It’s a new month, so a new focus on The Organised Life Project. It’s another hard-work one, but one that I am sure will have a brilliant impact on your lives. We’re looking at how to organise your finances.
How can I tell you how to organise your finances?
This is something that I have really struggled with over the years. I remember owning my first flat and working out my budget with my teacher’s salary, desperately wondering how I was going to make it stretch. Now we’re in the lean years of paying for expensive childcare while one of us is working part-time, and yet running two cars, paying for a mortgage and everything else, and sometimes I wonder how the money will stretch again.
But I have learned. I do keep a really close eye on our finances and we’re pretty comfortable really. Our only debt is our mortgage and we have some savings tucked away for emergencies. We’re able to be generous at times and frugal at other times, and I think I’ve come a long way from the days when I’d live in my overdraft and hope it all worked out somehow.
How to organise your finances with The Organised Life Project
This month, we’re going to work through our finances really systematically. We’re going to start off by gathering all our information. Then we’ll set a budget. Then we’ll look at managing debt. Finally, we’ll look at savings.
I’m not qualified to advise you on anything in particular or on particular products. I’ll share my own experiences and in our lovely Facebook group we’ll support each other. I will recommend Christians Against Poverty (CAP) for amazing, sensible and impartial financial advice and support. If you’re struggling with debt or just want more advice on managing your money, please go to one of their centres, ring up or take one of their courses.
This week, we’re gathering all our information together.
Knowledge is everything
I think this is worth repeating: when it comes to your finances, knowledge really is everything.
There is no point in ignoring your finances. It’s time to face the reality. It might be a bit grim, or depressing, or perhaps even surprising, but you need to know how much you spend every month on certain things.
How to organise your finances: Know your information
Step 1: Add up your income.
By this, I mean ALL your income: salary, child benefit, interest, benefits… Everything. Write each amount down and add it up.
If you don’t have a regular income, you will need to look over the last 12 months and either average your income or (better), look at your lowest monthly income.
You know how you work out your finances as a couple if you’re married or have a partner. We have all joint accounts: current accounts and savings. Our mortgage is joint. We decided this before we got married and it has been really good for us. But you may feel differently. Step 2 may determine how much you ‘pool’ for joint expenses.
Step 2: List your fixed outgoings.
These are the things which you pay regularly, and ideally, a set amount. This will include your rent or mortgage, gas, water and electricity bills, loan repayments, phone and Internet, Council tax, buildings insurance, TV licence, contents insurance, car insurance, car tax etc. Do include childcare if you pay for childcare regularly.
Work out your monthly average. So if you pay council tax for 10 months of the year, work it out as an average, but also note down the monthly normal payments.
I include anything ‘essential’ on this. So for us, that includes childcare but doesn’t include gym membership. It does, however, include my contact lenses because for me, they are essential. It may include your charity givings and that is entirely up to you.
Step 3: Add up your outgoings.
You need a monthly total here, assuming your income is monthly. If it’s weekly or fortnightly, you need to work out your amounts accordingly.
Finally, take your total fixed outgoings away from your monthly income. The result is what we have to budget with. That’s next week, and for me, it was the real key to managing our finances.