In The Know – Issue 9

Welcome to advice bulletin by Citizen’s Advice Gateshead: “In The Know” – where we will share information, support and guidance on the issues that matter.

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Monthly Bulletin by Citizens Advice Gateshead – Issue 8

Quick practical budgeting tool

Every week that passes, our finances change one way or another, and it’s hard to keep track of exactly what you are paying for, what you can afford and what you can do without. At Citizens Advice Gateshead, we recommend that you periodically check your household finances to see what impact recent changes have had, so this month’s newsletter is a practical guide to doing exactly that. 

The tool will be most useful if you give accurate figures, but you can use rough figures if you just want a general idea of your budget. To get the best results, gather your most recent bank statements, pay slips, credit and debit card statements and any receipts you have for things you usually pay for in cash. 

Some rules to follow: 

  1. Be honest – the only way to get an accurate idea of your budget is to be honest about how you spend your money, so if you always have a takeaway on a Saturday night, remember to add it! 
  2. Keep everything to the same payment period. Pick weekly, biweekly, or monthly and make sure that all items are based on that payment period. For example, if you want to look at things over a monthly period, multiply your weekly payments by 52 and divide by 12. 
  3. If any of the items mentioned do not apply to you, just leave that box blank. 


The first thing we must do is work out your income. Remember, keep everything to the same payment period – weekly or monthly is usual.

Your wages or earnings after tax  
Any money you get from your lodger(s) or anyone else living with you  
Any money you get from a pension (incl. Private and state pensions)  
Any money you get from investments (incl. Renting a property, dividends etc.)  
Any child maintenance or support you receive  
Any benefits* you receive (incl. Child benefit, and pension or tax credits)  

* There are many different benefits that you may be in receipt of – if you are unsure what benefits you are claiming, check out this page to find out about them  

Debt Repayments 

After working out your income, we look at the debts that you are currently paying back. These are not the lump sums that you owe, but rather the repayments.

Debt Management Plan  
Individual Voluntary Arrangement  
Mortgage or rent arrears or arrears for any loans secured against your home  
Council Tax arrears  
Credit card, store card debts or payday loans  
Bank or building society loans arrears  
Personal loans  
Catalogue, home credit or in-store credit debts arrears  
Overdraft charges arrears  
Money borrowed from friends or family  
Income Tax, National Insurance and VAT  
Gas and electricity bills arrears  
Water rates arrears  
Child maintenance arrears  
TV licence arrears  
Hire purchase agreements arrears  
Court fines arrears  
Student loans arrears  
Other direct payments for arrears  


Enter the amount you spend on each of these bills, remembering to keep to the same payment period. For items that come in package deals (I.e., home phone lines, or sometimes TV subscriptions) look at your bills to see what you are charged for that service. 

Rent or mortgage (in full, don’t deduct housing benefit/housing element of UC)  
Council Tax (after any deductions)  
Any other fuel costs (e.g., oil, coal, or firewood)  
Water (incl. wastewater and sewerage charges, if any)  
Mobile phone (if pay-as-you-go please estimate)  
Home phone  
TV subscription (e.g., Sky or Netflix)  
TV Licence  
Home Insurance (contents, building or both)  
Loan payments  
Credit Card Payments  
Hire Purchase Payments  
Student Loan Payments (if you pay off your loan via PAYE, ignore this)  

Household and personal 

Grocery shopping (Incl. things like food, toiletries, cleaning supplies, but not alcohol, tobacco, or scratch cards)  
Clothing and footwear  
Hairdresser or barber  
Launderette or dry-cleaning  
Healthcare (Incl. medicines, prescription charges, dentist visits, optician)  
Repairs and house maintenance(Incl. expenses like plumbing or electricians.)  
Any other household spending  

Family and pets 

Care costs  
Christmas spending and other religious holiday expenses.  
Pet costs  
Birthday presents  
Child support/maintenance payments you make  
Tuition fees  
School uniform  
School meals  
Pocket money and school trips  
Nappies and baby items  
Other family-related expenses.  


Eating out (Incl. coffees, teas, and snacks)  
Going out (incl. drinks out, taxis, admission charges.)  
Staying in (incl. alcohol you buy to drink at home or take-away meals.)  
Memberships (incl. gym or cinema membership.)  
Website subscriptions (Incl. news, magazines, dating, music/video streaming.)  
Newspapers and Magazines  
Books and Music  
Season tickets  
Event tickets (Incl. cinema, theatre, sports events, concerts, etc.)  
Holidays (Incl. travel, accommodation, dining, going out, and insurance.)  
Sports and hobbies  
Tobacco (incl. electronic cigarettes)  
Gambling (Include lotto, pools, and scratch cards)  
Other leisure  


Public transport (incl. bus, train, boat, and tram journeys.)                
Bicycle (Incl. general running costs such as repair or rental.)  
Car rental (Incl. fuel, parking charges and tolls.)                      
Car insurance    
Road tax  
Car maintenance  
Breakdown or recovery  
Parking, congestion charges and tolls  
Other transport-related spending  

Savings and investments 

Savings (incl. ISAs)  
Premium Bonds  

Your Budget 

To calculate your budget balance,  

  1. Add your Total Income to box A 
  2. Add each of the appropriate totals to the Money Out boxes. 
  3. Add together these totals and put that total in box B. 
  4. Subtract Box B from Box A and write the result in Box C 

Balance Box A – Box B C 

If BOX C is a positive number, you’ve got money left over from your budget 
If BOX C is zero, your budget is perfectly balanced 
If BOX C is a negative number, you’re spending more than you can afford. 

What to do? 

  1. Do a ‘sense check’ – does your result feel right to you? Does it reflect the money you see in your purse, wallet or account each month? If it doesn’t, check your figures again to see whether you have missed something out, or underestimated something.
  2. If you’re happy with your budget result, double check the figures to make sure they are all accurate, and then look to see whether there are any pieces of spending you didn’t expect, or could do without? If you are close to zero, what would happen if you had an unexpected expense? 
  3. If you are unhappy with your budget result, again, check the figures to make sure they are accurate. After that, you should contact your Citizens Advice Gateshead team who will give you advice on making the most of your income, check whether there are any benefits you are missing and give you advice about repaying debts and other financial matters. 

Remember you can get in touch with your Citizens Advice Gateshead team for impartial advice, information, and guidance. Email [email protected] or call 0191 490 4231 and we’ll be back in touch with you within 1 working day Monday to Friday.