Nila Sweeney
Are mortgage/rent payments, escalating energy bills and the general rising cost of living making it hard for you to keep your budget on track? Read on for some tips and tricks to help you stick within your fiscal lines!
 
For some of us, the mere idea of sticking to a budget makes us break out in a sweat.
 
But the reality is, a well-planned budget shouldn’t be restrictive or difficult to stick with. Instead, it should make your life more affordable and easier to manage, because you know exactly what your regular expenses are, and how much “disposable” income you have leftover for play.
 
If your budget needs a little tweaking, here’s a four-step plan to help you make the most out of your personal financial plan:
 
Step 1: Review your outgoings
It’s a tough question to ask yourself, but you need to know: can you afford your life? You may need to reshuffle your expenses if it turns out you’re spending more than you earn.
 
Make a list of all of your regular expenses (and check it twice!), and compare it against your salary or wage. If your outgoings equal more than your income, you may need to cut some lifestyle “wants”, at least temporarily.
 
Step 2: Allocate your pay accordingly
According to www.debtsteps.com, your monthly pay packet should roughly be divided up as follows – how does your personal budget stack up?
  • Housing 35% (includes mortgage or rent payments, repairs and maintenance, improvements/renovations, home and contents insurance and utilities, such as electricity)
  • Transportation 20% (Monthly car payments, petrol, services, tyres, repairs, insurance, parking and public transportation)
  • Debt 15% (Credit cards, personal loans, car loans and other debts, such as store cards)
  • Other expenses 20% (Food, health insurance, entertainment, doctor/dentist bills, clothing and gifts)
  • Investments/savings 10% (Shares, cash savings, real estate investments, etc)
 
Step 3: Track your spending
It’s all well and good to know what your budget should look like, but it’s equally important to know where you’re actually spending your cash!
 
A spending diary is much like a food diary: you jot down everything you buy for a week, and then review your findings to see where you can plug any leaks. You will more than likely be shocked to see how much money you waste in an average week!
 
Step 4: Look for income opportunities
If you’re loath to cancel your Foxtel subscription or you can’t live without a fortnightly clothing splurge, you’ll need to look for ways to boost your income. Perhaps it’s time to look for a new job or ask for a payrise – or you could investigate freelance opportunities. Websites like www.elance.com and www.freelancer.com.au can provide an extra income stream if you have skills in writing, editing, graphic design, book-keeping and web design.