So many people claim to have found the magical equation to achieving a sense of financial wellbeing, and more often than not, it is the 50-30-20 budgeting method. Simply put, if 50% of your income goes on bills and essentials, 30% on enjoyment and 20% on savings and investments, life should be pretty sweet, and you should also be building a small safety cushion, too. One of the many issues, thought, about the discourse around money in the UK, is that it assumes we are in control of it all when, in fact, there are almost always both internal and external factors at play in our personal financial landscape.
For many people, the idea of a life where only half of their income was needed to cover their rent or mortgage, and all their bills, feels almost as far-fetched as winning the lottery. For the vast majority of people, wages have not risen in line with the cost of living, leaving household budgets ever more stretched as we try to find that elusive balance. One of the best ways, in my experience, to have a peaceful relationship with your finances, is to acknowledge what you can’t control, and to try your very best at what you can.
Here are a few ways to live life fully when essentials are eating up a lot of your income:
It might seem obvious, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s easier to make your finances work for you if you’re on top of them. But remember that your budget doesn’t have to be exactly the same each month – you could try cutting back during months where there’s not much going on so that you can afford to spend a little more in busier months. Allowing a little bit of space in your budget for things that you enjoy, where possible, is really good for your quality of life, so think about what you really value and make sure you can treat yourself every now and then – whether that’s a new book each month, a beauty subscription or a takeaway every couple of weeks.
Look at where you’re sleep-spending
Even the most money-savvy amongst us can often have blind spots when it comes to spending, so it’s worth looking back over the last few months in your bank statements or banking app and seeing where you’ve wasted money, or where you’ve spent on something that wasn’t worth it. If you can try to avoid these slip-ups in future, you’ll have more cash available to actually enjoy.
Keep a running ‘want’ list
Keeping a list on your notes app or in a notebook can be a great way to curb emotional spending, but it can also really give you something to look forward to. Imagine if, when friends and family asked what you wanted for Christmas and birthdays, you had a ready-made list of much-wanted suggestions, instead of thinking of something off the top of your head. There is so much to be enjoyed, not only in the having of something, but in the anticipation of it.
Create a list of free and affordable things that you love doing
Spending a little time to find out what is free and affordable to do in your local area is so worthwhile. From discounted beauty treatments and free museums and galleries to cheap toddler groups, there are often lots of things available to keep you busy, sane and happy, but it can be a bit of a stretch to try and think of something on the spot. Taking a bit of time to research and compile some options will take the stress out of deciding what to do on a tight budget.
Try a new hobby
Now, hobbies can be expensive, but they needn’t be. Think about something you’d like to learn to do, or do more of, and find accessible ways to do them. You might like to learn how to do your own nails, to learn a language or how to knit, or to start cooking more. There are a plethora of YouTube tutorials, online recipes and cheap or free resources to choose from, and giving yourself a focus outside of work and budgeting can help you to enjoy life, and even make new friends, which can be difficult as an adult even in non-pandemic times.
It can be so tough to enjoy life while your budget is stretched paper thin, but there are so many ways to enhance your days and experience things to the fullest without breaking the bank. Not only is this vital for your mental health, but it’s good for your long-term financial prospects – knowing how to have fun on a budget is a skill that will never leave you.
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