Think you don’t have time to get your finances in order? Whether you only have a few minutes, an hour or a whole morning, Kara Gammell presents tips to get on top of your money management
Whether it’s getting the best deals or chasing the best rates, thinking you’re too busy is often to blame for financial tasks getting overlooked. But you don’t need as long as you think to get your money matters in order – sometimes all its takes is 15 minutes.
Here are a few ways to get started.
If you have 15 minutes to spare
Sort out a savings goal
People who set savings goals save faster than those who don’t. What’s more, figures from NS&I show that people who have a have a financial focus save up to £550 a year more than people who don’t.
The easiest way to build up a nest egg is to keep it simple and set up a standing order on a monthly basis. The government’s Money Advice Service has created a savings calculator to help consumers find the best way to reach their savings goal.
The calculator lets you see how long it will take to reach your target amount, and you can also find out how much you will need to put by every month to reach your target.
Don’t forget to find an account with a competitive interest rate and which meets your needs for your savings. But bear in mind that a high rate alone might not be all you need – think about whether the account gives you
Transfer your credit card balance
If you have hefty credit card debt, make sure you aren’t paying out more money on interest than necessary. For instance, figures from the Debt Advisory Service show that those with a credit card balance of £2,500 and who repay just the bare minimum amount each month on a card with a fairly typical APR of 18.9%, would take more than 25 years to clear the balance - paying more than £3,000 in interest in doing so.
One option to avoid these charges is to consider moving your debt to an interest-free credit card. Many credit card applications can be completed online in around 10 minutes or so. Some will even let you know if your application has been accepted within minutes of applying.
But remember that a record of having applied – but not the outcome – will remain on your credit card record for a year. There will usually also be a charge to switch, so make sure that the amount of interest you stand to save is more than the cost of moving your balance.
Check your credit report
Before a bank or building society offers you a credit card, loan, mortgage or overdraft, they will look up your credit score in order to get an idea of how likely you will be able to pay the money back. Ensuring that this information is correct can pay dividends.
And it doesn’t take much to throw your credit report into a mess, either. Just one missed or late payment on a credit card, loan or mobile phone bill, for instance, could knock you out of the running for the best deals or interest rates.
Under the Consumer Credit Act, you can write to one of the credit reference agencies, such as Experian or Equifax, and ask to see your file for a cost of £2. Alternatively, if you need to see your report in a hurry, you can check your file online – although this will also cost you money.
CreditExpert from Experian offers a free 30-day trial, which enables you to see your credit report, and then charges £14.99 a month for continued access. Equifax’s Credit Watch Gold service also offers a 30-day free trial and charges £7.50 a month for the rest of the year, but these can be cancelled once you have seen your report.
There are also free services such as Noddle and Clear Score which also give you access to your credit report.
If you have an hour
Uncover the best energy deal
Shopping around and switching energy suppliers is one of the easiest way to cut household bills – but more than a third of us have never switched suppliers for any type of fuel – and are forking out hundreds of pounds more than necessary.
Energy companies usually change their prices twice a year and what can be the best deal one year can prove less competitive the next. Tarrifs can be incredibly complex to understand and compare. The government’s goenergyshopping.co.uk has been set up to make the process easier.
Say no to auto-renewals
While it may seem obvious, shopping around for insurance can save you a fortune. Don’t just accept the renewal quote you are offered as it is always worth getting quotes from rival insurers. It’s also worth looking at a variety of comparison websites – not just one. There can be a wide range of differences in quotes between services.
Keep in mind that the cheapest policy may not be the most appropriate, as the level of cover will vary. Another easy way to reduce costs is to pay your premium upfront if you can – paying monthly may appear cheaper or more manageable, but can work out up to a quarter more expensive.
Manage your mobile costs
Eight out of ten people are on the wrong mobile-phone tariff, with less than a third using their full minutes and texts, according to research by Billmonitor.com, the mobile phone contract site comparison website endorsed by Ofcom. As a result, they are paying as much as £200 more a year than necessary.
The site compares more than 12 million British mobile phone deals and shows you the best contract for your mobile phone usage. By taking into account details such as free minutes, off-peak calling and charge limits, it can then show you the 12 tariffs that could save you the most money.
If you have a whole morning
Sort out your Will
Anyone with assets should have a Will, but the sad fact is that many people have less time than they imagine – and about half the people who die each year do so intestate. That means the law will decide who inherits your assets, and the taxman may take far more of your hard-earned possessions than you would like.
Wills are legal documents, and as small errors can cause big problems it’s preferable to have someone legally qualified draft it for you.
The cost of using a solicitor varies depending on how complicated your will is and where you live. However, it should be made clear from the start. Find a solicitor in your area by contacting the Law Society on 020 7242 1222 or lawsociety.org.uk.
A number of trade unions, such as Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), the NASUWT teachers’ union and Unison offer free or heavily discounted will-writing services to their members.
This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.