Skint Dad's 12 month budget plan
Planning your finances can sound like a real bore! When everyone is wishing each other a Happy New Year, setting healthy resolutions and turning over a new leaf for the year ahead, why would anyone want to get bogged down with financial planning?
Dealing with the household income, bills, savings and potential purchases through the year can jump out at you unexpected unless you do a bit of forward planning for life events.
I'm not necessarily suggesting it's all done in one hit as it would just get a bit too much but by breaking down different parts of your finances over the course of the year, you'll be well on your way by next year to have a rosy financial future.
Without a doubt, the first month of the year is the one spent planning for the last month. It's the perfect time to save your cash by getting a bargain in the last of the sales to pick up gift wrap, Christmas cards or cut price decorations and gifts.
Although January can be considered a bad month for money, as people realise they may have overspent on Christmas, it's a good time to start saving so the same mistakes aren't made the following year.
Why not try setting up a standing order and transferring £12.50 a week into a savings account? By the end of the year you'll have £650 of cash saved up. You could even try the Skint Dad 1p saving challenge where you save an additional penny every day of the year and can save a whopping £667 by 31 December.
With February being the month of love you’d be forgiven for thinking with your heart instead of your head. That said, if you’re going to be splashing out on gifts for your valentine, you still don’t need to overspend.
Whether it’s a night out at the theatre, some new jewellery or a romantic meal; there are still ways to cut costs without looking cheap. Looking for a voucher code on sites such as Hot UK Deals and signing up to cashback sites like Quidco and TopCashback are good ways to make the most of your money. Also once you’re signed up with the cashback sites you can use these for future purchases and continue to make money back.
If you're booking a restaurant, consider getting a tastecard which gives you 50% off or 2 for 1 at 6,650 UK restaurants. They are currently running an offer where you can get a tastecard membership for just £1.
Spring is around the corner and while you are no doubt getting your mops, buckets and dusters out to give the house a spruce up for the start of the season, it's also a good chance to do the same thing to your bank account.
Take a look through your paper statements or have a look on your online banking and check to see that your direct debits are set up as they should be and that you have no strange payments leaving your account. Once you've given this a good look over, it's something you might want to continue doing at least once a month going forward as you don't want to be caught out by fraudulent payments or unnecessary spending.
The new financial year begins in April each year and before you hit the end, you need to make sure you've saved as much as possible in your ISA to take advantage tax free savings allowances.
A lot of accounts offer great introductory savings rates that drop to low levels which don't get you much back. It's always worth checking the interest rate on your savings account or ISA and see if you are able to switch over your account with your current bank or building society, or if it's worth finding a new provider.
Don't forget that your kids can save in an ISA too.
If you're heading on a summer holiday this year then start thinking about getting your currency changed up. Never exchange money at the airport as you'll face bad rates. Instead do a comparison online as you'll get a better deal, you are normally able to pick up the money in a store as well if you don't want it being posted.
Plan for how you'll manage with money while away so you can avoid using credit or debit cards which normally face extra charges. You could look to get a pre-paid cash card instead if you don't want to carry lots of cash about.
It's time to look at your household bills and see what expenses you can slash. Check everything from your car and home insurances to your TV, broadband and home phone.
When your renewals come through for insurances don't just accept your quote. If you really want to stay with your current insurer then at least try to negotiate the cost down. Do a comparison online of what else is out there so you have a figure to aim for.
Sometimes you can get the best savings by switching and you'll be able to see instant savings on your bills.
Although kids are just starting to break up from school and you won't have to wash the uniforms and get packed lunches ready for six weeks, you can start getting bits and pieces for their new school year.
Instead of buying it all in the final few weeks, by starting early you can spread the costs. Most schools sell on second hand uniforms that are donated back from parents so it’s definitely worth asking your school office if they do this. Also, check Facebook selling pages to see if there is anyone selling uniforms as they generally have a lot of wear left and will save you buying everything brand new.
Be sure to do a pencil case audit as you’ll be surprised what is in there! Clean off pens and rulers and re-sharpen pencils. Not everything needs to be replaced each year.
Kids bouncing off the walls? Stir crazy? Bored? Cabin fever? Need to get out? Don't panic buy expensive days out to theme parks but plan ahead. Papers, crisp packets or cereal boxes usually have vouchers to collect for free tickets and if you book online you can usually save too.
If you're travelling by rail then book as far in advance so you can to get the cheapest tickets and if you're travelling to London then you can normally take advantage of 2 for 1 offers at some of the main attractions too.
Your families food habits usually start to change when everyone is back at school and it starts to get darker in the evenings, so it's a good time to look at meal planning and batch cooking.
in advance there is less stress in the evenings trying to get a meal together and if you cook large batches and freeze them, then dinner will be a matter of reheating an already prepared, fresh meal.
Cooking from scratch will mean that you have fresh food and it also works out cheaper than buying pre-prepared meals.
Busy families can save both time and money with some pre-planning in the kitchen. By planning your meals
As the evenings get colder our thoughts turn to whether we should be adjusting the thermostat and getting the radiators fired up. While that debate continues in the background make sure you're not overpaying for energy in the first place.
If you haven't changed providers for over a year then there's a good chance that you are paying too much for your gas and electricity. If you haven’t switched in over five years then you are no doubt paying too much!
With the average annual saving for switching gas and electricity standing at £260 you will have wished you checked earlier in the year. Doing an energy comparison and seeing who you can switch with takes less than 10 minutes. When you switch you have no interruption to your supply – you'll just have a different name appearing against the (lower) direct debit.
Check that your credit report is in order and do a quick audit to make sure your finances are shown correctly. Even if you pay your bills on time each month sometimes things get recorded wrong which could negatively impact on your score.
You can boost your score by making sure everything is right and even getting yourself on the electrical register.
The main companies to check your score with are Experian or Equifax. If you haven't signed up before then you are able to get a free trial. If you don't want to pay then Noddle offer free for life reports but not all companies share the information with them so not everything can be seen.
Don't let yourself get into debt over Christmas and waste the next year in financial worry. Instead, take your savings you started in January and use that to buy gifts for loved ones instead.
Any money you've made through cashback sites can also be spent now to help the additional costs that you have at the end of the year.
Getting on top of your finances isn’t always that easy, but if you tackle it month by month like we have, you shouldn’t have any nasty financial surprises going forward.