Spring clean your finances
Some people go years without giving their finances a bit of a spring clean but, just like your home, we’d all benefit from a bit of regular housekeeping.
Don’t put your head in the sand: be aware of your own financial situation, sign up for weekly emails from a website like Martin Lewis’ excellent Money Saving Expert, and make money management a habit.
Here are some key areas to look at. Why not try tackling them one at a time - you could find yourself significantly better off as a result.
Be aware of what rate you’re on, and when that comes to an end. It’s worth checking to see if you can get a better deal, especially if you’re on a standard variable rate. The shorter deals usually have the lowest interest rates but you have got to think about the fees you’re paying.
In short, don’t be sucked in by the headline rate: do your sums (Money Saving Expert will help here)
CREDIT CARDS/ LOANS
Pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. If you are paying the normal APR on outstanding balances look to transfer to a 0% deal. Some people are wary about having credit cards but, wisely managed, they can actually improve your credit rating. It’s always useful to know your credit score - try signing up to one of the websites that provide your report for free every month.
Try switching for a better deal. At the end of the day, it’s the same gas and electricity - the only thing that changes is who sends you the bill. It’s worth considering deals with no exit penalty charges.
Always, always shop around for things like home and car insurance. Don’t leave it until the last minute and let your policy auto renew without comparing prices.
Put simply, loyalty doesn’t always pay.
LOYALTY/ REWARD SCHEMES
Make the most of any supermarket reward cards and other loyalty schemes. Some bank accounts also offer cash-back rewards.
Look for decent rates on your accounts if you’re in a position to save. The account you’ve had your nest egg in for ages may not necessarily be its best home. Consider tax-free ISAs, and try and get into the habit of putting something away regularly, even if that’s only a small amount.
Can you reduce the cost of your contract? Check your bills to see what you’re using each month. It might make sense to use free wi-fi instead of having big data bundle packages.
Don’t impulse buy: ask yourself, “Do you need it? Will you use it? Can you get it cheaper anywhere else?”
The weekly grocery shop can really eat into budgets. Try making a list, and check that supermarket “BOGOF” deals really are worth it.
USwitch cost comparison website
Paul Cunningham is LionHeart’s financial support officer.