If you’re serious about living within your means and avoiding getting into debt, it has always been a good idea to create and stick to a manageable budget. In the current economic climate, for many, this is now more of a necessity than ever before. Only by creating one will you truly understand your financial health and be able to take meaningful steps to improve it.
So how do you go about creating a budget? Well to help you with some of the heavy lifting I’ve found a useful budget planner that you can download in either spreadsheet or printable form. If you prefer, you could try using an app. A budget planner is simply a tool to list all your monthly or yearly, incomings and outgoings, to calculate how much money you have to spare, if any. Using a ready made planner will ensure you remember to include everything, giving an accurate picture of your financial position. The results may come as an unpleasant shock but at least you will know what you’re dealing with. You can then start to make any necessary adjustments with your spending, before things get out of control.
Whatever your financial situation, we could all benefit from being a bit more savvy with our expenditure. If we can cut out some of our unnecessary spending then we may be able to live a little more comfortably and perhaps even be able to afford the occasional treat.
So let’s look at some simple ways to help reduce our costs without drastically changing our lifestyle. Starting with subtle changes makes it more manageable and you’re more likely to stick with them.
Shopping – Yes you would like that shiny new watch but do you really need it? Try and avoid making an impulse purchase, sleep on it. Remember, purchasing items with a credit card is still real money that you have to repay, plus interest, if you don’t pay off your monthly bill, in full.
Are you often prone to impulse purchases? Are you a sucker for the middle aisle at the supermarket or any other perceived bargain and do you always buy branded goods? If so, try doing your food shopping online to avoid those temptations and be open to trying supermarket own brands. Most people can’t tell the difference and you could make big savings.
Cashback – When you do need to spend, check whether you can earn any cashback via a cashback website. They cost nothing to join and over time you can earn a lot of money from your online purchases. Some sites even let you register your payment cards to earn cashback in store. Cashback credit cards are available too. Just remember, these are not an excuse for any additional spending. Use them for purchases you would make, anyway.
Price Comparison Sites – There are many purchases we have to make such as utilities, insurances etc. However, this is another area we can make big savings and we can do it simply by using a price comparison website such as moneysupermarket.com. Here we can find the best deals for energy, insurances, bank accounts, TV, broadband, phones and more. You may be surprised at how much you could save but don’t forget to check the cashback sites before committing.
Haggle – Yes haggle. Don’t be shy or embarrassed, just try it. You may be surprised at how successful you are with the savings you make. Whether you want a discount for a new washing machine in an electrical store or would like to reduce your TV/broadband monthly bill, just haggle. Remember to be firm but polite, also be realistic with your expectations. Ultimately, be prepared to walk away if you don’t get what you want. Trust me, haggling works and it will soon become second nature to you.
Debt – Most people have debt in some shape or form. Debt falls into two categories, manageable and unmanageable. If you’re able to service your debt, such as your repayment mortgage, then it’s generally not a problem and so manageable. If you can’t then it’s unmanageable and you need to take urgent steps. Start by trying to reduce any credit card debt as the interest rates are very high. Always try and pay your monthly bill in full. If you have savings then use that to reduce the debt but always keep some cash in reserve for emergencies. If you feel you need assistance with any debt problem, help and advice is available here.
These are just a few money saving ideas but there are many more. By using a budget planner you can calculate how much money you have available to spend. It can also reveal areas where you can make savings. Saving money feels very satisfying, so enjoy that feeling but don’t deprive yourself of a few treats, reward yourself for your good work.