When it comes to our finances, we’re the first to admit that we could use a little help. Sure, we often peruse the reduced section in supermarkets and will always bulk buy toilet roll - but when it comes to the more financially pressing areas of our lives, the majority of us bury our heads in true ostrich fashion. A recent survey showed that two thirds of people admitted to often being worried about their finances - however, only 14% would ever take the time to identify these problems and makes changes to resolve them.
Often seeming complicated and stressful, knowing how best to take hold of your future financially can be an overwhelming subject - but it doesn’t have to be.
We reached out to former investment banker, turned money savvy entrepreneur and Financial Times columnist, Mrs Moneypenny , to see what simple steps could help us overhaul our finances and take control. Here are her top 10 tips.
1. Buy a notebook and record all of your financial life in it
Information is power. Set aside a page for every financial presence in your life – your bank account, each credit card, your mortgage (or rent), your mobile phone bill and so on. You need to set aside an hour a week to spend on your own finances. If you think that sounds a lot, then consider how much time you spend worrying about money. The rest of this list is suggestions of things you could do with that hour.
2. Review your bank account
People change bank account less often than they change their husband or wife. You might be paying a monthly fee, and if you are, is it too expensive? If you get lots of things with your bank account (e.g. travel insurance) are you using them? Or doubling up? Are you getting interest in your current account? Decide what works best for you and move bank. It is easier than you think. Have a look at this .
3. Track down any money that might be yours
There are nearly 900,000 unclaimed Premium Bond prizes worth more than £44 million. The oldest unclaimed prize belongs to a man from South Yorkshire who won £25 in 1957! And unlike the Lottery, there is no claim time limit. If you have any premium bonds then look at this website and check. Also, there are millions of pounds sitting in forgotten bank accounts, could some of them be yours? Look here .
4. Secure a pension
Do you have a workplace pension ? Did you used to have and can’t remember where the paperwork is? Are you paying money into your workplace pension? Often your employer will match contributions, and if so, then you ought to be making some too. Plus the government, up to a limit, gives you back the tax you have paid. Indeed, new legislation means that everyone will have to contribute 8% of their salary every year, and employers are only obliged to contribute 5%, so you might to have to contribute the balance. Find out what your employer plans to do as soon as possible. Remember that women live longer than men and although retirement may be decades away, the earlier you contribute the less you will have to. (Did you know that children can have pensions and the government will put money into those as well?!).
5. Find the best deals available
Cutting back on spending often makes us think of that daily coffee outing, but in reality the things you are likely to be overspending on will be much more expensive. If you have any of the following: a mortgage, a mobile phone, a gas/electricity bill, car insurance, broadband/tv, contents insurance, then you will almost certainly be able to get it cheaper. It just takes time to find the best deal. Tackle them one at a time. An hour a week!
6. Check your credit score
The best way to access better deals on credit is to make sure your credit report (information that the credit reference agencies hold on you) is as accurate as possible. I counsel people to check their credit report annually, and then put right any inaccuracies by writing to the credit reference agency. People usually only get the credit report after being declined for a mortgage or a credit card, but it’s much better to check in advance so that you can sort it out if you need to improve your score.
7. Apply for cheap credit cards
Having ensured your credit score is as good as possible, get rid of your most expensive credit cards and apply for cheaper ones instead. Most people don’t even know what interest they are paying on their credit cards – find out, and write it in your notebook.
8. Get a second job
Working in a bar at the weekend can save you money and still give you a social life. Learn to teach yoga? Or start doing kitchenware, or makeup or jewellery parties. I had a Boden party and dressed my children for a year in the money I made from doing it.
9. Learn more about the stock market
Instead of a book club, why not set up a share club? You all put a small amount of money in each month and invest it in shares you have all researched and agree on. Find out how to set up a share club here .
10. Make a will
More than half of us never do so, and it can cause havoc for those left behind. That might not bother you, as you won’t be here to worry about it, but for most of us I suspect it will. You might not think you have anything to leave, but those of us in employment are probably insured by our employer and will have life insurance proceeds. You can do a very simple will by downloading an online form here .
Follow us on @getthegloss