Keen to start saving? Maybe like me you have the best intentions every New Year to eat less, exercise more and yes, stash away extra cash.
Building up some savings can seem like a great idea.
Savings can help lessen the shock when those Christmas credit card bills hit the doormat. Savings can give you a guilt-free shopping spree, or a holiday in a dream destination, without drowning in debt. Closer to home, savings allow you to sleep at night if the boiler breaks down, the washing machine blows up, or the car grinds to a halt.
Trouble is, after the first fit of enthusiasm, it can be difficult to continue. Just like any diet or exercise plan, the willpower to keep on running/slimming/saving can evaporate.
My top tip? Harness laziness to help you save despite yourself. Basically, make it harder not to save, than save.Harness laziness to help you save despite yourself Click To Tweet
HOW TO SAVE DESPITE YOURSELF
Make the most of that first fit of enthusiasm
The key to saving despite yourself is to set it all up while you’re still motivated, then assume you’ll do zip all afterwards.
Opening accounts, setting up standing orders, downloading apps – do it now now now before it drops down your to do list. Get off to a great start, then let your savings take care of themselves.
Open a separate account
Savings sitting in your normal current account are far too tempting. If you want to save despite yourself, open a separate account. If it’s with a different bank, so you have to use different online banking details or a different branch, so much the better. Harness your laziness to help you save, by making it that bit more difficult to get your mitts on the money.
Get paid to save
Interest is a very wonderful thing – when you’re earning it. Stick your savings in an account that actually pays you for the privilege. Then sit back, and wait for the interest payments to roll in.
Most interest rates are really rubbish right now – but it’s still possible to find accounts that will pay a bit more. I check the best buy tables at Savings Champion to find the highest rates. For emergency savings, I prefer accounts where I can get my money in a hurry, rather than tying it up for years.
Right now, you can earn 5% for a year on up to £2,500 stashed in a Nationwide Flex current account. Yes, you need to pay in £1,000 a month to qualify, but you can also set up a standing order to transfer that money back a couple of days later.
Elsewhere, if you hold particular current accounts with Nationwide, First Direct, M&S or Santander, you can also open regular saver accounts paying 5%. Regular saver accounts pay chunky interest for one year, when you pay in limited amounts every month. With these accounts, the minimum starts from nothing up to £25, with a maximum each month of £200 to £300.
Then mark on your calendar, or set an alert on your phone, for just under a year later. Do it as soon as you open an account, to remind youself to move your money when the interest rate plummets after 12 months. Opening a regular saver account in January has two advantages: you might have enough motivation from New Year’s resolutions to open a new account when the old one finishes. Plus you’ll get a nice interest payout in case you need it towards Christmas credit card bills or tax payments.
Get your savings saving for you
Keen to save despite yourself? Compound interest is your friend. Compound interest just means where your interest payments earn interest on top. It even works best when you don’t get round to transferring any interest added elsewhere – that’s harnessing laziness right there!
For example, put £100 into a savings account paying 5% interest, and at the end of the year you’ll get paid £5 for doing nothing at all. Wait another year and this time you’ll get more interest – that’s £5 earned on your original savings, plus an extra 25p earned on last year’s interest. Now your savings have saved £10.25, just for leaving them long enough. After another year, you’ll get paid even more, up to £5.51 as the extra interest earns interest too. Leave the money untouched, and each year the interest payment will get bigger and bigger like a snowball rolling down hill.
Plus nowadays you can earn £1,000 a year in interest, without the taxman taking a penny, if you’re a basic rate taxpayer or don’t pay any tax at all. Even higher-rate taxpayers can earn £500 in interest tax-free.
Save straight after payday
Don’t wait till the end of the month, then save what’s left in your account. Yay great intention but let’s get real. It’s easier to spend the extra cash plus hello, that requires effort to check your account and transfer the money elsewhere.
Instead, treat saving like a bill. Whether you can afford to set aside £5, £50 or £500, do it straight after pay day, when you’re least likely to miss it. Save first, then spend what’s left, rather than the other way round.
Which brings me to my next point:
Set up a standing order
This is absolutely key to saving despite yourself. While you are still seized with that fit of enthusiasm: set up a standing order, to transfer money each month into a savings account. Magically, your savings will then go up each month while you get on with the rest of your life. Saving is now easier than not saving, because you’ll have to make an effort to cancel the standing order.
Some people like to skim money from their bank accounts, transferring odd pence or pounds into savings every time they check their current account and leaving a nice neat balance behind. I tried balance tidying and it worked for a while, but I soon got out of the habit. If I set up a standing order instead, I only have to do it once.
Make it manageable
Rather than deciding to save huge sums, while living on baked beans and fresh air, be realistic about what you can afford to save. If mega saving works for you, great! Otherwise, pick a manageable amount, so you won’t miss it so much, be forced to raid your savings every month, or be pushed into an overdraft with expensive interest and charges.
Get someone else to save for you
This is my top favourite way to save despite yourself. This way, you don’t even have to work out what you can afford to save – because an automatic savings app does it for you!
Automatic savings apps like Chip and Plum look at your current account, calculate how much you can afford to save, and then transfer small amounts every few days to a savings account. No bank branches or best buy tables, just save on your smartphone. Once it’s set up, do nothing, and it saves for you. Don’t want to save that day? You can still click cancel.
Savings apps are particularly good if your income can be up, down or sideways each month, and you’re worried about committing to a regular standing order.
Personally, I really recommend Chip because it pays you interest, and here’s my review with all the reasons why.
Even better, I’ve arranged a special deal so if you sign up for Chip before the end of January, you can earn a whole 3% interest on your savings. Download the app (Apple or Android) and put in the code MUCH3 to earn 3%, rather than the normal 1% with a referral code. Then persuade a couple of friends to sign up with your own code, and you’ll bump your interest up to 5%.
Now, over to you. What are your top tips to save despite yourself? Tell me what you’ve done today to start saving.
Stashed some emergency savings and keen to start investing? Read more about investing for beginners.
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