This article was created in partnership with Western Union.
Honoring commitments to family members back home while staying on top of your finances in Italy can be a tough balancing act, one that often involves trimming your budget as best as you can and finding efficient ways to send money home.
Here are four tips to create a budget that accounts for your needs and the needs of your loved ones.
1. Determine your financial obligations
The first step to creating a sound budget is determining your necessities. Which payments must you make every month? Which are more flexible? Some are fixed and thus easier to budget for — your rent or mortgage payment, for instance. But others, such as utilities, food, transportation and clothing, can vary from month to month. Keeping track of what you’re spending in these categories over the course of a few months or a year will give you a better sense of how much you need to set aside.
There’s also a good chance that you’re supporting family back home: According to the World Bank, migrants in Italy sent home over USD $10.7 billion in 2018, an increase from the previous three years. If you’re sending remittances home, it’s important to be on the same page as your loved ones regarding their financial commitments so that you can budget accordingly. Having a good understanding of your financial obligations will help you determine how much you can afford to send home each month.
2. Start building a financial cushion
Even the most budget-conscious can’t predict every expense: Unexpected costs inevitably crop up. Not surprisingly, some major expenses, such as a last-minute plane ticket home to visit a sick relative or attend an emergency surgery for a beloved pet, can drain your bank account if you’re not prepared. But it’s also true that minor expenses can negatively affect your finances, too. For example, The Local reported that the price of public transportation in bustling cities like Milan is steadily increasing. When each euro you earn is earmarked for a certain expense, these price increases can throw your budget off-kilter.
Your best bet is to start saving a small portion of your salary each month; consider it a necessity in your budget. Living far away from home and without access to family support provides even more of an incentive to save for an emergency. When you’re sending money home to help family, there’s also a good chance that your loved ones will experience unexpected costs as well. It’s not a question of whether it will happen, but when, and having an emergency fund stashed away can ease the burden when these situations occur.
Sometimes, it feels as if you'll never be able to keep pace with your various expenses, especially if you're supporting yourself and family back home.
3. Use inexpensive money transfer services
The rise of digital money transfer services has made it easier to send money home. But this increase in options can sometimes be more confusing than helpful: It takes time and effort to determine whether you’re getting the best exchange rate and paying the lowest fees. And when you’re trying to stretch your funds to cover your own living expenses and also take care of family back home, finding reliable ways to send money home is high on the list of priorities.
The Western Union® app can help you get the most from your money transfer. It allows you to check fees and rates before you send, and you can save your recipients’ details for quick repeat sending. The latter is particularly helpful if you’re working long hours and can’t take time off to visit the bank or a brick-and-mortar Western Union location.
4. Pay your bills in one place
Navigating the various utility companies in Italy isn’t easy, and it can be difficult to keep track of which bills are due when, especially when they follow irregular pay periods. One way to simplify this process is to pay your bills using the Western Union® app. The app not only makes payment swift and easy, but it also maintains a record of past payments all in one place. Having this financial data at your fingertips will help you streamline your budget and save time, which is invaluable when you’re juggling work and family needs.
Sometimes, it feels as if you’ll never be able to keep pace with your various expenses, especially if you’re supporting yourself and family back home. But with a few small changes — making a clear budget, building a financial cushion (even a small one) and finding the easiest way to transfer money and pay bills — you can begin to take back control over your finances.