We’re told stashing money into our savings each month is a must. But how much are we supposed to be squirreling away, and why?
A study* conducted in 2016 by the Money Advice Service (MAS), found that two-fifths of the population have less than £100 in savings.
Setting aside something for emergencies is essential if you can afford it, but saving is about more than just preparing for the worst, it’s about laying the groundwork for your financial future. This means considering ways we can make our money work as hard as possible for us – allowing us to reach our long-term goals and plan for what lies ahead.
What’s the magic number?
It may seem ambitious to be able to put away 20% of our post-tax income each month, but the truth is it’s a good target. And if you want to know how this could fit in with the rest of your spending, the 50/20/30 ratio has been cited as a good rule of thumb…
- 50% for essentials: These are your fixed monthly costs, from rent or mortgage repayments to electricity, water rates, gym memberships and even Netflix (all the basics!). You may feel that your essentials total a lot more than 50% of your income, but read on…
- 20% for your financial future: This could include everything from emergency savings to your pension pot and investments.
- 30% for flexible spending: Life is short, and while saving is important, so are the things that make you happy in the short-term. Whether it’s clothes, hobbies or wining and dining, setting aside some money for fun stuff each month is important, too.
3 reasons you’re not hitting your 20% goal
There may be many reasons why you won’t the 20% target, just try to make sure it’s not because any of these…
- You’re just not organised enough
If your finances are one big cloud of indecision, and you come out in a rash just thinking about them, disorganisation – and not keeping a firm eye on your spending habits – could be at the crux of the issue. Sit down and track your spending in order to take control of your finances to get them back on track.
- You’re living beyond your means
You might want to consider making some lifestyle changes to improve the quality of your financial future. Whether it’s exchanging some of the meals out with friends for meals in, or keeping an eye out for deals and offers that make your hobbies cheaper, saving isn’t about stopping doing all the things you love, it’s about living (and spending) smarter!
- You keep procrastinating
If you keep meaning to sort out your finances but you just feel like you don’t have the time to sit down and review your options, then now is the time to take action.
What steps can you take to reach that 20% target?
- Pay off your debt
If you’re in debt then you might want to think about paying it off before you add it to your savings. Leaving debt sitting around could have a higher penalty than the interest you would earn on your savings, meaning it can make sense to pay this off first.
- Take stock
Take stock of your basic monthly expenditure. Are you really making the most of your gym membership? Could you do without your weekly cleaner? An audit of your finances will bring to light any unruly expenses that you might want to stamp out.
- Come up with a long-term plan
Come up with a strategy to help you save: for example, setting up an ISA and arranging a Direct Debit to funnel across a certain amount of money each month could be good first step. Creating targets and perhaps even using a budgeting tool each month could help you save over time, too.
How could you make your savings work harder for you?
Are you putting your savings in all the right places? ISAs, for example, are tax-efficient and could give you a potentially higher return than a typical bank or building society account.
The 2016/17 ISA allowance is £15,240, meaning that you can put anything up to this amount in either a Stocks & Shares ISA, Cash ISA or Innovative Finance ISA or split it across these three account types.
Still think you can’t save?
In 2016 the BBC reported* that roughly one-quarter of adults with household incomes of less than £13,500 a year, have more than £1,000 in savings, with 40% in that bracket managing to save something every single month. Although going back over your budget might give you déjà vu, it could be worth taking another look.
Even for those of us who aren’t fond of percentages, 20% is a good rule of thumb. So, are you ready to start saving more and protecting your financial future?
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