WORKING OUT A HOUSEHOLD BUDGET
Being able to budget effectively is an important skill to manage and organise our lives but getting motivated to start a budget can be a challenge. The basic idea is to spend less money than you receive as income.
One of the hardest parts of maintaining a good budget is that bills and other financial commitments do not all arrive in neat time frames. For example, rent is paid weekly/fortnightly/monthly depending on your arrangements; gas comes in every few months; electricity every few months (but not the same time as the gas); car registration is due once a year; phone/mobile accounts arrive monthly and grocery shopping can be any time in between.
The trick is to work everything (all your financial commitments/bills) out on a weekly or fortnightly basis - depending on how you get paid.
Having a budget sheet that tracks your financial commitments is a great way to start to understand your spending habits. Remember to keep track of all your bank transactions especially those ATM or EFTPOS withdrawals.
Budgeting may not solve your problems if your income is less than your outgoings in the first place, nor does it cover unexpected expenses like car repairs, clothing purchases or emergencies, but it can help you to manage your money so it is easier to work out the bills.
When creating your budget, you need to be realistic and it is a good idea to always plan for your basic living expenses to be covered. Pretending that you don’t have bills to pay can end in debt, grief and more pressure from businesses chasing you for payment. Money Management Plans can help you start a written budget and make more informed choices for a better life.
A great way to start is to get a blank budget sheet and try to write down all of your expenses for the past 12 months. You might forget some but writing down as many as you can is a fantastic start.
Download the money management plan example below to learn more about Money Management Plans
and to print your budget plan download the blank money management plan below
better still, save a copy of the word document onto your computer and start filling in the gaps.
Try this online budget planning tool.
If an agreement cannot be reached with a debtor, assistance can be sought from a financial counselor or budget advisor who may advocate on your behalf to organise acceptable payment options.
If you feel that you have been treated unfairly and/or need advice you can also contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or contact them via telephone on 1300 302 502.
Make sure you agree to a realistic amount which works with your current budget. Be prepared and know how much you can afford before you contact the people you owe money to.
Relax and think positively, take a few deep breaths and remain calm. Be as pleasant as you can be over phone or in person. Your attitude will determine how people will react and how sympathetic they will be to your financial circumstance.
Before making contact with the people that you owe moeny to, sit down and write a plan of action. Keep your action plan notes near you when you make the phone call or take one last look at them before making a personal visit. The people you owe money to will respond best if you can tell them how you intend to pay their account and how long you think it will take.
Ring or email the people you owe money to as soon as possible and try to be as honest as you can with them. In most instances they will listen to your side of the story and help you set up a reasonable payment plan or give you some other payment options.
Choosing not to do anything will work against you in the long run. However tempting it is to ignore the problem, it will just make things much harder when you finally have to deal with it. Contact debtors early and get a payment plan in place as quickly as possible.
Consider contacting a Financial Counselor or Budget Advisor for further assistance. These people are trained to help you get back in control of your money and can teach you how to stay in control in the future.
Identify WHO you owe money to and how much you owe: Make a list of all the bills. Go through the list and place a star next to the bills you consider to be urgent. (Eg. if you are being sent reminder letters for the gas or power bills, then these would be urgent – you don’t want your utilities to be disconnected).
Go through the list again and mark the bills you will be able to pay by the due date.
Contact the companies or people related to the bills that you cannot afford and negotiate a payment plan which allows you to pay small amounts off the bill over a period of time. Always have a realistic payment plan worked out before you call so that you know how much you can afford.
Remember that you will still be getting your regular bills while you are trying to pay off the old ones so make sure that you commit to a payment plan that you can keep up with.
Making an attempt to pay small amounts off overdue accounts will demonstrate that you are trying to pay off the debt. This may make your household budget very tight for a period of time, however you will eventually pay back all of your bills which will make you feel much better.
When bills pile up work out how much you can afford to pay. Firstly, sit down and spend some time working out how much money you realistically need to survive each week. Write down how much you get paid each week and subtract the amount you need to survive. This will leave you with the amount that you can start to use to pay the backlog of bills.
Make and take home made gifts. Team up with the kids and make present for friends and relatives. Most people genuinely love home made gifts and you can deliver them in person to add some extra Christmas cheer.
Avoid buying Christmas presents or anything else on credit. In the rush to get everything organised for Christmas it can be tempting to put things on credit. The problem with credit around Christmas time is that the repayments are due fairly quickly after Christmas and if you are trying to get children back to school you will end up having additional financial stress at the start of the year.
Open a Christmas Club. Depositing just $5 a week, for most of the year will add up and give you a spare $250 to spend just before Christmas.
Shop all year round for Christmas gifts. Start looking for presents in the January sales for the following year. Lay-buy and/or buy things that are on sale all year around.
Start buying or collecting small presents that you can put in a box somewhere safe. As your collection grows you will have a fantastic supply of quick and easy presents. (This also ideal for those late notice children’s birthday parties).