A Guide to Living on a Budget

It can be very easy to let your monthly expenditures slip through your fingers; which makes relinquishing control extremely difficult. The figures certainly show this, for in 2015 the minimum monthly expenses for a UK region was an unbelievable £427.50; with the highest being £616.30 in Greater London.

If your finances are a cause of panic, perhaps it’s time to cut the compulsive spending and ultimately decrease those concerning costs. With this in mind, check out this guide on how to live a quality life without spending a fortune.

Starting Out

Make a Plan:

Before you even begin to start cutting costs you need to create a budget plan – there is no point mindlessly jumping into altering your finances, for you are essentially changing your whole lifestyle. Produce a plan that covers all of your current overheads to figure out A) what’s costing the most and B) how much you are actually spending. You could use Excel to create this in spreadsheet form.

Create Goals:

Now you’re knowledgeable of your individual costs, start setting goals that’ll ensure you stick to your aims. These must be practical and achievable, e.g. reduce your electricity bill by £40.00 a month. Once created, put these in a visible place to ensure everyone is aware of them (on the refrigerator or a pin board) to increase your chances of everyone working towards your goals.

Suit Personal Circumstances:

Each household has a different living situation; meaning one planning scheme won’t suit everyone. When creating your plan you should consider the following:

  • When you get paid (weekly, bi-weekly or monthly).
  • How many people are living in your home? (Obviously a family of five will have more expenses than someone living alone – this also includes guests).

Characterize Wants & Needs:

Be realistic – how many purchases do you consider a necessity when they actually aren’t? A need is something you cannot survive without (water, food & shelter); whereas a want is a desire (designer clothes and expensive holidays). Making your household aware of this difference will ensure you’re saving on the wants and therefore more on the needs.

Saving on the Luxuries

Ditch the Habits:

Although your brain convinces you they are, habits are not a need. Bad habits like smoking cost the average 20-a-day smoker £3,000 last year alone – that’s almost a year’s worth of groceries! Understandably kicking a habit isn’t easy, so consider attending free support groups for extra help. This will really test how dedicated you are.

Another habit you should consider kicking are those weekly early morning coffees, for buying a coffee every day for a year costs you £519.00; either make your own at home or wait until you get to work!

Exercise for Free:

Annually the UK wastes £37 million on unused gym memberships, and with an average yearly cost of £422.00 per person; are you really getting your money’s worth? Exercise can be done almost anywhere, so ditch the gym and work out for free at home. If you’re really dedicated plan a weekly workout routine (e.g. Monday – do an hour of aerobics, Tuesday – run for two hours, etc.) or organise an exercise group to stay social whilst you work out.

Fight the Fashion:

It’s utterly pointless owning more clothes than needed, so differentiate between the garments you do and don’t wear to decide whether a shopping trip is required. To make some extra money, try selling your old garments online or at car boots; you can then reinvest this money into new clothes without breaking your budget. Stick to sales racks and avoid expensive brands to make your money go further.

Eat at Home:

A recent study identified Britons spend £4,000.00 a year on meals out – that’s a ¼ of the average living income! Saving leftovers is great for making for food go further and avoiding cooking the next day; allowing you to save ingredients for longer. Create a weekly food plan to ensure the time duration for each meal compliments your daily schedule to avoid restaurant temptation.

Food

Create a Food Budget:

The average UK household spends £60.00 a week on groceries, amounting to over £3,100 a year. Additionally, a family with children throws away £700.00 annually on food; meaning it’s highly possible you’re buying more food than required. Introduce a weekly/monthly food budget that has a limit per person to make the cutbacks fairer and easier to manage.

If you want to be really thorough, conduct some supermarket research to identify which one will best suit you. In May 2016, Aldi claimed the top spot for money saving value; ranking £10.68 cheaper than ASDA and over £20.00 cheaper than Sainsbury’s.

Vegetarianism:

A recent study discovered a vegetarian diet can save you up to £530.00 a year in comparison to a meat based diet. However, if you’re not quite ready to go cold turkey on meat completely, try adding a few vegetarian meals during the week to reduce overall meat consumption and therefore you need to purchase it. Stick to economy meats (sausages, chicken wings and even organ meat), for they are considerably cheaper; mix these with vegetables to create tasty cheap meals like casseroles, stews, bakes and soups.

In Season Purchases:

Fruits & vegetables are cheaper in season, so as it is summer focus on buying: cherries, strawberries, mangetout, asparagus and cauliflower to save money. Thankfully certain vegetables can survive the harsh winter months and therefore are available all-year-round: potatoes, cabbage, celery, carrots and sweet potatoes.

Multipurpose Foods:

Staple foods are an incredible solution for making food last longer; stock up on these to ensure you always have cheap meals on hand. Some great staple foods are:

  • Butter
  • Eggs
  • Frozen vegetables
  • Rice
  • Cooking oil (light olive oil)
  • Dry beans
  • Pasta
  • Canned fish
  • Spices
  • Canned tomatoes

Homemaking

Saving Energy:

Shockingly it costs 7.3p to run ten lightbulbs for an hour – a small amount that adds up fast. To avoid this gradual cost increase, enhance natural lighting throughout the day by cleaning your windows and opening the curtains. During winter, turn down the heating and replace it with hot water bottles and blankets to keep the warmth and reduce the bill.

Fix & Revamp:

Vintage furniture is tremendously popular right now; meaning you can put the life back into slightly broken and tired-looking furnishings by fixing them. If chair legs are coming loose, retighten the joints – don’t replace them for the sake of a little DIY. Kitchen cupboards looking outdated? Add a coat of paint for quick and easy renovation.

Low-cost Furnishings:

There’s no sense in buying brand new furniture when cheaper alternatives are available. Instead of splashing out on a new oak wood cupboard for storage, buy some second hand plastic boxes – you can even decorate these with leftover wrapping paper for added appeal.

The Finishing Touches: 

Making your home more welcoming doesn’t need to involve overpriced candles and priceless antique ornaments. Inexpensive houseplants can be purchased from all supermarkets for substantially less than gardening centre prices.

Picture frames are ideal for brightening up plain walls without investing in expensive wallpaper. Feeling really creative? You could sew your own unique sofa and cushion covers; unused fabric strips can be found in most charity shops for a fraction of the retail price.

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