Money doesn’t just happen. You work hard to earn it and get the best from it. But if you’re not a good expense manager and too much of it slips through your fingers like dry sand, today is the day to think about things differently to change the rest of your life for the better.
1. Perk up your pension. The pension climate is changing so much that many financial advisers don’t talk about pensions anymore; they talk about ‘retirement income’. Do you know how much you’ll have? With auto-enrolment putting people into company schemes up and down the UK, this is probably a good time to look into just what your pension pot will be worth to you when you get to retirement age. The government’s Money Advice Service has a really useful online calculator allowing you to get an idea of how much you might have when you retire. If you’ve done the calculation and find there’s not as much as you thought there might be, now’s the time to pay more in. The sooner you start, the larger your pension pot will be. Talking to an independent financial adviser can be invaluable.
2. Keep saving. Living ‘hand to mouth’ with your money is fine – until something unexpected happens, like needing a new central heating boiler, a big bill on the car, or a sudden hike in season ticket prices for your commute. Putting a little bit away each month will cushion the blow when it comes (and it surely will eventually), but before then, you’ll reach the point where you have sufficient funds for a holiday without spending it all. The equivalent of a month or two’s salary is a good cushion to aim for.
3. Divide and conquer. If you’re not a good money manager, and find you’ve overlooked a standing order the suddenly dips your bank account into the red, consider setting up a second bank account. Get paid into the first account. Add up all the monthly bills that go straight out from the bank, and leave enough to pay them all in that account. Include a little extra for the cushion we talked about. Transfer the rest into the second account. That’s what you have to spend for the month, so you’ll have a better idea of what you can – and can’t – afford later on, to stop you having too much month left at the end of your money. Sure, there might be lean times towards the end, but you’ll be safe in the knowledge that your bill are all paid, so you’re not going to get into arrears. Setting up the arrangement could hardly be easier. The bank will help, and you can make the transfer on a standing order so you never need to think about it again.
4. Fight the impulse. So much is bought on impulse today. The thrill of the chase and the adrenaline rush of the purchase may seem less appealing if you decide later that you don’t really want, or worse still, can’t afford, your latest purchase. Never fear! If you still have the receipt, you can probably take back the expensive shoes and put the money towards the electricity bill instead. Who needs a pair of Kurt Geiger shoes anyway?
5. Count the pennies. If you’ve done what we suggest in tips 4 and 5, you can build on that success by using money management apps on your smartphone to track the spending of funds in your second account. Simply key in the value of everything you buy and assign it to a category, then the clever app will do the money management for you by adding it all up. You can even photograph receipts or do voice recordings to record your spending. Expense management was never so easy! And what’s more, seeing what you spend will let you see if there are better (or more enjoyable) ways of spending your money.
6. Make a will. This might be a tough one to talk about, but it could save your family a fortune in the long run. For example, if you’re half of a couple living together and one of you dies without having made a Will, the other may have no claim on funds you’ve saved together. A Will is the only way to issue instructions about where you want your money to go. And it’s not just about money; you may have things of great sentimental, or even financial, value that you want to go to specific people.