If you want to keep your finances on the straight and narrow, drawing up a budget will really help. This page explains what budgeting is, and contains links to useful websites that can help you manage your money.
Drawing up a budget
When you draw up a budget, you add up all your outgoings and all your income, then subtract the outgoings from the income.
The MoneySavingExpert website has a really useful budget planner that you can download and use to help you work out how much you spend and how much you can save (click on the red 'download the
First of all, consider all your outgoings, that is, the money you spend. Outgoings include:
electricity and/or gas bills (these will vary depending on the size of your home and the time of year)
telephone and mobile bills
prescription and health care
food and other household expenses
loans and credit card debt
You should also bear in mind one-off expenses such as Christmas and holidays, and emergency costs, for example, repairs to your home or replacing broken household items such as your washing machine.
The MoneySavingExpert budget planner will help you break down your outgoings further.
Next you need to look at the money you have coming in. This could be from:
benefits (see below)
contributions from your family.
If you take away your outgoings from your income, how much do you have left over? If you don't have anything, you'll need to look at how much you spend in each area and find out where you can cut down. Is there anything you can do without? Can you save energy in your home to cut down on your gas and electricity bills? The MoneySavingExpert website has lots of suggestions of ways to save money without hardship.
Increasing your income
You might also have to look at ways of increasing your income through work, and by checking whether you are entitled to any benefits. Use the online calculators at EntitledTo to work out how much you're likely to get. Turn2us is another useful website that can help you work out what you can claim.
It's always worth visiting your local Citizens Advice Bureau or welfare rights agency to ensure that you are getting the benefits you are entitled to.
When you're working out your budget, it can help to separate bills you have to pay (for example, your rent or mortgage, utilities and council tax) from expenses you can do without (such as gym membership or your satellite TV subscription). If money is tight, you should always prioritise:
your rent or mortgage - if you don't pay these, you could end up without a home
council tax - not paying your council tax can result in severe consequences
gas and electricity - if you don't pay these, your supply will be cut off
maintenance - if you deliberately refuse to pay maintenance (for example, child maintenance), you could end up in prison.
You can get help with budgeting from:
the Citizens Advice Bureau or other advice centre.
Use the Money Advice Scotland website to find an agency offering free, impartial money advice in your area.
The National Debtline website has lots of useful information on budgeting and dealing with debt, including self-help packs you can download.
Download these handy PDF's to keep track of your outgoings and plan a weekly menu. Planning your meals will help you keep track of your shopping so that you don't overspend when in the supermarket.
Last updated: 16 February 2018
Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.