Life can throw up some unexpected curve balls. From smashed windscreens to vet bills to medical expenses, sometimes your best-laid budget plans go out the window... which for some, might lead to an unexpected debt on the credit card. This is where a weekly budget pulse check could come in.
Once you’ve prepared a personal budget, it’s tempting to file it away, job done. But budgets aren’t the type of set-and-forget document that you only pull out once a year. Rather, they are moveable beasts – it’s a good idea to monitor them on a regular basis to make sure your spending’s on track.
That’s why you might want to set aside some time each week – it shouldn’t take long – to do a budget pulse check. Think of it like your weekly spending stocktake; an assessment of your personal bank balance. Then, if something pops up that wasn’t planned for and you’ve chosen to pay for it with your credit card, you could think about reining in your spending next week so you’re not left with a credit card bill you can’t pay off in full at the end of the month (if that’s your goal).
A weekly budget pulse check involves a bit more than just a glance at your bank statements. Here are 8 tips that may help make your weekly check-in worthwhile.
1. Set budget tool to ‘weekly’
Whether you’re using a spreadsheet, online tool or some other form of budget, you could set the time period to ‘weekly’ for each line item. For example, if you have an annual cost of $520 for car insurance, this would equate to $10 a week (not including any applicable interest or fees). This way, when you’re checking in each week, you know how much you’ve allocated to each item in your budget.
2. Line-by-line budget check
You might want to go through your budget line-by-line and compare your spending to your budget. To see what you’ve spent, you could keep all your receipts for the week. Or, you could check your online banking for a snapshot of current transactions (however, please note there may be some transactions which are not processed to your account immediately). For a more complete record of direct debits, plus interest, bank fees and charges, you should refer to your credit card statements.
3. The savings stash
There are some things in every budget – such as car rego, electricity bills or insurance – that only need to be paid for quarterly or annually. With your budget set to ‘weekly’, you should be able to see how much money you need to save each week for these things. By being aware of these things, you could then consider saving for them in advance.
4. Use any leftovers wisely
Found some areas where you’ve spent less than you’ve budgeted for? Depending on your other financial commitments, maybe think about saving the leftovers or using them to pay down debt. Say your food budget was $200 this week and you only spent $180. You could consider moving that extra $20 into savings or you could pay down your credit card if there’s an amount owing – instead of dashing out to buy wine or chocolate. Your future self may thank you for it!
5. Add a ‘cash’ line to the budget
Some people might find that incidental spending is hard to track – things like coffees, bread and milk. You could simplify the task with a ‘cash’ item in your budget and track your spending against that budget. If the cash doesn’t last you the week, you could either adjust the budget or cut down on incidental spending.
6. Adjust for unexpected costs
If an unexpected cost comes up (which you used your credit card to pay for) then you may need to find ways to cut back in other areas. Remember, at ANZ when it comes to personal credit cards, to avoid paying interest you need to pay the full outstanding balance by the due date each monthdisclaimer. So, say you’ve got $150 left in the budget for entertainment this month, it might be time to stay at home and put that $150 towards the credit card or your other financial commitments instead.
7. Look for trends
By setting aside some time each week scrutinising your spending and comparing it to your budget, you may soon start to see trends emerge. By identifying your spending habits, you’re one step closer to finding ways to cut back on spending.
8. Strike higher than the minimum repayment
If your goal is to pay off a credit card debt, then take a look at your latest statement, which should include a ‘Minimum Repayment Warning’disclaimer. This provides an indication of how long it could take to pay back the debt if you only paid the minimum repayment, as well as how much interest you could pay in this scenario. Depending on how much you owe, this information may look bleak – consider using it as motivation to strike for something higher than the minimum repayment, if your financial situation allows for it.