It’s a brand new year, so why not take the chance to make a renewed push towards your money and financial goals?
Serious money projects that create a meaningful difference are no small undertakings, but the rewards for succeeding are more than worth it. Who wouldn’t want greater freedom, higher security and more options in life?
Whether you need a little help getting started, or are looking for some inspiration to get out of a rut, here are 22 simple but effective things you can do to succeed in your money goal this year.
Let’s jump right in!
Tips for saving money
1. Automate your savings
The most difficult part about saving money is getting started. Once you get into the habit, you’ll be much more likely to stick with it.
For a foolproof and easy way to save money, set up an automated savings arrangement. This simply involves opening a secondary account, and setting up a standing instruction for a funds transfer. Once done, the sum of money you specify will be transferred into your secondary account every month.
Start by saving a small amount to allow yourself some time to adjust to your new, tighter budget. When you’ve become accustomed, try increasing the amount put away each month and watch your savings grow.
2. Create a goal to save towards
Some people—me included—find saving money difficult; we simply don’t see the point of ‘saving for the sake of saving’. If this describes you, creating a concrete goal to save towards might be helpful.
By ascribing a goal, an amount and a deadline, you give purpose and meaning to the act of saving money. This, then, helps you focus on and reach your money goal.
This method works best if you keep your money goal relatively moderate. If it’s too large an amount that you can’t envision the end of it, there’s a higher chance you may lose your way halfway through.
3. Gamify your money saving
If you dislike saving money because it brings about feelings of deprivation, try making a game out of it. By shifting your focus towards winning the game, you can lessen or even overcome your initial dislike.
Stick with something simple and manageable, with clear-cut rules. One popular savings game is Money Bingo. Start with a 5x5 grid, and write down small amounts ranging from S$2 to S$10 randomly in each square.
You play the game by picking a random square each day, and depositing whatever amount is in that square into your piggy bank. By the time you complete all the squares, you’d be sitting on a tidy pile of savings.
To save more, increase the amounts in each individual square, or make grids for multiple months in a row.
4. Clear out your saved credit cards and shopping baskets
This tip is helpful if you’re having trouble controlling your online shopping.
Go into your browser and delete any saved credit cards you find. That way, when you’re tempted to spend money on frivolous purchases, you will have to re-enter your credit card details. This creates an interruption, giving you an opportunity to reconsider your purchase.
While you’re at it, be sure to clear all your online shopping carts. This way, you won’t receive reminder emails and be tempted to spend.
5. Make use of endowment plans
Endowment plans can help you save money by ‘locking away’ your premiums for their duration, before releasing them back to you - with a tidy pile of interest on top. They also have severe penalties for early termination; this raises the stakes high enough for you not to continue with saving your money.
Using endowments to save money works well, as long as you keep up with the premiums. Hence, some consider this a type of ‘forced’ savings.
It is advisable to start off with a shorter-term endowment plan, and with a budget you are sure you can afford throughout the duration of the plan. If you find this method works for you, you can always purchase additional endowment plans later on to increase the amount of your savings.
6. Get a Medishield Integrated Plan
Yes, you can’t use your Medisave to pay for it, and hence have to make room for it in your budget. But in the long run, getting an appropriate Integrated Plan (IP) could help you save massive amounts on medical and hospital bills.
This is because with an IP, you can boost your basic Medishield Life plan for greater coverage and higher claims limits, resulting in smaller, more manageable out-of-pocket expenses.
And if you’re worried about not being able to make the right choice, know that all IPs available in Singapore have been vetted and approved by the authorities, so you won’t go very far wrong.
7. Pick the right credit card
It’s a no brainer. Credit cards can provide you with a steady amount of savings each month that can really add up, taking hundreds of dollars off your yearly budget. All you have to do is to make sure to charge the qualifying transactions and fulfil the minimum monthly spends, if any.
Another way that credit cards save you money is through special deals and cardmember exclusives, allowing you to purchase your favourite items and services for less.
But perhaps the best way credit cards help you save is with their incredible sign-up offers. You can receive bonus miles or points, cash rewards or popular premium products for free.
Tips for managing debt
8. Resolve to clear your debt
Okay, time for a hard truth: Your debts aren’t going to magically go away just because you’ve decided not to think about them.
In fact, ignoring your debts will only make the problem worse, especially if you start missing payments and start accruing penalty charges.
It doesn't matter how you got here, but if you’re staring down a mountain of debt that is growing beyond control, the only choice you have is to start paying it off. So if you haven’t already, resolve to clear your debts this year—or at least get started.
9. Pay off the smallest debt first
If you have multiple sources of debt, focus on paying off the smallest one first. Once you do so, you will achieve a small—but significant—victory that will give you the motivation to start working on the next smallest debt.
Also, clearing a debt leaves you with more money in your budget, which you can use on other financial goals, or to put towards clearing even more debt.
10. Restructure high interest-rate debts
A key strategy for managing debt is to lower your interest rates as much as you can. This means transferring debt with high interest rates into those with lower ones.
As an example, consider if you have a credit card balance that you are having difficulty paying off. Rather than grit your teeth through interest payments that approach 30% per annum, consider paying it off with a personal loan that has a lower interest rate.
Once this is done, you can focus on paying off your personal loan, and get to benefit from lower interest charges.
11. Increase your instalment payments
If you’re paying off your debts on a monthly basis, try increasing the amount you pay each month. Even a small amount like S$10 or S$20 will stack up, helping you to pay off your debt a little faster.
Additionally, given enough time, the extra amounts that accrue as credit towards your debt could grow large enough to cover an instalment payment or two. This creates some flexibility in your finances, allowing you to take a break from paying your debt every once in a while.
12. Prioritise debt over savings
As a general rule, always prioritise paying off your debt over building up your savings.
This is because the interest on the amount you owe is likely to be far higher than the interest you can earn on your savings. Which means that every dollar you continue owing actually eats into the value of your future monies.
Hence, clearing as much debt as quickly as you can is more important.
13. Refinance your mortgage
A mortgage is a long-term financial commitment, and one that deserves your attention. You should get into the habit of looking out for the best interest rates you can find, and refinancing your mortgage accordingly.
Doing so astutely can help you access lower interest rates, in turn lowering your mortgage payments. This habit can leave you in a stronger financial position as a result.
Tips for growing your wealth
14. Learn how to invest
Why do you need to learn how to invest? The simple answer is because of inflation. Whether you like it or not, inflation erodes the purchasing power of your dollars, so you have no choice but to keep earning more, just to keep up.
Investing can help you multiply your money to stay ahead of inflation, and create more wealth for you and your loved ones. You don’t have to take on more risk than you’re comfortable with. In fact, even a conservative approach can produce some solid results, especially over a longer time horizon.
15. Lower your taxes with the CPF Supplementary Retirement Scheme
The CPF Supplementary Retirement Scheme (SRS) allows you to voluntarily deposit more money into your CPF account—up to an annual limit of S$15,300 at the time of writing.
While interest paid for monies in your SRS is a nominal 0.05% per annum, any amount deposited is deducted from your tax obligations. The difference here can be several dollars a year.
16. Max out your CPF contributions
Rather than leaving your excess sums lying around in the bank, consider topping up your CPF accounts instead. This is advantageous because of the higher interest (well, higher than the banks anyway) you can earn in your Ordinary Account and Special Account.
Take note that top-ups cannot be reversed or withdrawn, so be very careful to do this only with monies that you won’t have any need for until retirement.
17. Look into cryptocurrency
Regardless of what you may think about cryptocurrency, the fact remains that Bitcoin and its peers have been around for 13 years now. Over that period, the entire cryptocurrency market has grown to around US$2 trillion.
It is thus not unreasonable to assume that there is value to be found in cryptocurrency, despite the vast amounts of noise, misinformation and scams you may have to wade through.
Therefore, as someone interested in increasing their wealth, you owe it to yourself to take a serious look at cryptocurrency. At the least, understand and study the basics, and keep track of real world applications and developments.
You could learn new information that could change your thinking, leading to new channels of wealth creation that will further boost your net worth. Who could say no to that?
18. Get adequate insurance
Let’s sidestep the perennial debate around life insurance versus investing and which gives you better mileage, and instead recognise that having adequate insurance coverage is crucial for healthy finances.
Perhaps it might be helpful to think about a life insurance policy as a bank account that ultimately assists the next generation, while also being a fund you can tap on to meet some of your needs.
On the flipside, going without insurance is a risky endeavour that just might sow the seeds of a financial disaster.
19. Increase your income
The most effective and direct way to improve your finances is to increase your income. And hence, if you’re struggling to meet your financial goals, this is what you need to do.
You have no excuse. It’s 2022 and the gig economy is totally and firmly a thing that perfectly respectable people do. Part-time, temporary and contract work is the new sexy, so start racking up those deliveries!
(Okay, that was a lazy stereotype. Side gigs are certainly more than just deliveries and private hire driving. Think about your passions and interests, identify some areas for improvement, and formulate a service or product that would address those needs, and voila! you have the beginnings of a budding business!)
20. Evaluate your career
Your career is what you spend the largest portion (or a close second) of your life on, so it really deserves some attention in the direction and rate at which you proceed. It’s frankly baffling that some people are more deliberate about their artisanal coffee than the circumstances of their working life.
This year, make a habit of evaluating your career with as much honesty as you can muster. You should be able to list down at least five or seven facts (and only facts) about how your current role is serving your goals, dreams and aspirations.
If you can’t, it’s time to seek advice, either from a trusted friend, mentor or a career professional.
21. Seek out a finance buddy or ten
Having a buddy or a community that shares your passion and interest in financial projects can be immensely helpful. They can offer advice, share experiences, make recommendations and provide encouragement and support.
Also, just knowing there are other parties in the picture keeps us honest. So having a buddy, or joining a community can make you more likely to keep up your efforts.
22. Just get started
If you’ve made it all the way to the end of the list, congratulations! But this is also, perhaps, the most important tip of them all.
No matter what you’re trying to achieve—or how much work (you think) lies ahead of you or how deep in the red you fear you are—stop, take a breath, and choose to take action.
Pick a tip from this list (or maybe, an idea you came across elsewhere that has been buzzing around your head), make a plan for the necessary steps and just get started.
Think of it as planting seeds for the future, ones that may well lead to a better future for you and your loved ones.
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