Budget Advice for Kiwis

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As the cost of living continues to spiral higher, many people seek budget advice to ensure they can pay their bills and live an everyday life. The majority of us will at some point experience financial difficulties in our lives, and the physical and mental strains can be immense. For many people seeking budget advice, it is the feeling of losing control that is most damaging. So, how you do go about creating your own budget?

Do I really need a budget?

The majority of us already have a rough idea of our weekly and monthly budgets in our heads. You likely know your phone bill, car tax, home insurance, etc. and approximately how much you have leftover. However, cash flow problems and unexpected bills can sometimes put your theoretical budget under pressure. Consequently, you will find having a formal budget, written or even on your mobile phone, something of a godsend.

We are not necessarily talking about tick boxes or even writing down every penny you spend, but more about just appreciating how much money comes in and how much you spend each month. You will notice that many of your regular expenses are fixed while others are variable. There may be certain times of the year when you need to tighten your belt a little. Perhaps you are looking to put some money away to buy presents for Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. Either way, taking a greater interest in your monthly expenses and income will make you acutely aware of the state of your finances.

What information do I need to create a budget?

You require two main elements to create a budget planner, income and outgoings. It is only when we split these two elements into subcategories that we become more aware of our finances.

Before we look at these two subjects in more detail, there is an interesting concept known as the 50/30/20 rule when it comes to budgeting:-

“Allow 50% of your income for needs, 30% for wants and 20% for savings/debt repayments”

In a perfect world, this concept would be beneficial, but unfortunately, many of us experience varied income and expenditure on a regular basis.


While there are potentially numerous different income streams you may receive regularly, we can pretty much summarise this in three groups:-

Employment income

If you are in employment, you will likely receive a regular income that allows you to plan for the short-term and the longer term.

State benefits

Whether in receipt of unemployment-related benefits/state pension, again, this is likely to be a source of regular income, at least in the short term.

Investment income

Many people who plan for the future could have stocks and shares, tax-efficient savings accounts, insurance policies and even property. Each of these could create a regular or irregular income stream which should be considered when creating your budget.

In reality, most of us will experience significant changes in our income streams and expenditure over the short, medium and longer-term. So, while you may be able to create a strict budget for the immediate future, you may need to adapt and amend going forward. If you are quick enough, you should be able to rewrite your budget before an expected change in your finances. Unfortunately, for most people, their financial situation can change relatively quickly; therefore, planning ahead may not be possible.


As we touched on above, it is possible to categorise our expenditure as needs, wants, and saving/debt repayments. In many ways, this gives you an idea of fixed and variable expenses.


The list of fixed expenses is unavoidable for many and will not surprise you. They take in the likes of:-

• Mortgage/rent
• Home insurance
• Car insurance
• Health insurance
• Electricity
• Gas
• Water
• Travel
• Internet
• Phone
• Minimum debt repayments

This is just a small selection of the expenses which many of us will regularly experience throughout our lifetime.


Even though there is a need to be sensible with your budget, you also need a degree of enjoyment in life. However, in theory, various elements of discretionary spending can be stopped at any time. These include:-

• Clothing
• Socialising
• Alcohol
• Movies and concerts
• Gym membership
• TV streaming packages
• Self-care/personal grooming
• Home décor
• Hobbies

If your life consistently revolves around fixed expenses and repayment of debts, there will be little or no enjoyment. While there are many ways to have couple time and family time which are not expensive, your mental well-being will benefit from some discretionary spending (where possible).

Savings/debt repayments

Now we move on to savings/debt repayments which can be challenging for many people. The first thing to say is that you should always maintain minimum debt repayments where possible. If you foresee any difficulties, you must approach your lender as options may be available. However, there can be significant long-term benefits for those in a position to save money, whether putting this into a savings account, investment or pension fund.

Some of the issues to consider under savings/debt repayments include:-

• Emergency funds
• Savings accounts
• Other investments
• Credit card payments
• Loan payments
• Additional mortgage payments
• Additional credit card/loan payments

Many people make the mistake of not putting money aside into an emergency fund for unforeseen expenses in the future. If they have excess funds month by month, they may be tempted to increase repayments for credit card or loans. On the surface, this makes perfect sense, but what if there are no emergency funds for unforeseen expenses in the future?

It is essential to balance putting money aside for unexpected expenses/savings and putting additional funds towards additional debt repayments.


How do I stick to my budget?

The whole idea of a formal budget plan is to refer to it and compare/contrast funds available against expenses in the short term. On occasion, where there is an unexpected expense, you may be able to adjust some of the regular non-fixed expenditures. But, ultimately, even the best budget in the world needs the individuals involved to “buy into it”. So, yes, take budget advice but also remember to stick to your budget.

Do I need separate savings and current bank accounts?

Many people find it helpful to have separate savings and current bank accounts. For example, if all of your funds are in a current account, then it may be easy to partake in what is known as “impulse buying”. Consequently, you may end up spending an element of the surplus income you receive each month. Before you know it, all of the excess could be away and more!

Now, if excess funds were held separately in a savings account, you would physically need to transfer from one account to the other. This delay will often break the process of “impulse buying”. It would prompt you to consciously consider whether you need to spend this money. The main benefit of having two different accounts is that you can save, but it also makes you think before you spend.

Should I take up the offer of a bank overdraft?

Occasionally, a bank overdraft can be a useful short-term solution to cash flow issues, but you need to be careful. Unfortunately, many people are tempted to use their overdrafts because the money is simply there. Consequently, it is effortless to fall into the trap of living in your overdraft which will incur significant interest charges.

If you find yourself constantly living in your overdraft, this may be the time to consider a personal loan or a consolidation loan. There could be significant interest charge savings with this relatively simple switch depending on your circumstances. Remember, overdrafts are only supposed to be for short-term cash flow issues!

What are the benefits of debt consolidation?

If you fail to stick to your budget or don’t have any formal budget in place, it can be very easy to take advantage of personal loans, overdrafts and credit cards. Unfortunately, what often start as relatively small debts can grow quickly and sometimes run out of control. Consequently, you may have several minimum debt repayments to make each month which can sometimes stretch your finances.

This is where debt consolidation can be helpful, the ability to amalgamate all of your debts into one manageable loan. The interest charged will depend on your financial situation at the time, but you may be able to extend the duration, thereby reducing minimum monthly repayments. In the event that your finances were to improve in the short to medium term, you may be able to make additional payments or even repay the consolidation loan early.

A consolidation loan is the last chance saloon for many people to get their finances back in order. A failure to control your spending going forward could lead to more severe repercussions. Here at Alternate Finance, we take our responsibilities as a lender very seriously. We can help and guide you as to the best options available for your circumstances, but these would need to be affordable. Rest assured we will be brutally honest when looking at your situation, and give you realistic options.

How do I plan for the short-term but look at the long-term?

As we touched on above, there are needs, wants, and savings/debt repayments when looking at expenditure. In a perfect world, we would all have an emergency fund available in the event of unforeseen short-term expenses. However, this should be treated differently from savings and long-term investments such as stock market portfolios and pensions.

While it is essential to look at the long-term picture, funds in retirement, etc., your primary focus should be securing short-term living expenses. Surplus funds could go towards additional debt repayments or an element of discretionary spending. Be sensible!

Who can I talk to for financial advice?

Personal finances are one subject many of us find difficult to talk about with friends and family. Thankfully, while professional financial advisers are out there, the New Zealand government has also put together a package for “Getting help with your budget”. A MoneyTalks free financial helpline offers support and advice from trained financial mentors.

If those operating the financial helpline cannot help you, they will put you in touch with other services and communities where you will find assistance. Whatever your financial situation, both formal and informal advice is available together with financial help. The sooner you ask for help, the sooner you will receive it, which will alleviate an element of the physical and mental pressures that financial issues can attract.


Whatever your income/expenditure, it is crucial to put together a formal but flexible budget reflecting your financial situation. Even though many of us have a rough idea of our monthly budget in our head, it can often help to see this on paper. There may be situations where you can save money amalgamating household services such as insurance, mobile phone and the Internet. In addition, there may be cheaper options available for standalone services. While one potentially small saving on its own may seem irrelevant, if you put together four, five or more small savings, they can accumulate into a significant reduction in your expenditure.

If you foresee financial challenges ahead, you must take budget advice as soon as possible. But unfortunately, the vast majority of us will be hit by unexpected changes in our finances, which dictate a reactive rather than proactive approach. Either way, there is advice out there, so take it!

Mark Benson

Mark Benson, a renowned and astute stockbroker/financial adviser spending the majority of his finance-related career operating in the United Kingdom. With 16 years+ experience in the financial sector. he still maintains a strong interest in all things financial. Over the years, he has written about subjects such as property finance, loans, pensions, insurance, stock market investments, tax planning and more. Mark believes it is essential to keep up with the latest financial regulations and adapt your finances accordingly, something he portrays in his financial articles.

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