Spring into action

Taking a closer look at what you’re spending as a family can help make significant savings

It will not be too long before spring is finally upon us, and those winter months (even though we’ve had a really mild winter) will start to become a distant memory. But with spring comes a new tax year – the 2019/20 tax year is just around the corner.

It may be tempting to leave the family finances ticking along. However, while you may feel the urge to give your home a spring clean as we move into this time of year, why not take the same approach with your finances?

Here are some simple tips on how you can take a closer look at what you’re spending as a family and help make significant savings.

Create a budget and try to stick to it
The best financial planning begins with a piece of paper and a pen (okay, you may want to use a computer and spreadsheet). By working out your family incomings alongside your outgoings, you’ll soon spot easy ways for saving cash, such as cutting down on takeaways or shopping trips for a single item.

If you’re looking to track your finances more closely, you could use an app to help keep on top of your income and expenditure budget. This will instantly show you how much money is spare so you don’t overstretch yourself.

Clear loans or credit cards with savings
If you’re just clearing the minimum payment on loans and credit cards despite having cash in the bank, then it’s worth doing the maths to work out what’s actually doing more for you. Your savings could be earning little or no interest, while your payments are costing you money in interest.
While it’s good to keep a nest egg for an emergency, in this scenario you’re paying for the privilege of doing so – money that would be better spent elsewhere.

Take a look at your credit report
Whether you want to take out new lines of credit or not, it pays to stay on top of your personal financial data. In the UK, the three main credit reference agencies (CRAs) are Experian, Equifax and Callcredit. Be aware that repeatedly applying for credit can harm your chances of getting credit, because lots of credit searches might indicate you’re having problems. You can apply for your credit record as often as you like, though.

Review your insurance cover
Being underinsured or overinsured will cost you money either way. Whether it’s life insurance, policies for your home, car, medical bills or travel, or just a backup in case products break down, put a date reminder in your diary a month before the renewal. You’ll then have enough time to shop around and ensure you get the best possible quote for your specific needs.

Don’t forget about your pension pot
For many people, retirement may feel a long way off, but with UK life expectancy increasing it pays to think ahead. Many people choose to pay off their mortgage with surplus cash rather than invest in a pension. But for many, owning a home is still a dream.

Whether you’re a millennial or nearing the end of your working life, you need to keep a constant eye on how much your pension is performing and whether it needs topping up. This is especially important with the latest changes to the State Pension age.

Check your Council Tax band
Some homes are in the wrong Council Tax band, as houses in England and Scotland were put into valuation bands in the early 1990s – bands that don’t accurately reflect what the house is worth today. You can check what band your property fits into on the Government’s website and, if you feel the band is incorrect, challenge it as well.

Use the Internet wisely to save big
Online comparison sites are one quick way to save money, but consider using voucher code websites or buying online through sites where you can receive cashbacks on purchases from many top brands and stores, so you could soon see the savings mount up.

Also, don’t forget to empty your browser’s history and cache when shopping for the best deals. Some sites remember if you’ve already looked at a product and won’t give you the best price, presuming you want the goods too much already – a tactic common among airlines and holiday websites.

Get your children involved in saving
Teaching kids the value of money can instil the financial skills they’ll need as an adult and even stop them from wanting you to spend so much. Set up jars around the home for them to put coins into instead of buying sweets or toys.

Visually seeing the coins mount up encourages them to save and skip impulse buys. You could even write a monetary goal on the jar to incentivise them further – either the amount to reach or what will be bought, whether it’s a video game or a new bike.