Whether you are saving for a house or for your retirement funds, here are some top tips on getting the best from your savings – from setting budgets and goals to making the most of employer pension contributions.
Set budgets and goals
As soon as you know what you want to save for – your first home, retirement, a house move or a sabbatical, for example - set realistic goals and budgets. You might want to save for a house within five years, but a retirement plan could be a forty year plan. Whatever it may be, it will be easier to stay on track with a set plan in place. A longer-term plan may be less intrusive on your expenses than a short-term one, but you’ll need to work out how much you need to save, how long you have to save up for, and what budget you might need to apply to achieve it.
Start saving as soon as you can
Once you have set your goal then start as soon as you can. The longer you give yourself, the easier it will be to achieve. If you want to save £10,000 towards a house deposit then this is £64 a week over three years – or if you leave it a few years, it could become £192 a week over one year.
Track your spending
It’s easy to fritter money away without noticing – sandwiches purchased in your lunch break rather than pre-made at home, presents purchased last minute at a higher cost – track your spending, even if only for a short while to see where some of your spending habits are taking place. If you add up some of the ad hoc costs and daily spends, it might surprise you how much this totals every month. Tracking your spending also ensures you notice any increase in bills or annual recurring expenses you might have forgotten about.
Make the most of your Personal Savings Allowance and tax-free savings options
Your Personal Savings Allowance allows you to earn up to £1,000 interest a year on your savings without paying tax on it (for standard rate tax payers – higher rate tax payers are allowed £500 a year). Couple this with an interest-free tax savings option, such as an ISA, and you could earn several thousands of pounds of interest on your savings a year tax-free.
Maximise employee contribution
By 2018 most companies will offer a workplace pension scheme which will include an employer contribution – this is where your employer contribute towards your pension, alongside your own financial contribution. These schemes provide an opportunity to maximise free money from your employer.
Currently the minimum contribution from your employer is 1% but this is likely to rise in April 2018. Some companies may pay up to a higher percentage and may match your contributions with the same amount - more than the Government stated minimum contribution required.
You can opt-out of a work place pension but it’s worth finding out what money you will get from your employer, before doing so.
Automate savings and treat the payment as a bill
The easiest way to make sure your savings remain a priority is to set up a monthly automated payment for your savings and treat it as a bill – that way you will be adding to your savings every month without physically having to transfer money out of your account (when you may not want to and find something better to spend it on). By including it in your bills you will also discount that money as spending money each month, which will help with budgets.
Plan for emergencies and spontaneity
Things will always crop up as a surprise expenditure – whether this is an emergency cost such as a new boiler, car repair of fixing a leak in your roof or a spontaneous fun purchase such as holiday or a new outfit for a wedding, keep a set of funds in place for spending so you don’t need to dig into your savings.
Don’t spend windfalls
If you are lucky enough to receive an inheritance or a bonus, try not to spend it all on one holiday as it could help you reach your savings goal quicker – even if you spent half and saved half then you still ease the burden of saving.
Keeping an eye on your recurring bills such as car insurance and utilities could save you hundreds of pounds a year. Shop around when you receive notification of renewal dates or impending price hikes. Check your mobile phone tariff and compare supermarket prices too – it always pays to shop around. It’s also worth keeping an eye on voucher sites to see if you could get money off your purchases.
Check employee perks
Have you checked out your employee perks recently? You might be entitled to money towards eye care or dental work; you might have discount cards for local shops or reduced gym subscriptions. It’s worth keeping an eye on any benefits you receive to see whether you could make the most of them to help you meet your savings goals.
Teachers Building Society has a range of savings products available which can be viewed online here or you can speak to a friendly advisor on 0800 783 2367.