Budget like a pro

       

Natalie Bond

We all appreciate that money is often easier to spend than it is to accumulate but it need not be an unsolvable riddle as to how to make it through from pay cheque to pay cheque. The pressure to spend is intense. Everywhere we turn it seems we are being told that this good or service is an essential and not a luxury. Even the mundane bills shout from the rooftops to be paid first. In some cases, it may seem like the income to expenditure ratio is out of whack. Depending on the frequency and duration of this income and expenditure imbalance, credit such as bad credit loans may help but not if they become a habitual part of your cash-flow funding. If you take the time out to evaluate your finances, on the other hand, you may find that you're simply overspending and can achieve the same standard of living including covering essential bills but for less. There are several benefits of sticking to a budget such as reducing your stress levels for one. When you stick to a budget, you will find you have more spare cash which could contribute to an emergency fund. Budgeting is also a great way to help you work towards living a financially balanced life.

We have put together this guide to list practical ways to make your budgeting venture as stress-free as possible.

Monitor your spending

Before you can set a budget that is attainable for you, you might need to look at what you're spending money on. The purpose of this isn't for you to become obsessive about every pound you spend. It is to help you get a deeper insight into where your money is going. Through this exercise, you should be able to identify where most of your money is spent as well as areas in which you can cut down. The sole purpose of budgeting is to allocate your money to areas that are most important to your financial needs.


Budgeting can be tough

To monitor your spending, you can try writing down all of your expenditures over a month starting from payday. If you're not so good at writing things down, try using an app to track your expenses instead. There are several ones available that will calculate your expenses for you using different methods including your bank account. If you opt for that sort of app, it may be smart to stick to card payments so it is as accurate as possible. By the end of this exercise, you should have a good indication of where your money is going. For example, you may find you're overspending on eating out and entertainment. This should hopefully inspire a change in how you spend in certain areas and prepare you for the next suggestion.

Top 10 impulse buys

  • Chocolate bars and sweets
  • Clothes
  • Takeaways
  • Coffee
  • Gaming apps
  • Beauty products
  • Magazines and newspapers

Set a goal

The first and possibly most important step of stress-free budgeting is actually setting up a realistic budget. This should outline as accurately as possible how much you're spending as well as how much you're making. Set yourself a financial goal based on what it is you want to accomplish. You may be tired of taking out an emergency loan so frequently and just want to have money stashed away for rainy days. On the other hand, you might want to save towards a holiday you've been dreaming about for some time. Whatever the case, calculate how much it will cost and what monthly savings are required to achieve it. You can use your findings from monitoring your spending to outline specific areas where you can afford to spend less as well as ways to make it happen. Set an agreed amount for each area in which you spend the most and work out things that you could spend less on or cut out altogether.



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Save

Learning the art of saving isn't always an easy task. It takes a lot of discipline to put money aside and also not to spend it. You might find your saving efforts are more effective if you learn to save money as soon as you get paid. This also means that you've started your budgeting efforts for the month on a good note as you know you've already started saving towards your goal. You will then be forced to manage whatever you have left over to cover the remainder of your expenses. If you find that you have trouble putting money aside, a direct debit could work well for you. Set up a monthly standing order on the day you get paid so that it leaves your account before you even see it. Try and ensure that it is a reasonable amount so you have enough left to cover your bills and other needs. If you spend more than you can afford, you could end up needing an emergency loan before the month runs out. If not, you may be forced to dip into your savings pot which is counterproductive for your saving goals.


Budget to achieve your saving goals

Payment methods

The way you pay for things can make a big difference in how easy it is to stick to a set budget. Some payment methods make it easier to overspend than others do, so it may be worth exploring some of the methods you use. We have outlined a few below that you may tend to use often and ways in which they may help reduce the stress in budgeting.

Making card payments has its benefits and is a great way to track your spending as it is documented in your statement. For one, you may end up spending less time queuing at cash machines. It also reduces the need to carry cash around. With the introduction of the contactless option, it is much faster when you're shopping and making in-store payments. Taking all these things into consideration, card payments can also make spending a little bit too easy. The ease at which you can make purchases can lead to you overspending and going outside of your budget. This might mean it makes sense to ditch your card when you're going out. This may especially be necessary when you're going to places in which you tend to spend a lot of money. Leaving your card at home also helps to prevent impulse spending which can often lead to an emergency loan at the end of the month.

Carrying cash around can seem very inconvenient in this day and age. There are factors such as losing it to consider, as well as not liking to carry around physical notes and noisy coins. When it comes to budgeting, cash does have its advantages however. Firstly, carrying cash means you can only spend as much as you withdraw at a time. Although you can always withdraw more, if you leave your card at home as suggested, you'll be more conscious about your spending. It is also a good way to track your expenditure as you can withdraw a set amount daily or weekly. Carrying cash is a good way to stay on top of your finances if you tend to spend on random things. This way your direct debits can come out for your bills and you spend within your cash limit for the rest of your needs and wants.

Do you have an online site that you regularly find yourself shopping at? If so, you probably have your card details saved there as well. This might lead to impulse purchases that you later regret. Try removing card details that have been saved on all of your favourite shopping sites. It doesn't necessarily mean that you won't end up purchasing anything, but it will give you a moment to think about it first. It also means that if your card isn't with you, shopping won't be possible. Impulse buys tend to make us overspend or buy things we don't need. On the other hand, planned spending means we have time to look for bargains as well as decide if that purchase is the best thing to buy at that time.

Eliminate phone payments

Some smartphones now offer the option of making in-store payments with your phone. This is convenient as it is a quick and easy payment option. It can, however, like many convenient payment methods lead to overspending. Perhaps consider removing the function from your phone to help reduce temptation. By doing this, you will be better able to control your spending as the option to spend isn't so readily available. It will take some discipline but will also take you closer to your financial goals. By putting measures in place to control your finances, you make budgeting less stressful.

Regulate store card usage

Similar to credit cards, store cards are an easy way to get carried away with discounts, sales, and spending that isn't within your budget. Like with your debit cards, you could choose to leave them at home when you're going out and think you'll be tempted to spend. You could also set a spending limit and include it in your budget as we suggested you do with your credit cards. Although store cards can also play a positive role in building your credit if you find yourself continuously overspending perhaps get rid of it altogether.

Increase your income

As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, sometimes we are unable to stick to a budget because we are overspending. However, in some instances, the issue is that we truly aren't earning enough. If this is the case, you will find budgeting to be a stressful and almost impossible task. If your earnings just about cover your expenses, it isn't practical to try and save for anything else. You may then need to begin exploring how to increase your income. You could consider looking for a higher paid job or working towards getting a raise.

Conclusion

There is a sense of satisfaction that you may derive from knowing that in the case of a financial emergency, you have some money kept away. Not needing an emergency loan can also bring a form of security and reduce the stresses that accompany unexpected bills or not having enough due to overspending. Budgeting is what makes this possible and we hope this guide has shown you that it doesn't need to be stressful. The key is in finding a system that works for you and being as disciplined as possible. As outlined above, set a goal and try your best to see it through. It doesn't necessarily mean depriving yourself of all of the things that make you happy. It just means you may not be able to have them all at once. If this means you will be able to reach a financial goal that will make you happier in the long-run, then it might just be worth the sacrifice.

Let us know some of your own budgeting tips? You can contact us on our social media pages.

Budgeting can be a rewarding experience and may mean that you can avoid cash-flow shocks reducing the need for bad credit loans.