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How to Budget 101: A Beginner's Guide To Saving

How do you start a budget? Know where to start and create a budgeting plan you can stick to with our Budgeting 101 Guide.
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14 min Read
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Budgeting doesn’t always have to mean saving every dollar you make. In fact, the true markings of a good budget are ones that allow you to enjoy yourself while saving cash to help you achieve your long term goals.

A budget is essentially a roadmap for where you want your money to go. Start budgeting your money today and get in control of your finances. Avoid common budgeting mistakes, don’t get caught up on bean-counting and set up the perfect budget you can live with. Check out some simple budgeting tips for beginners below and learn how to budget money and save with ease!

What is a budget?

Put simply, a budget is a detailed list of your income, what money is coming in and what is going out. Rather than just looking at your bills and necessities, a budget looks at all of your spending - yes everything! That includes social expenses and entertainment, groceries, medical expenses, household necessities and even birthday presents or Christmas gifts. Putting together a personal budget gives you an idea of where your money is going and where you can save.

What are the Benefits of Budgeting?

Why should you budget? Creating a budget will give you a holistic view of your expenses, and allow you to visualise your incomings and outgoings with ease. There is a wide range of benefits to budgeting, including:

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Complete control over your money

Seeing where you have been spending in black and white will allow you to take the power back with your spending, and help you to feel in control of your finances.
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Uncover spending patterns

Spending too much on work lunches? Bought a few too many rounds of drinks at the weekend? Understand your spending patterns, and find saving opportunities you can live with.
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Tracking your spend against your financial goals will give you more of a push not to buy that morning coffee or unnecessary item.
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Saving for a rainy day

Clearly visualising your incomings and outgoings will give you an idea of how much you can save, and give you more peace of mind.
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Create a safety net

Squirrelling away a few dollars here and there will give you a safety net in case of emergencies, and help you to be prepared for whatever life throws at you.
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Worry less

Knowing you have a little extra money tucked away will help relieve some of those money worries, giving you more time to worry about the things that really matter to you.

How to get into the Budgeting Mindset


Determine why you need a budget

Need help with budgeting money? Discover what your main savings goal is, and how you can best achieve it. Sit down and write down your financial goals. Maybe you’re saving for a holiday, or just want to have a little extra each month so you aren’t living from pay cheque to pay cheque.

Below are just some of the reasons people decide to track their spending with a monthly budget:

  • To reduce overspending in problem areas.
  • To stay on track with long-term goals.
  • To reduce conflict between partners.
  • To ensure that your spending is reflective of your values.
  • To break the cycle of living pay cheque to pay cheque.
  • To live within your means.
  • To get out of debt.

Get a full picture of your spending habits

First, add up all your income so you can see how much you have coming in each month. Make sure you include all of your income, including your salary, money from any side hustles or second jobs, child support or alimony arrangements, business income and any income you receive from investments. If your income varies from month to month, or you are working freelance, one way to get the most out of your budget is to essentially pay yourself a salary. This way you can decide on a set amount you are comfortable with, and save anything leftover on a good month to cushion you through a bad month. This will also help you to curb any unnecessary spending, and help you to feel more financially stable.

Once you have noted your income, you can start to create a list of outgoings. Once you have this all noted down, you can start to see what is realistic for your budget. Start by tracking your spending for 30 days, or looking at your spending for the previous month. There are a number of ways to track your spending:

  • Spreadsheet budgeting.
    Whether you’re a spreadsheet wizard or an Excel beginner, entering your purchases into a spreadsheet will give you full visibility on your spending. This can be time-consuming, and you may forget now and then, but will ultimately give you the clearest view of your finances.
  • Note it down.
    Keep a notebook to hand and note it down whenever you make a purchase.
  • Budgeting Apps.
    There is a range of budgeting apps available to make it easier to track your spending by linking your bank accounts and credit cards. Be sure to link all of your accounts to ensure you get an accurate view of your spending.
  • Bank Statements.
    Review your bank statements and credit card statement to track your spending across more than one account. The only downfall with keeping a budget this way is the statements may not have your transactions detailed as you would like, and you may not remember what certain transactions were for, so it may be better to just use your bank statements as a starting point when you are putting together your budget.


Set specific budgeting goals

Personalise your finance goals. Think long-term and set actionable, realistic goals. The key to budgeting is to be specific with your goals and have a solid deadline to work towards. Instead of saying, “I’m saving for a trip overseas,” you should say, “I’m saving $10,000 by June for a trip overseas.” Cementing your goals will give you the motivation you need to make your savings dreams a reality, and give you something more concrete to work towards.

Some popular long-term finance goals are below:

  • Saving for retirement
  • Education costs
  • Paying off debts
  • Travel and holidays
  • Buying a house
  • Buying a new vehicle

Choose the budgeting format that works best for you

With your income set out in front of you, it’s time to lay the foundations for your budgeting and forecasting set up. It’s important to choose a budget management system that works for you, taking into account what you value.

Below are two of the most popular simple budget systems you can implement today!

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The 50 30 20 Budget

The 50 30 20 budget, made popular by Senator Elizabeth Warren in the United States, is great for allowing flexibility in your budget but can lead to overspending if used incorrectly.

To use this budget take your monthly wages after tax and set aside 50% of your monthly income towards needs, such as food, rent and any repayments you need to make. Then take 30% and put that towards your wants, things like entertainment, weekend trips or online shopping. The remaining 20% can then be put towards your savings goals.

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Zero-based Budget

A zero-based budget involves making your income minus your outflow hit $0. Using this method, all of your dollars are assigned a job that represents a spending category, with some going to savings and others going to pre-defined pockets. This budget is restrictive, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, but it will definitely help to avoid overspending and meet your goals.

Using Tools & Tech to keep you on Track

There are a number of organisational tools and tech you can use to keep on top of your budget. Here are some ways to keep yourself accountable:

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Keep up to date

Use a calendar to map out any irregular expenses you may need to plan for, such as annual holidays, Christmas and birthdays, and other important payment months, such as tax time or annual car registrations and inspections.
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Automate your savings transfers

Have a specific transfer set up at the beginning of the month that transfers your savings for the month automatically. Then leave it where it is!
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Set up direct debits

Ensure your bills are automated so that money budgeted for bills and other expenses goes straight to those things . If it’s gone before you can get your hands on it, you’re less likely to spend it.
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App tracking

Track your spending with a budgeting app to make sure you’re sticking to your goals. An app makes it easy to keep your eye on your linked accounts and see where your money is going each month.

Be Aware of these Common Budgeting Mistakes

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Save, save, save

Set up a savings account and keep adding to it each month. Little by little, your savings will increase.
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Think long-term

Give yourself long-term goals and save more. Try not to push your expenses into the following month, and be sure to keep an eye on any birthdays or holidays coming up in your budget calendar and budget accordingly.
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Take the little things into account

Don’t forget about those small charges that can mount up, such as that $2.50 fee when you withdraw money, the $12 fee on your bank account or that morning coffee pick-me-up. Make room for these in your budget to avoid any discrepancies.
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Be realistic

Don’t plan an unrealistic budget for yourself that you’ll never be able to achieve. Set yourself goals you can reach, and you will save more in the long run. See how it goes after the first 30 days, and if you can’t stick to it, change it!
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Make monthly adjustments

Be strict with yourself, but make sure you account for the change. Small changes such as increased monthly repayments, changes to your interest rates on your mortgage can affect your budget. Adjust to these changes and you will save more later down the track.
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Try not to overspend!

Stick to your budget! If you’re spending more than you’re earning, you will find yourself in debt - fast.
For people juggling more than one debt, being able to create a budget or set saving goals can be a challenge. Depending on your situation, a debt consolidation loan may help by combining multiple repayments into one while lowering your overall interest rate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Things to Consider Before Getting a Personal Loan

Eligibility criteria for personal loans

If you’re thinking of applying for a personal loan from SocietyOne, there are a few key criteria that you’ll need 
to meet to be eligible:

  • You need to be at least 18 years of age
  • Be an Australian citizen or a permanent resident of Australia
  • You must earn more than $30,000 per annum, with Centrelink considered to be a supplementary form of income
  • It’s important that you have a good credit score

What will I need to get a personal loan?

You may need to supply us with the following 
information and documents as part of your personal 
loan application:

  • Your personal details – name, address, date of birth
  • A driver’s licence or passport
  • Proof of your address - for example, a utility bill
  • Proof of your income in the form of payslips or bank statements
  • Details about your day-to-day expenses, and any other debts

Who can apply for a SocietyOne personal loan?

You are eligible for a SocietyOne personal loan if you:

  • Are at least 18 years old
  • Earn more than $30,000 p.a. from employment (Centrelink may be used as supplementary income)
  • Are an Australian citizen or permanent resident
  • Have good credit
  • Are using the loan mainly for personal use

What is the application process like?

  1. Get your rate: In as little as 1 minute we'll give you an interest rate and comparison rate based on your credit history
  2. Apply online: Most people finish their application within 5 minutes (and it's easier to do if you're enjoying your morning coffee)
  3. Get paid: Once approved, we'll have the loan funds in your account in as little as 1 business day.

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How much can I borrow, and for how long?

SocietyOne's unsecured personal loans range from $5,000 to $50,000 with flexible loan terms of 2, 3 or 5 years.

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Please contact customer service at customer.service@societyone.com.au.

What are the interest rates?

Fixed interest rate

At SocietyOne, our personal loans have a fixed interest rate, meaning your interest rate doesn't change during the life of your loan and your regular repayments are always the same. Fixed rate personal loans can help make it easier for you to budget. With no early repayment fees, our fixed rate loans give you more freedom and allow you to pay off your debt sooner.

Our fixed rates start from 5.95% p.a* 

Comparison rate

If you’re looking to compare personal loans, the comparison rate is the most transparent way to compare the true costs. A comparison rate takes into account the interest rate as well as all of the fees and charges that are payable (such as establishment fees), making it easier to understand the complete cost of the personal loan with a more transparent comparison of the products.

Our comparison rates start from 5.95% p.a.*

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