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If you’re feeling the pinch after an expensive festive season, now is the perfect time to start revising your current finances and begin to make plans for the new year. Managing your finances more effectively is easier than you think, with just a few small changes, you can put yourself in a much stronger financial position to face the year ahead.

  1. Organise your Current Finances

    The best way to start your new plan is to organise and understand your current finances. It’s a good idea to set out clearly what you earn, what you owe, what you save, and what you spend. This way, you will be able to work out exactly what you spend and what you have spare each month.

    You can do this easily by printing out your last few months’ bank statements as they will show all of your income and expenditure. Then, it is a good idea to highlight all of the expenses you can’t save on, like rent/mortgage payments and bills, so you can see clearly what your total ‘certain’ costs are.

    Then, do the same with all of your other expenses; living costs, financial products (insurances), travel and leisure, so you can give yourself a full understanding on where your money goes each month. Once you know this, you will be able to start sorting out areas where you can save money.

  2. Cancel Unused Subscriptions/Memberships

    It’s not unusual to have a few expenses that manage to keep going unnoticed each month, especially when they automatically leave your account in a direct debit. I am guilty myself of having a 6 month gym contract that was never used!

    If you’ve noticed that you have a few expenses, other examples could be magazine subscriptions that you no longer read or monthly subscription boxes, you will be surprised at how much they can add up to over a few months. Being realistic and strict with yourself and only paying for the things you actually use and enjoy will cut down a lot of money wastage.

  3. Change Vehicle Insurance Providers

    Most of us own a vehicle of some kind which needs insurance paid for on a monthly basis (if you choose to pay it monthly, rather than annually). A lot of people stick with the same insurance provider year after year, simply because it’s the easiest option. What a lot of people don’t know is that you can often get a cheaper premium if you switch to a different provider, especially if your financial circumstances have changed.

    Some providers will offer attractive deals to new customers, or, they may just simply be cheaper because they look at things differently – and you may have never heard of them! Using comparison sites such as Gocomapre.com is often the best way to find the cheapest deals.

    You can switch to a new provider at any time, you don’t have to wait for your current policy to expire.

    I would recommend checking for better deals on a yearly basis, especially if you haven’t made any claims on your insurance throughout the year. But you should also check when you have a change in personal or financial circumstances, such as:

    • Marital Status
    • Home ownership
    • Education
    • Employment
    • New car
    • Credit score improvement

    I can’t guarantee that any of these will make massive changes to your rates, but it’s definitely worth a look.

  4. Balance Transfer your Credit Card

    If you have some debt build up on your credit cards which you’re paying a lot of interest on, then it might be worth transferring some, or all, of the balance onto a different credit card which has cheaper rates. You can find cards that are specifically designed for this purpose called a balance transfer card.

    A lot of balance transfer cards offer 0% interest for an introductory period (sometimes up to 6 or 9 months) which will benefit you as you will be able to start paying off the actual credit card balance, not just the interest.

    After the 0% introductory period, the rates will increase to the standard rate, so make sure you know what this will be, and that it is cheaper than your current card.

    Top Tips:

    Try not to make any purchases on the credit card you have transferred the balance to, as you will normally be charged the standard credit card rate (unless you have a deal on that too) which will just be adding to the debt you already have.

    You will normally be charged a fee for the processing costs when transferring the balance which may seem expensive upfront, so, it is important to work out how much you will be saving in the long-run by paying less interest, and whether this is more than the total fees. The fee will normally depend on the amount you are transferring.

    Most credit card providers will try to sell you fraud protection and other types of credit card insurance. The benefits of this is unlikely to be worth the extra money as you are already protected, to a certain extent, under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. So, only spend the money if you are 100% sure that the extra protection is something you need.

  5. Change your Bank Account

    Some banks charge a monthly fee for some types of bank accounts, If this is something you are paying, it will be beneficial to have a look around to see what other banks are offering. You may find a bank offering cheaper fees, or none at all, depending on what type of account you want to open.

    Some banks will offer new customers attractive interest rates, as well as some even offering you a bonus upfront for simply opening an account with them.

    This may not make you any huge savings upfront, but would be beneficial to you in the long-run if you are able to gain better interest and cheaper fees.

  6. Switch Home Phone and Broadband Suppliers

    You may find that if you stick with your current home phone and broadband provider, your bills could increase if you just let your contract roll over. However, switching providers is likely to give you much cheaper rates, saving you money all year on household bills. Using comparison sites will show you which providers will be able to offer you the cheapest price for your usage - make sure you only accept a deal which covers what you need so don’t end up over paying! Your current provider will be able to tell you this information.

    The length of time it will take to switch will depend on what providers you are switching from and to – but you shouldn’t be without connection for long, if at all, so the small inconvenience will be worth the saving.

    If you are still unsure about switching, try phoning your current provider instead. If you’re lucky, you should be able to haggle with them to bring down your price a bit – especially if you are overpaying for your usage anyway.

  7. Pay Yourself First

    I think a really good method of saving money is to set up a direct debit from your current account into a savings account for the same day as when you get paid each month. You should set it to an amount that you know you can afford so you will be less likely to notice that the money has gone. By doing this, you will be saving money without even having to think about it.

    This can be an emergency fund for unexpected expenses, for example car or home repairs, which could end up putting you in debt if you don’t have the money readily available and need to take out a loan to cover the cost.

  8. Check your Mobile Phone Contract

    Mobile phone contracts can be very expensive, especially if you have a brand new model of phone. However, a lot of us end up paying for more than we actually use. There’s no point taking out a contract with an ‘unlimited data’ deal and paying more for something if you’re not going to use it. If you contact your provider, they will be able to tell you exactly what your mobile phone usage is; including minutes, texts and data. Then you will be able to choose a contract that’s tailored to you.

    Also, if you are someone who uses your mobile phone more rarely, it might be worth thinking about a pay-as-you-go deal instead of a monthly contract. This way, you will only be paying for exactly what you use each month which should make it much cheaper for you. It will also mean you are not tied into a contract so you can change your phone and switch to a contract, if you think that would be better for you, whenever you want.

  9. Text Alerts from your Bank

    A good way to keep track of your spending is to set up text alerts with your bank. By doing this you will get notified when you either; get close to your limit (when your balance falls below £50), you have started using your overdraft and you are being charged, if you don’t have enough money in your account to pay a standing order or direct debit (they will give you time to transfer money into your account, if you can), and when your balance has gone down to £0. Doing this will enable you to effortlessly keep an eye on your accounts and keep track of your spending. It will also prevent you from going into your overdraft without realising, saving you from facing charges.

    Most major banks offer these services and you can set it up through your online banking account, in branch, or over the phone.

    (This information was taken from Lloyds bank, alternative banks may differ).

Bigger Steps…

If you're looking into making some even bigger changes to your finances, there are a couple of steps you can take:

  1. Re-mortgaging

    Re-mortgaging your home could seem like a huge step to take, but, it could potentially make you huge savings if you find the right deal.

    If you have been on the same variable rate mortgage for a long period of time, you may not be paying the best interest rates available to you. By re-mortgaging with a different lender, you will be likely to benefit from cheaper interest rates and various introductory deals. Most lenders offer deals for the first 2-5 years of the loan term, whether that’s a fixed, capped, or discounted rate. Once this period has ended, the interest rates will go back to the lender’s standard variable rate, so, of course you want to make sure you choose a lender that has a cheaper rate than your current one.

    There a few upfront costs involved with re-mortgaging your home, such as exit and administration fees, but if you compare the costs with the money you will be saving on interest, it should prove cheaper in the long-run.

    Or, if you don’t want to go through the process of re-mortgaging, it will be worth contacting your current lender and asking them to lower their rates for you, especially if you have already found cheaper rates elsewhere. Not all lenders will do this for you, but most will want to keep you as a customer so will probably try to help.

    It will be worth getting independent financial advice if this is something you are looking to do. This will make sure you are doing the right thing and that you are getting the best deal.

  2. Get a Lodger

    This may not always be a popular option with a lot of people, but if you have a spare room, it may be worth thinking about getting in a lodger who will pay you monthly rent. You could have a friend who’s looking for a place to stay, or you can publicly advertise the room – it depends what you’re comfortable with.

    If you do this, the rent would be an extra source of income for you, which should help to cover the cost of bills and food.

 

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