A budget maps how you’ll spend your money, setting limits for certain categories of spending.
Knowing exactly how much money you've got coming in and going out - as well as where it goes - can help you prioritise spending. This means you can make your money last and potentially save more each month.
How to start budgeting
1. Decide your budget format
An app or spreadsheet can be a great resource, but a notebook and pen can work as well. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you can keep track of and update over time if you need to.
2. Note your income and expenses
Take a look at how much money you have coming in on a regular basis, like your salary. If your income changes from month to month, work out the average over the last three months.
Then, looking at your bank statements or transaction history for the last three months, work out your average total amount of spending. By comparing your income and your expenses, you'll see if you're living beyond your means or if you've got money left over.
It can be helpful to put your expenses into categories so you can see specific areas where you may be overspending. These categories should include regular outgoings like:
- bills (eg utilities, phone, internet)
- rent or mortgage
- eating out
If you’re an HSBC customer, you may find it useful to use a tool like Balance After Bills. It’s a feature in the HSBC UK Mobile Banking app that takes into account all of your regular bills and then shows how much you could have left over for spending.
3. Make a plan
If you feel you're spending too much or just want to save a bit more each month, look at what you can change.
You can try making small adjustments like bringing your own lunch to work. Or consider making bigger changes like switching energy supplier.
Once you've decided where you'd like to make changes, set yourself a monthly (or weekly) goal for spending in each of the categories you've created.
Try to account for irregular costs too. Allocate a certain amount for them at the start of your budgeting period. This can be things like:
- renewing your car tax
- booking flights
- hosting your friends for the weekend
And if you have money allocated for savings, move it into a savings pot or account as soon as you get paid. This way you're not tempted to spend it elsewhere.
It’s good to aim high, but be realistic: making things too hard may mean you get quickly disheartened.
4. Stick to the plan
As you go, make sure you're staying on track. It can be helpful to look over your budget regularly to make sure you’re following the plan you set out.
Pay close attention to how you’re tracking against each of your categories. If something isn’t going to plan, this will let you know where you may want to cut back or adjust your budget.
If you need advice on your finances, arrange an individual review with us to see how we can help.