Taking the time to manage your money better can really pay off. It can help you stay on top of your bills and save £1,000s each year. You can use these extra savings to pay off any debts you might have, put them towards your pension, or spend them on your next car or holiday. Read on for money management tips, including how to set up a budget, sticking to it and how to save.
How to set up a budget
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The first step to taking control of your finances is doing a budget.
It will take a little effort, but it’s a great way to get a quick snapshot of the money you have coming in and going out.
Setting up a budget means you’re:
- Less likely to end up in debt
- Less likely to get caught out by unexpected costs
- More likely to have a good credit rating
- More likely to be accepted for a mortgage or loan
- Able to spot areas where you can make savings
- In a great position to save up for a holiday, a new car, or another treat
What you need
Over half of UK households keep a regular budget. Most say it gives them peace of mind about how much they are spending, and makes them feel better about life in general. Manage your money better with our Budget planner tool.
To get started on your budget, you’ll need to work out how much you spend on:
- Household bills
- Living costs
- Financial products (insurance…)
- Family and friends (presents…)
- Travel (car costs, public transport…)
- Leisure (holidays, sport, restaurants…)
A great way to work out your budget is with our free and easy-to-use Budget planner.
Just grab as much information as you can about your income and spending (bills, bank statements…) and get started.
You can save your information and come back to it anytime you like.
Alternatively you can set up a budget using a spreadsheet or just write it all down on paper.
There are also some great free budgeting apps available and your bank or building society might have an online budgeting tool that takes information directly from your transactions.
Getting your budget back on track
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If you’re spending more than you have coming in, you need to work out where you can cut back.
This could be as easy as making your lunch at home, or cancelling a gym membership you don’t use.
You could also keep a spending diary and keep a note of everything you buy in a month.
Or, if you do most of your spending with a bank card, look at last month’s bank statement and work out where your money is going.
Get everyone involved
Get everyone in your family involved with keeping to a budget.
Sit down together and make a plan that you can all stick to.
Work out how much spending money is available and agree between you what you’ll each have.
Cutting your household bills and your mortgage
For many of us, household bills make up a large chunk of our spending.
The good news is that it’s easy to save hundreds of pounds off your bills by following our tips.
You can also save hundreds and even thousands of pounds by shopping around for a new mortgage, or reviewing the one you already have.
Life is unpredictable so try to review your budget and your spending if there’s a change, or at least every couple of months.
You might get a pay rise, which means you can save more, or you might find your household bills increase.
Paying off loans and credit cards
If you have loans or owe money on credit cards it usually makes sense to pay off the debt that charges the highest rate of interest first.
Use our Money Health Check to get a clear picture of your finances and get personalised advice on how to improve your situation.
- Credit cards
- Store cards, which normally charge the highest rates of interest
- Personal loans from the bank, which normally charge a lower rate of interest than credit or store cards
It is important to make sure you don’t break the terms of your agreements.
So even if you’re focusing on paying down another debt, you must pay at least the minimum on any credit cards and your monthly required payments on any loan agreements.
Getting help if debt problems become serious
If you’ve already missed credit card or loan payments or if you’re behind with so-called ‘priority debts’ such as your:
- Court fines,
- Energy bills,
- Council Tax,
- Child support
Take advice from a free debt advice charity straight away.
Set a savings goal
Use our Savings calculator to see how your savings will grow.
Some people find it hard to get motivated about saving, but it’s often much easier if you set a goal.
Your first step is to have some emergency savings – money to fall back on if you have an emergency, such as a boiler breakdown or if you can’t work for a while.
Try to get three months’ worth of expenses in an easy or instant access account.
Don’t worry if you can’t save this straight away, but keep it as a target to aim for.
The best way to save money is to pay some money into a savings account every month.
Once you’ve set aside your emergency fund, possible savings goals to consider might include:
- Buying a car without taking out a loan
- Taking a holiday without having to worry about the bills when you get back
- Having some extra money to draw on while you’re on maternity or paternity leave
Investing your savings
As your savings start to grow, you can:
- Put more money into your pension. It’s a great way to make sure you’ll be able to live more comfortably later in life.
- Make an investment plan based on your goals and timeframes.
If you’re overwhelmed by your debts
Often, the hardest part of paying off your debts is taking the first step.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed if you know you’re struggling financially.
It’s tempting to bury your head in the sand and ignore your bank statements and demands for payment, but it won’t make the problem any better and could make it worse.
So, take a deep breath and open any letters you’ve been ignoring.
Once you’ve done this, at least you’ll know what you have to deal with and you can work out what you need to do next.
This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.