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Budgeting 101: Managing Your Money

By Vanessa Ciabatti

As Australia grapples with its rising costs of living, money management and budgeting has never been more critical. According to recent ABS statistics, the country’s Living Cost Indexes (LCIs) have witnessed a surge in the 12 months to the June 2023 quarter – spiking from 6.3% to 9.6%. These unexpected increases involve a wide spectrum of essential expenses; from housing and utilities to groceries and healthcare, placing immense pressure on the average Australian's wallet.

Having a solid grasp of your finances can thus help in navigating our current economic climate. Below, we explore the importance of having a disciplined budget and the five steps to helping you reach your financial goals.

The importance of budgeting

Budgeting is a key element to sound financial management, helping set the stage for healthier spending and saving habits. In a recent survey conducted by Savvy, it was revealed that 53% of Australians plan to create a budget in 2023 as a means to avoid financial stress.

Have a practical, well-planned budget can yield critical long-term benefits, including:

  • Financial stability: Budgeting helps you gain control over your finances, ensuring that you know exactly where your money is coming from and where it's going. This stability is vital for weathering unexpected expenses or economic downturns.
  • Debt management: A well-structured budget allows you to allocate funds towards paying off debts systematically, helping you avoid high-interest costs and work towards becoming debt-free.
  • Savings and goals: With a budget, you can allocate a portion of your income towards savings and long-term goals, such as buying a home, starting a family, or planning for retirement.
  • Reduced stress: Knowing that your financial house is in order reduces stress and anxiety, allowing you to focus on other aspects of your life with peace of mind.
  • Discipline and self-control: Budgeting instils discipline in your spending habits, preventing impulsive purchases and fostering financial responsibility.

Five steps to better money management

With the benefits of proper budgeting in mind, below are few easy steps to help you get started.

Step 1: Setting financial goals

Having clear financial targets provides you with a roadmap for your budget, helping you stay motivated and focused on your financial journey. Commbank research has highlighted the common financial aspirations of Australians in 2023, which include:
  1. Reducing expenses (51%): Identifying areas where you can cut costs is a fundamental part of financial planning. Whether it's renegotiating bills, avoiding unnecessary purchases, or finding cheaper alternatives, this goal can significantly impact your budget.
  2. Spending less on non-essentials (50%): Curbing discretionary spending is an effective way to free up funds for your financial goals. It involves distinguishing between needs and wants and making conscious choices about where your money goes.
  3. Saving more regularly (41%): Building a robust savings habit is key to achieving both short-term and long-term objectives. Regular contributions to your savings account help create a financial safety net and work towards your goals.
  4. Finding ways to earn extra income (41%): Supplementing your income can accelerate your financial progress. Whether through a side gig, investments, or passive income streams, increasing your earning potential can be transformative.

Step 2: Tracking your income and expenses

Effective money management involves a clear understanding of where your money is coming from and where it’s going. This awareness allows you to recognise spending habits, uncover areas where you may be overspending, and pinpoint opportunities for cost-cutting. With these findings, you can then construct a budget that closely aligns with your financial goals – helping you allocate resources more efficiently as you direct funds towards your savings, debt reduction, and essential expenses.

Regular budget tracking can additionally help you avoid any financial surprises. You’ll be well-prepared for recurring bills, upcoming expenses, and any unexpected financial hurdles that may arise. By categorising your expenses (i.e. housing, transportation, groceries, entertainment), you gain a clear overview of your spending patterns on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Step 3: How to stay on track

Money management requires plenty of commitment and discipline. It can be easy to veer off track when the temptations to splurge arise, so be sure to regularly check in on your budget to remind you of your long-term financial targets. This also helps you assess your progress and allows you to adjust your current budget if necessary.

You may also want to consider having an emergency fund, helping you cover any unexpected expenses. This serves as a financial cushion, preventing you from derailing your budget in the event of car repairs, medical bills, or other urgent situations.

Additionally, you could also seek the support of a trusted friend or family member to help keep you accountable. Discussing your progress with someone you trust can be motivating and keep you on track.

Step 4: Using budgeting tools and resources

Just as a friend or family member ensures you needn’t go at your financial journey alone – so do the wide variety of budgeting tools and apps now available. These serve as game-changing resources towards effective money management, helping automate your payments, calculate your expenses, and track your spending with ease. The best part is: plenty are also available for free.

One of the best financial tools to start with is MoneySmart’s free online budget planner. This government resource simplifies the budgeting process by helping you categorize your income and expenses as necessary. It provides a visual representation of your financial flow, making it easier to identify areas for improvement and optimization.

Of course, you could also consider other advanced apps such as Beem, Finspo, and Wiselist – tools that help consolidate your financial information in a single place, while offering features to track your upcoming bills; set up savings goals; and automate your payments.

Step 5: Invest in yourself

Finally, upskilling can be a powerful strategy for not only advancing your career – but also making budgeting and finances all the more manageable. By acquiring new skills or enhancing existing ones, you increase your value in the job market – often leading to better-paying job opportunities and potential promotions. This, in turn, can provide more financial stability and resources towards your long-term money goals.
Additionally, staying up-to-date with new skills ensures you remain adaptable and employable. This reduces the risk of unemployment and financial stress during economic uncertainties.

According to a survey by the Economist Impact, 71% of Australians believe that reskilling at a positive impact on their salaries, bargaining power, and the pursuit of more fulfilling careers.

The more you learn, the more you earn

Unlock your full financial potential by investing in your skills today! Upskilled offers a wide range of nationally-recognised qualifications spanning across Australia’s most in-demand industries – from sectors in community services to the growing world of IT. Individuals can choose from varying certifications suited to different skill levels and interests. Best of all, we offer a completely online learning experience, helping you study at a time, place, and pace that suits you best.

Whether you’re looking to boost your income, advance your career, or find more meaningful work, we’ve got the training programs to help you get started. Strive for a brighter financial future – and enquire with us on a course today.

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*By providing your information, you agree to our Privacy Policy and to receiving email and other forms of communication from Upskilled. You are able to opt-out at any time.