Spend Little, Enjoy More: Tips to Save Money Without Cutting Joy

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By Nicole Ng, CFA • 14 May 2024 • 0 min read

Here is what I did to help me save money for my future without feeling like I’m constantly saying “no” to life’s pleasures right now.

Tips to Save Money Without Cutting Joy

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Growing up, my parents or teachers told me this: Saving money requires discipline, hard work, and sacrifices.

I used to feel stifled even at the mention of “savings”, as if saving money equals a joyless existence. 

But as I got older (and more experienced in life), my mindset around savings shifted – I found that you can indeed save money without feeling restricted! 

The key is to have the right savings strategies. 

Here is what I did to help me save money for my future without feeling like I’m constantly saying “no” to life’s pleasures right now. 

#1 - Have a budget

I know, I know – you’ve heard this personal finance advice time and again. But hear me out.

I used to think budgets were financial straight jackets designed to stifle me and I’m sure you might hold that same belief too. 

However, a budget isn’t a set of rigid rules you’re forced to stick to. 

It’s, in essence, just a tool. And it’s how you think about and use the tool that defines your experience with it. 

A budget helps you understand where your money is going and where it should go. Rather than make you feel restricted, a budget can empower you to work towards your goals while still giving you room to enjoy the present. 

A simple strategy I used to keep my budget balanced is the 50/30/20 rule. It’s a straightforward rule that ensures I’m saving money without feeling constrained.

I set aside 50% of my income for essential expenses like rent, utilities, and groceries, 30% for discretionary spending (including my guilt-free fund for shopping and travel), and the remaining 20% into savings. 

the 50/30/20 rule

With a take-home pay of $4,000 after CPF, using this rule, you’ll allocate $2,000 to your needs, $1,200 to your wants and $800 to your savings. 

By allocating cash to your wants, you give yourself the flexibility to enjoy life in the now, while still saving up for your future. 

#2 - Spend intentionally 

Saving money isn’t just about the money you save, but also about the money you spend. 

I sometimes find myself mindlessly scrolling online and adding unnecessary items that caught my eye to my shopping cart.

Sure, I get an instant hit of dopamine at check out, but impulse spending, generally, didn’t make me feel happy over a longer period. 

Consequently, I find myself falling into the trap of spending more than what I budget for my discretionary spending on things I didn’t really want in the first place. 

To help me feel less restricted about money and to curb my impulse shopping tendencies, I needed to rethink my approach to spending. I started being more purposeful with it. 

What do I mean by this? 

Instead of succumbing to the temptation of buying the latest shiny object that catches my eye, I take the time to really think about whether my expenses align with my core values. 

This ensures that every dollar I spend serves a meaningful purpose. I start by identifying what matters to me. 

  • What are my core values? 
  • Will this item/expense bring me sustained joy and fulfilment?
spending intentionally

For instance, I am passionate about travelling to new places. I like learning about other people’s cultures, trying different foods, and exploring new landscapes. Hence, I would set money aside to pay for a city trip to Tokyo to experience Japanese culture and food. 

However, if I were invited for a shopping trip to Japan, I would likely think twice as shopping overseas doesn’t align with what I value when it comes to travelling. 

By matching my spending to my values, I ensure that every purchase is more significant and fulfils a purpose in my life. 

Intentional spending also allows me to identify which credit cards would suit me best. As travel is a category that I care about, I can strategically leverage overseas and travel-related expenses to earn cashback or rewards that can provide additional savings for future purchases.

#3 - Plug money leaks

You’d be surprised how easily our hard-earned money can slip through the cracks, especially now that most payments are done digitally. 

Forgotten subscriptions, annual fees, and forex charges – these seemingly small costs could rack up over time. 

As I don’t usually keep track of every service I’ve subscribed to, I do a periodic review of my expenses (every 3 to 4 months). I look over my bank statements to determine if there are any underutilised subscriptions I’m better off cancelling. 

The other area that’s often overlooked is bank charges. Again, by reviewing my statements, I’ll be able to catch any hidden fees or bank charges on my accounts. All it takes is a phone call to get the bank to waive the fees. 

In addition, during peak work periods, I may forget to pay my credit card bills on time and get slapped with late fees. 

plug money leaks

To avoid these unnecessary charges I’ve automated my payments so that my bills are settled on time. This not only saves money but also relieves me of the stress associated with missed payments.

Plugging money leaks may not directly make you feel less restricted, but small changes in how you manage your money can help redirect funds to what truly matters. 

#4 - Maximise savings

To proactively alleviate the feeling of deprivation, sometimes you need to replace it with a sense of empowerment. 

If your money is working harder and smarter for you – that is, if it is making more money for you, then there is an incentive to keep saving. 

So it isn’t enough to stash away what's left at the end of the month in a current account that yields barely any interest. 

An effective strategy to optimise my savings so that it grows is to use high-yield savings accounts. 

Year$100,000 growing at 0.05% $100,000 growing at 2.5%* 
1$10,050$10,250
2$10,100$10,506
3$10,150$10,768
4$10,201$11,038
5$10,252$11,314

*For illustration purpose only.

 

Unlike traditional savings accounts that offer minimal interest rates, high-yield savings accounts provide a higher interest rate to help keep up with inflation. 

For funds that aren’t immediately needed, I look into investing them to help generate better returns over longer periods. By keeping my returns and capital reinvested each year, that amount could compound substantially over time.

What would Beansprout do?

The key to saving money without feeling restricted lies in your mindset and your approach to managing your finances. 

Saving money doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the things you enjoy. By putting in action strategies and being proactive, you can strike a balance between living the lifestyle you want now, while also saving for your future. 

To achieve this balance, here is what you can do:

  1. Use the 50/30/20 rule, which helps you allocate your income to your needs, wants and savings. 
  2. Spend intentionally and prioritise purchases that bring you true value and happiness and avoid impulse purchases. 
  3. Take proactive steps to identify and eliminate money leaks that may be draining your savings. This could be cancelling unused subscriptions and automating your bills so you don’t get charged late fees. 
  4. Maximise your savings and make your money work harder for you by using a high-yield savings account for your immediate savings and investments to grow your wealth. 

Looking for more actionable tips to manage your money better? Head over to the Citi Life and Money hub where you can find a ton of resources to help you save, grow, protect, and enjoy your money optimally. 

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