This is a guest post by my lovely friend Fiona from Savvy In Somerset
If one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to get your finances in shape, here some quick tips for getting started without getting overwhelmed
January is always seen as a time of new beginnings and of course, New Year’s Resolutions. After the excesses and overspending of Christmas it’s easy to see why so many people choose this time to start getting to grips with their finances. However, this can also seem like a daunting challenge, especially if it’s not any area you are used to dealing with or (like me!) numbers and maths don’t come easily to you.
I often find that when I become overwhelmed I tend to procrastinate and then don’t end up getting anything done. I’m also very easily distracted, especially by social media. So, in this post I have come up with five very simple financial fixes for you to try this January. Each should only take a few minutes of your time, or maybe a few minutes each day and can be tackled when you have a few spare minutes.
You could try attempting one of these challenges each week during January to see how you get on.
- Start Tracking Your Money
Even though I consider myself to be really good with money, tracking each and every penny we spend has always seemed overwhelming to me. While there are plenty of apps that can do this for you, if you’re just getting started with sorting out your finances it can seem like a very scary prospect.
My suggestion would be to start slowly becoming more money aware. Most banks offer banking apps which makes tracking what’s going in and out of your bank accounts super easy. Try to take a minute or two each day to have a look at the days transactions and make sure you know exactly what they are and where they are coming from.
This can be a great way to spot old unused direct debits which can then be cancelled. It also means you’ll be alerted and aware of any fraudulent activity on your accounts much more quickly too.
- Set a Budgeting Challenge in one Area
Again, while it can seem totally overwhelming to cut your spending in every single area of your life, picking one place you think you could save money and taking a few months to change your habits could be the way to go.
Personally I love setting myself groceries spending challenges. During 2016 I spent just £50 each month on groceries. Yes, it was a challenge but I enjoyed it and we saved around £1500 over the course of the year. The biggest thing I found that helped was taking the money out in cash at the start of each month and putting it in my ‘Shopping Purse’. This meant I knew exactly what I had left to spend each time I went shopping.
Areas this could work in:
- Groceries Spending
- Spending on Eating out
- Days out with Family/Kids
- Nights out Drinking
- Date Nights Such as Cinema Trips
Once you feel you’ve really got to grips with spending in that one area and it’s become a habit rather than a challenge, move on to the next one.
- Try One New Thing to Save Money
Trying new things can often seem scary but once we’ve done them a few times they quickly become second nature. Rather than getting overwhelmed and trying too many things at once why not pick just one or two at a time? Once you know what your doing, pick another one or two until everything becomes habit and you do it without thinking.
Below I have suggested some ways to save money that you might not have thought of or may be nervous of trying:
- Using cashback websites such as Quidco and Topcashback: These sites pay you to shop through them and both have all of the big online retailers listed. Great if you were buying things anyway. Money takes a while to come through but this can be a great way of saving towards Christmas or a holiday.
- Trying new recipes – I often get stuck cooking the same few meals everyone likes. Finding cheaper alternatives to your families’ favourites could mean you save hundreds over the year. I love to get inspired by T.V shows such as Save Money Good Food and Eat Well For Less
- I’m a huge fan of shopping Apps for getting Free and discounted food – There are loads to try including Checkoutsmart, Shopmium and GreenJinn. You can read my post on how to use them here.
- Switch Energy Provider/T.V Provider/Broadband Provider
I’ve talked a lot about groceries in this post because after rent/mortgage payments, it is often a family’s biggest outgoing. Next up is usually gas and electric bills. While the thought of switching may seem a bit scary, companies have done a lot in the last few years to make the process as easy as possible. Signing up to MSE’s Cheap energy club is an easy way to see comparisons and work how much you’ll be saving. You may need to set aside an hour or so to sit and go through everything but that hour could save you hundreds over the following year or 18 months.
If you’re already on the cheapest deal or unable to change providers then you could start by looking at other bills such as Satellite T.V and Broadband. This post shows you a super lazy way to haggle with Sky if you’re out of contract and don’t have much time.
- Set Some Long-Term Goals
For me, the key to sticking money saving (even when I want to splurge!) is really thinking about my long-term goals. It actually took my husband and I five years to save a deposit for our house because we decided that a 30% deposit would make life a lot easier once we’d moved in rather than the 10% we needed to get a mortgage. It’s meant better financial security, better mortgage rates and the knowledge that we can manage even if one of us loses our job.
Deciding what you will do with money saved and even specifically setting it aside can really help to spur you on with saving. Whether it’s to pay off debts, set up an emergency fund or pay for a wedding or holiday visualizing your end goal can really help. You could even stick a picture of it on your fridge.
And remember every penny counts – even if the savings seem small to begin with they will soon start to mount up!