Our busy, hectic lifestyles sometimes mean there’s not much time to sit down for five minutes at the end of the day. But at the end of the month, a little time set aside for planning your expenditure can seem like a good idea! Here are five simple steps to a balanced budget to get your household spending back on track, that won’t swallow up time you’d rather spend anywhere but staring at a spreadsheet.
- Break it down: When planning out a home budget, it’s important to account for unusual spending like restaurant dates and holidays just as much as it is for daily essentials. Once you know what you’re spending on different areas of your life, you might be able to work out how to cut some sneaky corners. Shocked by your yearly restaurant bills? Plan a few at-home dinners instead, or arrange a dinner party where everyone brings a dish so you’re not stuck with all the cooking. Find more information on compartmentalising your home budget here.
- Take control: The way you do this will vary from person to person. For example, you might prefer working with old fashioned pens and paper, or you might be a gadget nut who’s lost without an app. Whatever tools you use, once you’ve broken down what you have going out, you can compare it against what you have coming in. It’s easy to bury your head in the sand when it comes to balancing the books, but if you find that you’re spending more than you earn, it’s important to remedy the problem as soon as you can, so that it doesn’t become a burden.
- Be realistic: The next step is setting realistic goals for yourself. There’s no point planning to never buy a cinema ticket again if seeing films is your favourite hobby. But if you buy a coffee every day out of habit, think about making instant coffee at office every day instead. You could put the amount of money you’re saving in a jar, and watch with satisfaction as it adds up. This kind of tangible evidence can really help you stay on track once the initial motivation has died down!
- Schedule rewards: It can be near impossible to keep motivated when you feel like you’re cutting down. So schedule rewards for yourself into your budget. This could be something simple like a pair of nice jeans, or a day trip to a place you’ve never explored before. Another creative treat that won’t cost you a thing is to organise a ‘swap-shop’ with your friends. Get everyone to clear out their closets, bookshelves, or CD collections of anything they don’t use anymore, and bring it along to your house at a specified date and time. Then everyone who’s present is free to take any of the collected items away for free. It’ll help to declutter while updating your wardrobe!
Hopefully these tips will make budgeting at home less stressful, but remember that like everything else it’s a process of trial and error, so you don’t have to get your budget perfect first time!