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My financial situation is out of control. I don't save any money and I'm trying to create a budget so that I can plan for the next year or so as there are a few things I need to get done such as house renovations, etc.

This is the weekly budget I have set myself. I need some feedback about how realistic it is. I live on my own but I have my two children (ages 4 & 7) for three out of every four weekends. I travel about 200 miles a week.

My Income and complete budget is as follows.

Income £3,000

Monthly Expenses

  • Bank Account - £20
  • Home Insurance - £30
  • Mobile Phone - £40
  • Car Insurance - £45
  • Student Loan - £230
  • Council Tax - £100
  • Water Bill - £50
  • Gas Bill - £50
  • Electric Bill - £50
  • Internet - £40
  • Child Support - £300
  • Debt Repayment - £350
  • Mortgage - £430

Weekly Expenses

  • Fuel for the car - £35
  • Groceries - £60
  • Lunches in work - £30
  • Entertainment/Children's activities - £80

I would be especially grateful to hear from anyone in a similar situation.

  • 7
    In order to get decent answers, you would need to provide far more detail that you have. The few line items you gave don’t really give any idea about the rest or about your total income. – JoeTaxpayer Sep 17 '18 at 13:15
  • You have a mortgage and home insurance, but no maintenance costs on your home? You have car insurance and fuel, but no car maintenance? – a CVn Sep 17 '18 at 14:35
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    Are you able to look back over the last couple months and assess what you spent on each of the categories above? Preparing a budget is best done in the context of actual spending. – Hart CO Sep 17 '18 at 15:35
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    £50/30 per week for lunch at work looks for me (German perspective) as one point where bring your own lunch may save a lot. If that's possible, that is. Do children's activities include kindergarden fees/school fees/items? That position looks small if it does, but large if it's just the entertainment for the kids category given the situation is "finances out of control". Again, no idea about the UK, but if that's sports courses and music lessons, it may be worth while to look around whether there are cheaper options. E.g. for the time being, are music lessons in a group acceptable? And fees – cbeleites Sep 17 '18 at 18:04
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    @AndyT I only have 11 months left to pay so they move you on to a direct debit. – user1450877 Sep 21 '18 at 13:28
5

As DStanley said, your numbers sound plausible, but we have no way to know what your actual expenses are so it's hard to say.

Here's how I create a budget.

First, there is no such thing as a "necessity". There are only varying degrees of "wants". When people are making a budget, they often say that things like the mortgage and the electric bill are "fixed expenses". No, they're not. You could always look for somewhere cheaper to live, etc.

That said, start your budget with the things that are hardest to change. Like taxes, debt payments, and legal obligations like your child support. If you don't have enough income for those, you're in serious trouble and need to seek professional financial advice. But let's assume you can cover them.

Then go to the next tier of "difficult to change", like rent or mortgage. (Well, mortgage is a debt, but easier to change than, say, a student loan.) Continue working down the list.

For things that are variable, like electric bills and groceries, use the average amount you're actually paying now.

Include an allowance for irregular expenses. Like, you apparently have a car. Presumably now and then the car breaks down and needs repairs. Find what the total has been for, say, the past 12 months and calculate the average per month. Similarly, you probably don't buy new clothes every week, but you do now and then. How much does that come to on average? Etc.

Go over your credit card bills and bank account and make sure you're not missing any expenses. It's easy when putting together a budget to forget things that don't come in regular bills. In my younger days, I found that I spent a lot of money in cash that I had no idea where it was going.

Then when you get to the end, compare total expenses to your income. If income is more than expenses, hooray! Decide what you will do with the difference. Pay off some debts faster? Build some savings? Invest for retirement? Etc.

If expenses are more than income, go back over the list and figure out what you can cut. If it's close, maybe you just need to make some minor adjustments, like don't eat out so often, or don't buy so many video games.

Personally, I devote most of my effort to minimizing regular expenses and very large expenses. If therer's something that I spend $100 on once a year and I can cut that to $90, I save $10 a year. But if there's something I spend $100 every week and I can but that to $90, I save $520 a year. For infrequent purchases, if I can save 5% on a toaster, big deal, what's that, maybe $1? But if I can save 5% on a house or a car, that's a very big deal, thousands of dollars.

I worked fairly hard to get a house at below-market price to keep my mortgage payments down, and I drive a used car that I bought with cash so I don't have a car payment. Where you're willing to cut back depends on your priorities. If it's very important to you to have a fancy new car, okay, that's fine, as long as you can cut other places to afford it. As long as you don't say, "I just have to have the newest and best of EVERYTHING" and you don't have the income to support that. And as I said up front, you almost certainly do not NEED a fancy new car. Maybe arguably you "need" some sort of car to get to work. But you could manage with some beat up old thing that runs, it doesn't have to be new and it doesn't have to be pretty.

4

I am in a similar position. Your figures look plausible but there are a few ways you could reduce the bills. As stated, more details would be helpful but there is enough to offer comment.

Your figures indicate around £370 a month "surplus" so if you aren't saving anything then you aren't accounting for your spending 100%.

I'd start using a budgeting app. There are plenty of frees ones. You can track your expenses vs budget and it may give you some more ideas as well.

What's the Bank Account £20 for? Is it a packaged account of some kind? Is it value for money? These usually aren't so I would look at going back to a basic account.

Insurance - Do you check every time a renewal is due to make sure you are on the cheapest deal? My home insurance is £15 a month and my car insurance £20. You might be able save another £30 odd there.

Mobile phone - £40 a month isn't bad if it's a smart phone. When your contract runs out, consider going to a PAYG deal instead of automatically upgrading. If you keep the phone for only a few months, you can easily cut that bill in half.

Water bill - Seems high. Are you on a water meter? I would expect you to be paying more like £25 a month if on a meter. You can get a meter fitted for free. Just ask your supplier.

https://www.ccwater.org.uk/watermetercalculator/

Gas and Electric - Make sure you are with the cheapest supplier. Use a comparison site to check. You are using about the average amount but it depends on your house. If you're in a smallish house then that seems high.

Child Support - Is this what the CSA suggested that you pay? It's similar to what I pay in a similar situation so it seems plausible.

Debt - The obvious suggestion is to consider a debt consolidation loan. It's likely to save you some money. If you are struggling, you could go onto a Debt Management Plan but this will affect your credit rating. These plans can reduce debt repayments dramatically, often by more than half.

Mortgage - Make sure you have the best deal. Use a comparison site.

Fuel - Is high for your mileage but not excessive. It's probably not worth changing cars now to save on fuel but when you do change cars, look at fuel efficiency. My small family car would cost around £20 a week for your mileage. You can also get cars that have zero car tax/VED. Does yours? It's not on your budget.

Groceries - Looks fine but consider taking food into work as £30 a week is pretty high.

Entertainment - Kids activities? Again, fine. I can't comment since I don't know their ages but there are things you can do for free if they are young.

Using these suggestions, you could easily save £100 a month, possibly much more. I can't tell without more information.

Consider a savings app like Moneybox. Check the app store. It's a good way of saving without really noticing you are saving.

3

There are a few items I am missing:

  • Toiletries, cleaning supplies and other household consumables (although they could be lumped together with "groceries" - I am also doing this in my own personal budget under "stuff I buy at the supermarket")
  • Clothes
  • Maintenance cost for your car and your home
  • Retirement savings

While maintenance seems hard to plan for (your car doesn't break down every month, and if it does then the bill can have anything between two and four digits), there are statistical monthly averages you can assume here. You should allocate this as a part of your budget you save every month so you can pay for urgent repairs. Also keep in mind that cars only have a limited lifetime. When you depend on your car, then you should start saving now so you can afford a replacement at the end of its life expectancy.

Retirement might seem like an issue which if far away from now, but the later in life you start to plan for retirement, the more difficult it will be to ensure that you can maintain your standard of living when you are too old to work. Your state-provided pension will likely not be enough and you didn't say anything about if your employer provides any additional coverage. So you might want to start thinking about this. The UK government has a website which helps you to estimate what additional provisions you need to take.

Retirement saving and debt repayment are both investments into your future financial security, so they are two priorities which need to be balanced against each other. Which one should be prioritized over the other depends on the interest rates of different offers, so we can not really help you here without more information about your debt structure and the retirement options available to you. Getting professional help in this regard can be very helpful, by the way.

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Those seems reasonable at face value (I do not know expenses in Europe, but nothing seems absurd), but your budget seems grossly incomplete. Where do you live? Do you pay rent? Utilities? Insurance? Do you ever get a haircut or go to the doctor? Also what about small, unanticipated spending? There are many things that can slide in under the radar that seem innocuous but when added up can kill your budget. Also, as Joe said in a comment, you have not indicated your income to know if you are still living within your means. Maybe the 80 in "children's activities" is what you're actually spending, but if it causes you to exceed your income, then that or some other category needs to be reduced (stay at home and play games instead of going to the movies or amusement park).

Also, weekly seems a little too granular for a budget considering that many large expenses (rent, utilities, etc) occur monthly. Monthly might be a better budgeting period to make sure that you don't miss something and blow your budget.

One method I use is to simply start with all take-home income (after taxes) and list out expenses in priority order: food, housing, transportation, utilities, etc. until you've run out of expenses or run out of money. Anything "below the line" needs to wait until you have enough money, or you need to cut something out to make room. Look at things like excess entertainment (internet, streaming media, etc.) that you could forego for a few months, or even retirement savings (temporarily, even if there is a match) if you need to cut something.

Kudos for wanting to get finances under control and I hope you get to a point where you can achieve your financial goals.

  • 2
    OP has updated the question with their complete budget. – a CVn Sep 17 '18 at 14:34
  • He’s in the UK. Going to the doctor doesn’t cost anything. He might have to pay £8.80 to fill a prescription. But he should be budgetting for dental and optical care. – Mike Scott Sep 18 '18 at 11:02
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Creating a budget is a long-term task.

The purpose of having a budget is essentially self-discipline. It defines how much money you allow yourself to spend for this and for that. If you make the budget too tight, you miss it, which is contra-productive and disappointing.

How much is realistic, is a matter of experience. So first start monitoring your expenses, which already makes you spend less, and then, after a month or two, you have a realistic view of what you spend for what.

  • While I think that this answer has useful advise, I still downvoted it because it does not address the actual question that was asked. Regarding the budget being too tight: I added up those numbers (multiplying the weekly expenses by 4) and came to £2555. So there is a monthly overhead of £445. That's not really tight. – Philipp Sep 17 '18 at 14:59
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    Without prying into the OP’s context, it’s hard to say what is or isn’t a good dollar figure as a budget. This answer gets to the heart of the matter - monitor expenses systematically (eg in an accounting package or spreadsheet), then use actuals to guide the next period’s budget. Most fees recur over at most a 12-month period, so if credit card statements and the like can be roped in, they can provide a first estimate at the various budget categories. – Lawrence Sep 17 '18 at 15:30
  • @Philipp Indeed, it doesn't answer the OP's questions direcly, but that's because it cannot really be answered without knowing their habits, the "usual" prices in their area etc. That can only be answered by themselves, and my answer can serve as a guide how to answer it: by critically observing the own habits and by making conclusions out of that. – glglgl Sep 18 '18 at 8:22

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