How to save despite yourself

Picture of a safe money box with a five pound note sticking out of the top to illustrate a post on how to save despite yourself

Start stashing some cash


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 Share on X


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, interest rates on regular saver account have been cut, but if you have a current account with First Direct you can still open a regular saver account paying 2.75%. Regular saver accounts pay higher interest for one year, when you pay in limited amounts every month. With the First Direct version, you can stash between £25 and £300 a month.

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.

Previous post: The one thing you need to know about money

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 app does it for you!

Auto save 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 separate 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.

These 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’m a big fan of Chip after using it for more than two years, and here’s my review with all the reasons why. I have even bagged a promo code so you can get a free tenner when signing up for Chip here with the code MOREWITHLESS10.

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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  1. Eloise (
    25th January 2018 / 4:11 pm

    I once worked for an employer who would deduct money from salary before you got paid and credit to an account of your choice. I saved up in this way for three years so that I could book a surprise holiday for my husbands special birthday.

    • 26th January 2018 / 7:06 am

      Great that they encouraged staff to save! Hope you had a wonderful holiday.

      • Eloise
        30th January 2018 / 5:17 pm

        It was in the days when interest was 5%. Remember them?!

        • 1st February 2018 / 7:37 pm

          Now I’m caught between nostalgia and resentment! I miss 5% interest rstrs as standard.

  2. Anne
    25th January 2018 / 8:09 pm

    Santander doesn’t seem to have an account paying 5 per cent (as you state). Have I missed something ?

  3. Eloise
    30th January 2018 / 5:18 pm

    It was in the days when basic interest started at 5%. Remember them?!

  4. Fay
    12th April 2018 / 8:14 pm

    I joined Chip. It’s image us geeky which I like but reality is something different……in questions & answers.

    I made the mistake of not having an online bank account. I set it up with Halifax which is my current account. It took bloody ages.

    The Halifax online website is rubbish. I had to phone Customer Services who actually set the thing up for me………tells you a lot.

    I then needed a security code which I’d set up 12 years ago & couldn’t remember. I input the incorrect mobile number online. I had to go into branch to sort that out couldn’t do it via telephoning Halifax customer services

    I then had to wait for the online security code plus the security code for telephone banking via the post.

    It’s more hassle but I wanted to see if I could. As I’m also not impressed with Chip’s ‘realist’ image I would have cancelled it.

    Plus you have to read the small print. If you decide to change current accounts they will put the savings back into your old current account which completely defeats the whole purpose of what chip is……..or is that just me.

    • 13th April 2018 / 6:13 am

      Jeez sorry you had such a painful time setting up online banking with Halifax. Share your frustration when online services send out passwords by painfully slow post. Didn’t know about the implications of changing bank accounts for Chip savings, wonder if anything can be done about that.

  5. 14th May 2018 / 6:25 pm

    Chasing the best interest rates is something you have to do to get the best rates. It’s a shame the best paying accounts are only 12 months.

    We had long standing regular savings accounts with N&P who were taken over by Yorkshire BS. As of July these accounts are being closed and the new interest rate will be 0.85%. Until now we’ve been getting 3.25% and the accounts are ongoing. Not sure where we are now going to put these savings and any future ones. I will wait until the last minute before closing the account and switching elsewhere.

  6. 15th May 2018 / 11:47 am

    This is my reminder to get Chip! I’ve been using Plum for awhile now and keep meaning to get Chip.

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