A guide to managing your money from automotive charity Ben

A guide to managing your money from automotive charity Ben


Managing your money

Our money isn’t something we always openly talk about with others so it can be confusing to know what to spend your money on or how best to save or invest it. How much your mate spends on a car or what they’re able to save in a month is probably different from you as we all have different situations, salaries and priorities. It’s always a good idea to be in control of and really understand your finances. This will help you understand your outgoings and what you need to pay for each week, month or year but also helps you know how much you have to spend on other things you might like.

Setting a budget

A good place to start is to understand how much money you have coming in and going out each week, including food, bills & rent/mortgage. This will help you to work out what you can (and can’t) afford during the month. If the idea of a budget feels too restrictive, don’t despair! You should factor in money for treats, (watching the football, a night out with your mates or a family day out), but without spending all of your available income. Just because you’re budgeting doesn’t mean your month has to be boring! It’s also important to budget for unexpected items and situations such as a cracked windscreen or fixing the washing machine.

How to set up a budget

Work out what money you have coming in and what money you have going out. Be as detailed as possible to capture everything. You can use this tool to help you budget and understand your money. You can also use MoneySavingExpert’s detailed budget planner. It might take a while to fill in but you’ll be so glad you did when you feel fully in control of your finances at the end of it.

Once you have your budget and know what you need to spend every month, you can see where you can reduce costs if you need to and spot opportunities to save money. Try creating two lists – a list of essential items and another of non-essential items. You can then easily work out how much you could save if you stop spending on non-essential items.

Track your spending

Track everything you spend, even if it’s only for a few months. It will show you exactly how much your sweet tooth or coffee habit are costing you and you’ll see where you can make further savings if you need to.

Identify where you can reduce costs

Once you understand how much money you are spending and on what, create two lists – a list of essential items and another of non-essential items. You can then easily work out how much you could save if you stop spending on non-essential items. It’s always a good idea to shop around for deals on your broadband, car insurance, mobile phone contract etc and make sure you’re on the best-value contract out there.

Set a savings goal

If you can save every month, even if it’s a small amount, you will be surprised at how quickly it builds up. Don’t be tempted to dip into it. Whether you’re aiming to save enough to pay your car insurance in one go (because it’s cheaper than monthly payments) or for a holiday – keep your eye on the prize!

If you can, start saving or topping up your savings so that you have some money put aside for an emergency.

Eating well on a budget

There is a strong link between nutrition (what we eat) and our health & wellbeing. Eating a balanced diet is important as it plays a big part in looking after our overall health, giving us the best chance of staying well, feeling good and being at our best.

Lots of people are concerned about the rising cost of their weekly food shop, and are looking at ways they might be able to save money, while still eating well. We’ve put together some tips to help: https://ben.org.uk/how-we-help/for-me/articles/how-to-eat-well-on-a-budget/

Managing your savings

If you’re in a position to save, there are so many options and accounts out there, it can be confusing to know where to start, let alone decipher the financial jargon! Here’s an overview of the main ways you can save.

Savings accounts

There are so many things to save for – retirement, emergencies, holidays, a deposit on a house, a course you want to do etc. There are a number of different savings accounts and it can be difficult to know the difference between them. Be sure to shop around for the best interest rates but bear in mind how quickly you might want access to your money so you can choose an account that best suits your needs. Also keep in mind that you shouldn’t put more than £85,000 with any one bank as this is the maximum amount covered by the FSCS if your bank goes bust.

Here are the main types of savings accounts:


Easy-access accounts – as the name suggests, you can take money out of this account whenever you like and however often you like.

Notice saving accounts – you need to give notice to your bank before withdrawing money from these types of accounts- usually around 30-90 days.

Fixed-rate accounts – your money will be saved in this account for a fixed amount of time, usually 1, 3 or 5 years. You’ll receive more interest on this type of account but won’t be able to add to your money once it’s in the account.

Regular saver accounts – with this account, you save a specific amount of money into these accounts each month and should receive a higher interest on your money in this account than in an easy-access account. However, bear in mind that this rate only usually lasts for a year and there are normally specific rules on withdrawals.


ISA is short for Individual Savings Account. There are a number of different types of ISAs and the main benefit of them is that you don’t pay tax on the interest. However, everyone can earn £1,000 of interest per year tax-free so it’s up to you to see if having an ISA is the right decision for you. Find out more about ISAs here: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/savings/isa-guide-savings-without-tax/

Premium bonds

Premium bonds are another way of saving your money, but instead of receiving interest on your savings, you’ll be entered into a prize draw each month where you could win between £25 and 1 million pounds each month. Though bear in mind the chances of winning 1 million pounds are extremely slim! Thinking about investing in premium bonds? Take a look at MoneySavingExpert’s in-depth guide: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/savings/premium-bonds/


At first glance, looking at investments can be pretty daunting as there’s many different ways in which you can invest and there’s always the risk that you’ll lose your money. Funds, shares, pensions and bonds are just some of the ways you can invest and could be a good option if you have money you’re planning to lock away for a long period of time. Take a look at MoneyHelper’s guide for more information on investing: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/savings/investment-beginners/

If you’re facing a drop in income

Facing a drop in income, or even losing your job, can feel awful and can be an extremely stressful time, especially if you have other people to support. Mortgage and rent payments may be hard to cover if you’re facing a sudden drop in income and you don’t have access to savings. Anyone can find themselves in this situation and though worrying, there are a number of things you can do to give yourself some breathing space until you’re back on your feet.

If you have a mortgage

If you’re getting a lower salary than before or have lost your job, take a step back and work out if you can still afford your mortgage payments. Talk to your lender as soon as you can to discuss your options if you think you could miss a payment.

They will normally offer you a few options. This will likely include a mortgage holiday – it’s likely the lender will spread your outstanding payments over the outstanding term of your mortgage, so you will see an increase in your monthly mortgage payments once your mortgage holiday has ended. You should consider the impact this will have on your future financial commitments.

Your lender may also offer other options such as increasing the length of your mortgage term or making interest or capital only payments. Speak to your lender or mortgage advisor and get them to explain the options to you.

Check insurance

Check whether you have insurance policies that would cover your mortgage payments or replace some of your income. For example:


  • Payment protection insurance
  • Mortgage payment protection insurance
  • Accident, sickness and unemployment insurance


If you’re renting

If you’re renting, it’s best to work out a mutually beneficial agreement between yourself and your landlord. Perhaps you can ask for your contract to be terminated early, or see what options your landlord would be open to until you’re back on your feet. Though bear in mind that although your landlord should take every step to ensure that you continue to stay in your home, they are not obliged to let you end the contract early. Have a chat with your landlord and see what they would be happy to agree to. They will be expected to take into account your financial circumstances and try and work an affordable repayment plan with you before they start any proceedings.

If you’re a social housing tenant, talk to your tenancy support officer or housing officer who will be able to support you and work out an affordable repayment plan.

If you’re on Universal Credit and usually pay the rent yourself, talk to your work coach about what they can do to support you to keep rent payments on track.

Maximising your benefits

Applying for benefits

Many people do not apply for the benefits they are already entitled to and receiving these could make a real difference to their income.

Use a benefits calculator such as: Turn2us benefits calculator and find out what you could be entitled to.

If you work for yourself, here’s everything you need to know about Universal Credit if you’re self-employed: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-and-self-employment-quick-guide/universal-credit-and-self-employment-quick-guide

Financial stress

Most people have worries or concerns about money, but how do you know when this stress becomes overwhelming? Here are the mental and physical signs to look out for and how to deal with them.

What is financial stress?

We all know what being stressed feels like and as you would expect, financial stress is stress that is directly related to money worries. For example, unemployment and not having enough to pay rent or bills can really add to financial stress.

Effects of financial stress on your health

Perhaps you’re finding it hard to sleep at night or are feeling low or anxious because of money worries. Financial stress can lead to issues such as insomnia, withdrawing from friends and family, feeling depressed and anxious and even lead to physical symptoms such as headaches. It can also create difficulties in relationships and problems in your social life.

Dealing with financial stress

Though it can be difficult, the NHS advises to stay active, stick to a daily routine, get advice on debts if you need it, and face your fears. Here’s how to deal with your financial stress:



Be aware of how you’re reacting to and coping with financial stress and start to recognise if unhealthy ways of coping are starting to creep in, such as drinking too much, so you can manage this or reach out for help if you need it.

How to manage debt

If you’re struggling with debt, you’re not alone. With the right information, you can take back control and get savvy about your spending. It might not be easy or quick, but debt and financial concerns can be overcome. Here’s some information and advice on how you can start to get out of debt: https://ben.org.uk/how-we-help/for-me/articles/how-to-deal-with-debt/

If you’re struggling, Ben can help. Visit ben.org.uk, chat with them online here or call the Ben helpline on 08081 311 333.