Winsome Duncan is an award-winning business leader, author of ‘100 Ways to Save Money’ and runs Mployme, a training project helping people find work. What she doesn’t have to say on watching the pennies is not worth hearing, so we asked her for her top tips.
QI: Why is it important to budget?
WD: If we are serious about becoming or staying debt free, we need a process. To make sure our accounts stay out of the red, we need to know our numbers and know where we are. Then we must stick to a budget – there’s no point otherwise.
QI: Universal Credit means most claimants will receive their rent money, it won’t go to their landlord any more. What challenges does this present and what is the best way to overcome them?
WD: Let’s get real for a moment. Do not under-estimate what a huge temptation having large sums of money credited to your account is going to be if we are unemployed or a low income earner. I know someone who ran up a £10,000 arrears on their rent because of this. The easiest and smartest option here is to set up a direct debt or standing order that will take out your rent money automatically. This way we can be sure to be disciplined and not get into arrears and face eviction.
If you are evicted or sanctioned by Jobcentre Plus, you may be forced to find housing much cheaper than you’re used to. This could mean moving somewhere where you have no family or friends living close by. If you live in London, being forced out of the city is a real possibility.
QI: How important is it to resist temptation? What’s at stake, if we don’t?
WD: Simply put, we must resist overspending because we are setting ourselves up for heartache, otherwise. When we live a lifestyle that requires us to go into debt to maintain it, we are the ones that will pay the price. Peace of mind is everything. People who owe large amounts of money but have little of their income left over after essentials should contact their local CAB or debt charity StepChange (0800 138 1111) and get a debt management plan put in place. Continuing to splurge puts us at risk of high blood pressure and other real problems because of stress overload. Remember, your health is your wealth.
QI: Where should someone start, once they’ve realised they need to organise a budget?
WD: First of all, we need to be realistic. Get up close and personal with the finances. List all of the priority bills which will need paying first, like rent, gas, electric, water and TV licence. Then we need to get an exact figure of all our debts, loans or credit cards, etc. Once we have an overall total, we can create a plan of payments and work out how long it will take to pay off any debt. Always pay larger amounts to the high interest debts first.
TOP THREE REASONS TO BUDGET
1 We are reviewing the blueprint of our finances and creating a new masterplan for success. Unless we fancy living in debt, more must come in than goes out. We need to keep rewriting the budget until that’s what we see.
2 Even seeing how we have more going out than coming in will be a relief. It’s the not knowing that keeps us awake at night. Once we know what we’re dealing with, we can reduce the stress further by planning our way out of a hole.
3 Budgeting is a worthwhile skill to have anyway – it’s basic bookkeeping and could come in handy, especially in a job.
WINSOME’S TOP THREE TIPS IF WE SPEND MORE THAN WE EARN…
1 LEARN TO USE THE WORD ‘NO’. It begins with an ‘n’ and ends in an ‘o’. Set your boundaries when it comes to spending your money socially. Do not let people pressure you into extravagant nights out, instead spend time or have dinner with family and friends who won’t charge you.
2 LET’S GET DOWN TO BASICS, when I was on a low budget I was on the no frills, no budget, smart price aisles in the cheapest supermarket. I was purchasing bread, cereal, beans, sweetcorn and toilet rolls that were not branded.
3 EARNINGS: Try to create what I call a ‘passive income’. If you are good at graphic design, drawing or making things, then try to earn a little on the side from it. You can even create an account on www.fiverr.com and get paid for your services. Look for higher paying or second jobs. A lot of people settle for the job they have but it’s good to have goals for bigger and better things, especially if your current work is not providing the lifestyle you want. See page 30 for tips on finding work.