Ryan Bembridge is senior reporter at Mortgage Introducer and a wannabe standup comedian – here are his tips on how to make your money go further, especially if you live in the big smoke
Investing in fun
People know me as a good saver. I’m definitely not tight; no, not in the slightest. Well maybe a bit, but the trick is to be selective in what you spend to make sure you can do everything you want, whether that’s pubbing or escaping from London on the train for the weekend.
Since moving to the capital I’ve saved a few thousand pounds on a trainee journalist’s salary. That’s not easy I’m told, so I’ll pass on my haphazard strategy. It’s not all about being a hermit I promise!
The best way to save cash in my book is treat your whole life as an investment. Stay with me, it’s not necessarily as cold and misanthropic as it sounds.
Now let’s stick to something I can relate to: Drinking. Many 20-somethings like a drink and I’m no different, but considering I live London I’m conscious that for the price of a round of beers I could probably feed a family of six.
So you prioritise: Only go drinking with a) people you really like and b) people you don’t already spend all your time with so you actually have something to say. You’re investing in fun, in a way. This may not be what an NHS professional would recommend, but I think it’s worth having alcohol as your trusty companion if you’re enjoying yourself with friends and maybe you haven’t seen them in a while. That’s what life’s about. On the other hand as much as Guinness is lovely it isn’t worth creating a beer gut unless you have the compensation of actually having a good time.
This ‘investing in fun’ mantra applies to everything, whether your hobby is going to the theatre, seeing live music or going to the gym. Find the best value for money venues to see new acts, or if you’re working out actually make the most of that yearly gym membership you signed up for. If you invested in vanity so go and get those pecs! You paid for them after all. And as we all know there’s nothing more important in life than having slightly bigger arms.
Long-term economic plan
It’s a good idea to check your bank balance every week to keep tabs on what’s happening, but not too often. I know banks have apps where you can check and top up your balance every single second of every day, but who wants to think about money all the time? The best thing about managing your cash properly is you can forget about boring feckless numbers and concentrate on more important things like family, friends and people you love to hate.
However when you do check your balance I’d advise having a vague target of how much you want to save every month so you can adjust your spending accordingly. Ahead of your target? Buy that new games console you wanted. Behind? Maybe eat baked beans and toast for dinner for a couple of nights. Again, it’s not what an NHS professional would recommend (they detest my lifestyle), but if you want to save a decent amount per month it’s good to stick to your goals when possible.
To be patronising for a second, it’s a marathon not a race. Eating takeaways rather than doing your weekly shop because you can’t afford the latter at the end of the month bites you in the long-term. Short-termism with money is always dangerous and it’s why the entire payday loan industry exists.
Unless you’re lucky enough to inherit a whopping sum of cash you should try and establish a surplus so you can think long-term and book your holidays months in advance. Life is hard enough without giving yourself added stress at the end of every month. It’s about having your very own long-term economic plan in a way: I really hate myself for using that phrase but unlike George Osborne I’m at least using it appropriately – and only one time.