How to have fun and still save money

See how you can get ahead financially without saying goodbye to your social life.

Some of my husband's 20-something colleagues like to rib him about having a "famous" wife and want me to talk to them about money.

Their question in a nutshell is this: "How do I get ahead financially while living a party lifestyle and not doing any of the boring stuff like budgeting?"

Gauntlet accepted.

Now I'm not qualified to give personal financial advice, but I can share some general thoughts that might be useful.

First step is to earn more money. Getting ahead financially requires living within your means. If you're not willing to compromise your party lifestyle or do "boring stuff" such as budgeting, then you need to increase your means.

Choose a career with good earning potential, invest in your skills and professional relationships, always put your best work forward and be willing to learn. Renegotiate your salary regularly, but if you have to choose between experience and pay, then go for experience as that pays off more in the medium to long term.

Second, automate your savings. If it's boring to you, then find a way to get it done without thinking about it.

Research suggests that most people don't notice a pay rise because their consumption increases in line with income. This means the reverse is also true and, unless you are on a low income, you probably won't notice it if you give yourself a small pay cut.

You may also want to organise for part of your salary to be paid into a high-interest savings account. Your employer may let you nominate multiple bank accounts for your pay; failing that, you can set up a standing order.

When you've got a few thousand dollars saved then you could buy into share-based investments. Some people find this fun and investing directly is certainly the best way to learn the ropes.

But if you don't want to think about it too much then you could look for a managed fund, where a fund manager chooses the stocks for you, or an exchange-traded fund (ETF), which tracks the market.

Keep feeding your savings and investments with part of your salary.

If you lack discipline and find that you keep dipping into savings, then you might want to sacrifice some of your salary into superannuation.

The downside is that this money is generally untouchable before you retire, even if you want to buy a house in 10 years' time or need it for some other reason.

The upside is that compound interest means super contributions made in your 20s and 30s may be worth a lot more when you retire than if you saved the same money in your 40s and 50s.

It might be better not to lock the money away, but it beats spending every last cent on your party lifestyle.

While you're tinkering with your super, you may also want to look into consolidating all your accounts into one place and look at your investment options

Third, you might be able to make this money stuff less boring. Don't like budgeting? How about you turn it into a game and try "extreme budgeting" where you don't spend anything at all beyond the bare necessities?

Do it with a friend and even if you go back to your normal life after a couple of months, you'll still have some money to show for it at the end. A money diet is not like restricting what you eat, where you risk actual physical damage to your metabolism.

Or you might try out an app like Acorns, where you can round up your spare (virtual) "change" from card transactions and save it into a tracker fund. Or you might put every $5 note that comes your way into your sock drawer. Whatever works.

Finally, what do you mean by a party lifestyle, anyway? There are lots of ways to have fun and they don't all cost money.

If you mean "going out with my friends and drinking", then start at home or in the pub rather than buying drinks at a night club, avoid getting roped into "rounds" for large groups, and know when to call it a night.

Even if you ignore all my advice on money, look after yourself physically. Health is even more important than wealth.



This article was originally published by the Sydney Morning Herald on 22 June 2016. It represents the views of the author only and does not necessarily reflect the views of AMP.

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© AMP Life Limited. This provides general information and hasn’t taken your circumstances into account. It’s important to consider your particular circumstances before deciding what’s right for you. Although the information is from sources considered reliable, AMP does not guarantee that it is accurate or complete. You should not rely upon it and should seek qualified advice before making any investment decision. Except where liability under any statute cannot be excluded, AMP does not accept any liability (whether under contract, tort or otherwise) for any resulting loss or damage of the reader or any other person.