put the savings on automatic mode, i.e. money flowing automatically into different financial instruments (mutual funds, retirement accounts, etc) every month.
Taking the automatic route will help release some control and compel us to manage what’s left, increasing the savings rate.
3. Make a Plan and Vow to Stick With It
Learning to create a budget is the best way to get around the uncertainty that financial plans always pose. Decide in advance how spending has to be organized
Nowadays, several money management apps can help you do this automatically.
At first, you may not be able to stick to your plans completely, but don’t let that become a reason why you stop budgeting entirely.
Make use of technology solutions you like. Explore options and alternatives that let you make use of the available wallet options, and choose the one that suits you the most. In time, you will get accustomed to making use of these solutions.
You will find that they make it simpler for you to follow your plan, which would have been difficult otherwise.
4. Make Savings a Habit and Not a Goal
In the book Nudge, authors Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein advocate that, in order to achieve any goal, it should be broken down into habits since habits are more intuitive for people to adapt to.
Make savings a habit rather than a goal. While it might seem to be counterintuitive to many, there are some deft ways of doing it. For example:
- Always eat out (if at all) during weekdays rather than weekends. Weekends are more expensive.
- If you are a travel buff, try to travel during off-season. You’ll spend significantly less.
- If you go shopping, always look out for coupons and see where can you get the best deal.
The key point is to imbibe the action that results in savings rather than on the savings itself, which is the outcome. Focusing on the outcome will bring out the feeling of sacrifice, which will be harder to sustain over a period of time.
5. Talk About It
Sticking to the saving schedule (to achieve financial goals) is not an easy journey. There will be many distractions from those who are not aligned with your mission.
Therefore, in order to stay the course, surround yourself with people who are also on the same bandwagon. Daily discussions with them will keep you motivated to move forward.
6. Maintain a Journal
For some people, writing helps a great deal in making sure that they achieve what they plan.
If you are one of them, maintain a proper journal, where you write down your goals and also jot down the extent to which you managed to meet them. This will help you in reviewing how far you have come and which goals you have met.
When you have a written commitment on paper, you are going to feel more energized to follow the plan and stick to it. Moreover, it is going to be a lot easier for you to track your progress.
Making Smart Investments
Savings by themselves don’t take anyone too far. However, savings, when invested wisely, can do wonders.
1. Consult a Financial Advisor
Investment doesn’t come naturally to most of us, so it’s wise to consult a financial advisor.
Talk to him/her about your financial goals and savings, and then seek advice for the best investment instruments to achieve your goals.
2. Choose Your Investment Instrument Wisely
Though your financial advisor will suggest the best investment instruments, it doesn’t hurt to know a bit about the common ones, like a savings account, Roth IRA, and others.
Just like “no one is born a criminal,” no investment instrument is bad or good. It is the application of that instrument that makes all the difference.
As a general rule, for all your short-term financial goals, choose an investment instrument that has debt nature, for example fixed deposits, debt mutual funds, etc. The reason for going for debt instruments is that chances of capital loss is less compared to equity instruments.
3. Compounding Is the Eighth Wonder
Einstein once remarked about compounding:
“Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it… He who doesn’t… Pays it.”
Make friends with this wonder kid. The sooner you become friends with it, the quicker you will reach closer to your financial goals.
Start saving early so that time is on your side to help you bear the fruits of compounding.
4. Measure, Measure, Measure
All of us do good when it comes to earning more per month but fail miserably when it comes to measuring the investments and taking stock of how our investments are doing.
If we don’t measure progress at the right times, we are shooting in the dark. We won’t know if our saving rate is appropriate or not, whether the financial advisor is doing a decent job, or whether we are moving closer to our target.
Measure everything. If you can’t measure it all yourself, ask your financial advisor to do it for you. But do it!
The Bottom Line
Managing your extra money to achieve your short and long-term financial goals
and live a debt-free life is doable for anyone who is willing to put in the time and effort. Use the tips above to get you started on your path to setting financial goals.