The worst month of the year is behind us, and it is time to look forward to the rest of what 2018 has to bring. Starting 2018 after the holiday season, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little out of control of your personal finances, maybe you spent a bit too much on gifts in December, or celebrating the festivities with friends and family, but now you’re trying to get back on track. Luckily, there are lots of practical ways to regain control over your outgoings; leaving you feeling more stable, financially and emotionally. Here are a few of these handy techniques to help you on your way to financial happiness.
Audit your existing bank accounts
First things first: it’s time to sit down and work out where you have money, and how much is there. It’s easy to lose track of account specifics, especially if you’re banking with several institutions and have money in investments or savings. If you think you might have money in an account, but you’re not sure how much, just take a form of ID into your local bank branch and ask them to check — you might be pleasantly surprised!
You should consider writing down or creating a document on your computer to track these figures and mark it with significant dates. That way, you’ve got an up-to-date record of where your money is and where it is going. Be aware, however, not to list full bank account details such as account numbers. You don’t want to put yourself at risk should someone else get hold of this information.
Take control of your debt
It might be an unnerving process, but a better understanding of the full figure of your debt is one of the most crucial ways to start feeling more in control of your finances. Take a deep breath, and calculate your total amount of debt, and identify where you owe it. Once you take control of your debt, you can start thinking of how to pay it back efficiently.
Set budgets for the year ahead
The word ‘budget’ may make a lot of people on edge. Regardless, budgeting is a vital financial tool to get you back on track. You’ll need to find an approach to budgeting that works for you. Perhaps, you need to set spending limits, collect receipts and document outgoings on an Excel sheet. Or, maybe you’ll require a more rigorous spending cap: allocating yourself a weekly, or monthly, amount and sticking to it.
Whichever approach you take to budgeting, don’t forget you can’t plan for the unforeseeable. Life always throws wild cards, whether it’s an unexpected fault in your car or you need to invest in new clothes for a job interview, so don’t berate yourself for these unavoidable expenses. One month you may have to spend a little more, but another month you might get a tax rebate: that’s just how life goes.
Use spending trackers
If documenting your spending by-hand sounds like too much work for you to commit to, there are plenty of apps that will support you in tracking your spending. Again, which approach you take depends on your relationship with money; if you know you need constant reminding, use an app that will send you notifications when you’re approaching your set budget.
Check and repair your credit score
As with ‘budget’; ‘credit score’ is a phrase that can confuse, and deter you from investigating further. To further add to this confusion, the world of credit cards and credit scores can feel overwhelming and overly complex, especially if you’re worried your credit score is low. If you’re unaware of your credit score or fear yours is too low, help is at hand. Services like Credit Marvel can take the confusion out of repairing your credit score, by providing easy to follow credit repair reviews. Over a quarter of people’s recorded credit scores are inaccurate, so it’s worth checking out.
Identify the unnecessary expenses in your everyday life
If you look closely at your daily outgoings, it’s likely there will be some expenses in there that classify as ‘nice to have’. Do you grab a coffee on your way to work, or always eat out for lunch? Do you often run late and find yourself jumping in a cab rather than taking public transport? It might be uncomfortable, but look a little closer at where you’re spending unnecessarily and see if you can shift your behavior. Invest in a thermal flask, and bring a coffee from home. Pack a lunch, at least a few days a week. Plan to avoid having to splurge on cab fares. You’ll quickly see that every little helps.
Look into banking alternatives
A lot of people select a bank, and then only think about switching if something goes wrong. True, there’s a lot of fine print to read and detailed comparison required when switching banks, but the payback can far outweigh this effort.
If you’ve currently got a savings account somewhere, check out the present interest rate that bank is offering you. It’s very possible, especially if you opened the account years ago, that the interest rate you’re receiving isn’t as high as you’d expect. If so, shop around, you could be earning more on those savings if you put the money elsewhere. The same may be true for your current account too. You could be getting better benefits, such as travel insurance or health care, if you were to bank with a different company. A lot of banks also offer monetary incentives for switching to them; it’s definitely worth considering.
If you’re looking to get back on top of your personal finances, hopefully, these tips will prove useful in your task ahead. Remember, debt is more readily tackled if you’ve got a payback plan, and saving happens easily if you’ve got the right processes in place. Dedicate some time to sit down and assess your current financial situation, and you can look forward to 2018 being the year you gained control over your money matters.