What Are You Saving For?
Today let's talk about money...more specifically, savings. Saving money these days can be hard. Temptation and convenience is everywhere, the costs of living seem to be ever increasing and quite frankly, we don't discuss money enough (in my opinion) to where I feel like we all have a good grasp on our finances. Many people like myself had to learn things the hard way in terms of life's financial lessons but once we do, we're much better for it.
Today I thought I'd share some of the smaller ways that I try to save and what I'm working on getting better at as James and I continue to save for our future, both long and short term. For myself, I like to save with a goal in mind. Sure, we tuck money away each month for our long term plans (we'd like to retire one day, you know, that sorta thing) but when it comes to being motivated to save additionally, it's nice to have a goal to save for. For James and I, a huge motivator is travel. Many of you who've been following along for a while already know that James is from England so naturally, the costs to visit add up quickly. That's why we try to save pretty aggressively so that trips to visit James' family don't have to put us into debt.
Before I share some of the small changes we've made to increase our savings I thought I'd chat a bit about a great contest that ATB is running until February 28th, the 'What Are You Saving For?' Contest where you could win $10,000! (I don't know about you but I could sure use an extra $10,000! ;) ) ATB wants to help you reach your savings goals by giving you a big kick start on your savings. To enter, they're looking for you to get creative in sharing your goals. Create a fun video sharing your goals or maybe write a creative piece that tells your story. If you're an artist, put those skills to use and create a fun video or graphic to accompany your entry - let your creativity shine! Random daily draws for $500 are happening every day for entries, but if yours really stands out, ATB will select a winner based on his or her submission to take home $10,000!! For more information and to enter - head here!
Now, let's talk about savings.... I won't go ahead and claim to be any financial expert but, I have spent the majority of my working career in a self employed or commission based role where I've had to learn how to manage my money and set aside savings. So, here's a few of the ways I've found it a bit easier to set savings aside, do you do any of these too?
1. ASK A PRO
The first and kind of most obvious way to save money is to start at the bank. When I set up my ATB account my advisor was a great help in setting up my accounts so that saving was easy. Especially being self employed I'm always needing to set aside money for taxes and my advisor was a huge asset. Your ATB bank advisor will listen to your concerns and then help you find the best solutions to reach your goals. Whether you need to look into different accounts, have automatic savings taken off each cheque or advice on consolidating debts to make payments easier, your ATB expert can help so you can get focused and save! Whatever your goals, I find it's always best to start with the experts! #ATBListens
2. THINK BEFORE YOU BUY
This is another no brainer but has helped me massively reduce my impulse purchases and left me with more money for my bank account. Before I make any purchase over $75 (you can use your own number whether that's $40, $60, or whatever $ you want), I think on it for 24 hours. If I still want that item after sleeping on it then I'll purchase it. I can't tell you how many times I've filled my cart online and been at the checkout only to sleep on it overnight and end up getting rid of half of my basket! This is another reason I love online shopping, less risk of impulse! Another great way to curb your unnecessary spending is to think of items in terms of hours worked. For example, let's say there's a new winter jacket you're looking at; rather than thinking of the cost in $, think of the cost in terms of the # of hours you'd need to work to pay for that item. Thinking before you buy is one of the greatest ways to make sure you're buying items you ACTUALLY want instead of getting caught up in an impulse buy.
Another incredibly simple way to reduce spending is to UNSUBSCRIBE from the hundreds of promotional emails that fill our inboxes on a weekly basis. If you're not seeing those '50% off' emails in your inbox, you'll be less likely to buy things you don't actually need. This is a very simple but very effective way to cut back on excess spending, leaving more cash available for savings!
4. PAY DOWN YOUR DEBT
If you have debt, it should probably be your #1 goal to pay it down. This is where consulting an ATB expert can be a huge help in coming up with a step-by-step plan but as a general rule, it's best to get rid of your high interest debt as soon as possible. Debt can be overwhelming but making small, achievable goals can be a great way to stay motivated, see steady change and get out of debt and work your way towards financial independence. Just think about it, some credit cards have interest as high as 18-19% +, that's a ton of money that adds up incredibly quickly if you're only making your minimum payments. Try to make realistic goals such as paying $500, $1000 or whatever $ amount you can consistently make to pay down your card and stop overpaying in interest!
5. CHOOSE AFFORDABLE OPTIONS
My next tip for saving is to opt for more affordable options wherever you can. Sometimes there are social situations such as lunches with the girls, a dinner out or coffee with friends where it's inevitable that you'll be spending a bit of money. We all know that ideally to save money we should be bringing our own lunches to work, cooking meals in and brewing our own coffee at home but sometimes, that just doesn't happen and that's totally okay! In these situations though, there are always ways to spend less. If you're going out for a meal, opt for a vegetarian dish (they're usually less $ than a meat dish) or skip the booze with dinner. If you're going out for coffee, pack a granola bar and a water bottle in your purse so you don't end up buying a snack or bottle of water while you're at it. Also, if you're trying to save - don't order the fancy chai latte or cappuccino but rather, opt for steeped tea or basic brewed coffee. I've started being much more conscious of the items I order when I'm out and it's been a great way to reduce spending. It can be easy to get caught up when you go out and order more and ultimately spend more than you might normally so by being conscious of more affordable options you can still have a great time out with friends but at a more reasonable cost.
6. CARRY CASH
If you're serious about spending less to save more, carrying cash is a sure-fire way to avoid overspending. Step 1 is to determine your budget. If you're not sure where to start, I'd suggest starting at my tip #1 and visiting your local ATB expert to help you create a plan to meet your goals. There are also a ton of resources online to help you determine a spending budget based upon your income, expenses, if you have debt to repay, etc. Once you know your spending budget, take it out in cash and that's all you've got! During periods where I'm really trying to save I'll take out my weekly budget in cash, leave my debit and credit cards at home and just use cash throughout the week for any spending. It's a great exercise to help you recognize how many impulse purchases you might be making without even realizing it!
7. TALK ABOUT LIMITS
If you're serious about saving it might be time to get serious about communicating with the people in your life. When James and I had our first Christmas together I remember asking him 'so are we going to set a Christmas present limit?'. It felt a bit strange to be so open, but at the time when we first met I wasn't in the financial situation I'm in now so I really needed to plan for my spending. Being open with your friends and family and talking about setting limits on gifts is a great way to open up communication about spending and to set limits that everyone can be comfortable with. There's nothing wrong with bringing up a limit on birthday or Christmas or other holiday gifts with your friends and family. In fact, in my experience most people are happy to have that conversation up front to avoid any uncomfortable situations where you're unsure how much to spend. Other great ideas are to opt for gift exchanges or 'secret santa' type situations over the holidays so that you're spending less and you’re able to save more.
8. FIND FUN FOR FREE
My last tip for saving more is to find fun for free. There is so much to do from nature walks to city festivals and events that are usually free or incredibly affordable. Get outside, get creative and find fun ways to spend time with your friends and family without spending money. Or if you are heading out, look for deals or discount nights and set the amount that you saved into your savings account that night. (50% off wine night is a favourite example of mine for this!) Every little bit helps! Another easy and affordable swap? Hit up the library instead of buying books or audio books! Think outside the box, there's lots we pay for that's also available to us for free, all it takes is a little bit of research, but you can end up saving hundreds of dollars or more that could be better used beefing up your savings account!
So there you go...just a few of the ways that we try to save a bit of extra money in our household. We've got big plans this year for travel and for fun but to do that, we want to make sure we have enough money set aside to cover the expenses. How do you set money aside for large expenses like travel or a down payment? Do you have any tips I didn't go over in my own? Let me know in the comments below!
And don't forget, you have until Feb 28 to submit your entry for ATB's "What Are You Saving For?" contest. Remember - every day you could win $500 just for entering and if your entry or video catches the judges’ eyes, your entry could win you $10,000! So what are you waiting for? Head on over here and enter!!
This post was made in partnership with ATB Financial. I love working with brands and businesses I truly love and as I've had such a great personal experience with ATB Financial, it was my pleasure to partner with them on this blog post. Thank you for supporting the brands that support this blog, without them I couldn't do what I love!