Are you spending a little more than you earn? Feeling a little bit stretched at the end of the month? If, by and large, you keep out of debt, but would like to be a bit better at managing your money so you can feel a bit more secure, or have more left over once all the bills are paid, then read on – instead of completely overhauling your finances, these money management, saving tips and budgeting ideas are little things that could make a big difference.
When it comes to planning a budget, you can never get it exactly right – there are some incomings and outgoings that you simply can't plan for. To help yourself stay a little bit more comfortable, always err on the low side when estimating your income, and on the high side when estimating your expenses. This will give you a little bit of room for errors and emergencies in your budget plan.
Diversify your savings
If you just have one bank account, it can be very easy to empty it – and current accounts don't provide particularly competitive interest rates either. An ISA is a good place to put any money you want to save, or anything you've got left at the end of the month – and the interest rates can be quite high, helping your money to grow year on year. Also, it’s a lot harder to take your money out of an ISA – you won't have a card for it, and will have to purposefully transfer your savings to another account, making it easier to resist temptation.
Don't trust your bank account
When you look at your online bank account, or check your balance online, it will only give you a current snapshot – it won't take into account payments made but not yet taken, upcoming outgoings, and much more. Money in the bank doesn't necessarily mean money to spare – make sure you keep your own records or what you've spent and when direct debits come out to keep on top of things.
Plan your food budget carefully
Food is the biggest household expenditure for many, and it can be all-too-easy to pop into shops after work rather than planning your food budget ahead of time. Big shops and bulk buys are always going to provide better value for money, and it's rare that the value option ingredients will be noticeably inferior to a brand if you know how to cook with them!
Online services often have some great deals and offers on first orders that you can cycle through, and reward points can easily add up. Ensuring you've got enough food to make lunch for the month means you can avoid buying costly meals while at work – you might be surprised how much that can save!
Pay in cash
Paying on your card all the time is an easy way to let your spending go up and your bank account go down – often without even realising by how much. Contactless payments make it even easier to just wave your card and spend. But if you make a point of withdrawing enough cash to cover essentials while staying under budget, you can only spend what you've got in your pocket – and it's easier to resist impulse purchases when you see, in real terms, how much it's costing you.
Work out what you need
Cutting non-essential items out of your monthly or weekly budget can be a painful experience, but sometimes it's worth going without a smaller "want" so you can save towards a bigger one. Could it be time to give up smoking, fancy coffees, or subscriptions for services you never have the time to use? You know you don't need them.
Plan ahead, as much as possible
Don't just consider the week and month – consider the year as well. Budgeting annually may seem impossible, and may feel like a bit much, but keeping a slightly looser tab on your incomings and outgoings throughout the year, and planning for big events well in advance, will make holidays, Christmas, birthdays and more much more affordable.
So there you have it – some simple tricks that don't involve downsizing your car, moving home, or living off 10p noodles. It really can be that simple to take better control of your finances.