5 Quick Fixes to Boost Your Budget
Simple strategies to stay on top of your budget
Updated by Steve Stemp on 11/4/23
Want to streamline your spending but it feels overwhelming? With all the information on budgeting, complicated financial plans, tips, tricks, and strategies, it can feel like managing your money is time-consuming and difficult. Unexpected bills can come up, and your budget can go off track before you know it.
There are a couple of simple strategies you can implement today that may help you stay on track with your expense planning.
Plan for the long term
Spend 5-10 minutes and take inventory. List out all of the bills that come quarterly, every six months, or annually. Include expenses like rates, electricity, water, car registration, driver’s licence renewals, car servicing, school fees etc.
It may help to go through your bank transactions, create an annual total for these expenses, and then add 10-20% to your budget plan. This extra amount can be a buffer if a bill is higher than expected, so you have extra cash on hand if required.
When you have calculated your annual total, divide this by 52, and you will have a weekly amount you can work with.
Some banking facilities offer online bank accounts with no fees (or minimal fees) which you might consider. Setting up a weekly automatic transfer for the amount you have budgeted for into this other account can help keep this money separate from your everyday spending so that it’s there when you need it.
When the time comes to pay those bigger quarterly or annual bills, the money will be in the account and ready for you to use for making a payment. This can help take some of the stress out of managing bigger infrequent expenses.
You might need to check which bills are expected to come in the next few months and ensure you’ve allocated extra to account for this until the account balance has built up enough.
If any expenses come up that you hadn’t planned for, you could potentially draw from that 10-20% buffer cash, but make sure you add this new expense to your budget and amend the automatic transfer amount accordingly for the future.
Plan for the unexpected
It can also be a good idea to set aside an emergency fund in case of unexpected bills like medical expenses, flights, or opportunities that you just can’t miss.
If you don’t have any savings, setting up another automatic transfer for this purpose is a good idea, and once you’ve hit a balance you feel comfortable with, you can stop these and potentially divert that cash towards another savings goal or bump up your disposable income budget.
Take a quick look at your bank transactions for the last month. Are there any subscriptions you are paying for that you no longer use?
When was the last time you checked you were getting the best price on your phone plan, internet, insurance or other recurring expenses?
How much are you spending on coffee, eating out, entertainment, leisure, or convenience items?
Being more conscious about where your money is going can help you stick to your budget. Knowing how much disposable (guilt-free spending) income you have can be helpful when choosing how you spend it.
For example, maybe you love cooking and have your eye on a course of cooking classes but can’t justify the $100 cost.
If you look at your real-life spending habits you realise that you buy takeaway coffee from the cafe near your work every morning at $3.50 each. You ordered dinner to be delivered once a week on a Friday, which (including delivery) costs you around $15 more than if you’d prepared the meal from scratch yourself. You also had to pay a $10 late fee on a bill because you missed the due date.
Adding up these expenses, around $150 of disposable income was used on these items.
Once you can see this total amount, you can make a conscious decision whether you could or want to reduce or eliminate spending in the next month or two and save enough to pay for the class that you want to do.
Being mindful of spending means having a set amount of spending money available, and then maximising the experiences you can use it for.
It could be as simple as utilising a few strategies for saving more, such as making your coffee at home and bringing it in a keep cup. Perhaps a few extra minutes of preparation by putting ingredients in the slow cooker on a Friday when you know you’ll be tired and won’t want to cook. Aiming to pay bills as soon as they come or scheduling the payment to come out a few days before the due date.
All these small things add up and can make a big difference to how much spending money you are left with.
Avoid restrictive budgets
When planning out your budget it can be tempting to overestimate how much willpower you can maintain. Limiting spending money too much, setting savings goals that are unachievable, or not considering the possibility of unexpected expenses can work against you.
Studies have shown that depriving yourself, or more specifically feeling like you are deprived, is counterintuitive it comes to budgets. Being too restrictive with spending can have the opposite effect as intended and lead to exceeding your budget limits faster than you knew was possible.
Told yourself that you aren’t allowed to spend money? Suddenly you might find that you are fighting the compulsion to spend.
Spend your way
How do you trick your brain into feeling like you aren’t deprived while staying on budget? That’s where guilt-free spending comes in.
You can allocate an amount in your budget as spending money that you feel comfortable with, and use this to make purchases that are for fun, enjoyment, or convenience.
You might find it easier to stick to your budget long-term and achieve your savings goals if you approach your budgeting with a little more flexibility.
Budget tips and strategies
For some great resources to help you to create a budget and feel more secure and stress free in terms of your financial position, check out the moneysmart.gov.au budget planner
You can also read more about budgeting and planning for unexpected expenses when you visit the Cash Today blog