Staying in control of your finances should be relatively straight-forward if you follow a few simple steps.
Check your monthly statements
Check your bank and credit card statements each month for payments you no longer need. If you spot any cancel them. You may also spot the occasional error or fraudulent payment, which, if you act immediately, your bank or credit card company should be able to refund.
Claim unclaimed benefits
Do you have a young family? If so have you registered for Child Benefit? When doing so make sure you also claim the state pension credits that mothers can receive if they don’t work.
Talk about money
Who runs the family finances in your household? If it’s you, do you talk about money with your partner? Doing so can help reduce over-spending, not to mention arguments about money. If your partner is in charge of the family finances, why not ask them to explain things to you, not least in case the unexpected happens?
Embrace austerity – and help save the planet
Make a shopping list and stick to it, to reduce impulse purchases. Where possible buy unpackaged produce from market stalls and local, independent shops. As well as reducing your food bills and eating more healthily, you will be helping, albeit in a small way, save the planet.
Use technology to stick to your budget
Use the app provided by your bank combined with other personal finance apps, depending on what you want to achieve. For instance, get an alert when you are about to go overdrawn; set a maximum amount to spend each week or month and get an alert you when you are about to reach your limit; schedule in key dates such as when your insurance is up for renewal, or the repayment date for credit cards.
Keep track of what you’ve got
Document, on a spreadsheet or a sheet of paper – whichever suits you best, your (and if appropriate your partner’s) monthly income and expenditure. Check them every month, to make sure you are on track. On a separate sheet put the details and values of your pensions, savings accounts, insurance policies and levels of cover, together with regular payments in or out. Review these at least once a year. As well as helping keep your finances on an even keel, this will help you spot and duplications or gaps in your finances.
Make thing easier for yourself
Are you one of the 11.5 million or so people who must complete a Self-Assessment tax return (Source: HMRC, January 2019 https://www.gov.uk/government/news/self-assessment-deadline-less-than-one-month-to-go)? To avoid a last-minute scramble next year, put all documents you need into a folder as soon as you receive them. If you receive some online and others by post, use two folders, one digital and the other physical. Create a check list and tick off each document as it arrives. That way, you will have all the information you (or your accountant) need(s) when you come to fill out your next tax return.
Do you know exactly what benefits you get from your employer? Check the detail. You may find that it includes life insurance and other types of insurance that you may already have taken out personally. You may be able to save money by eliminating duplicates – benefits provided by your employer are likely to be more cost-effective to those you take out privately.
Everything in order?
Do you have a Will? If not, make one this month – not matter how young you are – with the help of a professional Will writer, to make sure that it is valid and really does reflect your wishes. You may be in the best of health, but what if that proverbial bus comes along when you aren’t looking? And while you are about it, make a list of all your financial accounts and assets and place them in a safe deposit box with a solicitor or bank. If you already have a Will, review it. It is surprising how quickly it can get out of date.
Tax advice which contains no investment element is not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate Will writing.