realistic budgeting tips

2021, lifestyle

Hello!

It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve realised I’m not as good with money as I thought I was – whenever my mental health is bad, the subconscious desire to self-sabotage and try to make myself happy with whatever I feel I can get away with buying is really not helpful to that stage of life where everything needs saving for; a house deposit, big holidays, the wedding that’s less than a year away…

But rather than set hard and fast rules that I’ll struggle to stick with, I’ve made tiny lifestyle changes that make my bank account a little less busy and my savings accounts more consistent.

The biggest thing to note is that finances are personal – I know I’m bad with money and I find it really hard to resist temptation, so I adapt based on that. Basically – take everything with a pinch of salt; I’m not an expert and by no means have I got it perfect (yet!).


1 – Have a way of tracking your finances

Not necessarily for the sake of analysing what you’re spending and where you could save (though this is probably useful!) but just so at least once a week (or however frequently you update your track) you have to face and write down everything you spent. Did popping into Superdrug end up with a £30 spend? Did you buy a couple too many coffees this week? Did you hide behind online shopping again?

All these things add up and if you’re forced to confront it, it can be all the motivation you need to knuckle down and make the effort to not spend so you don’t have to take money out of your savings account to pay for your phone bill (obviously not speaking from experience…).

Then when you have a low spend week, it’s really satisfying!

2 – Don’t take your purse to work

This one can be a bit trickier, as there’ve been a couple of occasions where I’m running low on fuel with no way to pay for it, but not having the option to nip to the cafe down the road or go to Tescos at lunch makes it so much easier not to give in to those waves of hunger that might just be boredom. This is inadvertently good if you’re on a diet or trying to cut out snacks as well because you can only eat what you’ve brought with you.

3 – Don’t have your bank details saved on your computer or phone

This was kind of an accident on my part – I got a new computer and my details weren’t saved anymore and I got a new phone and haven’t set up Google Pay (though the new phone and laptop were coincidental and we’re going to gloss over them in a budgeting blog post…). Not having these details readily available makes me think twice about what I’m considering buying – especially if I’ve got to the point in the check out where it’s asking for my card details. I am a couch potato and if I have to stand up to get my card details to buy something, that’s really going to make me reevaluate my potential purchase and almost always, I will realise it’s absolutely not something I need so I won’t buy it.

4 – set budgets for things

With Christmas coming up, it’s easy to get carried away and think ‘that’s only a pound, it’ll be a nice stocking filler!’ but all those £1-£5 purchases quickly add up!

Set yourself budgets – make a pretty Excel spreadsheet if it helps – decide on an overall budget and break it down by person if you have to. When picking birthday presents, pick a figure and rather than shopping spontaneously, plan so you stay within budget. A good way to do this if you’re not shopping online or don’t have time to plan anything, is to draw the amount of cash that is your budget and have a no-card-spend day then you can’t go over budget! I did this when I was at uni with my weekly campus food budget – whether it was a hot chocolate, a lunch sandwich or a croque monsieur (praise be to Solent University for having cheap food on campus!) I had £20 and when it was gone it was gone.


Maybe they’re very obvious things, but those are what I’m using at the moment! Sometimes all it takes is seeing it written down as a reminder that there are ways to cut down on your spending. It doesn’t necessarily help with actively saving money, but sometimes it’s just making sure the bills get paid.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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tracking joint finances + setting savings goals!

2021, goals

Hello!

If you’ve read any of my bullet journal, goals or organisation posts, you’ll know how much I love planning and making lists. Tracking my finances is no different – I implemented finance tracking in my bullet journal when I decided I wanted to get out of my overdraft before I left uni (still one of my proudest achievements). I set myself a weekly budget and used my weekly spread to make sure I stuck to it, in third year I kept receipts for everything because it was easier to remember how much I spent and I managed to buy myself a new phone outright before I went to New York in 2018 so I used to be quite good at managing all my finances!

At the end of 2020 I saw this video from Hannah Witton about tracking her joint finances with her husband and when I’m shown a pretty spreadsheet, obviously I want to make my own.

So I made it one of my 2021 goals to monitor our spending – I thought this would be especially helpful as we’re saving for a 2022 wedding and we really need to get some money together to pay for it and it can give us a clearer idea of where we’re overspending, where we can save and how we can reach our financial goals (which makes us sound way more grown up than I really want to be).

To set up my spreadsheet, I essentially watched Hannah’s video through really slowly, pausing often to type categories and things in my own Excel document and decide which colours I wanted for each heading.

 

Once I had the basics of income, savings and expenses all set up with our own personalised categories suitable to our life and expenditure (I didn’t know I knew that word tbh), I then got to my favourite bit – using equations to automatically add things up.

At first it was relatively simple – addition sums at the bottom of each column to calculate monthly income/savings, addition sums at the end of each row to calculate yearly totals in each category and then in the bottom right hand corner of each section, another addition sum to see our total income, savings and spending for the year.

But there’s more…

I then thought about being able to include a running total of our bank account – knowing how much we had leftover at the end of the month and using that as a starting point for the beginning of the next month. And in conclusion – this is my beautiful spreadsheet that I have to work with.

It might be harder to appreciate how beautiful and efficient it all is without any of the data (there’s some things I know I definitely shouldn’t share online) but I’ll talk you through it.

The top category – where we track what goes into the account, starting with what was leftover from last month and any additional finances we pay into the account (not necessarily everything we get paid). The total figure here helps to calculate the remainder figure at the bottom of the sheet which in turn becomes the ‘balance on the 1st’ figure the following month.

The last category is the fun one purely because there’s more data to put in and balance and equations and it makes me feel clever, but it’s simple enough – put what comes out of your bank account in each of the categories, total expenditure is an addition of the savings and expenses category and then remainder (or current bank balance, however you want to word it) is total income minus total outgoing, and that remainder uses a very simple ‘=[CELL NUMBER]’ equation to carry over to the next month.

And then I did it all again for my personal finances.

In all honesty, it’s not complicated – it’s a few addition equations, remembering to continuously update it (hence the cell that says ‘Last Transaction Input’ at the bottom) and maintaining everything I’ve already learnt about budgeting and not spending more money than I have.

I’ve been finance tracking for a long time on paper, but it’s never really had a purpose – it’s just been for the sake of being aware of what I’m spending. Doing it this way means I can see a generalised view of my year and I can see if I notice any changes in where we’re spending more or less, perhaps where we could save money and hopefully where we can save more for the wedding and one day getting on the housing market and all the other gross adult things that cost too much money.

Like Hannah said in her video, I’m the one that does all the finance tracking – I tried to show my fiancé and he said ‘that’s nice’ and went back to his video games, so as long as I can tell him how much we need in the joint account and whether he can justify buying the new Samsung phone (he can and he’s very excited that it’s arriving three days before it’s official release).

I love tracking a lists and this spreadsheet means that my finance tracking in my bullet journal is completely unnecessary, but I think I’ll keep doing it because there’s something really demoralising about having to put it in writing when you did a sad spend and ordered too many things online. Although demoralising sounds like a bad thing, sometimes it’s the nudge you need to stop unnecessary spending and avoid popping into McDonalds after I’ve finished the Asda shop (which is good for both the diet and the bank account!).

It’s not life changing – it’s not going to make me a Saving Wizard and give me more money than I have, if anything it’s depressing to think about how much money is spent on boring adult things like bills but it’s helpful in the long run, just in that boring ‘adulting’ way.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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