Managing your money

There are benefits to actively managing your money:

  • 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

It can be hard to know where to start, read our 4-step guide to help you on your way to managing your money better.

Step 1 - Complete a financial health check

Step 2 - Identify your goals

Step 3 - Make a budget and stick to it

Step 4 - Shop around, switch and save!


Step 1 - Complete a financial health check

A financial health check will give you a clear picture of your finances and helps you identify where you need to make changes. You should complete this step at least once a year, particularly if your income changes or you are entering a new life stage. To get started, download our financial health check (pdf) and follow the steps below.

Calculate your total income

To get a clear picture of your finances, you need to know 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, phone credit and the list goes on! Use our weekly spending diary (pdf) 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 & debts. As well as listing 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. 
  • Savings. 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 a money leftover after reviewing your financial situation after one year, 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 cut back on expenses. Use our budget planner to figure out where you can cut back.

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

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 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, you need to work out how much it will cost and how you will put money aside to achieve it. To do this, go to Step 3 – Make a budget to work out how you will build up the money you need. See an example of how you need to plan to achieve your goals with our sample goals worksheet (pdf)

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
- Save for a deposit to buy a home
- Start to build an emergency fund for unexpected expenses 


0 to 3 years


- 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


 3 to 10 years


- Pay into a pension to save for retirement income
- Pay off your mortgage early
- Long term financial security


10 years and over

Step 3 - Make a budget and stick to it 

Start by thinking about who this budget applies to. If you have a family, you may wish to include them in the budget planning process and talk to them regularly about how you are doing. That way, everyone knows where they stand and you can manage expectations. In this case, consider all household income, spending and other commitments.

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. Use our tips to help you save money.

Step 4 - Shop around, switch and save

Shopping around for financial products before you buy can save you money. Use our cost comparisons and shop around for current accounts, savings accounts, credit cards, loans and car, home and life insurance to help you compare the costs and benefits of these products.

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. You could also consider using a budget account.

Remember, small changes can amount to big savings. Use our tips to help you save money


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