For some people, the word ‘budget’ can feel intimidating, especially when they think it means they can no longer enjoy the things they like or buy the things they want.
Budgeting does not have to be this way though, in fact, it can actually be both rewarding and empowering!
Many people lose track of where their money is going. This leads them to make the mistake of living beyond their means, which in time will cause them both financial and emotional stress.
Having a budget gives you a clear plan of knowing how much money you have and how your money is spent. Once you know these things, it not only allows you to keep your expenses under control (creating less stress), but it can actually allow you to afford more of the things you like and achieve more of the things you want. Imagine how great that would feel!
Budgeting and saving are not hard to do, they just take a little planning. If the thought of creating a budget seems too difficult for you to work through on your own, drop in to your local Australian Mutual Bank branch or give us a call on 13 61 91. A staff member will be happy to help you.
Think of how satisfying it will feel to get your finances under control and watch your savings increase.
THINKING ABOUT YOUR CURRENT FINANCIAL HEALTH
How healthy are your finances looking right now?
Are you living ‘pay to pay’ to pay with nothing left over?
Do you find yourself down to your last few dollars and payday is still days away?
Perhaps things seem to be going along ok day to day, but when an unexpected expense comes along you struggle to get the money together?
Do you feel like you are drowning in debt and can’t get on top of things?
Many people can relate to these scenarios. The good news is a simple budget can help you get things back on track and give you empowerment by taking control of your money.
SHOW ME THE MONEY (What did you discover about your spending?)
Let us take a closer look at where the money is going.
This article includes a financial tracker designed to give you a clear picture of where things are currently at financially. It will also be a great tool in assisting you later in this book when it comes to creating your actual budget.
This list has many common income and spending areas, along with the option of ‘other’ to add something we may have missed.
Start with your income. If you get paid Fortnightly, make all the amounts in your list fortnightly also. (Alternatively, use a weekly or monthly frequency if you are paid that way).
If your bills are paid in a different frequency than your pay (which many are likely to be), also convert them to this same frequency.
To give a helping hand, below are a few conversions that may come in handy when calculating amounts into your chosen frequency.
- Round all amounts to the nearest dollar. If a bill amount is different every time, refer to multiple previous payments to figure out an average amount. To get the average you add up all the amounts and divide it by the number of bills you looked at.
- When completing the Financial Tracker, only complete the Current $ at this stage, the GOAL $ will come later
Click HERE for the FINANCIAL TRACKER document.
WHAT’S THE VERDICT?
What did you discover after looking through your financial tracker?
Did you have money left over, or were you a little short?
Did you have some money left over? That’s great! You are living within your means and you can look at getting even further ahead with setting up a savings plan.
If you are currently spending more than you have, you might need to make some adjustments to your spending habits, otherwise you could land yourself in financial trouble.
IDEAS TO HELP REDUCE YOUR SPENDING
Usually we find that we have more control over our money when we have a plan and less control when we don’t.
When you were putting all your spending down on paper, you may have noticed how easy it was to figure out set bill amounts (like rent), but more difficult to work out social spending amounts (things like eating out with friends). A budget can really help with this.
Allocate a certain amount each pay for things like eating out just as you do with your rent.
Also putting a certain amount aside each pay for when larger bills arrive can take the struggle out of trying to come up with the money when bigger bills arrive. A simple way to manage this is by regular direct debit. Talk to Australian Mutual Bank about organising it.
• When you are at work, try to cut back on your morning coffee and daily lunch. Don’t worry, we didn’t say cut OUT, just cut back. Did you know that if you bought coffee and lunch 2 times a week rather than 5, you could save roughly $45 a week. That’s over $2300 a year! You will really enjoy the moments you have your bought coffees and lunches even more.
• Reduce some of your luxury expenditure. Still get magazines here and there or don’t eat out as much. It will be difficult to stay on track if you stop everything, so just reduce a bit here and there. You will be surprised at the financial rewards these small changes can make.
• Get organised with Birthdays and Christmas gifts in advance. When we make last minute purchases, we tend to spend more.
• Organise quotes for your different insurances. You will be amazed by how much you could save by shopping around – it can be hundreds of dollars. Paying by the month instead of yearly may also work for you.
• Compare prices with utility companies. Sometimes switching suppliers on your internet or phone could make a difference.
• Shop online for groceries. This will stop you getting extras you don’t need when browsing in the supermarket (especially if you are feeling hungry). This also allows you to know exactly what you are spending and put things back if you need to, rather than getting a shock at the real checkout.
• Shop around. If there is something you really want, check many stores that may sell the product and buy it at the most affordable outlet, better still, wait until it comes on sale.
• Leave your cards at home and take cash with you unless you know that you specifically need it for something. It will make you consider whether you really need to make that purchase and you will have time to think about it. If you do, chances are it will still be there tomorrow.
These are just some easy ways to trim your spending and bring your budget into line. Remember that budgeting is about taking control of your money and by cutting back on your spending in some areas, you will have more money for the things you really want
Using these tips, go back to your Financial Tracker and see where you can work on reducing any of your current spending. Focus on the expenses that aren’t fixed and make adjustments to make your budget balance. Enter these new amounts into GOALS $ (and also move across all fixed amounts to the goals column ).
ADDING SAVINGS TO YOUR PLAN
Now you have worked through some of your spending, let’s take a look at what you might be able to save. The most important thing with savings is to get started. It doesn’t matter if you start small, it’s all about getting in the habit of saving something. Often as you get better with your budget, you will find more ways you can afford to save. Just remember, you can always increase the amount you wish to save at any time.
At Australian Mutual Bank, we have options to help you save. You won’t have to remember to put the money aside as we can set up an automatic transfer of a certain amount on a regular basis to your savings account. Alternatively, if your pay comes to us, we can take this amount out of each pay and put it into a separate savings account before the rest of your pay hits your savings account, then you won’t be tempted to spend it.
If there is nothing specific you want to save for but you want to get started, a good amount to aim for is 10% of your gross income. Put this money aside each payday and you’ll find that you can save for something special.
Another idea is to have about 3 months take-home salary set aside for emergencies or unexpected expenses
Setting goals is a great place to start when it comes to saving. This is an important part of the budget process, because it will make the outcome of budgeting feel even more worthwhile.
Goals should be: Important to you, realistic & achievable, simple & clear, worth the commitment
What are you saving for? Work out how much you need in total and when you want to achieve the goal by.
You will then put the amount you need to contribute regularly to make this in your budget
If it doesn’t fit your budget, you may need to see where you can trim your spending a little further.
Mini goals are a great place to start. You may want to try starting with something small like saving for a weekend away and then going and enjoying the reward. This will show you what saving can do and motivate you when it’s time to strive for even bigger goals.
Often, it helps to write the goals somewhere you can see each day to keep you focused and on track.
HINT: When you choose something to save for and decide how long you want to save up for it, you should follow this formula. E. g. I want to save $1100 in 7 months for a new laptop. If my budget is monthly, I will take my total of $1100 and divide it by the number of months, which is 7. The amount I will need to save each month and put in my budget is $157.14 ($158 rounded up) know how long you have to get there, divide it by the weeks, fortnights and months you have to get there and this will tell you how much to put aside each pay.
PREPARING MY BUDGET PLANNER
Now that we have all of the information we need, it’s time to create your budget.
Step 1: Let’s get started.
Grab a pen and completed Financial Tracker List.
Step 2: Go to ‘My Budget Planner’
Your Budget Planner can be found here.
Step 3: Copy all the details from your outline into your budget.
The good news is you’ve already done most of the hard work! Now all you need to do is copy the amounts from your financial tracker GOAL $ column in to the Amount column of your budget.
This is in the same order as the outline making it easy for you to just work down the page and copy everything straight across.
Step 4: Adding extra detail.
As some added help with your budget. If you know the date a payment is coming in or going out, add that to the date area of the budget. This allows you to keep further on top of thing.
The description section allows you to add anything you like that you feel will assist you in keeping on top of things. You might add the company where the transaction is to, whether you are paying with credit card or if a direct debit is being taken out, or maybe that this is a quarterly bill and the amount you have added is just an instalment.
Step 5: Well Done! (Your budget is complete!)
You now have a reliable plan to follow to help you keep on top of your finances and achieve your savings goals.
Now that your budget is complete continue to refer to it and make adjustments where necessary.
It helps to write down everything you spend for a while and compare it to your budget every month or so, especially as you are getting started.
DEBT (It isn’t always bad)
Debt can sometimes seem like a bad word, but going into debt for a worthwhile purpose can be an effective way of maintaining your lifestyle and building your standard of living.
Many of life’s most important purchases, such as a buying a home, would often not be possible without borrowing.
Other kinds of debt are not so good though, including using money that you don’t really have to spend, like buying something on the ‘spur of the moment’ that quickly loses its value to you, when you know the rent is due.
Provided that you stay in control of your debts and on top of your repayments, you shouldn’t have any problems. Unfortunately, it can be easy to get into trouble if you aren’t sure of the facts.
HINT: If you are having trouble managing your debts, Australian Mutual Bank are here to help you.
Credit cards can be great for making purchases or paying bills over the phone or internet, and are useful in an emergency. They are also convenient to carry around.
Most credit cards give you an interest free period, normally 44 – 55 days, which is great if you pay off the balance in full by the due date each month.
However, at times, it can be difficult to pay off the balance at the end of the month if you have over spent. This can quickly get out of control and as interest rates on credit cards are generally high, this can become the most expensive type of debt you may ever have.
If you get a cash advance (which is obtaining cash from your card), the interest rate is often higher than the interest rate you pay on purchases, so it’s a very expensive way to access cash.
If you feel uncomfortable with your credit card debt, seek help from the staff at Australian Mutual Bank. They can help you work out options for consolidating your debts and paying them off.
Personal loans are often used for a specific purpose, such as buying a car or going on holidays, and you’ll typically have up to 5-7 years to pay off the loan. The interest rate charged on a personal loan is generally lower than credit cards. Unlike a credit card, the repayment amount and loan term are fixed so many people find it easier to keep control of this debt.
Here at Australian Mutual Bank we will allow you to make extra repayments or pay out the loan early without penalty.
Home loans are a long-term form of borrowing and the rate of interest charged is usually the lowest of all loans. We have many different home loan options available.
Talk to Australian Mutual Bank and they will ensure that you get a loan that meets your needs and is one that you can manage the repayments on.
SAVINGS ACCOUNTS TO COMPLIMENT YOU
There are many savings account options tailored to suit your different needs.
Transaction account - A transaction account is a good starting point because you can open one with as little as $1. This everyday style account usually has a debit card attached and lets you take your money out when you want. You might wish to have your pay go in here or set up direct debits from this account.
Generally this will have a low rate of interest.
Specialised Savings Accounts
There are various savings account options available which may include names like:
Savings Motivator Account - an account with higher interest and bonus options where you make a monthly deposit and no withdrawals.
Young Saver Account – a children’s account with high interest and no fees, encouraging young savers to kick start their finances.
Pensioner Aware account – an everyday account offering higher interest for valued senior members.
DIFFERENT INVESTMENT OPTIONS
The interest rates paid on term deposits are usually higher than other accounts, this is because your funds are ‘locked away’ for a set term. The more money you have to invest and the longer you leave it, the higher the interest you will earn. Our terms range from 3 months – 3 years.
Interest is calculated daily and paid at maturity. Depending on the term of your term deposit, you can choose to have the interest earned paid to a designated account or paid back into the term earning you compound interest. (Compound interest is Interest earned from the original principal plus accumulated interest).
If you are working, your employer must make compulsory contributions to a superannuation fund on your behalf. You can make additional contributions to your superannuation fund, which will boost your savings further. You can’t access savings in your superannuation account until you reach your preservation age, so it is a long-term savings tool.
If you were born before 1 July 1960 your preservation age is 55. After this date the preservation age will depend on the date when you were born.
There are many other investment options available which can be used to grow your savings. Some examples include the share market and property investment. The right investment path for you depends on your financial goals, how much money you have to invest, what sort of returns you want and how much risk you are willing to take.
Most of these investments work best over the long-term.
There are also risks associated with investing, so if you are planning on going down this path, you should do your research and seek professional advice. At Australian Mutual Bank, we can get you in touch with a financial advisor. The first appointment is free if you are our member.
WE ARE HERE TO HELP
If you’re having trouble managing your finances, Australian Mutual Bank are here to help!
Let us assist you in taking back control of your finances by guiding you through the process of preparing a budget and setting up a savings plan.
With a large range of account options and tools available, you will have all you need with us to maximise your savings and achieve your goals.
For any further information you might need, please come and visit one of our friendly staff at your local branch. Alternatively, call us on 13 61 91.