Saving: The Simple First Step of Personal Finance

By Chi Toan 'Anthony' Nguyen

Do you think you have the spirit of an entrepreneur? Do you want to be a leader who inspires people in the future? According to Jim Collins’s ‘Level 5 Leadership’ framework, the first level, or step, would be being a capable individual. (I don’t know why he calls it “Level 5 Leadership” but not “5 Levels of Leadership”, you can Google it or keep an eye on the YET Blog so you can see my next article when it comes out).

I agree with Mr. Collins because being a capable individual means that you can get the job not just done, but well done. It shows that you are competent at managing yourself. You need to manage yourself, lead yourself before you lead others, right? We can talk a lot about self-management but for now, I would like to talk about personal finance.

Why personal finance? Let’s say you want to open a small business. You will, of course, need some startup money. The simplest way to help make that happen is to save. You can have a great idea, write a perfect business plan, and go to a bank or people you know, asking for a loan. But in reality, this does not always work. Plus, learning to control your own money will help you when it comes to managing money within your startup.

You may think, who am I to teach you about finance? Well, I’m simply sharing from my real experience while living in one of the most expensive countries in the world: Switzerland. I am 22 years old, and study as a BBA student at Swiss IM&H, a hospitality school in the Lucerne area. I will talk about my “finance strategy” during my internship time. Every year brings six months of in-classroom study at school and a six-month internship working full time to learn on the job. While working, I get a lower salary than the average Swiss employee in my role. Since my first year, I have managed to save on average 50% of my net salary during my internship months.

Somebody can say that saving is no good, you should invest. Or why do you save money when they are printing it? Yes, Robert Kiyosaki, author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, uses debt to invest but you need a solid finance education to do that. If you are an average person like me, my suggestions can work for you. I agree investing is good. However, saving is the first simplest step to do that.

To start off, let’s take a look at my monthly income and expenses.

My income after taxes and compulsory insurance will be around 2000 Swiss Francs (CHF).

I spend 500 CHF for my rent which includes laundry, electricity, water, and wifi.

My additional personal budget is 100 CHF for food (I cook at home) and then 50 CHF to travel and buy something that I need or want.

My strategy follows likes this:

1. Target work opportunities that also provide or subsidize accommodation.

That way you can save money on accommodation and potentially on commuting because you are not far from work. In my case, I often stay in the hotel or restaurant where I work so I can take the stairs/elevator to work or home. As a precaution, it is likely that the room will not be very big, perhaps 9 to 12 or 15 square meters, enough for a bed, a desk and a cupboard. That is enough for a college student. I do still have space for my yoga mat on the floor. 500 CHF is the average rent for a single room in Switzerland, though some cantons will be a little more expensive. However, one alternative is finding and renting an apartment with friends.

2. Watch your mouth.

Why do I say ‘mouth’ instead of ‘food’? Because there are things that are expensive but are not needed for our body and you consume them with your mouth. Can you name them?

Yes, alcohol and cigarettes. You can be healthy without them. You can enjoy life and be productive at work or even more productive than with them. I am not saying that you should never drink wine or enjoy a cigar. I work in hotels and restaurants. I sell them. Their true value is to be enjoyed during certain occasions, not too often nor abused.

If you often enjoy them for fun, make some simple calculations and see how much money you can save eliminating, or reducing, them from your life. Knowing that, you will realize what actually makes you happy. Drinking or smoking a lot will result in greater expenses sooner or later: health care and medicine. See the real cost behind those?

Back to food. If you look closely, basic ingredients are usually fairly cheap. In Switzerland, grains, vegetables, beans, pasta, and fruit are affordable. You can find them at the M-Budget section in Migros, Prix in Coop, or discount shops, such as Lidl and Aldi. My principle is to consume only what you need and be aware of your greed. I do give myself a light dinner or an afternoon tea once per month. It helps me to relax, and enables me to change my point of view from the service provider to the customer and to learn from other establishments.

Because I’m on a budget, getting enough nutrition is a point to consider. For that reason, I have researched online and have seen that a wholesome vegan/vegetarian diet can cut the cost and ensure my nutritional intake at the same time. I don’t consume a lot of food. Instead I try to make my digestion more effective. I always eat with gratitude. When one’s mind is thankful and in the moment, the body also relaxes and absorbs nutrition more effectively. Mindful eating. Plus, I chew my food at least 30 to 50 times before swallowing to reduce the work for my stomach.

Buying dry goods in bulk, like grain and beans, is always good practice, while looking for vegetables and fruits that are seasonal and discounted. You could even pick some of your own where permitted. I often eat oats, brown rice, lentil, carrots, cabbage, kale, different nuts and seeds, and apples. I also gather wild berries and dandelions in fields or mountains.

3. Consider other expenses.

You may be thinking, “Where is the budget for entertainment and self-development? Or 50 CHF is too little for that.”

True happiness comes from inside. Entertainment can make you relax but it can not give you sustainable happiness. The more stressful or bored you are, the more you want to entertain or to be entertained. Does this ring true for you? The truth is if somebody is really happy with their work and personal life, they don’t need entertainment. As Mark Twain once said: “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”

And if you still want to spend your money to “pat yourself on the back”, consider this:

“Research shows that experiences are the much better buy — if you're looking to maximize the happiness for your dollars”. - Business Insider

I enjoy my job and I also enjoy my free time. On my days off, I often go hiking or swimming. Switzerland is beautiful. I will never forget the treks through Swiss Alp villages and forests for spectacular panoramic views. A hike costs you time but not money. I bring my own food with me and reward myself with a drink or snack from a local place, if I feel so inclined. If the weather doesn’t allow for a hike, I will go swimming in an indoor pool. For self development, I borrow books from my colleagues and learn a lot on the internet - with wifi included in my rent.

Remember, saving is only the first step. The next step is investing. Invest in yourself and invest in developing passive income channels. By investing in yourself, you will be able to create more value, and the value we create increases our chances of higher income.

I hope this was helpful for you and that you can actually apply it to have capital to start a small project or donate to charity. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, comments, and/or questions below.


(NOVEMBER 12, 2020) Supermarkets 101 – How to get your groceries in Switzerland, Available at: (Accessed: 14/4/2021)

() Meiringen-Hallenbad, Available at: (Accessed: 14/4/2021).

(2021) 7 IMPORTANT BENEFITS OF CHEWING YOUR FOOD, Available at: (Accessed: 14/4/2021)

(2021) Art. 11 Mindestlohn für Praktikanten, Available at: (Accessed: 14/4/2021).