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When you want to start saving some of your hard earned cash, the first place to start is figured out how much you can actually save.

This can be a hard-learned lesson: too many times I’ve optimistically dumped a percentage of my monthly pay into my savings thinking, this will be a low-cost month, only to have to steadily retrieve some of those savings throughout the month again.

A realistic goal makes saving far more attainable, creating a clear focused plan to help you achieve your savings goal in a reasonable time. When deciding how much to save each month, you need to take account of your income, and your essential outgoings. The budget planner I mentioned in a previous post will help you here.

Income

Your main source of income is most likely your job, whether you work full time or part time. You may also receive income from any side jobs you do, inheritance, from generous parents, and any sort of benefit.

Make a tally of all of these to get a solid figure that you bring in each month.

Outgoings

It would be lovely if we could spend nothing all month and save all of our cash, but this is pretty much impossible (although I’d love someone to prove me wrong!).

First, make a list of all your essential outgoings. These could include:

  • Rent

  • Bills (internet, water, gas, electricity, phone bill etc)

  • Travel costs

  • If you have a family: family costs

  • Living (food and drink)

  • Social activities

Your list could be far more extensive than this, but try to group your outgoings into more manageable categories.

Once you’ve got this list sorted, put a figure on each category. It might be best to overestimate a little to give you some wriggle room – if you’ve got leftover money at the end of the month, that’s just more savings for you!


The total figure of all your outgoings is what you can’t save. You may want to add a safety fee onto this figure, to give you some breathing space for unexpected events, a small treat every now and again etc.

The rest is what you can afford to save each month. Set up a direct debit so this amount goes straight into your account as soon as your paid – hopefully, you won’t even miss the extra money and you’ll build up a healthy savings pile in no time.