We all know it's important to keep on top of our spending, but a lot of the time it's easier said than done. In a bid to take control of their personal finances, a group of people recently gathered outside Parliament in London's Westminster holding their own 'Budget Boxes' on the morning of Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne's Budget statement. The participants were all members of Noddle - an online service where people can check their credit score for free and improve their own financial health.
With the impact of this year's Budget still trickling down to our everyday lives, here are our top tips for you to take control of your own finances.
1) Isolate your savings
Having all your money in one bank account makes it harder to track and manage. You can easily end up spending it on short-term impulse buys such as a night out or clothes - no matter how important they seem at the time. To make sure you have enough tucked away for those unexpected bills, split your money into three basic pots: short-term, long-term and emergencies (e.g. boiler break down). Often it's helpful to aim for specific goals, so maybe have a 'car' or 'new holiday' fund.
2) Track and budget
To avoid getting into financial difficulty, establish a reasonable budget and stick to it; no one wants to be out of pocket mid-month and have to miss out on brunch with besties until pay day comes back around. Paying by credit and debit card is fast and easy but it can make it difficult to keep a close eye on expenditure which can lead to nasty shocks at the end of the month. If you know you're on a budget but know that you're prone to over spending then why not take out your weekly budget in cash and leave the card at home? That way you can know exactly how much you have spent and there's no way you can exceed your limit.
3) Small cuts make big savings
It's often the small spends we don't think about which have the biggest impact on our budget. A little extra planning and organisation such as making your avocado on toast at home can make a huge difference. If you spend what seems a modest £5 on lunch a day this adds up to about £1000 a year. Throughout your working life this can amount to a hefty amount that could be better spent elsewhere. Additionally, cutting down on other small, non-essential expenses like your daily coffee, or walking instead of taking public transport, are also great ways to save money in the long term.
4) Save BEFORE you spend
It can often be the case that the minute we get paid we splurge on something we've been eyeing up all month. However, by giving yourself a bit of breathing space before spending it will give you enough time to really weigh up whether you can actually afford it in the long-run. If you do, going forward, a good plan is to automate your savings by setting up a monthly direct debit for the day after you get paid. That way you don't have to worry too much about putting away the money. You could also do this with your monthly bills so you know you can use what's left over at your leisure.
5) Credit check up
Regularly checking your credit report on Noddle helps to keep track of your finances but also helps prevent you from being a victim of identity theft as unusual searches in your report or any unrecognisable accounts opened in your name can be spotted early and dealt with. It's that simple and will potentially save you hassle in the long run. Go to www.noddle.co.uk to sign up.