Tips to help you maintain your budget after lockdown

As the nation slowly reopens, you can now head back to your favourite shops and social haunts – which means the likelihood of splurging is high. Nobody wants to spend their days pinching pennies, but whether you’re saving for a deposit or adjusting to reduced income, you don’t want all your hard work to go to waste.

The secret is budgeting well – and that’s why we’ve enlisted the help of financial guru Santis O'Garro. She’s got plenty of tips to help keep you focused and on track.

Find your why

While your budget might just look like an account of your income and expenditure, it’s also a tool to help achieve your goals. That means being clear on why you’re budgeting and what it is you hope to accomplish. Santis refers to your ‘why’ as a “built-in accountability partner when you have moments of sudden weakness.”

Of course, those moments are a part of human nature – and right now you might feel like treating yourself more than ever. That’s why Santis recommends keeping self-care at the forefront of your mind and making sure your plan actually looks after you.

A budget isn’t about scarcity; it’s about seeing what’s available. Always put aside some money for yourself in your budget, even if it’s only a tiny amount.

Santis O'Garro

If you’re just starting out, then online calculators and apps are a great way to learn how to budget and save money.

Get your priorities straight

While there’s a place in your budget for wants, it’s vital to address your needs first, with items like your mortgage/rent, food, utilities, transport, and childcare. Santis recommends you automate these payments, so they’re looked after every time; she’s even set up her own separate bills account.

Sometimes, of course, life throws a curveball or two – and to combat that, it’s worth having an emergency fund. “If you don't have one, make it a priority,” Santis says. “In general, your emergency fund should be three to six months’ worth of wages, but initially just aim for one month and build it up gradually. It’s always good to have a small cushion in case anything pops up that can derail you from your budget.”

Time is money

One valuable way to look at potential purchases is in terms of the amount of work it takes you to earn that sum. A designer handbag might be appealing, but is it really worth 25 hours of your time?

Another timely suggestion from Santis is to follow the 48-hour rule, whereby you give yourself a cooling off period to think about a potential splurge. Ask yourself, is this a want or a need? Are you making this purchase for the right reason? Are you buying this for yourself, or to please somebody else? Be honest, and you’re likely to be guided towards making smart decisions.

Finally, if you do end up spending money then track it – immediately! By creating a record of your spending habits, you’ll be better able to review and make tangible changes down the line.

Have a no-spend day

As restrictions lift, all sorts of fun and games are the swipe of a debit card away – but if you’re on a budget, then balance is a must. Santis swears by incorporating ‘no-spend days’ into her life. These are exactly what it says on the tin, they’re days where you do your best to prove that the best things in life really are free!

From hiking and biking to curling up with a book or running a bath, the possibilities are endless - just make sure that you’re doing something you find rewarding, to serve as a reminder that money really isn’t everything.

If you fancy hitting the open road, why not try one of the most scenic driving routes in Ireland – and bring your four-legged family members along for the ride too!

Food for thought

Reducing the amount you spend on food is something Santis identifies as “a game-changer” – and especially as restrictions lift. “With restaurants and pubs opening, we want to support our local businesses; however, cooking from scratch enables you to cook tasty meals from your kitchen at a fraction of the cost.” She also advocates practicing zero waste and recommends creating meal plans ahead of time.

Before you grab a trolley, check out loads more tips on how to make savings on your weekly shop.

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