Budget Planning: A Comprehensive Guide

If you’re not yet budgeting, you should be.


What is a budget?

A budget is a way to manage your income more effectively. Creating a budget means looking at your monthly income and expenditure so you can see exactly where your money is going.

Why should I budget?

By developing a budget you can:

  • Work out whether you’re spending more than you earn.
  • Live within your means.
  • Track all your expenses.
  • Enjoy peace-of-mind over your spending.
  • Work towards a financial goal, like saving or paying off debt and any short term loans that you may have.

Planning an effective budget – step by step

  1. Start by getting together everything you’ll need to start planning your budget. This could include:

  • Bank statements.
  • Household bills.
  • Mortgage/tenancy agreement.
  • Savings.
  • Other income.

To track your budget, use a simple Excel spreadsheet, Google Doc, free online tool or the humble notepad and pen – this will probably do the job just as well.

  1. Then work out how much you earn

The core of a budget is to compare your income and expenditure and see what your financial situation is. Work out how much you earn by listing down all your regular income. This could include:

  • Earnings from your job.
  • Interest from savings.
  • Money from self-employment.
  • Rent from properties you own.
  1. Next, work out how much you’re spending

To work out your monthly expenditure, gather together all your documents and record your monthly outgoings. These could include:

  • Rent/mortgage payments.
  • Bills – water rates, council tax, energy etc.
  • Food spending.
  • Internet.
  • Mobile phone bill.
  • Entertainment – streaming services, magazine subscriptions etc.
  • Insurance payments.
  • Charity donation.

Tip: Remember to factor in additional spending

A month-by-month plan is a good idea because it will give you a picture of your day-to-day spending. But to make it more accurate, factor in particular event expenses such as:

  • Christmas.
  • Rainy day fund (a good rule-of-thumb is 3 months’ outgoings.)
  • Emergencies (boiler repair, washing machine repair, car breakdown etc.)
  • Well-earned holidays.
  • Birthdays and anniversaries.
  1. Compare

Put what’s coming in and what’s going out side-by-side and subtract your expenditure from your income – then you’ll know whether you’re spending more than you earn or not.

If you’re in deficit each month, setting a budget is imperative to stop you getting into debt. If you’ve got more money coming in than going out, budgeting is still a good idea as it could help you save more money than you currently do.

  1. Set up a budget

To set your budget:

  • Cut out any unnecessary outgoings.
  • Look for ways to save costs.
  • Set out what you intend to spend each week/month – and stick to it.

To cut out any unnecessary outgoings, strike off any non-essentials – particularly if you really need to save money. These could include:

  • Getting rid of your landline phone, just using your mobile phone.
  • Cancelling any entertainment services you don’t use.
  • Sell your second car.
  • Skip your daily cup of coffee.

To save costs, make changes such as:

  • Go to a cheaper energy provider.
  • Switch your current account/ISA for a better interest rate.
  • Draw up a weekly meal plan to save money on household spending.

A spending diary is also a good idea – this will help you find more areas of excessive spending you could well cut back on.

  1. Revisit your budget

It’s a good idea to test your budget out over the first few months, checking whether it works for you. Review your budget plan once a quarter, or when anything changes in your finances, such as a pay rise, added expense or something else.

Generic advice is not a service regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority thus does not require authorisation.