The art of budgeting

Budgeting is about taking control of your money

We all look forward to payday, but if there is always more month than money at the end of the month then it's time to take control.

One of the biggest misconceptions around budgeting is that it is designed to make you feel guilty about treating yourself and will suggest that you live as frugally as possible. None of that sounds very appealing, which is why so many people put off thinking about it.

The goal is not to make you feel guilty for spending money on things you enjoy, or to shame you into changing your behaviour. The real goal is to spend your money only on things that bring you happiness or are really valuable to you. Budgeting helps you plan for your immediate and future happiness, including regular contributions to your retirement planning.

Like all good habits, good spending habits are built over the course of time, not in a single afternoon. You can’t simply write down your ideal budget and expect it to translate into reality, any more than you can write out a food plan and expect to lose 10lbs.

Focus on changing one small thing at a time, rather than having to overhaul your entire life in one go. You won't necessarily get it all right the first time. You will have to spend some time trying different things before you figure out what works best for you.

The only thing that matters is whether you are managing to spend less than you earn each month, while at the same time putting enough aside each month to achieve your long-term financial goals. If you’re not, then the best case scenario is that you won’t be able to afford the goals you’ve set in your financial plan. The worst case scenario is that you’re starting to build up debts that could cause you major headaches in the future.

Either way, budgeting is the process of taking control of your spending habits. That means working out how much you have to spend, and then building good spending habits over time.

By following our budgeting steps, you’ll have clarity over where your money is going and the confidence to spend on things that are important to you because you’ll know when you can afford it.

  1. Review your current expenditure.
  2. Set realistic budget/spending limits.
  3. Factor in a 'payday treat' – this doesn't need to be an expensive item, it's more about the enjoyment you experience.
  4. Remember to include annual costs – things like Christmas, birthdays, weddings and car maintenance.
  5. There are lots of tools available on the internet to help with budgeting. Make sure whatever you choose works for you – this could be a notebook, spreadsheet or app. The Money Advice Service have a great budget planner to get you started.

The art of successful budgeting is to ensure you set realistic limits and review your progress on a regular basis.

Disclaimer

The information, money-saving tips, tools and techniques provided are for guidance purposes only and do not constitute financial advice.

The information, money-saving tips, tools and techniques provided are for guidance purposes only and do not constitute financial advice. Where we provide links to third-party websites we are not responsible for their content. It is therefore important you carry out your own independent research.

If you need financial advice you can locate an adviser on the Personal Finance Society website below.

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