Another year has ended and you’re faced with a new one. You should have received your 13th-month pay and if you’re lucky, maybe even gotten a 14th, 15th, or 16th month bonus. You’ve also probably received some cash gifts over the holidays and hopefully, haven’t spent them all. It’s time to make a few resolutions, and saving some of your hard-earned bucks should be one of them. It’s ideal that this is consistently and systematically done. Here are a few tips and tools to get you up to speed on saving.
Begin with understanding your baseline finances.
Figure out where your money comes from. Be exhaustive and list down all sources of income or revenue. Aside from your monthly salary, don’t forget to note income that comes during specific time periods: mid-year, year-end bonuses, and special allowances. To approximate the actual cash you receive, make sure you compute these net of taxes.
Identify and itemize your expenses closely. Best to do this daily, near the end of each day, so you don’t miss out on any items—typically, expenses that do not have receipts. Just like your list of income sources, classify them according to fixed-amount expenses (like your internet or cable bill) and those that vary month on month (say, your groceries or mobile phone bill).
Don’t forget to include expenses that are seasonal, which people sometimes overlook.
School tuition payments normally spent around April and real-estate tax payments in January are some examples.
Track these closely for about a month or two. The idea is to determine the most realistic and conservative picture of the state of your financial health.
While you can do this using pen and paper (which I actually used to do), you can use Microsoft Excel to tally, sort, and add up numbers. If you assign categories to your expenses, you can easily group and see how much you spend for different things. You’ll either be amazed or appalled when you see how much you spend on gas, clothes, and nights out with friends.
To help you remember the stuff you bought during the day, you can do what a friend of mine does: photograph items bought and the corresponding receipts with a smartphone. Aside from being a tool for easy recall, this is particularly great for big-ticket items with warranty that may require a receipt for reference in case something goes wrong with your purchase.
HAVE A GOAL
After a diligent tracking of your finances, you ought to have an idea of how much you earn, and correspondingly, how much you spend.
To help infuse some discipline in your saving, check with your bank if you can set up a standing instruction to park a certain amount from your payroll account and transfer it to one dedicated for your savings. Some banking platforms even allow you to regularly invest what you parked. Best to give your friendly neighborhood banker a call or visit to set this up. Some banks even allow you to do this via their website or mobile app.
INSPECT WHAT YOU EXPECT
Next, have a way to ensure that you are spending within your allowed level of expense.
Sign up for SMS and email alerts with your bank. This way you can keep tabs in real time any significant movements in your accounts. Download your bank’s mobile app if they have one; with a few clicks, you can check your balances.
So you will never be late in paying your bills (and incurring late charges and penalties), automate your bills by signing up for an auto-debit facility or an auto-charge with your credit card.
To help you in budgeting, look into free mobile apps like Expensify (bonus: it also allows you to scan your receipts), Mvelopes (a budgeting app that sorts your expenses in virtual envelopes), or Mint ( allows you to track your cash flow).
Aside from managing your cash flow and parking funds to save, you can use the internet to reduce your expenses.
Discounts abound with coupon sites like DealGrocer and Groupon. Online shopping platforms like Lazada, Zalora, or Amazon regularly offer great deals. By ordering online, you also get additional saves vs. making an actual trip to the store: gas, parking, and the impulse buy when bombarded with merchandise in the mall.
For those who love to globetrot, you can use travel apps like Trivago, Skyscanner, and Airbnb for best-price options when planning trips. There are a lot of online tools you can use for almost any activity. Do a little research and find one that works for you.
Have a go at any or all of these tips. Obviously, if you’re spending more than you’re earning, then you’re in trouble and drastic adjustments in your lifestyle should be made.
Don’t be bogged down by overthinking how much you need to save. You can start small but it is important to start soon.