A new financial year is the perfect time to get on top of your financial affairs, but if you’re struggling, here are 5 steps you can follow from financial expert Melanie Eusebe.
Award winning business strategist, co-founder of the Black British Business Awards and author of financial wellness book, Financial Wellness and How to Find It, Melanie Eusebe is passionate about empowering people to take control of their finances.
Financial empowerment comes more easily to some than others, so if you are one of those who could use a little help when it comes to organising your money and getting the most out of your earnings, read on.
The first thing you need to do, according to Eusebe is to create a budget of your income and outgoings. Once you have a budget, follow these five simple steps from Eusebe.
Step 1: Review your budget
When was the last time you put your budget under the microscope? Given the tumultuous times of the past two years, chances are your budget could use a brush [up]. Start with the big-ticket items and then work your way through the list. If anything is missing, add it in. If something no longer fits, swap it out to make space for something new.
Don’t forget to account for things like travel plans and holidays. They’ve been in short supply, but fingers crossed, we’ll have better luck this year.
Step 2: Take your budget and add 10%
We’ve got to account for [inflation] increases in our budget. While inflation is currently forecast to be under 10%, I prefer to prepare for the worst. Take a fresh look at your planned and regular expenditures now to see what might need a rethink.
The good news is that not everything is going to go up – if you’re locked into a contract at a fixed price, that might not change in the short term.
Step 3: Review your deals and contracts
Are you starting to see how this process flows from one step to the next?
Protect yourself from price rise surprises by checking now when your existing contracts and deals end. Most companies will include information on contract end dates and special offers on your invoice. If you can’t find the information, it might be worth contacting your supplier to ask.
The most common items will be your utilities and telecoms, insurance, and either rental agreements or mortgages. Shopping for a new deal for most items is as quick as an internet search. I use calendar reminders to make sure I don’t get caught out.
Step 4: Let’s talk about your credit cards
It is okay to use your credit card to pay for things. Ideally, however, you won’t use it as a long-term loan. If you are carrying a balance on your card, now is the time to check the interest rate, cause most of them have gone up.
If you are using more than one credit card, create a separate spreadsheet that tracks your balances, monthly payment and monthly interest rates. The credit fees on some cards are astronomical, and this may help to change which ones you use and which ones you focus on paying off first.
If you’ve got a large balance and a high rate, why not contact the credit card company and ask to negotiate a repayment plan? The worst they can say is no, and honestly, you might be surprised by what they will agree.
Another option is to look into low interest, balance-transfer offers from competing companies.
Step 5: Tidy up your paperwork and your passwords
Friends, if you are not using a tool to manage your passwords, now is the time to get one. This article in The Guardian will open your eyes if you have any doubts. The best way to protect what you have – whether that is money or information – is to store it behind the most complex and unique password you can come up with. Memorising those is not worth the time and effort.
I use Lastpass to keep up with all of mine. Their free plan is enough for most people, (full disclosure, I use the paid one) so there really is no excuse not to give it a try. If you’ve got a paperwork storage problem, you might look into something like HubDoc which lets you import and store your bills and receipts and makes it super easy to organise them.
*These tips originally appeared in Melanie Eusebe’s email newsletter and we share them here with her kind permission.
Financial Wellness and How to Find It by Melanie Eusebe is published by Orion Spring in trade paperback, priced £12.99 and is out now.