Mrs Moneypenny (Channel 4′s Superscrimpers) is writing a series of blog posts for us, all about making better financial decisions in 2015. @mrsmoneypennyft
2015 is the year that you could really sort out your finances, and here’s how.
First things first: buy a notebook and record, accurately, how much you spend. Set out a page for every area of your life (mortgage/rent, utilities, mobile phone, and council tax, car insurance and so on). Everyone should aim to spend an hour a week on their own finances. Sounds a lot? Contrast that with how much time you spend worrying about them, and it will seem a small sacrifice.
Information is power. How much do you earn? You can calculate your salary per hour using this websites like thesalarycalculator.co.uk , and then you will be able to see how many hours you need to work to afford that new skirt.
Audit your debt. Make an inventory of everything you owe, including listing all your credit cards and the rate of interest charged.
Check your credit report; do this at least annually and make sure there are no errors or areas you need to address. www.experian.co.uk is one place you can do this. You can obtain a copy of your statutory credit report for £2, or you can sign up to a 30 day free trial of Experian’s CreditExpert service – it’s £14.99 per month after the trial if you do not cancel. If there is any incorrect information your credit report, or even partial information, you could be paying more for credit than you otherwise might be. There are also lots of simple things you can do to improve your Experian Credit Report and Score which will help lenders look at you more favourably. Did you know that most people only bother to check their credit reports when they are refused for a mortgage or a credit card? Forewarned is forearmed!
Check that you haven’t got any forgotten bank accounts, pensions or even Premium Bond prizes lying around. Surprising as it may seem, many of us open bank accounts and then forget about them, or move house, or die, or open accounts for children and don’t tell them. Check if one of these dormant bank accounts is yours. There are almost 900,000 unclaimed premium Bond prizes, which means that more than £44 million is sitting there waiting for someone to claim it. If you think some of that money might be yours, have a look at the NSandI website. Apparently, a quarter of people in the UK with a pension fund have lost their paperwork. If you think you may have lost track of a pension fund you enrolled in a while ago, you can track it down using the government’s online Pension Tracing Service.
Review all your expenditure, one thing at a time. You will have heard all the usual advice about skipping that takeout coffee and making one at work instead, but there are probably much bigger bills you pay that you could reduce. Are you paying too much for your mobile phone bill? Websites such as www.mobilife.com or www.billmonitor.com will let you check your bill to help you decide what tariff you should really be on.
What does your TV/telephone/internet access cost you? Could you get it cheaper? Or your utilities? Or your car or home insurance? Most people just renew these things without shopping around, and they could almost always save money by doing so. Use that hour a week to find out if you could be getting a better deal!
Invest in getting your children ahead financially. Start a pension for them – the government will add money to it if you do. You can save very little for them, or the maximum of £2,800 a year, or anything in between. And remember, when they grow up and leave home it is important to put their mobile phone bill into their name – not only does it teach them the importance of paying bills on time, it also helps to build up their own credit reports if they manage the account responsibly, which could be helpful when one day they want to buy a house or a car and need to borrow some of the money. Remind them that being late with a payment, or missing one, stays on your credit report for six years or even more, so it’s worth making every effort to avoid that.
Could you be earning more money? One way is to let out a room to students – do you know you can earn up to £4,250 from renting out a room in your house without having to pay tax on it? If you live near a university or college, get in touch with their housing department.
Finally, make a will. 60% of people never do this, which just stores up problems for the loved ones they leave behind. It doesn’t have to be expensive and you can even download simple wills from the internet.
Experian, in partnership with Mrs Moneypenny are on a mission to help you make better financial decisions in 2015. To watch more videos in the Mrs Moneypenny series visit youtube.com/experianuk