Figuring out my finances is something I’ve had to watch very closely this month – with buying a car on finance and the end of last month and spending my wages before I got them, this month has been and will be very, very tight but in the months leading up to buying my car and this month of tight budgeting I’m so proud of how well I’ve managed them that I’ve decided to share!
I’m someone who feels inclined to spend money when they’re sad so being able to tackle that and being at a point where I know I can save reliably and buy myself a car without dipping into my savings is a big step for me.
And the biggest thing for me is not having a set budget – I’ve tried apps like Yolt and Cleo and I just found they weren’t flexible enough for real life. Saying ‘I’m only going to spend £X this month’ doesn’t allow for spontaneous plans – paying for trains for a job interview, having to pay for more bus tickets than expected or even going for a last minute coffee with a friend you haven’t seen for a long time can effect your budget and I just found that it didn’t work for me. So this is more about tracking your finances and making sure you can hit all your goals – whether that’s saving a certain amount, not spending over a certain amount (I guess that’s having a budget) or just making sure you can pay all your bills, these are my tips and tricks for flexible financing.
*obviously I’m not an expert and I’m not claiming to be, just sharing tips from someone who using half her savings to live last year and now has bought herself a car on finance*
1. Have somewhere to track your finances
I only mention my bullet journal in basically every blog post I write but for me I have a spread in my journal for my finances each month. On the left I have notes which I will expand on and on the right page is where I write down everything I’m spending as it comes out of my bank account. I don’t track cash spending because either I will have drawn that cash from my bank which I track or it’s cash that I’ve been given for whatever reason so it doesn’t effect my bank account. I tried tracking as I spent but then it got confusing with keeping receipts and it’s better for the environment if not so now I just track my spending as it comes out of my bank account.
Either way, I recommend writing it all down! Whether it’s a note on your phone, a notebook that you have specifically for finances or in a bullet journal like me, write it down!
2. Plan your month
I like to break it down with my income at the top of the left hand page, then a list of all my bills and when I’d expect them to come out (then I can tick them off and it’s very satisfying) and then a list of any costs I know I’m going to incur.
So this month I had to pay for a tattoo (because car and tattoo timing ended up being awful), two driving lessons, my savings challenge and bus fares and having it all written out makes it much easier to track.
My savings challenge, for anyone that’s interested, came from Facebook last year – you save a pound more every week for a whole year (so £1, then £2, then £3 etc) so it was really easy in January but now I’m saving just under £150 a month and by the end of the year it’ll be a lot per month but I’ll have over £1300 saved in a year which I’m so proud of and I haven’t done it yet, but it’s important to me and I want to complete it!
So knowing what my month is going to look like is really helpful – taking my bills and planned payments into account means I know how much money I have to play with and depending on how much I want to save and what it is I want to spend my money on I can figure out my spending from there.
3. Focus on what you need and not what you want
It’s so easy when you get an email about 20% off on ASOS or you fancy some Bourneville Buttons to just go and buy them, but if you really want to make the most of your finances you have to think about what you really want from them.
If a treat every now and then is in your budget then go for it, if you’ve had your eye on a jacket that really fills a gap in your wardrobe then go for it, but if you really need to save and you’re looking at buying a new notebook for the sake of it then you really need to think about if it can wait.
Another thing I find helps with this is having a post it note or section in your journal towards a ‘big spend’ – if there’s something that you want or need to spend slightly more money on. I have a big spend post it note that I transfer to each monthly finance spread with each month and what I would like to be my ‘big spend’ if I can afford it. It’s meant that because I could plan it out, I bought myself a Nintendo Switch in May, a new car in June and I’m hoping to be able to get prescription sunglasses and pay the deposit on a rented property in August. It really is achievable if you set your mind to it!
It’s a difficult skill to master discipline and nobody’s perfect, but trying your best is the best you can do.
So there’s my top advice for helping manage your finances in a more realistic way than most of the apps will let you. I personally find them all too fiddly and they never track my bills right, but maybe I’ve just not put the time into them.
I think I’ll always be a pen and paper gal myself, but I hope this helps in some way!
Thank you so much for reading,