As we check our bank balance and realise just how much we spent creating our perfect Christmas, most of us make budgeting our finances better one of our New Year resolutions. Yes, we did set the budgeting resolution at the start of 2018 too and it only lasted just as far as January’s first payday but that was just a blip, this year will be different, right!
Failing to plan is planning to fail, or so they say, and with this in mind we set out to make the plan to beat all other plans. We jot down what we think our outgoings are, then we take another swig from the closest bottle, eat another one of the kid’s chocolates and stare at the notes wondering what to do next.
After a quick Google search we decide that meat-free Mondays will slash our food shopping bills, we will never eat takeaway again and if we wear every item of clothing in our wardrobe we won’t need to turn the heating on – great plan, what could possibly go wrong.
The end of January rolls around and we realise that we forgot to budget for Aunt Mabel’s birthday, and that our car is due for an MOT. 2019 has become 2018 - The sequel. In frustration we throw our hands up, submit a silent scream to the universe and wonder why we even bothered. Someone pass the darn takeaway menu.
Simply letting you know that you are not alone in the annual budgeting struggle might be comforting in a ‘me too’ sort of way but I do realise it is not all that helpful. Luckily for us, the Citizens Advice Bureau have come up with a solution – just in time.
On their website there is this great, easy-to-use tool that allows us to understand what we are spending our hard-earned money on, in detail and also where we might be able to save.
I was super excited to give it a go. If this works then it could mean that 2019 is not looking like a repeat of this year after all. I will admit that part of me was slightly apprehensive about admitting my obvious notebook purchasing addiction but, putting my reservations to the back of my mind, I set aside an hour, grabbed a cuppa, put my headphones in and set out to give it a whirl.
Overall, I have to say that this is hands-down the easiest budget tracker I have ever used. It provides a clear check-up of your finances and really breaks everything down into manageable steps.
Something that really sets this tool apart from others is that, aside from showing you your current position and spending habits, it also gives you some really great advice for where you could be saving money, and even provides some tips for how to get out of debt.
From first-hand experience I would say definitely get hold of a copy of your payslip and your bank statements before you start. You will be asked questions about your income, bills and direct debits as you make your way through, so it is best to have everything to hand and you won’t have to stop part way through like I did.
The first section will walk you through your income both as an individual and also as a household. You can choose from weekly, monthly or yearly pay depending on what suits you best.
Then the next section is really impressive – it allows you to select from a list of benefits that may apply to you, sometimes it can be difficult to remember the specific names of them all so this is a super helpful prompt.
As you answer all of the questions, you can see your progress as you move down the menu on the right-hand side.
You will move through a comprehensive set of categories to ensure you don’t forget to account for something. The sections cover;
- Family & Pets
- Car or other vehicle
- Savings and investments
Hang-in there, it looks like a lot, but it really is easy to use, and you will fly through it. As long as you answer as honestly as possible, or at least ball park what you think you might spend on certain things then the calculator just does it all for you.
Once you are done, a really clear graph that shows your income vs your spending is displayed, and you get a breakdown showing the areas of spending with the amounts. The results can be pretty staggering, you can clearly see where you may have been going wrong all this time.
If like me, you are set on making 2019 the year that you get everything in order and really start taking control then I highly recommend that you take some time to have a go with the tool for yourself but do come back and let me know how you got on.
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