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Budgeting: How to get started

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Budgeting can often go out of the window. Our lifestyle and routines change dramatically when children come along, and of course so do our outgoings. It’s easy to shy away from budgeting because it can seem like a chore: There aren’t enough hours in the day and it can feel overwhelming. But simply getting into the routine of tracking your spending can save you money and unnecessary stress at the end of the month when bills come in. The key thing to remember is that budgeting doesn’t have to mean cutting back dramatically and it doesn’t have to be complicated – it’s all about managing your money and making sure you have it when you need it.

Budgeting: Getting started

Firstly, think about your monthly outgoings: You’ll no doubt come up with the most obvious ones – mortgage/rent, gas, electric, childcare etc.  You probably also have a good idea how much each of those things will cost each month. One of the benefits of tracking your spending is keeping an eye on the extras – it’s usually these that mount up.

Online banking helps

If you don’t do it already, try banking online. It’s one of the quickest ways to review your outgoings and see in black and white where your money has gone for the month. The first time you do this might not make for pleasant reading but acknowledging your spending is the first step – don’t be hard on yourself if you realise you spent £40 on lunchtime meal deals last month because you didn’t make time to do packed lunches  – just take note and see how much better you can do next month. Budgeting doesn’t have to mean cutting out treats completely, but they cease to be treats when we have them everyday… And that goes for the children too: You don’t have to spend a lot to keep them happy. Making a den with a sheet in the living room will provide hours of fun and it doesn’t cost a penny!

Budgeting

Next steps

Once you’ve reviewed your income and outgoings, all it takes is a basic sum to work out how much money you’ll have left once all the essentials are paid for. It might seem like an incredibly obvious thing to do, but if you don’t have an amount in mind to stick to, it’s easy for your spending to escalate. This alone can be quite an eye opener but don’t be put off, you have to be honest with your calculations or it can’t help you! It’s also good for jogging your memory to make sure you include everything.

Once the sums are done, the number left over should represent your spare money after the essentials are paid for. But is it really ‘spare’? If you have loans or credit cards that are accumulating interest, then the sooner you can pay these off the better. Prioritise paying off the debt with the highest interest rate but always make sure minimum payments are made on anything else outstanding, as per your credit card/loan agreements. There are plenty of other ways you’d rather spend your money but think about how this will benefit you in the long run – once debts are paid, you can re-focus your ‘spare’ money on fun days out and saving for holidays.

How to stick to it

Your budget isn’t set in stone. What you aim for and what you achieve might be two different things for the first few months but don’t be disheartened. Make small adjustments until you find a combination that works. Find a method of sticking to it that works for you. Try keeping all your spending money separate from your essentials money, that way, when it’s gone it’s gone (until next month of course). Or keep all your receipts, no matter how minor, and keep a running total.

Set small realistic goals

Set yourself a goal and make sure it’s realistic. Count down to a debt being paid off or for something special you’re saving for. Straightening out your finances won’t happen overnight but it will be worth the wait.

Once you have a budget that works, you’ll only need to review it every few months or as and when circumstances change. What suits your needs now might not suit when your little one starts nursery, when you have a school trip to save for or if a new baby comes along so try to plan ahead.

However you manage your budget, make it part of your routine. It might seem like yet another thing to juggle but a little bit of effort goes a long way!

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About Rebecca Robinson

About Rebecca Robinson

After spending the last 8 years juggling life as a mum of two, wife and working full time as a Project Manager for a global telecommunications company, Rebecca Robinson made the decision to follow her love of writing and took the plunge; turning her passion into a full time career. Since becoming a full time writer, Rebecca has worked with various media and copy-writing companies and with the ability to make any topic relevant and interesting to the reader, now contributes to The Working Parent on articles ranging from credit cards to teenage relationships. Ever the optimist, Rebecca's dreams for the future include a house in the country filled with children, dogs and horses in the field!

Website: Rebecca Robinson

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