Do you worry about money all the time? Continually trying to make ends meet? Did you ever take time out, stop and think about what could be done to ease your financial burdens…or stop and plan even the next 12 months so your cash flow does exactly that – flows?
Here are five simple tips from John Lowe the Money Doctor to put you back on the road to financial fitness and health with over 9 months of the year still to come:
1. Plan it: It is crucial to complete a household budget as your first exercise – working out exactly what you are spending each month and from this, determining initially how much disposable and/or surplus income you have – that is, after tax, and after rent/mortgage, household bills, food, petrol and ‘spending money’. This should have been done in January but it is still not too late to start in April.
If your expenditure exceeds income, you then have two choices – cut costs or earn more. Remember, ask yourself do you really need to buy that product or service and if you do, is there a cheaper or better alternative? We need now more than ever to ensure we are getting the best value for our hard-earned and scarce money.
2. Cut down your banking and insurance bills: Overdrafts and especially those exceeding the limits should be a no-no. Arrangement fees, high interest rates, referral fees, surcharges (additional interest for exceeding overdraft limits – can be another 12% pa) and unpaid fees all take their toll on your disposable income. Check out www.consumerhelp.ie/currentaccounts for comparisons. Also check out An Post’s new Smart Current Account where you can actually get cash back from purchases with their debit card through their various partners.
Credit card costs also need reviewing – try and use it like a charge card and pay off when payment is due. But be wary of taking out cash via ATM’s through them – they can charge up to a whopping 26% from the time you withdraw! You should also shop around for the best mortgage and loan deals, not to mention those insurance premiums – life, health, buildings and contents, travel, even your car – they should all be compared with the best on the market – or through an independent authorised adviser.
3. Find the right savings/deposit accounts: Albert Einstein was accredited as saying ‘Compounding is mankind’s greatest invention as it allows the reliable systematic accumulation of wealth’. Many of the top deposit accounts have some minimum and maximum thresholds so you need to do a little research to find out where is the best account for you.
The most important decision about savings can be summed up in one word – START.
By planning to save, you are setting immediate goals – for holidays, that attic conversion, new plasma 3D screen television or even funding Christmas/birthday presents for the children etc. So save small but save often – whether a bank’s Regular Saver account, the post office or your local credit union. Ensure your deposit–taker is regulated – the Central Bank’s Deposit Protection Scheme covers you up to €100,000 per person per institution.
Then it is a simple matter of finding the best rate – better in your pocket than theirs. Best regular saver accounts currently? If you save between €100 per month and €1,000 for 12 months, you will receive 1.75% interest from EBS while KBC Bank offer 2.5% IF you open one of their “extra” current accounts (2% bonus). Credit unions and the post office should not be forgotten either through both offer little interest.
4. Cut down your household utility, leisure and travel bills – when you analyse your household bills, you will find you may have left the lights on for too long, or not used the washing machine on the night-time rate or had the central heating blazing while you were away for the weekend.
Buy discounted bus passes, use www.tolltag.ie, a bicycle – over time, not only is it cheaper but better for you physically – or the Last Minute type holidays. You will find many ways to reduce those overheads. Adhere to the Money Doctor mantra – stop spending, and if you must, ensure best value.
5. Don’t be embarrassed… it’s no shame to save money!
- Take advantage of special in-store offers – and read the junk mail coming through your letterbox from the various retailers.
- Use coupons and discount vouchers
- Go online and use discount web sites – www.grabone.ie, www.dealrush.ie & www.donedeal.ie, www.groupon.ie to name but four
- Have fun for free – bring the family to the town library, art galleries, museums, parks – all for free!
- Generic and bulk buying – especially nappies and baby food
- Clothes – buy tough wearing items and remember your family and friends will appreciate your baby’s clothes once grown out of them. There is no shame in hand me downs.
- Food – portion control… one of the government healthy guidelines is eating mash/rice – the portion should be the size of a computer mouse while cheese should be a golf ball size and vegetables taking over half your plate!
- Tap water is free and far better for your children and you than any soft drink.
While money can’t buy love, we do need it to ensure continuity of our lifestyle and maintenance of our families. Embrace the challenges, after all, it’s in your best interest. Start today with this 5 point mind-set.