Are you struggling to manage your money? Do you wonder where it all goes each month? Then having a budget could help. If you’re not sure where to start don’t worry, we have some helpful information on budgeting right here for you!
Money problems can affect your life in a variety of ways including your mental health* and as members of the Armed Forces, supporting you where possible is important to us. So, to help, we think the below guide to budgeting could be a great way to start when trying to stay on top of your finances.
By keeping track of how much money you have coming in (your income) and how much money you have going out (your spending) you can get a clear picture of your finances and take control of your money.
Please remember, if you are struggling with debt then no matter how big you feel the problem is there is help at hand. We have provided some resources at the end of this article which we believe could be helpful. Our friendly advisors on camp across the UK, Northern Ireland and Cyprus are available to help you with a budget so take advantage and speak to them!
Budgeting can help you:
- See exactly where your money goes
- Spot overspending or when you’re paying for things you no longer need or use
- Live within your means - you can adjust your spending when necessary
- Work out what you can afford
- Plan for big expenses such as Christmas, holidays and annual bills
- Save when you can for the future
Drawing up a budget
You can create a budget using pen and paper, a spreadsheet or with the help of an online budget planner. You'll find a list of some websites with budget planners available in the resources section of this article.
Budgeting can be harder if you or the person you live with has an income that varies - for example, on a zero-hours contract, are self-employed or on certain benefits. Get tips on how to budget if your income goes up and down.
Gather together useful information: Include details of any income you receive (salary, pension, benefit payments and income from savings and investments), as well as household bills, food bills, credit card statements, insurance costs and so on.
Identify all your income: This is money you regularly receive. Work out your total income after tax to see how much you have to spend. If you receive any irregular or unpredictable income such as over-time or gifts from family, think carefully before including it in your budget as you cannot always rely on it. It may be better to put this to one side.
Work out your spending: Make a list of everything you spend. As well as regular spending, this can include occasional spending such as for Christmas, holidays and meals or days out. Work out how much you spend on average and then calculate how much you need to set aside for each relevant occasion. This can vary so you might only set aside a certain amount and stick to this!
Take your spending away from your income: This may result in you having a surplus each month which is great. If not, and your spending is higher than your income, then you should look to take action where possible.
Ways to increase your income
There are various ways you may be able to boost your income but we understand all these are not options to many of you in the Armed Forces, but they may be helpful and appropriate for your family or someone you know.
- If you’re working, you may be able to increase your hours or pick up some overtime where it suits your schedule. If you’re not working, you may be able to get a part-time job that suits your needs and gives you an income.
- Check you’re claiming any benefits or other financial help you’re entitled to. If you’re on a low income you may be entitled to some form of income support or help with your housing costs. If you care for someone, are in poor health or your household changes (e.g. someone moves out or dies) you may be entitled to other benefits. To find out more about benefits and check your benefit entitlements use one of the government's benefits calculators.
- If you have a spare room in your home, you may be able to rent this out. You can earn up to £7,500 in rent before you have to pay tax on this money. Find more about the government’s rent a room scheme. Also, read our article on your options when it comes to renting out your home when you’re in the Armed Forces.
Ways to cut your spending
If you can’t increase your income you may be able to cut your spending.
- Check your budget for any over or unnecessary spending.
- Divide up your spending into needs and wants. Needs are things you have to pay for such as rent and food, wants are things you could do without at a push. Once you’ve worked out your essential spending (your needs) you can then see how much cash you have left for other things (your wants).
If your circumstances change
It’s a good idea to regularly review your budget as your income and spending patterns can change. You may also find that prices go up which affects how much you are spending in total and what money you have left over.
Your circumstances might change if someone moves in or out of your household, you cut your working hours or stop work altogether, your health deteriorates, you start to receive extra income such as the State Pension or a private pension.
Money saving tips
Here are some tips for saving money on household bills.
- Take advantage of supermarket offers, money-saving vouchers and retail discounts. Find out more on MoneySavingExpert.com.
- If you need help with energy bills visit the energy regulator's website at ofgem.gov.uk. To find ways to save energy in your home visit gov.uk for details.
- Not everyone has savings but if you do, ensure your savings are earning the best rates of interest by a using price comparison website. For a useful guide on using price comparison websites, see the MoneyHelper.
The Royal British Legion - Armed Forces Charity
Energy Saving Trust - Tips to save energy
MoneyHelper - Advice on budgeting
Which? - Best ways to save money
Get support with debt:
PayPlan^ – Managing Debt
StepChange – Armed Forces Debt Support
Citizens Advice – Debt and money
You can find more on budgeting at:
You can find budget planners at:
*Source: Mind.org.uk - The link between money and mental health
^ PayPlan is a trading name of Totemic Limited. Totemic Limited is a limited company registered in England, Company Number: 2789854. Registered Office: Kempton House, Dysart Road, PO Box 9562, Grantham, NG31 0EA. Totemic Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Financial Conduct Authority Number: 681263