Spring clean your finances
Spring is the season when we give our homes a good clean and tidy up, so why not do the same and spring clean your finances? There are many ways to take control of your financial life, and the majority of them are so easy it’s worth looking at all the possibilities.
All you need is a little time and dedication, so with this in mind, here are a few ideas for a financial spring clean and a richer 2019.
Financial decluttering offers a clearer view of your overall financial situation and valuable insight into unhealthy spending habits. Begin by finding all your relevant paperwork such as mortgage statements, insurance policies, credit agreements and utility bills, and decide which documents you need to keep.
Although you should be mindful of retaining tax paperwork, you may not need to keep all of the older general documentation. What you do retain can be safely filed away in a dedicated folder so you have easy access should you need it.
Reduce outgoings and make paying easier
Not only can you save money by cancelling subscriptions that you no longer need, sorting out your paperwork highlights any excessively high payments you’ve been making and allows for tighter financial control.
You can sign up to receive paperless bills and bank statements, which reduces the amount of paperwork in your home and helps to declutter your physical living space. By signing up to pay your bills by direct debit, you can also remove much of the hassle of making regular payments – providers might even offer you a discount for doing so.
Make a new budget
Whether or not you already operate a budget, making a new one can instil fresh life into your finances and allows you to overhaul your spending if necessary. Make sure to include all important annual events including birthdays, Christmas and holidays in the budget, so you arrive at an accurate plan for monthly expenditure.
By scrutinising your bank statements you can see where you’ve been overspending during the last year and adjust accordingly, or lower your outlay in high-cost areas. This might involve checking comparison websites, or simply being more careful with the food shopping.
Plan finances ahead this year
If you’re planning a holiday in 2019 or need to buy a new car, for example, in conjunction with your new budget, saving a little each month can help to achieve your goals without going into debt.
Maybe you could open a new savings account for each prospective large purchase, or use a traditional piggy bank at home and watch your savings fund grow the old-fashioned way.
Track your spending
With so many personal finance apps and tools now available, you can track your spending wherever you are. You might prefer to use a spreadsheet, or simply write down your spending in a notebook. Whatever you do, keeping track of how much you spend helps you stick to your budget and deal confidently with the inevitable financial setbacks we all experience.
By tackling debt you free yourself from the threat of serious financial difficulty, and provide new opportunities to save. You might choose to use the ‘debt snowball’ method of paying off the smallest debts first, or get stuck right in and pay off the largest debt. However you decide to approach it, becoming debt-free is liberating and an important element of a financial spring clean.
Maximise tax-free savings
With the end of the tax year fast approaching, make sure you’re taking advantage of your full tax-free savings allowance. You can currently save up to £20,000 tax-free in an Individual Savings Account (ISA), and are allowed to spread this amount between a cash ISA and an Investment ISA. If you don’t use your full allowance by 5th April, however, it will be lost.
Check your pension
Your pension provider should send you a pension statement once a year, so it’s a good idea to review how well it’s performing. If you have more than one pension it may also be worthwhile seeking professional advice as to whether they should be combined. If you think you have additional pensions but can’t quite remember, a facility on the gov.uk website can help you track them down.
Search for old bank accounts
You may have money in accounts that have been lying dormant for years, but there is a way to track them down. As with forgotten pensions, this is very useful if you can’t remember the bank accounts you’ve held in the past.
My Lost Account is a website that helps you find old bank accounts, building society accounts and NS&I investments, so you can reclaim forgotten money and close them down. It’s also possible to check for any Premium Bond prizes that you haven’t claimed via the National Savings and Investments website.
Overhauling your finances can make a significant impact on life in general, and helps you to make the most of your money. So start your spring clean this month and you’ll be reaping the rewards not only in 2019, but for many years to come.
By Ann Haldon