Have a savings goal and need help to stay on budget? HomeStart’s John Oliver has these top tips to help you set a budget and stick to it.

TAKE charge. Be the one who plans your own financial future, rather than leaving it to someone else or to chance.

It may seem daunting at first but once you get started, you will realise the benefits. 

UNDERSTAND your daily money habits by tracking your expenses to help you find out where you really spend your money and where you could make additional savings.

You could also use one of the many apps available online or an old-fashioned notebook to do the job.

STOP spending leaks. Most of us are guilty of spending money on things without thinking twice about it. Whether it's buying a cup of coffee on the way to work each day, paying for car parking instead of catching a bus, or buying lunch instead of making it, you can find cheaper alternatives.

Try the Spending Leaks Calculator.

ENTER your income and expenses in a budget planner to calculate your savings capability and see how long it will take to reach your savings goal.

You could also try varying the amount you spend to see how it affects your budget. There are a number of tools available online including one at moneysmart.gov.au.

BUDGET for bills by putting money away each pay. By working out the average amount you spend each year on essential items (such as rent/mortgage, groceries, petrol, insurance, electricity, gas, water, car registration and driver’s licence etc,) you could calculate the average amount you spend on these each year.

By dividing this amount by the number of pays you receive annually (ie: 12 for monthly, 26 for fortnightly or 52 for weekly) you could estimate the amount you might need to put away each pay to meet your expenses.   

PAY yourself. Treat your savings as a bill each payday and set the money aside, perhaps in a separate account, so the temptation to spend it is lessened and you can move closer to your savings goal.

It might be easier to put small amounts away regularly rather than waiting until you have a large amount to spare – small amounts will add up to large amounts over time, if saved regularly.

CREATE a buffer to help you manage when things come up unexpectedly, such as a friend’s birthday, engagement, home or car repairs.

A buffer will help you not break your budget if something costs more than expected. Putting a bit extra away in your savings account can help you to achieve this. 

REVIEW and revise. Our lives and our financial needs are constantly changing so review your budget regularly to see where you could make small changes and keep on track.

By doing this your budget will become something that works for you and you could be more inclined to stick to it.