Part four of this Travelling Without a Trust Fund series on how to save for your Big Trip is probably the biggest brainwave we’ve had when it comes to saving, and it took us a surprisingly long time to come up with. Like all of the tips in this series, it’s excruciatingly simply, but shockingly effective:
Spend only cash!
Ok, this comes with a bit of a disclaimer. I really do try my best to stick to all the tips I’ve mentioned here, but hey, we all slip up. In particular, I’ve found it difficult to always remember to write down everything I spend (perhaps if we were high-tech folk and used an online system it would be easier, but by the time I’m home, staring at the note on the fridge and scrabbling through my pockets for a receipt… well, sometimes it doesn’t work out).
This is one reason (of many) why this technique is so useful: we withdraw our full week’s balance (as decided by the realistic budget we set way back in the first blog post in the series) at the beginning of the week when we do our food shopping, and then we use the remainder to buy everything else we need during the week. Simple, right?
There are two main benefits to this idea (other than knowing exactly how much you have left): one is that it makes it much more difficult to “cheat” on our budget. You know the feeling… you’re getting towards the end of the week, you don’t need to buy anything else, but maybe a friend asks you to go for a drink, you decide that you really deserve a new lipstick, or you realise your dinner plans would be greatly improved if you just bought that nice bottle of wine to go with it…
Maybe you know, really, that you’ve more or less reached your budget for the week. Or perhaps – Shock! Horror! – you’re not writing down all of your spending at all, so you’re not even sure where you’re at.
In any case, you decide that, well, you deserve to let your hair down just this once. This saving game is hard after all, and why shouldn’t you have a treat once in a while?
You’re not wrong, of course (as a matter of fact, I’ll be talking about this very thing in the final blog post in this series). But if, while considering whether to let it go just this time, you look in your purse, count up your pennies, and realise that you don’t have enough, it’s going to make it a bit more difficult to break the rules.
Now, of course we don’t lock our bank cards away every week, and there are weeks when we go over budget, which is both bound to happen, and completely ok. However, the very fact that we have to break our normal rule (we’re creatures of habit, after all) in order to do this makes it into a conscious decision, and something that we really think through instead of just turning a blind eye.
The second benefit of the all-cash system is a less obvious one, but is a lot more pleasant. The fact is that while there are sure to be weeks when we come in over budget, most weeks we actually come in under. Not by a lot – perhaps by a few euros, five or ten if we’re lucky (which should give you a hint as to how low our budget is). This is normal, of course – that’s why it’s called a budget and not a target.
However, before we got strict with ourselves about only spending cash, these extra pennies, instead of being put to use, would simply stay in the bank account, where we’d lose track of them over the course of the month. This way, though, they all go straight into a little box (if you’re an artsy type, get the glitter out! I just wrote “spare money” in sharpie).
It doesn’t add up to much, but it’s awesome to know that there’s always something in there, sitting on the fridge like a supportive friend saying “don’t worry man, I got this” on the weeks when we screw up and go over budget.
And of course, the bonus is, if you’re better at this stuff than us and never go over, every few weeks there’ll be a nice treat in there for you – even if it’s just a takeaway or a bottle of wine.
There are only two more posts to go in this series on how to save for your Big Trip – and of course there are so many tips and tricks to saving. I’d love to know what has worked for you!
Comment below or get in touch.