Budgeting is a life skill that can help to reduce stress and help prepare for the unexpected. Your car breaks down or you receive an unusually high utility bill can be stressful enough. But imagine the stress you would feel if you were worried about how to cover the cost. Preparing a budget can help you build a buffer to cover unexpected costs. It can also help to take control of your spending.
However, even the most diligent and watchful spender can miss a thing or 2, so in today’s blog, we will share some of the most common pitfalls to look out for when budgeting and spending.
We all have money habits. Some we learn growing up, and others we develop as we settle into our daily lives. Some habits are good, but sometimes we think our habits are better than they actually are. Habits can be very tough to break. You need to relearn and embed a new and better habit over time. When it comes to money habits, it’s no different. If you are used to spending a certain way, it can be hard to break the habits, even when needs must.
In this blog, we will discuss some of the worst money habits and how you can break free from them and manage your money better.
A common mistake people can make when it comes to budgeting is failing to plan ahead and to allow for contingencies.
At MABS, we see clients who can have their careful budgeting thrown out of sync by events that should bring them joy, such as family occasions like communions, confirmations, and Christmas. Other smaller events, such as taking a day trip to the beach on a warm summer day, can lead to unexpected costs, such as filling the petrol tank and ice cream for the kids. Smaller costs like this can build up and can lead to possibly being short on a week’s rent or a direct debit bounce.
Our suggestion: Sit down and think through events you know will occur during the year. Put aside a small bit of money to prepare for them. For example, Christmas saving schemes are a solid and effective way of preparing for the expense. Make sure the following January is not filled with stress and worry as utility bills that can’t be paid Arrive.
Similarly, topping up a jar of euro coins or using digital jars like Vaults or Spaces can be an easy way of saving for impromptu days out. This way, you can avoid the shocks and retain control of your finances.
Relying on estimates
Too much reliance on estimated spending, instead of taking the trouble to look at specific costs in detail is a significant mistake in budgeting.
Many people can tell you broadly their monthly/weekly gas or electricity costs or how much their TV/broadband package is. But often, there can be a significant variance in what they think they are spending versus what they are spending. For example, if you think your broadband bill is €50 each month, but in reality, it’s €59, that could be the difference between a direct debit being paid or bouncing and landing you with additional charges.
Our suggestion: Complete a household budget, which can be made easier by using our MABS Household Budget tool. It can be surprising to see your various regular expenditures listed.
You could almost make a game out of it, write down your expenses and what you estimate them at, then look up and write down what they actually are. Is this a substantial amount? Does this answer where your money is going? It’s not about judgement or how right or wrong you are, and it’s learning that you can apply to your budget going forward.
Taking the time to look closer at your spending is important. Understanding these regular costs is a way to avoid getting into debt. If you’re working off a tight budget, relying on estimated pricing could send you over budget. The more you can train yourself to pay attention to the small details of your spending, the more confidence you can have in your budgeting habits, and the easier it is to manage your money.
Not writing down your expenses
Accurate knowledge of how much you spend and everything costs is important. It is difficult to retain all that information in your head. Therefore, it is a good idea to use a spending diary. List all your expenses, and this will help you stick to your budget. A helpful tip, if you’re saving for a particular reason, for example, a new car, name your savings. It’ll increase your attachment and encourage you to reach your goal.
Our suggestion: Keep receipts to be aware of what is coming out of your bank account. Keep track of your outgoing cash, especially bills and groceries. Regularly check your bank account history. Prioritise the debts: mortgage, rent, utility bills etc. Manage your money by trying our Full Financial Picture Tool. This can help you work out a plan to tackle one or more debts if you need to.
This can be a huge pitfall for many people, especially if paid monthly. The temptation to splurge is high, especially during sales or if discounts are offered online.
Our suggestion: Before you press purchase or tap that card, ask yourself – is this something I really need, or can I do without it until I have saved for it?
It is important not to overspend what is allocated in your budget and to manage and save money for extra things. If you have room in your budget, allocate some fun money that you don’t need to worry about spending. Once it’s gone for that pay period, it’s gone. So you can still enjoy life while keeping your budget on track! If you use a credit card, it can be extra tempting to charge that “bargain” or sale item with the idea that you’ll pay it back in full. However, check if you have the extra money so you don’t end up paying more than just the sale price.
Not Considering Cheaper Alternatives
This is a common mistake many people make. You can save a lot by just shopping around and looking for the best deals. Soon you’ll become deal-savvy!
Groceries are one of the biggest costs to every household. Some people pay a premium for convenience, and others may not even look at their own brand products.
Recent research from CCPC shows that 25% of those surveyed don’t shop around for financial products, and another recent research piece from the ESRI showed that 69% of those surveyed don’t consider switching their loans. This is a big missed opportunity to reduce your costs and increase your budget!
Our suggestion: Use comparison websites to help you compare utilities like Bonkers.ie and finances like the CCPC Money Tools. Check out our Switcher series of blogs for more on switching your energy and TV/Broadband providers.
Try following these useful tips and see how your confidence in managing your money grows.
Budgeting and looking closely at your spending habits can be difficult. But once you take a step back and review your finances, it may be easier than you think!
If you have any other questions or would like to speak to a member of MABS, call our National Helpline on 0818 07 2000 Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm, WhatsApp 086 035 3141 or request a callback if you want to talk confidentially about budgeting, problem debt or general financial matters.
Disclaimer: Every effort has been made to ensure this information is current and correct. The details of each case can be unique. As a result, the outcome can be different to what has been described in this blog.
Note: We welcome references to and use of the content in this blog. However, please reference MABS and link said content if you choose to do so.