The Freedom Kit: Carol Brick on how to revolutionise your spending in 10 days

Use a budgeting app, a computer spreadsheet, or a notebook and pen; but get to grips with your personal and family finances, sooner rather than later

Take opportunities to cut back, whether it’s discounted bulk buying, app coupons, or own-brands, and future you will be grateful

Without proper budgeting and forecasting, even the most basic small businesses do not function or succeed. So, why do we think we can manage family household finances of maybe €70,000 to €80,000 a year, without planning and ongoing review? The bottom line is that we need to know where our money is going each month, and ensure there will be enough money to run the household and meet the family’s essential needs.

Day One: Get serious – income and outgoings

First step; identify all incomings and outgoings. Use average take-home pay and other income, maybe from a rental agreement, cash gifts, social welfare like child benefit, or a part-time hustle. Then list what you spend on everything, from the mortgage and utilities to food and clothing, to discretionary spend, like holidays or a new car. Use bank deposit and card statements, ideally across a full year. This is an eye-opening awful task, and frightening too. But, once done, you have a handy template for future years.

Day Two: Get ambitious – set goals

List short-term and long-term financial goals to set priorities for a budget. Identify costs you need to cover, and long-term needs, such as retirement, a home, or children’s education. Saving for that special holiday or party makes it all the more enjoyable when you get there without having roasted your credit card.

Day Three: Get tough - needs versus wants

Things like food, groceries, and clothing are essentials, but the latest new trainers and top restaurants are not. Even with basic needs, there are basic shopping options that will allow you to save more, and splash out on special occasions. Good spending habits are just that, a habit you can adopt. Take opportunities to cut back, whether it’s discounted bulk buying, app coupons, or own-brands, and future you will be grateful.

Day Four: Get collaborative – household buy-in

A budget, clearly outlined, makes your financial situation real. It helps you decide as a household how money should be used, and ensures buy-in. Everyone can decide on what is needed, in advance, and agree on how to spend, save and plan so that money works for everyone, and no one has unrealistic expectations.

Day Five: Get real – embrace your budget

Acknowledge and commit to a budget, based on whether you have money left over each month, or if there is too little income. If the latter, work out how you can cut back. Decide on what has to be sacrificed or what is essential. Even small savings can add up to a lot, like a packed lunch for work. Little trade-offs make for manageable finances. Money left over can be put towards goals and savings.

Day Six: Get choosy - switch

Big ticket items like your electricity, broadband or TV provider, and many insurances get cheaper if you switch provider regularly. If you’re somone who simply renews at the suggested price, expect to lose out.

Day Seven: Get sensible – contingency fund

An emergency fund is important. Squirrelling money away for unexpected expenses means you don’t have to stress about where the cash will come from if the car fails the NCT or the boiler packs in. Save a manageable amount regularly, in an account you can’t easily dip into, and stash away windfalls, like a bonus, for a rainy day too. Otherwise, you’re relying on credit cards or loans last minute, and this kind of expensive debt is harder to pay off.

Day Eight: Get creative - savings hacks

Can you convert a hobby or talent into a way to supplement your income, like baking for friends, or teaching yoga classes? Have ‘No Spend’ or ‘Use it Up’ days every week, where you leave your wallet at home, bring a packed lunch, and cook creatively from the cupboard and freezer! Allocate pocket money or a Revolut top-up weekly to the kids, rather than cash on demand, so they learn to budget too. Have a clear-out and do a summer boot sale; get the whole family involved.

Day Nine: Get on top – review

Review your budget at least annually, if not twice a year. Income, needs, and goals may change. Readjust your budget to suit your current situation. Keep an eye on your savings and outgoings and any anticipated change, or derailed good intentions. It will help you stay motivated, make informed decisions about what you can afford to spend and save and make the most out of your money.

Day Ten: Get help – avoid debt

When you understand your financial situation with a budget, it is easier to see what support you need. Budgeting shows what repayments you can realistically afford; if you need to take on debt, for a mortgage, for example. Always prioritise high-interest loans, credit cards, and mortgage-related debt, with monies saved. And check with a financial advisor, citizens information, MABS or another money advice service, for practical advice and budgeting tips, as soon as you think debt could become a problem.


Carol Brick is managing director of CWM Wealth Management and HerMoney. A qualified financial advisor with over 25 years experience in all aspects of high-level financial planning, she specialises in the area of Asset and Wealth Management. See or for more details.

About HerMoney

HerMoney provides tailor-made financial solutions to self-employed professional women and service contractors all over Ireland. With offices in both Cork and Dublin, the business is a sister company to the long-established CWM Wealth Management.