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10 Steps to Healthier Finances in 2018

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Are you one of those people who lives in their overdraft? Every month you say you’ll try to put some money into your savings, but anything you have left ends up getting splashed on that must-have outfit, or a nice meal out with friends.

We have a few simple tips to help you stay in the black – with maybe even a little left over to squirrel away for a rainy day.

Switch energy providers

Fireplace

It is estimated that ‘millions of customers’ could benefit from savings of up to £250, purely by switching energy suppliers.

When switching, make sure you know your current supplier and the name of your tariff, along with how much energy you use in kilowatt hours (kWh) on gas and electricity. You’ll be able to find this information on your recent bills.

Check you won’t need to pay a fee for cancelling with your current provider. You should be able to leave up to 49 days ahead of your tariff’s end date, without incurring a penalty, but it’s worth checking.

Nowadays there are so many different services on offer. Work out what’s important to you – do you want a Smart meter, that allows you to adjust your settings from your phone, or are you not particularly fussed? Shop around and find out all your options, to get a deal that’s right for you.

Pack your own lunches

Sandwich

This one sounds like an obvious one, but those £3 Meal Deals all add up. Invest in a nice Thermos, or even a travel cafetiere if you’re a coffee lover, so you don’t have to splurge on expensive hot drinks.

If your office has a microwave, you could even cook a batch of lunches at the weekend, portion them up and freeze them. That way, all you have to do in the morning is grab a tasty, healthy meal that you can heat up in minutes. Beats the same old boring pasta salad every day, right?

Practice savvy dining out

Sushi

Do a bit of research – many restaurants offer happy hours, weekday deals, two-for-one Tuesday and loyalty schemes. Doing a bit of research is worth it, as is signing up to something like Table Pouncer, which offers discounted dining across a range of different restaurants. If you’re a takeaway fiend, there are plenty of quick, easy and cheap ‘fakeaway’ recipes. Healthier for you, and your wallet too!

Invest in your wardrobe

Clothes

Buying some quality pieces and keeping more of a capsule wardrobe can really pay dividends in the long-run. Rather than buying loads of clothes that are not only poorer quality, but will wear out quickly, having a few nice pieces and some quality essentials should help you cut down on your monthly spending. The same goes for shoes.

Keep track of your money

Notepad

We’re all guilty of ignoring our bank balance, either out of fear, or plain old denial. This is part of the problem. If you’re able to, sign up for online banking. This means you can check your balance anywhere, at any time and keep an eye on your finances. Because really, there’s nothing worse than a nasty surprise at the end of the month.

Make (and stick to) a budget

Budget planner

Keeping track of your outgoings is a simple way to help you plan your spending and identify areas you need to cut back on.

You can download of useful budget planner to help you track your monthly outgoings and make sure you’re not spending more than you earn.

Try to avoid using your debit card

Pile of pennies

It’s very easy to lose track of your spending when you pay or everything by card, and contactless payment has made it even easier to spend a few quid here and there, without really thinking about how it all adds up.

Once you’ve worked out what you spend per week using your budget planner, try to take out the cash you need at the start of the week and stick to using that. If you try to be quite strict, seeing exactly how much cash you have in your wallet will stop you making unnecessary impulse purchases. Being more aware of what you’re spending and using ‘real’ money rather than swiping a card, should help you curb any frivolous spending.

Don’t be fooled by discounts on things you don’t need

Woman with lots of shopping

Buying 5 tubs of yoghurt you wouldn’t normally eat because it's on offer is a false economy. Try to stick to your shopping list and only take advantage of discounts on things you actually need. By all means, treat yourself, especially around special events like Easter or Christmas, when shops will have offers on nice chocolate and booze, just try to do it sensibly.

If you’ve got the storage space, it can be good to take advantage of these sorts of offers for future special occasions. The post-Christmas sale, for example, is a great time to buy cheap wrapping paper that you’ll need again next year. Make sure you keep track of what you’ve bought, to stop yourself going overboard, and when it comes to that special birthday or Christmas, don’t forget about your secret stash of goodies!

Think about your credit rating

Man using laptop

There are a few simple ways you can boost your credit score. You may not be planning to apply for a loan any time soon, but it’s never too early to put yourself in a stronger, healthier position for the future.

  • Make sure you’re on the Electoral Roll. Remember, you can opt out of the Open Register. This won’t affect your credit score or right to vote, but it will mean your details can’t be sold on.
  • Make sure your name matches up. If you’ve recently got married or changed your name, be sure to update this everywhere – your passport, the Electoral Roll and your bank accounts. For example, if you apply for credit and your name doesn’t match what’s on the Electoral Roll, your score is likely to be affected.
  • Take out a credit card. It sounds weird, but using credit actually helps improve your score, if, you can show that you’re a responsible borrower. You can take out a card with a low credit limit and just use this to pay for your petrol every month. As long as you make sure you always pay it off on time, this will boost your credit rating.

You can check out our Credit Clinic for more information about boosting your score.

Refinance your car

Car dashboard

As with a credit card, taking out car finance can actually improve your credit score in the long-run. But with so many finance options, it can be hard to know which one is right for you and you may be paying more than you need to. You can learn more about the different types of finance here, or speak to one of our advisors to make sure you’re getting the best deal for you.

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