A budget is a plan for your money. Week by week and month by month.
It tells you how much money you have coming in, how much you need to allow for essential costs and how much you have left towards other things you need.
It is your most important money tool. It helps you stay in control, feel less stressed and more confident about the future. It also provides evidence to the people you live with or anyone you owe money to about what you can afford and if cutbacks can be made.
This is a basic budget and the best place to start if you have never done a budget before. It will help you:
- Work out what money comes in
- Work out the main expenses you have
- Find out if you have money left over each month
You can download a starter budget here
Remember – a budget is something that you work on and improve. You may have to estimate some figures – just make a note of which ones you are estimating and then work out how you will get the actual figures – see below under top tips for ideas on this
You may also find when you do your budget that you have more money going out than coming in – this is very usual and why budgets are so important so that you can understand what is happening and take steps to stop the situation getting worse – see below under Making Savings for ideas to improve your budget
Getting an accurate and realistic budget takes time – try these out:
- Gather all the information you think will help – bank statements, bills, receipts and keep in one place – a large folder or envelope
- Don’t forget about smaller items – these can quickly add up – a spending diary is a great way to check these
- Remember occasional costs, e.g. birthdays, repairs, new shoes – it is these costs that tend to cause problems if you have not allowed for
- Do your budget with a friend or support worker – use someone else to help you think through everything and to give you encouragement
- Ask for help if you need it – there are lots of organisations who can offer free and independent advice to help you work out your budget. Get in touch and find out more
A detailed budget is what you are aiming for. This covers everything you need to think about. This will take time, but is essential if want to feel more confident and in control of your money.
You can download a detailed budget here
If you like working online there are lots of online budgeting tools that you can try. Here is one from National Debtline which is easy to use
Click the link here My Money Steps
The online budget will add up as you go along and you can see what impact different figures have.
Once you have your budget you can work out where you can make more savings – there are lots of ways to do this and to help you we have created this handy ‘Money Makeover’ tool.
The Money makeover tool takes you through each line of your budget to give you ideas on how you can save money.
Often the spend where you can make changes quickly is on energy bills, water and borrowing – scroll down for links to these
Working out monthly costs
A monthly budget is what you are aiming for – especially if you are likely to be on Universal Credit as this will pay your benefits in one monthly amount.
If you are used to working out things weekly here is what you need to do to convert to monthly:
Weekly cost (e.g. £5 for bus fares)
To make this monthly – multiply by 52 and then divide by 12
£5 x 52 ÷ 12 = £21.67
Use this guide to help you work out your monthly costs Converting to monthly
For more great help and ideas on budgeting, visit Money Saving Expert (Martin Lewis) or visit Money Advice Service