Lifestyle

How healthy are your finances?

The economic impact of the past few months may have highlighted a need have a close look at your financial situation.

Even people who have not suffered a loss of income have found themselves feeling anxious about their financial futures. The bottom line is that what we think and feel about our financial situation is fundamental to our wellbeing.

Whether you are coping with changed circumstances or wanting to strengthen your finances, help is at hand.

Audit: The personal finances check up

If your money worries keep you awake and you can’t work out where it all goes, the first place you could start is an honest assessment.

Begin with an audit. In the simplest terms, it’s a measure of whether you have enough money to meet your needs today and to allow yourself to plan for the future.

Services such as the Money Advice Service have free, easy-to-use tools that give you a good idea about how things are going.

Take a note of all your outgoings, without cheating, and work out where your money goes. Some people find it helpful to log everything they spend over, for example, a month to build an accurate picture. That way they can note what was going on when they tapped their card. Some banks, such as Starling and Monzo, make this easier with apps that categorise and track your spending which you might find helpful.

In the same way that having a health assessment can highlight warning signs and areas to take action, once you’ve got a clear picture of your personal fiscal landscape you’ll be in a much better position to identify issues and improve matters.

Money help: you’re not on your own

It takes a lot of courage to face the fact that your finances are causing you problems, and even more to ask for help.

However, it doesn’t need to be this way. Whether your financial troubles come from mounting debt or from worries about the bills that are causing serious distress, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You are not the only person in your position and there is lots of non-judgemental advice available.

There are a number of places to turn to for help, including the Money Advice Service or Citizens Advice. If you’re a Benenden Health member, you can speak to a qualified counsellor 24 hours a day, for support with any anxiety or stress you might be feeling in relation to your finances. Learn more about the mental health support that Benenden Health could offer you.

Side-hustle: Could I earn more?

It’s possible that your financial investigation has revealed that your income is falling short of what you need it to be. Fortunately, there are many ways you could make extra income without having to work double shifts.

The top five ways that could help you to earn a little extra are:

  • Decluttering - If you’ve got things you don’t need or want anymore, why not try selling them? Try the big sites like eBay, Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, or invest some time to research specialist marketplaces.

  • Earn as you spend - Cashback is available via various routes from credit cards to sites such as Quidco. This is an effortless way of bringing in a little more. Just beware of buying things you don’t need in order to earn cashback.

  • Use your skills - Could you put your talents to work? For example, you could sell your DIY abilities on Taskrabbit or your technical expertise on sites such as Fiverr if you can offer a service like graphic design

  • A crafty solution - Do you have a creative hobby? Put the things you create up for sale on the likes of Etsy and see your pastime turn into a lucrative side-line.

  • Lodge your interest - Have you got space to rent out? Your spare room – or even your sofa – could become a source of revenue if you can rent it out to travellers. Alternatively, if your home is striking you could offer it as a set for film and TV production.

Economise: Cutting your spending

Now it’s time to look at ways that you could reduce your costs. Don’t become downcast that cutting your spending means cutting your fun, there are painless ways to trim the expenditure. Start with a long hard look at where your money goes?

  • Fees and subscriptions - Do you use all the things you pay for? Move on to the things you do use, such as TV services, is there a cheaper way of getting the same thing. A simple phone call to your supplier can often result in a discount. As your granny may have said ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get’.

  • Is there a cheaper way? - Include the less obvious things in this review. For example, do you really need to be a car owner when using taxis or occasional hire cars might leave you considerably better off? Examining your habits can be fruitful. Quick wins include buying cheaper ‘off-brand’ alternatives to your groceries or taking your own brew instead of buying expensive coffee. When you're in the market for utilities, phone, insurance, mortgages, don't forget price comparison sites to help you find the best deals.

  • Do you need it? - Do you find yourself spending money on things that aren’t essential? If you are tempted by an inbox full of sales alerts, take the time to unsubscribe to emails from your favourite shops.

  • Get it cheaper - If you do need to buy online, there are several browser extensions, such as Honey and Pouch, that automatically hunt for discounts and voucher codes for your purchases. Over time, this can really add up.

  • Justify it - Keep going until there isn’t a single bit of your spending you can’t justify. This may well include buying a travel season ticket, cooking up a fakeaway rather than a takeaway, or cycling instead of driving.

Saving up: How to build a nest egg

It’s wise to have a fund for emergencies. Saving is also essential for a range of life events, from a new house to a marriage. But accumulating thousands can seem a daunting business, or even impossible, when there is so little money left at the end of each month.

There are different approaches so you can put something in place that works for you:

  • Straightaway savers - Some people like to have a lump sum tucked away as soon as it arrives. If this is you, set up regular savings automatically, such as a direct debit into a monthly ISA, and you can soon find yourself saving up without even noticing.

  • Small bite savers - Others need help to do it little and often. There are armies of savings services and apps to help with this. These include Chip which stashes your savings away without you having to remember to transfer it into a deposit account. Plum is a service that babysits your paycheque to help you resist temptation.

  • Sneaky savers - There are services, including Tandem Bank, will simply round up your spending and automatically put the virtual pennies into a digital piggy bank.

  • Spree savers - If you are goal driven, set yourself a specific savings target and work hard towards it. Keep it in your focus and monitor your progress regularly.

With these top tips, you could be well on your way to better financial health. This in turn can have a greatly positive impact on your mental wellbeing. If you still have concerns, remember you can always reach out and ask for support with financial worries.