Oh my goodness, we have actually saved £10,000!
If you are looking for tips on how to save a large emergency fund then read on. I share lots of ways to save money and increase your savings balance in this blog post. If you're not needing to save an emergency fund then perhaps you want to pay off debt, save for a wedding or save for a house deposit. The below tips are suitable for whatever you need to save a large amount of money for.
I have never before saved so much money so I am feeling pretty proud of myself. It’s definitely not been without struggle though.
It has taken some very strong willpower!
Especially for the last year when I’ve desperately wanted to go on a sunny holiday abroad every single school half-term and holiday, but I have managed to resist the urge and save the money instead. We had a savings goal in mind and I was more desperate to reach it!
For me this is a big deal. I used to be such a spender and never ever had savings. I got into debt crisis and was on a debt management plan before I even hit 20 years old! You can read more about that in my debt story blog posts.
I learnt a lot from that experience and although I was still always a spender, I didn’t get into debt again until I bought my first home several years later. A debt that has been an investment and affordable!
There are lots of reasons we decided to save such a large amount as an emergency fund. The biggest reason was because I’m self-employed and the lack of financial security always makes me anxious. Now my husband is going self-employed too so we’ll have no guaranteed income each month!
You can read more about why we decided to save an emergency fund over anything else here: Why I’m choosing to save an emergency fund before paying off my debt
We had started saving dilly-dally a couple of years ago as we set up a savings builder account with Natwest that gave a bonus interest if you saved at least £100 per month at the time. Now it’s if you save at least £50 per month. The balance has to increase, so you can’t take £50 out and put it back in! The balance must be £50 more than it was at the end of the previous month to qualify for the bonus interest on the first of each month.
Setting up this account motivated us to save as we had to meet the savings target to get the bonus interest.
We saved what we could for the first year or so, but we also dipped into it for a holiday and if we didn’t stick to our monthly budget. We usually always went over our monthly budget and we weren’t taking our savings very seriously. We had lots of days out and a year of holidays as I called it in 2018 after not really going away much for six years.
Then, by the second year, I was finding I was so anxious about my earnings, money and not having any financial backup should one of us get injured, fall ill or not be able to work for any reason. This was last year and so we decided to really concentrate on our savings. We had around £3000 saved by this point and decided £10000 would be our goal. That should easily see us through six months if we couldn’t work for some reason.
£10,000 is also the maximum amount that Natwest pay the bonus interest on. You have to keep saving £50 each month after this to get the interest so that’s all we plan on putting in this account now. We’re going to look into some investment ISAs to save some money now as well as paying back our loans earlier. I really need to learn how to invest as I've never really done it before.
By the third year we really went crazy for saving! Ben decided to leave his job this July instead of the end of the year, so we ramped up our saving. We worked harder than ever, sold loads of stuff, made money wherever we could and reduced our spending where we could too.
We saved over £6500 in the last 6 months!
At the end of January this year we had £3500 in our savings as they'd took a huge hit because of car repairs that cost over £2000!! Madness! So we knuckled down and were determined to reach this £10,000 emergency savings goal providing nothing more happened with our cars!
This meant we saved £6500 in the last six months alone!! In fact, even more really as we had to take some money out for solicitors fees (grr!)
We committed to saving the £10,000 as soon as possible and so it’s been six months of hardcore saving by doing all the tips below!
It’s now been approximately two and a half years since we started saving and we have just reached our £10,000 goal!
We definitely could have saved it sooner, but things popped up. We had over £3000 of unexpected car repairs in the past year which was frustrating, but luckily we had the money saved to pay for this. Our savings took a big dent. Then we had some solicitor’s bills in the hundreds. I also had dentist bills of £3000 which we weren’t expecting. I knew I would need bridges after my braces came off and I had expected to do this on the NHS for around £500, but the quality was so awful that I went private, so our savings took a big bash in 2018.
It was a big reminder of how we need to have an emergency fund though and that £1000 or so wouldn’t have been enough for all this. Of course I don’t expect to have bridges on my teeth every year, but they are only guaranteed for five years so I could need new ones at any point after this. The kids might even need braces in a few years. The cars can breakdown at any point. The solicitor thing is sorted for now, but it could pop up again in the future as the entire matter is not complete yet.
Life can get expensive and we want to ensure we have money to pay for this and we aren’t relying on credit cards or loans when unexpected things come up.
With us both being self-employed we need the security of a large emergency fund in case either of us can’t work for a period of time.
It’s not for us to dip into on quiet months or if we spend our budget. We plan on continuing to save as much as possible each month for this and to leave the 10k where it is for a real emergency.
How we saved £6500 in 6 months to hit our 10k savings goal
So the big question is how did we save so much money and how can you save 10k in a few years or less?
The answer really is bucket loads of willpower!
We definitely made a lot of changes though, especially in 2019, to reach our savings goal as quickly as possible. In six months we saved £6500 to hit our savings goal in record time!
Go back four years and we had £0 in savings. We easily spent all our money every month. We struggled to save. By making some changes, we were able to start saving, stick to it and reach a huge goal in only a few years.
Here are all the ways we cut back or made more money to hit our £10,000 savings goal quickly by saving the last £6500 in just 6 months!
No spend weeks and months
We had entire no-spend months where we would not buy anything aside from our groceries. We’ve also had several no-spend weeks too like this. Sometimes it was impossible to always do a whole month as we had family and friends birthdays to attend and buy presents for, so it wasn’t always achievable to do a whole month.
We might also have needed to buy the kids new shoes or uniform if they grew out of something. Even with these purchases, we have been very careful. We stopped buying things for the house, toys, clothes and shoes.
We started to live with what we had and cut back on consumerism. We have been becoming annoyed with consumerism over the years anyway and I am a minimalist, so we embraced this type of lifestyle even more.
Even at Christmas we did our modified version of the four gift rule for the kids. Something you want, something you need, something to eat, something to read. We don’t buy each other gifts and we reduced what we spent on others.
We had free days out to local parks, hills and woods. Most weeks it’s really easy to have a whole no-spend week as the working days are filled with school and work. The weekends are when we’d usually have a meal out or a paid day out to an attraction, so we simply stopped doing this to have no-spend weeks or months.
Treated savings like an outgoing
We treated our savings like an outgoing at the start of each month. On the day all our bills go out, the first of the month, we also paid into our savings. We treated it like a bill each month instead of cash we could spend.
It went into the savings on bill day and was left there.
We also saved more throughout the month when we could. We used money boxes and also skimmed our account regularly to round it down to the nearest pound.
Read more about how we save here: 3 easy ways to save more money and increase your family’s savings balance
Strict with budget (most of the time)
We learned how to properly manage salary and budget throughout the month instead of just spending all our available cash as quickly as possible!
That’s what we used to do. We never tracked our spending or set a budget and so after payday we would spend all our cash in the first week. Then it was a long wait until the next pay day! Both Ben and I were definitely spenders!
We got more organised and I created a spreadsheet with all our incomings and outgoings. We started budgeting for weekly food shops and spreading the cash over the month. We did the same with spending money and started to manage our finances a lot better. This allowed us to save money as we were budgeting throughout the month instead of just blowing all our cash whenever we liked without tracking it.
We set an amount each week for food shopping and pretty much stuck to it every week. If we went over then it would come out of the next week’s allowance, so we’d have to be even stricter that week. We stopped dipping into our savings when we went over budget. We mostly stuck to our budget as we didn’t want to be really skint one week!
We learned to be strict with ourselves and use a budget.
Related - 6 easy ways to save money as a family
I absolutely love to make money from home and so I increased my side hustles. I learned new ways to make money from home online and with apps. Ben even started using some of the apps too!
Here are loads of blog posts that share where I’ve been making extra cash:
For us it’s not just been about saving money we were already earning, but making extra cash too so we could save it and reach our savings goal even quicker.
Worked and then worked some more
Yep we worked as much as possible! Whether it was our main jobs, making money by extra side hustles, setting up new businesses or selling items on eBay, we took every opportunity we could to work and earn money. We increased our income by working as much as we both could.
Ben, especially, has been working non-stop the past 3-4 months. He has been working full time in the day, then a few evenings a week and again at the weekend. Some weeks he’s working seven days! I’ve been staying up late most nights and taking on more work than I usually would to try and increase our earnings.
Set up more businesses
We set up more businesses too! I have one website that makes me a full-time living, so I thought what if I had more than one website, then what could I earn? So now I have three websites of my own and I run another! Ben now has two self-employed businesses, so between us we have five different businesses!
Resisted temptation to go on holiday
This was a biggie for me! We did go on our first family holiday abroad to Fuerteventura at Easter 2018, but we’d booked that one over a year in advance to spread the cost and well before we came up with our savings goal! That holiday was amazing and my first holiday abroad for six years! We do visit family in Germany almost annually, but I never count that as a holiday.
Since then I have really wanted to go on another holiday. I suffer with SAD in the winter and I really wanted to get some sunshine in one of the half-terms and we very nearly booked a holiday a couple of times, but decided not to at the last minute! My desire to reach our savings goal was much stronger! I knew once we had the money saved I would feel so much more relaxed and less anxious and then we could save for a holiday!
We did go on a three night break this year to Snowdonia and it only cost £200 for the holiday home for three nights so that wasn’t too bad! Much better than the £3000 sunny holidays abroad I was looking at!
Learned to say no
We learned to say no to some social events and outings. There were a few events locally that charged that friends and family were going to, but I was having a no-spend week or month so turned down the invites.
We’d also suggest free things when meeting up with others instead of always spending a fortune on a paid day out.
Reduced social life
We definitely had a reduced social life. Last year we started using a babysitter so me and Ben could go out on our own for dates, but this year we haven’t at all. I only have a handful of friends, literally five, and some of them I only see every few months. This definitely makes saving money easier!
In my 20s before kids I was usually eating out every other day and meeting friends for drinks. That lifestyle was great fun, but it cost me a fortune. Now I’m pretty much a hermit who is at home by herself every day and night, well, with Ben and the kids!!
We took opportunities when we could. Ben was doing a job and they wanted someone to clean the oven, so I offered! I got £60 for four hours work on a weekend when I wouldn’t usually be working. There was the chance for Ben to clear out a warehouse so he took it. He managed to grab loads of free wood which he can turn into furniture for his bespoke industrial furniture business.
Ben learned to fix some car issues
As we spent so much on car repairs we couldn’t ever do ourselves in 2018, Ben decided to learn how to do some smaller repairs himself to save us some money. My car had a couple of minor issues and the Bongo did too, so Ben learned how to fix them himself instead of going straight to the garage. This saved us around £45 per hour which is what the garage would cost. He reckons we saved a few hundred pounds with what he did himself. He fixed some rust issues and a leak.
Embraced minimalism and decluttered entire house
I mentioned this above, but we definitely embraced minimalism even more. I minimalised the whole house going through every room. We only have what we need in each room and nothing more. We sold loads of house items, garden furniture, kids toys and clothes on Facebook Marketplace and eBay making as much as possible - sometimes a few hundred in a month!
We also didn’t want all this clutter back in our lives, so it’s stopped us wanting to spend money on new clothes or new décor for the house.
Sold things to fund other things
The kids really wanted a trampoline, so we sold something to fund it. The same happened if we really wanted a takeaway but had spent our entire food budget for the week. We’d say we could only have it if we could make the extra cash from selling something.
We are a vegan family and didn’t need our chickens or huge coop taking up the garden anymore so we donated our chickens to a local conservation project that already had chickens on the land. We managed to sell the coop which Ben had handmade over time for a few hundred pounds which was more than enough to fund the kids new in-ground trampoline. Something that will keep them entertained at home in the summer! It will eventually pay for itself!
Instead of automatically dipping in our savings when we wanted something, like we used to once our budget was spent, we would either go without or find another way of raising the funds so our savings were not impacted.
No spend on clothes year
I am doing a no spend on clothes this year. I used to have a shopping addiction in my teens and early twenties and buy new clothes daily. It’s how I got into so much debt back then. Then I’d still buy clothes when I could and pretty regularly for a few years after this, but in recent years I’ve embraced minimalism with my clothes too and only have the bare minimum that I need.
I have around 50 items of clothes and literally wear each item to death. I often wear the same outfit for days on end until it needs washing and then wear something else. A true capsule wardrobe! I’ll only get rid of clothing when it is ruined or no longer fits. I will donate it, sell it or give it to the rag trade.
I challenged myself to a no-spend on clothes year to see if I can last a year without buying anything. It’s almost happened, but so far I’ve had to buy a couple of things. When digging out the in-ground trampoline hole my 6-year old wellies split, so I had to get a new pair of wellies. I also got two new striped t-shirts for summer as mine were really discoloured and a new pair of black jeggings as the elastic had gone in my old pair. That’s it. I’ve managed to live with all the clothes I already own and some of them I’ve had for ten years or more!
Reduced mortgage payments
One thing that did help us is to switch to a new mortgage deal that had a much better interest rate. This reduced our mortgage repayments. We were also overpaying for a while, so we stopped the overpayments whilst saving our emergency fund. We plan to overpay again at some point, but I’d like to make overpaying our loans the first priority.
Of course many people will have different opinions about all this, but it’s called personal finance for a reason - it’s personal! Do what’s right for you and your situation!
Tracked spending daily
I am now obsessed with tracking our spending and bank accounts every day. First thing in the morning I check all our bank account apps to check they are as expected and to see which bills/outgoings have been debited. I always know exactly where we are with our money. This means I am always very aware of how much budget we have left, we don’t easily overspend and we can keep on top of our savings goals.
Budgeted for food daily and took backpack to supermarket
For one month I tested budgeting for food daily rather than weekly and it worked really well. We slashed our food bill by doing this! I will definitely do it again and probably most of the time. We only didn’t do it this month as I needed to bulk order a lot of food online that we can’t get from our local supermarket, so sometimes we’ll need to do an online shop and other times I’ll be able to use the local supermarket and budget daily.
I walked to the supermarket each day and only bought food for that day/the next day. Taking the backpack meant I could only fill it with a limited amount of food so I couldn’t overspend as I couldn’t fit the food in or carry it home. Our supermarket is around 1.5km away, so a 3km round trip. It was a great way to only buy exactly what we needed and to limit spending.
I use loads of cashback and discount supermarket apps like GreenJinn, CheckoutSmart and Shopmium: How to save money at the supermarket with Shopmium
Used Tesco vouchers for eating out
We do love eating out and used to eat out once or twice a week, so we really stopped this. Some months we didn’t eat out at all. We made the most of changing Tesco Clubcard vouchers for restaurant vouchers such as for Zizzi where we get three times their value to spend on food. We get a free meal out because of this almost every three months!
To increase our points balance we use a 0% Tesco credit card to buy everything on each month, sticking to our budget, and then we pay it back in full at the end of the month.
Free days out with the kids (or discounts)
We went on lots of free days out to parks, hills and woods to get out of the house at the weekends but not spend any money.
We did go to Wookey Hole this year as we hadn’t had a day out for ages and felt like we needed one, so we signed up for Kids Pass for their £1 trial which meant we could get both the kids in free!
Early bird tickets for festivals
We’ve been to Wychwood festival this year and we are also going to UK vegan campout. We purchased these tickets last summer when they released their early bird tickets which meant to saved loads of money on the regular ticket price! Buying in advance can definitely pay!
Stopped doing up our home
We’ve been in our home for just over five years now and it’s been a labour of love! It’s a 1960s home that was not decorated to our taste at all. It was very outdated and every room had different coloured walls and carpets! We knew it was a bit of a project when we moved in, but we didn’t realise quite how much. The first couple of years drained all our money and we even had to take out a home improvement loan.
The house looks so much better and is more to our taste, but there is still quite a bit to do. However, in order to reach our savings goal sooner we stopped investing in our house and decided to save money instead as this became more important to us.
I’m sure we’ll start doing up our home again at some point as we do need a new window desperately in our bedroom as an example! But for now we have other priorities. I also got so bored of plummeting all our cash into the house for so long! I’d rather it in my savings right now!
Saved on household bills
We changed energy supplier which saved us over £200 per year and we also spoke to our broadband supplier and managed to negotiate a discount as we thought our bills were too high!
Here are some tips on where you can save and make money at home: 20 ways to make & save more money in 2019
Stopped splurging on beauty
As well as going minimal in our home and wardrobes, I also went minimal on beauty. My makeup collection now consists of one tube of mascara. That’s it. I stopped wearing makeup and just wear the mascara occasionally.
I had started treating myself to regular waxes, manicures and eyelash extensions which did make me feel very well-maintained and good about myself, but obviously they come at quite a cost. I stripped back my entire beauty routine and now I barely own any beauty products. I use a shoap bar for shampoo and soap. I also have a cleanser and a deodorant. That’s pretty much it!
Phew! I’m sure there are more, but there’s a whopping great big list of lots of the ways we made changes in order to save £10,000 in less than three years.
Check out all my menus up above for LOADS of ways to make money and save money.
I always share what I’m doing on this blog so you can learn to make more money and save more money too!
Here's a very thorough list of places I make money from online and at home: How I made £32000 from home in 2018-2019
What are our money goals now?
Now we have saved our emergency fund we feel like we can relax a little more, but that doesn't mean we are going to stop saving. Here are our ongoing money goals:
- Continue putting at least £50 per month in our cash savings - we have to do this to get the bonus interest on our £10k
- Invest £50-£100 per month into Investment ISAs - we have never done this before so we will set up a few different ISAs between us to invest. I've been looking at the Scottish Friendly investment ISAs and think we may open two each to save in. A low risk one each and a medium risk one each. The low risk one has an offer that if you save for 10 years and don't make any withdrawals or changes then you can withdraw your original investment back on the 10 year anniversary. This means even if the stocks and shares fall in value we will lose no money. Hopefully, of course, the value will increase. This low risk strategy sounds good to me as we are new at investing and just want to dabble to start. We are hoping to save more, but as Ben will be newly self-employed we need to see how much money he is going to earn. I want one of these ISAs for 10 years to be savings for my top bucket list item - going on an African safari and staying in Treetops Hotel!
- Start paying chunks off our loans to pay them back early. We currently owe around £14,000. It's good to know we have this in our savings though. I also have £4000 of savings in my own savings account, but that's my pension savings which I'm not to touch. But, if we desperately needed to pay our loans off for some reason then I know we have all the money there. Again, this might be backwards for some people who would say pay off the debt first! But with us both being self-employed and our loan payments being very manageable for us, having the savings is a bigger priority for our own personal financial security right now.
- Travel! Not exactly a money savings goal, but a money spending goal! We have desperately wanted to travel and now we are arranging some trips before we get stuck into overpaying our loans. We will be using the Bongo to camp in as much as possible and looking for ways to keep holiday costs to a minimum. We won't be splurging like we did on our previous all-inclusive Fuerteventura holiday, but probably able to go on a few holidays for the same cost as that one!
- Once debt is paid off then we will start overpaying our mortgage again.
- Save another £10,000 to start up our next business idea if we need to or want to. This will be to convert our garage into a bedsit either for a permanent lodger or to run an Airbnb business. It will be good to have a backup plan and money to finance the business idea just in case our existing businesses fail.
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