By Yvonne Hignell, Care and Support Services Director
Putting together a budget will give you a snapshot of your outgoings and also help you spot how you can save money. If you have a goal such as buying a house, reducing debt or saving for a holiday, then budgeting is a good place to start.
To get the most out of your budget, review it regularly to make sure it still accurately reflects your income and expenses.
Before you start, take some time to dig out any information that could help you calculate your income and expenses. This could include:
- Rent/mortgage payments
- Grocery receipts
Our website has a useful online tool that you can use to calculate your expenses. It produces a handy downloadable pie chart that shows you the proportions of your income that are spent on each outgoing. Visit http://ben.org.uk/need-help-now/financial-health-wellbeing/6208-2/ to give it a go.
If you’re not sure how much you spend on smaller outgoings, such as snacks and going out, try making a note of everything you buy for a month or keep receipts and add them all up after a few weeks. You might be surprised at how much you spend on the little things.
Identify potential cuts
Are there any expenses that you can cut down on? Do you have a gym membership you don’t use? Can you reduce the number of coffees you buy each week? You might not realise that if you spend £2.20 on a latte five times per week, then it will cost you over £570 each year!
Keep these things in mind when you put together your budget. Rather than cutting them out completely, try setting yourself a spending limit. Allowing some wiggle room may help you stick to your targets.
Putting a budget together
When budgeting, be as realistic as possible. Set money aside for your essential expenses, such as food, bills and rent, and then divide up the rest between savings and treats.
If possible, allow some leeway for more expensive times of the year, for example Christmas time or when you need to buy essential items like a new pair of glasses.
For most of us, household bills make up a huge chunk of our spending. Check to see if there are any providers that could provide cheaper services and see if they have any deals on for new customers.
The website, Which? has some great tips for reducing energy bills, including a tool to help find the best providers in your area.
Sticking to your budget
A good way to monitor day-to-day expenses is to download a budgeting app to your phone such as Expense Manager for Android or iPhone. You can set budgets for different types of expenses and monitor how much money you have left to play with.
If you go over budget one month, don’t beat yourself up about it. Work out why you couldn’t stick to it and see what you can do to improve during the next month. You can find more tips on sticking to budgets on our downloadable helpsheet.
If you’re struggling to make ends meet and find yourself slipping into debt, then seek advice as soon as possible. You can find more advice on subjects including priority debt and credit scores in our financial health section.
You can also contact Ben’s support team through our web chat or call our free and confidential support line on 08081 311 333.