When financial hurdles like the petrol price increase hit, it’s easy to neglect our saving and budgeting goals, says Susan Steward, Marketing Manager of Budget Insurance.

However, not all is doom and gloom as there’s something you can do about the financial predicament. If you change the way you do things and plan your spending wisely however, you can get, or stay out of debt and do much more than just survive.

“With a little extra planning, a little creativity and a lot of diligence, we can view budgeting and saving in a positive and uplifting light, not just during savings month but all year round,” she says.

Here are Susan’s 10 tips to a saving lifestyle:

Create, maintain and revise your budget

If you don’t have a monthly budget plan, now’s the time to start one. There are plenty of templates on the internet that will help you get started.

Bank and invest wisely

Check your bank fees carefully and look at the interest you earn on your savings. Could you be spending less or earning more? Research what other banks offer and look at other ways to invest your money, in shares for example. Also look at what rewards programmes are on offer, and take advantage of them. And if you have a credit card, adopt an ‘emergencies only’ attitude and use your debit or cheque card for your everyday expenses.

The 10% saving goal and the 30 day rule

Saving every month is hard but you should make it a priority. The rule of thumb is to try keep 10% of your salary aside for savings. Also avoid instant gratification by waiting 30 days to decide whether a luxury purchase is really worth it. Impulsive buying is one of the major factors that contribute towards debt.

Be careful what you cut

When money is tight there are certain expenses you may be tempted to cut from your budget, like vehicle and home maintenance or your monthly insurance premium. Cutting these costs could give you some short-term relief but may end up costing you far more in the long run.

Revise your spending

Look at your grocery bill, are there ways to improve your spending habits behind the trolley? Try creating a weekly meal plan, buying in bulk and stocking up on discounted items to save. What about your electricity and water bills? You can save up to 10% on your electricity bill by lowering your geyser’s thermostat’s temperature to between 50 degrees C and 60 degrees C. A leaking tap can waste up to 10,220 litres of water a year, so fixing any leaks could help reduce your usage and spend.

Stick to your goals but be flexible

Your budget and savings goals can be impacted by events out of your control and you’ll need to revise them accordingly. You may plan to save a certain amount a month but have to keep a portion back to pay for unexpected expenses. That’s okay, just ensure you make up for it in the following months. Critically look at the expenses you can reduce, like seeing one less movie a month or going out for fewer meals.

Reap the rewards of goals reached to up your motivation

If the goal was to save enough money to go on a holiday, then go ahead and enjoy that well-deserved break. That being said, it’s a good idea to set a budget for your trip to avoid repaying post-holiday debt in the coming months.

Be open, honest and creative

Your debt obligations and expenses may impact your whole family so ensure you manage their expectations by giving them a clear and realistic picture of your financial situation. If you need to make some lifestyle changes for a couple of months, try come up with creative alternatives to costly activities, like renting a movie and cooking a meal together instead of going out. 

Make some changes behind the wheel

There’s nothing you can do about the petrol price increase but there are things you can do to help your tank go further. Did you know that at 110km/h your car uses up to 25% more fuel than it would cruising at a more moderate 90km/h? Add to this: keeping a safe following distance, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration, and regular vehicle maintenance checks, and you’re well on your way to better driving and a better bank balance.

Take advantage of technology

There are various free apps to help you to easily track your income and expenses including Spending Tracker, Sage Pastel My Money, Wallet, Wally, Level Money, Spendee and Mint. Download any of these, and other available apps, to see which one works best for you.