Spring clean your finances
With Easter over and the clocks moving forward, it’s an ideal time to take stock of your financial situation and spring clean your finances.
Whether you’re struggling to pay your bills, debts are mounting up, or perhaps you just want to start saving a bit more for that summer holiday; by taking a few hours out of your day you will be able to financially get back on track in no time.
Tidy up your budget
Firstly, I’m hoping that you already have a budget in place. You can use your budget to track what money you have coming in through earnings and any benefits and also money you are paying out for household bills, clothing, transport, entertainment and savings.
I regularly check my budget and make sure it’s still fit for purpose but, if you don’t usually check, then using this time of year to spring clean your budget is definitely worth doing.
Check to make sure all the figures are correct to what you’re earning or paying out for - you may find that your gas and electricity bill, your mobile phone contract and your council tax bill may have gone up since last year. You may have also had an increase in salary if you’re lucky!
Spruce up your bills
When your budget is fully up to date, it’s now worth looking about what you can clean up, cut out or reduce.
Are you still using a gym membership? Have you watched all the box sets on Netflix? Are you still reading the magazine you subscribed to?
Check your recurring payments and see what you no longer need. You may need to speak to some providers about cancelling contracts and then you can just cancel the direct debit.
Next up you need to look at your household bills and insurances. Be sure to take a look at comparison websites and get quotes to see how much you can save by switching. Most people are now switching car insurance on an annual basis but switching gas and electric providers is still not considered a norm, however by doing so you could make savings of up to £300 a year.
Dust off your forgotten money
I bet I’m not the only one who put a pair of socks in the wash but now only have one sock? Doing a spring clean (especially when you’ve got kids) can help you find all sorts of things! Lost art work that’s slipped behind the fridge, and even marbles and Lego under the sofa - you can be certain to find all sorts if you have a tidy up.
The same can be said for your money. You could very well have money sitting in bank accounts that you’ve forgotten about. Try My Lost Account which is a free service set up by the British Bankers’ Association, the Building Societies Association and National Savings and Investments. You can use it to track any old bank accounts or savings accounts that you may have not used for years and get your cash back.
If you’ve switched utility companies before then after you closed the account, the energy provider may not have credited any money back to you before you left! That money is still yours and you are entitled to a refund. This scheme mostly works with the 'big 6' energy providers but you are guaranteed an energy refund if you have made overpayments in the past.
You may also have lost pensions just sitting there too. Even if you don't need your pension just yet, it is certainly worthwhile knowing where they are for when you do need to claim.
Clear away your debts
Some people often find they overspend at Christmas, or even pay for the whole season by using credit. In the months after Christmas, credit card statements hit doormats and the memories of Christmas no longer seem so festive.
Instead of staying in a vicious cycle of using debt, why not use this year to clear them once and for all? Debt can be a massive burden for families and can take a big drain on day to day finances so the quicker debt can be cleared the better.
Whether you look to increase the amount you pay back each month or ask creditors to freeze interest, there are many different options. Whatever you look to do, it’s best to get free and impartial debt advice, best suited to your own finances.
Polish your savings
Even if you do have some debt, you should still try to put some money away to help in an emergency.
You may already have a saving account but do you know what your APR is? Many savings accounts come with an introductory percentage for interest which go down (quite substantially!) after a few months. It’s worth checking with your bank or building society to see what your savings rate is and then ask for a better rate, or even switch.
Spring also sees the start of the new tax year so before it some, make sure you max out your ISA so you can take full advantage of your tax free savings.
Then, when you’ve cleaned up your finances, you’ve just got the house to clean! Remember though that it’s wise to keep a check of your money, budget and finances more than once a year to make sure you’re not overspending or losing out on savings.