Keeping a budget can make a significant difference in your life Image Credit: Corbis
Now that 2016 has arrived, we’ve got some expert pointers on how you can save money in the year ahead. Whether you are single, married and/or you have a family, you should know how much money you have coming in each month, so that you can manage your financials properly. Here are a few tips to help you save those pennies in the long run: 
 
1. Reduce debt
If you have credit card debt, you may feel like it's going to take forever to pay it off. You can get ahead by choosing one card; ideally, the one with the highest interest rate and where you pay as much as you can on it every month. If you have other cards, pay the minimum balance on those until you've paid off the first card. Then, choose the next card and pay extra on it while you pay minimums on the others. If you pay only the minimums on all your cards, you'll be paying a lot more in interest than you might realise.
 
2. Focus on savings 
Decide how much of your income is available to save each month. Have it direct-deposited to your savings account or a separate account if one needs to be opened. Wherever you decide to keep your savings, make sure you put money into it every month. That diverted money will make a big difference for you later.
 
3. Use cash first
Take out enough cash to last one week at a time. Make up your mind that the cash you have is all you get for discretionary expenses, or, things that you could live without each week. It's much easier to turn down a pair of shoes when it will take the last of your week's cash than it is when you just have to swipe a credit card.
 
4. Cut down on unnecessary costs
Whether it is buying your morning coffee from Starbucks or regularly dining out, you know how expensive these treats can be. Why not take a packed lunch to work or eat in more often. By cutting down on lunchtime café expenses, you can begin to see those funds build.
 
5. Share responsibility
Make sure you're not the only member of your household concerned about your budget. If you're working hard to save money, but your spouse is out spending you into debt, you're fighting a losing battle. Sit down together and make a plan to determine how much spending money you should each have. 
 
6. Receipts 
You probably monitored your expenses for several weeks to make a budget. Once the budget is made it can be tempting to resist checking up on every little expense. But keeping track really can help you stick to your budget. You'll be less likely to overspend if you realise how much money has actually gone through your hands.
 
7. Check your bank balance online
If you're on a tight budget, a couple of small mistakes can lead to overdraft charges and insufficient funds in your account. Keeping a regular handle on your money can create a positive habit and you can make sure your personal ledger stays in the black.
 
8. Analyse your spending
Look through your budget and all your photos of receipts. Can you find an expense that can be cut? Maybe you could set up a carpool with a friend or take the metro / bus to work on some days. Cutting out on fuel costs can help increase the amount of money you have available for savings and purchases.
 
9. Life is a hurdle race, not a flat race 
Remember that life is unpredictable, and things happen that are out of our control. When you make a budget, try to allow some extra money for variable expenses. Be gentle with yourself if you go over your budget sometimes. It can be hard to get back on track if you let yourself get too frustrated over a mistake or two.
 
10. Reward yourself
If you can set a regime and stick to it, you will see rapid improvement in your financial situation. Setting personal financial goals, even reducing debt deserves personal reward. So, treat yourself to small monthly rewards. You choose: just don’t go back to square one.
 
Budgeting will come more easily the longer you stay with it and you will reap the rewards in years to come. Above all, remember that budgeting is worth the effort. Keeping on budget can make a significant difference across many areas of your life, since so many things are affected by your financial status.
 
-  The writer is Regional Managing Partner at Prestige Wealth Solutions