After overconsumption and festive excesses, I get back to normality with a checkup of my finances. Granted, it’s not the most exciting job in the world, but I’ve been doing a January review for years and I find it to be oddly therapeutic.
I used to avoid looking at my bank balance during January as I knew the news wouldn’t be good. I’d just hope to make its through to Up Helly-Aa without my debit card being refused. But now I bite the bullet and take positive steps in the New Year.
First, I check my bank statements from the previous year to make sure I know what has been coming out. I often discover rogue direct debits and redundant auto-renewing subscriptions (I’m a sucker for music streaming services), and I cancel what I don’t need or rarely use. The first time I did this I saved a few hundred pounds.
Then I go on the hunt for cheaper quotes for necessities – insurance, internet and phone contracts, electricity etc. A canter around the price comparison websites can yield quite a few quid savings. A bonus tip is to get all your contacts synced up so that they’re due for renewal at the same time and you can do it all in one sitting.
If you have a mortgage, this is a good time to review that too. Now that I’m in my (early!) 40s, mortgages seem to be a regular topic of conversation and I’m surprised at how many people have had the same uncompetitive deal for years. Again, have a look around the price comparison websites or call one of the many free mortgage brokers. There’s big money to be saved here.
Now that you’ve got your unnecessary outgoings tightened up, it’s time to put a payment plan in place for any credit cards or debts. The interest rates are crippling over the long term.
And once you’ve done your budget for the coming year (you do have a budget, don’t you?) then you might find yourself with a few pounds to set aside. If you want your money to work hard for you, and you’re up for taking a little risk, I recommend a new phone app called ‘Moneybox’ as an easy and interactive way to start investing in the stock market.
Reviewing your finances is easy to put off (I did for 20 years) but it’s one of the most productive things you can do. It doesn’t take too much effort to put a financial plan in place – the challenge is sticking to it. How about that as a New Year’s Resolution?