When you run a busy household things are always going to get tight from time to time. Mortgage repayments, bills and groceries can amount to a small fortune each month. And that’s when we’re not expecting the unexpected. When surprises get thrown into the mix, it can be hard to break even. And children, though we wouldn’t be without them, tend to push those costs further up with no ceiling in sight.
This is where budgeting comes in. We’ve talked to MABS, the Money Advice and Budgeting service about how families can make the most of their income and set reachable goals for themselves without breaking the bank. We’ve run through some simple steps to help families start their own budgets. Why not try yours today?
How do I start?
When starting a budget it’s important to have some goals in mind. Be specific – what do you want to do with the money? You can continue to buy your lunch or take away coffees every day, or you can do something else.
Budgeting gives you the option to do something else – whereas if you don’t budget those options don’t come to the fore.Michael, Money Advice Bureau
Budgeting is about answering the questions that give you the options you want. Do you want to take the family on a holiday this summer? Or do something really special for Christmas? Answering those questions, and setting specific goals that you, your partner and your family can keep in your sights will help to keep your budget on track.
Start small and answer these three simple questions:
What do you get?
This should include all incoming money into your household; including any wages, income from businesses or room rental, and any social welfare payments you’re entitled to (child benefit, one-parent family benefit, back to school clothing and footwear allowance, etc).
What do you have?
What is currently resting in your bank accounts (or under the mattress)? Take stock of all the pennies and the pounds in the piggy bank and count it all up – you might have more than you think!
What do you spend?
Be ruthless here as there’s no point lying to yourself only to get caught out later. Really look at your typical day and what you spend. Do you get public transport? Or do you drive? Count up how much you spend a week on petrol, on car insurance or your weekly LUAS, bus or DART ticket. Do you go out for lunch or coffee a few days a week? How much do you spend? Do you get yourself a snack in the vending machine? Do you see a top in Penny’s and buy it before you know what’s happened? Don’t forget about your bills and utilities and that little bit extra for unexpected costs like healthcare and socialising. And don’t forget to include your rent or mortgage as well as any other repayments. Once these questions are answered, as truthfully as it’s possible to be (little point lying to ourselves about that large latte at this stage in the game) you should be able to roughly map out your budget.
By now, you should have a pretty good idea as to what’s going into your bank account and what’s going out again on a fairly regular basis. Sit down with your partner or a trusted friend or family member and see where you can make cuts. There might be some small, easy ways to save without drastically changing your family’s life. Things like shopping at a different supermarket or switching from certain brand named products to own brand products can save a wad of cash at the end of every week.
What am I entitled to?
A tip from MABS is to take note of your tax, and claim back what’s owed to you. Through revenue.ie, individuals can claim back on medical expenses like GP visits, dental visits and prescription costs no matter what health insurance package you have. So do some research and see what you’re entitled to.Below is a list of social welfare payments for families, as seen on citizens information.
- Family income supplement
- Maternity benefit
- Paternity benefit
- Child benefit
- One-Parent family benefit
- Adoptive benefit
- Health and Safety benefit
- Pregnancy and social welfare payment
- Back to school clothing and footwear allowance
- Deserted Wife’s benefit
- Back to work family dividend
- Deserted Wife’s allowance
- Transition from One-Parent Family payment