If you’re finding it difficult to make ends meet, being aware of how much money you have available to spend each month is key to allowing you to budget effectively.
A good first step is to write down all your income - wages after tax, benefits and any other earnings. Then list how much you spend each month on your rent or mortgage, utility bills, TV, internet and mobile, living expenses, travel loan repayments and any other expenses.
Then total up your income and outgoings and see how much money you have left. If you have anything spare, think about saving so you don’t have to borrow should you face any unexpected bills in the future.
If you have little or nothing left or would like to have more available to save, try to identify areas where you can save money. For instance, if you are paying a lot for a both a mobile phone and telephone landline, could you do without one or the other? If you have a car, do you really need it? If you are spending a lot on food in any given month, could there be cheaper alternatives you could buy instead? And if you are paying for things you don’t use or need, can they be cancelled?
Comparison websites offer a useful method for checking whether you can save on regular bills such as energy and insurance.
Ofcom provide an approved list of comparison sites to check for better deals on mobile, broadband and TV costs. But it’s important to check any deal is the right one for you, and it’s recommended you use more than one comparison website to check for deals, as they don’t all show every deal and supplier.
You might be able to save money by either switching to a new provider for your broadband, mobile phone, home phone or to a bundle or combination deal and you’ll probably be able to save money on your gas and electricity bills by switching to a new supplier. Tell your current provider you’re thinking of switching to a cheaper deal with another provider and they may offer you a cheaper deal to entice you to stay. If you don’t want to stay with your current provider, find out if you’ll be charged a fee to leave as you’ll usually be charged if you’re part-way through a fixed-term contract and it might be worthwhile to wait until your current contract’s up before switching provider.
Home Energy Scotland is a Scottish Government programme, managed by the Energy Saving Trust and can provide you with advice on reducing your energy bills and keeping your home warmer. It can also provide advice on saving energy and money, refer eligible customers for financial support from their energy supplier and assess you for energy efficiency schemes which can help make your home cheaper and easier to heat.
Regularly check your bank account statements to keep on top of your money and try to not let yourself go into the red. If possible, set up online banking so you can do this when you want.
There are useful tools out here to help you budget and manage your money better:
has a budgeting tool which helps you list all your household income and expenditure, and helps you to prioritise your debts.
has useful guides and resources such as calculators, comparison tables, letter templates and more to help you with many different areas.
offer a confidential free online debt advice service through their My Money Steps website, helping you to create a personal action plan to manage your money better.
provide a benefits calculator for older people. Use this to make sure you are receiving all the help you are entitled to.
also provide a money management course, providing a simple way to teach people how to build their budgeting skills.