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If you've ever stared, dumbfounded at your bank balance, and asked yourself with complete sincerity "where has it all gone?" this one's for you.

A budget planner is exactly what you need in order to see how much you have coming in, how much is going out, and where it's going.

Why budget? So you can do the things you really want - and need - to with your money: clear yourself of debts and build up some savings.

If you're going to do it, make sure you do it right. Use this guide alongside the 118 118 Money Budget Planner for complete budget-planning success!

Prepare

Before you start, prepare by gathering up any paperwork you might need - use the headers in the 'monthly outgoings' sections of our planner to see what you'll need. This will be things like bank statements showing small but regular outgoings, bills, and receipts for items you've bought with cash. Make sure you know how much rent or mortgage you're paying, and how much you spend on things like travel.

You'll also need details of the money you have coming in - your salary after tax and any additional income from any allowances, benefits, pensions and maintenance or credit payments you get.

The right time

Next up, you'll need a bit of time. Working out your budget is an investment in your future, so set aside at least an hour to really think things through, use our budgeting tool, and make a plan for any changes you want to make.

The right tech

You've done the legwork, you've got the time, now you need the tech. The 118 118 Money Budget Planner shows you exactly what's left over every month after your essential outgoings and bills have all been paid.

Nothing but the truth!

The only way a budget planner will work is if you're completely honest. Do you buy a coffee every single day? Does that lunchtime meal deal turn into a lunchtime snack haul on a regular basis? If it comes out of your bank account, it needs to go in the planner. Remember, this tool isn’t judging, it's giving you the info you need to move forward and get out of debt.

How often?

Recalculate your budget any time something big changes in your life - perhaps you moved house and are now paying more or less rent, or you've started, lost, or changed your job. Doing it often will mean you've always got the clearest picture possible of how much money you have, so you don't overspend and your budget stays relevant.

What to do with the results

Whether it's what you secretly expected or it comes as a big shock, having your income and outgoings laid out in front of you (along with any discrepancies!), can be the springboard to getting your money in order.

Seeing your income and expenditure laid out in front of you can help you decide which items or activities are unnecessarily draining your funds - whether it's entertainment or overspending on the weekly food shop.

If you have any money left over, or any savings you can make by cutting out these unnecessary expenditures, it's important to act now to make sure the funds are going where they need to go - to pay off your debts, or into a separate savings account.

If your budget planner shows that you're spending more than you have going in, you might find that seeing it laid out in front of you is the wake-up call you need to make changes to your spending.

But it can also feel really overwhelming.

Don't panic. As the Money Advice Service says: "What’s most important now is to start saving whatever amount you can comfortably manage." It may only be a couple of pounds a day, but it makes a difference. Don't tell yourself it'll never amount to anything worthwhile - it'll get you in the habit of saving, and give you a place to start.

When you can afford to, increase the amount you save every day. There's no shame in starting small.

More money-saving tips

Why not check out our other blogs? We've got loads of tips and advice on saving money, and getting more from the money you do spend.