STAY IN CONTROL WITH AN ANNUAL HOUSEHOLD BUDGET
AIB is here to help you manage your money easily and conveniently. But when it comes to your own household, you’re the financial expert. You know what’s a priority every month and what’s less urgent...
Saying that, we do have some helpful suggestions for keeping your spending under control - and the most valuable is to set out an annual household budget.
This isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Budgeting is just a matter of adding up your total household income each month, listing what you need to pay for, then seeing what’s left for the fun stuff, savings, and the unexpected.
You can take two approaches to this: ‘incremental budgeting’ simply means working with all your existing expenses. The more radical ‘zero-based budgeting’ option means starting with a blank sheet of paper to build your budget from scratch. This encourages limiting your spending to what’s really needed.
Both budgeting strategies can be done on paper. But expense trackers are now available online and can make managing money easier. Two handy examples are provided by the Competition & Consumer Protection Commission (CPPC.ie) and the Money Advice & Budgeting Service (MABS.ie).
To use tools like these effectively, you first need to do some homework. This means gathering figures so you can accurately estimate your household’s incomings and outgoings.
What’s coming in?
Dig out all of the household’s bank statements and add up what came in after tax each month last year. This includes salaries, overtime, social welfare payments (such as Children’s Allowance) and any other income. Then divide the total by twelve to get an average figure. By identifying the average, you’ll iron out any ups and downs from month to month.
See what you spend on the basics.
Now list everything you had to spend money on each month last year – for example, mortgage or rent, groceries, utilities like electricity, gas, phone, broadband and TV, travel expenses (car or commuter tickets), insurance, clothing etc. Aim to be as detailed as possible, get an average figure for each item, then add everything to get your average monthly expenditure total.
Add up all the other stuff
After you subtract your spending on essentials from your monthly income, you’ll hopefully have a reasonable amount left for nice-to-do items. Allocate a sum for things such as socialising, holidays, gifts, treats etc, and prioritise these according to their importance to you.
Don’t forget the long-term!
Finally, try to save. Doing so will make it far easier to pay for things like holidays, plus other major expenses that are still over the horizon. College fees and weddings are classic examples of the big ticket costs that could ambush you further down the line.
Not all months are equal
Of course, there are times of the year when bigger expenses pounce – Christmas is the most obvious example. But if you’ve put something aside every month, these should be more manageable. When you’re listing your monthly spending, don’t forget birthdays, back to school and Christmas.
Expect the unexpected.
It’s inevitable that unwelcome costs will appear out of nowhere – car repairs or dental emergencies for example. Again, setting aside a small amount each month in anticipation of these makes it easier to manage costly surprises.
Ideally, save this into an account that isn’t too accessible. AIB can offer you a full range of savings accounts including online notice accounts. The trick is to ensure your funds are available if they’re needed in an emergency, while still being at arms’ length to prevent any dipping in for impulse buys!
Got the figures? Now ask the questions.
You’ve gathered your figures into a family expense tracker. You know your outgoings. So then ask yourself this question: do we have to spend this much?
From utilities to groceries, it’s possible to make savings by seeing what alternative suppliers offer. This is especially true if you’ve been with one company for a long time. Across the board, you’ll probably find far more attractive introductory deals elsewhere. So make sure you use the information generated from a household budget to make savings.
Allow yourself fun and flexibility
So far, budgeting can seem like a dreary exercise in bookkeeping and penny pinching. But don’t think like this – it’s really about making the best use of your money and keeping you in control. It should also let you spot opportunities where savings can pay for enjoyment and treats.
Of course, there may be times when your budget doesn’t quite match your plans or needs. If this is the case, AIB can offer loans and/or overdrafts; we’ll also help you identify how much you can comfortably afford to borrow.
Creating a monthly budget takes a little effort but can really pay off. Not only will it help your money go further and work harder but it also gives you extra peace of mind. You’ll know that you are in control. Having the full picture can also be far more reassuring than wondering whether everything is OK financially. And if you do spot some shortfalls, you’ll probably also see where you can make savings that get will everything back on track.