Rolling into the New Year, with resolutions still fresh on our note pads and the fire of resolve still burning strong in our bellies, we thought we’d pick some brains and talk money. After all, who doesn’t want to start the year right and end the year strong with substantial funds added to our nest egg when the year draws to a close?
Add to the fact that a lot of our life goals—be it spending more time with family, eating healthier, travelling locally, taking further studies abroad, buying a car, or paying off debt—are all in a way closely linked to our financial goals, some major adulting is in order.
We’ve rounded up some strategies to help you track your spending and save your money, so you can turn those resolutions into reality. Now keep in mind that as with all resolutions, the most important thing is to try. Take the first step, try what works and build on each success.
Use a free app to help you monitor expenses and savings on the go
If you find yourself too busy to sit and monitor your finances, know that you can actually do that on your phone. Consider expense apps like Expense Manager or Money Lover to track your spending, and as for saving, download your bank’s mobile banking app so you can check your savings at a glance.
“For expenses, I use a tracker. The app is called DayCost and it allows me to be more conscious of spending and what category it’s on whether it be personal, household, or business,” shares Jen, an entrepreneur. For saving she relies on an app as well, “I’m starting really small with the 52 Week Challenge.”
Track spending using an Excel sheet
Old school is still cool of course.
Rose Fausto, author and financial literacy advocate, has an elaborate Excel file that records all her expenses made in cash, credit card and check. These are also categorized according to expenses.
Kris, an entrepreneur swears by it too. “The best system I ever had is an Excel cash flow system where you can project big payments and give yourself a certain limit of cash withdrawals a month.”
The same goes for Neva, a VP for a finance firm, “We use Excel for our annual budget which also has our target savings. We try to stick within our budget, and if it looks like we’d go over, my husband and I discuss it.”
For Eliza, a makeup artist, Excel allows her to anticipate future expenses. “I plot out expenses and I can see where my cash flow will be in trouble. It tells me where I’m running low so I can get my ass moving.”
Convenient tracking via credit card
“I used to encode every single expense on Excel, tried an expense tracker app but went back to Excel. With Excel, I saw my spending pattern, spotted where I could cut down and what useless things I was wasting my money on. Now though, I don’t need to track. I know what I’m spending on and check bank and credit card statements to see if I am on track.” suggests Rone, a business owner.
Here’s a caveat though. “I think age, maturity and lifestyle makes a difference. Even if I tracked expenses in my 20s I would still spend on frivolous things and cut down on everything else. Like I once spent 30% of my income on a jacket.” she discloses.
Married to a creative, her tip for saving is to make sure to always have enough to cover expenses for 6 months. “Have a 6 month fund that you will only touch when you have no income coming in. Then do the savings.”
Work with a financial advisor
Dianne, who works for a multinational recommends working with a financial advisor. “Every year, we consult our financial advisor. We have computed a target amount that we need for retirement and also discuss how long we want to work and how much we need to save per month to meet our target.”
She and her husband save 50% of their income. “Every month we have money allocated to invest on mutual funds, stocks, savings and loans and insurance. We have a fixed monthly budget for food, groceries, salary for helpers and the driver, rent, laundry and miscellaneous. Our bonuses are allocated for travels/other expenses and if there is any amount left over, we save the balance.”
This way, they don’t track their expenses and save, they save and live on balance income. Which leads to the last and most hardcore strategy.
Automate your savings.
Rose, who advocates paying one’s self first, believes that the surefire way is to automate savings. “Right at the start, when the saving is immediately deducted from payroll or whatever account that gets the cash inflow, it’s done! No need for will power, no room for alibis and procrastination.”
She shares that her millennial sons take this to heart. Or in her son Martin’s words, “Just set aside something automatically, then you can go on spending the rest guiltlessly.”