Budget Day: Steven’s had his – now it’s your turn
Two weeks ago the new finance minister Steven Joyce delivered his first budget, and the last that this National government gets to table before heading to the polls in September.
While budget day doesn’t come with quite the drama or possibility of surprise that it did in, say, the 80s, it’s still a big deal. There’s a lot of detail, but essentially the government is announcing where it plans to get money from (taxes, borrowing, occasionally selling things) and how it plans to spend it (paying back loans, running the country, buying things).
What makes a good budget is pretty clear to most of us: we all get what we need to be healthy and happy as a country, and ideally the money coming in is more than the money going out – at least in the long run.
There’s little doubt that it’s a good idea for the government to spend some time thinking about this every year. After all, it’s our money!
But what about your own personal, family or household budget? That’s your money too, right? When’s the last time you spent a couple of hours with a big sheet of paper and a calculator to work out how things are looking?
Well you can put the FX-82 back in the drawer with the milk tokens and Pokémon cards, because in 2017, there’s an app for that! Check out our pick of the free online platforms that make it easy to understand your money situation, work out where the big expenses are, and make a plan to achieve your short and long term financial goals.
- The Financial Capability Commission (formerly the Retirement Commission) is all about making sure we don’t run out of dollars before we run out of years. Take a look at their Sorted Budgeting Tool.
- Westpac has a pretty good budget tool too (you don’t have to be a customer).
- Need some hands-on free help? Take a look at Family Budgeting Services.
If all that calculating spits out an answer you don’t like the look of, the next step is to do something about it. When the government needs a bit more cashflow, it can raise taxes and magically have more money (possibly at the cost of some grumpy Kiwis). Long term, you could train to qualify for a higher paying job. A short-term option might be part time work, or an after-school job for the kids. And perhaps it’s time to sell off that exercycle you bought but never used.
On the money-out side of the budget, a bit of time spent looking at your expenses could make a real difference. Now we’re not going to join in the anti-avocado chorus … sacrificing things you really enjoy is a dumb idea. What isn’t so dumb, is looking at the big-ticket items like electricity, mortgage, insurance, internet, credit card, mobile phones and so on, and make sure you’re getting the best deal. A small percentage saving on a big regular bill can make a huge difference over time.
Unlike the government, there’s no law that says you have to do a budget every year. And you won’t get voted out of office if the books don’t balance. But with all the free online tools and advice out there now, we reckon it’s a pretty worthwhile way to spend a winter’s evening.
Vaughn Davis is a smart cookie who lives in Auckland and has a goat farm. An actual goat farm. He also has The Goat Farm, which is an ad agency and doesn't involve any actual goats. He writes monthly for Credit Simple and you can find him @vaughndavis.All stories by: Vaughn Davis