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Managing Your Money – Small Beginnings, Big Changes

The concept is straightforward enough, you want to save a little each month and build up a fund that will be there for you to tap into in case of an emergency or that you can grow in order to get that house renovation done, a new car or the holiday of a lifetime.

But while, yes, it seems straightforward it appears that for some of us those good intentions of saving for the not-so-distant future are hard to turn into reality. But what is it that’s holding us back? What prevents us from saving for the things in life we really want? Perhaps it’s a lack of organisation, a problem that exists around our monthly budget or the fact that we always seem to find something better to spend our money on. 

If you’re looking to make some changes in the way you manage money then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’re taking a look at how you can get yourself organised in your monthly outgoings and manage to start saving for those big things in life that seem so far out of your reach just now.

Managing Your Money - Small Beginnings, Big Changes - coins growing in jars image
Image by Nattanan Kanchanaprat from Pixabay

The Dreaded Spreadsheet

You knew it would come to this, but if the idea of inputting all your incomings and outgoings into a spreadsheet bores you to tears or fills you with dread, then there are some far more user-friendly options out there to help keep track of your money.

We’re talking, of course, about apps and one of the best out there at the moment is Mint. You’ll find it helps you to set a monthly budget, see exactly where your money’s being spent and with a free sign-up, it’s far more satisfying than pouring over that Excel spreadsheet each month.

But yes, despite the more modern approach you are still tracking your finances and this is exactly where you need to start. Give yourself a long-term goal and simply spend the first two or three months getting used to tracking your money so you can figure out some of your spending patterns. You don’t need to change anything at this stage, this is the data gathering part of the process.

Analysis

When you do go back and take a look at where your money goes, you’ll begin to see some patterns emerging. Perhaps you spend the majority of your money at the beginning of the month and, what with your bills leaving at the same time, you’re left with very little spare cash for the last two weeks before payday.

You’ll also see what you’re spending your money on. That latte bought on your way to work every morning has, over three months, mounted up to quite a cost. This kind of analysis is worth going through to help you make some judgements and changes over how you ration your budget.

Finally, you’ll also be able to see all the direct debits and standing orders that are attached to your account. That insurance for a long ago expired laptop that still goes out or the expensive gym membership that never gets used, it’s a good time to make some changes and to see if there are any cancellations that might help you out. It will also give you the opportunity to shift around the dates that direct debits leave your account if that’s going to help you plan a little better.

Prioritise

Once you’ve analysed your spending, it’s time for the action part of the plan to get started. You’ll need to get to the point where you start prioritising. This might mean that you ditch the latte habit completely or set aside a budget for it where that weekly purchase becomes a once or twice a week treat instead.

You might think about dividing your budget up into several pots, including bills, essentials such as food and entertainment, including socialising and of course luxuries such as that latte.

Once you’ve found a natural rhythm for your outgoings, you’ll be in a great position to then add savings to that list.

What to Spend Your Money On

Once your savings are on their way then you’ll be able to think about what you’re saving for. We can’t recommend enough clearing your debts as a first priority. Not only will it free up your money in the long term, it will also help to improve your credit score. If you’ve been asking yourself How can improve my credit score? Then this is the very best way to make those changes.

Get those debts paid down and enjoy greater financial freedom. What you’re saving for is, of course, entirely down to you, as is the amount you’re able to put aside each month. Some experts believe in following the 50/30/20 rule where 20% of your income will go into your savings pot, 50% on the necessities and 30% on discretionary items.

If this works for you and if you have a fixed monthly income, then this can be a great method. Another equally as valid, though slightly more flexible approach is to set up a sweeper account. In this version anything that’s left in your account the day before payday or at a date you specify is swept into your savings account. It allows for those unexpected expenses, like a broken boiler and recognises that some months the savings are going to be minimal while other months there might be a lot more.

However you save and whatever you’re saving for is your choice but your active decision to begin managing money should be applauded. The difference you’ll make to your account with regular saving will seem minimal at first but you’ll be surprised at how quickly that small pot can grow. The sense of satisfaction, not to mention security you’ll feel is worth the effort of getting your accounts in order. Download an app, go through the process and add an extra layer of security to your finances.

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