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4 simple budgeting steps
A budget is simply a plan for keeping your spending below the level of your income. If you stick to it, you’ll be better off. Here are four steps to help you.
Step 1. Get prepared
To build your budget you’ll need detailed knowledge of your spending and income. Thankfully, these can all be found in one place: your bank statements, available on request from your bank or via online banking. About three months of statements should give you the information you need.
Step 2. List your income and outgoings
The income part is easy – total up all income from your job, benefits, interest from savings, income from investments or a property you let, or pensions if you are drawing them.
The outgoings take a bit more concentration. Much of it will be obvious – rent or mortgage, utility bills, travel to and from work, mobile phone bills, etc. Then there is the everyday spending we often don’t think about – take-away coffees, chocolate bars when you buy petrol, the magazines you buy when your train is delayed. Don’t forget to include the great chunk of money for the one-offs – dinner with friends, holidays, unexpected maintenance bills or anything else.
These costs do not land every month, but if you divide the cost down you’ll get a figure that you can include in your budget. For example, you may spend HK$12,000 once a year on a holiday. Just divide this by 12 to get your monthly figure – in this case around HK$1,000 –and put this down in your budget as your monthly spend on holidays.
Step 3. Use tools to help
It will help to be as detailed as you can when you draw up your budget, but there will always be things you forget about. There are online tools to help, and the best ones will prompt you to include things you may otherwise forget. Would you remember to include the money you spend on boiler insurance, haircuts, vet bills or birthday presents?
Step 4. Make changes
Your budget should tell you whether you are spending more, or less, than your income each month.
If your spending is lower than your income – well done! If that’s you, now focus on saving even more and putting that money to good use.
If you’re spending more than your income each month, it is a sign that you need to make changes right away. You may manage month-to-month budget by dipping into savings or using overdraft or credit card borrowing however that mean extra interest costs in the future.
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