A new share house means it’s time to reassess your budget or create one if you’re new to the big bad world of personal finances. We get it, talking finances can be a major snooze but setting yourself up for success and ensuring you can have your cake and eat it too is always exciting.
Check out the below steps to become fully financially literate when moving out of home.
First up is income. Write down all your sources of income and how much you receive after tax in a set period — let’s say a week. If you’re paid fortnightly or monthly, average the income to get a weekly figure.
Of course, if some of your income if from unpredictable work, you’ll need to make an estimate. You can base the estimate on what you’ve earned in the recent past, but try to make it fairly conservative. This is to prevent setting your expectations and budget too high and coming in short after that big splurge on Gucci sneakers and an Adore Beauty subscription.
Count everything here, not just your new expenses from your share house. The best way to do that might be to look at your expenses for the last 6 months or year.
If you pay something like car rego annually, average it over 52 weeks and add the weekly figure to your list. Don’t overlook the expenses you pay in cash — check your bank statements so you can include your ATM withdrawals as well as individual electronic purchases you make from different stores or services.
Include the fun stuff, like gifts for others or treats for yourself too. It’s tempting to say, “Oh, I went to that day spa six months ago but that never happens,” if in fact you go, say, twice a year. Unless you’re prepared to give it up, add it to the list.
That said, don’t double up on your expenses. If your last share house’s rent (or your board at home) didn’t include bills, but your new rent does, then make sure that’s reflected in your list of expenses. Since rent and utilities are going to be among your largest expenses, make sure you get those estimates right.
But wait! What if you’ve been living at home, rent free and you really have no idea what you’ll be spending on utilities? Ask your new flatmates what the bills usually look like for a ball-park figure.
Ideally, your income will be lower than your expenses, but if it’s not, now is a good time to reassess the situation.
If you do break even on income and expenses, that’s good. But in a perfect world, your income will be more than your expenses, because each of us needs a financial buffer in our lives for those annoying, unexpected expenses (emergency car repairs? Ugh!).
Wherever your budget’s at, it’s a good idea to do what you can to reduce your expenses so that they don’t take up more of your income than is absolutely necessary.
Now we know the lay of the land, it’s time to get smart about our weekly budget going forward. The next step is to set a budgeting goal, which will depend on your situation and circumstances.
Let’s say you break even: You might make your first goal to continue to break even for the next few months as you settle into your new share house. Then you might create a savings goal, to see if you can’t reduce some costs and put the saved cash aside for that financial buffer we just talked about.
If your expenses are currently higher than your income:If there’s anything that you can do with less of — or manage without — then chop it. That includes consolidating debts (talk to your bank about this, or a financial aid service in your area). The other course of action is to find more income. That could be by trying to get more work or looking to see if any government benefits, like rent assistance, are available to you until you can raise your income. Again, a financial aid service can be helpful here.
If and when your expenses are lower than your income: Congrats! It’s time to set a savings goal or review the one you have. You might decide to save for a specific thing — post lockdown holiday, drum kit or motorbike — or just put aside a certain amount each week. But whatever your particular case, make sure you save for a financial buffer first.
How big should that financial buffer be? Estimates range from enough to cover a couple of weeks’ rent to enough to cover a full six months of expenses! But the ideal figure for you will depend on a few things:
Most importantly, your buffer should be enough to give you a sense of stability and comfort.
Spending limits help you to keep your budget on track. You’ll want to put limits on your fun stuff (pub parmas, festival tickets, your monthly nails etc) but it can be handy to set spending limits in other areas too. Some power retailers have apps that help you plan your power usage (and thus expenditure) or buy cheap power packs in bulk, before you use them. Similarly, you might be able to save on public transport if you get up earlier two days a week and ride your bike instead. Perhaps you can reduce your budget for gifts by making them, rather than buying them, or cut some annual bills by paying them all at once, rather than in instalments.
Bottom line: see if you can set spending limits in some everyday areas that encourage you to be more frugal than frivolous across the board.
Once you’ve set your budget goals and spending limits, it’s time to live your life! …and see how your budget works.
You will need more than a week to get into the rhythm, but it’s useful to look back over what you’ve received and spent each week to get a sense of how things are tracking. At the end of a month, you should have a clear idea of what’s working and what’s not. Tweak the budget as you need to, to make sure you stay on track and above all, to meet your budgeting goals.
Setting up and sticking to your budget will set you up for life, we promise! If saving and cutting expenses all looks too daunting, just start small. Cutting out your $4.50 coffee each day will save you $1642.50 a year! For more on how to hustle, check our hot tips here.