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Dublin: 12°C Tuesday 24 May 2022

'I set an alarm to check my statements every month': 8 readers share their best budgeting tips

Adults around the country tell us how they set a budget… and actually stick to it.

Image: Shutterstock

WHETHER YOU’RE SAVING for a big purchase or want to stop leaving yourself counting down the days until payday every month, a budget is a great way to get a grasp on your finances. 

Unless you’re someone who’s never a penny short, it’s almost certain that most of us could benefit from looking at exactly where our money is going each month – and figuring out where we can save. In fact, Irish households saved nearly €10 billion in the first seven months of this year due to an ‘inability to spend’ during lockdown. 

So, what’s the best way to keep a hold on your expenditure? From spreadsheets to putting loose change into Coca Cola bottles, we asked eight Irish men and women to share the budgeting tips they actually stick to.

Here’s what they had to say. 

1. Separate your essential and non-essential spending

In our house we do up a budget specifically for shared defined outgoings (but you could do this even for one person) where we figure out how much we need to pay each month for things like mortgage, insurance, joint savings, estimated groceries etc. We each have a direct debit then set up from our personal accounts to put half of the total (with a bit extra for unforeseen expenses and holidays etc) into a joint account. 

The direct debit goes out at the start of the month, when we have both been paid, and it means that when you are considering some piece of discretionary spending for yourself, you only have what’s in your personal account to play with – and you know the big stuff is already accounted for.

- Susan

shutterstock_1673456455 Source: Shutterstock/fizkes

2. Set up a direct debit for savings, no matter how small

I think a big thing is having a savings direct debit that goes out either the day you get paid or the day after, so the money barely has a chance to hit your account. Even if it’s really small, it doesn’t matter. Also, open a credit union account and save a small amount every week. You can use that as your Christmas/unexpected expenses/holiday savings account if you need, or just watch the money accumulate.

- Aoife

3. Break your spending down into categories

Categorise your spending as much as possible. I use a spreadsheet to do this, but you could use an app or notebook. Make the categories broad initially and then you can narrow them down as time goes on, but I think it helps just mentally to see where your money is going in this way. 

- Nicky

4. Set a realistic limit for ‘fun’ purchases

After I put away my savings and calculate the cost of my direct debits, each month I put a certain amount into my Revolut account and use this as the ‘only’ money I have until next payday. I use this money to pay for any luxuries like online shopping, drinks out with friends, takeaways etc. I set a realistic amount so I can afford to do the things I love, but it stops me from spending too much and dipping into my savings.

- Jennifer

shutterstock_1014550546 Source: Shutterstock/simon jhuan

5. Put your loose change to good use

We have a big plastic Coca Cola bottle in our house and put every bit of change into it. We usually use it towards a holiday during summer then start again for Christmas. The kids love seeing it build up, and whenever we use the money we tell them, ‘the money from our bottle paid for this!’ They love to guess how much is in there and then we count it to see who was closest.

- Ciara

6. Set a reminder to check your bank statements

I put a monthly reminder on my phone to log into my bank account for even five minutes to check and make sure I know exactly what direct debits came out, and if there was anything I wasn’t expecting. If I have more left in it than I thought, I’ll give myself a “bonus”, which is great! 

- Rebecca

shutterstock_525276400 Source: Shutterstock/wutzkohphoto

7. Make a ‘savings club’ with your friends or colleagues

In work we have a savings club where one person collects money weekly on a Thursday and Friday morning. You can save whatever amount you like. It runs for 48 weeks and you get your money back on the first week of December. You can’t get it back before then! It makes you accountable and it’s nice to have a little pressure to save.

- Jaimie 

8. Divide your paycheck into a daily spend

Say it’s the 10th of the month and you have €1,000 in your account after putting aside money for bills, rent, saving. Divide the €1,000 by the remaining days in the month (say 20), meaning you have €50 per day as your spend. Especially now, working from home, you won’t traditionally spend €50 on an average Tuesday, so allow any excess to roll over to the next day, and the next etc. By Saturday, you could have a possible extra €50/€100 to add onto your Saturday or Sunday €50 budget, meaning you can go out to dinner or buy something nice. Any roll over at the end of the month goes into a savings account. 

- Roisin 

Want to get a handle on your budget? The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) budget planner Money Tool can help you work out exactly what you’re spending your money on, and help you set up a plan to keep control of your spending. Try the free, independent budget planner, and check other Money Tools from CCPC here.

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