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What to include in a budget

Whipping up a budget but not sure what to include? To get you thinking we've put together 20 budget must-haves.

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Are you taking control of your cash and putting together a budget? Great choice! If you're stuck with what to include in your budget, we've put together this list of 20 must-haves to help get you going. We've also included our free budget calculator to help you whip up your budget quick-smart.

20 items to include in your budget

#1 Essential payments

The primary expense that everyone should consider is their bill payments. From credit card bills to your insurance premiums, consider the regular expenses that take a big but necessary bite out of your income. Make sure that you prioritise settling these payments before considering other aspects of your budget.

#2 Utilities

Whether or not you are a homeowner, one thing that you must pay is your utility bills (water, gas and electricity). These expenses are not something that you'll want to forget about until the lights go off and your taps run dry. When considering your monthly budget, it's important to factor in how much your utilities cost. This could also provide an opportunity for you to find a cheaper utility provider.

#3 Mortgage or rent

One of the biggest fixed expenses that everyone encounters is their mortgage payment or rent. It's critical to assign a portion of your income to pay off these costs.

#4 Data and subscriptions

Mobile data, music services and video streaming services usually go unaccounted for in budget planning. These monthly charges may seem small but can add up quickly. Accounting for these items in your budget is a great way to determine which expenses are truly necessary for your day-to-day life, providing you with an opportunity to get rid of any subscription services that you're no longer interested in.

#5 Memberships

As long as you're hitting the gym, there are going to be monthly fees that you have to take note of. The frequency of your gym sessions is important, as it can help you understand whether you really need that yearly gym pass you signed up for. Make sure you look through your membership fees and weed out anything that you aren't getting the most out of.

#6 Food and groceries

Grocery shopping can become an expensive affair if you don't plan for it in advance. Instead of going to the store and picking out what you think you might want, come prepared with a list of the items that you know you need. That way, your grocery expenses remain within your budgeted limit.

#7 Travel

Saving up for your dream holiday? Try not to break the bank while you're at it. Avid travellers should set aside a special savings pot of cash that will go towards their next trip away. This means allocating a small portion of your monthly income each month to your holiday fund. Then, when it comes time to pay for your holiday, you won't have to take a huge bite out of your existing savings.

#8 Bank accounts

Most banks will charge fees for certain services, such as overdrafts and account keeping fees. Considering these costs can help you identify whether your bank account provides you with the best value service. You can also take this opportunity to close down the accounts that you don't need and consolidate.

With the rise of online banking services, you no longer need to worry about handling multiple accounts. It might be simpler to segregate your income using sub-accounts provided within a single bank account, so that you can avoid overpaying on fees.

#9 Emergencies

Expect the unexpected. Set aside a small part of your monthly salary for an emergencies fund. This way, if an emergency occurs, you'll have cash immediately on hand to resolve the problem. As well as this, having an emergency fund means you're less likely to draw cash from your savings.

#10 Parking

Parking fees are easy to miss, but they can truly hurt your wallet over time. Try signing up for parking plans at a parking lot or at your workplace as they tend to be cheaper. Otherwise, make sure you take into account how much you pay for parking, as well as other car maintenance fees such as petrol money, cleaning costs and servicing fees.

#11 Medication

This budget item takes into account both recurring and non-recurring medications. Recurring medications are a predictable cost that you know you'll have to pay for, such as heart medication or birth control. Non-recurring medications are tougher to plan for but aren't impossible to predict. For example, a person with seasonal allergies might want to add "allergy medication" as a budget item during particular months of the year.

#12 Household maintenance

Other than utility bills, a small portion of your income should be allocated to the cost of fixing up your house. This might include lawn maintenance, driveway repaving and the occasional irregular expense such as replacing broken homewares, equipment and even pest control services.

#13 Pet care

Pet care isn't cheap at all. Getting your dog groomed regularly, for example, could cost you hundreds of dollars a year. Always plan for vet bills, pet grooming fees and food costs. If your pet is a rare breed or training to participate in a pet show, there's a whole other world of costs to consider that you should include in your budget.

#14 Entertainment

From catching a movie to frequenting bars and restaurants, it's perfectly normal to want to spend your money on fun. However, if you don't budget for these expenses, you might be in for a nasty shock.

While it might be difficult to budget for entertainment, a good tip is to overbudget monthly and let your "fun" expense account build up over time. By rolling the extra money over to the next month, you can spend worry-free whenever the occasion arises. By budgeting, you might even find yourself with more money than you used to have, which means more money to spend on nights out, books, movies or video games.

#15 Daily small-ticket items

Most popular budgeting guides advocate one simple gesture — cutting back on your daily cup of coffee. The occasional takeaway coffee might not seem like much, but these expenses can add up substantially over time. If you don't want to cut them out, try to over budget for these daily incidentals and include them in your monthly expenditure.

#16 Childcare

As adorable as children are, the cost of caring for them could easily dwarf your income if you don't budget properly. From annual school fees to necessities such as nappies and baby food, try to include these regular expenses in your budget for the month. Additionally, if you are a working parent, remember to assign an extra portion for childcare fees or babysitter payments.

#17 Clothing

Finding holes in your shoes and thread on your jeans could call for a shopping spree. Set aside a portion of your income each month for a pot of shopping money that you can use when you need new clothes. Alternatively, you could spend this amount all at once during sale periods like Black Friday or Boxing Day.

#18 Elderly care

It's easy to forget that caring for elderly relatives or parents can add to your expenses, but this is an essential budget item that you should plan for. Such expenses might include medical costs for surgeries and treatments, or even monthly payments to the nursing home.

#19 Gifts

Most people only realise how much they've spent on gift-giving after the holiday season is over. From birthdays to Christmas, gift expenses can easily add up, especially if you have a tendency to overspend. Make sure you account for a greater number of gifts and plan generously for gift giving.

#20 Donations

In the spirit of giving, why not give to those in need? Charity donations could be a one-off amount or a monthly contribution that you make to an organisation. The total sum and nature of the payments ultimately depend on the type of donation being made and the organisation you're working with. Consider these payments and budget for them accordingly so you can give responsibly.

Creating a monthly budget

Now that you have an idea of the budget items you should consider, it's time to create your monthly budget. The easiest way to do this is by using a smart money management tool, like the Finder app. The Finder app allows you to connect your bank accounts, credit cards, loans and investments onto a single dashboard, which means you can get an overview of your income and spending any time you want.

You can also track the amount you've spent on certain things, monitor your credit score and shop around for the best deals on products and financial services that you already use — all in the one place. You can find out more about the Finder app here.

Free budget planner calculator

*Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this calculator, the results should only be used as an indication. They are neither a recommendation nor an eligibility test for any product and should not be construed as financial advice, investment advice or any other sort of advice.

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