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If you don’t know where to start, there are plenty of online budgeting tools and apps out there and many of them are free. Choose one that looks like it suits your lifestyle the most. For a good start, check out the tools on sorted.org.nz.
Work out how much you’re earning, how much you’re spending, what you owe (your liabilities) and what you own (your assets).
If most of your transactions are electronic, then internet banking or mobile banking are a great way of tracking your spending. If you prefer using pen and paper, try carrying around a notebook and jotting down everything you spend. After a month, add up your expenses into different categories, i.e. housing, eating out, petrol, phone, groceries etc. Don’t forget to include any automatic payments or direct debits you have going out, as well as irregular payments like your annual car insurance or rates bills.
Once you've got your head around your expenses, you can work out a budget. Remember: small steady progress is better than big lifestyle changes – just like a diet. Make sure you leave some money aside for fun stuff too, or you won’t stick to your plan.
Are you trying to get out of debt? Start saving? Ramp up your savings? What are you saving for? Would you like to get that deposit together for your first house? Spend your retirement cycling across France? Get the kids through uni? Once you know what you want to achieve, you can figure out how to do it.
It’s important to have a mix of long-term goals (like saving a house deposit or paying off your home loan) and short-term goals (like a holiday). Along with the super-serious, worthy goals, make sure you have some fun goals in there that excite and inspire you.
People who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them, so write your goals down, including the date you’d like to achieve them by. Put the list on your phone, office wall or even the back of the bathroom door – anywhere you’ll see them every day.
Think about the steps you’ll need to take to reach your financial goals.
It will probably involve a few smaller goals along the way, for example, if you want to buy a house, this will involve a few steps, like:
Make sure you're not paying more fees than you need to by checking that you're using accounts that suit your needs. For example, everyday accounts are designed for money to go into and come out of regularly. They generally have no or low electronic transaction fees and low interest rates because your money isn't sitting in them for long. Savings accounts, on the other hand, are designed for money to sit in for longer as you build up a nest egg. You'll earn some interest, but making withdrawals could attract fees. If you fall into the habit of using your savings accounts for everyday transactions, you'll find that fees quickly add up.
If you think there's an account which could suit you better, talk to us about changing accounts.
Having a plan is great, carrying it out is even better. So once you’ve done your homework and worked out what you want to achieve, get started.