Managing your money

While managing your money effectively may seem difficult, there are lots of benefits to staying in control of your finances:

  • You will know where your money is going and whether you are spending more than you can afford
  • It will give you peace of mind and a sense of control
  • It can help you to avoid debt problems, prepare for emergencies, save money and achieve your future goals

Read our four-step guide to help you manage your money better.

Step 1 – Complete a financial health check

A financial health check will give you a clear picture of your finances and helps you work out where you need to make changes. You should complete this step at least once a year, particularly if your income or circumstances change. To get started, download our financial health check (pdf) and follow these steps.

Calculate your total income

To get a clear picture of your finances, you should set out all your sources of income.

  • Your payslip will show you what you earn from your employment
  • If you are getting social welfare benefits such as unemployment benefit and children’s allowance make sure to include list these. You can get more information at and
  • If you have extra earnings that you would classify as income, such as interest on savings or investment income, include them too

Calculate your outgoings

Keeping track of your outgoings can be difficult. It can help to categorise them as follows:

  • Everyday expenses include coffees, lunches, taxis, cinema, pubs…the list goes on! Use our weekly spending diary to help you identify what you spend your money on. Keep receipts for each item you buy and enter the cost of the item in your weekly diary. Alternatively, you can use our spending calculator to help you identify your day-to-day expenses and see what they cost you over a month or a year
  • Ongoing expenses include rent, gas, electricity, TV, phone and broadband. Your bank statements and regular bills will give you a good idea of how much you are spending. You can use the headings in our budget planner to make sure you include all of your expenses
  • Loans and debts – as well as listing out your monthly/weekly repayments, it is important to write down how much you still owe on your mortgage or loans and the time it will take to repay them in full
  • You may have regular savings in a deposit account or credit union. List all savings/deposits you make regularly. To get a full picture of your finances, record the amount of money you have in all savings accounts as part of your financial health check
  • Occasional expenses such as medical costs, insurance, holidays, birthdays or TV licence

If you have any money left over after reviewing your income and outgoings, think about how you can use it effectively. For example, think about paying off your loans early (pay off high-interest loans first) or opening a savings account to help you reach your goals. If you are spending more than your income, think about how you could reduce your expenses. Use our budget planner to figure out where you can cut back.

If you find you cannot keep up with your loan repayments, you should contact your lender immediately. Read our debt action plan and start a debt checklist.

Step 2 – Identify your goals

Whether it is saving for a holiday next year, paying off your credit card debt or starting an emergency fund, we all have different goals. And when you have a goal, you will find it easier to stick to a budget. Once you identify your goal and how much it costs, you need to work out you will put money aside to get there. See an example of how planning can help you achieve your goals with our sample goals worksheet.

Examples of goals

  • Pay off your debt
  • Save for a car or a holiday
  • Save for Christmas
  • Save for back-to-school expenses
  • Save for a wedding
  • Save for a baby
  • Start to build an emergency fund for unexpected expenses

zero to three years

  •  Save for a deposit to buy a home
  • Save for home renovations
  • Save for your children’s education
  • Save to trade up to a bigger home
  • Save to pay a lump sum off your mortgage

three to 10 years


10 years and over

Step 3 – Make a budget and stick to it

If you share your home with a partner, it is likely that you will have some shared expenses such as paying bills, but you may still wish to budget separately for yourself. In this case, you could consider opening a joint account to manage your shared household expenses and make a budget separately yourself.

Use our budget planner to capture all your details. Tie it in with your wages – so for example, if you get paid monthly, input monthly figures.

Be honest about the figures in your budget – don’t overestimate or underestimate your income or spending. Don’t include money from your savings as income – use regular income only.

If you don’t keep to your budget, don’t be discouraged. Start again. It can take time to adjust to a new spending pattern. The most important thing is to be realistic.

Step 4 – Shop around, switch and save

It’s often possible to save money on your bills and other regular expenses. Shopping around before you buy can save you money, and that even applies to thing like banking and insurance. Use our comparisons to shop around for current accounts, savings accounts, credit cards and loans to help you compare the costs and benefits.

If you would like to switch your current account, read our section on switching accounts.

Look at how you manage your bills. We have plenty of information on transferring money and paying bills.

Remember, small changes can amount to big savings.

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