Here’s to taking a marathoner’s approach to saving money

A marathon is a fairly technical sport. You don’t just wake up one morning and go for a 42.2 km run. Neither do you buy a house on impulse, unless you’re super rich.

If you are an average Joe and happen to be a runner, you’ll know what this article is about. If you’re not a runner, then one of two things will happen after you read this.

You’ll either become a runner or you’ll find the road-map you were looking for to be able to start saving money for that dream house or car.

1. Get the goals right

• Set the main goal first

Generally, runners pick an event they want to participate in based on how interested they are in that event, and how much time they have to prepare for it.

It’s much the same with saving. Decide when you want to buy that house or car you’ve always wanted. Calculate the down payment and give yourself enough time to save for it.

The trick is not to choose a time frame that gives you too much room to relax or choose too short a time frame that doesn’t give you enough time to save.

• Set the intermediate goals

Now that the main goal has been set, the training needs to be planned. Runners will usually set interim goals like, run up to 10 km in six to eight weeks, then run up to 21 km run in 14-16 weeks.

For your savings goal, you can plan to start saving at least 10% of your income for the first few months.

Going on to year two, you can up it to 20-25%. Just like the uniqueness of the training plans, savings plans will also have to be custom-built for you.

The best way to do this would be to write down every single thing you spend on for one month. Then see how much the target 10-25% comes to.

Now that you have the number you need to save each month, start adjusting your expenses to ensure that you can make the savings without losing too much of your life.

Basically, create a budget and stick to it.

2. Train hard

There are several things runners do to ensure they hit their training goals – strict diet plans and ensuring that nutrition doesn’t suffer. They also ensure they stick to the plan and not have too many cheat days.

What this means to your plan to save is that the new Assassins Creed game (with the season pass) is not an emergency and you don’t have to break into your savings to buy it.

Nothing should change your plan to save that 10-25%.

3. Don’t lose focus

Focus is the key to savings or running but it’s not something that’s easy to maintain. These are a few tips to keep you focussed.

• Count down, not up

Instead of thinking about how you have only completed 32 km, think that you only have 10 km more to go before it ends.

Say your goal is RM20,000 and you have saved RM5,000. Instead of looking at it as only RM5,000, look at it as only RM15,000 to reach your goal.

• Keep pace

Every runner has a target pace in minutes to get them to their goals and that applies to savings as well.

Don’t slow your commitment to save money for anything. Keep putting money aside at the same pace as your plan dictates. If you fall behind, you’ll get left behind.

• Learn to zone out

One of the most important skills for runners is the ability to zone out. A long run is… long. If you keep looking at the distance covered, you’re either going to get bored or demotivated.

The best thing to do is not bother. Check on your progress from time-to-time but for the rest of the time, just let it be and forget that you have money in another account.

4. Get a partner

While running is largely a solo sport, there is no doubt that having a running partner can help you crawl out of bed on those cold, dark mornings.

Similarly, if you get a partner, someone to save with you, you could bolster each other’s resolve when it shows signs of weakening.

Remember, saving enough for that dream house or car cannot happen overnight.

Marathons can’t be run without training, and houses or cars can’t be bought without money. If you follow the course, you will have a bank balance you can be proud of.

This article first appeared in BBazaar.my

BBazaar Malaysia (BBazaar.my) is part of BankBazaar International, the world’s leading neutral online marketplace that helps people decide on financial products such as insurance, credit cards, fixed deposits, saving accounts, mutual funds and many more.