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Managing your money using savings pots, jam jars or piggybanking

No matter what your income or financial situation, it makes sense to stay in control of how you spend your cash. The jam jar method (also known as piggybanking or using savings pots) involves dividing your money into separate pots for different expenses. It’s a great way to make sure your bills are covered and your money goes exactly where you want it to.

Before you start – make a budget

For the jam jar method to work, you first need to have a clear picture of how much money you have coming in and where it’s going each month or week.

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Choose your spending priorities

Next, look carefully at everything you spend money on – and decide which of them are ‘needs’ and which are ‘wants’:

  • Start by listing your needs – these are your rent or mortgage, and other essential bills such as gas and electricity.
  • When the basics are taken care of, look at your wants. These might be extras, such as going out and hobbies. Or they might be longer-term goals, such as paying off your debts or saving for Christmas.
  • If you can’t afford all your wants, you’ll have to decide which matter most to you or look at ways of cutting costs.
  • Imagine a jug filled with water that represents the money you have coming in each month. Now imagine some empty jam jars – one for each thing you need to pay for each month. Then decide how much money to put in each jar.
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Using real containers such as jam jars or envelopes

When you have a clear picture of your spending needs each month, it’s time to decide what type of container you’d like to use for your budgeting.

You can either use real containers, such as jam jars or envelopes, or set up separate bank accounts for each type of spending.

When budgeting using real containers, you take cash from the allocated jar to pay each bill as it comes in. You also do the same before you go shopping.

Try to stick to a rule of ‘when it’s gone, it’s gone’. For example, if your petrol jam jar is empty, don’t allow yourself to dip into your electricity jar instead.

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Pros
  • This method works well if your money comes in once a week but your bills are monthly. Putting money into a jar each week makes it easier to pay the bigger bills at the end of the month.

  • Having cash in containers reminds you how much you’re spending during the month – and so might help you spend less.

Cons
  • Paying for everything in cash isn’t always convenient.

  • You’ll need to be extra careful about security if you keep your entire weekly budget in the house.

  • You’ll miss out on the perks of paying bills by Direct Debit, such as cheaper tariffs and having your bills paid automatically.

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Using separate bank accounts for different types of spending

Instead of using containers, some people prefer to set up separate bank accounts to cover different types of monthly spending.

To help you work out how many accounts to open, group your needs and wants into just a few main areas – for example:

  • car
  • bills
  • rent or mortgage
  • emergency savings
  • Christmas and/or holidays.

When you’ve opened a separate account for each area of spending, you need to ask your bank to:

  • set up standing orders that automatically transfers money from your main account into these extra accounts one or two days after you’ve been paid
  • set up a Direct Debit for each of your bills.
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Pros
  • When your standing orders have been paid, you can spend from your main account without risking not having enough left for important monthly bills.

  • It’s a great way of spreading the cost of those once-a-year items like holidays, Christmas and car tax.

Cons
  • You’ll need to manage all your accounts carefully to make sure you stay in credit and don’t get fees or charges.

  • Opening multiple accounts might affect your credit score.

Choosing the right type of account

For both your main account and bills accounts, look for a current or basic account that allows you to set up Direct Debits and standing orders.

Also check that the bank doesn’t set a minimum amount of money that you have to pay into the account each month.

Comparison websites are a good starting point when trying to find a current account that best suits your needs.

Here are a few websites to compare current accounts:

Be aware that comparison websites won’t all give you the same results. So make sure you use more than one site before deciding.

It’s also important to research the type of product and features you need before making a purchase or changing supplier.

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Using a jam jar account

Jam jar accounts are designed to let you divide your money into different ‘jars’ within a single account.

Jam jar accounts normally work like this:

  • When money comes into your account, an agreed amount is set aside for essential bills.
  • These bills are then paid via Direct Debit or standing order.
  • The money left over is available for you to use, either on a pre-paid card or you can withdraw it from a cashpoint machine.
Pros
  • You only have to manage one bank account.

  • The account provider usually manages all your Direct Debits and standing orders for you.

  • These accounts sometimes come with budgeting advice.

Cons
  • You’re charged an administration fee of between £5 and £15 a month. However, some social housing landlords and councils have been working with credit unions to offer tenants current accounts with lower fees. If your landlord is one of them, they might pay the administration fee for you.

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Opening a jam jar account

Jam jar accounts aren’t widely available, but some credit unions offer them. To find your local credit union, visit these websites:

You can also search online for ‘jam jar accounts’ to see where you can get one and to compare different providers’ fees and services.

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MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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Looking for us? Now, we’re MoneyHelper

MoneyHelper is the new, easy way to get clear, free,
impartial help for all your money and pension choices.
Whatever your circumstances or plans, move forward with MoneyHelper.

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