I hate to fall into the stereotype - it's difficult not to as a 25-year-old, living and working in London - but my budgeting can be a little rusty sometimes.
I work at Neyber in the content team and when I heard that we were going to be doing a piece on the 5:2 diet for your finances I knew I had to give it a go.
If you're anything like me, simply looking at what you've got to spend each month and visualising a budget isn't effective in helping control spending. It's often the little mental hacks and methods that help me put some structure into saving money, so felt like this could be the answer for me.
With that in mind I chose to take on the true 5:2 diet, where you calculate your daily spend allowance for the month, after all necessary expenses (bills, rent etc), and then put that daily figure into savings two days out of every week, on your 'fasting' days.
The reverse 5:2 is a bit beyond my budgeting skills and I'm not quite ready for the new 5:2. So here's what I've learnt so far ...
The fasting days are actually easy
After some planning, getting my meals prepped and travel paid for, the two days where I didn't spend anything were actually quite easy, as I could stick to it for one day at a time.
What I found more tricky was budgeting for the rest of my time and making sure I didn't eat into the savings I made on my fasting days. If I felt I was going over, I would fast for a third day to make up for it. I wanted my 5 days off not to feel like budgeting at all, so I tried to cater for last minute plans as much as I could.
Apps are a great help
I've got a Monzo account which keeps track of your total spending each day, which helps you to stick to that limit. This stops lousy mental maths making you go over on your spending. Plenty of other cards and accounts offer this option and it's a great way to keep track of spending for the long term as well.
You can also now block your spending with certain retailers or certain categories of spending, so if you know you have one issue area that always catches you out (my daily coffee is definitely one for me) then you can shut off your card for those weak spots.
Factor in travel
For me, this part wasn't an issue as I pay for my monthly travel card as soon as my pay comes in. If you're running a car you may want to think about when you buy petrol. If you pay for travel daily, you need to factor to this in as an expense before you calculate your daily allowance and keep it seperate from the money you assigned to save on your fasting days.
Try to curb the treats
I have to be honest and say I'm quite bad with treating myself to little things here and there, but I didn't realise until doing the diet how much these little extras were costing me.
After a particularly long day at work, dinner from deliveroo felt like the perfect treat. These little treats definitely had to go, not just on my fasting days but pretty much in general now that i know how much they eat into my paycheck.
I proved to myself I could do it
As someone who starts the month with the greatest intentions to later have them dashed by another unexpected expense, I was so proud of myself to see some genuine savings.
This is my first job and first time living completely independently, so to have some money saved really felt good. This feeling only gave me more motivation to keep going and showed me that even I could learn how to budget effectively.
Generally, I found this money diet the most successful attempt at budgeting I've ever made. It's a simple way of mentally separating your cash from what you can spend and what you can't.
Whilst I won't do it forever, because we all like to have a little fun, I will do it whenever I can and hopefully grow my savings into something I can really be proud of. If you think it could work for you then give it a go.