The run-up to Christmas is an exciting time, isn’t it? Hmmm! Well, I try to focus on the positives, hard as it may be at times when you are juggling finishing stuff at work before the holidays, getting all the food and gifts in, and managing other people’s expectations! I do love the lights, the atmosphere, and spending quality time with family and friends. So much so that the last thing on my mind are my financial goals.
The period between Christmas and New Year for me is even more magical. Going out for a delicious hot drink and walking around the shops, cuddling up with the family to watch movies, it’s a time when I forget about life’s daily challenges and struggles for a week and just focus on the present.
Then it’s New Year’s Eve! And with it comes the reality check. I start making plans for what I want to get done in the new year, but to be frank, not much of it becomes achievable until I’ve sat down and gone through the numbers, in other words, the expenses list…and of course I have to do this while taking account of my increased expenditure during the Christmas season.
This year I’ve already started thinking about my plans for 2018 and the one thing I really want to do, and have been planning for a while, is starting a part-time degree course. While I don’t think it’s too expensive overall for what you get, and you do pay for it in instalments, I do need to save to make it happen. The problem I just know I am going to have, and what has stopped me so far, is organising my finances in a way that I don’t just get tempted to use whatever I might be able to save on luxuries and treats. I’m a sucker for spending spare money on eating out or going away for the weekend!
Thinking about it a bit more in recent days I realise that it’s a matter of being focused. I need to break down my income as soon as it comes in every month into what I need for bills, essentials such as food and petrol (and all the others!) and keep track of the numbers so that I know what I can actually afford to spend on whatever I like and I can put aside a fixed amount each month for my little project.
My natural inclination would probably be to make this a paper exercise, but I know there are online tools that you can use to calculate, from your salary, what you need for bills, savings, and a weekly allowance to spend on what you like. For example, Squirrel has a really good personal finance app that does this. Basically, once you set the app up it saves and budgets for you. It keeps your savings safe and pays out your spending and bill money directly into your current account as you need it – all that’s needed is to set it up and leave it working in the background. This differs from a typical savings account because you don’t have that immediate access to the money. Though, if you were in a bind a quick call releases your funds into your bank account.
Personally, if I have something in front of me basically telling me what I need to keep aside for what and what I can (and can’t!) afford, I’m pretty sure I am going to do a much better job at reaching my financial goals each month than just ‘winging it’.