July is National Savings month in South Africa but it doesn’t really matter where you live or which month it is, you can focus on savings at any time! I’ve put together a one-month savings focus to help you get started. But it doesn’t help to just read it, this is one of those things that you actually have to do! You can wish and hope for things, but you need to take action!
Listen to me discuss this post on Cape Talk Radio.
So why not start right now with Week 1? (You may need to come back to this and read each weeks section over)
Week 1 – Assess your spending
Take this first week to assess your spending habits, your budget and the general state of your bank and card balances. You probably only need an hour or two to do this and you can possibly even do some stuff over your lunch break at work.
The focus for the week is to understand how much money you spend (on average) and what you spend it on. So this means looking at your credit card statements, going through tillslips from your pockets and just being conscious of your spending each day.
You’re looking for places where you can easily save R10 or even R50 without necessarily even noticing. So if you don’t buy a snacker bar at the shop today, would you really notice? Can you do without your morning coffee from Vida at like R27? Just look out for some ‘quick wins’ that you can use throughout the month in order to save.
You also want a quick overview of your finances so that you know what to focus on. Just write down your bank balances and debts so that you can see where you’re at.
That’s all you really need to do this week, but if you find you have extra time you can check that your budget is truly reflective of your circumstances. Some people seem to budget one thing but live something else. And of course if you don’t have a budget yet, set up a simple budget and take your time to mould it into something that suites you.
BONUS: If you still have extra time, do the Financial Health Calculation.
Week 2 – Set a goal
The first week of the month is now done and you probably haven’t saved anything yet. That’s okay, we’re only just starting! But now that you know where you’re spending your money and what quick and easy ways you can save, let’s set a goal!
The important things to remember about goals is the SMART acronym. You may have heard it before (it’s pretty old), but to recap:
Specific – be quite specific about what your goal is. Leave out vague statements such as “I want to save some money” or “more money”.
Measurable – this ties in with being specific. Make sure that you set a goal that you can measure, either by time or value. What good is a goal if you can’t measure your progress?
Achievable – it’s very important to set achievable goals and start with small steps. Achievable does not mean easy, it just means that it is actually possible.
Realistic – consider your circumstances, available time & energy, income, etc and be realistic about what can be achieved. This isn’t to put a damper on things but rather to keep you motivated and excited as you really can and will achieve your goal.
Time limit – set a time limit on your goal to help you measure it. It’s okay if you don’t reach the goal in time, simply reassess and adjust how you’re doing things.
I can’t see how to add an “F” anywhere in the list, but have Fun! Don’t just do the boring old “I must save money…” Spice it up with why you want to, draw pictures or make a timeline poster for your fridge. Make a game out of it and get others involved if it’s a family goal.
For Week 2 set a realistic goal of what you can save before the end of the month.
Week 3 – Focus
With two weeks left you now need to remain focussed on your goal each and every day. It’s a good idea to work out some sort of way to track your goal (you did make it Measurable right?) So a spreadsheet, journal or note on the fridge should be sufficient. Just a place where you can easily write down your progress at the end of each day. There is very little time left so you need to make the best of it.
If you feel that this is hard work just remember that there are only two weeks left. It really isn’t that bad!
Week 4 – Reassess and start again
This final week can be used to wrap things up. Firstly you need to assess how well you did based on the goals you set. Were they too easy or too hard? Think about what you could do differently and how you can improve on this.
And now for the best news of all… you’re a few days ahead of the start of the next month. So if you could save as much as you did in just 3 weeks, think about how well you could do by starting the new month with both feet running!
If you start planning for next month now, you’ll set yourself up for great success! It may be National Savings Mont now, but don’t let that stop you from forming a monthly financial habit!
Even though it is National Savings Month now in July, it really makes no difference when you read this. Every month can be you own Savings Month! And if you set your goals up month by month you’ll get better at it and soon be able to set bigger and more challenging goals and who knows where this will lead!