If you’ve started 2019 determined to make the most of your money, here are nine quick tips you can do today:
1. Delete a direct debit
Look up your direct debits and standing orders, and zap any payments you no longer want or need. Sadly, you can’t just cancel household bills like Council Tax, electricity or water. But often there’s a payment for a magazine you no longer read, gym you no longer visit, or trial subscription you didn’t mean to continue. I’ve just cancelled my annual subscription for Norton Anti Virus protection, as I no longer need it for my new laptop.
2. Switch a bill
Pick one of the direct debits you can’t cancel, and check if you’re on a good deal.
Yes I know switching bills is beyond boring, but it’s big money saver. Just tackle one!
Dig out your bills, plug the info into a comparison website, then ring your current supplier to ask for a better offer. We finally cracked and bought my daughter a mobile phone for her birthday. A ‘mates rates’ promo deal meant it was cheaper to get her a Sim from Plusnet, rather than the Virgin version I use myself.
As an added bonus, if you do decide to switch supplier, take a quick look at cashback websites such as Quidco and TopCashback first. See if you could claim a chunk of cash back, by clicking through from Quidco or TopCashback and buying direct, rather than switching via a comparison website.
3. Plug a spending black hole
Get hold of your bank statements for the last couple of months, and actually look at your spending. Which repeat purchases zap your balance? Buying lunch? Coffee on the go? Little extras for your wardrobe / make up bag / garden? Even charity shop purchases add up.
Now plan which of your extra spending you’re going to stop during January, and how. Maybe you’ll need to get up early enough to have breakfast at home, carry a water bottle, stay out of the shops or take a different route to work. I’ve slipped into buying meal deals at the station when I make work trips to London, so I’ve resolved to get back into the routine of taking packed lunches instead.
4. Go on an unsubscribe spree
Check your email inbox. Go through marketing emails hitting ‘unsubscribe’, so you’re less tempted to spend. There will always be another sale, offer or voucher code – spend when you choose, not when a sneaky ad campaign arrives.
5. Target a debt
Any debts you want to decimate? Pick one, and make an overpayment today, even if it’s a tiny amount. Financially, it makes sense to start with the highest interest rate. Some find it more motivating to start with the smallest balance.
Whatever you choose, focus on clearing the debt, starting now. If you’ve shed overdrafts, credit cards and other loans, you might still want to chip away at your mortgage. Remember, overpaying even £20 a month on a 25-year £100,000 mortgage at 2% would save you £1,673 in interest and wipe out the debt a year and five months early. Larger overpayments on bigger loans can make a massive difference.
6. Set up a standing order to a savings account
Wish you had extra money to cope with Christmas credit card bills? Open a regular savings account today, so you’re all sorted for next year.
Regular savings accounts offer tempting interest rates on limited payments each month for a year. So for example, if you already have certain NatWest, First Direct or M&S Bank current accounts, you can open a regular savings account paying 5% interest a year. Monthly payments don’t have to be huge – between £1 and £250 with Nationwide, £25 to £250 with M&S Bank and £25 to £300 a month with First Direct.
Even £25 a month would add up to £300 next year, plus a dollop of interest on top. We maxed out the First Direct account we opened in January last year, so will get an extra £90 odd in interest.
Don’t want to commit to a regular payment? Download Chip, the automatic savings app. It scrutinises what you can afford to save, then transfers small amounts every few days into a savings account. Use code 4T0C9I and you’ll start at 1% interest. Refer friends and you can earn up to 5%, way better than most savings accounts on the market.
7. Find your why
Starting to flag? Think about why you’re doing this. What’s the big reason you want to make the most of your money? Perhaps necessity forces you to be frugal. But perhaps you’re raising funds for a holiday, deposit on a home, or the chance to ever quit your job. Focus on exactly why you want to save money, to strengthen your determination to stop unnecessary spending.
8. Tackle ‘that’ task
What’s that one financial task you’ve been meaning to do and keep putting off? Go on, we all have something we’ve been dreading.
Maybe you keep meaning to file your tax return, move mortgage, check your pension balance or finally start investing. Make a start today. It could well take less time than expected, and you’ll be so relieved when it’s done and dusted.
9. Start a spending diary
OK so this one might take a bit longer to pay off. But, starting today, write down everything you spend. Pen and paper, spreadsheet, notes on your phone – whatever you prefer. Just so long as you note down Every Single Thing. Once you know where your money disappears, you can start making changes!
Now – over to you. What have you done today to make the most of your money? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!
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