Happy New Year everyone! I hope your festive period was full of pleasantries, good food, great family and consisted entirely of recharging, relaxing times? (Who am I kidding… let’s be honest, we’re all glad it’s over for another 12 months!).
Every month there are themes to personal finance. March/April time is the period of tax panic, ISA renewals/hunts and other ‘end of the financial year’ matters. But what of January? There is little changing in the UK world beyond the calendar, but it’s the perfect mental incentive time to do some financial ‘spring cleaning’.
1. Review/Amend/Create Household Budget
In the spirit of New Year’s Resolutions, now is the perfect time to be giving the once-over to your finances. What are you paying for that you can cut, reduce, or review? Even if you’re not in debt any money you don’t spend is money that you can save instead. Does your household budget reflect reality, or is it a pipe dream that is summarily ignored 3 days after payday?
2. Haggle With Providers
Paying £50 for Sky when you only watch 5 channels? Do you need the Sports package they enticed you with 3 months ago with the half price offer? Give them a call, route yourself to “If you’re thinking of leaving Sky…” and plead poverty. Get them to remove unnecessary package(s) you may have, and then beg for a reduction in price. You’ll probably get it and save a fortune over the year. If you really watch that little TV, would you do with FreeView? Click here for 5 specific tips to reduce your TV costs.
Do the same with any recurring contract you have. Landline phone, mobile phones, internet access, gym memberships, and so on. Click here for loads of tips on how to haggle!
3. Shop Around
One of the biggest household expenses after rent/mortgage is food. Supermarkets are at war for our custom as they realise the recession is not abating any time soon, and every foot through the door is an important one. Loss leaders are a dime a dozen, and special offers are all over the store.
If you always shop in Waitrose, try Sainsbury’s. Drop down from the ‘Premium’ brand to store’s-own, and stick to your food budget. Shamefully I have gone from spending £600/month on food down to £150-200 just by a little forward planning and spending 5-10 minutes hunting out bargains. Click here for loads more tips on cutting your grocery spending!
4. Check Your Rate – Savings
Are you getting the best your bank or the finance world in general has to offer on your savings account? Barclays lowest rate of interest on their savings accounts is 0.1% when online you can grab a (still pitiful) 1.5% by shopping around. Check your ISA allowance is full for this year (You have until the end of March), and make sure it is paying a decent rate as well.
5. Check Your Rate – Credit
After Christmas is the ‘guilty moment’. If you have overdone the Christmas spending on presents, travel and gastronomy, see if you can’t get a better interest rate or balance transfer deal than you have right now. Many providers at the moment are offering 0% deals that can be yours for the taking, potentially saving you hundreds.
6. Council Tax Money
For the majority of the country, for the next 2 months there won’t be any council tax to pay. Use this money wisely and put it towards your emergency fund rather than spending it on incidentals. It is money that should be in the monthly budget anyway, so won’t be missed.
7. Sell Your Clutter
Has a new 55″ OLED TV replaced your 40″ Plasma? Sell sell sell, on eBay, Friday Ad or any other method. De-clutter your home, your life, and release extra money for debt reduction, savings or other plans!
Good luck, and here’s to your dreams for 2013