Spring clean your finances
Now is a good time to spring clean your finances. Heck, we might even have some nice spring weather before too long!
You should start your financial spring clean by working out where you stand financially. Get out your financial paperwork and try to answer these three questions:
How much money do you have?
How much debt do you have?
Are you spending more than you earn?
The first two questions may not take too long to answer – it depends on how much paperwork you have. The third question could take longer. Especially if you’re someone who doesn’t keep an accurate record of your spending
If you haven’t been keeping a record, don’t worry just make a big effort to start now. Try to note all your spending for the next month, right down to a Mars bar. Then in a month’s time, you’ll be able to see where your money is going and hopefully you’ll be able to see some areas where you could cut back.
If you don’t have a spending record right now, don’t’ worry. You can still get cracking on your financial spring clean today.
Let’s start with the painful, but very important subject of debt.
If you have any debt beyond a mortgage, perhaps a loan or some credit card debt, you should try to focus on paying off this debt as quickly as possible.
It’s also really important that you pay as low an interest rate on your debt as possible. If you’re paying a low interest rate, a greater proportion of your debt repayments will go to actually paying down your debt rather than on interest payments.
So try to convert high-interest debts into low-interest debts if you can.
Moving onto mortgage debt, if you have a tracker mortgage you’re probably paying a pretty low interest rate on your mortgage at the moment, if you don’t have a tracker, there’s no harm in seeing if you could get a lower rate than what you’re paying.
Finally, if you’re really struggling to pay off your debts, you could get free advice from MABS or your local fees Free Financial Broker. You may find that your debt situation isn’t quite as bad as you thought.
Cut your spending
Cutting your spending makes sense for most of us. Even if you’re already spending less than you earn, some spending cuts could boost your savings, and that’s well worth doing as life expectancy gets longer and longer.
The easy mistake with all these bills is to sign up for an attractive new deal and then forget about when that deal expires. If you don’t keep track of where you stand with all these suppliers, you could be automatically renewed onto much less attractive tariffs a year or two down the line.
Boost your income
You could also think about whether there are any ways you could boost your income. That could mean trying to get a second job or on a smaller scale you could start using the cashback websites.
Use your tax breaks and credits
Make sure you’re making the most use of your tax breaks.
This is probably the most important point of the article. Once you’ve got a spending record, you can draw up a budget for your future spending. Set tough but realistic targets and make sure you’re spending less than you earn.
Perhaps you’ve drawn up a budget before but struggled to stick with it – hopefully we can make it easier to do that. And if you also understand your whole financial situation, you may find that you have a bigger incentive to stick to the targets in your budget.