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Save Smart, Spend Smart – Learning to Budget in Maths

By Sophie Gallagher in HSC
3rd of March 2021

But when will I actually ever use this? The question that plagues all Maths teachers, and one that I often asked my own teacher! When will I actually use all of these complex formulas and obscure pieces of knowledge, excluding a classroom or exam hall?

One of my favourite aspects of the Standard Maths syllabus is it’s numerous real-life applications. As I gained casual employment in Year 11, I began to learn the value of responsible financial management, and saw the connection between what I was learning in the classroom and what I was learning in regards to having my own money.

It was the budgeting and household expenses unit (F1.3 in the Year 11 syllabus) that inspired me to create my own income and expenses tracker. For the last two years, it has helped me greatly to manage my own expenses, and keep track of the money that I’m saving.

So how do you set up your own income and expenses tracker?

1. Figure out what needs to be tracked

Determine your sources of income and your common expenses. I would suggest a row for your casual employment and one for miscellaneous income, such as birthday money. Next, what are you spending money on? Food, entertainment, retail and transportation will likely be your main expenses, but consider things such as gifts, charity, fees or petrol as well. See the figure as an example:

2. Create a savings goal

Once you have a decent idea of what your income and expenditure looks like, set yourself a monthly goal. Whilst living at home and in high school, it would be amazing to aim to save approximately 60% of your income (you definitely need some spending money left over!) If you have certain expenses that make this difficult, simply aim to put away a specific amount a month despite fluctuations in your income. Having a savings goal that you track incentivises you to accept those extra shifts, and can prevent you from making spur of the moment purchases that you may later regret.

Each month, simply note down how much you earned, how much you spent, and how much you saved.

3. Keep up with it!

The most important part of this process: keeping up with your tracker. I have my online banking app on my phone, and keep my expenses tracker in an excel spreadsheet on my laptop. Everyday, I sit down with my phone and laptop and update my expenses. As for cash purchases, keep the receipt or pop a note in your phone so that you don’t forget to enter them as well (they’re very easy to forget!). Trust me, once you fall behind by even just a week, you’ll lose the motivation to keep up with it. It takes an average of 66 days to form a habit, so keep up with it!

Above all else, enjoy the independence that comes with casual employment, and remember that spending a reasonable amount of money is ok! For many people, casual work is a lifesaving source of balance during the HSC. Not only will a casual job give you that financial independence and set you up well for the future, but it provides you with an amazing and productive study break. Whether it’s a gap year, graduation trip or some new shoes you really want, save for the future, you’ll thank yourself for it!

See below for a downloadable Expenses and Income tracker, created by yours truly!