It’s that time of year again when you start thinking about a deep clean of the house. And after you’ve done that, why not keep the momentum going and spring clean your finances as well? It can seem like a mammoth task if you haven’t been keeping on top of things, but that’s exactly what a spring clean is for – so why not take a day out and try to power your way through this list?
1. Get organised
As with most chores, getting started is the hardest thing to do. If this is the first time you’ve thought about giving your finances a good sort out, then it may take longer than if you regularly dip in – just like cleaning your house. Getting organised is often a good place to start, finding all those payslips, account statements, pension paperwork, etc and keeping them all in one place. This doesn’t just have to be restricted to physical paper either – you could create a subfolder in your inbox for emails related to insurance, savings, banking, etc. to keep it all in one place.
2. Check your income
Whether you get paid a regular salary, based on your hours worked or you receive extra pay for certain conditions, it’s always a good idea to check that your income is what you expect it to be. If your circumstances have changed since you started that job, then you may find that you’re not taking home what you thought you were. Taking some time out to check you’re being paid what you thought you were could uncover a whole heap of extra cash or provide the reassurance that your employer is on top of things.
3. Sort through your outgoings
Just as it’s worth checking the money is right coming in, it could pay to check what’s going out as well! In this era of online shopping and one-click payments, you may find that you have some outgoing that you don’t expect. If there’s any purchases you don’t remember or you’ve gone a bit wild with your spending, then you may want to look into it.
4. Clean up your bad spending habits
Speaking of going wild with your spending, we all have our own habits. Some of us are savers, some spenders, others fall somewhere in between. If you’ve got some bad spending habits then why not look into ways you could clean it up or cut back? One good way of doing this is to implement a 24-48 basket quarantine for your potential purchases – pop it in your basket, leave it for a day or two, and if you’re still thinking about it and really want it then go and buy it. You never know, you may just get a handy little money off voucher in your email too!
5. Dig out your pension paperwork
Pensions are weird things. A lot of us don’t talk about them and many try not to think about them, but at the end of the day, that’s how we’ll be getting paid once we stop working. Instead of sitting back and relying on your state or workplace pension to do its own thing (and if you're unsure of what the differences between these types of pensions are, you can check out our guide to UK pensions), why not take some time to get all your paperwork together and actually check how your retirement fund is coming along?
6. Simplify things
Have you got money all over the place? It’s not uncommon to have a different provider for your current accounts, savings accounts, joint accounts, ISAs, pensions, investments, mortgages and more. The list literally goes on, but the number of apps you have doesn’t have to. You could use an app like Money Dashboard to manage all your finances from one place. Having a nice, simple overview where you can budget and track your spending across everything could help you get on top of your finances a lot easier.
7. Declutter your account
If you’ve already simplified things, it could make sense to declutter as well. Is there a reason you have accounts with three different banks? Having one provider could make things a lot easier to keep track of. Why not look at doing something like bringing all your pensions together? That way, you’ll know what your retirement fund is looking like and won’t have so much paperwork to track each year!
8. Hang up the phone on big bills
As time goes on, things tend to get more expensive due to a financial term called ‘inflation’. However, inflation is measured as a percentage and is the average of the increase and not everything goes up at the same rate. For example, over the last 20 years, high-end mobile phone prices have increased by 490% while inflation has only averaged 2.8% a year. Because of this, it may be worth checking how much you’re paying each month for your phone and if there’s any way to reduce it.
9. Dust off your credit cards
Signing up for an initial 0% offer on a credit card may seem quite appealing, but once that offers expired it could end up costing you a lot more than you think. Some providers charge a fee if you don’t spend a certain amount using that card, which can leave you worse off. If you have a number of different credit and store cards that don’t offer good rates, or that you don’t use, you may want to think about dusting them off and cancelling them.
10. Do you really need that subscription?
More and more products and services are pay monthly offers, which may seem more appealing on the face of it, but before you know it, a chunk of your income goes straight out on Direct Debits. It could be worth taking a quick look at your Direct Debits and getting rid of any that you don’t use anymore. You may even notice that some of your contracts have lapsed, making your monthly payment more expensive.
11. Compare interest rates
Savings accounts are great things, as they let you put your money away in a place where you’re a little less likely to spend it. However, you still want your money to work for you as you build it up. Sometimes, your bank may drop the interest rate they’re offering, which could fall below the rate of inflation. If this happens, then you may pay for it in the long run, as your money may not be able to buy what it once could. Check how much interest you’re being paid, and if it seems too low, why not shop around for a better deal?
12. Build an emergency fund
Having little to no savings isn’t uncommon – in fact, one in three Brits have less than £600 in savings. If that sounds like you, then you may want to consider building an emergency fund. To get started, all you need to do is set a goal to put some money aside each month. This doesn’t have to be a huge amount, you just need to make sure you don’t touch it. For example, if you could put £50 in savings each month, at the end of the year you’d have £600 in your account.
13. Check your energy deal
When was the last time you switched energy supplier? According to Ofgem, 57% of customers are on ‘Standard Variable Tariffs’ which can be up to £300 more expensive than the cheapest deals on the market! There are plenty of price comparison websites out there to choose from, so why not take 10 mins to see if you could find a better deal and save some cash?
14. Use your new tax allowance
You probably pay enough tax already, so why not try something tax-free? Every year, the government gives you a tax-free allowance – currently £20,000 – where you can put money away without being taxed on any of the interest or gains on that amount. So, if you put money in a Wealthify Stocks and Shares ISA, any profits or dividends you receive from your investments are free from tax – over the long term, this amount could really build up!
15. Tidy up your budget
Budgets are great, as long as you stick to them and they’re clear. If you’ve created a budget for yourself in the past, it may be worth revisiting it and checking that it still works for you. Never budgeted before? No problem, to get started all you need to do is to create a plan of how you want to spend your money. It sounds hard and can be time consuming, but once you get into it, things might just start clicking into place.
16. Find ‘lost’ cash
We’re not saying you should go hunting under your sofa cushions for loose change, although you can if you want, but instead go and find your old savings accounts or pensions. One of the most commonly ‘lost’ accounts is a Child Trust Fund, as these were automatically given to every child born between 1st September 2002 and 1st January 2011. If you, or your child, meet that criteria then finding a Child Trust Fund is easier than you might think – you just need to visit the HM Revenue and Customs through the Government Gateway. Lost pensions are a little bit more tricky, but again, a quick visit to gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details will help get you started.
17. Make your savings sparkle
Has your savings pot not seen much love lately? Maybe you hit your last savings goal and stopped, or perhaps you don’t feel like there’s anything worth saving for at the moment? Whatever the reason, revitalising your savings could be as simple as setting up a new Direct Debit so that you can save on autopilot. Just taking a little bit of time to reassess your goals and make sure everything’s ticking over nicely could do wonders to your savings.
18. Swap your providers
Similar to energy providers, you may be able to find a great deal if you look around for new providers for things like insurance, broadband, TV and even banking! Having a hunt around and looking at other options can give you reassurance that your rates are fair or help you to save money by swapping providers – it really is a win-win!
19. Take a look at your debt
Not all debt is bad, but it’s worth staying on top of it. When checking in on your debt, take a look at what interest rates you’re paying. Some providers charge really high rates, which can drastically increase the amount you pay in the long run – you might want to think about clearing this debt, and maybe even use your savings, if you have some, to get rid of it faster.
20. Change your direct debit dates
Did you know that you can choose when bills are taken from your account? They don’t have to all go out at random points throughout the month, in fact, you could choose to have them all go at once. So, if you wanted to, you could organise it so that all your Direct Debits are taken the day after payday. That way, you’ll have a good idea of how much money you have left for the rest of the month.
21. Think about investing
If your savings are already sparkling, your budget is in order, and you know where all your money is, you may be thinking “what next?”. Have you thought about investing? It may sound daunting, but it really isn’t especially with robo-providers like Wealthify, as we’ll do all the hard work for you. In fact, it can work similarly to a savings account, where you invest a set amount each month. Our team will then do all the research and buy and sell investments on your behalf in order to make your money work harder.
Your tax treatment will depend on your individual circumstances and it may be subject to change in the future.
With investing, your capital is at risk, so the value of your investments can go down as well as up, which means you could get back less than you initially invested.