We need money for everything: to eat, to keep warm and generally live. But what’s the point in earning money if you can’t use some of it to have a little fun. And, more importantly, ensure you’re doing what you want in life? Whether you want to pursue a hobby, go on a night out, get a takeaway, or go on a lavish holiday, you need money to help you achieve it. Sharing our own personal experience, and gathering top tips we’ve come across, we show you how you can get your finance in order.
Managing your accounts
Years ago I started analysing how I bank as a way to better manage money. My bank manager at the time suggested a basic four account system, which, to this day, I still stick to. I found it a better way to manage my money and keep track of my finances. Importantly, my financial records have never looked better.
The four account banking system:
Current account number 1- The bills account
This is the account your salary/income should come into and your expenses (such as debt and utility bills) should come out of.
Current account number 2- The spending account
This is your spending account. This is the card that I carry on me at all times and is the money I can do what I like with.
Easy access saving account- Reserved money account
To further manage money, the cash I have available once my bills are paid (all pre-determined), is transferred into this account and as and when I need money I transfer into the spending account. This is particularly beneficial for shopping on a budget. When I am going shopping, I set a budget and transfer that amount into the spending account.
Although you can transfer money when you’re out and about, you’ll be surprised by how much hassle it is when you don’t have good internet access and no time to stop. Transferring a budget into the ‘spending’ account before going out encourages you to stick to it.
High interest/ISA account- Savings account
It’s always a good idea to save, even if only a little with each paycheck. Set aside a set amount each month to transfer into your high interest account and treat it like a no-access allowed account. It can be your emergency fund for when something crops up unexpectedly or it could be used for that dream vacation- whatever you want/need it for.
Personally, I think it’s best to have all your accounts under one roof as it saves remembering multiple usernames and passwords and it’ll also be an easy go-to for a one stop review of your financial situation.
The only exception to this rule would be your high interest savings account. If you’re not able to see your savings account when logging into your other accounts, you’re more likely to forget its there/not realise its true value and therefore not eat into it when something unessential pops up and the temptation is there to spend it.
Take interest in your interest
Now is the time to review your financial obligations and pay particular attention to the amount of interest you’re paying on your loans. The interest rate (usually stipulated as a percentage), is the agreed rate you’re borrowing from a lender. This is generally where the lender makes their money and it’s often a substantial amount, particularly over the life of a loan. Here’s what to look for:
If you have debts hanging over your head and you’re keen for them to go, focus on paying off the debts with the highest interest first. Be weary of;
Lots of loans with an agreed interest come with early repayment penalties. So, if you’re keen for it to disappear, see if there is a way around that. In some instances it is possible for you to clear the debt up to the final payment amount stipulated in the contract, and when the ‘final’ payment comes out the following month the debt will be clear without any penalties. Before doing this, check with your provider to see what the ramifications will be, if any.
Shop around for the best deals
This applies to both credit and savings. Before taking any credit or signing up to a new account, determine what the rates of interest are. Comparison sites offer an easy and effective way for you to get the best interest rates first time. We’d even suggest shopping around on existing credit cards you may have to see if you can get a better rate elsewhere.
0% balance transfers are attractive deals. Though shop around for the best deals as there is always an administrative charge to do the transfer. Once you’ve transferred the balance, consider how much you need to pay each month to clear the balance at the end of the deal and stick to that amount, otherwise come the end of the promotion and you’re left with a balance that you’ll need/want to transfer again or you’ll start to pay interest.
Make an appointment to see a financial advisor and see if they can help reduce your monthly repayments by switching to a lower interest rate. This should be something done every time you’re due to come out of your fixed/contract term.
Becoming an avid saver
Saving can be a real challenge, here’s our top tips and tricks to save those pennies:
- If you take up a four account system as above, set up a direct debit for your savings account to move money into it on each payday- it’ll be like you never had it in the first place. Specialists recommend a minimum of 6 months salary in savings to cover you should you find yourself unemployed- perhaps a third savings account would be beneficial for this.
- Penny a day challenge: You can save £670 in a year by putting away a penny a day. The idea is you double the pennies from the previous day. E.g. 1st of January 1p, 2nd of January 2p, 100th day of the year £1.00, day 365 you put in £3.65. By the end of the year, you’ll have saved £670 with pretty minimal effort.
- Sell on the things you no longer need or want. Prepare a pile to do a carboot with, recycle your technology for cash, get on Amazon and sell, or list items on local buy, sell and swap sites. You’ll clear your house of the clutter you no longer need and make money on your pre-loved items.
Save money on everything
Save on bills
Renewing your bills and insurances with your current providers is an easy option, we’ve all done it. But more often than not, especially when it comes to car insurance, their premiums often shoot up when it comes to renewals. You could therefore be paying more to stay with your current provider. Shop around for the best deal through comparison sites. Even just doing a single search with a single company is more likely to save you money. Just before you sign off on your new policy that you’re getting a like for like service for peace of mind.
Topcashback and Quidco offer you the chance to earn cashback on everyday shopping including household bills. You could save hundreds, even thousands in a year! It’s a habit you’ll need to get into but well worth it- I’ve got over £500 in cashback so far!
The sites are free to sign up to but may have annual fees. TopCashBack have a basic account that is free and another that charges £5 per year. This just sits on the account and clears once you’ve reached the £5 cashback in savings, everything on top of that is yours to keep, it in no way affects your credit scores.
Services you pay for
Do you currently have breakdown, travel insurance and phone insurance as separate policies? You could save yourself a pound or two by taking out a paid for account with a bank and still receive these same services.
The supermarket cards are pretty impressive. Whether you use it for money off your shopping (a saviour at Christmas!) or towards a day out, or items for the home, getting rewards for your weekly shop is brilliant. We particularly love the Tesco Clubcard for nights out/day trips.
Meals and days out
Never pay on the gate ticket prices- you’ll always pay so much more. Look out for offers on Groupon for days out and even holidays, cereal boxes for discounted park entry and even on the sites directly for advance purchase discounts. If you don’t mind eating early, book a table at your favourite (and discover new ones) with First Table– you pay £5 for the first table with and get 50% off your food bill.
Ensure you’re getting the best deals out there by doing a little research first. Our guide to finding the best holiday deals is well worth a read too – we talk you through the different travel agents and how you can spot a good deal.
Using a travel agent is a super easy option and takes all the stress out of booking a holiday and although sometimes they can secure the best deals, most of the time it isn’t the case. With sites such as skyscanner, trivago and booking.com you can go on the holiday you’ve dreamed of for a lot less.
Does one your colleagues live in the same area as you? Save money and be good to the environment, it’s a win-win. If you don’t have a colleague in your office, what about the building or surrounding buildings? Why not send an email out offering a car-share scheme. You may also make a new friend in the process.
Your credit ratings affects your ability to obtain credit. Simple as. Banks and other lenders when doing a credit search on you, request information based on your previous borrowings and your ability to meet your agreements. Although it’s not the single criteria when choosing whether or not to lend to you, it clearly makes a difference, here’s our top tips to getting a better credit score:
Meet your monthly repayments
Simple. A missed payment can stay on your record for up to six years. That’s a pretty long time. If your missed payment is a case of circumstance, e.g. there was a problem with your salary being paid into your bank, get on to the phone to your service provider (whoever you’ve missed the payment with) and explain the situation. They’ll usually arrange to take the payment on another day and you’ll not hear another word about it and it’ll have no effect on your record. If it’s something else, it may well be worth seeking financial advice.
Take out credit
This is an odd one. The point of a credit score is so that lenders can check on your ability to repay your debts. If you’ve not got much of a history, they’ve not much to go on and there’s every chance you could be refused on this basis. Strange, we know. Head to Money Saving Expert for tips on building a credit record.
Taking too much credit
There is such a thing, especially if you’re opening accounts one after the other. It doesn’t look good and is terrifying to a lender. Before applying for any credit, really consider and budget for how much you need.
Don’t take payment breaks
Some lender providers offer the opportunity to take a break on your repayments, particularly mortgages. Avoid doing this at all costs. It seems like a good idea and if things are particularly strenuous, it’s an option available, however, the interest that you didn’t pay during that break gets added to the balance of the mortgage and your monthly payments will increase. When you consider that increase over the remaining term of the mortgage, it mounts up to an awful lot.
Paying in full
Another odd one. Paying your credit card balance in full every month can actually reflect badly on you. Don’t forget the interest they charge is where they make their money, if a lender doesn’t see you as profitable, they may decide not to lend to you.
Know what the credit score includes
Utility bills, phone bills, and car insurance (if taken out monthly) are some of the least unknown items that flag up on a credit score as well as mortgages, loans and credit cards. If taking out any kind of repayment plan it’s likely you’ll have a credit check done on you and that policy stamps on your credit record for at least 6 years.
Other financial considerations
Set up a pension
If you don’t have a pension scheme already set up, do so now. Money Saving Expert can answer all of your pension questions. Whatever your beliefs on pensions is, it’s always savvy to start saving for the future as soon as you possibly can, even if it’s just £20/£25 a month. You’ll want to make sure you get the safest investments possible and although pensions have a bit of a bad rep, this is down to investment based pensions, so do plenty of research to keep your money and future safe.
Get a will in order
It’s one of those things we really don’t want to think about but if you’re married, have children, even just cohabiting but in a stable, committed relationship, you need to get a will in order. Just so everyone is clear.
If you’ve debts of any kind
Get life insurance in order. This will protect your loved ones in the event of your death. As a minimum, ensure the policy amount (the amount they’ll pay out on your death), covers debts outstanding. A decreasing plan is usually better but research what is best for your circumstance. As and when your financial circumstances change, e.g. you move house- review your plan and see if you can get a better offering elsewhere.
Always read the fine print. Check what the policy covers and what it doesn’t, look into critical health and other clauses/benefits of the policy before agreeing. Take full advantage of any cool off period by reviewing the policy in full when you’ve committed, if it doesn’t meet your needs, you’ll be able to cancel it without any penalties.
Schedule your direct debits
Make managing your financial obligations easier by managing the payment dates of your direct debits. We suggest picking a date close to your payday as it’ll allow you to keep better track of your money
We hope this has been a helpful introduction to managing your finances. If you’re looking for more advice and tips when it comes to Money Matters, you may find the below of interest.