How to Save for Your Big Trip (Part 6)

We made it! This is the final episode in this blog series on how to save for your Big Trip (or your wedding, deposit, car, or whatever it is you desperately want).

We’ve come a long way: in the first post, we talked about how to set a weekly budget (and why a weekly one anyway?) which works for you. In the second one, we chatted (well, I did), about the importance of keeping certain luxuries in your life, and how to decide which ones should be given the boot. In the third part, we discussed the surprising effectiveness of something super-simple: writing down every single penny you spend. The fourth episode was a simple one too: I talked about how much spending only cash has made our lives and budget so much easier. And in the penultimate post in the series, I talked about how to rethink your grocery shopping (which, if you’re spending as much on it as we used to, will be a game-changer).

However, today I’m going to share the biggest and best tip I have for saving as much cash as you can, and it may surprise you:

Be gentle on yourself

I know, I know. Enough with the wishy-washy stuff, right? I’m not being unrealistic – if you truly want to save as much of your income as possible and put it towards whatever it is that you really want, it is going to be tough.

There’s really no getting around the fact that you are going to have to give up some luxuries, and that at times you’ll feel like you’re missing out when everyone else is out having fun. If you want magical advice for saving as much money as possible while not actually changing your lifestyle, I can’t give it to you.

But what is really, really important to understand (and believe me, it took me a while), is that if you’re completely focused on depriving yourself of any small joy, you will fail.

I know this, because I am a serial over-committer. Every few months, I’ll get a little niggle that something about my (lazy, unhealthy) life needs to change: I just have to start getting up earlier. I need to get more exercise. I must save money. All of these things, hard as they may seem, are perfectly achievable, but my problem is that I always try and go too big.

I spent years convinced that there was a secret morning person buried somewhere in this lazy sod’s body, and hauling myself out of bed at 5 or 6am, convinced that if I hadn’t done the laundry, planned my week and written a bestselling sci-fi trilogy before 9am, I might as well go back to bed.

These days, however, I get up at 7am (which I don’t need to), and spend that time doing something I actually enjoy (for me, it’s reading – of course). And you know what? That secret morning person was there after all. I just had to stop being ridiculous and turn it into something that was actually achievable.

Exercise went the same way. A bit of a disclaimer is needed here: I am a complete gymphobic and the idea of “exercise” as a thing of its own has always repulsed me and probably always will. But still, I’ve gone through many phases of guilt where I decide that I simply must go swimming five times a week (twice – TWICE – I have bought a pack of ten swimming session tokens only to have them expire when I still had over half left. They last a year).

Recently, however, I’ve calmed down and realised that – while I could certainly be healthier – I can exercise in a way I actually enjoy, by walking pretty much everywhere that I go (bonus: transport is expensive, so it’s a win for the bank account and the calf-muscles).

Saving money is exactly the same. If you completely deprive yourself of everything you enjoy spending money on, you will be miserable, and you will give up. So, while I advise that you stick to the tips I’ve shared over this series (if – and only if – they work for you: remember, everyone is different), please do give yourself a break from time to time.

If you lose a receipt and can’t add the exact amount you spent on vegetables to your list, that’s ok. If you have to use a credit card to pay because, hello, it’s the 21st century, don’t worry too much. And most importantly, when you have bad weeks when you go over budget (and we’ve had many – friends visiting, holidays, birthdays, and every budgeter’s worst nightmare, Christmas) let it go.

It’s just a week, and it’s not going to make a difference in the bigger picture. If you have a bad day and need to go out for a drink (or come home carrying limes, tonic and gin on a Friday, after already going through your budget – as I definitely didn’t do a few weeks ago), just let it happen.

You’ll need to keep check on yourself, of course, and if it’s happening all the time, then it may be that you’re just not committed to this saving game (which is fine too, but if so why the hell have you been reading all of these posts?). But once in a while, things go wrong, and you’re much more likely to succeed overall if you’re able to shrug, own up, and move on.

Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope some of my tips have been useful (and please comment below if there’s something you think I’ve missed).

Good luck out there, kids!