The concept behind saving is to set money aside for a future expenditure. It could be anything – a house, car, holiday, designer handbag, watch, computer, whatever…We all have different motivations for saving. Though saving is a concept that I seemingly have a love-hate relationship with at the moment. It often requires strict discipline with spending and denying oneself certain pleasures of the present, with the idea being short term pain for long term gain. A notion that is often easier said than done, especially with living in a rather pretentious and expensive city like Sydney, making a pretty ordinary salary. No doubt, saving is proving to be a bit of a challenge for me, however not an impossible challenge. With understanding the costs of rent, groceries, transport, entertainment, and utilities, while being consciously aware of personal expenses, it is possible to manage your money well and save. You don’t need to be a millionaire either. Like Charles Jaffe says, “It’s not your salary that makes you rich, it’s your spending habits.”

Here are 6 penny pinching tips for anyone in a similar situation to myself:

1.     Make friends with Groupon and Living Social.

We can’t just lock ourselves indoors and become hermits to save a buck. We still need to take care of our emotional, mental and physical state of being. If you have the self-restraint to be selective, these two websites can be utilised to save you 50 percent plus on a variety of purchases like papering, dining, activities, exercise, school courses etc. However, it does take a bit of patience. You need to take the time to find one you like, read the T & C’s, purchase it, make a booking and then print it off to take with you. If you’re happy to put in the effort, it’s an affordable way to keep busy and be social.

2.   Never mind Brand Names – It’s often a marketing scam anyways!

Sure brand names can mean quality and quality is something that a lot of us value in products and experiences, but don’t be fooled. Branding can also be a big marketing scam where money is made by selling products that drastically exceed its actual worth, which is ultimately an achievable task through cheap labour, gullible customers and a veiling name. Being open to purchasing items that aren’t well known brands will save you a lot of funds.

3.      Share your space with housemates – it’s sensible in a few ways.

Sydney ranks in the top ten most expensive cities in the world, with rent being the biggest expense of all. For example, a one bedroom apartment is a minimum spend of $450-$550 per WEEK and for a two bedroom $750-$850 per week. That’s before parking and utilities as well. What can make rent affordable, is to share the space with housemates. Not only does this help save money, but it’s supportive to our mental health as well. Sure, we all need our own space at times, but it’s in our nature to travel in groups, which is one reason why we long for community, family and social interactions. Ultimately, it’s just nice having people around and keeps us from feeling lonely.

4.     Check your fridge and your closet before going for a shop!

How many times have you gone for a grocery shop only to come home and realise you doubled up on more than half of the ingredients? It’s always a good idea to check the fridge and cupboards before getting groceries, or before work when you know you’ll be grabbing some afterwards. Especially with fresh ingredients, since they need to be used up pretty quickly to avoid mould or rot. Also, when tempted to indulge in some retail therapy, check and re-check your closet and shoe racks first to see what you actually need, verses what you want. Purchasing only the necessities saves money and reduces waste, which is a good habit to get into.

5.    Seek out cool things to do for FREE – They do exist!  

It’s difficult to find things to do that don’t cost money in our consumerist, capitalist society, but it’s possible. Go back to the basics and take a walk with a friend, have a picnic in the park, browse the markets, exercise outdoors, or check out funky shops and art galleries. Also, keep in mind, there’s no shortage of cool festivals around like Sydney’s Vivid and Sculptures By The Sea...Both spectacular events, both free events.

6.     Cook at home instead of dining out and bring left overs for lunch.

Sometimes cooking is the last thing any of us want to do after a days work, but it certainly helps with the bank account. One of my friends who works as a financial advisor confirmed that people spend an extravagant amount of money on dining out. Sometimes it’s 1 meal per days, but often times it’s 3 meals per day. He said to me, “I’ve see a lot of transactional records and all I can say is, no wonder McDonald’s is so successful.” While cooking at home requires effort, organisation and time management, it’s a huge money saver. Not to mention, much better for you.

Ultimately, with discipline, mindfulness, and effort, saving is an achievable task, regardless of your salary.  So keep motivated and feel free to take on the challenge of practising some of these habits. If you find yourself feeling weak and tempted to frivolously spend (like I do) think about your goal. Remember, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, our determination is what gets us there. Like Stephen Covey wrote in one of his most influential books, “Begin with an end in mind.” Thanks for reading!