For as far back as I can remember, my mother has always encouraged both my older brother and me to save money and taught us the virtue of saving. As kids, we were given monthly allowances and money for special occasions like New Year’s or birthdays, but I’ve always just saved most of that money. It was a lot easier as a kid to choose to save up instead of spending the money, as I didn’t really need anything that my parents didn’t already provide. My mother also had a unique way of encouraging us she doubled whatever amount we deposited into our savings account at the bank. As a kid, that was a huge deal, but much to my disappointment, my mother stopped offering to do so as I got older.
But, it was all thanks to her that the notion of saving is not a foreign concept to me. This might sound strange, but I’m proud of my saving habits and it’s become almost like a hobby of mine.
So, now let’s get to the real question: How to save money and where do we start?
Step one: find out these things if you don’t already know: your income, your net income, and your current savings.
Step two: set a clear goal of how much you can, and want to, save per month.
Step three: it’s important to keep track of all of your expenses and I mean every single thing. I personally go the semi-old-school route and use Microsoft Excel because I’m a nerd and like to customize my own tables and graphs. For those who’d prefer not to keep receipts or aren’t too computer savvy, there are now a lot of free applications available for download on smartphones and tablets. They’re also extremely useful for people who have to do their own taxes when March rolls around. Categorize your expenses (ex. rent, utilities, groceries, entertainment, etc.) so that you can clearly see where most of your money is going, and which areas you can cut down on.
Step four: figure out in which areas you’ve been spending too much, why you’ve been spending so much in those areas, and ways to stop doing it. It’s also useful to set a general limit of how much you’d like to spend in each area. For example, let’s say you want to spend about 30,000 yen per month for food and groceries. If you’ve been spending 50,000 yen per month in that area, is it because you’ve been eating out a lot? Is it because you buy things at a convenience store instead of a supermarket? Is it because you go drinking a lot? Whatever the reason may be, try to tackle the problem and stop it from happening so often.
The method above is a step in the right direction in managing your finances as an adult, but it’s not the only thing you can do to save money. Another useful tip I’ve learned from others is clearly understanding the difference between “want” and “need” when it comes to shopping. This is especially important for those who live in smaller apartments and don’t have a lot of space.
For adults who have been working or living alone for several years now, we already basically have everything we need to live. So, when we see things on sale, or things that catch our eye as we’re window-shopping in person or online, we need to hold ourselves back for a second and think, “Do I need this, or do I just want this?” This step helps you stop yourself from impulse buying. If it’s not something you immediately need, go walk around first, or go home and sleep on it before deciding if you really want it. It’s also a good idea to go online to compare prices or reviews before making the final decision.
Some other ways to save up is to buy things in bulk if possible, and use coupons and point cards. I used to hate carrying around coupons and point cards since it’s troublesome to dig through them, but many places have switched to e-cards so it’s gotten a lot easier.
My final tip is to those who like traveling. It may sound obvious, but plan your vacation early! Flights and hotels tend to be a lot cheaper when you book early, so take advantage of that if you can.
Those are only some of the methods I personally use, but I hope they’ll prove to be helpful to some of you too.
virtue (n) the good result that comes from something
allowance (n) an amount of money that is given to someone regularly or for a specific purpose
notion (n) an idea or opinion
keep track (idiom) to be aware of how something is changing, what someone is doing, etc.
roll around (phr. v) to arrive or happen again
in bulk (phrase) in large amounts or in large containers