Budgeting 101: How to save some pennies.

If there’s one thing my dad has taught me really well, it’s budgeting. I like to think that I’m pretty good with money – with the occasional exception, because I’m only human – and somehow made it possible to move to London and to Brighton and to be self-employed without any major struggles so far, whilst doing 98% of the financing without any help.

 

Know your expenses. I have a spreadsheet which lists all my fixed expenses of the month: Rent, phone bill, subscriptions (e.g. Netflix, Ocado Smartpass) etc. That way I know exactly on which day of the month I need to pay which amount of money, and how much in total I need every month.

Estimate other expenses. At the end of each month, I sit down and estimate my other expenses for the upcoming month. That includes groceries, birthdays, other events I have planned, purchases I would like to include etc. I also put about 20% on top – see next point why.

Calculate 20% on top. This is one thing I never understood when my dad first told me to do this, but it works absolute wonders. When you budget for something, be that moving house, a holiday or just your financial situation for the next month, put 15 to 20% on top. If you don’t need it, great, you saved money. But there is always the chance of extra costs creeping up from somewhere – a broken washing machine, an extra night at a hotel – and you’ll be prepared. It gives peace of mind and unexpected expenses won’t knock you down!

Meal planning. When I was still working in an office, I tried to take my dinner’s leftovers into work for lunch the next day. However, after a few weeks and months of doing this, I got so bored of eating the same meal two days in a row every time that, more often than not, I would buy a meal deal from Tesco or get a more expensive lunch from Waitrose. Now that I work from home, I plan my shopping and my meals a lot more, which I should’ve done when I still lived in London! You could, for example, cook a basic meal on a Sunday and keep different toppings and add-ons in the fridge at work to change it up every day. If the ‘dinner for lunch’-approach is more your thing, you could do the same, just with different meals.

Do it yourself! This goes for both food and home décor. I found that, for examples, pasta sauces are so easy to make and much cheaper than ready-made ones. I keep some tomato puree and a variety of ingredients, e.g. tuna, olives, spices or herbs, and make my own sauce for pasta, rice or other meals. It’s much more fun to be experimental, too! For decoration, I try to be creative (hello, Pinterest) and add a personal touch to my room by DIY-ing a lot.

Walk, bike, skate! This is something I’ve only been able to do since moving to Brighton but I try to avoid using public transport too much. When I lived in London, I spent a whopping £150 a month on my Oyster card. My bank account loves me for not having that expense every month but even £2.50 per way get expensive if you spend it every time you go into town and back. I try to walk as much as possible – especially now that the weather is still nice – and generally try to save a bit of money by using the Brighton & Hove app rather than paying in cash. If you’re in London, try to avoid zone 1 or use the busses if you have the time; it helps saving a few pennies.

Do I really need it? I like to think I’m pretty self-restricted most of the time. I make a list of purchases I want to make and then literally ask myself with every single one, “Do I really need this right now?” Of course, there’s the objective answer (a lot of the time, it’s ‘no’) and then there’s the subjective feeling (‘yes, most definitely’) but I try to keep it balanced. I will buy the occasional item that I didn’t really need but am keeping it realistic most of the time.

 

By following all of these tricks, I manage to keep on top of my finances quite well and can have the occasional splurge and Deliveroo takeaway if I want to. Do you have any tips and tricks you can share?

‘til next time x

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