What stops you saving?

Most people say they don't earn enough, but more often the problem is failing to tick basic personal finance boxes such as tracking expenses and budgeting and fooling yourself in subtle ways.

Saving comes from within, not from your employer, partner or the Government.

It requires you to think differently.


People are motivated to change in different ways, but to turn your money-management pattern from spending to saving you need to do several of the following:

1 Learn to determine needs from wants

Question every item, down to the choice of bread you buy.

Ask yourself every time you buy anything if your priority is to save, or to spend. My mantra is: "Do I REALLY need it?".

2 Pay yourself first

Put away the money you want to save at the beginning of your pay cycle then look for ways to live with what remains — and don't reach for the credit card.

Set up an automatic payment to transfer your savings each month.

"Your savings need to be on autopilot," says Tom Hartmann from the Commission for Financial Capability.

3 Set up systems

This can be splitting your banking into multiple accounts earmarked for different purposes.

It can be using budget or spending apps, or a good old-fashioned diary.

Give yourself rules, such as the 30-day rule where when you're overcome with the urge to splurge, you diary the purchase for 30 days' time.

By then you often no longer "need" whatever it was.

4 Want to save

Many people talk about wanting to save, but the desire to spend is greater.

Find a goal and stick a picture of it to the back of your toilet door or use it as your computer or phone screen saver. If you really truly want something in life, there's a good chance you'll get it.

5 Document your spending patterns

Carry a notebook with you to write down every cent you spend or use a spending-tracking app.

At the end of the month categorise all your spending and ask yourself how satisfying each category has been.

A $4 coffee may feel good at the time — but when you see $120 has gone on hot drinks in a month you might think differently.

If you don't have a budget, use this exercise as the starting point for what you want to spend in different categories.

6 Game yourself

If you are inclined to buy a coffee or other low-value item, come up with a scheme where you transfer the same amount or a fixed percentage to a savings account every time you weaken and spend unnecessarily, says Hartmann.

Watch it build up and reflect on the money you wasted to get that savings figure.

Or find other ways to game yourself into saving, such as giving yourself a percentage of your savings as spending money each month.

The more you save the more you are allowed to spend, although make sure you have an overall budget.

7 Mix it up

Come up with unexpected ideas to mix it up. That might be an arbitrary number, says Hartmann, such as your year of birth.

"Make that your savings goal and keep it there as a buffer."

Throw in other random targets such as your age and put that money aside each pay period. This helps you learn to save for saving's sake, not just to buy big items, says Hartmann.

Or go zero waste, which will stop you buying all manner of unnecessary stuff.

8 Pay cash

Pay your savings figure to yourself and all your fixed bills such as utilities and rent/mortgage on pay day.

Do a basics-only shop on that day that excludes package items and treats. Withdraw the remaining money as cash and split it into envelopes for non-essentials such as going out, luxury groceries, clothes and so on. Once it's gone, you need to wait until next payday. A week, fortnight or month isn't long.

9 Question everything

There is an awful lot of received wisdom that holds us back. It could be little statements that we take for granted.

"You have to spend to save."

"It's impossible to buy a house."

"Kiwis earn too little."

"My children need iPads."

And so on. Someone who really wants to save is going to question all these assumptions and find ways to overcome them whether you earn minimum wage or a CEO's salary.