Tips for sorting out your personal finances.
There is a philosophy that says you should ‘spend a third, save a third, invest a third’. For most people this is unattainable but it is something to aspire to!
The last thing I want to do is tell people how to spend their money but if you are interested in spending a bit less or saving a little bit more or paying off debts here are some tips. Mostly common sense things that we’ve all heard before but sometimes we can all do with a reminder to get a grip on the situation.
Change your attitude towards spending your hard earned cash. Aim to consume less and cut unnecessary expenses. Place less value on material things and more on experiences.
If you’ve ever done a car boot sale you’ll know what an awful experience it is, standing in a damp field at 5am on a Sunday morning with people refusing to pay 50p for something that cost you £20 only a few months ago. A good thing to come of this awful experience is that it makes you look at things differently. When you go to purchase something, think ‘will this go in the car boot pile in a year’s time?’ If the answer is yes then you really don’t need it. It’s usually impulse buy decorative ornamental nick nacky cheap plasticky kids gimmicky toy type things that fall into this category.
Set financial goals for motivation – what are your priorities and what dreams do you want to turn into reality? Create a plan and make it happen.
Try to save something each month then aim to increase the amount every so often.
Track your spending, including the little things like Costa’s and newspapers as they really add up. Create a budget, then stick to it.
Go through every item of your expenses and try to reduce them where/when possible. For example never just renew insurances, always shop around. Change your mobile phone contract as soon as you are able, I changed mine from £37 per month to £11 per month for better usage allowance with the same provider. Our AA contract had gone up year on year, when it got to £230 (including our ‘valued customer discount’) we looked online to see they were offering the same deal to new customers for just £99. When we queried this with them they told us you should phone and cancel every year and then renew online to get the best deal.
Again, look at the little things, Costa’s – buy a flask, newspapers – get the Sky or BBC News apps and read the important stuff for free, everything else is pure trash (although I also have the ‘OK’ app to keep up to date with the trash/gossip). I don’t think I’ve ever bought a newspaper. I could go on and on with things like this and it depends on how much disposable income you have or how much you want to save. If you are seriously strapped for cash you can save loads on the little things.
Move your credit card balances to get better deals.
If you have debt you need to decide whether you should still save or put more into paying off the debt. The general rule of thumb is to first save an emergency fund and keep it for real emergencies. Then start paying off debts with the highest interest rates. If you are left with debts with interest rates of less than 5% it may be better to invest rather than pay off. If you have several debts it can be motivating to pay off the smallest ones first. As each debt is paid off use the money you are saving each month against the next debt to create a snowball effect. The more you get paid off, the more you have available to pay off the next debt.
Cancel any payments you no longer need – subscriptions, extended warranties, unused gym memberships.
Don’t pay for things twice, e.g., when you bought your freezer did they sell you extra insurance to cover your freezer contents if it breaks down, this is usually covered on your home insurance.
Don’t be afraid to change your current account even if it’s with the same bank, it’s not as difficult to do as you may think. Try to get a better deal for your circumstances, e.g., I pay £2 per month for my account but I get back around £12 per month in cash back (partly because my mortgage is with the same bank and I get cash back on the mortgage payments). But beware if you regularly go overdrawn this type of account can be very expensive. It has to suit your circumstances.
Check your savings accounts interest rates, including ISAs. Banks are forever lowering the rates for existing accounts and then bringing out new accounts with higher rates. It’s usually really easy to stay with the same bank but just switch to their latest offering.
Just one final point, a friend of ours is a mortgage advisor and he is on a crusade against payday loans. We all know they cost a fortune if you don’t repay in time but what you may not know is that even if you repay every penny on time it will seriously dent your credit rating. If you try to apply for a mortgage after you have had one of these loans, most banks will not touch you with a barge pole because you are deemed to be not very good with your finances if you have had to resort to that type of loan. It is stereotyping people and unfair if you did repay on time but that is how it is.