Staying on top of spending

Getting your head around the world of money can be tough. But, once you’ve got the fundamentals down, everything gets that bit easier.     

We get it, budgeting doesn’t sound fun or exciting. But getting yours right is a great way of making your money work for you. In this blog we’ll look at tips and tricks for staying on top of your spending.  

Smart spending

The need to spend money is a fact of life, but there are certain things you can do to make your cash go further. Here we take a look at some ways you can make savings, or even be rewarded for your spending. 

Cashback – Some cards or apps allow you to get cashback on purchases. These can help you earn money even as you spend. But it’s important to note, some of the most popular versions of these are credit cards. That means you could end up building up cashback or rewards points, but if you don’t pay off your balance at the end of the month, you could lose money to interest or fees. Find out more here.  

Loyalty cards – Store loyalty cards can be rewarding in the long run. Some will mean you get money off your shop at the till. Others allow you to build up points over time and eventually use them to pay for things. Here are some of the most popular  

Shopping around – Patience is a virtue, and taking a bit of extra time to shop around can often be the best way to ensure you’re getting the best deal. There are also comparison sites you can use for certain expenses which’ll help you directly compares costs from product or service providers. If you’re looking for ways to reduce your bills, take a look at our blog.  

The importance of budgeting 

Getting your budget right can be a big first step towards taking control of your money. That clear view of your incomings and outgoings makes finding areas you could be making savings, and building towards a better financial future, that bit simpler.  

If you’re someone who worries about money, it can sometimes feel easier to look the other way. But budgeting is nothing to fear. All it involves is reviewing how much money you’ve got coming in and how much you’ve got going out. 

Tools & tactics you can use 

Budgeting tools – The Money Charity’s Budget Builder is a great place to start. There’s not a calculator or spreadsheet in sight. Just plug in your incomings and outgoings and they’ll give you a breakdown of what you’re spending on and what you have left over each week or month. For the best results, use a desktop computer or laptop. Click here to get started. Or you could try Money Helper’s Budget Planner. Input your details and it’ll produce a spreadsheet which you can edit over time as things change. Check it out here.  

The 50-30-20 rule – There are lots of different frameworks people use when thinking about how they allocate their spending. One of the most popular is the 50-30-20 rule. This is the idea that 50% of your outgoings should go on ‘needs’ – essential living expenses like rent and groceries. 30% on ‘wants’ – covering non-essential expenses that contribute to your quality of life, like dining out or holidays. And finally, 20% on savings or debt repayments. Everyone’s split will look a bit different, but dividing your spending into categories can be a shortcut to getting a handle on your spending. You could even think about opening a bank account for each type of expense – it won’t cost you anything and you’ll always know exactly how much you have left to spend on each category.  

Spreadsheets – Some love them, some hate them. But if you’re that way inclined, the humble spreadsheet can be a simple way to keep track of your spending each month. All you need is two columns – money coming in and money going out – and you’ve got yourself a simple breakdown of your spending.  

Personal finance tools – There are many nowadays, offering everything from spend tracking to account aggregation. These can give you a sense of how much you’re spending, and on what, each month as well as allowing you to see all your accounts in one place. Some tools even track if there are changes in your spending habits you should be aware of, and flag opportunities to save money or cut debt.  

Payment notifications – It’s pretty standard for banking apps to let you turn on payment notifications, so every time you make a purchase, you’ll know about it. This can be a helpful way to spot fraud. But also, it can remind you about old subscriptions you’re no longer using but still being charged for.  

Going cash only – There’s a school of thought that tapping away on debit cards has led us to losing a sense of the value of money. To counteract this, some suggest withdrawing your weekly budget as cash. That way, you can feel in your hands, or see in your purse/wallet, exactly how much you have left to spend at any given time. Obviously, this isn’t going to work for the vast majority of bills or other payments that are predominantly online. And there are certain risks – if you’re prone to losing things, this might not be for you. But if you think this sounds like something that could work for certain types of spending, read more here.  

Thinking about your spending 

Seeing how you’re spending allows you to make informed decisions on changes you can make to improve your financial resilience.  

Found an old Netflix subscription you’re hardly ever using? Cut it and free up some cash.  

Noticed that more and more money is going on your weekly shop each month? While this might be out of your control, being aware of the problem is the first step to finding solutions. 

Once you’ve got that, it’s not just about identifying costs you could cut. You’re then empowered with the knowledge of how much you have available to spend on the things that matter to you, without having to feel guilt or worrying you can’t afford it. 

This is the value of tracking your spending and budgeting – it empowers you to take control of your money. 

Interested in finding out more? Sign up for one of The Money Charity's free and interactive virtual workshops by emailing for a deeper dive on managing your personal finance.  

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