Here’s everything you need to know to work out a realistic and achievable savings plan to help you achieve your financial goals.
Saving money is easy when you have a plan. Whatever you’re saving for, whether it's a deposit for a home or a long-awaited overseas holiday, you’ll reach your goal much more quickly if you sit down and work out a realistic savings plan.
But what are the features of a good savings plan and how can you create a plan suitable for your financial circumstances and budget? Check out our top money-saving tips below and start building a bigger bank balance today.
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How do I design the best saving plan for me?
There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” savings plan. The best savings plan depends on your income, expenses and personal circumstances, so what works for one person might not work for another. All of us have different levels of income, varying levels of outstanding debt and ongoing expenses, as well as a certain level of “cutting back” that we are willing to tolerate.
We also all have our own unique savings goals, so it’s up to you to work out which savings plan is right for your needs. The best savings plan will align perfectly with your budget. It will enable you to continue to live comfortably and do the things you enjoy, but it will also help you build the bank balance you want.
The right savings plan for you will:
- Be affordable. The best savings plans are ones with realistic goals, as you need to be able to comfortably put aside the necessary amount of money each week.
- Be specific. A good savings plan not only outlines how much money you will save and by when, but also how you are actually going to manage your money so that your bank balance grows.
- Be inspiring. You might be surprised just how exciting developing a savings plan can be. The extra motivation it provides can help you reach your goal much sooner.
- Be flexible. If you’re saving towards a long-term goal, don’t forget to re-assess your savings plan every now and then. Circumstances change all the time, so you might be able to save more now than you could a year ago. It also pays to review your savings account regularly and see if you could earn a better rate of interest elsewhere.
How to work out which savings plan is right for you
Step 1: Set a savings goal
Before you can even think about setting up a savings plan you need to work out your financial goals. The first step in the saving process is calculating how much money you want to save and in what time frame.
As an example, you may set yourself the goal of buying a house in five years time, so you’d need to save enough for a 20% deposit. If you plan to buy a home for around $500,000, you would need to save $100,000 in the next five years.
Savings goals can be short-term, such as gathering the funds needed to buy a pair of designer sunglasses, or they may take you several years to reach. If you have multiple goals, prioritise them from most important to least important. The critical thing to remember is to be realistic when setting your goals - aim too high and you will set yourself up to fail.
Once you know how much money you need to save and how long you have to make it happen, you can then work out a realistic savings plan to help grow your bank balance to where you want it to be.
Step 2: Work out a budget
In order to start saving money, it’s important to work out how much money you spend each week or each month. Now is the time to sit down and work out a budget. Once you subtract all your regular expenses from your monthly income, how much money is left over?
Next, work out areas where you might be able to cut back. For example, do you really need to keep paying for that gym membership you never use? If you cooked at home a couple of extra nights rather than eating out, how much more money would stay in your pocket?
Working out a budget may seem a little overwhelming, not to mention a little boring, but there are plenty of tools available to help make the job easier. The finder.com.au free budget planner is a great place to start, while there are myriad smartphone and tablet apps designed to make managing your finances as easy as possible.
Once you know how much money you need to pay your bills and stay on top of all your other regular expenses, you can calculate how much of your salary will be left over each month and can be deposited into your savings account.
Step 3: Find a savings account
The next step in the process is to find the right savings account. This can be an incredibly overwhelming part of the process as there are hundreds of accounts available from Australian banks, building societies and credit unions, and they all have different features and pros and cons.
The main feature of a savings account is its interest rate, which determines just how quickly your savings balance will be able to grow. Fees can also have a big impact on how long it takes you to reach your financial goals, so watch out for them, and you should also consider how quickly and easily you can access your funds.
There are also several different types of savings accounts available, so you’ll need to find the type of account that matches your saving requirements. Types of savings accounts include:
- Ordinary savings accounts. These accounts offer a better interest rate than everyday transaction accounts but still make it easy to access your funds whenever you need.
- High-interest savings accounts. High-interest savings accounts offer higher interest rates than basic savings accounts, but you’ll typically need to satisfy certain terms and conditions in order to earn the maximum rate. This may include depositing a certain amount each month or not making any withdrawals.
- Introductory rate savings accounts. These types of accounts offer a bonus interest rate for an introductory period, for example four months, and then revert to the standard variable rate.
- Regular saver accounts.Regular saver accounts reward you for making regular deposits into your account. They offer attractive interest rates as long as you deposit more than a specified minimum amount into your account each month.
- Notice saver accounts. These accounts offer high interest rates on your savings balance, but you will need to notify your bank ahead of time before you can withdraw any funds. For example, you may have to give 30 or 60 days’ notice.
- Term deposits. Term deposits allow you to invest your money and earn a fixed interest rate for a fixed period. However, accessing the funds in your account before the deposit matures is prohibitively expensive.
With a wide range of choices, it’s essential to compare savings accounts at finder.com.au and find the account that offers all the features you need.
Step 4: Make regular deposits
Once you’ve chosen an account you can set up a regular deposit from your salary into your savings account. Choose a deposit frequency and amount that suits your income and budget, and make it automatic so that you don’t have to remember to manually transfer the money each week. This will also ensure that you don’t spend your income as soon as it arrives in your transaction account.
If you have a regular saver account that rewards you for saving, make sure you’re depositing enough money each month to earn the maximum interest rate.
Step 5: Be disciplined
Good financial discipline is essential to the success of your savings plan. You could be great at putting money away each week, but if you’re regularly dipping into your account to buy new shoes, fund a holiday or just get a bit of extra spending money, what’s the point? Remember that you set up your savings plan for a reason, so don’t lose sight of your original goal.
To reduce the temptation to withdraw money from your savings on a whim, you may want to make it inconvenient to do so. This could mean not linking your savings account with your everyday transaction account, or locking the funds away in a term deposit where they can’t be accessed.
Finally, remember to review your progress regularly. Are you still on track to reach your goal? Is there a little extra room in your budget to save more each week? The best savings plan is one that can be adjusted and tinkered with to meet your changing needs.Back to top
Using savings calculators to save more
One final piece of advice when developing a savings plan is to use a free online savings calculator to work out how long it will take you to reach your goals. The finder.com.au savings calculator makes it easy to calculate how much you will be able to save on your current savings plan, as well as how much your bank balance could grow if you put a little extra aside each week. Use it to set a savings goal and work out a savings plan that’s right for you.
If you set yourself a realistic goal and put a sensible plan in place, you might even reach your desired savings balance well ahead of time. Once you start saving it can be surprisingly hard to stop.