As bad as Singaporeans are at saving money, it’s not like we don’t want to. After all, who doesn’t want to have more money and retire early? But that’s easier said than done. It’s clear Singaporeans have a self-control problem, since overspending is one of the biggest culprits behind rising credit card debt.
So maybe you’ve tried everything, from leaving the house with only $10 in cash to going on a shopping fast. Yet after a day or two of living like a monk you rebound big time and start bleeding money once again. Here are three reasons why you might be having trouble.
You’re focusing only on the little things and missing the big things
A friend of mine once decided to save money by skipping lunch at work every day. Each day at work, he would rummage through the office pantry for biscuits or cup noodles, or bring some leftovers from dinner the night before.
Other than the fact that he lost a ton of weight, all that starvation served only to save him $100 a month, assuming he would otherwise have spent a maximum of $5 per meal by eating only at hawker centres.
On the other hand, he had a gym membership that cost him about $150 a month, and would routinely drop $100 a pop on drinks and restaurant meals with friends after work.
Instead of focusing on small spending categories like lunch at the office or public transport, it’s a lot smarter to identify bigger financial drains and work on eliminating those first. For instance, refinancing your home loan can save you thousands of dollars, so it makes sense to monitor interest rates before deciding to starve yourself (check out MoneySmart’s refinancing wizard to see if it’s time to refinance).
Spend a month or two tracking where every single cent goes, and you should quickly see which are the most expensive areas that you should be tackling first.
You’re trying to cut your spending only on the first things you can think of, rather than finding stuff you’ve forgotten about
On a day to day basis, what do you spend on? To most people, the most obvious spending categories tend to be food, transport and maybe shopping.
And these are immediately the costs they try to cut when they panic and realise they’ve been overspending.
The problem is that when you try to reduce your spending in areas where you are regularly forced to fork out cash, it takes a lot of willpower. If you take a cab three times a week and now want to take public transport instead, you’re going to have to feel tortured three times a week.
Meanwhile, there are other areas where you’re unknowingly spending money. You might be paying too much for your mobile data plan because you upgraded it to buy an iPhone all those years ago. You could be unknowingly paying credit card annual fees because you never bother to check your statements. Heck, you could even have forgotten to ask for your money back from people whom you lent money to ages ago.
The point is, when you’re trying to reduce your spending, don’t think only of your day-to-day expenditure. Chances are, you’re also leaking money in ways you’ve forgotten about or overlooked.
You’re trying to cut your spending only in areas that people don’t see while still trying to maintain a glitzy façade
Everyone’s heard those stories about these young girls who skip meals so they can buy designer goods, or those people who are eating bread and water at home and borrowing from loansharks so they can continue to keep their cars.
People are often quick to cut their spending in areas that the public doesn’t see, while continuing to try to maintain their expensive public image.
Got invited to go to an expensive restaurant helmed by a celebrity chef? No sweat, you’ll just starve yourself for the rest of the month to make up for it. Want to buy those shoes? No problem, who needs to go for dental checkups anyway?
The problem with this approach is that there is no limit to how much you can feel like you must spend just to keep up appearances. When you first start working, you might have been tempted to buy a car, but after five years on the job, that Kia is no longer befitting of someone of your status, and so the cycle continues.
If you’re serious about saving a larger portion of your income, you’ve got to grow a mind of your own and learn to live life on your own terms.
Have you ever run into the above obstacles when trying to save money? Share your experiences in the comments!