How to keep on top of your finances

Creating a budget is the first step towards taking control of your money and securing your future.

Just by simply listing your income and expenditure every month helps you find out whether you spend more than you earn and gives you an idea of how you can afford to live.

With enough discipline and determination, sticking to your budget will keep you out of debt or help you work your way out of it and means you can spot the areas where you can make savings and put something away for the future.

Before drawing up your budget, locate your most recent bank statements, payslips, household bills and credit card or loan statements. With all of this information at hand you can:

1. Work out what you earn after tax. In addition to your day job, do you have any other income? Do you freelance or have a side business? What about benefits?

2. List out all your monthly recurring bills, even if they are quarterly. This could include everything from your rent or mortgage, utility bills and broadband to home insurance and travel expenses like running a car or using public transport

3. Remember to list your living costs like buying new clothes, having a night out with friends or enjoying a weekend break or a family holiday

4. When you have entered all your incomings and outgoings, the total shows whether you’re living beyond your means or have any disposable income left over.

If you’re overspending you can make sacrifices and work out how you can make cutbacks and get back in the black.

If you have money left over then you can decide how to make the most of your surplus cash.

Maybe the time is right to prioritise any debts that need paying off like a credit card, personal loans or storecards.

Saving that money is central to your financial welfare because by putting even the smallest amount away into a savings account you are building up a buffer for the future.

This can go towards a financial goal like family holiday, a new car or retirement, but remember that unexpected bills like a broken-down boiler or a sudden job loss means that having an emergency fund is all-important.

As ethical savings and loans providers credit unions put members at the very heart of everything they do and encourage them to save even the smallest amount regularly.

Credit unions can offer affordable loans of between £50 and £15,000 to help you pay off any existing debts and because you’re not treated as a credit score you’re more than likely to borrow from them even if you were refused by your local bank.

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