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It can be hard to get into the saving habit. Saving money isn’t very exciting and it does require some discipline, or at least the ability to recognise that your old clothes still look great on you, and last year’s smartphone still works just fine. But savings do protect you; they provide a buffer that keeps you from financial difficulties and they stop you from plunging into debt every time something unexpected happens like a broken boiler, a particularly painful MOT, an urgent dentist’s appointment or an alien invasion. Okay, possibly not the last one.

You don’t need to be a big earner to save money. Put a small amount aside each month and it will swiftly add up to some serious savings. Here’s what you need to know…

What should I be saving for?

Before you decide on your monthly savings target, it’s a good idea to have an idea of your goal. The first thing every newbie saver needs is an emergency fund to cover minor financial hiccups (see aforementioned boilers, MOTs, all-conquering ETs) and more major financial disasters like losing your job.

Most experts recommend having at least three months’ worth of salary in your savings, and some suggest it should be as much as six months’ worth. Don’t worry, you don’t have to save it up all at once. You can work up to it slowly but surely.

Once you’ve got your buffer sorted, you can start saving for more specific goals. That could be anything from new clothes or a holiday to a house deposit or retirement. Saving for short-term goals helps you avoid putting things on credit, so you stay out of debt, while saving for bigger goals gives you longer-term security. If you have a Virgin Money M Plus account Link opens in a new window, a good way to do this is to use the savings pots functionality on our app Link opens in a new window.

How much should I save a month?

Whatever you can afford. Some people will advise a fixed percentage of your income, perhaps 10 or 20 per cent. However, that’s not necessarily the best way to approach savings. When it comes to monthly savings, you could work out how much money goes on the essentials in your life – rent or mortgage payments, student loan repayments, and those other pesky unavoidable costs that take an oversized bite out of your salary. The amount you can afford to save depends on your spare income and you won’t know how much that is until you have worked out your actual budget. Don’t panic – that’s easier than you might think and will help you take control of your income and outgoings. Having a monthly savings target that is realistic, is the key to hit your savings goal.

What if it’s not a lot?

So, you’ve drawn up your budget, worked out how much you can afford to save a month and it’s not as much as you had hoped. It’s easy to feel disillusioned with the idea of making savings if it’s happening very slowly. But it’s important to remember that your savings will gradually grow. Over time those monthly savings really will add up to something substantial and even a small amount of savings can help keep you out of the red when something unexpected happens. And if you want to get an idea of how long it will take you to save up a set amount – or if you’d like to know what your monthly saving targets would need to be to reach your saving goal in a set time – there are online calculators that can help. Try the savings calculator on the Money Advice Service Link opens in a new window – there’s no advertising or agenda, just simple help with the numbers.

Watching those pounds stack up in your savings account will make it all worthwhile. Give it a go and see just how much better you’ll feel when you’re putting aside some money each month.

Before making financial decisions always do research, or talk to a financial adviser. Views are those of our mentors and customers and do not constitute financial advice.

Whatever your saving habits are right now, Virgin Money customers can get help with budgeting via our clever app.

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