As rocketing fuel and electricity prices place even greater demand on stretched pockets, the task of saving money and building your wealth may seem more daunting than ever.

But in tough economic times, the key to keeping your financial goals on track is to work smarter, not harder.

With this in mind, here are three simple, yet powerful tips for optimising your savings:

1. Trim the fat

It’s often more difficult to increase your income than it is to cut down on spending.

Trim the fat from your budget by consciously cutting out wasteful or unnecessary expenditure. Shop around and compare monthly premiums on your insurance or mobile package, cancel any subscriptions that you may not be using, cut down on takeaways or nights out at restaurants, or look for ways to maximise your savings through any retail loyalty programmes.

Once you have freed up some room in your budget, channel these funds into savings instead. If you haven’t already done so, set up a monthly debit order for your savings and investments. Find a realistic and comfortable amount that does not place you under unnecessary financial pressure and, with time, gradually aim to increase this amount.

Remember that a monthly investment of just R250 a month that achieves an average annual return of 7.5% net of fees would grow to as much as R18 131.78 within five years, and a handsome R44 482.59 within 10 years.

2. Put ‘lazy’ funds to work

Whether you are saving towards an educational course, a deposit on a home or simply creating a rainy-day fund to see you through any unexpected emergencies, consider putting your short-term savings to work inside a money market or capital preservation fund, or even an interest-bearing bank account such as a call deposit.

Through the power of compound interest, whereby both your initial capital and the interest earned on your capital earn additional interest, your savings will then grow and generate more wealth as opposed to lying stagnant in a no-interest or current account.

For example, if you invest R1 000 in a money market fund that earns average annual interest of 7% compounded monthly after fees, in 12 months your savings would grow to R1 072.29 – even without making any additional contributions.

Research, ask questions and compare different financial products and options – the difference this one change could make to your savings over time could be substantial.

3. Invest efficiently

Growth within tax-efficient investment vehicles such as a Tax-Free Savings Account (TFSA) or a retirement fund such as a pension fund, provident fund or retirement annuity (RA) is free of Capital Gains Tax, Dividends Withholding Tax and tax on interest.

And the power of compound interest again means that the benefit of these additional tax savings over time could be really meaningful to your long-term investment outcomes, essentially giving you “more bang for your buck”.

You are allowed tax deductions of up to 27.5% of your salary to a maximum of R350 000 each year for contributions to a retirement fund, reducing your annual tax burden. However, the income you draw from these funds after you retire will be taxed.

In terms of TFSAs, every person can invest up to a maximum of R33 000 each year (or R2 750 a month), and up to R500 000 over their lifetime. Although contributions are not tax deductible, you will also not be taxed when you withdraw from the fund.

Demonstrating the potency of these tax benefits, take the example of an investor who contributes R2 750 each month to a TFSA until they reach the lifetime limit of R500 000 (or for 15 years and two months). Assuming that this investor achieves an average annual return of 10% net of fees, their tax savings over the life of their investment would have amounted to nearly R135 000, boosting their final investment outcome to more than R1.17 million.

While following these three steps may at first glance seem time-intensive or difficult, the reality is that the process is often far simpler and speedier than you might think – with exponential benefits for your savings.

However, if you feel at all uncertain or confused, seek professional advice, or contact your investment provider for more information on the different savings and investment products available.

Article credit