We offer ten tips for organising your bills, credit and spending
With the summer drawing to a close it is a good time to give your finances a back to school-style makeover. Here are ten top tips to get you started.
1 Check your credit report
Banks and other finance companies will use your credit report when considering applications for credit cards, loans or mortgages, so ensure it is up-to-date. You can access your credit report using reference agencies such as Callcredit and Experian. Try to avoid multiple credit applications because this can harm your score – instead, use a service such as Credit Matcher to assess your chances of success before you apply.
2 Update direct debits
It can be easy to forget about direct debits, but you could save money by cutting back on services you no longer use, or need. Hannah Maundrell, the editor of the financial comparison website Money.co.uk, says: “Go through your bank statement and look at everything you pay for via direct debit. Cutting one or two could save a fair amount of money. Check you are not paying for things such as old gym memberships or insurance policies you no longer use.”
3 Set a budget
Ms Maundrell says: “Write down your regular monthly outgoings and incomings. Then think about how much you can afford to spend on events such as birthdays, Christmas and holidays. Add the things you can’t always plan for, such as car trouble, and then work out which months you are going to need extra for and the months in which you can put more aside. This will help you to plan and if you know you’ve got a special occasion coming up you’ll know to be extra frugal in the previous months.”
Smartphone apps can help you to budget. The challenger banks Tandem and Monzo have apps showing you when bills are paid, where you spend your money and the best times to save.
4 Change your shopping habits
Cutting your spending on food could reap rewards in the long term. The typical employee spends more on lunch, drinks and snacks bought from stores or cafes than on food brought from home. So why buy a salad from the store when you can make one for much cheaper from home?
When shopping for groceries, clothing, or other items you might need – don’t just get the first thing you see, shop around, or shop online. You can find many things cheaper online, plus there might be something like these lowe’s promo codes which you could use to bring the bill down further.
Some things like electronics have off-brand versions which are sold for much cheaper. They might not have all the features of a branded product but can be a significant source of savings when you change your shopping habits and shop smarter.
5 Switch current accounts
Many people still use the bank account they opened as a child or student. This may no longer be suitable for you and there may be others that provide attractive extras, such as an approved overdraft, cashback or access to decent savings rates. Some current accounts will give you cashback when you switch to them. First Direct offers 100 for those switching to its current account. Its regular saver account pays interest of 5 per cent on savings of up to 300 a month.
6 Lock in a low mortgage rate
Mortgage rates have fallen to record lows so now might be a good time to secure a decent deal. David Hollingworth, the associate director at London and Country Mortgages, a broker, says: “Two-year fixed rates are available from as little as 0.99 per cent compared with a typical standard variable rate of about 4.5 per cent.With inflation running higher than wage growth, cutting the rate on the mortgage can be a good way to combat rising costs in your monthly budget and offers the opportunity to protect against any possible rate rises in the future.” However, Mr Hollingworth warns that borrowers should check fees because some are hefty.
7 Manage your credit
It may have been tempting to put your holiday spending on a credit card, but try to pay it off in full to avoid high interest. If you still end up paying interest, consider using a balance transfer to move the money you owe to a 0 per cent credit card. Santander offers a 43-month interest-free balance transfer deal on its credit card for no fee. Be aware that interest charges for missed payments can be steep, so make sure you can still settle the bill in full by the end of the term.
8 Shop around for utilities
Energy, broadband and insurance companies make a lot of their money from customer inertia. Kevin Pratt of Money Supermarket says shopping around can save you 300 on energy, 275 on car insurance, and 50 on home insurance, but how much you can save on these areas will ultimately depend on the home and car insurance firms that you use in order to provide you with such protection.
9 Get paid when you spend
You can get cashback on everything from train tickets, last-minute holidays, groceries and switching energy company. If you register your debit or credit card with companies such as Quidco and Top Cashback you will earn cashback in certain stores. Quidco estimates that its members earn an average of 280 a year.
Fed up with transport delays? Get money back for your wasted time. Flight delay compensation can be between 230 and 550 depending on the distance and length of delay. Websites such as Which? provide useful information on consumer rights, while Resolver offers free templates to apply for refunds.