How long does it take to form a new habit? Depending on who you ask, the answer could range from 21 days to two or three months. Yet, regardless of the timeframe, the main ingredient for forming any new habit is consistency. And that, my friends, is not easy.
The past few months have been particularly crucial and helpful, not just in staying motivated to continue with my savings journey which started a year ago, but also in making me more financially conscious.
Have there been shortfalls; days where I fell back into old habits, bought something on a whim or forgot to track my expenses? Without a doubt. But writing these posts each month and reading your comments and the experiences of other #AfricaSaves bloggers like Zambia’s Mazuba Kapambwe have helped keep me on course and accountable. To myself, yes, but also to those of you who have reached out to share your own journey and/or take the first courageous step in saving.
Many of you have pointed out that saving in an economy as volatile economy as Ghana’s might not be feasible return-wise. These are valid concerns and this is something I share as I would ultimately like to save and invest in my own country.
But does this take away from the benefits of putting away money for a rainy day, to invest, or even from developing new habits and realizing what you truly value? I would hope not.
Despite my personal challenges and occasional slip-ups, my savings experience has yielded some results which, quite honestly, I am proud of, especially considering where I first started. Below is a list of my (mini) triumphs since I started saving last year:
- Paying back loans from family and friends
- Clearing my credit card balance
- Paying back about 60% of my college loans
- Saving between 10-20% of my monthly salary
- Saving 50% of income from blogging and delivering other professional services (to be reinvested)
I wrote about my debt management and savings strategy in my last post, but it would have been futile if I hadn’t incorporated these and other habits:
1. Listing my savings target on my monthly budget
Each month, I draw up my budget and include a line indicating my savings target and how much I have saved so far. In the first half of the year, I saved 10% of my monthly income. After I got a raise at work, I increased my savings target to 20% – ambitious yes, but ultimately it helped ensure that I wasn’t making any drastic (expensive) changes to my lifestyle as most of the additional income was being saved.
2. Actively seeking inspiration
Staying actively motivated has been a big part of my savings journey. In addition to writing down some of my long-term goals, I use Pinterest to create various boards which help me visualize some of the things I’m saving towards. Speaking with friends and family who are way ahead of the curve when it comes to saving and investing has also been inspiring as it gives me a sense of what’s possible. The DailyWorth newsletter and website have also given some good insights.
3. Remembering WHY.
This should probably be No. 1. Whenever I am faced with a purchasing conundrum, I stop and ask myself whether what I am about to pay for is a necessity or a want. In most cases it is the latter. I also remind myself that I no longer wish to be impoverished (no matter how temporary) and hence, I need to think and act like someone who is working on creating wealth. Trust me, guilt tripping yourself works wonders!
4. Adopting money-saving alternatives
Cook at home instead of eating out. Walk around your neighborhood instead of signing up to a gym. Share a taxi or apartment with a friend instead of going solo. All these have been mentioned time and again as ways to cut expenses, so much so that they begin to sound cliché. And yet, they couldn’t be truer.
5. Hanging out with likeminded individuals
Okay, this one might sound a bit anti-social, but it’s something to consider. You might want to take a look at how much time you spend with that friend. You know, the one who spends money on a whim and picks any and everything at each store you enter. Because whether we like to admit it or not, we are as easily influenced by our peers as we were on the playground back in the day. It might also help to let close friends and family know that you are on a budget and hence cannot buy each yaaye (matching wedding cloth) or go out every weekend. Better still, encourage them to join you in adopting money-saving habits and be each other’s keeper.
So there we are. All my savings secrets out in the open. What about you? Have you made headway with your savings journey so far? What helped (or didn’t)? Share in the comments section below.
—Follow the Barclays Savings Challenge and discussion on Twitter and Facebook. Share your own experience by using the hash tag #AfricaSaves. Visit the Barclays website for more information about their savings account.