Coming in to the new year with a less-than-ideal bank balance can be worrying, but there are plenty of ways to get back on track for 2022.
Holly Andrews, managing director at KIS Finance, has collaborated with Checklist to give you 10 top tips on sorting your personal finance, improving your savings, and dealing with debt.
1. Calculate income and expenditure
The first step in any financial situation is identification and self-awareness. Working out your total incoming and outgoing payments to develop an idea of how your money is spent and where best to focus your attention.
The variety of subscription-based services available nowadays can come as a surprise when looking at your statement. Just a few pounds a month for music services and TV shows can all add up if you’re not careful. Especially when combined with regular bills such as rent, phone bills, and travel costs.
By identifying your expenses and income, you can work out how much expendable income you have after the essentials are paid for. Using that expendable income responsibly can help you to get the most value out of your finances.
2. Adjust your lifestyle
Once you have an understanding of the current state of your finances, it’s time to make crucial adjustments to improve your quality of life.
Identify the expenses you can do without. It’s easy to not notice you’re still paying monthly for a service you no longer use. These are the sort of little changes you can make to save money and increase your available expendable income. Once you know your largest expenses, try to minimise them. If you spend too much money on lunch at work, start making packed lunches or batch-cook a hot meal for the week.
By changing your daily habits, you can reduce expenses and slowly boost your financial health.
3. Shop around
After calculating your expenses, some are considered ‘essential’ such as rent, insurance, and gas and electric bills. These expenses cannot be done away with as easily as not buying coffee out. Instead, you can try to minimise these bills.
By checking comparison websites and doing some independent digging, discovering potential savings and better offers has never been easier. It’s also very important to check if your current contracts charge a fee for cancellation or changing providers. You’ll have to balance whether swapping provider will save more money after such fees.
The savings are there to be found, especially if you consider downgrading some of your services.
4. Set targets
Creating a clear goal to reach can help motivate you to stay on top of your spending. Whether that goal is becoming debt-free or saving up for a treat, the mental benefit of an attainable number to reach is great motivation.
Your targets don’t have to be large. It’s more important to set a realistic goal and achieve it than to aspire towards an impossible number become disheartened. Consistently reaching smaller targets is more beneficial than aiming for one large figure over a long period of time.
5. Plan for the future
It’s all well and good sorting out your finances right now, but if you’re stuck in the same situation next year, it can become a chore. By maintaining your awareness of your expenditure and adjusting for any changes in your income, save yourself the effort of redoing all your work in the following year.
This links well with any of the targets you set. By organising your finances with the long-term in mind, you can set and hold yourself to a standard you can benefit from for the years and decades to come.
Saving and improving your bank account takes time, the best time to start is yesterday. By planning for the future, you can set yourself a financial roadmap to work ensure long-term economic health.
6. Get organised and keep track of debt
You may find it beneficial to create a spreadsheet so you can list each loan or credit card, the total balance, and either the minimum payment amount or any set monthly repayments. Set monthly repayments would be applicable if you’ve used one of Klarna’s instalments or financing options, for example.
Again, it may be difficult to look at your debts in black and white, and this might make you feel more stressed in the short term if the total is more than you thought. However, you are now more than likely already in a better financial position than before.
7. Focus on minimum payments
To make things feel more manageable, start by just looking at the minimum payment amount on each debt. This is the amount that you have to pay each month to avoid missed payment fees being added. It’s important that you avoid these fees if you want to prevent the debt from building up more quickly, and missing payments can also have a lasting impact on your credit score.
You should also set up a direct debit for the minimum amount each month for each credit card or loan that gives you this option. Doing this means you will never be charged missed payment fees even if you forget one month as the minimum payment will be made every month automatically.
Once the minimum amount is paid, you can then pay whatever you can afford on top. Only paying the minimum amount each month means it will take a long time to repay the debt, so you really need to pay as much as you can over this. Not only will it bring down the debt faster, but it will also save you money in interest.
When you’re working out your debt repayment strategy, you need to organise and prioritise which debts are the most important to repay. These may be the loans or credit cards with the biggest balances, or the ones that charge the highest interest rate.
Then you need to decide whether you want to try and pay off everything together, or to focus one debt at a time until each one is repaid. If you choose this method then you should start with the loan or credit card that you’ve put at the top of your priority list, putting as much as you can towards this each month, and then work down the list after each one is cleared.
Remember though to keep paying at least the minimum amount to avoid missed payment fees. You will also still need to keep paying any set monthly repayments if you’ve used buy now pay later services.
Consolidating your debts means paying off all of your loans and credit cards with one single credit facility. This will make managing your debts much easier as you’ll only have one loan, and therefore one monthly payment, to think about.
If you can find a lender that is offering a loan or credit card with 0% APR introductory period, then you could save a lot of money on interest too. This means that if you pay off the full amount within the offer period, you won’t pay any interest. Just make sure you know what the APR will be after the offer period though, as you need to ensure that this is better than the interest you’re currently paying.
10. Reach out
The past couple of years have been very difficult and financially demanding for many.
If you can’t speak to close family members or trusted friends about your problems, then there are organisations and charities that can help if you don’t know what to do. Organisations like Citizens Advice, StepChange and National Debtline can help with your finances.