As the weather gets warmer and the days become brighter (hooray!), we often think about spring cleaning our homes. But what about our finances? With the new tax year coming, and with many providers changing their pricing in line with the Retail Price Index at this time of year too, there couldn’t be a better time to give your finances a spring clean to make sure you’re still getting the most out of them.
1. Review your subscriptions and bills
With mobile phone and broadband providers increasing their bills around this time of the year, there’s probably no better time than now to scrutinise them and see if you’re still getting a good deal. Use comparison sites to see if you can get a better deal elsewhere, or call up your existing provider to see if there are any discounts they can provide. The same applies for your subscriptions. Is there a streaming service you pay for but don’t really use? Are their subscription boxes just infrequent enough that you forget to cancel them but kick yourself every time they arrive on your doorstep? Go back through the transaction feed in your banking app, or download your bank statements and go line by line to figure out which ones you want to keep and which ones you’re happy to let go. Based on a survey by Compare the Market, reviewing your subscriptions regularly can save you up to £170 on average.
2. Get ready for the new tax year
If you’re in the UK, the new tax year is imminent. And there are a few different ways you can prepare yourself for the end of this tax year and the start of the next one. If you have an ISA, you might want to add any spare cash to them to make the most of this year’s allowance. If you haven’t got an ISA yet but you want to, start researching the best one for you. Doing it now means you can use the full tax year to maximise your allowance. If you’re self-employed, use this time to get your ducks in a row ahead of your self-assessment tax return. The January deadline might seem a world away but from my experience, it always seems to linger over our heads until it’s done.
3. Review your money system
If you started this year with a new budgeting method, expenses tracker spreadsheet or spending diary, now is a good time to work out whether they are working. Consider whether they’re helping or hindering you from achieving your goals, or whether it might be worth tweaking your system in a way that works better for you. I honestly believe that having a money system that you like and that motivates you is key to helping you manage your money. There’s no failure in saying ‘this isn’t right for me’ - it doesn’t mean you’re bad with money, it just means you haven’t found the method or technique for you yet.
4. Clear out any irrelevant financial goals and make room for new ones
Goals aren’t just for January. Look at any financial goals you want to achieve this year and beyond. You might want to use this opportunity to create a roadmap on how you’ll achieve them, breaking them down into manageable chunks. Whilst you’re goal setting, it is worth reviewing any you set for yourself at the beginning of the year to see if they’re still working for you. Perhaps your overall goals have taken a different direction or you want to focus on something else. Tweaking your goals as your life evolves helps you to stay motivated with them and ensure they’re still relevant to you.
5. Get a transparent overview of your debt
If you’re currently tackling some debts, then take a look at how much you owe. Knowing how much you owe, including the interest you’re paying and to whom you owe it to can help you tackle your debt in a systematic order. For example, you might decide to tackle the debt with the highest interest rate first. Apps like Incredible make this process easier and help to take away a lot of the overwhelm in this initial stage. There’s no doubt that this can be a really daunting task but I have a few recommendations to try and make it easier. Chat it through with your partner or a loved one. You don’t have to tackle it all at once - this might be looking at one credit card statement one day, and then another the next until you have the knowledge you need. Or speak to a charity such as Stepchange - they are experts in debt and they can guide you through your options confidentially and with compassion.
6. Make a note of any annual expenses, big events or holidays coming up
I truly believe that being organised can both help us save money and foster a better relationship with it. So, take some time to mark your calendar with the rest of this year’s events, holidays, school trips and birthdays that might require you to spend money. Being aware of them can help you with forward planning so you’ve got the right budget in place. The same applies for any irregular expenses you might have, such as your car MOT and service. And if you’re using a digital calendar, set up an alert a week or two in advance to make things even easier for you.
7. Get your bank accounts in top shape
Are your bank accounts serving you as best as they could be? Weigh up all the pros and cons of streamlining yours to give you a more transparent look at your overall picture. It’s also worth seeing if you can switch to a better account or whether you could be earning more interest with a different bank too. But don’t be guided by interest rates only; make sure you’re looking at customer reviews as part of your research. Knowing that you’ll get supportive customer service gives extra peace of mind if you ever need to contact your bank.