Sort out your finances as the nights draw in
Now is the time to give your finances a makeover to ensure that you are in good shape by the festive season. Here we offer our five tips for organising your credit and spending this autumn.
1. Demystify your credit score
When you apply to borrow money for a mortgage, credit card, loan, car or sofa, your credit score will be checked. Everyone should check their own credit score, your ‘financial MOT’, annually. Do so easily with Callcredit, ClearScore or Experian.
By shopping around you may be able to get this for free. Check that all your details, such as your address, are correct. If not, you will need to provide evidence of the correct details for a correction to be made. A few easy ways to avoid a poor credit score are ensuring that you are on the electoral roll, closing unused bank accounts and credit cards and avoiding making multiple credit applications or using pay day lenders.
2. Lock in a low mortgage rate
“Your mortgage is likely to be the biggest single monthly commitment you will take on in your lifetime, so it makes sense to review it regularly. With interest rates at a historic low and lenders offering a wide range of deals, now is a great time to consider a remortgage,” says Paul Witcomb, Police Mutual’s Head of Mortgages. He continues: “shop around: don’t feel you have to stay with your current lender. It’s worth contacting them in the first instance to see if they can offer you a better deal but remember other lenders could have something even better. A remortgage can incur various costs, including exit fees from your current lender, legal (conveyancing fees), arrangement and valuation fees for the new mortgage, so remember to check this out before committing to the deal.”
3. Switch current accounts
Still using the same account you opened as a child or student? You could be missing out on some attractive extras that suit your current needs far better, such as an approved overdraft and access to decent interest rates. Some pay cashback when you switch so shop around.
4. Set a budget
The first step to organising your finances is creating a budget. With a little bit of effort you can work out exactly how much your outgoings are and what you have left to spend each month:
• Keep a spending diary – try to keep track of exactly what and where you are spending for one month – you will be amazed where your money goes and where you can make savings
• Start small – even little savings can make a real difference over the year, cutting out non-essential spending such as your daily stop at the coffee shop or bringing your own lunch into work all adds up
• Save a little each month – if you have any spare money at the end of the month get into the habit of putting it into a savings account. You never know when that unexpected bill will crop up, so having a little bit saved could help you cope
• Be realistic – budgeting is all about smart planning rather than cutting your expenses to an unsustainable level. Remember your budget needs to be realistic and flexible or you won’t be able to stick to it
5. Manage your credit
While you should make at least the minimum repayment each month on credit cards, paying off the full amount after a splurge like a holiday is even better to avoid high interest. Consider a balance transfer to move the money you owe to a 0 per cent credit card.
We know that money worries can take their toll. By giving you the tools to better manage your money, we hope that we can help take the stress out of your money management, giving you more time and energy to do more of what you love. See the Police Mutual Financial Wellbeing hub for more useful guidance: policemutual.co.uk/wellbeing/financial-wellbeing
Police Mutual Assurance Society Limited is an incorporated friendly society. Registered office: Alexandra House, Queen Street, Lichfield, Staffordshire WS13 6QS.
Article published on 1 October 2017
James Heaney is a Marketing Manager in the Brand team, responsible for PR and advertising. He is based at the Lichfield office, and likes skiing and writing for children in his spare time.Read more of James's articles