Skip to content

Help with budgeting as a carer


One of the most important things to prioritise when looking after your finances is budgeting. Budgeting is a great way of ensuring you do not spend more money than you have coming in. If this is taken care of, you will be well on your way to making sure your household’s money stays on track.

Creating a budget is particularly important if you already have some debts building up. If this is the case for you and your family, it is crucial that you don’t bury your head in the sand and hope the problem will sort itself out. Debts just grow and grow if you don’t do something to tackle them, and they can very quickly get out of control. So it is always a good idea to get on top of your finances as soon as possible.

Below we explain what budgeting is, why you should do it, and how to go about making your own budget. We also provide access to MoneyHelper's free Budget Planner tool to help you get started.

Budgeting is the process of making a plan for how you will spend your money. It involves understanding how much money you have coming in, working out in advance what you will spend it on and then tracking your spending to make sure you stick to it.

Budgeting is the best way to make sure that you balance your income against your spending. Budgets can give you great peace of mind, and make you feel more in control of not just your finances but also the rest of your life too.

Without a budget, it is very easy to accidently spend more money than you have, creating debt. Debt can be very expensive and can spiral out of control quickly so it is important to try and avoid it if you can. If you or your family already have debt, then a budget can be a good way to work your way back out of it and be debt-free in the future.

Budgeting can also help you look at what you are spending and decide if it is the best way to spend it. You might find through budgeting that you are spending money on things that you don’t think are necessary or important and that you could instead be using that money for things that you would value more. This means you can make the money you already have go further towards the things you want.

A budget can also be great if you have something particular in mind that you want to do, such as going on holiday, but you are not sure how you will get the money you need for it. Through budgeting, you can make sure you set aside money regularly towards these goals. This can really add up and you may end up being able to afford things you might previously not have thought possible.

Preparing a budget can be a bit time-consuming at first, but it becomes much quicker once you get going. Budgeting for your household is likely to be more successful if you involve everyone in the process.

There are a number of steps involved in preparing a budget:

Think about all the different ways that your household receives money. You might need to ask the other people you live with to find out all of this information.

It could come from a number of different sources including:

  • Money earnt from any jobs that you or other members of your household might have.
  • Money from any benefits your family are entitled to, including things like Child Benefit.
  • Money that comes in if your family owns any property and rents it out.

Income like this, that comes in regularly and is usually roughly the same amount each time, is known as your ‘fixed income’.

How often you receive this fixed income might be a good way to decide how to set up your budget. For instance, if your main source of income comes in monthly, then you could set up your budget to cover a month. But if you receive it every two weeks, you may want your budget to cover a fortnight instead.

You might also receive other sources of income that don’t come in so regularly, for instance if you are given some money as a gift or if you decide to sell something you no longer need. This is known as ‘extra income’. Because this money is irregular, it shouldn’t be counted on to pay for your essentials.

Once you have added up how much money you are due to have coming in, you have an idea of how much you will have to spend.

The next step is to see what the household’s money is currently being spent on. Some of this is relatively easy to think of, like big regular expenses such as rent or mortgage. But some of it is more difficult to remember such as if you buy a snack while you are out and about.

A good place to start is by gathering up all of the household’s bills, bank statements and receipts. From these, take a look at all of the spending, and separate it into ‘essential spending’ and ‘extra spending’. Essential spending is for things that you absolutely need to spend money on such as mortgage payments or rent, basic food shopping and utility bills. Extra spending is for things that are nice to have if you are able to afford them, such as new clothes, presents, day trips or meals out.

Now add up all of your essential spending and separately all of your extra spending. You will now have an idea of how much money you have going out every month.

Compare your fixed income against the total you calculated for your essential spending.

If your fixed income is more than your essential spending, then you are in a relatively stable position.

If this is the case and your household has existing debts such as overdrafts, loans, store cards or credit cards, it could well be best to pay some of these off with any extra income you have, as they are probably costing you money every month. If there are multiple debts, prioritise those with the highest rates of interest as they will be costing you the most money.

If your family doesn't have any debts, then you may want to put some or all of this extra money into a savings account to create an emergency fund for your household. This is a pot of money that is available in case something unexpected happens such as the car breaks down or you need a new washing machine. Or you could save some of it up to put towards something particularly special such as a family holiday.

If, however, your fixed income is less than your essential spending, then you will need to do something to tackle this situation by either increasing your income or decreasing how much you are spending.

It can often be difficult to find extra sources of income, but you or a family member may be able to take on more hours at work or you may be entitled to additional benefits or grants which could help boost your income. Take a look at our guides ‘Grants to support you as a carer’ and ‘Checking the benefits you can claim’ to find out more about these areas.

It is usually easier, however, to find cuts that can be made to your spending instead. It is worth thinking about all of your expenses in some depth to decide where you can cut back to make your budget balance. You may be able to find ways to lower your bills. Take a look at our guides ‘Help with your energy bills as a carer’ and ‘Help with your water bills as a carer’ for more information about how to do this. Or you may be able to save money through making some simple swaps, for instance buying supermarket own brand products rather than branded ones, making your lunch at home rather than buying sandwiches on the go, or drinking tap water rather than fizzy drinks. Or you could have regular expenses going out every month that are not completely essential, such as a streaming service subscription or a gym membership, which you may be able to go without for a bit.

Once you have managed to find ways to make your fixed income balance against your essential expenditure, don’t stop there! It is important to keep on tracking both your income and expenses. Try to find half an hour at least once a week to take a look at your budget and check how it is going. This is to make sure that if anything changes, such as your electricity bills go up, you can tweak your budget to make sure that you find the money to pay for this elsewhere. Keeping a track of your finances like this will also allow you to notice what you are spending in general and make you less likely to waste money on things you might not need or want that much.

Free Budget Planner tool

To make it even easier to get started with budgeting, MoneyHelper, an impartial advice service backed by the government, have lent us their free Budget Planner tool. This is a great way of keeping track of everything you spend. The tool will also break down all of your finances into different categories so you know exactly where your money is going. Plus once you are finished budgeting, it will give you some tips based on your particular circumstances.

Give it a try below:

Budget Planner

Online Help and Advice

Visit our online support section where we have provided advice and guidance on a range of relevant topics to help you in your caring role.

Online support
Is this page useful?