How to make the most of your money

Keeping track of your money is always a good idea, whatever your situation. That way you know where you are financially and you can plan for the future and prevent any financial problems occurring.

Here's some practical advice and suggestions on budgeting and planning for the future.

Start with a budget

Probably the best financial advice anyone can give you is how to prepare a budget. This can help you with planning ahead and keeping control of your money. It’s not difficult to do, particularly using this interactive budgeting calculator.

Once you’ve listed your income and all your outgoings, you’ll be able to see immediately where you are with your money, and if you have any extra money to save or if you need to reduce your spending. You’ll also be able to identify what you’re spending your money on – e.g. household expenses, leisure, the children, travel, savings – so if you do need to cut back, the budget planner will help you identify the areas where you can make savings.

When you fill out the planner, it’s important to be honest and realistic.

  • Start thinking about goals – short / medium / long term. Be realistic about them and plan your spending accordingly.
  • Keep track of your spending and review your budget regularly. If your circumstances change, for instance, if you get a pay rise or your bills increase, then you’ll need to make suitable adjustments.

Planning ahead

Don’t just think about the present, you also need to be clear about your financial goals. Give some thought to how you’ll achieve them, how much money you’ll need and when. You’re likely to have a range of goals, each with different timescales and requiring different amounts of money – this will determine how much you need to save, invest or borrow.

It’s worthwhile considering the following:

  • Plan for regular events like Christmas, holidays and birthdays so you can enjoy them much more by removing the financial worry of how you’ll pay for them
  • What about your short-term goals? Do you want to buy a car, do some home improvements or pay off your debts?
  • Think carefully before borrowing money; make sure that you’ll be able to afford the repayments now and in the future
  • Before you start saving, you should think about paying off any expensive debts, like credit cards, because the interest you pay on borrowed money is often higher than the interest you get on a savings account
  • Don't forget to think about the long-term, e.g. saving for your children's education and preparing for retirement. The sooner you start to invest, the longer you'll have for your money to grow
  • At times when you need money in a hurry, such as paying an unexpected bill, it's a good idea to have an accessible emergency fund
  • Putting a little away regularly is a good way to save as it soon adds up.

Next Steps

  • Use our handy budgeting calculator to help identify what you spend your money on.
  • How healthy are your finances? Take the Money Advice Service's Financial Healthcheck and you'll get some tips for a healthier financial lifestyle - now and in the future.
  • Find out more about our in-branch review service if you need a bit of help and guidance to make more of your money or would like to see how we can help you achieve your financial goals.