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It’s coming to the holiday season, and the age-old topic of new years’ resolutions is popping up.
Are you one of the hundreds of thousands setting money-related new years resolutions with the goal to save more?
“Save More” might sound like an easy-to-follow resolution, but often it’s easier said than done. The fact is, too many first-home buyers think they just have to stash away some cash here and there without having any real plan or structure in place, yet fail to realise that simply saving isn’t enough.
Why ‘Save More’ Often Falls Short
Saving more is often touted as the solution to financial problems, but the reality is that it rarely delivers the promised results.
The reason is simple – most people don’t know where to start or how much they should realistically be saving. While it’s easy to say, “Save 10% of your income,” this advice doesn’t take into account the unique circumstances and financial responsibilities of each individual.
While saving is important, it’s equally important to have a solid budget and plan for your financial future. Putting all your focus on saving alone can lead to neglect in other areas, such as investing or paying off high-interest debt. It’s time to recognise the limits of this advice and work on a more holistic approach to financial planning.
It’s the most obvious step, but a good budget helps you review and focus your finances so you can achieve your goal safely and as quickly as possible. It helps you become really clear about what repayments you might be able to meet in the future and, last but not least, helps you get your finances sorted for when you need to get your information to the lender during the application process.
You might already have a budget. We all know budgets are important. But we also know ‘budget fails’ happen all too often. We’ve all blown the budget and usually only a short time after that New Year’s resolution to be the better, budgeting you.
Mostly this is because:
- There’s a lot more to successful budgeting than identifying your bills and cutting your food and entertainment allowance.
- It’s REALLY hard to stay committed to the type of long-term, ongoing budget needed for big investments (such as getting that first home).
Here are some strategies you’d need to adopt to successfully build and maintain a bigger and better budget for larger projects like home buying.
1. Identify your financial goals
You’ve got to know where you’re going. It’ll help you identify the steps needed to meet those goals so you can plan your budget and give yourself an emotional investment in that budget.
Hint: keep your goal in mind – adding images, diary notes or memes about your goal to your phone, mirror or computer screen can help you stay strong.
2. Carry out a financial review
Review of your financial situation. Identify your financial commitments, debts, savings, financial gifts, all of it!
Be honest with yourself. You might have to track your spending to really know exactly what’s going out each month: read your bank statements, write down what you spend as you go, or keep your receipts.
3. Identify possible changes
There will be lifestyle changes you can make, or short to mid term goals that can change to help you achieve your goal. Some of these changes will cost more than others, both personally and financially. Make sure you acknowledge that cost and look at how you will support yourself when making these changes.
Now you know where you are and where you want to be, it’s time to design and implement your budget. Use an app, program or paper and pen. As long as it works for you.
Be realistic. And to all you self-limiting perfectionists out there – remember that it’s highly unlikely this will be the last and only version of your budget so get it done!
5. Do some debt reduction
Work to get rid of, or at least reduce, existing debt. This will help you keep to your budget. It will also help your credit score which is great for when you come to apply for that loan.
6. Level up those savings
Review your savings strategies and accounts. Create a new savings account that you cannot easily access, and commit to making regular deposits to help increase your savings.
Review interest rates and other account features out there and change banks if you need to to get the best deals going.
7. Seek help
Seek expert help or use available financial tools anytime you need to. You might get online and find your credit score or use online calculators or contact a mortgage broker.
A Broker or financial advisor can really help you get clear on your goals, financial situation, best budgeting approach for you, and any other steps you need to take. And they can be a lot more affordable than people think – sometimes even free!
8. Research, Review, Adapt
As you know, a budget is not a one-stop wonder. Allocate time to do more research, review your plans and budget, and adapt as things change.
Adopt that flexible mindset that gives you permission to change strategies as new information or experiences come your way. And don’t beat yourself up if that first budget version doesn’t work as well as you’d like because you know it’s just time to research, review and adapt!
9. Do the thing!
If you want to be able to do this for more than a few weeks you’ve got to actually DO the budget. Allocate time in your calendar or diary to check in with your goals and budget, do the research or revisions, and take action!
Budgets and all those financial strategies they hold you to don’t mean anything if you don’t get proactive and do the jobs that go with it. So set up those calendar reminders, grocery lists and jobs lists to help you get things done.
And finally, remember that budgeting for large financial goals is a long term thing. You will see changes but probably won’t experience the end goal for a while – so trust yourself and the process. You’ve got this!