Take the pain out of budgeting

If you think living on a budget means cutting out all the good things in life, think again. It's still possible to cut down on your spending and go out and enjoy yourself at the same time - it just takes a little planning

Drawing up a budget

If you want to keep a tight rein on your finances, setting yourself a budget will really help. It allows you to see how much of your income is taken up by necessary expenses like bills and accommodation costs and works out what you have left to spend on other things like socialising with friends.

If you're struggling to keep your spending under control, a budget planner can also show you where you can cut back on spending in some areas.

It's also a good idea to keep a record of every cash withdrawal and payment that goes out of your bank account. You can use these records as a rough guide to your spending habits when you're filling in your planner.

Dust off your debits

If you've got a bank account, take a look at the Direct Debits coming out of it every month. You may be spending money on a gym that you haven't been to in three months. You might also be subscribing to a magazine that you don't really read much. If you do find some, you can cancel them by contacting your bank.

Direct Debits can also save you money. Many companies, such as mobile phone providers, charge you extra if you don't pay by Direct Debit because of the extra paperwork and administration costs. If you do make regular payments, contact the relevant company to see if switching to Direct Debit can get you a discount.

Cutting down on entertainment expenses

Many people just cut out entertaining and socialising costs altogether when they're looking at what they're spending each month. Although this suits some people, it might be a good idea to think about whether you're the kind of person who'll go out on a spending spree as soon as you do make cuts to your budget.

To spend less on entertainment, try to think of cheaper alternatives. For example, instead of going out for something to eat and then to the cinema, how about inviting friends over and hiring out a DVD? You'll be surprised how much you can save.

If you're at a loose end, it's probably not a good idea to go window shopping, as you might end up buying something. Why not try doing something you may never have done before, like visiting a museum or art gallery.

What to do with your leftovers

If you've got some spare cash at the end of the month then your budget is obviously working. To make the most of this money, the best idea is to put it into a savings account. There are a number of different accounts and schemes available.

The best option for you depends on the how long you want to save for and how often you want to gain access to your money.

Once you've put enough money into your savings account, you could treat yourself to a holiday or replace your old CD player with a top of the range digital sound system. You can also start putting money aside for the future and get yourself into the habit of saving.

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