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It is a hard time to stay focus on your budget especially that you have other things to prioritize such as utility bills, the tuition fees for your children, groceries and other miscellaneous activities that require money to spend. Is it indeed tough right? But there are ways for you to always stay on a budget without leaving you and your family hungry.
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Saving is difficult. Locking away money which you could be spending right now is a challenge for many of us for a variety of reasons. When it comes to long-term savings goals, regularly setting aside money can be even more of a challenge! Without any positive feedback, it is easy to get distracted by shorter term goals and desires – pushing your long-term plans even further into the future.
Luckily, there are plenty of tips and tricks you can try to keep your eyes on the prize, and successfully save for your long term goals without getting distracted by what you could buy right now.
Set a Clear Target
The first step towards reaching a large savings goal is simple: name it. Write down what exactly you’re saving for – whether it’s a deposit for a mortgage, a new car, or to clear your debts – and work out exactly how much you want to save. NS&I, the UK government’s savings bank, found that savers with a specific goal in mind were able to save much faster, setting aside an extra £550 per year, on average, compared to those who did not have a clear target.
When considering long-term goals such as these, it’s a good idea to keep inflation in mind. As prices rise, you may need to save more than you initially think.
Let the Bank help
Considering inflation leads us on to our next tip for keeping up with long-term savings goals: make sure you find the best savings account possible. Usually, flexible, easy-access savings accounts will have lower interest rates than accounts with more rigid requirements. You are likely to get the best interest rates with a savings account such as an ISA (Individual Saving Account). ISAs have, in the past, had the best interest deals for savers, but since the introduction of a personal tax-free savings allowance in 2016, they might not necessarily be the best option.
Some ISAs will require you to make a set contribution each month, and for fixed rate ISAs, accessing your funds before the end of its term will incur early access fees, so it is important to make sure you can afford the amount you plan to invest in an ISA every single month for an extended period of time.
Alternatively, Money Saving Expert has compiled a list of some of the best easy-access savings accounts. If you’re likely to have to dip into your fund in a pinch, an account like this is likely your best option.
Keep yourself Motivated
Like all long-term goals, motivation is key. One of the best ways to stay motivated is to make sure you celebrate your progress as you gradually save towards your goal. You might split the amount you ultimately want to save into smaller milestones, and treat yourself to a celebratory dinner, cinema trip, or other small treat to acknowledge your progress so far and encourage you to keep saving.
Your savings are likely to come out of cutting back on your day-to-day spending, which can be difficult to maintain at times. When resisting temptation, or making a particularly challenging lifestyle change, try and remember your ultimate goal! It might be tough now, but just think how satisfying it will be to achieve your goal in the end – which you will if you stick to your budget.
Don’t pay more than you have to on Debts
One area where you could be saving is on debt repayments – you might be spending more than you could be on interest. If you have credit card debt, you could see whether you can transfer your balance to a card with a 0% interest introductory offer. These offers usually last for around 12 months, which is a considerable time to have a break from paying interest! If your debts are unmanageable, though, steps like this might not be enough to break the cycle, and getting out of debt should be your main financial goal, so you are free to begin saving for the things you really want.
If your debt can’t be brought under control by making lifestyle changes and saving where you can, it could be time for a formal solution such as an IVA. In this debt solution, you pay a single affordable payment every month, and write off your remaining debt at the end of the plan. To find out more, click here.
Balance the Long and Short Term
Another way to make sure you don’t get distracted from your long term goals is, ironically, to make sure you save for things in the shorter term too. Splitting your disposable income between two separate saving funds – one for your long-term goals, and one for shorter term goals – will serve you better than putting every last penny towards a goal that’s far in the future.
Saving for goals such Christmas, a holiday, or a new laptop, will ensure you stay committed to saving, since you can see the fruits of your efforts much more quickly. Your shorter term savings goals should also include a ‘rainy day’ fund if possible. If you put all of your money into your long term savings, you’ll be forced to dip into it when unexpected expenses hit, which is bad for your savings and your motivation levels! In the end, slow and steady wins the race when it comes to long-term savings.
“Create a budget!” – that’s often the first piece of advice you’ll be given when you’re hoping to get a better grasp of your finances.
But, unless you know how to put together a good budget, that person might as well be telling you to play a piano concerto – easy if you know how, but if not, you’ll come unstuck pretty quickly.
A budget is important – and working without one can lead you into unforeseen financial difficulties with no hope of climbing back out. So, we’ll walk you through the 8 most important steps that’ll take you closer to understanding your household money.
Step 1. Gather your paperwork – and your thoughts
Guesswork is the number one enemy of the budgeter – you might think you’re accurate, but the chances are you’ll be missing odd details or underestimating costs.
So, instead of best-guessing, make sure you’re got the relevant paperwork or access to information close at hand.
These things are going to be vital:
- Bank statements or access to online account records
- Household bills
- Credit card statements
- Any other records of money that is spent or earned
Try to access this information for a period of around 3-4 months. If you don’t have the info to hand, take a bit of time to order old statements or check online accounts.
Step 2. Decide on a timescale
For most people, planning a budget over a month makes sense – but that’s only really because monthly payroll is the norm.
If you’re paid weekly, consider doing your budget to also span a week.
Step 3. Work out your incomings
The next step is to add up everything that comes into the house money-wise.
The important thing here is to look at your salary and other incomings after any deductions – this is normally easily done since they’re almost always worked out for you on your payslip.
Adding up your incoming salary is easy if it’s a fixed amount, however, if it’s not, it’s better to use an ‘average’ amount you bring in. To get the average, add up the amounts you’ve earned over your last 3 paydays and divide that number by 3.
Remember though, there might be other household incomings to add in. Make sure you account for:
- Partner’s income
- Allowances/benefit payments
- Additional income from second job(s)
Again, take an average where needed. When all these factors are added together you’ve got your monthly household income.
Step 4. What are your essential out-goings?
Now, everyone’s essential spending is going to be a little different – but the most important word here is ‘essential’ – meaning, these are the things you need to spend that are absolutely non-negotiable. An average household list will look something like this:
- Rent/mortgage payment
- Household insurance
- Utility bills
- Council tax
- Mobile phone bill(s)
- Credit card repayments
- Transport costs (could be public transport – or car and associated costs)
- Loan repayments
- Food shopping costs
You might not have all of these things – and you might have more, but remember, account for absolutely everything.
It’s going to pay to be as accurate as possible here – try not to guess at a gas bill for example – it’s very easy to under-estimate. Be certain that you’re ticking off payment amounts as you identify them on your statements.
Again, finding an average here is a good idea, especially when things like utility bills and mobile phone bills can change month to month – so, cover these costs for the last 3 months and divide them again by 3.
When you’ve got this figure, you know what your essential out-goings cost.
- Calculate your disposable income
Now, quite simply – taking your essential out-goings figure from your household income figure is going to give you your disposable income.
Your monthly household income is £1800
Your essential monthly out-goings total £1000
Your disposable income is £800 each month
Now, this disposable figure you’ve come to might look great – but often a lot of this can be accounted for too.
- Spending of disposable income
Unless you never leave the house other than to work, there’s going to be some spending of disposable income to add up. Think about the things you spend money on that aren’t ‘essential’:
- Hobbies/pass times
- Gym membership
- TV subscriptions
- Going out
- Clothes shopping
- Restaurants/takeaway spending
At this stage, try not to make any judgement about spending on these items – virtually everyone in the country spends on non-essential things, and trying to cut them out altogether isn’t realistic, it’s better to get an accurate picture of where you stand.
- Keeping track of spending
You’ll now have an overview of what your financial picture looks like – incomings, outgoings – and other costs.
If you want to really get on top of your budget, you’re going to now want to keep track of everything you spend. There are a couple of ways of doing this – you might keep you receipts so you can tot up your spending manually – or even add the amounts to a personal budgeting app.
If you can, allocate a few minutes each day to making sure you add up your spending. It’s much easier to do it a little each day – rather than trying to backtrack and do it once a week or month.
- Make adjustments moving forward
Now it’s time to consider your priorities!
Glancing over your records of spending might point out some obvious areas to work on changing. For example, if you can see that socialising costs you 50% of all your disposable income, but you’re hoping to save for a holiday next year or a clear a credit card bill – then maybe that’s an area that could be scaled back a little to help you toward your goal?
Keeping an accurate awareness of where your money is going is the only way to get on top and master your own finances.
Credit and debit cards take the ‘real life’ away from money – instead of it being coins in your hand, it’s just numbers on your banking app. If you can look at these numbers every day and make finances a part of your daily life – you’ll work out how you can live within your means.
It might feel like it, but you’re not the only person who worries about checking their account balance.
There are millions of people whose bills get paid through luck rather than strict budgeting – and millions of people who miscalculate and end up in debt.
The good news is, it’s never too late to get a grasp of your finances. Do these things now – and save yourself sleepless nights further down the line.
Know what you have to pay – and when
38% of people cannot name all the direct debits and autopayments that come out of their accounts. 56% of people cannot give accurate estimations of what all their direct debits and payments amount to.
If you’re going to get a handle on your money, it’s absolutely vital that you know what you have to pay and when it needs to be paid.
Check your bank statements or online banking and note down on a calendar or in a diary what these costs are and when they’re coming out. There’s nothing worse than going to use a cash-machine or pay for your shopping, only to find that you’ve forgotten a bill and have nothing left over.
It might be a bit painful to look at all your costs – but the first step toward handling things in a more manageable way is to understand exactly where your finances are right now.
Talk to the companies you owe
It’s tempting to pretend the companies you owe money to don’t exist – especially when they start chasing you if you drop behind on payments. Unfortunately, while you might be able to ignore them for a few months, they’re not going to ignore you – in fact, putting your ‘head in the sand’ often makes things a lot worse.
Talk to the companies you owe money to. Find out how much you owe and what the current state of your account is. If you’re struggling, you might be able to negotiate different payments or repayment terms.
Note down everything owed to companies who have given you credit – you don’t have to pay it off right now, but it’s useful to have an idea of how much your outgoings are and for how long those outgoings are going to need to be paid.
Create a budget
Making a budget doesn’t have to be hard. Add up all your household incomings, take away from that the essential bills you have to pay – and you’re left with an amount known as your ‘disposable income’.
You can work out how much of this disposable income you can spend each month, week – or even day, then, working within these figures means you’re far more likely to find yourself free from financial issues.
Set yourself allowances
Cards can be great can’t they? But they can’t tell you when the next round of drinks or lunch-time panini will take you over your agreed spending limit for the week.
When you work out how much you’ve got to spend over a period of time – consider taking ‘bitesize’ chunks of cash out of the bank. You can keep it securely in a safe or lockable tin at home – and the fact that it’s cash means that you’re never going to be able to spend more than you’ve got there.
It’s no coincidence that debt rises more quickly when money becomes abstract – rather than being in your hand. If you can see the amount – you stand a better chance of sticking to a spending plan.
Keep your receipts and note them
This might sound like a lot of hard work – but in reality, keeping and logging your receipts is only going to take you a couple of minutes each day – and it can shed a LOT of light on your spending habits.
Studies show that people underestimate their ‘incidental’ spending enormously – sometimes by up to 300%! By adding up your receipts you’ll get a true picture of what you spend your money on. You might want to start colour-coding too? When red means ‘takeaway’ and there’s a lot of red sneaking into your spreadsheet, you know it might be time to spend that money on a good cookbook instead!
Set yourself a goal
For a lot of people, a financial goal is just being able to get through the month without running out of money. Whether you’re struggling – or hoping for a beach holiday in the Maldives – making your goal known is an important part of getting there.
Write down where you’d like to be in a month, a year – or even 10 years. Perhaps consider writing it somewhere prominent so you don’t forget it?
By setting a goal and thinking about it each day – you’re more likely to keep on top of your good money habits – and not let spending run away with you.
Questioning every purchase is really important – even more so when you’ve got a goal in mind.
Instead of going on auto-pilot when you’re shopping or spending – ask yourself “Is this going to take my closer to, or further from my goal” – and act accordingly.
Now, there are some things that can’t be avoided – so in that case the answer might not matter – but by calling every transaction into question, you give yourself chance to assess your daily lifestyle and see if it’s in line with your long term hopes and dreams.
How does spending make you feel?
For some people, spending is a way of getting a feel-good hit that might be missing in their life otherwise.
Don’t underestimate the power that spending money has to make you feel good – and if that is that case, you’re not alone – not by a long way.
If cutting back on spending money has you feeling down, we urge you not to suffer without talking to someone. Perhaps start with your doctor – there’s an increasing realisation from medical professionals that money has a significant effect on people’s mental and physical well-being – so they’re almost certainly able to point you in the direction of support if your relationship with money is becoming difficult.
Be accountable to someone
Finally, don’t be ashamed! We can virtually promise that there are friends and family close to you going through exactly the same money worries as you. As the old saying goes – problem shared is a problem halved, so talk to someone you trust about your money situation.
It’s always nice to have an ally onside when you’re facing the money issues you’ve been avoiding – and they can keep you on track when temptation kicks in – and who knows, maybe they’ll want you to keep them on track too!
Overcoming the common mistakes of saving money is a good opportunity for you to be able to control. A breakthrough of impulse buying is one of the many things that you’ll need to have so that you can start building up again your money. The importance of planning a strategy gives you the benefit of having to save and even invest at the right time. Controlling your money is essential, and this gives you a better chance to give yourself a better future.
Bad habits- if you have the habit of not able to save money due to overspending or anything that hinders you from saving your money should be stopped. This is a good chance for you to pile up and stash savings whether it is the emergency or for your future sake. A road to financial success takes a lot of time, energy and effort before you can reach your ultimate goals. If you are overwhelmed with life, it is time to step up your game and change.
Not being able to control your money- this is one of the major concerns for most people who got stuck with so many debts. What is needed to be done now is to act on how you’re going to have a financial breakthrough and pay back all of your debts before you can save again. If you happened to be in this situation, consider this as a lesson learned so that you will know when to spend and not. Constantly spending will grow before you realize that you do not have spare change even to pay the smallest payment.
Here are the following ways that you can control your money and for you to have a better and brighter future ahead.
1. Be informed- the more you know about how much you have spent and the remaining balance that you have in the bank, gives you an idea to control things. Staying aware will help you conceive better decisions than having to repeat the same mistakes over and over.
2. Set goals- do you ever have goals to achieve? If so, it is a time that you stop living each day as if you’ll need to spend money. Having goals makes you want to earn what you truly deserve, and this is very helpful. This gives you a sense of security, comfort, and convenience that you can reach it with discipline and perseverance. Just like an athlete, to perform well is to train oneself to become a better individual.
3. Be organized- this implies to everything that you do in life. Take for example, if you are not setting a good ground for your future, do you think you will have an abundance of harvest? Always go back to the basics of life as this will remind you that living in simplicity provides an outcome that you will gain in the future.
4. Set a plan- manage your money. A goal without a plan is nothing, and this will only be a heartache if you see yourself going downhill. There are so many individuals who have never thought what their future will bring them.
Money can be the root of all evil if you do not know what you need in life. However, this can be controlled if you have the patience, determination, and discipline. It is not just that you are thrifty but because you want a kind of life that you can enjoy without any financial struggles in life. Lastly, if a few can truly make it, you can as well do it for the sake of your future.