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Before I start this post, I know that I’m fortunate enough to talk about lockdown positively. Myself and my partner haven’t been financially affected by the crisis and our jobs don’t appear to be at risk.

I know this isn’t everyone’s reality, so please don’t assume that I’m not considerate of other people’s experiences. Because that isn’t the case.

I’ve constantly counted my blessings over the past four months because I’m aware that even though I’ve struggled with staying at home 24/7, especially in a studio flat, I’ve still worked throughout and no one I care about has lost their life or been hugely affected financially.

That being said, lockdown has affected my personal finances, for the better.

Daily budgeting doesn’t work for me

Before lockdown, I swore by my daily budget. I transferred my spending money into a Monzo pot on payday which automatically withdrew a small amount daily.

The problem, however, is that I don’t consistently spend a small amount each day. Some days I spend nothing, others I’ll order some new jumpsuits from ASOS. Therefore, I found myself withdrawing from the pot and changing my scheduled payments.

Instead, I’ve learned to trust myself, because the money I’m referring to doesn’t include my bills, food shopping or any savings. So it’s entirely up to me how I spend it. 

If I fall short towards before payday, I’m not going hungry and the mortgage has still been paid, so it usually just means I can’t splurge on an unnecessary purchase or order a takeaway.

Daily saving also doesn’t work for me

On January 1st, I started a new challenge of saving £1.50 a day. The idea was that I could save £500+ over the year by sacrificing a small amount of money each day. 

It was going well, and I liked seeing my savings increase slowly. But it became unsustainable and I wondered why I didn’t have much money left at the end of the month. 

My old budget meant that anything left over after paying my bills and saving £250-300 was mine to spend. But while my savings pot was growing quickly I was actually cutting myself £45-50 short by saving £1.50 a day.

I still think it’s a good idea for some people who struggle to save, or perhaps have a bigger salary than me.

However, I’ve decided to only save at the beginning of the month and let myself enjoy everything else without feeling guilty.

Commuting was very expensive

I work in London, which is my choice and I knew that it was expensive before I accepted my job. Fortunately, my company has a work from home policy, meaning I already saved at least one train ticket a week.

However, at £17.65 a ticket, I still spent around £300 a month travelling to the office.

I’ve saved £1,012 since lockdown, which has primarily been because I haven’t had to pay to get to work. 

But this has reinforced to me how important flexible working is and I don’t think I’m going into the office five days a week for the rest of my career.

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Ever since I was a kid, I was taught about the importance of saving and the value of money.

When I was 8-years-old, I went to Disney World. However, for the 12 months leading up to it, my dad promised me that if I saved £100 to spend, he’d double it. I kept my pocket money, did extra chores and anything else a child can do to earn cash.

My uncle gave me the last £20 I needed and sure enough, I had plenty of bucks to spend on overpriced souvenirs. You might think this made me an expert at saving – it didn’t.

Money has always been a taboo subject to discuss, but in an effort to open a conversation and help, here are some money mistakes we all make – and how to be better in the future.

1. Not opening a separate savings account

People find it insane when they find out how many bank accounts I have. Some think the idea of having more than one is weird.

Keeping everything in one account is suicidal. Yes, you’ll tell yourself that you’re capable of separating your spending money, bills and savings – but you’re not.

Opening up one or two savings accounts helps you visually see your finances grow. Having a savings account for your long-term goals and for ‘fun stuff’ is the best way to do it in my opinion. So instead of spending your house deposit on festival tickets, you can save for both without sacrificing either.

Or, if you have a Monzo account, you can use Pots to save some money away for gigs or a holiday.

2. Saving at the end of the month

Too many people have told me that they save whatever’s left in the bank at the end of the month. This is a sure-fire way to end up with £0 to your name.

You need to create a budget and save at least 5% of your wages. Everyone is in a different financial situation, but keeping funds aside for emergencies is never a bad idea.

There’s nothing wrong with putting whatever is left the day before you get paid into your savings account, in fact, that’s an awesome idea. But, you need to do it at the start of the month (or whenever payday is) if you want to ensure financial security.

3. Saving too much money

On the flip side, have you ever saved at the beginning of the month and then a week later, you’re transferring the money back to your current account? Have you also done this every single month? Yeah, me too.

If you can’t live on your assigned budget, you’re either spending or saving too much. Both need to be assessed because those morning trips to Costa might be throwing your spending out of whack.

Bye-bye vanilla iced lattes, I’ll see you on Fridays.

However, there’s absolutely no point in putting away 10% of your wages if you’re only going to end up with 1% left. Be honest with yourself and if you can’t afford to be saving so much – stop.

Consistently putting £10 away is better than constantly dipping into your savings every other day.

4. Not looking at your accounts

Do. Not. Bury. Your. Head. In. The. Sand. EVER.

Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your finances. We have the technology to check our bank accounts at any hour with just the scan of a fingerprint.

I recommend checking your account daily. Not only will this help you avoid spending all your money before payday, but it can also help you to detect fraud.

It’s not fun seeing your balance in the negative, but it’s something you have to confront if you’re ever going to get into the positive.

5. Living off your credit card/overdraft

Your overdraft and credit card limit is not your money. It’s the bank’s money, and they’ll get it back eventually.

Using your credit card occasionally (to build up your credit or insure your purchases) and dipping into your overdraft is not the end of the world. But constantly living on borrowed money is a vicious circle.

This is a tricky one because the reason one person uses their overdraft/credit card is different from someone else. For many, it’s almost impossible to pay it off and I’m certainly not making light of this.

Start by looking at your income and non-negotiable outgoings (include food shopping, child care and anything that you pay for monthly). What’s the difference?

If you have money leftover, assess your spending habits and see if there’s anything you can give up for a bit until you’ve paid your debt off.

MoneySavingExpert has a great article for those who need more specialist help with this.

6. Buying things you can’t afford

We’re all guilty of this. We all like nice things and think we ‘deserve’ a treat, but not at the expense of your financial health. It’s good to splurge on yourself every now and then, but stop buying things that aren’t in your budget. 

Eating out every single day is expensive. Designer bags are expensive. Cocktails are expensive (sob). If you’re living a life that is above and beyond what you can realistically afford, then you need to reassess. 

I don’t care what your friends are doing. They’re not going to reimburse your life savings after a night of 2-4-1 cocktails in the Slug and Lettuce.

Be realistic, be selfish and be sensible.

What is your best financial tip? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @amywritesthings 🐦

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For years, I tried finding a solution to my biggest financial struggle – budgeting my day-to-day spending. 

In general, I’m pretty good at the big picture stuff, i.e, my home budget. I transfer my outgoings into separate accounts and save money as soon as payday hits.

However, when trying to make my daily budget last, I really struggled to keep my balance above £10 a week before payday. 

Enter Monzo. 

I’ve used Monzo for nearly two years and it’s hugely impacted my relationship with money. If you haven’t heard of Monzo, don’t worry – I’ll be going through what Monzo is, how it’s helped me and why you should get one too. 

What is Monzo?

Put simply – Monzo is an online bank. It doesn’t have any branches and doesn’t offer other products like credit cards or mortgages that traditional banks might. 

But, it’s a certified bank authorised in the UK by the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA), regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and protected by The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). This means that your money is protected and up to £85,000 is guaranteed by the British Government if anything goes wrong.

So, it’s a bank, what’s the big deal? Well, the app has lots of unique features such as bill splitting and a virtual piggy bank, making managing your money effortless and kinda fun. 

But to fully explain how I use Monzo to budget, I need to introduce you to its flagship feature – Pots. 

Separating money using Monzo Pots

I’ve always believed that keeping all of your money in one bank account is a bad idea. But Monzo has changed my mind, sort of. 

Monzo allows you to separate your money into virtual ‘Pots’ that are excluded from your available balance so you can’t accidentally spend the money in them. 

While I still don’t advocate keeping your life savings in your current account, this feature has changed my financial life.

I currently have the following Pots:

Daily Budget: My day-to-day spending. This is explained more in the Scheduled payments section below.
Travel: I work in London, so I keep my train fare in this pot so I can always pay for my commute.
Home Savings: I’m planning to move the money to an ISA eventually, but I’ll discuss my saving habits in another post to explain fully.
Fun Stuff: I explain below.
Emergency Fund: I keep up to £100 in here for, well, emergencies.

Scheduled payments

I’ve tried sticking to a monthly budget, but I’d usually spend it all in the first two weeks and have nothing left for the month. I’ve tried weekly budgeting, but the same thing happened. 

The only way I’ve successfully budgeted is with a daily budget. 

So basically, once I’ve subtracted my non-negotiable outgoings and savings from my salary, the money I have left is divided by the number of days until my next payday and deposited into my Daily Budget Pot. 

I then use the scheduled payments feature to create an automatic withdrawal every day until the following payday.

As long as I refrain from withdrawing any more money, I no longer run out of money throughout the month. 

Fun stuff

The only problem with daily budgeting is socialising. While I may have enough money to have dinner with friends, it’s split up throughout the month. 

Before creating my Fun Stuff Pot, I’d withdraw money to pay for social events and then run out of money at the end of the month because I didn’t account for it. 

So, every month, I look at my planned social calendar and estimate how much each event will cost. Then, I put it in the Fun Stuff Pot and lock it up (more on that below), so my daily budget is only ever that — a daily budget. 

Lock it up

You can also lock your Monzo Pots, restricting access to your money for a set amount of time. You can unlock it if you really need, but having the extra step helps stop it. 

It’s another way I manage my budget. I lock my savings Pots long-term, but I lock the Fun Stuff pot until my next social event.

This stops me from taking out a fiver here and there, meaning I always have the money when bottomless brunch comes around.

Should you get one?

If you want full control of your spending habits, then I’d recommend Monzo. It’s quick and easy to set up – it took me about five minutes and my card came within two days.

Some people are sceptical about app-only banks, but I think they’re the way forward. Plus, the 24/7 customer service actually makes it a better bank than most when you have problems.

Monzo is also incredibly community-focused, taking suggestions into serious consideration with many of its features coming from customer ideas.

Have you got a Monzo card? What do you think of app-only banks? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @amywritesthings 🐦

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Home budgeting is one of those things you either do or you don’t. It comes naturally to some people and for others, it bores them. 

I, for one, love budgeting and find money management calms my soul. Knowing how much my bills cost and what I have left to spend each month means I’m never worried about accidentally spending my council tax bill on a new pair of DMs. 

But whether you love it or not, budgeting is always a good idea. Even if you create a basic income and outgoing sheet, you’re never going to be worse off for it. 

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry, I got ya. I’ve budgeted for years and ever since I moved out, I’ve impressed many people with my meticulous monthly home budget spreadsheet. 

Let’s walk through the basics. 

Where to make your home budget

You can create your monthly home budget using spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets but let’s be honest, the internet is crawling with free templates. 

I’ve even made my home budget spreadsheet available for anyone to download, amend and use. But if you don’t fancy getting techy, you can just use a pen and paper. 

What’s coming in

List your reliable monthly income, so that’s anything that comes in regularly and you can plan in advance. This is probably your salary or child maintenance. 

If you make money from odd jobs or a hobby, but it’s irregular, don’t include it here. The aim of this budget is to calculate a realistic outline of your cash flow. 

But if your income varies because you’re self-employed, use your average or estimated monthly income. 

What’s going out

Write down all your non-negotiable outgoings, from the mortgage and council tax to Netflix and that gin subscription you pay wayyyyy too much for.

If you can’t remember everything, check your recent bank statements and direct debits to capture everything. Don’t forget about any annual bills you may pay for like your car insurance or a Headspace subscription. 

I recommend writing both the company and the price. Once you’ve done that, split them into categories that make sense for you. I split mine into: 

Housing: Mortgage, service charge and utility bills 

Transport: Car finance, insurance and tax

Insurance: Life and contents insurance

Other: Netflix, gym and Spotify

If you have annual or quarterly bills, you should still note them down on your monthly home budget. For example, if you pay your car insurance annually, you can divide the estimated total cost by 12 and then save the money away each month so it’s easier to pay when you renew.

Also, think about your monthly costs that aren’t direct debited. Do you get your hair cut every four weeks? How much does your commute cost? Have you included your weekly food shop? 

Whatever it is, be honest and put these down because otherwise, you’ll get to the end of the month wondering why you have no money left.

Pro tip: I’d recommend opening a second current account for all your outgoings, or a joint one if you’re sharing the bills with your partner. This means you can transfer your expenses when you get paid and never need to worry about not having enough money for that pesky gin subscription. 

Save a bit

I recommend prioritising a bit of saving. No matter how much it is, you’re never going to regret putting some money aside for a rainy day. 

Be sure not to put too much away though, because there’s no point in saving if you’re left short each month and transferring the money across. It’s better to keep it small and consistent than unmanageable. 

You should open a separate savings account for this money, or use pots if you have a Monzo account. Out of sight, out of mind.

Pro tip: I go a step further and have separate Monzo pots for different savings including holidays, fun stuff and the do not touch fund. 

The rest

Finally, add up your expenses and savings and subtract them from your income (my spreadsheet does it for you automatically). This is what you have left to play with. 

If you’ve included things like your commute money and food shop, everything else should be free for you to do as you please.

If you’re confronted with less than you thought, you should review your expenses and see what you can live without, or whether you should try and get a cheaper deal. Your landlord is unlikely to reduce the rent, but maybe you don’t need a four-screen Netflix subscription. 

Even if you can’t reduce any of your outgoings, keeping a home budget will help you stay fully aware of your finances and manage your money.

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