Budget wisely

Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014

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Save 10 per cent of everything you earn, urges budget advisor Joan Farrow, who is to run a two-hour, Youth Life Skills session at REAP Marlborough in Blenheim, titled Manage Money Better.

When Joan was 15 she started working for a credit reporting company and soon learned what happens to people who do not pay their bills.

It wasn't good and it set Joan on a lifelong path of careful money management. When she and her husband were first married, she carefully recorded their financial incomings and outgoings in a self-made "accounts book". These days financial records are kept on a computer spreadsheet.

Putting it all down in writing lets you see the real story, she says.

A former Marlborough Family Budgeting Service co-ordinator, Joan still works 18 hours a week in its Blenheim office, giving people budget advice and helping others in serious financial strife.

Problems might be big ones but a way through can usually be found, she says.

Key budgeting tips include:

● Identify priorities, like rent, power and essential transport costs;

● Learn how much you need, then live within the budget.

Marlborough Family Budgeting Service recommends small amounts of money be put into a separate bank account each week. Withdrawals can then be made when big-payment obligations arrive, such as power bills, car registrations, rates, and insurances.

Other, small weekly sums can be added for other expected outgoings.

"Birthdays are not a surprise; starting school is not a surprise.

"With a budget you can prepare for these things without having them jump out at you all at once."

The budgeting service is free and can be used by families, couples and individuals. Advice is given but people are never "told" what to do, she says. For example, she never tells people to "stop smoking", but once they add the cost of cigarettes or tobacco to their weekly expenses they may be inspired to quit or cut back.

Joan used to go to a cafe for a cup of coffee to "unwind" before going home from work. But, along with the parking fee she paid to go there, it was costing her $50 a week. Over a year and it was $2000 out of her annual income.

Starting a budget does not mean spending is prohibited, she say. "But before you make a commitment, get a budget done to see if it's affordable."

● For more information about Joan Farrow's Manage Money Better session for youth, contact REAP Marlborough, phone 03 578 7848 or the Marlborough Family Budgeting Service, 03 578 2006.

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- The Marlborough Express

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