Job loss forced me to budget better

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

I’m talking about money of course. It was time for this taboo subject to be revealed.

Like many, I was temporarily laid off from my job – and for much longer than expected. It was time for me to grow up and realize there wasn’t always a paycheck to look forward to.

I had to take my spending and my savings seriously. I could no longer buy books and never read them, buy clothes and wear them once, and buy fresh fruits and vegetables for the compost bin.

During the first 12 months of these crazy times, I paid off a personal loan and my overdraft. Since then, I also bought my first vehicle out of pocket. How? ‘Or’ What? By being mindful of money.

Planning

They say knowledge is power and, as cliché as that sounds, it’s true. Sit down with your pen, paper, calendar, calculator and bank statements, along with a list of all your income for the year; every flow of funds, from your salary to child benefits.

Now list all your bills and expenses, from your electricity to that daily latte, and multiply them by 12 for monthly expenses, 52 for weekly expenses, etc. If you don’t know the exact cost, your best estimate will suffice, and that’s where last year’s bank statements will come in handy.

You will now know the difference between your income and your expenses for the year. You’ll know if you need to reduce your expenses, if you should aim to earn more money, or if you can save for bigger goals.

Budgeting

I find the best way to budget is payday to payday, but whatever works for you.

I use Excel but a pen and paper will work just as well.

I list my income, my bills, my grocery budget – after checking the food I already have and then making a shopping list – and find out what I have left. I then put the excess aside in sinking funds.

Sinking fund

Sinking funds are your best friend if you want to be prepared and more attentive to your money.

Some use cash wraps, others use Revolut safes, whatever your method, sinking funds are strategic ways to set aside funds for expenses, prepare for the known – heating domestic – and unfamiliar – veterinary costs. I use Revolut Vaults, setting aside small amounts each week for annual expenses.

Get the best price

Are you with the same utility companies you’ve always been with? It is possible, even probable, that you will pay much more than necessary.

Check out powertoswitch.ie to see if you could get a better deal on your gas or electric.

You can do the same on switcher.ie and check your broadband offer while you’re there, as well as other expenses.

And before you make the switch, try calling your current provider and asking if they can do better for you as a loyal customer. It could save you money and the hassle of changing.

Track expenses

When I started tracking my expenses, it opened my eyes. I realized how much I was spending while shopping online, and yet I still had to declutter my space too. Something was wrong.

Now I write down everything I spend and categorize it: groceries, retail, going out, gas, etc. You can have as many categories as your lifestyle requires, but if you track all of your expenses, even for a month, you’ll learn a lot and never have to wonder “where is my money going?” ” never.

72 hour purchase rule

We should all heal ourselves – but should we heal ourselves as often as we do? I say this because I have often found myself treating myself to something I already had but forgot about! And so, we apply Eoin McGee’s 72 hour rule. (Eoin is a financial planner, who runs RTÉ’s How to be Good With Money). You see something, you want it, you wait three days. If you’re 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 long forgotten about it, saving us that unnecessary impulse purchase.

Include yourself in your budget

The fastest way for a budget to fail is to make you and your family feel limited. Life is meant to be lived! Be sure to budget for yourself and set aside money for personal care, fun money for outings, annual vacations, takeout, etc. It will make all the difference to your new mindset with money!

Maria D. Ervin