Controlling your finances

By the end of reading this, you will have more control over your finances.

Question: What were the last 10 transactions in your bank account? What direct debits come out of your account each month and when? 

If you can answer that then well done! You obviously keep track of things and hopefully, you are in total control of your finances. 

If you’re not, don’t worry – that’s why we have written this article.


Everyone is different, we lead different lives and have different incomes and outgoings but we should all have one thing in common – a specific goal. A goal to get control of our finances so we are less likely to be in debt, less likely to get caught out with large bills and have a good credit rating so we can be accepted for a mortgage or loan if we want one. 


Here are our top 5 tips for controlling your finances:

  1. Pay attention to your money.
  2. Calculate your income and outgoings.
  3. Budget.
  4. Save to protect you and the ones you care about for the future.
  5. Review your finances on a regular basis.


Are you ready to get financially fit? 

With today’s modern technology we are spoilt for choices when it comes to online advice and services. There are different finance apps, budget planners and calculators that we can use on our devices.

For now, we are going back to basics with a simple pen and paper approach to our financial fitness workout. 


Get ready with the pen…

1. Pay attention!

Much like you wouldn’t leave a saucepan of boiling hot oil on a hob and ignore it, don’t ignore your finances – both could have catastrophic consequences.


  • On your piece of paper write in the middle your net regular monthly income and draw a circle around it
  • On the right side of the circle, draw individual branches coming from the circle with an ‘outgoing’ from your bank account, for example, ‘Mortgage £540’ – continue creating the branches for each of your outgoings

Here a list to remind you of your potential outgoings:

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Car loan
  • Other loans
  • Maintenance payments
  • Pension
  • Credit card payments
  • TV Licence
  • Electric
  • Gas
  • Water
  • Council tax
  • Insurances
  • Mobile phone
  • Telephone
  • Food
  • Transport
  • Leisure
  • Internet
  • Other


On the left side of the circle draw branches with other income that you might get every month. For example, ‘Average monthly bonus £175’. Or:

  • Interest on savings
  • Other bonuses
  • Investments
  • Benefits
  • Gifts
  • Other

By ‘paying attention’ to your financial situation you will have a lot more control over your finances and be prepared for changes and challenges.

2. Calculate your income and outgoings.

With the information that you have on your piece of paper, make some simple calculations. 

  • Add up all your outgoings (everything on the right side)
  • Deduct that total from the number in the circle (your net income)

For example –  net income £3000 (number in the circle), total outgoings (add together all the amounts on the right side)  £2200 

£3000 – £2200 = £800

You can see that you have enough income to cover your outgoings, you know what is coming in and out every month giving you control over your finances. 

Going back to the paper again, you might still have the figures on the left side of the circle that you can add to the £800. For example, interest on savings £35 and average bonus £200 etc… 

If you have extra money to spend at the end of the month, spend it wisely. 

**If you do the above calculation and your outgoings are more than your net income, it’s time to take action, especially if you have debts. Read our article ‘What should I do if I can’t pay my bills’.

For example –  net income £1900 (number in the circle), total outgoings (add together all the amounts on the right side)  £2200 

£1900 – £2200 = – £300

So, each month you are down by £300.

Don’t panic, there are different options available to you. Look on the left side of the paper, what extra income could you get from interest on savings for example? Do you think you could do something to get more bonuses?

Here is a list of ways that you could reduce your outgoings:

  • Change your mortgage lender 
  • Move to a cheaper rental property
  • Change your energy suppliers
  • Ask for debt help if you have loans and owe money on credit cards so you can see how you can reduce huge interest payments
  • Get a cheaper mobile phone contract
  • Reduce pension payments or freeze your pension
  • Review and reduce maintenance payments
  • Don’t have so many takeaways or meals out, do more home cooking
  • Change a gym membership, do less expensive hobbies – running is free!
  • Buy second-hand clothes and other necessities
  • Change your clothes and self-maintenance budget
  • Give up drinking
  • Give up smoking
  • Car share to work
  • Walk instead of buses and taxis
  • Reduce coffee shop visits!
  • Other


Most importantly, and as we have said many times before if you are struggling financially reach out and ‘make contact’ with the appropriate people. Don’t carry your financial burdens alone.

3. Budget.

Being disciplined with your money is wise and you can do this by budgeting, setting yourself a certain amount for certain things. 

For example, a food budget is an excellent idea and this is where food shopping online is very useful. You can see exactly what you are spending and know if you have stayed within your budget. 

It’s great to get away from it all and take a holiday but how much can you really afford to spend on it? A holiday budget is a good idea, decide on an amount and stick to it so you don’t get tempted into booking a holiday that you really can’t afford. 

Taking it a step further, don’t forget to budget for your holiday expenditure!

4. Save.

If you are lucky enough to have surplus money each month it’s advisable to save some of the money and it is recommended that you have enough savings to cover bills for three months if you couldn’t work or lost your job. 

Other major things to save for are:

  • Christmas and birthdays
  • Holidays
  • Cars
  • More pension contributions
  • Weddings
  • A home
  • ISAs
  • Premium bonds
  • Investments
  • Other

It’s always good to save for a rainy day too – lookout for those coupons, money off deals, extra points, buy one get one free and keep up to date with special offers where money can be saved.

5. Review.

We all know that nothing stays the same for long, not the good or the bad. Change is imminent so with that in mind, it makes sense to review your finances now and then. 

How could your life change in a way that could affect your finances?

  • Marriage or cohabitating
  • Divorce
  • Lodger moving in or moving out
  • Child maintenance starts or stops
  • Maintenance money starts or stops
  • Selling a home
  • Buying a home
  • Interest rates changing
  • Retirement
  • Paying for care
  • Legal battle
  • Debt collectors
  • Redundancy
  • Spouse passes away
  • Insurance claims
  • Sabbatical
  • Surgery
  • Property damage
  • Changing job
  • Other

It would also be advisable to review your savings and investments, banks and building societies don’t always remind you of interest rate changes. 

Here are some links so you can check if you are getting the best for your money: – for general tips and advice. – for a range of financial products. – for cheaper insurances. – for cheaper insurances. – for a free credit report. – get a free utility costs comparison from Utility Warehouse.

Now you have all the information you need about your income and outgoings, you can use it to create your own finance spreadsheets, enter the information into different online apps to create a budget planner or do whatever you need to do to help you feel more in control of your finances.

But don’t lose that bit of paper, there is still great value in the pen and paper method to organising your life. Devices are great but sometimes you can’t beat a handwritten list. 

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