Living on a Budget: Where to start?

I ran a poll over on twitter about what post people would like me to write next and ‘Living on a budget‘ won by a smidgen. So in this post I’m going to talk about why I live on a small budget at the minute, learning to make your money go further and what I’ve learnt through the on-going process, so lets start at the very beginning, it’s usually a good place to start.

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For those that haven’t followed the blog over the past year, Nick and I got engaged and bought our first home last year and this year decided to finally tie the knot, so it’s been a very heavy year or two on the bank balance. Along with that comes some very heavy adulting and deciding on whats the best way to do things.

Before figuring out the money side of things, we had to have the very adult conversation of decided how this is going to work, which resulted in us having a joint bank account to share all of our money. This was something we were both very against in conversations previously in last 3 years however we felt we could both get what we’ve wanted much quicker if we worked together. Once this conversation was had and the decision was made, I took the following steps towards some major budgeting.

01. Work out your outgoings.
The first thing we had to do was work out exactly what our outgoings were, I already had this started because we both pay equally towards the bills but I went through everything with a fine tooth comb to really make sure we had exact numbers. This includes everything from our mortgage, to general bills, phone bills, transport, Netflix and even monthly food shops and the occasional take away. It’s much easier to understand your money situation when you have every base covered.

02. Work out how much you want to put into savings.
This will obviously vary vastly between couples, but for us we decided that everything that doesn’t go towards bills or spending money (up next!) would be put aside to use towards the wedding. For us this means generally around £1,000 a month, which means over a year we could potentially save £12,000. Imagine the things you could do with 12k a year! Those holidays you wanted, that potential new car, the things you wanted to do to the house? Those things are all in reach if you really put effort into saving your pennies.

03. Work out a personal budget.
At first this is a little scary, I were used to having £££ to spend on whatever we liked every month and the thought of having that decrease substantially scared both of us. The number we decided on to have each for spending money was £200. Now, at first, we both struggled with this a little but only because we were used to wasting so much money on whatever we liked, but as the months have gone on, we’ve become pretty good at making this money go very far. I think it’s important to make this a realistic number, you can always increase or decrease this money accordingly, but try something and adjust to make it suit your needs as a couple.

04. Learn to spend your money wisely. 
Once I got over the initial shock of not being able to spend money as I wished, I’ve learnt to become very picky with my money. I still enjoy the occasional treat or a sneaky Starbucks every now and again but the main thing I learnt from this was that I didn’t need to buy stuff to be happy. Instead of buying clothes or make up whenever I’m bored in my lunch break, I tend to spend more time figuring out what things I actually want and having those occasional items which I appreciate much more. I set myself a £50 budget per week and whatever I don’t spend, I put away into another account which makes next month a little easier if I have something coming out, for example my £30 hair cut. It really is learning about prioritising what you spend your money on.

05. Discuss purchases with your partner.
Now this can be a little tricky sometimes, but you have to make a joint decision on things you buy which doesn’t always mean you’ll agree on things. Nick and I have had a couple of heated discussions about things we need to buy but don’t really want to spend money on but sometimes things just need to be done and you have to deal with spending money. At the end of the day, some things will benefit you more and other times benefit your partner more, a relationship is about give and take and not scoring points. Just remember it should bring you closer together as a couple and not divide you, it’s about working together to get to an end goal.

These are the simple steps I used to start living on a budget. Our situation is a little different as we have a wedding to be paying for in October, so we have much less wiggle room on the budget front but hopefully you can make a budget work to suit you and your needs.

I certainly have learnt to make my money stretch much further, it made me realise just how much money I used to waste every month with nothing to show for it, which is quite scary when you think about it!. I actually really enjoy the challenge of trying to live off less and less each month. Here are a few things I’ve found that helps;

Making your own breakfast or lunches – You can save a fortune with a little planning, make the most of your left overs by eating them for lunch the next day.
Shop around – Want something? Do a little research on the best price you can get it for. Look up vouchers code, discounts, sign up to mailing lists for website to know when the next sales are happening!
Put your needs before your wants – Quite self explanatory but work out things that you need, buy those first, then have fun with the things you want when the important things are out of the way. Lets face it, you don’t need another eye shadow palette.
Get creative – Thinking outside the box is key with a lower budget. Can’t afford the cinema? rent a DVD and buy some popcorn! Go for a picnic, go to a museum or gallery, read books, check out any local events near you. There are so many things you can do for free or cheap, so get creative!

I really hoped this helped in some way, it’s certainly been a learning curve for the both of us but I feel we’ve finally mastered it and it’ll be something we’ll be thinking about even after the wedding. Who doesn’t want nice romantic holidays a couple of times a year, amiright??

Please let me know if you have any more tips or if you found this post helpful in any way via the comments below, I always love reading your comments!


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