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It seems every week there’s a new price shock. This week it was an email from my power company letting me know how much their bill was going up. I’m guessing the same has happened to you.
Add the hike to petrol and food price increases, and it’s definitely time to review spending, saving and investing.
Want to know the best thing about budgets? It’s not that they restrict your spending – budgets give your money purpose. When you create and enforce a budget, there’s an undertone that you’re managing something really important, something that you CAN get under control.
The really simple and effective budget plan
Here’s how you can create a simple budget by understanding your cash flow.
- Income: how much you make after tax
- Expenditure: everything that you regularly spend money on (include entertainment and outings)
- Emergency: a buffer of money that safeguards your savings if anything unexpected happens
- Savings: what you keep after all the expenses are taken out
After you make your list of expenditures, you may be thinking, “wow, I spend a lot of money on useless things.” When we’re not conscious of our cash flow, it’s easy to overspend and under-save. A lot of the time, we’re scared to create a budget because we don’t want to feel guilty when we find out that we’ve been ‘mis-managing’ our money. Don’t fall into this way of thinking – it’s an unproductive mentality that will end up costing you a lot of money and time. We just have to make a decision to forgive ourselves and move forward.
Ruthlessly cut the fat
It’s time to take a long look at your expenditures. Print out your monthly bank statements and grab a pen – you're going to rate each expenditure from '0' to '3', this is a ranking system to determine how important or essential your expenses are – '0' being non essential, and '3' being absolutely essential. Once you’ve done that, you now have a good idea of what to cut and what to keep.
- 0 = cut out immediately
- 1 = I like this but I don’t need this
- 2 = I need this but I can probably find a cheaper alternative
- 3 = essential expenses
Audit your spending with a simple and effective system
Everything that has a '0' needs to be cut immediately. Don’t be surprised when you find a lot of '0's staring back at you. Cut out most of the items with 1 next to them, but keep a couple of you’re most favourite. You still want to spoil yourself from time to time. All items with '2' need some extra research, because you will need to bargain hunt and try to haggle on prices with competing vendors. See what’s out there and don’t be afraid to pick up the phone to speak directly with a sales rep. Items with number '3' are fixed. This means that these expenses are running your livelihood and shouldn’t be messed with too much. This can include: rent, car loans, mortgage, fuel, groceries and more.
Making the system work seamlessly
This is the part where you tell your money where to go and just sit back and watch as your expenses get taken care of and your saving increase.
Thanks to online banking and the widespread use of debit and credit cards, you can automate all our recurring bills, your savings and your emergency fund. This is a huge benefit, because you don’t want to constantly be making decisions about how much money you’re are going to save from this month to the next. You want to commit to your numbers and just tell your money where to go.
Automate all your recurring expenses out of your regular bank account. You’ll have greater control because you know exactly how much money is coming out of your account. Automate your regular savings and emergency money into another bank account, preferably to another banking institute altogether, because this makes it harder for you to access the in the spur of the moment and safeguards your money from those impulse purchases.
If you have a credit card, you can automate all your recurring expenses to be charged out of your card. What this does is build up reward points for you and increase your credit score while costing you almost no extra money. Card fees can range from $50 to $250 per year, but the benefits you’ll generate will offset that. Be sure to set up an auto pay feature on the card to refill what you’ve spent before the free interest period expires so you can avoid some nasty fees.
Another thing to think about is your credit card itself. Are the rewards it’s offering you something that you want? Find a card that offers benefits that you actually care about.
Now, go forth and optimise your money
This simple budgeting system will take you 45 minutes to set up. You should review it carefully over the next month to make sure that all the automatic transfers and billings are working as they should. You should also keep a close eye on any expenses that you’ve missed. The best part about this system is that your money gains a purpose and a goal; to increase your savings – and with that comes confidence and options.
One last thing, set a calendar reminder for a budget review with yourself at least twice per year. This ensures that your budget is updated and working well for you. It also gives you a chance to optimise and update it with anything new that you’ve learned along your journey to financial freedom.
Other smart money moves right now:
- Make sure your accountant offers you more than just tax compliance. While this forms an essential base, the best accountants can also offer advisory services that include reviewing loans and other costs, as well as investments.
- Update your “me” file with recent career successes and positive feedback, including specific details that will assist your next case for a pay rise.
- Review your health fund membership and phone/internet services to ensure you are getting the best deal.
- Check you are actually using entertainment or health and fitness apps that you are paying for. If not, unsubscribe.