When you’re short on cash, the idea of simply ‘finding more money’ isn’t very helpful. Working your way towards a higher-paying job can be a long and uncertain journey. Unexpected windfalls, like a surprise inheritance, are rare and should never be relied on. If you do have savings, the whole point is to leave them alone and let them grow.

Instead of focusing on boosting your cash flow, the more practical route is to look at your spending. By concentrating on what you’re doing with the money you’ve got, you might be able to make it go further by adjusting your budget.

Making a budget

First, list all your outgoings. Write down how much you spend every month on:

  • Living costs - groceries, household items, clothes
  • Regular bills - utilities, phone bills, credit repayments
  • Travel - petrol, bus fares (don't forget to include road tax and car insurance)
  • Leisure - gym memberships, weekend trips, cinema tickets

Don't leave anything out. If you have to use a rough figure, remember to overestimate rather than underestimate. Add everything up to calculate your total monthly outgoings. You might be surprised at the final figure.

Now you need to look for ways to cut back on your costs. Is there anything you can remove altogether? How about that gym membership you haven't used for months? Would it be cheaper to leave the car at home and either walk, cycle or take the bus to work? How much TV do you actually have time to watch - do you need a Netflix AND a Sky subscription?

One cost that many of us take for granted is our shopping bill. If you don’t already have tactics for making sure you only buy what you need, you might be impressed at how much you could save. Try these tips:

  • Set a spending limit, make a list in advance and stick to it
  • Plan your meals for the week ahead
  • Only buy what you need and be wary of multi-buy special offers
  • Use up everything in your cupboards and freezer once a month
  • Only shop once a week and avoid unplanned spending

Quick budget wins

Here are some other quick tips for making the most of your money:

  • Don’t bury your head in the sand – check your balances regularly so you always know how much money you’ve got left
  • Don't buy anything on credit unless you can afford it as part of your budget
  • Set a date to review your budget each month – check that your outgoings are coming down and no new ones are creeping in

Getting more help

If you’re using a budget but still find yourself struggling with your finances, there are organisations that can help. You can find out more about them on our Debt Support pages.