Budgeting 101 – Best ways to stretch your paycheck

We are all feeling the effects of the cost of living crisis where we feel the need for budgeting and seeking ways to save money to make our paychecks last longer. By budgeting every month this will allow you to save money and also see where your money is going. Budgeting is all about what is coming into your bank account vs what you are spending and account for how much “spare” money you will have. It will also help to make sure you have enough money when you need it and help you spend within your means to increase any future savings.

Image showing coins in a budgeting jar, Image Credit: https://moneynation.com/

Budgeting Tools – What are they and how can they help?

A budgeting tool can take the form of apps, printable tools, books, notepads, bullet journals or budgeting cards and in general are there to help you understand your finances and manage them accordingly. A budgeting tool can help you see in black and white what is coming into your bank vs your expenditure each month.

Old fashioned pen and paper

If you are going to use a tool it is a good idea to decide whether you are more comfortable with an online tool or paper tool. To find online budgeting tools a simple Google search will help you find what is out there including printable budgeting pages. There are many budgeting books and notepads available for purchase on websites such as Etsy or Amazon. Bullet journaling has become very popular recently to help with day to day tracking, there are many YouTube videos on how to start and many pre-filled books to purchase.

Budgeting Cards

Budgeting cards are another way of helping you save money. Budgeting cards allow for you to transfer money onto the card, similar to a savings account, without incurring any fees for withdrawal. You can also use some of these cards as a main bank account if necessary. The purpose of these cards is to allow you to categorise your money into “pots” so you have a finite amount to spend for each criteria area you have decided on. Some examples of the cards available are; Monzo, Revolut and Starling

Other budgeting methods

One other useful budgeting method are budgeting apps. These are great for people who utilise their phones more than paper notepads for keeping track of day to day life. There are so many budgeting apps available that can help you keep track of what you have spent. There are also apps that will round up payments and add them into a separate “pot”, for example if a coffee costs you £3.45 the app will round the payment to £3.50 and add the extra 5p into a pot for you to use, this can also be set up with the budgeting cards. 

How much are groceries eating into your budget?

Shop around

When trying to save money an easy area to save on is groceries. Try considering the differences between the supermarkets and where you can get the best value for your money. M&S and Waitrose are up there with the highest markup on products with Aldi, Lidl and Asda being near the bottom. Other stores such as Tescos are also very affordable and will often “price match” with stores such as Aldi to further lower the cost. It is worthwhile doing some research on where you can get the most from your money.

Another way of saving on groceries is to consider your brands. With well known brand names comes a higher price. Making the change to own brand beans or own brand sauces for example could potentially save you up to £10-15 a week. 

Make a list

When you go shopping, always shop with a list and plan out what you are going to eat for the week before you go. We are all tempted by the deals and quick fixes when we go shopping so creating and sticking to a list will help you save money. There are some fantastic apps available to you to help create weekly meal plans and shopping lists, alternatively Etsy and Amazon have some great (and cheap) recipe/shopping planning books. Another thing to consider is batch cooking – creating larger meals that you can eat throughout the week or freeze for an easy meal, by buying in bulk it can help reduce expenditure in the long run. 

Utilise Offers

Many restaurants, shops and cafes also have rewards cards. These will allow you to save money in the long run as many offer incentives on the 5th and 10th visit for example, incentives for collecting stamps or gaining points such as on a Tesco Clubcard. It is worth asking about any rewards schemes that places offer that you go to often as you never know what savings you could be making.

If you find yourself towards the end of the week where meals are dwindling and you don’t want to spend on eating out, utilising apps like Olio or Too Good to Go allows for you to buy discounted food that would otherwise be wasted, sometimes from high end restaurants. This means you could try a new restaurant or type of food for a fraction of the cost and you will be helping the environment as well.

And there you have it! Overall there are so many ways you can stretch your paycheck and monitor where you could make savings in your day to day life. With the cost of living crisis still very fresh it is worthwhile doing your own research to see what budgeting method would work best for you. There are a few other articles that may be worthwhile reading are How To Reduce Food Waste and Small Businesses or Superstore Monopolies which have further information on how to save money.