How to Hit Your Savings Targets

“What, you’re supposed to have money LEFT OVER at the end of the month?!”

The concept of saving can at first seem a strange and foreign idea. But with a little planning and the self-control of a six-year-old, you too can join that enviable group of go-getters who have money to spare.

Here are a few tips to get in the gang.

First up, set a savings target. It might be a percentage of your pay cheque, the amount needed to trek through Nepal or a sum to plump up a property deposit. Whatever it is, write it down and stick it on the fridge.

OK, now that we know what we’re working towards, it’s time to take a deep breath and put small steps in place to get there.

Put it Down on Paper

The first step in any savings mission is to get a picture of how much you earn and how much you spend. It’s called a budget and it’s pretty boring.

Luckily we’ve done half the work for you by making a free template to fill out. Suck back a coffee and get it done.

Cancel a Direct Debit

Jump into your transaction account and jot down all the direct debits currently sucking money from your financial soul. We’re guessing there are gym fees, phone bills, internet invoices and maybe magazines.

Pick one and can it. That might mean finding a new exercise routine, shedding gossip columns or consolidating your phone and internet into one lower cost account. Whatever the case, find a way to work around the service and cancel one of these.

Don’t Claim the Tax Free Threshold

If you’re a terrible drunk, or saver, it might be wise to put your hard earned into somebody else’s hands to hold on to, like the tax office. One way to do that is to overpay your tax each year.

By choosing not to claim tax free threshold, you’ll be taxed on your first $18k in wages each year, when you don’t actually need to be. You can do this by not ticking the ‘claim tax free threshold’ box on your TFN declaration (that white/pink form you fill out at the start of new job), or changing your preference with payroll.

If you earn over $18k, at the end of the financial year the ATO will be holding about $6k in extra tax you’ve paid that they’ll return to you.

Sell Your Junk

There’s a saying that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and while your grubby sofa might not quite fit the bill, you’re sure to have a few unused possessions people will be willing to pay for.

When you’re scanning the house for things to sell, the rule is that whatever you haven’t used in the last twelve months can be sold. No exceptions.

So undertake an audit of all your stuff, open Gumtree or eBay on your laptop, and start selling up. You might be surprised what you can earn flogging your old stuff online.

Kick a Bit Extra into Super

One of the best savings strategies going around involves making regular contributions to your super. They reduce the tax you pay, increase your investment portfolio and don’t require any extra self-control once set up.

Chat to the pay master at work about taking a bit out each pay cycle – even $10 a week can make a huge difference over the long run – and start setting yourself up for a wealthier retirement.

Obviously this isn’t cash that can be accessed any time soon, but your future self will thank you for it.

Transfer Your Debt

If you still haven’t sorted out a plan to eliminate your debts, you’re obviously not dropping by here regularly enough.

Make this the year that you sort your shit out and eliminate all those bad debts. It starts with reviewing your financial position and ends with noodles, here’s how.

Join a Rewards Program

Flights, presents and magazine subscriptions are all pesky costs that can be subsidised by rewards programs. So whether it’s a frequent flyer scheme, a rewarding credit or debit card, or a supermarket rewards program, start getting bang for your brand loyalty buck.

Join up to free programs at places you regularly shop and start cashing in. A year’s worth of points at Coles or Woolies should cover an annual magazine subscription, while six months of credit card rewards ought to pick you up some flights.

Remember, you can trade rewards points for just about anything these days, so whatever your leisure, it’s worth your while.

Use Public Facilities

As we’re bombarded with exclusive membership opportunities, streaming services and subscription everything else, it’s easy to forget about all the free-ish facilities your taxes pay for. So take a step back and save a few bucks by using them.

Rent books and movies from the local library. Exercise on the bars in the park and swim at the beach. Catch the train to work and entertain yourself at free festivals.  Then, stash the money you save.

You’re paying to be a member of society, so you might as well make use of the club.

Image: Hans Splinter, via Flickr