The first step in managing a budget is understanding why it's so important. So if you haven't already, read our guide to budgeting.
Most of us don't have enough money to do everything we want. But setting and sticking to a budget can help you make the most of your money.
Use this budgeting action plan to help you help you gain control of your spending and maybe even build up some savings.
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Take less than ten minutes to look at your savings, debts and housing costs with the money health check from the Money Advice Service.
It’ll take you through your savings, debts and housing costs, and will tell you if you’re on the right track, if you could be doing better, or if your finances need attention. And it'll give you a personal action plan to help you meet your future goals.
Make a plan to track your spending. We are all guilty of spending without thinking so before you make a budget it is useful to have an idea of where you are spending your money. By noting down every item you spend your money on over a defined period you will build up a useful picture of your outgoings.
Read about how to track your spending.
Set aside time to set up a budget. Start by thinking about and writing down your priority needs and your must haves. Your budget will help make sure you have enough money for the important things, and might help you set aside money for the treats in your life.
If you set up a budget and stick to it you'll be less likely to get into debt.
Get help with this simple budget tool from the Money Advice Service. It’ll take you about 30 minutes and you’ll need to have some information about your finances like your payslips and bank statements to hand.
Find out if your employer, or union, offers any help with budgeting.
Many organisations recognise the link between money worries and stress, so it’s worth checking if your employer offers any help. This might be by providing a season ticket loan, a saving scheme or specialist advice via an employee assistance programme (EAP).
Do your homework and write down and diarise the big ticket items and the big ticket dates, Christmas, birthday presents, car insurance. By planning ahead you can avoid last minute panic buying and potentially higher costs.
Set up price alerts, review online price comparison sites and look for the best deal. If you are on a low income and on qualifying benefits you might be able to access a budgeting loan from your local authority for bigger items like furniture.
Budgets have no value if we don’t stick to them, and many of us don’t. Even if you’re smart with your money, extra purchases seem to have a way of sneaking in over time. Follow these tips to help you get a better grip on your spending.
Find out how to reduce your energy costs at home. Whether you’re renting or you own, your budget will have energy costs, (heating, cooking, light). Find out about no-cost changes you can make today to bring your bill down as well as small-scale investments you can make to significantly reduce your annual energy costs. Go to the Energy Saving Trust to find out how.
The average British family throws away almost £60 of food each month. That’s around £700 a year. But it's possible to eat healthily whilst reducing the cost of your weekly shop by following some smart tips. Find out how to save money on food.
When you are living on a budget thinking about taking a break can seem indulgent, but we all need time out to maintain our mental and physical wellbeing.
Make a decision to plan ahead and you'll not only find the best deals but you'll also have time to get ready for the day. Making a picnic, getting the vouchers you need, or perhaps finding someone to look after your pet.
Taking time out for you does not have to break the bank.
We like the look of Money Saving Expert - days out but there are lots of other sites with ideas for free or discount days out.
Tracking your spending should have identified which of your debts has the highest interest or is costing you the most, pay these debts off first. If your debts are large, seek help in working out your priorities with a qualified debt advisor. Read our guide to debt to find out more.
If your budget shows there will be a gap between your income and spending and you have debt, ask your lender if you can take a break in your payments.
You can also ask to split council tax, water bills and TV licence fees over 12 months rather than the usual 10. And mortgage providers are often able to give you a short-term payment holiday or to extend the life of your loan so you make smaller payments over a longer time.
Creating and sticking to a budget is a key step in managing your money. Add our actions to your own to-do list so you can actively monitor your progress.