When it comes to our financial situation, saving money can seem impossible.
How can we pay rent, maintain an exciting lifestyle, keep on top of our loans, buy that new jacket, and continue trying to boost our savings accounts all while surviving on a monthly pay cycle?
Before you slump your head into your hands, take a minute. Don't let panic mode set in. Instead try taking a long, hard look at your spending habits, recognising why you spend and what you spend on.
Struggling to save? This might be why
Who doesn't love a drink on a Friday night, breakfast out on a sunny Saturday or a mid-week takeaway after a long day at work? Lets face it -- we all love these things, so much so they become a part of our lifestyle.
But it turns out our everyday lifestyle choices are where our money-saving struggles creep in.
Nicole Heales, financial advisor, mortgage broker and owner of Nicole Heales Financial told HuffPost Australia that lifestyle changes are encouraging us to spend in ways we normally wouldn't.
"The cost of living has gone up considerably and utilities and petrol have gone up too, people think their lifestyle needs to be different to what they can actually afford and they are living beyond their pay cheque," Heales said.
"I think that's where things have fallen of the rails a little bit -- people expect a nice lifestyle which is fine, but it's expensive and people can't meet that. People have personal trainers instead of going for a run -- we consider our current lifestyle to be more important than our future lifestyle so we need to be realistic about things."
"I think we're caught in a little bit of a rat race where every time we get a pay rise, our lifestyle has gone up in line with the pay rise," Campbell told HuffPost Australia.
"We're always struggling to the end of our pay cycle because we're letting our lifestyle creep up and sometimes exceed our limitations. It's not until you stop and have a really honest look at where your money is going that you can make changes -- until you do that you can't see where you're going wrong."
Our common spending habits
We know our lifestyle is contributing to our lack of savings, but what exactly are we doing that is slowly forcing our bank account balance lower and lower?
Coffee drinkers, brace yourselves. While your coffee a day (or two, or three) might feel like the only way to make it to 5pm, it's also one of the biggest ways you'll spend more than you can afford.
"Handing over $3.50 or $4.50 doesn't seem like a lot but if you do that twice a day every day, then add lunch on top, it really adds up," Heales said.
"If you are buying lunch, just buy the main lunch, not the extras like the drink or the cookie -- that adds up to $20 everyday, $100 a week and before you know it $5,000 a year is gone like that on food you've bought everyday."
Airfares and overseas trips, new clothes, accessories like handbags or shoes and food also fall into the most common purchases category.
You have to work within your own limitations and your own resources, but if you're willing, determined and passionate, the sky is the limit.
While Heales suggests planning holidays that don't cost as much, such as a camping or caravan trip, or waiting for end of financial year or end of season sales to avoid paying full price, Campbell recommends understanding your own values so you only spend money on things that will enrich your life.
"Understand where your value system lies and have a balance on it. Whether it's expensive wine over a nice pair of shoes, that's okay as long as it's in balance," Campbell said.
"If someone is spending money on all these things, that's when it becomes toxic to our financial health as well as our emotional health."
Tips to save on everyday items
What about weekly groceries or day-to-day pharmaceuticals? Surely we can't save on everything, right?
Wrong. Look for quick sale items, or purchase the generic version of the product. Also try shopping at the most competitively priced supermarket, or discount chemists rather than local pharmacies. Also remember to check what you already have in the house before going and buying another carton of orange juice.
According to Heales and Campbell, you can save on pretty much anything if you shop at the right time and look for the right things.
- Never pay full price for anything: Heales suggests end-of-season and end-of-calendar year sales are a good time to search for bargains.
- Do a clothes swap: "We all have clothes in our cupboard that we don't need and don't use -- a clothes swap is a good way to freshen your wardrobe without spending any money," Heales said.
- Plan your meals and cook economically: Campbell suggests cooking in bulk, buying in-season products and making your meals at home to take a packed lunch to work. If you want to go out, go to a friend's house where everyone brings a plate of food, or have a picnic, and take your children so you also save on babysitting.
- Ask for a discount on your utility charges: All companies have different rates so nine times out of 10, with a bit of research you'll be able to save on your bills.
- Look at your phone bill: Do you really need to be paying $120 a month for a whole load of data you're never going to use and 100 free calls you'll never make? Probably not.
- Swap from Foxtel to Netflix or Stan: If you're not a sports buff, Heales suggests unsubscribing and considering cheaper options. Monthly packages with Netflix can start as low as $9.99, whereas Foxtel sits at $26 minimum.
Cutting out the non-necessities and finding ways to monitor your money will help you save on anything and everything.
Ways to maintain your lifestyle without dipping into your savings
As much as our lifestyle contributes to our overspending, this doesn't mean we have to give up all the good things in life. We can maintain our lifestyle, or at least a less expensive, less extravagant version of our lifestyle, without clutching at purse strings.
Campbell recommends putting items on lay-by as a way to buy that one thing you really want in a more affordable way.
"I'm a huge fan of lay-bying -- it actually makes it more exciting because it's delayed gratification, so when you do get it, you appreciate it so much more and it takes away that stress of, 'What if it sells out', 'What if it's not available on that site', 'What if I can't get it in the colour that I want' -- that worry is why a lot of people buy it on a credit card," Campbell said.
"If you put your 20 percent deposit down you can pay it off over a reasonable period of time and it's a great way because you're not creating any more financial damage to your situation."
If you do enjoy going out for a meal or treating yourself on the weekend, according to Heales, if you want someone else to do the cooking, go out for breakfast or lunch.
"You still want to have fun and enjoy your life, but going out for breaky or lunch is generally cheaper than going out for dinner -- there's not usually bottles of wine and multiple courses to rack up the bill."
Tips to make more money
Many of us aren't lucky enough to fully own our own home just yet, so for the majority, rent or mortgage repayments can take up a lot of our pay cheque, leaving us looking to credit cards to buy the finer (often unnecessary) things in life.
According to Campbell, there are things you can do to make some extra money outside your salary.
- If you have a nice bathroom or kitchen, put your house as a location for commercials or TV shows and you can list it with an agent.
- Sell things on Gumtree or eBay or have a garage sale to make some extra cash.
- Take up a weekend job -- "Yes we work long hours and into weekends but for people who do want to save more but are stuck in limitations of paying a mortgage or rent, this is something you can do to build on your salary."
- House sit, look after other people's pets, walk dogs or try tutoring.
- Put your home on Airbnb or if you live alone, get a housemate to share the cost of rent, bills and living amenities.
"You have to work within your own limitations and your own resources, but if you're willing, determined and passionate, the sky is the limit," Campbell said.
How to get out of debt
Debt -- a saver's worst enemy. How did we get there? Why did we get there? And why does it feel like we're never going to get out of it?
According to Heales, the key to getting out of debt is discipline.
"First thing you need to do is pay your debt -- people often ask what my number one tip is, that's the first thing," Heales said.
"You need to pay of your debt and once that's down, consider online savings accounts. Don't have a savings account with $5,000 and a credit card debt with $5,000. You're not saving that way."
Campbell recommends setting yourself goals and documenting your progress to inspire yourself and your saving habits.
"It comes down to a good habit system -- being on budget and in control, paying for things in cash as it forces you to be conscious when you purchase, write goals so you have something you're actively working towards and can focus on."
Campbell also suggests a debt repayment formula that starts with paying off the smallest loan first. While you might be thinking you'll pay more interest on the bigger loan, meaning it'll take longer to pay it off, Campbell describes juggling money like juggling balls in the air.
"Sometimes paying off so many debts means you're trying so hard but not getting anywhere. With the one less ball you have to juggle, it gets easier and easier to be faster and better at it."
"My recommendation is you have minimum repayment plans for all your credit cards in place, then you focus on paying of the smallest credit card debt first. The moment that credit card is paid off, that minimum repayment you were using for that first credit card, you shift onto your next smallest one," Campbell said.
"The reason behind it is because when you feel like you're creating progress, you're more dedicated and more committed to stick to that path and are therefore more likely to see it all the way through the journey until you have no more credit card debt at all."
Who would have thought saving could actually be kinda easy?
Check out our top FREE apps for saving money.
1. Acorns AU - This app connects to your bank account and rounds up your purchases for you, investing the leftover change into savings. It also graphs your spending for you so you can see just where your money is going.
2. Daily Budget - A simple 'do-it-yourself' budgeting app that calculates a daily spending budget by removing recurring expenses and preferred saving amounts from your income.
3. My Pocketbook - Pocketbook automatically organises spending into categories, sets up budgets, shows your balances and crunches the numbers for you. It also gives you insights and updates so you can spend smarter.
Click below to subscribe to the Refresh podcast by HuffPost Australia on iTunes.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST AUSTRALIA