First Option Blog

Home / Blog / Marks Budget Saver Blog - Part 1

Mark's Budget Saver Blog - Part 1

Attention: open in a new window. Print

For a long time, First Option has offered a Budget Saver account to its members. It’s not as straight forward as other accounts, as it’s part access account and part overdraft – working together. Some people think it’s only for those in financial trouble. Others think it’s a good idea, but don’t know where to start.

Why get one?

As the Communications Manager at First Option, it’s my job to promote the Budget Saver to members – but how? I understand the concept, but I don’t fully understand how to set it up. Well, the best way is to have one myself and make up my own mind.

While most members do not have a Budget Saver account, those that do love it. Over the years, we have received lots of positive testimonials from members. And lots of First Option staff have one too, which is always a good sign.

Different people give different reasons for having one – greater control, peace of mind or as a safety net during the months where expenses are at their greatest. Some people have one just for their car expenses; fuel, rego, insurance, servicing, loan repayments, etc, etc. What was my reason? Firstly, it was to manage my bills separately to my everyday expenses. I am married with 2 young boys and we use our Credit Union accounts for everything, so there are lots of transactions each month. Checking them is a hassle, so I thought it would be better to have them in separate buckets.

How to get started?

I am both a perfectionist and a procrastinator, so it wasn’t easy for me to get started. I knew the first step was to enter all my expenses into a Budget Schedule, provided by First Option. This was a paper form, so we decided to create an Excel version to make it easier. I then needed to estimate my bills and expenses for the next 12 months. This meant looking back at my actual expenses over the last 12 months. How to do this? I didn’t want to wade through all my paper statements and electronic bills for the last year. That would take hours! Then it came to me. Just download all my transactions (for the last 12 months) from Internet Banking into an Excel file. Then I can just sort it by the name of the biller and I would have the information I needed for my Budget Schedule.

Completing the forms

I entered all my monthly expenses into the Budget Schedule in alphabetical order (from Ambulance to Water) and added the recommended 10% for variances; to cover unexpected bills and price rises. The final figure was a real shock. Even if I did not open a Budget Saver, it was a worthwhile exercise to know how much we spend a year – just on bills. Then I thought about how the Budget Saver operates and how it could best work for me. There are 3 easy ways to pay bills from a Budget Saver account; BPAY, Internet Banking transfer and direct debit. So I decided to “keep it simple” and only include bills and expenses that could be paid in those 3 ways. This excluded items such as petrol and groceries. Once I took these items out, the final figure was a lot more manageable and I moved on.

Go to part 2 to read how "magic happens"...