You started 2018 with such good intentions. Then the credit card and utility bills came along to dent your doormat and derail your financial ambitions, before you even had chance to begin.
A cycle of credit card repayments, overdrafts, store cards and loan repayments can leave you in a precarious financial position. But with a mix of guts and guile you can get your finances back on track for the rest of 2018.
The journey won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
Here are fifteen tips that you can implement right now.
1. Accept where you are
Denying debt is a dangerous thing. Rule your money or your money will rule you. You have to accept the position you are in and begin taking ownership of your finances.
There is no shame in debt and by no means are you alone. 8.3 million people in the UK are living with problem debt. And 34% of people between the ages of 25 and 34 would only be able to survive for a month or less if they lost their income.
2. Track every penny you spend for a month
Before you make a budget, you need to know your numbers. Track every penny you spend for a month. Within 30 days you will know how much you spend on food shopping, utility bills, eating out, going to the pub and so on. Knowledge is power.
3. Make a realistic financial goal
The best goals are realistic and achievable. Aim for the impossible and you set yourself up for failure. Set a twelve-month plan that you can realistically achieve - however modest - whether that’s paying off an overdraft, wiping out your credit card debt or saving for a holiday.
4. Budget at the beginning of each month
If you have completed tip two, you will have a decent idea of where your money goes each month. That’s great. Use those numbers to plan for the weeks ahead at the beginning of each month. Rope-off the money you need for your various overheads, bills and food shopping. Then spread what’s left across the rest of the month, factoring in any upcoming social events.
5. Cut out the unnecessaries
Nobody wants to give up their little luxuries in life. But do you really need to spend £3 on a coffee every morning? Switch to every other day and you will save £45 each month. Likewise could you rein-in your takeaway habit or go to the pub a little less? Living a life of total abstinence isn’t realistic. But you may have to make a few sacrifices to achieve your financial goals.
6. Be deal-savvy
There seems to be a voucher for everything these days. Make use of websites such as Groupon and Wowcher to scoop the bargains. (If you’re a foodie, you need to know about Wriggle and CityMunch.) And always, always shop around for the best deals when it comes to your utilities and insurance policies. You can save hundreds of pounds simply by switching energy supplier.
7. Take a sledgehammer to your food bill
With a bit of thought and some good old fashioned discipline, you can slash the cost of your weekly food shop. The obvious place to start is to embrace packed lunches, rather than buying your lunch every day. By making more than you need for your evening meal, you can dine on leftovers the following day for free.
Be warned: reducing the cost of your food shop becomes addictive. All it takes is careful meal planning and an eye for the supermarket bargains and you will be amazed at how cheaply - and healthily - you can eat.
8. Sell your old stuff
Be honest. How much stuff do you have that you no longer use, need or want? Spend a weekend listing your unwanted bits on eBay or Gumtree. You can also make use of websites like Mazuma Mobile and musicMagpie to get money for recycling your old mobile phones, CDs, DVDs and games. Added bonus? Aside from the money you will earn, having a good clear out is incredibly cathartic.
9. Switch your current account
Turns out banks are a competitive bunch and are willing to go to increasing lengths to get your custom. That includes offering you cash incentives of around £100-£200 just for switching your current account.
10. Check if you’re entitled to benefits
Every year in the UK people are missing out on £10 billion worth of benefits and tax credits. Find out what you may be entitled to claim using StepChange’s free benefits checker.
11. Pay off more than the minimum on your credit cards
You wouldn’t try to extinguish a raging inferno with a small bucket of water. Nor would you try to slice up a wheel of cheese with a cocktail stick. So why make only the minimum payment on your credit card(s). By doing so you are paying a lot to get nowhere fast. But when you increase the amount you repay, you end up saving a fortune on interest and free up credit faster.
12. Start saving
The received wisdom in the financial world - generally speaking - is to pay off debts before you start saving. (There’s wisdom to that because it will help you save on interest payments.) But shoving all of your spare cash on debt can be incredibly demoralising.
On the other hand, putting a little away into a savings pot each month - even if it’s just £10 - will help you build healthier financial habits. It feels good to watch a savings pot build up. And it will give you peace of mind that you are better prepared to handle any unwanted financial surprises.
13. Make saving automatic
Sometimes it take a lot of willpower to tuck money away into a savings pot - especially when you don’t have much to play with. Setting up a new savings account allows you to create a direct debit from your current account that transfers a set amount each month after you’ve been paid. So your saving happens without you having to think about it.
14. Get income protection cover
Have you thought about how you would pay for your overheads if an accident or illness left you temporarily unable to work? Many employers have a limit on the amount of sick pay they offer. And the government’s statutory sick pay is just £89.35 per week*.
Losing your income would most likely plunge you into more debt. Income protection polices protect against that. And when you join us here at PG Mutual, we share our profits with our policyholders. So as well as getting cover for 70% of your income^ if accident or injury took you out of work, you are able to save for your future too.
Sounds good? Then find out more here.
15. Review progress often
A solid financial plan is a great start. The hard part is following it. Keep yourself motivated by reviewing your progress often. (At least once per month.) It can really help to schedule regular discussions about your financial goals with someone you trust. That might be a close friend, someone in your family or a mentor. You could even use a professional service - free of charge - such as the government’s Money Advice Service or the StepChange debt charity.
Over to you...
Tackling your financial challenges takes courage - especially when it means giving up some of the things you love. But keep your eyes on the prize. Whether you are aiming to pay off an overdraft or save for a deposit on a house, the sooner you accomplish your goals the more financial liberation you have. And that’s something to feel incredibly proud of.
* DWP, April 2017
^ The amount you can cover is limited to 70% of your gross income or £1,200 a week (whichever is
lower). For full Ts&Cs, visit www.pgmutual.co.uk