This morning I was having a chat with my colleagues, and we were jesting about how it was the end of the month and we couldn’t wait until payday when I idly mentioned I put half of the income I earn in savings.
I was met with looks of disbelief. “Wait, what?” my surrounding editors said, with confused stares. “Explain yourself.”
I’ll start by saying I’m a single woman in my early twenties. I have no dependents, no mortgage, no car and earn a relatively good salary for someone who’s been out of university and in the workforce for 18 months.
On that note, watch our team confess the cliche’s single girls are sick of hearing. Post continues after video.
I don’t write down all of my expenditure, but I keep a mental track of where my money goes. Living in Sydney, a third of my monthly pay goes to rent, half to savings and the rest (about a sixth) is my monthly spending budget.
Here’s how I do it:
1. Have a goal.
Ever since I started working in my proper fully-fledged post-university career, I have had a savings goal. Last year it was a three and a half week trip around Europe with friends. This year, since deciding to move to London shortly after returning from Europe, I have been saving like a mad woman (forgive the terrible phrase).
Before I move to London, I'm travelling for three months, first to New York, then Iceland and again through Europe. I knew I needed to budget, and the only way I could realistically achieve this was to save half of my pay per month. Simple.
2. Be tight, but not too tight.
Disclaimer: in the last six months I have bought four new items of clothing. Four. A bodysuit, a dress and two pairs of sandals. If you had told me this a year ago I would have scoffed in disbelief. Looking back I would say I was addicted to shopping. It felt like I was gifting myself a present every week or so with this new, gorgeous item of clothing.
It had to stop. When I left university, and was no longer supported by my dear mother, I realised spending money on clothes was churning up most of my income. Now I wear the clothes I already own and only buy something if I really, truly love it.
3. Keep your student habits.
As a student your brain becomes akin to an accountant's, saving every spare penny you have for nights out and ridiculously over-priced textbooks. You dine where it's good and cheap.
Nearly two years later, I still visit these haunts. My favourite Thai place does dinner for $11.50. If I'm going there with friends, I'll eat half the meal (they're big) and I'll take the other half home with me for lunch tomorrow.
4. Eat before you go for dinner.
Sometimes, when I'm scraping the barrel, I will make sure I eat something before I head out and only grab an entree at the venue. This way I still get to enjoy the social occasion, without the sometimes hefty price tag.
Speaking of group dining, always, ALWAYS, pay for what you ate. None of this split bill nonsense. There's no way I'm paying for your bottle of wine and steak when I ordered a salad and stuck to tap water.
5. Only buy the groceries you need.
I eat out with friends probably 2-3 times during the week and I 'allow' myself to buy lunch every Friday as a treat. At this point I feel I should note I also don't drink coffee (I genuinely have never taken to the taste) - which saves me up to $10 a day.
When it comes to groceries, I buy ingredients for the roast vege salad I make most weeks for lunch and meat for a dish I'll make for dinner that week. As I cook for myself most nights, the meal I make will usually serve four people, so I freeze the leftovers or use them for lunches.
A habit I picked up from my mum is to always take a list with you to the supermarket. I find when I forget to take the list I end up buying more than I need. Talking to my colleague who is married with three kids, she mentioned she spends $400 a week on groceries for their family. I spend $40 - $60 - the latter when I need my essentials, like dry shampoo. Obviously.
6. Preparation is key.
Most Sunday afternoons are spent in my kitchen making my lunch for the rest of the week. I roast a bunch of veges which I toss with spinach, rocket, avocado and goats cheese, and add a bit of brown rice and quinoa on the side. When it comes to food I'm a creature of habit. If I find something I like and it's healthy and delicious, I'll keep making it until I find something better.
About once a month I also make my own muesli. This is purely out of personal preference, but I make about a kilo at a time using just rolled oats and a bunch of different nuts and seeds toasted with a smidgen of butter and honey. At the time it's pretty costly but in the long run it works out much cheaper than buying a new packet every week.
7. Always drink before you have a 'big night'.
It's been a massive month of celebrations for me. From birthdays to family visits there's been an excuse to go out each weekend. With Sydney drink prices through the roof,($15 for house wine? No, thanks), I always make sure to have my favourite $11 bottle of sauv blanc handy to have some drinks before we head out.
8. Utilise the great outdoors.
When it comes to exercise I have never been a gym person. They terrify me. So to keep my body moving I try and walk to work 2-3 times a week (it takes an hour from my house). This way I get to clear my head and save money on public transport.
Look, by no means am I a certified money manager. I still enjoy myself, go to the movies, do dinners and brunch.
I'm just a girl, standing in front of my goal, hoping I can make it happen.
What tips and tricks do you have for saving money? Let us know in the comments below.