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

Why you’re not able to save, my experience.

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Sit down, get a pen and paper ready, and make a list of all the things you have spent money on in the last month that you could have done without. I bet there are some things you can’t even remember, but it all adds up to suddenly being at the bottom of your pay check in week 2 of 4 (and being shocked about it every month if you’re me).

Usually, by the end of week 2 I’m pulling the couple of hundred I put away out of my savings and back into my current account to see me through to the end of the month. This cycle has been going on for YEARS. Let’s take a look at some of the things I have been doing wrong, and why I just can’t seem to save!

  1. A new outfit for every occasion

“It’s ok though right? Because I just got paid, and it’s [insert reason here] so I must get a new top to go with those jeans I got last month / a dress because I have some great knee high boots to go with it… Anyway I worked REALLY hard this month and deserve a treat.”

Eh-hem… I need to stop kidding myself. My wardrobe is bursting at the seams, but I am very good at convincing myself of things that I need. I’m a liar.

Commandment: Thou shalt not make excuses to buy new clothes!

  1. Making purchases on my Credit Card

“Well I know I can’t afford it right now but I will just to pay it off next month…”

I tell myself this porker all the time. A new lipstick, a round of drinks, dinner with friends, it all adds up and you end up with a stonking bill which means that money you wanted to put in your savings is going towards paying off your frivolous mid-month splurges. Not cool man.

Commandment: Thou shalt only use credit card in absolute EMERGENCIES.

  1. Splashing the cash on nights out

“Tequila for everyone, I’ll get this round!”

My ultimate beer fear is checking my purse for receipts after a night out. Or if sneaky drunk me has thrown them away, waiting for my bank balance to restore itself after the weekend. Oh the money wasted on alcohol makes my eyes water! At least I probably wasn’t spending money the day after due to being bound to the sofa with a hangover.

Apart from binge drinking being super bad for you, I could save so much money by ACTUALLY only staying for one or two drinks when that’s what I claim at the start of the night.

Mid-week commandment: Limit oneself to one drink after work no more than once a week.

Weekend commandment: Thou shalt only drink on special nights out and one shall budget for such an occasion!

  1. Two thirds of my disposable income goes on food

“Shall I pick something up for dinner on the way home?”

No! There is food in the house, or if there isn’t food in the house, pick up a bargain! Don’t spend £10 on a meal deal for 2 with a bottle of wine. It just isn’t necessary. And stop being lazy and take your lunch to work so you don’t have to spend £5 – £8 a day to sustain yourself for 8 hours… these are all things I am trying to tell myself from now on. But that little voice in my head (my own voice, to clarify) says ‘wouldn’t it be nice to make a night of it though’… of course it would dear, but think ‘HOUSE’, there are other ways to make a night of it.

Commandment: Thou shalt live from the kitchen, not the convenience store.

  1. Wracking up too many outgoings

I thought I needed a new car. I thought signing up to this Gym membership was a good idea. I thought I needed the latest phone. And I thought getting a loan to pay for my Masters Degree was a swell idea.

To be fair, I love all those things and have no regrets, but unfortunately topped with rent, household bills, an undergraduate student loan and credit card transfer loan I have a lot outgoing before I even get to save anything each month. And unfortunately for me, these things have a few years until they are paid off (apart from the phone contract, which I am going to hunt down a bargain for when I upgrade in a month’s time!).

I own these decisions though and take responsibility for them now by paying them off and never missing a payment. But if I had my time again, I probably would have considered the future before diving into these big financial decisions.

Commandment: Thou shalt not sign up to unbreakable contracts without FULL consideration of future financial situations.

You know what, writing this down has been cathartic. Hopefully, if only by trying not to be a total hypocrite, I will succeed in following my new commandments for saving. I’ll be sure to own up to it on Instagram or Twitter if I do, because I would only be cheating myself if I didn’t!

Disclaimer:

I know I am very fortunate to be able to afford these luxuries in life, clothes, eating out, a car, a lovely apartment with my partner so please don’t think I am whinging about my life. I LOVE my life. But it is time to get real, be sensible, and start thinking about the future. That’s what is important to me now, and that’s why this process is so important to me. I hope this has struck a few cords with you and maybe given you a few initial thoughts on how to save those pennies. If not then maybe just a laugh at my expense, I’m ok with that!

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