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Many of us will use the New Year as a catalyst for positive change - whether that means finally clearing out the back room full of odds and ends, embarking on a strict new fitness regime or solemnly vowing to commit to meal prep each evening.
But if you really want to go into 2019 with a fresh outlook, organising those finances should be at the top of your list – and here’s how you can do it…
Get a clear idea of your outgoings
Feel like you’re not splashing your cash on expensive holidays or designer clothes, yet your bank balance always appears to be declining at a rapid rate?
To really see where your money is going, we recommend writing down what you spend each day for two weeks. Everyone has their weak point when it comes to weekly finances, whether it’s that luxury morning coffee from your favourite cafe, or skipping an evening of meal prep in favour of an expensive lunch.
Once you have a breakdown of your expenditure, it’s easier to see where the money is adding up – and how a few clever swaps could soon save you a lot. Which brings us on to our next point…
Be in control of your calendar. Be wary of arranging too many expensive social activities in one week to spread out your spending. Rather than meeting for dinner and drinks, are there times you could enjoy a free yoga class with a friend, or a wholesome Sunday walk with your partner, rather than an afternoon in the pub?
When it comes to feeding yourself and your family, being organised can make all the difference.
Meticulous meal planning can help combat wasting food – and therefore money. Try batch cooking and freezing meals in portions to ensure leftovers don’t end up in the bin. If you’re time poor, a recipe box subscription – like Gousto or Hello Fresh! – could be a solution. And when it comes to that morning coffee? A thermal flask is your new best friend.
Some financial companies are getting behind this idea, too, to help customers organise their finances more effectively in the New Year. Aviva, for example, has launched #Planuary, a campaign that encourages women to pledge to make one change to their finances.*
Make a budget – and stick to it
Work out how much you can afford to spend – holding some funds back for future goals – and stick to it. When sticking to a weekly sum, you’ll soon see which little luxuries – like that second wine after work or morning coffee – need to go. Start with your weekly outgoings, then factor in social commitments, as well as the odd treat (because you can splurge a little – and still save).
It may sound simple, but writing everything down will give you a much clearer handle on how much leeway you have when it comes to your finances. And deal in cash for day-to-day expenses if that makes it easier to keep track of your spending, rather than continually tapping a debit card.
Try investing – no matter how big or small your starting sum is
Perhaps some of us shy away from investment, because it can appear a daunting process. There’s also the common misconception that you can only invest if you have big sums of money to part with.
But this isn’t the case. New apps such as Wealthify from Aviva can be useful – whether you’re an adventurous or cautious investor. You can then check on your investments instantly and easily via the app.
Make savings non-negotiable
Be strict with yourself and know what your weak spots are when it comes to spending. You could set up a direct debit to an alternative account, and treat it as you would any other standing order. You could put in anything from £50 to £500 a month, depending on how much you can spare. But as long as there’s that monthly sum regularly going in, it will soon start to build up.
It can be tough to save when you’re tempted by a new purchase, but the satisfaction of seeing your savings grow after six months will be worth it.
Set yourself long-term financial goals
Incentivising your saving will make it easier to do, so always make sure you keep the bigger picture in mind. Whether your daydreams consist of endless Mai Tais at an all-inclusive Bora Bora beach resort, or, on a smaller scale, giving the living room a new lick of paint, having a goal to work towards will make it easier to give up those little daily luxuries.
*Aviva is urging women to take control of their finances this year as part of its #Planuary campaign. Pledge to change one thing to improve your finances. Find out more here