3 little ways to challenge yourself to boost your savings

Everyone "wishes" they could save more money. But if you're not willing to give anything up to reach your savings goals, that's yet another goal that's going to join your pile of pipe dreams to strike Toto and become a billionaire.

Most goals take work to achieve, and work usually means a little bit of a challenge or discomfort.

If you really don't want to give up cabbing home from work everyday or compulsively shopping on ASOS, don't expect to see much improvement unless you somehow find a way to photosynthesise all your nutrients and live without eating.

The trick to cutting your spending is not to suddenly deprive yourself in all areas to the point where you lose all enthusiasm for life, but rather to pick one or two ways to challenge yourself. When you've made something a habit, then you can move on to the next challenge.

Challenge yourself to downgrade your mobile data plan and survive on less data

Most of us have more mobile data than we really need or want. Free wifi is there if you want to use it-at the office, at MRT stations, at a whole bunch of shopping malls, cafes and fast food joints, and very soon, on buses.

Yet many people don't even bother to disconnect their data and connect to free wifi at all.

How Singaporeans can lower their cost of living

  • Nobody ever said Singapore was a cheap place to live in. But some things here are more expensive than others, and getting a cheap meal isn't impossible so long as you don't expect to be sitting in air conditioned comfort and waited on hand and foot.
  • Renting out unused rooms on your property to defray the cost of living can generate some passive income for yourself.
  • If you live in private property, rent out your place on a short-term basis on Airbnb whenever you go on holiday, so you earn some spare cash while you travel.
  • Go to polyclinics for basic medical and dental help (unless you employer pays for this). The $10.70 you pay for a consultation at a polyclinic is 1/3 the price you'd pay at a private clinic. The medicines also tend to be cheaper.
  • Use your $500 SkillsFuture and your $100 ActiveSG credit.
  • If you have kids of school-going age, check if they qualify for Edusave Bursaries and Awards and the Good Progress Award. The household income cap for the Edusave Merit Bursary is $6,000 as of 2015.
  • Anybody planning to buy HDB property needs to understand the different CPF Housing Grants.
  • Meals at mid-range to high-end restaurants have escalated in price over the past decades. While $10 could get you a decent restaurant meal in the 90s, these days you'll need to budget about $25 to $30.
  • On the other hand, while hawker food prices have not risen as quickly, and picking hawker centres instead of restaurants when you eat out means greater savings than before.
  • Public transport is way cheaper than driving, even if you rely mostly on taxis.
  • Alcohol is ridiculously expensive, but drinking in the streets is actually allowed before 10:30pm. Buying a beer from 7-11 instead of imbibing it at an overpriced Clarke Quay bar will save you almost $20.

Challenge yourself to connect to free wifi whenever you can and save your video-viewing for when the wifi is free, and you might be able to downgrade your data plan, saving yourself a bit of money every month.

Just save your Wireless@SG userID and password in your phone's memo and then check which places you frequent offer free wifi (here are some).

This should apply especially if you're on a fairly heavy duty plan costing over $80 a month. So long as they're not streaming Korean dramas or uploading hundreds of photos, most normal users should be able to survive on 3 gigs of data.

Challenge yourself to find free activities to do in your free time

So your weekly date night with your partner is actually a date nightmare for your wallet. Between dinner at some overpriced restaurant, cocktails at yet another bar with a view and a cab ride home, you spend a fortune each time and you're starting to feel relieved when you have to cancel because something came up at work.

Seriously though, you don't really have to go through all that if you bother to do your research and find free things to do. Singapore may be expensive, but it's also a very dense and crowded city, which means that there are numerous events all in very close proximity to each other.

Nowadays there always seems to be some free event or festival at Marina Bay Sands, and there are also frequent free concerts at the Botanic Gardens. Besides that, there's a boatload of other free things to do.

Challenge yourself to do as many free things in a week as you can, having these activities substitute your usual more costly ones. At the end of the month, review your entertainment spending and see if it made a difference.

Challenge yourself to find a way to make a bit of extra cash

Finding another income stream sounds like a great idea in theory. I mean, who wouldn't want a bit of extra cash and more income security, right?

However, the main problem is that it takes time and effort, which a lot of people are just too lazy or too passive to spend.

Challenge yourself to get started on a new money-making activity. It could be starting a side job, getting a tuition student, putting some of your unwanted belongings up for sale on Carousell, or even chasing your clients/friends/boss for money that's owed to you.

If you do the above challenges often enough, you'll cultivate a proactive attitude towards making and saving money.

Too many people just sit back and slog away at their jobs but then don't bother to manage their finances or put in any effort to boost their savings. Then they are surprised when they realise that despite all their hard work they're not satisfied with their financial state.

Don't be like that. If you make a commitment to push yourself in tiny ways, it gets easier and easier to take control of your finances. You won't die of deprivation, we promise.

This article first appeared on MoneySmart

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