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What can I afford?

By Greg Carroll

Before you take on any type of borrowing you first need to work out what you can comfortably afford in terms of loan repayments, irrespective of how much a lender will allow you to borrow. Just because you can qualify for a certain loan amount doesn't necessarily mean that is what you should take on.

Lenders assess your capacity to repay as at today. Other than factoring in an interest rate buffer they do not factor in other future events such as having children, school fees, medical bills, increased petrol prices etc. 

Budget planning gives you greater control over your finances. It can put you in a position where you have money available to meet your all your expenses so you are not “chasing your tail each month.”  Also once you have your finances under better control you will then be in a position to start building your wealth.

How much money you earn has little bearing on how wealthy you will be. I regularly come into contact with people who have six-figure incomes but have ten of thousands of dollars in debt racked up on credit cards, and almost no equity in their house. If their income was cut off tomorrow, they would end up with virtually nothing.

So how do I set up a budget?

What you ideally need to do is review your current income and expenditure and put it into a spread sheet over a 12 month period. To get an accurate picture you should get around 3 to 4 months of your bank and credit card statements and record every item of expenditure – alcohol, fuel, groceries, haircuts the lot. Try to get it down to the last cent.

Importantly make sure you record the actual timing of when income comes in and when expenses are actually paid. For example if you pay your electricity quarterly then record the expense in the month it is due, don’t just spread the cost over 12 months. The reason you are doing this is so that you can see the peaks and troughs in your expenditure. You will probably find that you have a lot of expenses in some months and not as many in others.

People often find themselves short of cash because they spend up in the months when they don’t have many bills coming in, but then don’t have anything in reserve when the bills do arrive. 

Once you have done this, review it and make sure you haven’t missed anything. Also make sure you put in an allowance for holidays, birthdays, Christmas presents, and other occasions. It’s amazing how these can add up.

I guarantee if you haven’t done this before you’re in for a big shock. You will probably find you are spending far more in certain areas than you thought. You will probably also be surprised to see how much expenses such as insurance can add up.

Once you are sure you have recorded everything, you should then sit down and review your budget. What you are now looking for are areas you can cut back on or improve. This is going to be different for everyone but I guarantee in most cases there will be areas where you can make savings. Do you really need cable television? Could you cut back on takeaway? Is it worth shopping around for some competitive quotes on insurance?

Hopefully once you go through this process you should find that there is something left over from your income. If not you may need to go back and review your budget. If you already have a home loan or lending this may also be a case where it is worth reviewing your finances as a restructure may assist in reducing your expenses further.

Once you have completed this process you should have a clearer picture of the level of repayments you can comfortably afford.

Once you have your budget mapped out you can then adjust it along the way as your circumstances change. If another expense comes up you add it to your budget. In this way you can see where you are going and identify any potential trouble spots before they occur. If you could see that things were going to be a bit tight in two months time because of a number of bills coming up then you might curb your expenditure a little bit now to compensate.

Seeing what is coming in advance means you can make small adjustments along the way rather than being forced into drastic action.

Contact us to arrange a review of your home loan. You might be missing out on significant savings.

Greg Carroll is an expert on the area of finance with over 27 years experience in finance and business strategy. He is an active investor. Holds qualifications in Economics, and Finance and Investment. And has written a number of books in this area including The Property Investment Bootcamp, Home Loan Secrets and 17 Sins of Cashflow Management. 

This information is provided in good faith but is not intended to be comprehensive and does not constitute specific advice. The above information does not take into account individuals specific circumstances. MTA Finance Australia Pty Ltd accepts no responsibility or liability for anyone relying on this information. You should always seek independent advice in relation to your specific circumstances.