Our weekly series How I Save invites people to take an honest look at how they handle their personal finances.
Each week we ask a different person to talk us through their approach to saving, then get them to track a week of spending, including what they bought and what they paid for each purchase.
Then we bring in an expert’s perspective on their money habits so they (and we) can boost savings.
This time around we’re chatting with Aimee*, a 27-year-old living and working in London.
How Aimee saves:
I earn £30,000 a year and in my savings account right now I have £1,700.
I’ve saved this much money mostly by not paying rent for a month and a half during lockdown while I was staying out of the city. I’ve also since moved into a cheaper place with a flatmate, so I’m saving on rent and bills each month on top of going out less because of Covid.
Last year, I was living alone in a more expensive place, which put me under a bit of strain.
I’m saving mainly for a safety net and travelling. Buying a home feels so far away but that’s also on my mind whenever I check how my savings account is doing.
Normally I just direct debit £100 a month into a separate savings account right after I get paid and try not to touch that account. Lately I’ve also been trying to relegate my shopping habit to charity shops, but the results have been mixed.
I struggle with saving because I’m a pretty typical millennial in that if there’s a good experience on offer I’ll struggle to say no if I’ve got the cash. I’m also a sucker for a good outfit, so clothes shopping is definitely a factor.
Lockdown is helping me save in a big way because I’m not seeing that many people and I’m not going anywhere expensive. I’m not even paying for a travel card anymore because there’s no point.
I absolutely appreciate that I’m one of the lucky ones, and it feels strange and kind of uncomfortable to look at a pandemic and say that it’s helping me financially.
The pandemic is also a big motivation for me to save right now, because if 2020’s taught us anything it’s that literally anything could be around the corner.
How Aimee spends:
- Rent: £848.50
- Gym; £35
- Phone: £15
- Netflix: £8.99
- Amazon Prime: £7.99
A week of spending:
Monday: Me and two other friends have our birthdays in the first week of October so we had a Covid-friendly gathering at our place.
We got ingredients for a boozy brunch and later on we ordered a takeaway (which was largely my treat for the other birthday people).
Total spent on Monday: £74
Tuesday: It was my grandma’s birthday that coming weekend, so I sent her chocolate and bubbly. I also picked up two vases from the charity shop for birthday flowers.
Total spent on Tuesday: £33
Wednesday: Got some bits from the supermarket and condoms from the pharmacy. I also used some birthday money to buy myself a pair of boots I’ve been coveting.
Total spent on Wednesday: £130.05
Thursday: Did a bigger grocery shop and popped into another charity shop on the way, where I picked up my Halloween costume (yes I’m dressing up even if we have to stay in) and a shirt.
Total spent on Thursday: £32.83
Friday: Nipped out to get two over the door hooks
Total spent on Friday: £1.99
Saturday: Worked from home then the boyfriend came over. We drank wine I already had in in front of the TV.
Total spent on Saturday: £0
Sunday: Got coffee and a cinnamon bun with my flatmate after we went to yoga, thus undoing the work put into yoga. The circle of life. Also grabbed a slice of banana loaf for the boyfriend.
Total spent on Sunday: £8.99
Total spent this week: £280.86
How Aimee could save:
We spoke to the experts over at Plum, the smart app for managing your money, to find out how Aimee can put aside more (and what we can learn from her spending). Please note that tips from Plum do not constitute financial advice.
Here’s what they said:
Hi Aimee, thanks for sharing your money diary with us this week! Without further ado, let’s dip into your spending and saving habits and see what’s going on…
Your total spend this week was £280.86, with most of your spending going towards expenses for birthday treats and presents.
When it comes to spending, creating a monthly budget is a helpful way to organise your outgoings and keep an eye exactly where your money’s going. However, it is equally important that you find a strategy that works best for you. If creating a detailed spending budget does not sound appealing, you could choose to tackle the areas in your spending that seem the most problematic.
For instance, as you mention, you love a good outfit (kudos for dressing up this Halloween even if staying in!). However, in order to feel more in control, you could create a separate budget dedicated only for spending on clothes and allocate a set amount of money each month for this category.
You could also look into options of earning rewards as you spend. There are a few to choose from, but with Plum you could be getting Cashback on brands such as ASOS, Nike, Farfetch and Miss Selfridge, each time you make a purchase.
We love that you’re not afraid to change your spending habits and implement new strategies (even if with mixed results!). Shopping at charity shops is a great way to save some hard earned cash and also give the items you buy a second lease of life. Not to mention the environmental benefits of buying second-hand!
You’ve made a good start, with £1,700 saved, but you’re still some way off having a comfortable amount stashed away.
Setting financial goals is the bread and butter of saving! Having clear targets not only increases your chances of success, but also allows you to track and celebrate major milestones. You already said that you’re saving for a safety net and travelling (once it’s safe to do so!) so let’s take a look how you can make those goals a reality faster.
An emergency fund is one thing you could prioritise first. As you mention, you can never predict when things may go wrong (or an unexpected global pandemic hits), so it’s essential to have a safety net in order to ride out any financial storms with less risk of falling into problem debt.
The exact amount you should put aside for the emergency fund will depend on your circumstances. Generally speaking, financial experts advise that you have enough money stored in your emergency fund to cover three to six months worth of living expenses.
If you find it difficult to work out how much you can afford to put away each month in advance, Plum’s algorithm could even do the job for you and help you put aside extra, without you having to even think about it.
Once connected with your bank account, Plum will analyse your spending habits and any regular payments to calculate how much you can afford to save, squirrelling away small amounts of money here and there. By saving little-by-little, you’ll reach those financial goals in no time. And on an endnote, don’t let thoughts that saving for a house feels so far away put you off. With the right kind of strategy and a bit of automation, nothing is impossible!
*Name has been changed.
How I Save is a weekly series about how people spend and save, out every Thursday. If you’d like to anonymously share how you spend and save – and get some expert advice on how to sort out your finances – get in touch by emailing [email protected].
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