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Smarter spending and better savings

13 September, 2010


One of the cruel ironies of life is that we only get to appreciate the true value of money after we experience a major loss of income, a career or business failure, an investment failure or a painful bankruptcy. Think about it. Prior to a life-changing experience where substantial finances are lost, money often seems very intangible and worthless.

Things truly look their bleakest when you have to contemplate selling your house to pay off your debts or you find that you’re getting behind your monthly housing loan repayments. “Your house is your castle”, but simply put, insufficient funds will make that castle difficult to defend.

Frugal living means smarter spending and better savings
Making money, wise spending, smart savings, effective asset investment and debt management are lifelong living skills that take time to develop. All five are an important part of a fruitful life. Today’s world is a complicated place. As we go through life, we will potentially experience unforeseen situations caused by career failures, business failures, investment failures, debts obligations, family feuds, relationship issues, marriage failures, physical and mental health failure and financial scams. If you want to avoid these negative experiences, one defensive mechanism is to adopt a simpler approach to living; being minimalist and avoiding wastage.

Focus on living with a purpose instead of spending time and energy living a lifestyle that is conditioned by consumerism and materialism. There are significant rewards that come when you focus on wealth creation. The first reward is not having to live in financial fear. The choice of adopting a frugal lifestyle is a wise lifestyle approach. Frugal living is not about being stingy or cheap. It is about being smart and wise with money – smart spending and saving more. There is an added bonus to living frugally – less consumption can lead to a cleaner environment, less clutter and wastage.

Healthy cash flow management
When it comes to property ownership, frugal living will help you to manage your cash flow to pay for your housing loan, or even pay your housing loan’s principal faster.This leads to savings on overall interest payments to the bank.

If you continue this good practice of frugal living, you will be able to accumulate enough cash to buy your next property, and build your wealth in property investments with lower gearing and loan exposure.

Top five spending drivers
If you want to venture onto the path of frugal living, you need to find out the top five drivers that make you to spend your hard-earned money. First step is to make a “conscious” financial decision to track and analyse your daily cash and credit payment expenses at the end of each day or week. Before you can discover the root of your present spending habits, you’ll need to know the spending drivers themselves

When you start to analyse your spending patterns often and pay attention to the five spending drivers, you will be in a better position to understand, correct and ultimately control your spending behaviours.

Smart spending
Once you are able to categorise your spending patterns, make a conscious decision to reduce the spending by adopting the following ideas.

- Idea #1
Control your emotions by doing something else instead of spending money. Solve the root of the emotion by confronting those causes. You’re your own worst enemy. Recognise your weaknesses and confront them.

- Idea #2
Change your thought patterns and convert to positive self-talking:
• I don’t really need it because ..........
• It is not necessary to have it now .......... because ..........
• There is no need to have it now .......... because ..........
• I can wait .......... because ..........

- Idea #3
Manage your relationship with people or family; communicate or discuss with them how to achieve compromised spending arrangements. Negotiate. There is no need to feel that you are worse off if you don’t get to spend or invest like your friends. You are unique and special in your own way.

- Idea #4
Keep a strict regimen of your spending. Use cash and avoid credit cards when possible. Think out-of-the-box and find new ways to save money. Make it a part of your daily lifestyle. Constantly look for cheaper alternatives and be contented with what you already have.

The more you practise smart spending, the better you become.

Money not spent is saved. The 10 tips below will only work if you truly have a desire for future financial success. Be persistent and disciplined in the course of your daily actions.

Tip #1 Saving money can be an automatic habit. One easy way to save automatically is to create bank auto-deductions from your salary account to a savings or investment account.

Tip #2 Save more than necessary. The reward of saving comes in the form of wealth creation. Set short-term savings goals that are easily achievable. Set specific investment goals like a down payment for a new property, purchase of gold bars, purchase of company stocks, investments in unit trust/mutual funds or settle your loans and debts.

Tip #3 Review savings regularly and during times when there are life stage changes e.g. single to married, becoming a parent, employment to retirement, employee to business owner. Conduct an annual, semi-annual or even quarterly review of your savings and investment achievements.

Tip #4 Continue saving money by spending wisely based on a spending system that works for you. Reduce regular spending habits or behaviours by reducing spending frequencies. For example, target every two weeks instead of weekly, and look for cheaper alternatives, recycled products and multi-functional substitutes.

Tip #5 Surround yourself with friends, colleagues and family members who you can educate and recruit to support your collective frugal spending. Create a “frugal friends and family” network!

Tip #6 Saving and spending money are daily affairs. Be conscious of your choices when you spend your money, and your mode of payment – cash, debit card or credit card. Develop a system that allows you to limit your cash spending and credit spending. Look for discounts, vouchers and rejoice in the frugal living lifestyle.

Tip #7 Manage your emotions and control your irrational “spend money” urges. Instead, involve yourself in activities that will either save or generate money for you.

Tip #8 Be knowledgeable about money by reading and talking to friends and acquaintances - Be financially savvy and intelligent – and be proud of it.

Tip #9 Be an accountant of your personal finances. Prepare a monthly cash flow budget and keep track of cash and credit spending to help you manage savings and spending. Prepare monthly net worth statements to keep track of your assets and liabilities.

Tip #10 Conduct monthly reviews of your personal finances with your family and loved ones if they have influences on your spending and savings. Work with them to achieve your mutual financial goals.

If you have experienced financial loss or have any ideas on living frugally, share it with Carol Yip at carolyip@aboutmoneytalk.com

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