Christmas is over, money has been tight at the beginning of the year. How can you make sure your money stretches to cover all the bills and you’re not left short each month? Also, managing your money better could mean you don’t incur bank charges, late payment charges and unnecessary interest, so could save you money in the long run. It might even mean you have spare cash left over that you didn’t have before. Follow our budget tips to get on top of those finances.
Write it down
You will need to start out by setting your budget. This will help you to see what money you have coming in and what payments you need to make. If you sit down with a few months’ worth of bank statements and see what payments you have going out – when do they leave the account? Do you even still have the thing you are paying for? Make sure you’re not still paying for a gym membership that you haven’t used in 3 years or paying mobile insurance on a phone you upgraded last year. You might be surprised that some of your outgoings aren’t needed anymore. It’s a great way to start – cutting out the unnecessary payments will automatically save you money.
As well as listing your household bills, fuel, shopping, don’t forget to include money for those things we always forget about – socialising and present buying. Even if it’s only £10 a month, add it to your budget. Some experts say you should agree an amount each month and put this to one side, even if you might not spend it that month. There’s always one month where everyone seems to have a birthday, so planning for this means it won’t be a stressful month when it does arrive.
Download a free to use budget tool or make up your own spreadsheet. Depending how confident you are with setting up and using Excel spreadsheets, you could set up your own budget spreadsheet or download one of the many free versions online. There are even apps for your phone or tablet so you can access your budget on the move. Find the tool that works best for you. Once it’s set up. It will be easy to keep on top of and keep updated. Your bank or building society might even have a free tool you can use, or you can just rely on good old pen and paper. Find what works and what you feel comfortable with and make that start.
Look at what you spend
So you’ve worked out what’s coming in and what’s going out. But there’s some weeks where you have more going out than coming in and you can’t seem to manage to cover everything. Take a look at what you’re paying out – where can you cut back? Enjoy a morning coffee? That £3 every morning on the way to work is costing you £375 a year! Can you make it at home and take a flask or just wait until you get to work? Same with lunches – the meal deals seem cheap enough, but at £4 or £5 a day, the costs soon add up. Take a look and see where you can cut out unnecessary things. What else are you paying out? Do you pay for insurance you don’t need? What about mobile cover? Check your bank account – some include cover for things like this, so you may be able to cut down some of these expenses too. Are you paying for a bank account? Do you actually use the services it provides? If not, then consider getting rid of it. If you don’t benefit from the money you pay out, it’s wasted and is better spent elsewhere.
Although this might seem like you’re penny pinching, these savings really do make a difference. Remember, you may not be making those ends meet at the moment, or you may have your sights set on a family holiday. Whatever your aim is, you need to keep the spending under control.
If it’s not a regular thing every day or each week, take a look at your bank statements again, or keep a spending diary for a few weeks. Popping to the local shop for a box of cereal every few days will cost considerably more than buying more during your weekly shop, so if you know where your money is going, it’s easier to find better ways to save.
Save on your household bills
When was the last time you switched your mortgage, gas and electric or even your TV subscription service? We all know that loyalty means nothing, and new customers get the best deals, so take advantage. If you’ve had that Sky or Virgin package for years and you’ve never switched, have a look at what you could save by switching or cancelling all together. Sometimes you can haggle down your price by calling up and saying you need to cancel – you might be offered a cheaper package deal for another 12 or 18 month contract. Make sure you’re aware what you’re signing up to though and make a note of when your price will go back up. Don’t waste any time in calling them back when you’re price goes up – look around and keep getting the best deal.
Same goes for your gas and electric accounts. There are plenty of online comparison sites that can guide you through the process of finding the best deal and switching. It’s not the nightmare it used to be and sometimes you can still switch even if you have debt on your accounts. Make sure you review the companies involved and are aware what you’re agreeing to. The comparison sites have all the information you need, so take a little time and read up about how much you could save.
Look at your debt
You might have debt on loans or credit cards. Depending on your credit score, you could try switching your credit card debt to a 0% interest offer, meaning you get to pay off more of the balance. Head over to The Money Advice Service for advice on switching and managing your debts to make sure you know what you’re getting into.
If you have more serious debt issues, take a look at The Money Advice website for ideas on where you can get more targeted support so you can tackle your debts and get on top of things. Don’t let things spiral out of control when there’s people who can help.
Money Saving Expert is also a good source of advice and information to help you get on top of your budget, manage those monthly spends and get those great deals for your household bills. Open Learn also run a free online course for helping you to manage your personal budget. Registration and the course are free to complete and it’s all online, so you can complete it at your own pace.
Stick to your budget and review
So now you know where you stand – you’ve got it all written down, know when everything needs to be paid and might even have some money left at the end of the month. So what now? It’s a good idea to review your budget regularly. Your situation may change – some of your payments may increase or decrease, so it’s important to keep your budget updated with these ongoing costs, as well as remembering to review your household bills regularly like car and home insurance. Making sure you’re getting the best price for your services is one of the easiest ways you can save money.
How can The Wage Shop help?
We make sure your payroll is managed correctly, meaning you can relax knowing your Tax and National Insurance obligations are met. We also offer a Pay Day Advance service, so if you’re struggling to get things paid on time you can get an advance of up to 90% on your wages to help keep things ticking over. Click Payment Advance to get started, or head over to the website for more details. We also have great offers for you to take advantage of. Head over and check out the latest deals.
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