By: Cheryl Chiew

Straight up, I used to be that girl who spent all her salary on holidays, dining at restaurants, and partying at clubs. What made my inability to save seem more ridiculous was back then, I didn’t have to pay rent, wifi, or utilities. It was only after I moved out and began renting last year that I had to take a good look at my spending habits. Now, I save 40% of my income. This is how I managed to save more and spend less.

Tip #1: Track your money to create a budget

I account for every dollar I spend by recording my expenditures on the Pocket Expense 6 mobile app. It’s tedious but you having control over your finances means understanding where your money goes. This will help you create a budget that you can follow.

Currently, I spend my money in this order and these percentages:

  1. Rent (29%)
  2. Utilities, WiFi, phone bills, and transportation allowance (7%)
  3. Pet maintenance (1%)
  4. Groceries (5%)
  5. Savings (40%)
  6. Investments and insurance (7%)
  7. Eating out (7%)
  8. Treating myself (4%)

Ask yourself: What does my ideal budget look like?

Tip #2: Build a life you’re happy with

By American and Singaporean standards, I don’t earn much. But the main reason why I can sustain saving 40% of my salary is that I’ve made choices to create a life that I’m happy with. 

When you build a life you don’t desperately want to escape from, you’re less likely to splurge on treating yourself to feel better.

Ask yourself: What are things or responsibilities that make me feel trapped? Can I do anything to make my situation better? 

Tip #3: Identify and create a system to fulfill your priorities 

To build a life you’re happy with, you need to figure out what’s important to you. For me, that was taking care of my physical health. So, I structured my life around consistently cooking my meals, resting enough, getting social interaction, and working out. 

With my priorities in focus, I recognized I didn’t like going out. Staying in with friends and a bottle of wine (or two) was more preferable. Not only could I get to bed at a more reasonable time, but also socialize with my friends without having to drop $100 on a night out.

The bonus side effect was finding out that when my physical needs were taken care of, it was much easier to focus my energy on building myself and maintaining inner peace.

Ask yourself: What are my priorities and what can I do to fulfil those needs?

Tip #4: Understand why you spend

We live in a society that encourages consumerism and touts materialism as a solution to be happy. While I don’t deny buying a new bag makes me happy, I noticed this happiness is often short-lived.

I came to realize I splurged because spending was an easy temporary salve to emotional discomfort. Understanding how discontentment was my shopping trigger pushed me to take extra care to untangle and work through my emotions. More often than not, once I fixed whatever was bugging me, the urge to spend went away.

Ask yourself: Am I spending to make myself feel better?

Tip #5: Make sure you don’t feel deprived

I strongly believe that maintaining my mental and financial health are both equally important. That’s why I allocate my money to spend on whatever I want, even though I could technically save 4% more of my salary.

I work hard to #SnatchThatCash so I spend my money guilt-free. Not allocating a budget for fun purchases creates a feeling of being deprived, which is counter-intuitive to building a life you’re happy with.

Ask yourself: How much can I set aside to buy little luxuries?

Tip #6: Set realistic budgeting goals

If you’re not used to budgeting and saving money, starting off at saving 40% of your salary can be daunting. Practice progressive saving and make spending adjustments as necessary.

Remember that you’re on a learning journey towards managing your finances and your budget is not set in stone. You’re also not in a competition of “Who can save the most money” with other people.

Personally, I started with saving 2% of my salary per month and worked my way up to 40% over the course of a year. Throughout the process, I also made sure my ability to save did not come at the cost of my happiness. 

Ask yourself: How much can I realistically save without feeling deprived? 

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