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Growing up, we all have had the importance of saving money drilled into our heads. But despite our parents’ best efforts, some of us still struggle to put money aside for future needs or emergencies. Those of us who find saving money difficult often feel guilty about failing, especially when we see our peers succeeding. However, as we all have different ways of relating to money, a one-size-fits-all approach simply does not work.

The trick then is to understand more about how you see money, and learn different money-saving strategies that works for you. Here are five strategies to try that could help you finally start to save money.


1) Work out your retirement plan

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If your instinct is to spend your GST voucher the moment you receive it, it’s likely you’re someone who does not see the point of saving money. Simply put, you haven’t found a compelling enough reason for you to save, hence you tend to play fast and loose with your bank balance.

To remedy this, you need to find a solid reason to save, which will in turn provide the motivation to follow through. One good solution is to create your retirement plan. And no, we don’t mean vague, hazy sentiments like “living well in my golden years”. We mean an actual retirement plan, complete with numbers, budgets and deadlines. 

If you’re not sure where to start, call up your financial agent friend and ask them to help you put together a retirement plan. They should be able to plot out the sum you need for retirement, how much you need to save per month to achieve that figure, and when you should start saving.

Doing this should help you place a purpose to your money, which should motivate you to put it aside for your later years, instead of spending it all on a whim.


2) Clear your money baggage

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Some of us can’t keep up with healthy financial habits because we haven’t learnt how to handle the emotional baggage that can come with money. For example, we can’t say ‘no’ to relatives asking for a loan, or we are easily persuaded to pay for the group dinner (yet again).

Some signs you may be carrying money baggage: Having money makes you feel guilty or stressed out; you feel hopeless or overwhelmed at budgeting; making a big-ticket purchase makes you panic (even though you can afford it); often not knowing where your money goes.

Discovering and challenging our ideas about wealth takes time and effort, and we may even need professional help to change some of our deeper-held beliefs. However, the resulting changes can be rewarding — both emotionally and financially speaking.

To examine and change your money beliefs, try checking out money workshops and wealth seminars. Alternatively, you may wish to work with a life coach if you prefer a personal touch.

The goal is to replace any negative beliefs about money (such as, ‘having money is greedy’) with positive ones (such as ‘it is okay for me to have enough money to meet my needs and wants’).


3) Apply basic accounting

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On the other end of the spectrum, some of us fail to save money because we aren’t applying the proper tools. Hence, another strategy you can try is employing basic accounting principles and tools to your personal finances — exactly like how a company would manage its funds.

No, you don’t have to sign up for a full-fledged accounting diploma, but you do have to learn the the basics, such as how to construct a profit-and-loss statement, and how to make and keep a budget.

Then, in your personal finance budget, create a category called “personal savings”, and make sure to allocate a portion of your “income” (your salary) to it every month. In looking for the “funds” to put into savings, you may make crucial discoveries, such as spending more than you thought on unnecessary or frivolous items.


4) Increase your income

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Sometimes, the reason for not having any savings is simple: Your income just isn’t large enough to allow you to save.

If you find that your monthly salary is fully committed to bills and other necessary expenses, then the solution is straightforward: Increasing your income, perhaps by negotiating a raise, switching to a higher paying position, or taking on freelance projects.

The important thing is to make sure the extra money goes straight to a savings account. Otherwise, you’ll be back to square one. You may find starting a separate account, or setting up an auto-transfer helpful in this case.


5) Separate short-term and long-term savings

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After working hard for a couple of years, you find yourself with a respectable $10,000 in your savings account. Yay! Time to reward yourself with a long-awaited holiday to Mykonos. Oh yeah, better upgrade to the latest iPhone to better capture the vibrant blues the city is so famous for.

While you’re at it, might as well get that cute Gucci summer dress, and you definitely need a new pair of heels to go with… and shades, musn’t forget shades. Come to think of it, your handbag needs an upgrade too…

If the above scenario sounds familiar, you might find your bank account resetting to zero every couple of years, leaving you with no savings. This is because we are not as good at keeping mental tabs of our money as we think.

To break out of this cycle, separate your savings into short-term and long-term in a 1:2 ratio. That means that for every dollar you put into short-term savings, put two into your long-term account.

This practice will help you better manage your money, allowing you to reward yourself every so often, while steadily building up the funds to meet important long-term needs, such as marriage, buying a home, having kids or retirement.