We have teamed up with Emma Maslin from The Money Whisperer blog to find out about the best ways to budget and save in 2018.
Let’s be honest, managing your finances isn’t exactly riveting and it can be difficult to motivate yourself to decide where to start. Taking control of your money situation is often the last thing we think about doing when we have a free moment.
However, poor financial habits need to be turned around as a priority and the new year is as good a time as any to kick yourself in to gear to review your position and make some positive changes. The third Friday in January is affectionately known as ‘Fail Friday’. It’s the day by which most New Year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside.
The thing about diets or exercise regimes is that you actually have to keep at them day by day. Interestingly, it is so much easier to keep to your money new years resolutions because often you only need to make a decision and act on it, or complete an action once. Once you have taken this small step, it then becomes part of your lifestyle and how you go about your day to day life. I’m going to show you here how some small one-off changes, as well as some ongoing ones too, can have an enduring impact.
Knowledge is power and if you know how much you can afford to spend and save each month, you’re on track to better your life. Which is why a budget can be so useful.
If I said write down all your income and outgoings as the starting point for pulling together a budget, I imagine I’d lose some people straight away! Nowadays though, there are some great apps and websites available which give you amazing insights in to your finances without much effort on your behalf. Gone are the days of out of date paper statements – you can get some great real-time information on your smart phone. This makes it incredibly simple to change your money habits and get on track to a more prosperous future.
I imagine that most people wouldn’t be able to answer how much they spent on groceries last year, or whether they spent more on petrol than on clothing. Now you can with a great app called Money Dashboard. Once downloaded, you add your bank accounts and credit cards (the app requires read only access to these). Money Dashboard then automatically tags and displays up to three months’ worth of your recent transactions and shows you exactly where your money goes. Using this information, handily presented using colourful graphs, you can plan for the future and stay on track using the budgeting tool. It keeps track of how much of your nominated budget you are using so you can see if you need to be stricter at the end of the month!
Automate your savings…..
Now if you have a better idea of what you are spending, you can plan how to increase your savings too.
- Decide how much you want to save monthly and set up a standing order from your current account to a savings account ON PAY DAY. This is the most effective way to make sure you save – by paying yourself first, before any of your other outgoings. Also, if you pay yourself on the first day of the month rather than transferring any spare funds at the end of the month, you benefit from a full month’s extra interest which is an added bonus too.
- Plum is a great tool which runs through Facebook Messenger. It works in a similar way to Money Dashboard, in that it uses artificial intelligence to analyse the ins and outs of your bank account, but it then works out affordable amounts for you to save without even noticing it! You can save and withdraw your money simply by telling the bot on messenger what you would like to do. It also gives you regular updates about your spending and bank balance. It’s such a handy tool.
Don’t auto-renew anything….
- Energy bills and insurance make up a huge amount of our annual outgoings. Spend some time pulling together the renewal dates for all your utility contracts, telephone, broadband and insurance contracts. When the renewal notice comes through, never auto-renew.
- Always use a comparison site to ensure you are getting the best deal when it comes to renewing contracts. There are lots out there – uSwitch, Compare the Market, Money Supermarket. All you need is a current statement and your historic usage/premium.
- Firstly, find out the best price being offered for you as a current customer. Then run the search but as if you are a brand new customer, with both your current provider and other providers. Once you have an idea of the best deal out there, give your provider a call and ask them if they can match the best deal. With utilities especially, you can expect to save hundreds of pounds a year for a little investment of your time.
Prepare for a rate rise…..
We’ve had years of historically rock-bottom interest rates and with the backdrop of an interest rate rise in 2017, it makes sense to prepare for further increases.
- Never just pay the minimum payment on your credit card – pay off as much as you can afford each month.
- Check out Habito, the online mortgage broker, to see if you could benefit from a better mortgage deal, especially if you are currently on your mortgage provider’s standard variable rate, or coming to the end of your current fixed deal. If you swap to a lower rate, use the extra money saved each month to overpay your mortgage; you potentially save yourself thousands of pounds in interest and reduce your mortgage term significantly at the same time.
- Shop around for the best rates for your savings. There is rarely a loyalty bonus for staying with your bank and many offer substantial new customer bonuses if you move over your current account and a couple of direct debits.
Boost your pension savings….
It’s never too early to think about retirement. With the state pension currently paying out £122.30 per week, you will be wise to have another source of retirement income if you want to retire in comfort.
- If you are not yet enrolled in your company’s pension scheme, don’t miss out on free money – sign up! The government tops up any contribution you make, plus your employer will also make contributions.
- If you think you may have lost track of any old pensions, use the pension tracing service to get in touch with old employers’ pension funds.
- Thinking about combining your pensions in to one pot? Take a look at PensionBee, an innovative site where you can combine multiple pensions in to one place, see your current pot size, your projected retirement income, and set up regular or one-off contributions with just a few clicks.
Emma aims to empower people to make good financial choices over at her blog The Money Whisperer. She covers topics ranging from the best ways to save money for your children, through to what happens if you die without a will. A busy mum of two, Emma shares easy tips to save money, make money and transform how you view your personal finances. She believes that getting in control of your finances and money mindset isn’t hard if you put your mind to it but it really can change your life.
‘Being in control of your finances and making the most of the money you have means you can enjoy life to the full. And you only live once…..’.