December 11, 2018
5 min read
Claudia Rainbacher - Board member - FWU Life Insurance Austria AG
Working out how much you should save each month can be as tricky as it is daunting. When there are bills, birthdays, and broken boilers to deal with right now, it’s hard to prep for future goals (and potential disasters).
But don’t despair. Following these three simple steps will help you start saving right here, right now, without all the drama.
Establishing the reasons you’re saving is your starting point. Your goals might be short-term: getting a new computer, or buying your kid’s first bike... Or they might be long term: launching your own business, or setting yourself up for a blissful retirement.
Think about roughly how much you’ll need to save to achieve your goal, then write down that number. It could seem like a steep sum right now, but having a record of what you’re aiming for crystallises the target – and you might be surprised by the progress you’ve made when you check-in against it further down the line. Of course, not everyone has a clear vision of their goals – and that’s OK. But don’t kid yourself that you’ll never have any need of savings.
Even if you don’t yet have any big-budget plans, it’s a good idea to have a rainy-day fund in place for that broken-down fridge or last-minute holiday you only knew you needed this morning.
Or – and it might be a scary thought – if something went really wrong, for instance if you lost your job and it took some time to find your next role, you’d definitely want some cash available to keep you afloat in the interim. Having between three and six-months’ worth of income saved up is generally agreed an intelligent financial cushion, so that could be a good goal to set yourself, even if you don’t expect to get there straight away.
Once you’ve thought about your goals, it’s time to work out how much you can actually afford – and want – to set aside each month.
Start with this principle. It’s called the 50/20/30 budgeting rule and it works like this: aim to put roughly 50% of your income towards necessities such as rent, utility bills and food, and 20% of your income towards savings. The remaining 30% goes towards ‘discretionary’ items. That’s the fun stuff like nights out, satisfying your shoe habit, or weekends away with the family.
Can’t make that work? Don’t worry. Saving something is always better than saving nothing. Take the 50/20/30 rule and figure out how close you can realistically get to it right now, then set that as your budget to start with.
Even the best intentions don’t always translate into action. Strike while the iron is hot – set up a standing order from your current account to a savings account right now, scheduled for the day after pay day. You’ll feel better for having put plans into action and, because you don’t ever ‘see’ the money before it gets put into your proverbial piggy bank, you’ll find it helps take the angst and effort out of savings.
Most importantly, you’ll cut out the temptation to sort out your savings later. Which, let’s face it, isn’t the most exciting prospect. You’ve got that computer to buy/company to build/world to travel after all…