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Give yourself a financial checkup

reviewing finance calculatorUnderstanding your money is vital to managing it properly. Follow these simple steps to check your situation and start taking control.

Check your bank balance

This is the first step to taking control of your money, and it can be a scary one if you know you haven't been spending sensibly. You need to understand your situation, which means knowing how much money you have – or how much you owe.

  • Start by checking your bank account online, so you know how much money you have left – or how overdrawn you are.
  • You'll also need to consider any other debt you owe. This could be money you have spent on a credit card or loans you haven't repaid yet. Don't include student loans in this, as they are repaid differently.
  • Finally, check any savings you have. It's best to leave these where they are, but if you are in debt then you might save money in the long run by using some of your savings to pay it off, so it's useful to know what you have.

Identify your income

Knowing how much money you have coming in is key to understanding your finances. This is called your income.

Your income might include:

It's likely that you'll receive income from different sources at different times. For example, you might be paid for your job weekly or monthly, but your student loan will come in at the start of each term. To understand how much you have to spend, work out the weekly or monthly equivalent for each type of income. This will help you to avoid spending all of your loan in the first few months of term, or spending too much during the holidays when you have more time to work instead of saving for when you go back to university.

Review your spending

Next, you need to understand how you are spending your money. This will help you to work out where you can make savings.

Looking at your bank statement can help with this: you should be able to identify most things you have used a debit or credit card to pay for. You'll also be able to see how much cash you withdraw each week, although not how you spent it.

For the future, it's a good idea to keep a record of your spending. This will give you a more accurate idea of where your money goes and how you can save.

Find ways to save

You can reduce your bills for things like electricity and your mobile phone without getting any less for your money.

You should also check for common ways that people throw money away – and if you're at university, check that you aren't paying for things you could get for free.

Get help if you need it

By now, you should understand your financial situation, but if things are serious you might need some extra help.

If you're a student, you may be able to get an emergency loan or grant from the Access to Learning Fund.

If you are in debt, you can get free independent advice on how to deal with it.

You may be tempted to take out a payday loan to keep you going. These are very expensive and can make a bad situation worse, so always look carefully at the alternatives first.

Find out more about what to do if you run into money trouble.

Build a budget

At this point, you have most of the information you need to build a budget. A simple budget can put you back in control of your money and make sure you're spending it on the things that really matter.

Follow this simple guide to start building your budget, or use the Student Calculator to help you.

If you have lost control of your finances, you might need to set yourself a tighter short-term budget to sort the situation out. This might mean cutting back more than you would like on luxuries like going out. When you're back on your feet, you can give yourself a bit more breathing room – but don't give up budgeting altogether.

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