Most of us by the start of the year would create New Year Resolutions. Most often than not, one of our New Year Resolution would be money-related like Save More Money This Year, To Be Debt-Free, To Start Retirement Fund or To Achieve Financial Freedom After 5 Years Starting This Year.
One of my New Year’s Resolution is To Save More Money & To Be Debt-Free (Yes, I am looking at you credit cards, you plastic devils!). One month of 2018 has gone by. How well you kept your money-saving resolutions so far? Since Chinese New Year is here, I think this is the best time to recommit with our financial goals for this new year. I have been very serious in keeping tight reins in the money-saving department especially with another baby coming soon and living in expensive Singapore in a working pass visa. (Yes, I am not in a permanent resident visa which means I don’t have the subsidized benefits living here.) I been researching and coming up with ideas how to save money and attain that anxiety-free financial freedom of money-savvy folks. So I came up with 20 Money-Savings Tips to help you and me. Some of the tips may be something you have heard of before and are actually ultra-simple. But sometimes, we are just not very mindful in following it. But since we are serious in our journey to financial freedom, we approach this endeavour with intention and determination. So here we go:
1. Have a budget
It is so important to have a budget and sticking to your budget. When you receive your salary for the month or if you have a combined-income with your spouse, list all of your earnings, from your main source of income, your spouse, your side-hustles & bonuses, and add it all up.
Then follow a savings plan. I forgot where I have gotten this savings plan but what she (a YouTuber) taught was to budget:
60% of all earnings to Essentials which means your monthly bills, school fees, etc
20% of all earnings to Savings which in my case, I have included in some of our monthly investments like lot payment, mutual funds, etc.
20% of all earnings to Personal which means your recreations, gifts, monthly personal grooming etc.
You can have your own version of this. Let say us, we would adjust it to:
10 % Personal
Some can also do:
10% Tithing (for your church. The more you give, the more you receive.)
Then go ahead list all of the items for each categories with its corresponding amount. If you see that you have balance left in some categories, you have the option to add it in your Savings basket. But make sure that the sum of your Essentials or your Personal are not more than its allotted budget. Also the Personal basket is a flexible wiggle room. So if you need to cut it down to 5% to add another 5% Essentials, so be it. Also in budgeting, I believe using the Envelope Method works. Withdraw the money you will be using from your atm (because you don’t realised that habit of withdrawing every now & then can accumulate service charges in atm machines) and put each money in an envelope & writing down what it is for (e.g. grocery, fare, utilities, recreation, etc.) . Just be careful how you store your cash. For me I have a small wallet size folder with several compartments with tags for that.
2. Leave your credit cards at home (in a safe place) & pay in cash
We have established that credit cards are the devil. Yes, it can be helpful if we know how to use it properly but if it is controlling you rather than vice versa, it is best to put that doggie in a tight locked dog house for the meantime. So it would limit you from grabbing your plastics if you are tempted to make that innocent latte purchase, buying that cute blouse you saw when you pass by the mall or getting that new lipstick you saw in Sasa that you don’t really need. It would make you stick to your budget. From now on, as long as you are not purchasing any big-ticket item, pay everything in cash. This is a good practice especially you are currently in credit card debt. Some people put their credit card in the freezer so if they really want to buy something, they will have to thaw it which gives them ample time to really rethink if their desired purchases are worth buying.
You would be thinking, how about the online purchases because some online shops have your credit card details saved so all you have to do it just click Buy or Purchase. Make sure to log-out or adjust your settings and not store your details in the online store. It would be irritating to type in your credit card number etc which allows you some time to really assess if it is worth the trouble.
3. Bring your lunch at work
This can cut us back to a few dollars we spend during the work week. Lunch even in hawker centres can go from $5 to $7 per meal. That would be more or else $100 per month if you eat your lunch without drinks or dessert. Also you should factor in your morning (and mid-day) kopi which is $1.50/drink. Sometimes we forget about the little drinks we buy which can cost a tiny hole in our wallet eventually. Plus you sometimes have your occasional teabreak snacks like the good ol’ curry puff, bread or bao. We didn’t realize we are spending $200 plus monthly for meals at work. Some also buy their breakfast at work. What if you work in a place without much hawker food choices and opt for lunch at fast food chains, at mall or at more atas lunch destinations which can cost you around $15-$20 per one lunch meal.
So bring lunch to work with a cute food container and don’t forget to have your own water bottle at your office where you can just refill water at the office pantry. Sometimes, we reason out that we don’t have time to cook our lunch in the morning. What I do is to prepare a big portion of the dinner night before and reserve some for my lunch the next day. I would prepare it the night before with rice and viand in a container. I put in the refrigerator then in the morning, I would just get it, put in my little lunch bag and microwave it in our office pantry during lunch. For breakfast, I actually ask my helper to create a vegetable-fruit juice using my trusty juicer and I take it to work as my breakfast. It is made of greens, apple, cucumber, carrots and sometimes a squeeze of lemon. You can also create a sandwich with your favorite spread for breakfast. Or sometimes what I do is slice an apple or have a banana with me and I dip it in peanut butter or cashew nut butter.
I also have stopped drinking my regular morning kopi and reserved that caffeine ritual on my weekends unless I am really so sleepy at work, I would buy myself a cup. But most of the time, I would just drinks loads of water which is good for me and you or I would make a tea with my stash of tea bags & Stevia sachets in my cupboard.
4. DIY as much as possible
Look for things or services that you can DIY to cut cost. One example is learning to do my own manicure & pedicure. I am still struggling with this one because I am still not good at it. Maybe for special occasions I will still go to the parlor for it but for monthly ones, I am starting to learn to do myself . I also dye my own hair eversince (except now that I am pregnant, I will have make do of my mismatched roots). I also do my biweekly mild facial using facial scrubs and face mask at home But there are some services that I still go to the professionals like waxing, lip threading, etc. And reassess if you really have money to spare for that eyelash extension, foot scrubs, monthly massage etc.
I also lately been doing DIY body scrubs, my own homemade deodorant (let me know if you want the recipe. I love it! Our helper created one too & she liking it), my own alcohol wipes and soon I will create my own moisturiser & hand sanitizer. There are tons of recipe in the internet. It is fun to make, less chemicals and yes, save you money too.
Also buying pre-cut grocery items like fruits etc cost more than the unpeeled fruits. So save that dollars and cut your own fruits.
5. Take care of your stuff & take care of your body
I realised that if we don’ give our material stuff the utmost care & respect and we don’t store them properly, we would end up buying the same things over & over again. By taking good care of them, we increase its longevity of use so it wouldn’t need to buy the same but new stuff again & again.
Same goes with our body. By taking good care of our body by eating healthy foods and exercising, it would avoid trips to the hospital or clinics and I know how expensive healthcare can be. Also if you keep yourself in tiptop shape, you don’t get the burden to buy monthly medication maintenance for your chronic health conditions which can be really expensive.
6. Buy Quality Products
In connection with Item #5, there are actually some stuff that we buy over & over again not because they lack the proper care but rather it just depends on the quality of the product. This is something that my husband taught me because I used to prefer cheap low-end clothes, shoes & bags because I find the high-end stuff to be too expensive. So you ask how can this make me save more money?
I realised if you buy cheap products with very bad quality of materials, you end up buying again & again which results to more spending. Unlike if you buy good quality material though it would be in a pricey side, as long as you take good care of it, you will have better bang for the buck because you get to use it for years to come. This is to highlight that it doesn’t mean if its branded, it is the best quality. So be very meticulous. There are some branded goods that doesn’t deliver the best longevity of use . Rather than basing it on brands, check the workmanship, the material and the seams.
Same goes with makeup. My makeup are in the pricey side but I realised when I buy the cheaper version, I end up having bad breakouts which lead to dermatology appointment and derma procedures drilling a much bigger whole in my pocket.
7. Adopt minimalistic lifestyle & start a capsule wardrobe
This would be the balancing factor Item #6. Just because you are now given a green light to buy “branded” stuff, you’ll go crazy and buy different kinds of bags in different colors and in all types of brands you come across with. Yes, this applies men and their obsession to all the basketball shoes their team are advertising. Please don’t. Buy selective quality items that you need only. Excess is very wasteful.
Remember quality over quantity but also learn to downgrade in other areas of your life. Stop keeping up with Joneses. Downgrade your lifestyle. You do not need that latest Iphone gadget nor that Apple Watch or Fitbit. Downgrade your mobile phone plans. Downgrade Netflix subscription from 2-3 users to 1 user. Sell your flashy car that needs more maintenance to a a much more reliable car. Transfer to a slightly smaller apartment or transfer to a less trendier neighbourhood. There is no need to show off because bragging makes you spend money.
Be a minimalist whereby you buy only what you need without accumulating excess. You can apply minimalism in all aspects of your life like clothing, makeup & skincare, relationships, home decor and hobbies. Being a minimalist can help you save tons of money and provides you a more peaceful anxiety-free lifestyle. I will be writing more about this in another blog soon. I was inspired by this book by Dominique Loreau.
Create a capsule wardrobe to ensure you won’t be buying a loads of that branded stuff. A capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that don’t go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces. I’ll talk more about it in another blog post.
8. Borrow or Recycle as much as you can
I didn’t mean borrow money. But there are stuff that we don’t need to buy, we can recycle or borrow. Don’t buy books, borrow in the library or borrow from a friend; Don’t buy gowns to wear at your friend’s wedding, borrow from a fashionable friend. Don’t buy containers, reuse mayonnaise jars for storage or as a vase or piggy bank. Don’t feel guilty if you give secondhand clothes to your next kid. I love secondhand clothes, they got history. As long as it is wearable, do not buy new clothes for your young kids because they grow up so fast. Use old clothing as rags or refurbish old sewing machines into table. Be creative.
9. Be prepared and put all things in its proper place
This item encompasses a few things. Being prepared means if you know that you need to be at work at this time, prepare your stuff the night before and wake up early so you wont be late. If you are not prepared, you end up late and taking the taxi which is more expensive than taking MRT or bus. And if you are going to be late often, you will be spending a lot in transportation. If you are early, you can save some of your EzLink fare by walking to work rather than riding a bus if it is just 3 stops to your office. Being prepared also means knowing the weather today, you bring your umbrella instead of buying impromptu buying of umbrella coz it rained. Be prepared for the any next month’s possible expenses like birthdays, school reunion, etc so you can adjust your budget to accommodate the upcoming expenses. Or I would save monthly beforehand for travel plans so when the trip comes I have enough money stash.
By putting everything in place, this would allow you know keep stock on what you have and what you don’t have. If we are cluttered in our homes, we often buy several same stuff only to find out you have 6 black Pentel Pen Markers lying around your house or we thought we forgot our hairdryer during one of our travels only to find it stash in the one of the drawers in the kitchen.
10. Cancel all unnecessary subscription
If you have Netflix, you don’t need to subscribe to Cable TV. If you have a mobile phone, you don’t need to get a landline. Unsubscribe to that monthly sample boxes that seems to trendy these days. It’s fun to receive but you don’t really need it. Cancel that expensive gym membership if you only go twice a month. There is YouTube or Free fitness App like PopSugar Fitness (my favorite) to help in your fitness journey. Or borrow an exercise guide like the Bikini Body Guide from a friend and do your workouts at home. I even recently cancelled my NTUC membership which is $9 per month because I rarely buy in the store anyway.
Also unsubscribe from your favorite shop’s mailing list so you won’t get that email alerts on their new arrivals which would seduce you that it is a necessity to buy it. Delete all your online shopping (except for online grocery which I am an advocate of) to avoid the mindless scrolling of items which would eventually tempt you to buy them especially if it is a good offer even if it is not a necessity. A sale is still a purchase. If you don’t need it, don’t buy it.
11. Save your pennies
Every end of the week, you can put all your coins in your piggy bank. You will be surprised how much you will accumulate in a year. Now, banks have coin depositors machines which you can go deposit your coins quarterly or depending on your preference. Currently, what I am doing is I don’t spend the $1 coin. So every $1 coin I get, it goes straight to my piggybank.
12. Be creative in saving
One way is the one is mentioned in #11. Having a particular amount of money like say $2 or $5 to be your no-spend money. It became a game to you. It’s fun and you save money as a result.
My friend also taught me the Money Challenge posted below. It is saving in multiples of 3 every week. But take note this is in Philippine pesos.
Another would be putting $10 whenever you curse or you mentioned your favorite word or you forget to exercise on that day or you mention your ex’s name.
Also be creative in substituting expensive entertainment. Instead of taking your kids to that expensive indoor playground, take them to the park or beach or create finger painting activity. Instead of a night-out with the gals, do a Sex & The City marathon night with popcorn and cheap wine. Substitute date nights with hubby in expensive restaurants to stay-at home movie dates with nachos & dip or take turn giving each other massages for relaxing sexy night.
13. Minimise utility bill
This may sound easy but we often forget to these. Turn off lights or electric fan in rooms when no one is there. Unplug appliances if not in use. Turn off the water faucet or shower when brushing teeth or scrubbing face with soup or you are putting your shampoo or conditioner. Use airconditioner only by 7pm. Turn off data roaming when at home. Always ask for wifi password wherever you go if you see that they got wifi.
14. Learn to say “No”
If you are serious in your financial goals especially if you are paying of debts, say no to invitations to dinner plans or other recreational activities if you do not have “Fun Money” savings. Decline wedding invitations politely if you do have any angbao contribution budget. Same goes with invitations to parties like baby shower or kiddy parties which would require you to buy a gift.
Saying “No” also goes to Sales. Yes it is on sale but you do not need it. You buy it because you think it is a good deal. However, it will just be kept in storage because you do not really find a need to use it. Say “No” to that persistent saleslady who would say add more $10 more and you get this free gift. Just say “No”. Also say “No” to that very charming salon women who would lure you get additional services or buy packages.
15. Do online grocery
I don’t know about you but this works for me and I realised I can save more by doing online grocery rather than going to the grocery itself. When I am in the grocery, I would tend to buy stuff that is not on my grocery lists.
Every Saturday, my helper and I would make a weekly meal plan for the next week and we would do an inventory of our food stocks at home. We would buy the needed ingredients for our week’s meals as well our depleting food like eggs, oil, rice, kids’ milk, etc & toiletry basics like laundry detergent, dishwashing soaps etc. Then I would do my online grocery with the lists. I just key in the items that are on my list. I particularly like HonestBee Online Grocery. It’s very convenient. I don’t need to leave my home to buy our necessities plus I found I can save much even if I pay $3 for the concierge fee.
16. Buy Generic
In the topic of groceries, I would opt for generic items instead of branded name because honestly, they pretty much the same thing. The only difference would be the fancy packaging of branded goods. Just go generic, it doesnt make a difference.
17. Buy Multipurpose products
To spend less, buy products that can be used multiple ways like the Dr. Bronners Liquid Soap , which you can find at Natures Glory Organic shop. I can use it as my body wash, also my kids shampoo & wash, as a cleaning agent, as one of my ingredient for my DIY alcohol wipes, etc. I also like using coconut oil for cooking, hair moisturizer, an ingredient for my DIY deodorant, skin moisturiser, cuticle softener, etc. I also like buying makeup that can be both a lip & cheek tint, a tinted moisturiser with spf, a bronzer that can be a blusher or an eyeshadow. One stuff, lots of use.
18. Have a No-Gift Agreement with loved-ones or once-a-year-travel-only agreement
My hubby and I have agreed long time ago that to save we only give gifts to each other on our birthdays so Christmas, Anniversaries, Valentines, etc, we are not required to buy any gifts for each other. We would of course buy gift for our kids on Christmas and on their birthdays. It saves heartaches of expectations because we have this no-gift agreement. We also tell each other what we want on our birthday so we are sure that we like what we are getting.
This is for those constant wanderers like me who are often seeking the next new adventure. My family & I love travelling but it can also be very expensive. So agree to just travel one country maximum every year or if you are paying off debt, practice self-control and agree to a no-travel until you finish paying all your debts.
19. Sell old or unused stuff or find a side-hustle
To save more why not earn more money and put all that money into your savings basket. Gather all your old or unused things and sell it at Carousell, Cash Converter or Facebook Buy & Sell Group. I used to do garage sale a lot in the Philippines and earned a lot.
You can also utilised your talents by doing some side-hustles like baby-sitting, freelance writing, teaching guitar or swimming lessons, organise workshops on your field of expertise, bake cookies or be a mystery shopper.
Whatever you get from the sold stuff or sidehustles goes to your Savings basket.
20. Identify your waterloo & avoid it or look for an accountability partner.
Know where you often stumble in money-saving department. Is it in Sephora where you can help buy the latest makeup to try? Is it in your innocent window shopping which end up buying 3 tees in fast fashion stores? Is it the fake hunger pangs when you pass by the cupcake store after work? Is it in bookshops? Or in cute stores that sells knick knacks that you dont really need but are too cute not to buy?
So stay away from those places. Stop hanging out in the mall. If you find yourself arms with that cute makeup pouch and drink coaster when you have dozen of it at home, call your accountability partner you have picked when you started your money-saving journey. It can be your logical sis or your financially-savvy bff, that can talk some sense into your potential spending spree delirium. Make sure it is not another indulgent friend of yours who would encourage you to go for it because you deserve a treat, when in reality you have been treating yourself ever so often.
There you go, 20 Ways to Save Money this New Year. I hope you find this useful. Let me know if you have some money-saving tips for me too.