Old Dogs New Tricks: Learn to Save as an Adult

It’s official: we are raising a nation of squirrels.

Commbank are spruiking the fact that Aussie kids are saving 25 per cent more cash than they were last year.

Their research also shows that kids that participate in school banking programs become much better savers when they grow up than those that don’t.

Now, Commbank is a company that happens to do a roaring trade in school banking, which happens to be a great way of locking in customers for life, but this finding intuitively makes sense. After all, old habits die hard.

But what about the people who weren’t smart savers at school, who blew all their cash on sausage rolls at the tuckshop and now spend money like they’re shooting it out of a cash cannon?

Are we now confined to a lifetime of living subsistence living and bottom shelf beverages (admittedly while wearing great impulse purchase shoes)?

Never. Don’t despair old dogs… It’s time to learn some new savings tricks.


Building a budget is week one of Savings 101.

It’s a simple concept, just add-up all of your income on one side, and minus your expenses.

It’s a good idea to run a fine-toothed comb over your bank statements for the last couple of months to get a proper picture of where your money is really going, too.

If the budget shows you’re spending more than you’re earning, there are two options; earn more or spend less. Pick one and aim to get back to the black.


Need a hand? Download The Hip Pocket’s Simple Budget Template here.


Set goals

Without goals your savings will probably end up running around in circles and never go anywhere.

So whether it’s a house, wedding or a South American adventure, write down what you’re saving for, when it’s due and how much you’ll need to put away each week to get there.

Deadlines help, too. You’ll be amazed at how much you can scrimp and save when there’s a flight to book in six weeks.

Treat your savings right

For starters, make sure your savings has a decent roof over its head, away from the hustle and bustle of an everyday transaction account.

A high-interest savings account that’s not linked to a debit-card is the best option. They’re available from all the major institutions so compare online and pick the one that’s right for you.

And always pay those savings first. Set up an auto-transfer that regularly takes a fixed amount from your account and you won’t even have to think about it.

Ditch the debt

Sometimes it’s next to impossible to avoid debt, for example when you’re buying a house.

But while debt on a growth asset like a property is usually OK as long as you can afford the repayments, playing around with credit cards, payday lenders and other high interest personal loans is a recipe for disaster.

So do everything in your power to ditch these dodgy debts, including digging in to those savings.

Sound crazy? It’s not. Paying 17 per cent interest on a credit card while receiving 3.5 per cent on your savings is the real madness.


Everyone’s different in how the splash cash. Which financial character are you?


Have an emergency fund

When things go wrong from time to time – and chances are they will – cash is the last thing you want to worry about.

Stashing away some money in an emergency fund that you only touch in extreme circumstances is a good idea to help you get through.

Get disciplined

Like anything worth doing, becoming a great saver takes is a little bit of discipline and it can be tough to start out with.

So even if you’re not a squirrel by nature, stick it out. Once you’ve broken those bad spending habits things will look up pretty quickly.

Image: Bala Sivakumar, via Flickr