Building up a savings pot seems like a huge mountain to climb. How can you ever hope to put aside hundreds of pounds in an emergency fund if you are scraping together the pennies at the end of every month? However, starting a savings pot doesn't have to mean radical change, it can mean introducing small, sustainable habits, that will automatically save you money every week.
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If you implement these seven habits, you'll be sitting on a nest egg in no time - without ever feeling you had to work for it.
1. Make a 30 day list for things you want
If you're an impulse buyer, then you don't have to give up shopping, just create a 30 day list, and when you have an impulse to buy something, put it on the list - next to that day's date. You're not allowed to buy the item for 30 days - by which point you can decide whether it's still really important to you or not.
2. Implement shopping blackouts
We all have spending triggers that have nothing to do with actually needing to buy specific things. We need to recognise them, and implement shopping blackouts - avoiding shopping when they are triggered. If, for example, you tend to reward yourself after work on a Friday, buy a sweet treat at 3pm every day, or go shopping when you're bored on a Saturday afternoon, then make a rule that at these key times you need to do something else - you're not allowed to shop.
Nobody needs more stuff, so if you want to buy something, then you need to think about the item you'll be getting rid of (ideally selling) to make way for it. This will force you to evaluate each purchase more carefully - and if you're selling the item on, you can recoup some of the cost too.
4. Spend in cash
This can help in two ways. You can set yourself a daily or weekly budget, and only withdraw the cash you have for that week - which will help stop you over-spending. Even if you find yourself overspending, you'll be surprised of the impact of just handing over the money instead of tapping your card: it feels more painful to spend money this way, and will help you cut back without trying.
5. Stick a picture of your goal on your wallet
Every time you spend, you'll see a photo of the holiday you're saving for, the wedding, or the car. You'll subconsciously start weighing up the purchase against the goal, and may put yourself off the spending that's not doing you any favours.
6. Make a list
You'll need to be realistic about the role lists play in your life. In the best case scenario you can develop the best habits - where you plan the meals for the week, check what you have at home, make a list of the items you need, and then only buy those items. At the other end of the spectrum, when you're dashing to the supermarket for the fourth time in a week, make a list - even if it just says 'milk' - and don't let yourself buy anything that's not on the list.
7. Spare 2 hours a week to cook
Cooking from scratch for every meal, and bringing your own lunch to work, can save a fortune, but not everyone has space for it in their lives. If you're struggling, then set aside 2 hours a week to cook up a huge batch of something, then freeze it in lunch and dinner portions. That way, any time you can't be bothered to make a packed lunch or home-cooked dinner, you'll have something homemade and cheap waiting in the freezer.