We all know we could make our money go further – or, at least, have some of that pay cheque left by the time the next one rolls around. And yet, no matter how hard we budget, we often still struggle with our finances. In the end, we end up paying the price for being personal finance rebels; these are the personal finance rules we all break. Even if we really, really don’t mean to…
Everything goes on the card
As the saying goes, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. And never can that be more damaging than in the case of credit cards. The money we’re spending isn’t tangible, like cash, and there’s a world of difference between handing over £100 in tens and twenties and just buzzing your card through a machine. It makes us much more likely to spend, since we can’t visualise that money disappearing from our banks as well as we can when we have that hard-earned cash in our hands (which might make us think twice before buying those must-have goods). What’s worse, when we’re relying on cards, is the drip-drip-drip effect – we might think ‘Oh, it’s only a couple of quid’, but that money soon adds up, and we only realise we’ve overspent once the bill comes in at the end of the month. Then, to make matters worse, we end up making minimum payments so that debt never seems to subside.
Spending over saving
A good rule of thumb is to save what you’re not spending. It’s not always practical – life tends to get in the way of the best laid plans – but it’s a great ambition to maintain. Trouble is, so few of us do it, or even attempt it. It’s too easy to think of our unspent cash as ‘spare money’, since it’s not going on bills and it’s not part of our dedicated savings that we diligently set aside each month. Okay, spending that leftover cash might not have got us into debt, but it also means we’re looking at yet another uncomfortable month as we continue to tighten our belts.
Only basic savings
We’re reminded constantly to save, and millions of us do – but that doesn’t mean we’re saving the right amount in the right way. For many, it’s a case of just opening up a basic savings account with their current bank. That’s a good start, but those sort of savings accounts rarely offer a decent interest rate, meaning your money’s not adding any real value; it’s just lazily sitting there. Another problem is, given that they’re linked to your primary bank account, you usually have access to it whenever you log on to internet banking – making it all too easy to simply transfer some of those funds to your main account when money’s tight. What we really need to do is work out a budget, to see how much we can afford to save and for how long, then research all available options (Cash ISAs, for example) to find out where our money will be best placed.
Not cancelling subscriptions
Let’s keep this brief. If we’re not using it, we should stop paying for it. Whether it’s gym membership or a Netflix account, subscription services make most of their money from people who keep paying because they’ve forgotten all about it. It’s habit, it’s direct debit, it’s unseen. Essentially, it’s another case of out of sight, out of mind. Then we see a payment’s been taken out, and we think ‘Oh, I really must cancel that’ – until we forget about it for another month…
Sticking with the same service providers
Electricity. Gas. Internet and telephone. TV services. Whatever it is we’re paying for, we should really be finding out if we’re getting the best possible products for the money we’re spending out. It’s all too easy to sign a contract and just forget about it – a lot like subscription services – so we keep on paying the bills without question. Big mistake. It’s pretty straightforward to switch from one company to another, as the new provider will generally do all the legwork, informing your existing provider that it’s not working out and that you’re leaving them. What really takes the time is doing the research ourselves to find out what we’re currently getting, and what’s available to us. It doesn’t always mean you’ll be paying less, either – a couple of weeks ago, I noticed my technologically ignorant mother was paying £40 for basic broadband (you know, the slow kind that struggles when more than one device is connected). An hour online and a phone call later, I’d switched her to another provider offering super-fast fibre optic broadband for £40. Same price, but a vastly superior service.