Stress free budgeting

       

Gordon Martin

If you are interested in helping your budget stretch further especially over key events such as Christmas or the summer holidays, it's very important that you adopt a series of strategies that can help you to budget and spend affordably. If you find yourself regularly struggling at the end of the month, then keeping a budget or even building up an emergency fund instead of turning to online loans, might be the idea for you. We have put a guide together of what we think are the best tips that you can use to save and budget. Here are some of the best ways to approach the concept of budgeting and make the most of your cash.

Set budget goals

To help make budgeting a habit think of some goals to aim towards, be that a debt free Christmas next year or a new car or gadget for the family. This will help you focus and stay on track with your budget. When you start to establish a long-term goal, such as having some extra money available for emergencies, it gets much easier to continue allocating a certain amount of money in your budget to these expenses. For extra motivation, look back on some of the times that your spending went awry and how that affected you and your family. This will provide an ideal lens to view the budgeting experience. Although it can be a bit negative (and we are all about the positive here at 247Moneybox.com), thinking about tougher times can be a great motivator and can be the difference when you are trying to stick to the rules you have set.

Track current spending

In order to make sure that you stay accountable to your budget it's very important that you work at regularly tracking your spending. There are a number of excellent applications that you can use to enjoy stress-free budgeting by going through the tracking of almost every expense that you have on a day-to-day basis. Using some of these applications through your financial institution or even just keeping a record of some of your receipts can help you identify various areas within your spending where you could work at enjoying some cost savings and an overall reduction in some of your spending habits. Tracking spending can show you just how much you are spending in each area of your budget and this can be especially helpful when you are starting to understand some of your spending patterns and how you can create an ongoing budget that you can stick to.


Crunch the numbers and budget

Top budget mantras

A mantra is a phrase or word that is repeated to aid concentration in mediation. You don't need to actually meditate but it can be great to focus the mind if you concentrate on a word or phrase. Here are our top phrases:

  • It's never too late to start saving money
  • Track your spending and pay bills on time
  • Pensions are important
  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket
  • Set aside an emergency fund
  • Start planning for additional responsibilities

Cash or not to cash

Some say that if you regularly use a credit or debit card it's much easier to track your spending. This is because each item that you are spending money on will be recorded, making auditing much easier. When you regularly spend using only cash it's likely that you will have to go back and trace through old receipts, making the process of tracking your spending a little more difficult. Using plastic such as a debit card or credit card can help you to make sure that you stick with your budget and see any signs of trouble with your spending early on. However, make sure you set a hard limit on your credit card so that your spending does not get out of control. The advantage with cash is that once it is gone it is gone!



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Build budget categories

Rather than setting out a specific budget for the month or creating just the pound amount cap that you don't want to exceed, you may want to consider the idea of instead creating a budget based on categories throughout the month. Allocating 10% of your budget for example towards spending on clothes and 15% of your budget on entertainment could be a great way that you could categorise all of the items that are going to go into your monthly budget. By creating various categories it can take some of the pressure off balancing your budget and remaining true to your budget over time. When you start to understand the basic percentage of your spending each month that goes into each category, the savings can be almost automatic and you can start to tell when you are beginning to overspend in certain areas throughout your budget as well. Using at least three main categories in your budget for fun, necessities and savings can really be a huge help when starting the process of building a more comprehensive budget.


Budget to stretch your finances

Opt for at least 20% in savings

A very popular budget strategy involves around 50% of your income going into absolute necessities such as your regular bills, the cost of food, housing and more. If you find that you have to spend over 50% of your income on necessities it's likely that you will have less available for lifestyle and entertainment spending. Ideally, most financial advisors recommend targeting a maximum of 50% of your income going into necessities, a maximum of 30% of your income going into lifestyle and entertainment budget and then around 20% of your total income going towards your savings.

Depending on how much you make, it could be possible to adjust your overall necessities budget to add in more of a budget for savings in the future or a bit of extra funds for your entertainment account. If you are not able to save at least 20% for long term savings however, it can be very difficult to establish an emergency fund or save up for retirement in your budget. Leaving some room in your budget for these savings and allotting at least 20% is one of the best ways that you can feel much more financially secure and avoid the prospect of abandoning your budget when times get tough.

Budgeting apps

There's no reason why you should have to create a whole budget from scratch and without help. Rather than opting for a pen and paper for your budget, there are loads of budgeting apps out there to help. Budgeting is hard enough anyway, why make it harder! Using some of these tools can help you track your spending and stick to your budget. Some apps can be linked to your bank accounts or credit cards and can track and categorise your spending automatically. As soon as you stop logging information in these tools or stop regularly tracking your spending, it can be much more difficult to keep on track with your budget.

Top budget busters

Time and again these sneaky cash drainers appear in people's bank accounts, leaking away your hard-earned money:

Make sure to check if your bank has charged you any extras on your account, for example an overdraft fee or a fee for not sticking to the terms and conditions. For example, we know of one account with a high street bank that has a fee if you don't pay in a certain amount every month. Consolidate your accounts to minimise these fees and stick to the terms and conditions wherever possible.

Ok we know it's a must sometimes but check your account to see if you are eating out too regularly. The bills can soon add up. Try a pack lunch once in a while, you might be surprised!

Do you really need the latest and greatest? Is it essential to have the must have latest item? Sometimes we want things because we think that life is just not possible without it. Often when you take a step back and think hard about it a lot of things are just not as essential as you might first think.

This is a big one. Are there unread magazines lying round your room? What about that artisan coffee subscription that you have no chance of drinking your way through. The ultimate is that gym membership, are you getting value for money? If the answer is no then be harsh and cull them.

It may be convenient but it is also a great way to run out of cash fast. A few clicks, taps and swipes and you may have just spent your monthly allowance in one go. Be careful, pause, count to 10 before every online purchase to consider whether you need it or not.

The object of a retail store is to part the cash in your bank account from your control. Not a massive insight there but shops spend ages thinking how to maximise your purchase so next time you are queuing up to pay avoid the little extras on the way to the till and save big style.

Be honest and open about your finances

If you are working on a budget with a partner it is very important to communicate. Make sure that you have regular conversations about your finances and sticking to your budget. Work with each other and as a team to stick your budget and track your spending. By making sure that you are both open and honest about the entire process, you are much more likely to succeed. More chat less stress is what we say!

Conclusion

If you are serious about budgeting then you need to get serious about your spending. Be honest with yourself, set a goal, track your finances and exercise will power. You will be amazed what you can achieve. Creating a realistic budget can help to ease financial stress in your day-to-day life and promote wellbeing especially in emergency situations.

Got some of your own budgeting tips? Then let us know on our social media pages.

For tips on how to budget check out this page.