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piece of cake

How finding cash is a piece of cake - when you know where to look

With the Great British Bake Off making a welcome return to our screens, we wanted to share this Money Advice Service family recipe to help give your dough a bit of a rise. It’s pretty quick and very easy, especially with our step-by-step guide. Ready, steady… budget!

How to make a budget

Time to prepare: 5 minutes

Time to budget: 10 to 15 minutes

If you learn how to bake a basic sponge or a simple white loaf you can build on the recipe to make all sorts of cakes, breads and other delicious goodies.

Well, a budget is the building block of money management. Once you have a decent budget in place, you can start getting your finances in shape. Don't be scared! It's really simple.


What you’ll need



You can hopefully find most 'ingredients' in your bank statements. If not, gather what you can.

Some of the records to look for are:

  • Your payslips
  • Any benefit or pension payments you receive
  • Your bills (eg energy, internet, phone, TV etc)
  • Any annual payments (eg insurance)
  • Your credit card statements



Step 1

Find all your bank statements, ideally for the last 12 months, and records of any payments or bills that you’ve made in cash.

If you know where they are, it’s worth gathering the optional items too.

Place them on a table next to your computer.

Step 2

Open up the Money Advice Service Budget Planner tool. There are two options. If you're short on time, the "What's left over from major bills" tool will give you a rough idea. However, this recipe takes you throught the more accurate "Your detailed spending breakdown" tool.

It’ll work on your computer, mobile or tablet.

Now you’re ready!

Step 3

The first page is income. Here you enter all the money you have coming in. 



You can use the drop downs next to each category to change how often you receive or spend the money. This means if you pay one bill monthly and another every quarter you don’t have to work out the maths yourself!


Step 4

Next it’s your household bills. Don’t forget the things you probably pay once a year like home insurance.

A bit trickier to know for certain is how much you spend on home maintenance. Flicking through your bank statements could help.

Step 5

Living costs are next, followed by insurance, loans and banking.

This section could be a little scary as you get a sense of how much you owe – but it’s really important.

Step 6

The final three pages are Family, Travel and Leisure.

You’ll really need to delve into your bank and credit card statements to find all these details. If it’s easier, just take an average month. But don’t forget those big - and expensive - events like Christmas, birthdays and holidays.



With each of the income and spending pages you can add in any big one-off or regular payments in the blank “additional items” boxes at the bottom of the page.


Step 7

Click through from the last page to your summary. This page will give you a clear message. Are you spending more that you have coming in?

Step 8

Scroll down and you’ll be able to see where most of your money goes. This could be a handy to helping you see where to cut back – if you need to.



Once you’ve finished, go back into the previous spending pages. Play around with some of the numbers to see what difference even small savings could make.



What do you think?

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  • Anne / 21 September 2015

    Andy, would it be possible for you to include somewhere "edit"
    I forgot to put $NZ in my comment and cant change it. Perhaps you can.

  • Anne / 21 September 2015

    Your idea SOUNDS great but in reality its not practical for anyone on a senior government benefit. I lost all my funds and house in 2009 and apart from rent I live on $NZ258 a week to pay everything, including all car registrations, warrants, maintenance, petrol etc. All clothing, food, electricity, funeral insurance, televison charges, paying off a credit card, paying computer repairs etc etc etc etc. All on $NZ258 a week. I am 77 and have applied for many jobs but never get even answered.,

  • Jacqueline / 1 September 2015

    I'm very surprised that people need to be told how to budget. My parent's taught us all how to budget from a very young age. Beginning with counting out the pennies for the paperboy / milkman / baker / butcher and coalman. Things that are learnt from a very young age will stay with you forever.

  • Ruth Oliver / 24 August 2015

    Hi, when my yearly bills come in I devide it by 52 to give me my weekly cost and put that amount plus 50p (for inflation) in jars, then bills are covered. I then pay my bills with a loyalty card to get points then pay card off with the cash ( this is a must to avoid charges ). Save your points to spend at Christmas. Lubley Jubley win win.

  • Ketayi Mtongwizo / 24 August 2015

    Budget is so difficult considering the fact that people are not earning that much. Take for in stance, a car is a necessity but look at how insurance companies are ripping drivers yet none once to challenge them. For a descent and healthy weekly glossary most families are spending in the region of £150-200. The average person eg carers, factory workers, shop keepers are earning less than 1300 if the don't do overtime. It is just immensely hostile out there in terms of earnings. It's interesting when you hear politicians saying life is getting better, those people have no clue about what people are going through, they use the statistics which in my opinion is somehow fiddled with to manipulate the voter and supporter.

  • Elizabeth / 23 August 2015

    A very helpful number of points.
    I know roughly what my monthly outgoings are. I have an a small overdraft allowance; but the real trick is to follow Mr.McCawber's advice - don't spend more than you have.

    Your time taken to do this is way way off and I have all my bank statements filed in date order !
    I reckon this plan would take at least 45 minutes.