Do you remember your New Year resolutions? More importantly, have you kept yourself in check? Perhaps it is that goal to work out and take less carbs, or maybe it's that promise to spend more time with your family - how is the going?
According to Hargreaves Lansdown, a British financial advisory services company, at least three in ten people who make New Year resolutions have personal finance goals in the list.
The most common financial goal is usually to save more. There are also those who resolve to earn more but the general understanding is that you have limited control over how much you can earn - as compared to how much control you have over how much you can save.
Putting a few more thousand shillings towards your savings often feels easy as you talk about the future, but it is not always the case when it comes to implementing.
If you have been struggling, you may find solace in the fact that 2023 has been a rollercoaster in many ways. From the escalation of the high cost of living crisis that started in late 2022, to the heightened tension in the global world order, and the shockwaves of the falling shilling against the dollar, times have been tough.
It is possible that you have had little time to take stock of your saving goals. And if you did indeed do a review, you are bound to be headed in the right financial direction.
We did a quick survey in the office to establish how well our office mates were doing in keeping in line with their financial New Year resolutions - findings that, in part, inform the contents of this article.
The success level was expressed as a percentage of the goal achieved. That is, for someone who had planned on saving Ksh10,000 every month and by the end of April they have saved Ksh30,000 - then their success level is 75% (30k divided by 40k multiplied by 100). Our respondents did not have to give raw figures on their savings goals, only a percentage of their target.
The survey also sought the respondent’s view on their savings habit. The common theme from the feedback provided was that the majority felt they had not saved enough. Even those who had over 100% success rates in achieving their targets shared this sentiment.
However, the degree of success varied, and we tried to deduce the common characteristics after distributing them into two groups. Those who had achieved at least 50% of the savings target were categorised as successful, while those who were below this figure were marked as struggling.
Our conversation with the two groups brought about a number of characteristics that were shared across the two categories. For instance, automation, trackable expenses, the use of a dedicated savings account was common across the entire group that achieved more than 50% of their savings goals.
“In 2022, I struggled with making savings and only hit 14% of my target. I would save for a few months and spend it shortly once I got broke. In January 2023, I decided to open an account dedicated to my savings. So far, I have met 77% of what I wanted to have saved by April,” one respondent stated.
In the same breath, many of those who were struggling had common features including:
“I had saved very well but in early March, I lost my phone and replacing it drained my savings. I have not had the morale to continue since then,” a participant shared.
Another blamed poor memory after a dismal 5% success rate in saving.
“Everytime I receive my salary, I mentally set aside Ksh20,000 as savings. But along the way, I have commitments, I am out entertaining friends and I forget to leave the Ksh20,000 untouched. Sometimes, I get a call from my parents in the village and there is an emergency like a falling ceiling, and I am unable to decline their intervention requests.”
The feedback strongly suggested that it is possible to use digital tools to better manage your income and increase your savings in line with your resolutions or aspirations. It also became clear that successful savers felt that there can never be too much savings.
Whether or not you have saved as much as you resolved to - May is not a bad time to recommit and get back on track with your New Year resolutions. The year is still young!
First, let us understand some of the signs and reasons why you may not be saving as much as you want to:
If you count the balance in your salary account at the end of the month before the next paycheck as savings, you are most likely not saving enough.
Driven savers, as a rule of thumb, save before spending. You save even before you pay any bill - this is commonly referred to as “paying yourself first”.
Your savings are the foundations of your investment journey and your investments are what will secure your future - so saving, sits squarely up there as one of the basic ways of securing your future.
Saving after spending is a sure way to never reach one’s savings goals since it is essentially an afterthought.
If you find yourself living paycheque to paycheque, it may be a strong sign that you are not saving enough. A good savings habit comes with proper planning, which should leave you with some money at the end of the month.
If there are always too many days between when your salary is all spent and the next paycheque, it could be that your lifestyle is consuming more than you earn - which means there is nothing left to save.
Oftentimes, debt is used to cover for this gap - further deepening your financial problems and prolonging your savings debut.
You may have a decent budget on how you will spend your money throughout the month and maintain it within your living standards. However, if you do not have an emergency fund, you might be one misfortune away from being broke.
It is advisable to have a special fund to cater to financial emergencies. It could be a stolen laptop, a small medical emergency, a lost phone - these should not disrupt your lifestyle.
And while you can hope that you never have to deal with an emergency, it is better to budget for them than run the risk of emptying your savings account or worse, getting into unplanned debt.
A common rule in planning is that what gets measured gets done. This also applies to management of personal finances. If you have no idea how you are spending your money, it is unlikely that you will be successful in saving.
Tracking means knowing exactly where your money is going. IIt could be as simple as a sheet with two columns titled “money in” and “money out” that helps you know where all the money you earned was spent on.
If you do this religiously, you are able to identify areas where you may be overspending and adjust accordingly.
Like marathoners run with their eyes firmly focused on the prize, you also need a clear goal that is inspiring your savings. If you are saving without a clear purpose, the temptation to divert your savings to other unimportant or impulsive choices becomes high.
Making regular and consistent savings requires some structure at a personal level. It is not enough to want to save, but you need a sustainable strategy to enhance your savings.
One of the major strategies to ensure you save, save consistently, and come as close as possible to achieving your goals is automation. Here, you can either set a standing order to be depositing a specific amount of money from your paycheck into your savings account at a specific date each month - or ask your employer to directly deposit a portion of your monthly pay into your savings account.
If you have been struggling with your savings, there are a number of ways you can change the tide before the year ends. It is important to understand that anyone can save, as long as they are committed to it.
Some people, because of their personalities and backgrounds, may find saving to be easier than others. However, there are now tools that are specifically designed to help you save more - whether or not you find saving difficult or easy.
One such tool is the Absa Digital Savings Account which has specific features that ease the savings journey. The digital nature of the account particularly facilitates the saving habits of modern-day savers.
One of the outstanding features of the Absa Digital Savings Account is that it is fully digital from the opening process to operating it. This means that you do not need to physically go to the branch to open it. You also do not have to fill loads of paperwork - as with the traditional savings account.
These can be uploaded in JPEG, JPG, PNG or PDF formats. For the signature specimen, you have to make sure it is signed on a white piece of paper.
This information is submitted online, making it convenient for those who may not have the time or be in a position to visit a physical branch. You can learn about the detailed step-by-step process of opening the Absa Digital Savings Account here.
The Absa Digital Savings Account has the potential to transform your savings goal through a number of features which we will discuss below:
Automation allows you to save without actively thinking about it. Experts have observed that human beings are naturally prone to procrastination. This may explain why some people are always planning to start saving next month, or next year, but actually never do.
Whenever you receive your salary, you may plan to save, but it becomes very easy to forget about your savings plan and redirect the funds to other expenses over time. Thus, the concept of automation is based on the premise that making a saving is a form of paying yourself.
To pay yourself first means that the saving deduction is given first priority. This can be through a standing order to the bank, around the time you receive your salary.
You could also work out an arrangement with your employer to have the share of your salary dedicated to savings automatically deducted and sent to the Absa Digital Savings Account.
The Absa Digital Savings Account allows you to track your savings progress and keep yourself accountable. It allows you to see how well or poorly you are doing to reach your savings goal.
The progress is shown through the Absa App, as well as through e-statements. More than that, the Absa App, which hosts the Absa Digital Savings Account, comes with a number of features that allow you to track your other expenses from your Absa Current Account if this is where you receive your salary.
Tracking such expenses can go a long way in streamlining your budget and helping reduce wasteful expenditure. The net effect is that the spared amounts can be channelled to your savings account further increasing your likelihood of hitting your savings goals.
A great motivation to save more is having your savings make money for you. The Absa Digital Savings Account facilitates your savings journey with annual interests of up to 9% per annum.
This is on the higher end of the rates of return offered by savings accounts in Kenya that range from as low as 1% per annum to a high of 9%.
On top of earning this fairly high interest rate with the Absa Digital Savings Account, you also enjoy daily interest accrual, monthly interest payout and monthly interest compounding - your interest earns also interest every subsequent month.
This means that the money you save accrues interest daily, this interest is paid out once every month and itself earns interest over the next month and that interest will earn interest the next month and so on.
An emergency fund is a must-have for any financially prudent person. In fact, not having an emergency fund is one of the top reasons people cite for failing to meet their savings goals - if not getting into unplanned debt.
If you do not have an emergency fund, you will be forced to withdraw your savings or take a loan to handle an unforeseen expense. Often this can be very derailing and could discourage regular savings.
The Absa Digital Savings Account provides a great place to stash your emergency money because you can earn fairly high interest without locking your money up for long periods as fixed deposit accounts would demand.
Compared to Money Market Funds (MMFs) - another popular place to keep emergency funds - the Absa Digital Savings Account provides nearly as high returns but with the advantage of instant access to your savings as opposed to the typical two working-day waiting period for most MMFs.
When you are in an emergency, you want instant access to your funds else you may be forced to borrow.
Four months into 2023, it is important to reflect on the resolutions you made at the start of the year. This is particularly important in your personal finances because they have an influence on other spheres of your life - including where you live, your mental and emotional being, your social life, and your future income.
However, if you have not saved as much as you had hoped to, it does not mean you have failed. It only means you have an opportunity to enhance your self-awareness on the impediments to your savings habit.
Once you are self-aware, you can utilise tools such as the Absa Digital Savings Account which offers a number of solutions to boost your savings journey.