Saving money isn’t easy. It’s even harder for those of us who are struggling to make ends meet and still have years of student debts (amongst others) to pay off.  

Carla Oberholzer, debt adviser & public relations officer for DebtSafe.co.za says that many experts suggest putting at least 10% of your income away – this is even before deductions.

Of course, it’s easier said than done. In fact, we recently covered this in a piece about how it’s not as easy to save double the amount of your annual salary by the time you’re 35.

However, if you can’t manage to even put away 10%, especially when you still have other debts to pay, you shouldn’t panic just yet.  

READ MORE: 6 of the best rags to riches stories ever

Determine your wants vs your needs

We’re not saying you shouldn’t splurge on yourself every now and then – in fact, I’m a firm believer in treating yourself, because you shouldn’t have to feel like you’re earning money only to not see any of it for yourself. But you should exercise caution.

Carla suggests drawing up shopping lists not just to ask yourself whether or not you need the item in question that you’re listing, but because it will also help you to be less impulsive, since you’re more likely to stick to what you’ve written down. 

Also have a look at luxuries you buy regularly that you could cut down on. Do you get takeaways a few times a week? Could you cut down and treat yourself once or twice a month until you’re in a position to up the amount and splurge at will?

Cutting down on small excess expenses can go a long way in helping.

Subscribed to something that you’re not using regularly?

Ditch the subscription costs that you aren’t using. Haven’t been to gym in over a year and still paying for it? Have a DSTV subscription but use Netflix as well? Let go of the one you don’t use as frequently.

Cutting down on unnecessary costs like this, will open up a new way for you to save, says Carla. 

What money you save on cutting where you can, can either then be used towards adding something a little extra to pay your loan, or you can perhaps put that in a savings account to help you kickstart your retirement funds. Or if it's been your dream to travel, what about trying this saving plan?

Get a side hustle

Earning extra income through taking on projects that can give you a financial boost can go a long way in helping you. 

Graduates are doing this to help with their tuition fees, and with the cost of living being so high, many people are putting any additional skills they don’t necessarily use in the workplace, to use and building up a portfolio that allows them to branch out and earn additional money.

Put some time into your project, invest in yourself and be prepared to be fully committed to building up your brand and it can definitely help supplement your income, says Carla.

READ MORE: Is your cash crashing? Here are 11 tips to help you set financial goals 

Fresh out of college or university?

Don’t buy a new flat or new car while you’re still paying off your student loan.  

It’s very tempting to start establishing yourself right off the bat, but as a debt advisor, Oberholzer says that it’s better to rent first so that you don’t have the pressure of having a house bond until you’re more financially stable. 

If you already have a car that’s been paid off or passed down to you, hold onto it until you’ve gotten a good portion of your debt paid off and you feel comfortable enough to take on additional payments.

Finally, what can you do to get rid of your excessive debt?

If you’re struggling with debt and want to avoid going through the debt review process, Carla says there are two methods you can use to try and turn your situation:

The Snowball/Domino effect: this is where you opt to pay the debt that’s smallest and build your way up to the largest. Ticking off your small loans can help you to see that you’re making progress on tackling your debt and make your larger debts seem a little bit more manageable.

Your other option is to tackle debts with the highest amount of interest first – credit cards being a prime example. Once you’ve paid these off, you can perhaps then add that money to other debts and pay them off slowly. 

Of course, you can also consider talking to your creditors to try and negotiate payments if you’re behind. Communication is key and, as Carla has previously mentioned in our piece on debt counselling, “you would be surprised at how willing creditors are to keep you on as a client.”

The key is to know that you always have options.

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