For many people, January is all about goal setting, especially when it comes to their finances. We spoke to four people in the Starling customer service team in Southampton and asked what they’re saving for and how they plan to reach their targets. They all joined Team Starling in August 2019 and answer questions and queries from customers through calls, emails and live chat in the app, available 24/7.

Pippa Hall: Create and stick to a budget

“Forget hey big spender, I’m a big saver,” says Pippa Hall. To help her, she uses the Goals feature of the Starling app. It enables Starling customers to set target amounts and keep savings separate from their main bank balance.

You can also choose an image for whatever you’re saving for. For example, Pippa, 25, added a selfie with her partner for the savings pot she set up for their planned trip to the Philippines. “It reminds me what that savings Goal means to me,” she says. She plans to visit the Philippines, where she grew up, in the Spring and hopes to have enough to start flat hunting in the next 18 months. “For my flat deposit Goal I’ve used an idealised picture of the sort of living room I’d like.”

So how does she go about saving? “What I do is when I receive my salary, I deduct my rent and what I spend on food or bills. I then divide the remainder into three and put one third into savings. The remaining two thirds is divided to give me a budget.”

With the Starling app, the daily spending figures on the homescreen can help you keep to your budget. “With a card people can spend frivolously, compared to cash, but the Starling home screen brings back that tangibility.”

Sarah Nevill and Pippa Hall, Starling customer service agents

Sarah Nevill: Save your spare change

Before joining Starling’s customer service team, Sarah Nevill was a manager at the telecommunications company O2. “I really enjoyed working in technology and I liked that Starling’s main selling point was a really techy app. I’d worked in customer service since I was 18 but never in a call centre. But after I had the interview, it really felt like something I wanted to be part of.”

Sarah, 26, is saving for her first flat. “The goal that I’ve set myself is to have a deposit by 2022. I’m still planning to go to gigs, which is what I like to spend my money on. But I’ll do little weekends away rather than massive holidays.”

To save, she uses Round Ups. This feature of Starling means that if she spent £10.50 on seeing a band, 50p would be automatically rounded up into her savings. “It’s surprising how much you can save without noticing. It’s quite hard to put big chunks of money away but when it’s spare change it’s easier and it makes a difference.”

Keiren Pearce: Save with a student mindset

Keiren used a Starling card for his travels in South East Asia before he joined Starling customer service. He’s now using the app to save for another trip, this time to India. “I did six months backpacking and fell in love with the Starling card,” he says.

When he arrived home to Southampton, he decided not to go back to the traditional bank branch where he had previously worked. Instead, he applied to Starling. “The app layout is a lot more refined and easy to use compared to traditional banks,” he says.

Keiren, 25, studied filmmaking and creative media at Bristol University. Alongside his customer service role, he’s a guitarist in the band Costellos. “We’ve done some festivals like the Isle of Wight festival as well as touring nationwide and performing some shows in Europe,” he says.

The last time he went travelling, he set a target of £6000 for six months. Working in the bank branch before he joined Starling, he earned about £19,000 a year. He managed to set aside £1000 per month and lived on the remaining £300. “I put myself back in the mindset of being a student and lived within my means. I was living back with my mum and she let me off rent while I saved up. I also had a bit of money coming through the band.”

For India, he’s budgeting £3000. “I want to go for a couple of months and have some money left to tide me over after I get back. Last time, I landed in Heathrow not being able to afford a meal deal,” he remembers. “For India, I want to go to New Delhi, Agra, Varanasi, and then head to the mountains and chill there and write some music.”

Nancy Rockett and Keiren Pearce, Starling customer service agents

Nancy Rockett: Add to your existing Help to Buy ISA or start a Lifetime ISA

As a graduate in Make-Up and Hair Design, Nancy Rockett never expected to work for a digital bank. But just six months in, she’s already helping to train other customer service agents. For her, Starling is a long-term, stable job with lots of potential for progression.

Her advice for everyone on their first day at Starling is: “Enjoy it, don’t get nervous over small things - everyone’s here to chip in and help you. Ask lots of questions. We’re a team.”

Before working for Starling, Nancy, 24, studied at Solent University in Southampton and then worked in retail in London. “I was ready for a career change. I wanted to move back to Southampton anyway and when I saw that Starling had offices opening, it really caught my eye. I was interested in the concept of Starling and the way it’s made banking so much more accessible and easier to understand,” she says.

Like Pippa and Sarah, she’s saving for her first flat. She uses Goals and Round Ups to set money aside and then transfers the maximum amount she can into her Help to Buy ISA each month. As of November 2019, this government scheme has been closed for new applicants but applications for the Lifetime ISA, also for first-time buyers, remain open. Those who already opened the Help to Buy ISA can continue to contribute until 2029. This ISA enables first-time buyers to invest up to £12,000, which is topped up by the government by 25%. For example, if you set aside the maximum monthly amount of £200, the government will add £50.

“Now that I understand money a lot more and watch my finances, I’ll be able to save enough for a flat deposit. When I finished university I thought I’d never be able to buy a house but now I can work towards that.”

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