What's stopping you from saving?

Find out why it's so hard to pay off debt or put money away for a rainy day.

Saving money is about as easy as losing weight. 

We all know how to lose weight: eat less and exercise more. It’s simple, yet the dieting industry grows each year with new cookbooks, tv shows and exercise programs.

We also all know how to grow our wealth: don’t spend more than you earn. But, many of us still struggle to put money away for a rainy day or pay off our debt. 

So, why is this? 

It all has to do with our emotional connection to instant gratification. We want to feel healthy and fit, and we want to have oodles of money to rely on, but it can feel a lot better in the moment to skip the gym or go on a shopping spree. 

This rinse and repeat cycle instil an understanding in our brain that if we want something now, we must have it to feel ‘better’. If this is you, it’s time to break the habit and become a life-long saver. 

Pay yourself first

You can save and still get the ‘hit’ of instant gratification, by paying yourself first. 

Set aside a percentage of your income in a separate savings account to help you build control and opportunities for spending over time. This could be as little as five percent, if that’s what your budget allows you, but will help you feel that sense of success of seeing your savings build.

Work out what’s left

Calculate the cost of all your bills and divide it by your pay periods to save for every bill. Don’t forget to include your car registration or any other annual payments which can often come as a nasty surprise. 

Once you have your figure, sit down and decide whether this cost works in your best interest. Does it cost more for you to live than it should? Are you spending too much money on your phone bill or that gym membership you're really not using?

There’s lots of ways you can save on your bills, check out our handy how-to guide to save on your bills here.

Keep track of all the incidental spends

Now you’ve conquered the big bills, go through your statement and count up just how many times you’ve tapped your card for a coffee, brunch with friends, afternoon snack or that ‘must have’ sale item. 

Our smaller purchases give us that big hit of instant gratification, but often come at the cost of your financial future. 

A good way to crack the tap and pay habit is to use cash. Physically holding cash makes you form an emotional connection with it, and you’ll be less inclined to break that $50 note for a coffee you can make at home. 

Set goals

If you don’t know what you’re working towards how do you know if you have ever reached it? 

While it can be easy to set a goal, it’s also easy to fail at achieving it if it’s not realistic and justified. Write down your goals on a piece of paper and write why you want to achieve it. 

Do you want to have enough money to pay for a new car so you’re less worried about whether your car will get you to work or not? Do you want to have a ‘rainy day’ fund so you can take a breath next time you lose a few hours at work? 

Start small and make a plan to reward yourself when you achieve each goal. 

Be kind to yourself

This is probably the most important step. I heard a great saying that you can’t make a mistake when you’re learning because you are learning and this is so true. You may have gone your whole life not being a great saver, so don’t expect to become a saver overnight. 

If you make a mistake, draw a line in the sand and start again and before you know it, these times will become less and less. 

Keep in mind, just like your physical health, it’s important to review, reassess and readjust as you go on with your financial health.

For more information about building financial confidence, visit RACQ’s Financial Wellbeing Hub.

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and not as specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice and does not take into account any person's particular investment objectives, financial situation or needs. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives, financial situations and needs.