I’ve had one of those mornings. You wake up, the sun is shining and your first coffee of the day is sitting on the window ledge. It’s the start of another week, and you say to yourself that this is the week you’re going to get everything in order. Starting with your finances.
Of course, for such a task, you should eat a hearty breakfast, maybe stock up on a chocolate bar or two and consider what kind of endorphin-raising activity you can do afterwards because, sometimes, the numbers don’t add up. You’ve tallied your income. You’ve tallied your expenditure, and the wrong side of the column has higher numbers.
Here is where I am at. The usual, mostly unavoidable expenses of moving house, making a record and heading overseas for a friend’s wedding have taken my usually healthy-looking finances and tailed them into the red. A couple of years ago, before I started working for Savings Guide and discovering that personal finance was not an esoteric art but an actual way to improve my life, I would have panicked. Now, instead, I’m going to make a plan. Here’s how I plan to make space in my budget and put my life back into the black.
Sort The Necessary From The Chaff
It’s easy for me to think all expenses are necessary, but with straightened finances, the word takes on a different meaning. Some expenses, very close to my heart, will have to go while other’s I will continue with. Superannuation contributions are sacred as far as I’m concerned. Working as a freelance writer and musician means personal contributions are essential. The only advantage I have is time, and I think I need to use it to the utmost if I plan to retire before I’m ninety.
Similarly, health insurance. I believe in public health, but there is no way I could afford to pay for my medical expenses should anything happen so I’ve- for the first time- invested in private health insurance. I don’t like it, but the risks as I consider them are too great to do otherwise. A health problem, and my finances would be undone. So that, to me, counts as a necessity.
For the unnecessary expenses, that means a gym subscription and a couple of subscriptions to websites and BBC TV. Not a huge amount of money, but enough to make a difference to my weekly budget.
Improve My Services
Today is the day I call my phone provider, reevaluate my internet plan and develop a meal plan for the week. Eating out is a huge chunk of my budget, and while I love it, for the next few months at least, I need to ensure I’m running on bare minimum. Anything I can bundle together, automate or find a cheaper provider for has to happen.
Increase My Income
There are a couple of options I’m considering. Looking for a night job for living expenses would take a huge weight off the rest of my finances. A couple of nights a week of work at a restaurant might be the difference, and with the numbers not stacking up, I think I have to do whatever is necessary to get a bit of breathing space in my budget.
Similarly, it’s time to look at websites like freelancer.com to see if there are jobs that could increase my income. Whatever it is you’re good at, there are usually options in how your can find a little extra income on the side.
Commodifying what I do for free is another goal for this year. I work in a voluntary capacity for a festival and, with the experience, hopefully I can find a way to move my voluntary work into an extra source of income.
The Straight And Narrow
Once the shock of bad numbers passes, the best thing about sitting down and working it out is the feeling of being back in control. Not looking at your bank account, not checking your statements- these are all signs that we feel helpless and out of control with our money. I’m on my second cup of coffee and I feel great, because I know the only person who can improve my finances is myself (or, admittedly, a record producer who wants to pass me a spare million…) and I know how I’m going to do it.
How do you keep space in your budget, or improve your finances when the numbers aren’t stacking up?