Budgeting to stay out of debt

It can be difficult to avoid debt if the money coming in is less than what is going out. But it’s not impossible. Making some small changes to your lifestyle and shopping around for better deals can help you stay out of debt and even start to save.

Budgeting tools

Recording money coming in and going out is essential to good budgeting. Write in a notebook every time you spend money. Include automatic payments like your rent or phone bill and all essential and non-essential items.

If you have a computer, you could put this information into a spreadsheet. Download a budgeting app to your smartphone or ask your bank if they have a budget planner for online customers.

The free Money Advice Service Budget Planner breaks down your spending to show where you could make savings.

Keeping a record of where your money is going will make it easier to spot opportunities for saving.

Money could be coming in from:

  • benefits

  • work

  • interest on savings or investments

  • gifts of money

  • loans

  • grants

  • pensions

  • support for energy bills

You could be spending on:

  • rent or mortgage

  • council tax

  • food

  • bills like electricity, gas or water

  • mobile phone, internet and landline

  • TV licence, satellite or cable TV

  • travel costs

  • going out with friends

Prioritising your bills

Once you know where your money is going, you should put your bills in order with the most important first. These are rent or mortgage and heating, plus the bills you have to pay by law like Council Tax. You should also include a budget for food.

Find out about prioritising bills.

If you’re claiming Housing Benefit, a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) is available for help with housing costs.

Money-saving ideas

Think about your everyday expenses. The cost of takeaway coffees and sandwiches soon adds up. Buy a flask for tea and coffee and make your own packed lunches.

Buying groceries online

Buying your groceries online will save you the price of a taxi or bus to the supermarket. Delivery drivers might also carry your groceries into your kitchen for you.

If you’re at home during the day, select one of the cheap or free delivery slots. If you use the same supermarket to shop online, you can save your shopping list so it will not take so long to order the next time.

If you have milk or newspapers delivered separately, you might want to get these as part of your online grocery shop to save on delivery costs.

Loyalty schemes

Large supermarkets, high street chemists and department stores have loyalty schemes where you earn points or vouchers. Build these up over time and use them to buy food or gifts for a special occasion.

Loyalty schemes (Money Saving Expert)

Finding and comparing deals online

If you have a computer and access to the internet, it’s easier to find deals that can save you money. Or you could ask a friend or family member to help. AbilityNet has IT support volunteers who can help you at home. 

Price comparison sites like Moneysupermarket, Compare the Market, Go Compare and Money Saving Expert show deals on everything from gas and electricity to broadband and TV packages.

For example, cancelling your cable or satellite TV and moving to Freeview, or changing to an energy supplier (GOV.UK) that is part of the Warm Home Discount Scheme (GOV.UK) can save you money.

Other ways to budget

If you’re looking for ways to budget for mobility or other equipment, adapting your home or taking a short break, find out more about grants and funds.

Visit the online forum Disability Money Matters to find other ways of budgeting (Money Saving Expert).

Credit cards

Credit cards can be useful if you want to spread the cost of a big purchase. Look for a card that allows you to pay the bill over a longer time and without interest. Some cards include travel insurance or roadside recovery as standard.

Consider switching to a new card once any promotional period is over. Price comparison sites can help you find the best deals.

Warning Credit card debt

Use credit cards with care. You could get into debt if you do not pay your bill on time and in full. Always read the terms and conditions.

Dealing with credit card debt

Mortgage payment holidays

If you think you’ll not be able to pay your mortgage, speak to your bank immediately. They will want to help you.

Read a guide to mortgage payment holidays by the Money Advice Service if you think you’re going to miss a mortgage payment.

Extra expenses

Go through your statements or ask your bank or check online for a list of your direct debits. Look for subscriptions or memberships you’re not using. Think of it as a spring clean of your expenses.

Things to look out for include:

  • gym or swimming pool membership you no longer use, or use only a couple of times a year
  • magazine or club subscriptions
  • online shopping site memberships
  • fees for bank accounts or credit cards you no longer use

How to stop spending (Money Saving Expert).

Christmas, birthdays and socialising can be hard if you’re trying to save money. It’s important you share your money worries with friends or family.

If you can, build up some savings for big expenses like a broken boiler, important celebration or holiday. But be careful, savings can affect your means-tested benefits.

Use the government Help to Save scheme or open a credit union savings account (Money Advice Service).

Last reviewed by Scope on: 12/03/2019

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