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Help with my budget

Help with budgeting

First thing’s first – what is a budget? Put simply, this will give you a clear picture of where your money is disappearing to, and how much you can save on a regular basis (which could be a small fortune).

You’ll need to ask yourself the ultimate question; what are your spending habits like? No wincing – take out your pencil and lay it all out on the table. A good place to start is your monthly bills, like your mortgage and electricity. Making a note of what’s coming into your account each month and where it’s spent are the core principles to any budget. This knowledge will help you take back control of your finances and make plans for the future. To get started, read our four steps to making a budget below.

4 Steps to better budgeting

Before you start, it’s a good idea to really get familiar with your own incomings and spending habits. It’s amazing how much we let slip through our radar when it comes to small buys (like our morning coffee and pastry).

  • A good first step is to set up a basic budget by taking note of your money that is coming in and going out. Try our handy budget calculator to help you keep track of your finances.
  • Remember, be honest with yourself and try to include everything you spend.
  • Not sure where your money goes? Print or view your bank statements online to help you identify your income and outgoings. Try keeping a spending diary for a month.
  • Take note of your mortgage repayments or rent every month and note the day of the month that the money is withdrawn from your account.
  • Remember to include the things you only pay for once a year, such as management company fees or annual car tax and insurance, by estimating and dividing up the average that you'd spend in a year. Don't forget to insert any current debt repayments you may have into your outgoing commitments too.
  • Identify areas where you are overspending, and ask yourself if it is absolutely essential?
  • Could you make reductions such as switching utility services to a cheaper provider or change your grocery retailer to a more competitive one?
  • You can also check your bank balance frequently online, on the phone or at an ATM.

Now it’s time to get down to business and get things down on paper (or web page). A good old fashioned calculator will be your trusted companion at this point.

  • You can make a budget weekly or monthly. First off, you need to work out your income for the week/month by adding together all the money coming in, like your wages, social welfare or any benefits you might have.
  • Then you make a list of all of your outgoings. Start off with the essentials, such as mortgage repayments, electricity and food. Then work your way down to the slightly less important items, like travel, clothing, and a social life. Don't forget to include any money you owe, like a car loan or other bills.
  • Go through everything on your list and put the amount you will need every week to pay for each item. For example, if your ESB bill is usually around €80 every two months, which is roughly 8 weeks, then you should allow €10 euro every week for electricity.
  • And finally you take away the amount you will need every week from your weekly income figure. The money that is left over is called your disposable income. This is money you can save, or treat yourself with – maybe to help to pay for things like a holiday or a special occasion.

Intentions are all well and good on paper – but when it comes to keeping to your plans, things can get a little trickier than anticipated. So it requires keeping an eagle eye on your own habits and impulses, and comparing your actual spend with your projected spend on a daily basis.

  • Day-to-day management means knowing when you have money, when you need to pay things off and when you need to be more careful. Being good with your money doesn't mean thinking about it every minute of the day; it just requires good habits at key times of the month or week.
  • Unfortunately, we just can’t control every situation, so you might need to review your plans and adjust them as life carries on in its own way. This might mean making reductions or sacrifices here and there.
  • We know it might be tough – but try to save part of any pay rises or bonuses.
  • The most important thing is to be realistic – don’t be too harsh on yourself if you don’t have to. Know your weak spots and allow for a little unplanned spending now and again.
  • Why not set up a standing order direct to your savings account? If you don't have a savings account, open one up today and transfer any spare money you have at the end of the month into it and try to set up a regular standing order. You can book a free financial chat with your local saving advisor below – there might even be tea involved.
  • Don’t do it – avoid impulse buying! Plan your expenditure in advance and try not to over-purchase.
  • Set up Direct Debit payments, so you can pay your bills on time and when you know you have money to pay them with. Try to move standing orders and Direct Debits until just after payday to avoid surprises at the end of the month.
  • Rather than paying a lump sum, see if spreading your larger payments over the year by direct debit might suit you better.
  • Apply for an overdraft in advance if you think you might become overdrawn, but try not to get used to having an overdraft, use it only as a temporary arrangement.

Last but not least – there’s a wealth of tools and tips online which will make budgeting so much easier. Here’s some ideas.

  • An Post household budget – the easy pay option. This Household Budget allows people who receive certain social welfare payments to pay a regular amount towards various household bills by direct deduction of their payments. The service is operated on behalf of the Minister for Social Protection by An Post. Go to your local An Post office to pick up a form, go to  anpost for further information.
  • Shop around the supermarkets – look at the weekly deals the various supermarkets have on offer. You may get your meat from one and your veg from another. Don't forget the discount supermarkets. Use your reward/loyalty cards.
  • cheapeats.ie is a blog about eating well in Ireland whilst getting value for money.
  • Compare prices online, you may find yourself a bargain. For example, many shops now sell through Ebay which could net you a discount on what you may pay instore.
  • Bring a packed lunch to work, you could save €1,128 a year (based on a conservative €4.70 per day, 5 days a week, 20 days per month over 12 months).
  • Price comparison websites: Callcosts.ie – mobile phone price comparisons, Myvoipprovider.com  – home phone price comparisons,  health insurance comparison sitepumps.ie – compare petrol prices
  • Carry out a home energy audit. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) offers a user-friendly, step-by-step home energy survey online so that you are more energy aware. SEAI can also point you in the direction of energy experts who can carry out a professional home energy audit.
  • Check ESB to find out how to save efficiently on energy in your home.

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