Managing your money can be tricky, especially if you’ve moved out – from rent to food to nights out, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’re spending and end up not being able to make ends meet.
Being flat broke isn’t much craic, and getting your electricity disconnected even less so. So whether your working, getting a grant/social welfare or managing on an allowance, learning how to budget for each week and month is pretty important. It’s also not nearly as daunting as it sounds.
How to make a budget
Step 1: Work out your income
Add up all of the money you take in each month – what you earn, what you might get in benefits, and any extra bits and pieces. Only include the regular incomes that you get every month.
Step 2: Work out your outgoings
Add up all the money that you HAVE to spend in an average month – rent, electricity and phone bills, insurance, loan repayments, food, travel expenses and everything that you can think of that could be considered a necessity.
Tip 1: It’s a good idea to add on ten percent to whatever you work our for your outgoings. That way, you’ll have enough to cover those unexpected expenses, like GP visits or if you lose your phone. Stuff happens.
Tip 2: It’s a good idea to keep track of your receipts to see how much you’re actually spending and on what.
Step 3: Now for the maths bit – how much do you have left?
Subtract your outgoings from your income (providing that the second is a bigger number than the first!), and the balance is your spending money. If you’re working it out per month, divide your spending money up into what you can afford to spend each week – on going out, on clothes, on DVDs or whatever you want it for – or what you can save for something bigger, like travelling or the annual Christmas present panic.
Again, keep track of your receipts to keep an eye on how much you’re spending and on what. That way you can figure out when you need to reign in your spending and what you should cut. If you’re spending more than your income, it’s time to figure out what changes have to be made.
How to make it stretch
You might find after working our your budget that things look pretty tight. Don’t worry. There are some expenses that are unavoidable, like your rent, but there are loads of ways to cut back on your costs.
Bills – depending on your deal with your landlord if you have one, look around for the best deals on electricity, phone and internet providers. Also, TURN OFF THE LIGHTS! For your pocket and the planet.
Mobile phone – check out whether you’re on the best network and the best price plan for how you use your phone
Food – some supermarkets are way better value than others, and you can get great own brand stuff . You can always splurge on the odd fancy thing now and then, but no one really needs fancy loo roll.
Cut the convenience
Microwave dinners and take-aways might be appealing when you’re wrecked, but keep it to the minimum. Not only are they way more expensive than cooking for yourself, but they’re packed full of salt, fat and who-knows-what-else and will do you no favours. Make your own sandwiches rather than buying them and get a flask for coffee. And say hello to the apple, the chocolate bar’s cheaper and lovelier friend.
Cheap nights out (and in)
Ireland admittedly isn’t the best place for nights out on a budget, but keep your eye on event guides for free gigs, comedy shows and outdoor film festivals in the summer. Don’t forget about vouchers and deals too, there’s loads of them out there these days. You’ll also be amazed by the amount of money you save if you don’t drink on the odd night out. A dance, three cokes and no desire for a kebab come 3am– a great night for under a tenner.
Don’t forget that if you’ve moved out of home, one of the main advantages is that you might be able to have nights in with your friends. Cheap fun without having to get out of your pyjamas. Win win.
Aren’t we lucky that charity shops are all the rage, eh? Get pre-loved books, clothes and all sorts of stuff for half the price and twice the style points. Also, get out the needle and thread (or get a more nimble-fingered friend to) if you’ve got a whole in your jumper or the buttons have come off your coat. It might be old-fashioned, but throwing stuff out is sooo last century.
What do you really need?
Think about what you really need to get by and be happy. It probably doesn’t include the new phone/shoes/DVD. It does include decent food, heat and a roof over your head. Maybe some cake.
If you’re having problems
Money worries can really get people down, especially if the bills are coming in and you’re not sure how you’re going to pay them. If you need advice, check out managing your debt for some tips and don’t panic. These things can always get sorted out. If you need some support or someone to talk to about your financial problems, check out face-to-face help and the useful sites below.