How to Give Your Finances a Proper Spring Clean
Many people find it hard to make time to manage their money. As well as the complexities around financial products, we find that the biggest barrier to people staying in control of their money is often down to a lack of time and effort devoted to their finances.
We firmly believe that it is only by setting time aside to manage your money that you will get the best outcomes and be in a position to live the lifestyle you want over the longer-term.
If, like most people, you’ve been neglecting your finances recently, maybe now is a great time for a bit of a spring clean.
Much like a traditional house spring clean, this may sound a little daunting and something that is easily put off, but you will be amazed at the results you can get with a little planning and a little effort.
To help you, we’ve broken it down into the key steps in any good financial spring clean.
Hopefully you keep all your financial paperwork somewhere. If not, you should. Take everything out and organise it into sections – bills, policies, receipts, etc. Take a look through everything from the past year to see if anything stands out. Cancel any unused services and flag up policies to investigate further. You may find it easier to use an online financial organisation tool like our own client portal which will help aggregate all your policies, bank accounts and other financial information. If not, maybe create a simple spreadsheet or document with all your policies details with current values so you can see your total financial picture in one place.
Update your budget
Don’t have a budget? Make one. If you do, check through it. Are you sticking to your budget? Are there things you could cut back spending on or things you need to spend a little more on? Prices rise over time and our priorities and needs change too so a budget needs regularly updating. You may choose to have your budget on a spreadsheet or use a dedicated program or app. However you do it, a budget will help you plan with certainty for the coming year.
Check your bank statements
Review your bank statements – whether in paper form or online. Check for items you are unsure of, cancel any old direct debits and standard orders and look around for a better bank account deal. Maybe you can get a free overdraft or a better rate of interest on your money. Maybe you’re paying for ‘add-on’ services you’re not using. Talk to your bank and try to get the best deal you can and look around for an even better deal if you can. Switching bank accounts is now easier than ever and not something that should be put off.
Slash your bills
Check all your household providers – gas, electricity, phone, broadband, TV, car insurance, house insurance, pet insurance, mobile phone contract and so on. You could find you save hundreds of pounds per month by getting a better deal on these. Yes, it’s a bit of work, but the savings can really mount up. There are some great comparison websites so find one you like and take the time to check each of your suppliers. If you’re in a contract period, task up for the end date to review it instead.
Review your pensions & investments
Check any pension and investment policies you have. What are you invested in? How have your investments been performing? Are they still the best place to be? Also check the fees you’re paying and ask whether these still represent good value. If you’re happy with your investments, think about contributing more to them if this will help you achieve your longer-term goals.
Check your debts
High interest on debts can be detrimental to your longer-term financial health and it’s imperative to stay on top of this. Check your credit and store cards, personal loans and any hire purchase agreements to work out how much you still owe. Check the rates you are paying and think carefully about whether there are better deals available. Maybe it’s time to pay off some of your debts with savings. Think carefully before acting to ensure you make the best decision. Whatever you do, write down a list of all your debts and your monthly repayments so you know where you stand.
Consider your insurance policies
If you have any insurance policies (life insurance, critical illness, unemployment insurance, etc.) then it’s time to review them. Do you still need them? Is the level of cover appropriate? Are better deals available? It’s also time to think what additional insurance you may need. Have your personal circumstances changed? How does this affect your needs should the worst happen? Think carefully about the worst-case scenarios and ask yourself how you and your family would cope. Most things can be insured against nowadays so check out what premiums you may need to pay to protect yourself and really think about this carefully.
Get your mortgage in check
For many homeowners, their mortgage is by far their largest monthly expense so any savings could make a big difference to their overall financial situation. Ask whether your mortgage is still the best deal for you. If you’re in a fixed rate period, think about overpaying to reduce your outstanding loan amount. Maybe you need to release more equity or maybe your lender has a better deal available for you. Whatever you need, think carefully and seek advice if you need to. Getting your mortgage in check can be complicated but doing so can produce some huge benefits.
Update your will
Most people should have a will. If you don’t have one – you should probably get one. If you have one, dig it out and read through it to make sure it’s still in line with your wishes. If it needs updating, get it done as soon as you can. You never know what’s round the corner so you need a will that’s right and up-to-date.
With a little organisation, and a little effort, you can get your finances in tip-top shape. We recommend you do this more than once a year if you can, but even setting aside a few hours each year to run through these things will help you stay in pretty good financial shape. If this all seems like too much effort, financial planning firms can always help with this. We love helping people get their finances in shape and working with them to plan for the long-term. Please get in touch if you need any help or input with your own financial spring clean.