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It's the question every keen budgeter wants to know at the start of a month: how much do I have left once I've covered my bills and other essential expenses?

Money left after bills - also known as your discretionary income - is basically your financial 'buffer' for the month. It's money you can fall back on if anything unexpected comes up, as well as money for spending on one or two luxuries.

But recent research by Lloyds TSB found that one in five consumers have nothing left in their bank account once they've covered their essentials - meaning they could find themselves in real trouble if anything unexpected came up.

Furthermore, income continued to grow at a slower rate than inflation in January - 2.6%, compared with 3.6% inflation. In effect, people's incomes actually grew by just 1.5%, Lloyds TSB said.

Patrick Foley, chief economist at Lloyds TSB, commented: "Despite recent price cuts for domestic energy, consumers are still faced with an increasing spend on household bills as many cuts have yet to filter through to monthly payments. As a result, despite more positive signs for the economy, many households are yet to feel any benefit, although this should change over the coming months."

An expert at thinkmoney said: "Clearly, many people are still struggling financially. Inflation is still almost double the Government's target, although it is falling - so we may see some of the pressure on people's finances start to ease in the near future.

"Some people may find that a bit of careful budgeting can help to free up a bit more money each month. For people who struggle to plan their finances, there are bank accounts that can help them do this."

The thinkmoney Current Account helps account holders budget with a two-account system. At the start of each month, money for bills and other essentials is put into one account, leaving the account holder with money they know is safe to spend.

Quick and easy to apply

Apply for a thinkmoney Current Account today.

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