Most of us start a new year full of good intentions and resolutions when it comes to our finances. But it can be easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. With the spending fever of Christmas safely done with for another year, we resolve to make sensible decisions and start saving regularly again. That is until the weather starts getting warmer and holiday season rolls around. Before we know it the cost of days out in the sun are mounting and that holiday that ‘just went on the credit card’ isn’t going anywhere.
While there is nothing wrong with spending a little more and enjoying yourself over the summer, it is important to avoid sticking our heads in the sand and that we put measures in place to get ourselves back on track.
Here are three top tips to whipping your finances back in shape:
1. Set achievable goals
The best way to get back into a financially healthy position is have a clear idea of what that means to you. Within the realms of possibility, how much would you like to have put away in savings (and what for)? If you have got carried away over the summer and been left with credit card debts when is the earliest you can pay them off by to avoid paying out in interest?
Create a physical checklist of goals and set a timeline for each. Then stay motivated by measuring your progress at the end of each month. This will not only help you keep track of your financial progress but will also help to maintain momentum as you get closer and closer to achieving your goal.
2. Give yourself a budget (and stick to it)
It’s OK to splurge over the summer (most of us do) but the best way to get overspending back under control, is to bite the bullet and prioritise paying off debt and get saving again. Keep track of what’s coming in and going out and identify where savings can be made (even if they are just temporary) this additional cash can be used to fill in gaps left by summer spending.
It is important to give yourself a structure or budget to follow. A good place to start according to Money Advice Service is to work out how much you spend on the following:
- Household bills
- Living costs
- Financial products
- Family and friends
This will make it easier to work out where savings can be made and how much you have left over to pay off any debt and/or put into creating a savings buffer. If willpower is an issue after a long summer of spending, one way to dramatically increase the chances of sticking to your budget is to automate it. After you have worked out how much you need for monthly outgoings why not set up a direct debit for the remainder to go into a savings account – that way extra cash is less likely burn a hole in your pocket!
3. Take control of debt
Totalling up your balances at the end of summer can be daunting, but it’s the first step in getting your budget back on track. Once you have worked out exactly what you owe and how much you need to pay off it will be far easier to set and stick to your repayment goals. Especially if you are in the position of having built up multiple debts and don’t know where to start when it comes to paying them off. An effective way of getting this under control can be the ‘snowball method’.
This involves focusing repayments on the card with the lowest balance and paying extra each month to settle it, while just paying the minimum on remaining balances. Once you clear the first debt, you move onto the next card on the list, continuing to ‘snowball’ payments until you are free and clear.
Summer spending and budgeting means different things to different people and we all have our own individual priorities. The important thing is to get your budget back to a healthy place. This is a good precedent to set and can also be applied to longer term financial goals like saving for retirement or getting on the property ladder. The same principals apply, just on a larger scale. For example, if you want to retire at 65 it is important to work out how much money you need to save, how long you have to do it and whether you are doing the right things to achieve it. Seeking financial advice is the best way to ensure that you are on the right track. The rise in digital solutions like Wealth Wizards which allows employers to offer access to affordable, regulated financial advice means that it’s easier than ever to make the right decisions and plan effectively for the future.