How to do money better and get on top of the essentials

If your daily budget has been caught up in everything that’s rocked our world this year, we get it. To help you find your financial feet and gain control of the day-to-day, here are three tips and techniques to help you steady the ship and get back in charge of managing life’s essentials.

Spread money across multiple accounts

This technique is all about allocating a certain amount of money to a certain use, popping that money into its own account (with a handy name) and then only using it for that purpose.

First, we suggest working out what percentage of your income you need to cover all your regular expenses – such as bills, rent, food and any debt repayments. Then think about how many accounts you might need. Generally, three is a good start: expenses (the day-to-day you need to cover), savings (where your money can accumulate for longer-term items down the track) and spending (for any one-off things you’ll need, like a new shirt for work). Or you might want to slice it four ways and have accounts for daily expenses, emergencies, long-term goals and, if it feels right for you, splurges or treats such as Sunday coffee with your friends. You could even break down the expenses into more detail – such as bills, rent and food.

Most financial institutions (including us) have jumped on board with this budgeting technique, so it’s easier than ever to log in to your banking app, set up different accounts and move your money to the right place on pay day.

Pro tip: you can shuffle money between accounts when you need to – especially if your income has taken a hit – but try to only use the money in a specific account for what you’ve marked it for. That way you can see at a glance where every one of your hard-earned dollars and cents lives – and be reassured about where they’re going.

Try a no-spend weekend

This technique is all about developing new spending habits – or, in this case, no-spending habits. On an upcoming weekend, challenge yourself to enjoy the things you ordinarily do – but without splurging unnecessarily and overcooking your budget. You could even try and do the things you love for free.

Have a think about the stuff you love to do on a regular weekend, whether it’s hitting the cinema, sweating it out at the gym, brunching with your best mates or doing some retail therapy. Check if they cost, then look around for free alternatives.

Websites like Timeout are packed with listicles of free cultural events. Try a YouTube tutorial for a new workout or head over to the local park’s outdoor gym. If you’re a foodie, why not try to re-create your favourite dish from your favourite restaurant at home? Invite your friends so you still get your gossip fix – we’re sure they won’t mind if you ask them to BYO. The best things in life are free.

Get back to budget basics

If you don’t have a budget in place, it could be a great time to step back and set one up to make sure you’re covering everything you need to. The essential steps of a basic budget are:

  1. Record your income.
  2. Add up your expenses.
  3. See if you can save.
  4. Set your spending limit.

Covering your expenses is the first step to financial stability. Once you’ve got that on track, you can think about the extras like saving and spending.

If you have a budget up and running but things have changed for you financially, consider making some tweaks. In fact, any time your financial situation changes, it’s a great idea to go back to your budget and adjust the numbers to suit. Is it time to chill without Netflix? Could you lower your phone or internet plans? Don’t forget to look at costs that seem fixed, like transport. For example, if you’re driving less, you might be saving on petrol as well as things like insurance or tolls, too. Every bit helps.

Psst: check out our for more tips on how to manage the essentials.

Looking for extra support?

Times are tough for a lot of us. It’s natural to be feeling it. If you feel like you need an extra helping hand, here are some resources you can reach out to for a chat.

National Debt Helpline

Free advice and guides on how to tackle most debts

Call 1800 007 007 or online at ndh.org.au


Tools, tips and guidance to help Australians take control of their money

Online at moneysmart.gov.au

Financial Counselling Australia

Talk to a financial counsellor from anywhere in Australia

1800 007 007 or online at financialcounsellingaustralia.org.au

Beyond Blue

Coronavirus mental wellbeing support service

Call 1800 512 348 or online at coronavirus.beyondblue.org.au

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