Loss of work forced me to budget better

When PAM RYAN was temporarily laid off from her job due to the pandemic, it forced her to look at her spending and re-evaluate her budgeting. Here’s what she learned in the process
Loss of work forced me to budget better

Living through the pandemic has forced us to examine our spending and saving habits. Picture: Stock

THE last two years have been unexpected, to say the least, something we as individuals could never have prepared for. However, if the pandemic has taught me anything, it is that you often can prepare for much of the unexpected.

I am speaking about money of course. It is about time this taboo subject came into the light.

Like many, I was temporarily laid off from my job – and for far longer than I had expected. It was time I grew up and realised there may not always be a pay cheque to look forward to.

I had to get serious about my spending and my saving. No longer could I buy books and never read them, buy clothes and wear them once, and buy fresh fruit and veg for the compost bin.

In the first 12 months of these mad times, I cleared a personal loan and my overdraft. Since, I’ve also bought my first vehicle out of my pocket. How? By being mindful with money.

Pre-Budgeting

They say knowledge is power and, clichéd as it sounds, it is true. Sit down with your pen, paper, calendar, calculator, and bank statements, and list of all your income for the year; every stream of funds, from your salary to Child Benefit.

Now, list out all your bills and expenses, from your electricity to that daily latte, and multiply them by 12 for monthly, 52 for weekly outlays etc. If you do not know the exact cost, your best estimation will do, and this is where the last year’s bank statements will help. 

Now you will know the difference between your incomings and outgoings for the year. You will know if you need to cut back, if you should aim to bring in more money, or if you can save for larger goals.

Budgeting

I find the best way to budget is from pay day to pay day but whatever works for you.

I use excel but pen and paper will be just as efficient.

I list my income, my bills, grocery budget - having checked what food I already have first and then making a shopping list - and find out what I have left. I then set the excess aside in Sinking Funds.

Sinking Funds

Sinking Funds are your best friend, if you want to be prepared and more mindful with your money.

Some use cash envelopes, some use Revolut Vaults, no matter your method, Sinking Funds are strategic ways of setting aside funds for expenses, preparing for the known – home heating – and the unknown – veterinary costs. I use Revolut Vaults, setting small amounts aside weekly for annual expenses.

Get the best price

Are you with the same utility companies you have always been with? It is possible, if not probable, you could be paying far more than you need to be.

Check out powertoswitch.ie to see if you could be getting a better deal on your gas or electricity.

You can do similar on switcher.ie and check your broadband deal while you are there, along with other expenses.

And before making the switch, try calling your current provider and asking them if they can do better for you as a loyal customer. It might save you some money and the small hassle of switching.

Track spending

When I began tracking my spending it was very eye opening. I realised just how much I was spending through online shopping, and yet I was always having to declutter my space too. Something did not add up.

Now I take note of everything I spend, and categorise it: groceries, retail, going out, petrol etc. You can have as few or as many categories as your lifestyle needs but if you track all your spending, even for one month, you will learn a lot and never have to ask yourself “where does my money go?” ever again.

72-Hour Shopping Rule

We should all treat ourselves – but should we treat ourselves as often as we do? I say this because I have often found myself treating myself to something I already had but had forgotten! And so, we implement Eoin McGee’s 72-hour rule. (Eoin is a financial planner, who fronts RTÉ’s How to be Good With Money). You see something, you want it, you wait three days. If you are still thinking about it, chances are you really want or need it. 

Nine times out of 10, however, we were magpies distracted by something shiny and have long since forgotten about it, saving us that useless impulse purchase.

Include yourself in your budget

The quickest way for a budget to fail is to have you and your family feel restricted. Life is for living! Be sure to put yourselves in your budget and set money aside for self-care, fun money for days out, annual golidays, the odd takeaway, etc. It will make a world of difference to your new mindful-with-money mindset!

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