Tips on how to stick to a budget when trying to save money
Many of us want to know how to budget and save money.
Understanding our spending habits — and recognising how we can change these — can give us more control over our finances. It’s also the first step to reaching savings goals. In this guide, we've rounded up some helpful tips for sticking to a budget and saving money.
1. Use an app to plan your budget (and track spending)
There are some great budgeting apps available to download on smartphones which can give you a real grasp on how much money you’re spending — and what you’re spending it on.
These apps can help you plan out your monthly expenses. Some popular free options on iOS and Android include Money Dashboard, Bean and Emma. Some of these budgeting apps can link multiple bank accounts. This enables you to track all your spending in one place.
Once you understand what you spend money on, you can use this to inform your budget. And once you’ve worked out your budget breakdown, you can put money aside for set purposes using your online banking. For example, you might want to put some money straight into a savings account. Or you may have a current account for your disposable income. You can move money around in whatever way works for you — all from the palm of your hand.
2. Take advantage of your online bank account’s features
Carrying out your banking online can also be useful when tracking your spending.
You can easily check your bank balance and your transactions. There’s no need to wait for a bank statement in the post to see the money you have going out or coming in.
Many online bank accounts are constantly adding features that can help with budgeting. Take advantage of these and see what tools work for you. For example, some banks automatically categorise your purchases so you can see a breakdown of what you spend your money on without having to build your own spreadsheet. Others will let you set up virtual pots so you can set money aside for certain purposes without needing multiple accounts.
Using online banking also helps keep you in control when your bank’s branch is shut or you’re unable to get there. Having online banking means you can access your finances 24/7.
3. Plan your meals
One of the most common budgeting tips is meal planning. It may seem basic, but food is something so many of us overspend on.
Planning your meals for the week ahead is a great way of managing your money and staying within your food budget. On average, a British family wastes a whopping £810 worth of food each year (source). Meal planning can help you reduce this.
Simply writing down what you will eat and when can help you understand the food you already have. This can prevent excessive — and expensive — top-up shops.
Staying aware of the food in your kitchen will also help you reduce food waste. In 2021, the UK generated over 9.5 million tons of food waste. According to Materials Recovery, 70% of this waste is coming from households so we can all make a difference. Meal planning prevents you from accidentally letting the food you bought go out of date and into the bin. So, you’re not only saving money, but you’re helping to save the planet too.
Not a cook? Don’t worry. Meal planning is still useful when eating pre-prepared food or even eating out. Although cooking from scratch — particularly in batches — can help you maximise your budget, it’s important to be realistic with your cooking abilities and time. If you can afford to treat yourself to a takeaway once in a while, factor this into your budget and meal plan so that you don’t buy more food than you will eat.
4. Do your food shopping online
Online shopping has the obvious benefit of being able to be done from your home or where ever you want, at a time that suits you.
But another benefit that people don’t often think about is how online shopping can help you stick to a tight budget.
You can browse the website for the cheapest option at your own pace. And you can remove items from your basket if you notice the cost is getting too high. You can even compare costs between different supermarkets. To find out which supermarkets have the best deals on your favourite items, visit LatestDeals.co.uk’s food and drink price checker. You’ll need to consider delivery or collection costs in your budget but, depending on where you live, home delivery may be more cost-efficient than spending money on fuel.
Although online shopping can be done anywhere and at any time, it’s a good idea to do it on a full stomach. This will help avoid you buying unnecessary extras.
5. Leave the credit cards at home
If you’re concerned about spending too much money, you may want to only spend from a current account and avoid making purchases on your credit cards.
Of course, there are reasons why you may want to use a credit card, but when you’re trying to save money, you need to consider anything you place on a credit card as within your budget.
If this is a concern, you could leave your credit cards at home to avoid temptation when out shopping. You could even place it somewhere out of reach at home and remove the card from any online shopping accounts to remind you to use it with caution when buying online.
6. Plan ahead for social events
One thing we often forget to budget for is social events or birthday celebrations.
We may consider unexpected expenses as negatives, such as boilers breaking down or your car needing a new part. But they can come in the form of celebrations such as attending a friend’s baby shower or a congratulations gift for a family member’s engagement.
It's important to only buy gifts that you can afford. Still, if social celebrations are essential to you, you need to consider this when budgeting. Don’t forget to factor in any expensive times of year, such as Christmas too.
7. Sleep on big purchases (and other non-essential buys)
One of the biggest threats to budgeting is impulse buying. A good way of assessing whether you need to buy something is to sleep on the decision. The impulse to buy will not be as strong the following day. This can help you work out whether it’s worth the money.
You can follow this budget rule with both big and small purchases. Some people split their money 50/30/20 to help with budgeting for a purchase. 50% goes on bills, 30% into savings and the remaining 20% is yours to decide what to do with. Limiting yourself to a set 20% that works for your budget could help you to manage the temptation of buying expensive non-essentials. If something is going to break your budget, is it worth it?
8. Stop paying for fees
A good way to stay on track with your budget is to avoid paying for subscriptions you don’t use.
Many of us take out 30-day free trials and forget to cancel. And results in us paying for something we’re not using or don’t need. This is money that we could use elsewhere in our budget.
It’s a good idea to set cancellation reminders in your calendar to prevent this problem.
9. Try alternatives
The most expensive choice will not always be the best option.
Exploring cheaper alternatives is an excellent way of making your budget stretch further. You may be pleasantly surprised too.
For example, if eating out takes up a large percentage of your budget, you may assume you need to go out less to save money. An alternative solution could be to try somewhere cheaper instead.
Switching familiar brands for supermarket’s own label products is another money-saving swap you can make.
Look out for offers and money-off vouchers so that you can get more out of your budget.
10. Be realistic about your budget
One of the most important things to do when budgeting is to ensure your budget is achievable. Setting unrealistic targets will cause your plan to fall apart, which is demotivating and can lead to you abandoning your savings goals altogether.
Take some time to determine how much you’re spending and identify where you can make savings before committing yourself to a budget. Sticking to a new spending plan can be hard, so be prepared for some challenges ahead, but setting realistic goals can help you keep to your budget.
Once you have built up your savings, there are ways to make your money work harder. Check out our range of savings accounts to learn more.