Budgeting For Those Of Us Who Hate It

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I used to be utterly, utterly allergic to budgeting.

Spreadsheets. Receipts. Bank statements. I’d avoid each at any cost*, and saving for my future was an idea that never, ever entered my head fully as I grew up.

Fast forward to now, and keeping track of my finances is something I actually enjoy. It’s empowering to know I’m now on top of something that used to fill me with such fear and horror, and to feel some control and composure over my spending habits. Minimalism transitioned me very gently away from my binge shopping habits, while starting a business and moving into my first post-uni home have made staying on top of my budgeting an inescapable must.

If you are just as intimidated by tracking your income and outgoings as I used to be, I hope this post can help you on your way. Financial fear is one of the most compelling feelings we can experience, but keeping track is such a great way to help feel some control of your situation. I’ve outlined the tips that are helping me most at the moment, but definitely let me know of the advice that has helped you most below!

*this finance pun was unintentional, but let’s pretend it absolutely was not

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LOG WHAT YOU SPEND

This section’s a little bit meatier, but bear with me: the first part of planning what you can spend is to know what your habits are already. Before you start any of this, keep a hold of your receipts. I used to hate doing so, but I’ll write down what I’ve spent using mine, and get rid once they’re saved in my tracking spreadsheet.

An essential that was horrifying initially, logging what I am spending is now something that comes naturally to me. I use my cash receipts, my current account and my Monzo account to fill in a spreadsheet to track my outgoings… I’ll check in with around once a fortnight to update it, and see exactly where I’m at. Below I’ve linked a free template download to help you to create your own tracking document; it’ll help you as I break down what I add to my spreadsheet in this section!

First off: write down what your fixed outgoings are. This is usually your rent, phone and utility bills, insurance, loan repayments, subscription costs, savings and any other payments you know will be going out each month. I place these in my ‘Fixed Outgoings” column, then add another column for my “Incomings” too… as I’m freelance, this varies every month, so mine is a little longer than yours might well be. 

I then break down my purchases into five more columns: Food, Social, and Life. “Food” is where I’ll log just my groceries, putting meals out and anything else similar in “Social”. In “Life” I’ll track things like birthday presents, travel, home purchases, dental appointments and other essentials that don’t fit into other columns. “

If you’d like to download my template, you can find an Excel document here, a Numbers version here, and a PDF here.

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WHERE CAN YOU CUT CORNERS?

Once you know what you’re spending on, you can work out where things can be pared back. Meals out and social gatherings are always my pitfalls, so make sure you are aware of any other things you’re spending on that aren’t actually essential.

Get used to shopping around: I use Honey to find discount codes when I’m shopping online, and the internet is the perfect place to compare prices instead of just shopping in person. If I can buy secondhand, I always will. (I’m planning on writing you a detailed post on just that, so keep your eyes peeled!) Purchase in bulk if possible as this works out as cheaper in the long run, and see if you can borrow an item (clothing, kitchenware, home essentials) for one-off usage instead of making a new purchase for something every time.

SET YOUR BUDGETS

Once you know how you’re spending and where you can cut corners, it becomes much, much easier to set budgets for each area of your outgoings. Social is the easiest place to curb the costs and set specific goals for. Budgeting has to be realistic: if you now spend £40 on groceries a week, for example, setting a goal of £20 might not be an achievable step, so I always recommend having a “buffer” amount added into your goal budgets, that you can add to your savings if it’s not needed that month.


PLAN AHEAD

Birthdays always creep up on me, and I find it helpful to set a limit as to what I can spend; I’m a giver, so I can get a bit carried away otherwise! I’m also starting to properly plan my holidays and time off, so that I can budget more effectively for these too. Meal planning is another way I help to keep myself on track too; currently I’ll cook two “proper meals” a week, eating these leftovers and simpler meals the rest of the time.


These are the three steps I use to stay on top of my spending habits, but I would love to hear how you do this too; are there any methods that you recommend for budgeting effectively?

WellbeingAnna Considine