Comparison & Advice on Free Budgeting Resources

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I tried out some free resources from fellow bloggers to see if any of them could revolutionise the way I budget in 2017, or at least give me some much needed inspiration. I did most of my searching through Pinterest, having recently discovered that it is the source of all knowledge for topics such as budgeting / lifestyle / money. It is better than Google for finding like-minded individuals who are on your level.

I found that when it comes to budgeting, most people are looking to get out of debt first and foremost. Which is such an amazing thing to be doing, I am overwhelmed by the amount of debt people have. I myself have some comparatively small debts to pay off, but my main aim is to save up for a house deposit, so that is what I am looking for help with in the main. (I realise when I have bought said house I will also be in a lot of debt!).

Here is a quick look at a handful of useful tools that are all free to download. If you’re looking for a budgeting tool, I’m sure there is something in the list below that suits your needs.

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The Budget Binder

There is a wealth of free printables available online, a common one being variations of the ‘budget binder’. I love writing things down and have an obsession with cute notepads and diaries, but the budget binders encourage you to complete your budget every month, sometimes weekly, or tick off your bill payments each time. I trust my direct debits are going out each month so I think the important thing for me is understanding what I have left to budget with after all of my outgoings. How much money do I have to spend on food, social, and MOST importantly, how much can I afford to put into my savings. And, is there an easy way to track what I am really spending, vs. what I budgeted.

For some it might be really helpful to write out your monthly outgoings each time, it does give you a sense of purpose and reminds you of your commitments (I know I have written them down a fair few times only to discover, shock horror, that my outgoing bills are not going down anytime soon). The budget binders below include pages which would be really useful for the first time you analyse your financial status. Some of them also include really cute graphics for visualizing your goals, whether that’s going down in your debt, or going up in your savings!   

Being Thrifty Makes Cents – 12 Month Budget Binder

Sign up with your email address, receive your confirmation email, and once confirmed you will receive an email with the printable to download. This printable is probably the simplest of these examples, it’s super easy to use and I love the idea of writing down your goal for the month.

Frugal Fanatic – My 2017 Budget Binder

Once signed up to Frugal Fanatic you also get access to a whole bunch of useful resources in her library (particularly helpful as I had a baby shower to attend this weekend!). The financial goals page is a great way to keep yourself motivated, and the ‘Holidays and Observances 2017’ page is a nice idea to keep track of any major expenses you know about upfront, for example I need to plan for my best friend getting married in October! Pop it on the calendar. I probably wouldn’t use the Monthly Bill Payment Tracker or the Debt Paydown due to the reasons behind my budgeting goals, but still super useful tools for others.

Cents + Order – Budget Binder

Again, register to download and it’s super easy to find. Cents + Order use the Monthly Bill Checker tool to tick off your bills each month, this seems like a popular sheet on many Budgeting printables. There is also a page that asks you to document your bills by due date, which would be a great way to track WHEN money is leaving your account, not just how much. It also includes sheets for a calendar which could be used to write down what you spend each day. I’m currently doing this in my daily diary (love it when I can write £0!!!) and then when I get chance, totting it up and adding it to my spreadsheet.

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Excel Spreadsheets

If you search budgeting on Pinterest you will find a whole host of free tools and advice, these are just a couple that stood out for me and were among the easiest to find and download. The research into printables has given me some extra inspiration, but I am far too lazy to be doing calculations each week on what I have spent out of my budget. I currently use a spreadsheet to do this for me, so I went on the search for some free Excel templates to see if I could improve on my own. There must be an easier way!

What’s up Fagans? – Budget Spreadsheet

This Budget Spreadsheet from What’s up Fagans has a pretty helpful guide on how it works and how to use it for you. What’s nice about downloading an Excel template is that you can switch the currency and change the names of your outgoing to suit you. This one includes a sheet for each month, so if you have some consistencies in your income and outgoings, I would advise copying this a few months in advance before filling in the changeable info for the month. Love the feature that advises if you are over or under budget – I am definitely going to find that helpful!

Couponing to be debt free – Budget Spreadsheet

So simple to use and there is a link to directly download this spreadsheet from their site. Nothing revolutionary on here but that’s what’s great about it, it does the job you need it to do and the formulas are there ready for you to pop your ingoings and outgoings into. Excel will do the hard work for you.

If like me you want something more bespoke to you, Quick Quid have a handy guide on setting up a simple budgeting spreadsheet yourself. And I found ‘Excel Formulas and Functions for Dummies’ text book super helpful (which a colleague bought me as a joke present but I actually love it)!

 

What now?

Whilst doing this research and trialing some of the resources available I have come up with a pretty comprehensive list of what I think I need in a budgeting tool. My next step will be to take all these learning and see if I can create a tool bespoke to my needs which I can then make available for you guys.

If you have any tips or advice for me, please comment on this post! I’d love to hear from you, that’s what blogging is all about after all. I’ll be updating the blog with my progress so join me on my endeavour by clicking follow. I am looking forward to connecting with like minded people in the budgeting community xx

Renting vs. Buying

It’s often perceived that buying your first home is a right of passage, in the UK at least. Like you can’t be a proper grown-up until you own some land with a box on it to live in. There is a stigma that paying rent is ‘dead money’. The topic of home owning is something that has had me torn for years. I think it’s why I have never been committed to saving money for a deposit until now (I appreciate I could have been saving in general and I have no real excuses for splurging my cash all these years!).

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Renting has its pro’s!

There are huge benefits to renting, and I have been doing just that for 10 years. I have enjoyed the freedom of moving around the city of Manchester (with a brief spell back in my hometown of Newark in between), living on my own, with friends, and finally my partner in crime and confidant, Mike. There have been some fantastic landlords and some absolute monsters, but at the end of the day any maintenance issues are not mine to fork out for or even try to resolve. And when the time comes to move I love making a swift decision and being in a new place within a couple of weeks.

The types of property and the areas I have lived have also been diverse. Living outside of the city center in Fallowfield/Hulme in a terrace house with garden and ample on street parking was great when surrounded by friends. But we had all moved on from there within a couple of years. I enjoyed living in the hustle and bustle of the Northern Quarter in Manchester but wouldn’t want to buy an apartment there, it just isn’t viable long term. I am equally enjoying the slightly quieter but just as convenient Castlefield with it’s links to the metro and lovely walk along the canal into the city center. But again if Mike and I wanted to buy our current apartment you’d be talking over £200,000 for 1 mezzanine bedroom, 1 bathroom, and a parking space. During those 10 years I have collected enough to furnish a living space myself, and I’m used to the only cosmetic touches being some picture frames on the walls and the investment in a well placed lamp. I have spent zero pounds on maintaining a property and have experienced multiple new fridges, ovens, boilers and damp proof courses!

Having said all that, if I average my monthly rent in those 10 years to £300, that’s a whopping £36,000… (bork). But that is the price I have paid for the freedom of movement, paying the rates I want and can afford, and ultimately not being responsible for the maintenance. So why the Home Endeavour?? Why am I now all of a sudden hell bent on owning my own property, seemingly tying myself down to a lifetime of debt and being stuck in one place? (I’m really selling this home ownership thing aren’t I!). Well I have done some research and spoken to a lot of people over the years about the pro’s and con’s of owning a home. So here’s why I think actually, the time is right for us to make the leap.

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Why buy?

Investment in your future. Yes you are making some sacrifices for a period of your life in order to save for that first deposit, but you are putting that hard earned cash to a future investment (snooze). No hear me out! If you make a savvy decision on your first property, you’re likely to MAKE MONEY when you come to sell that home. That increase in value is yours, and you could invest that in another property, or sell up and emigrate if that’s where your life took you. It isn’t a ball and chain (which has been my perception for so so long).

That home is yours, you own it! I cannot wait for the feeling of pride when we have really made a place ours. Whether that’s completely renovating a property, or just a lick of paint and putting shelves up without asking for explicit permission, having the freedom to do what we please is going to be such a great feeling. We’re already brimming with ideas on what we like and we don’t even know what type of property we will end up in! And don’t forget there won’t be any surprise landlord inspections or the feeling of panic when you accidentally scuff a side board! (Maybe just a look of disapproval from a grandparent).

We can finally get a pet. It’s difficult to find a landlord who would be happy with you having a dog in their property (especially if it’s furnished!), and even if they do there is always the extra worry that said pet will damage the property which could cost you your deposit. Don’t forget about the fumigation costs that most landlords will request the end of your tenancy. Owning our own home will mean we can finally get a dog which is something I have been obsessed about my whole life. Now the very real prospect of having a little furry friend join our team is enough to get me motivated to save up!!!

Hosting friends and family. Living in the city and renting apartments has been so much fun, but they are never big enough to do things like host Christmas, have family parties, invite people to stay for a weekend comfortably. When we buy we will be looking for more space, closer to our friends and family in the midlands. I’ve been daydreaming about hosting Christmas with Mike in our house and bringing everyone together under our roof. The thought makes me super happy and I can’t wait to make it happen.

Truth is…

Renting is the right thing for some people at certain times in their life. After buying you may even go back to renting at some stage. Truth is we don’t know where life is going to take us. For us at this point in our lives, it makes sense to make that investment in our future. Our home endeavour is going to be a positive one, because I finally see the reasons why it’s important for us. This positive mindset (which I didn’t have before) toward owning a home is what’s going to be spurring me on and ultimately ensuring I achieve my savings goal!

I’d love to hear about what keeps you motivated, whether you’re saving for a house or something entirely different? It’s all relevant in keeping our minds focused and keeping to that all important budget!