How healthy are your finances?
The cost of living crisis may have encouraged you to take a closer look at your financial situation, but it can be hard to know where to start.
With prices rising across the board – including for energy, food and petrol – it can be easy to feel anxious about your finances. This could naturally affect your sense of wellbeing.
Julian House, managing director of myfavouritevouchercodes.co.uk explains, it’s not easy to take your finances head-on, but it is worth it. He says, “This process can seem especially daunting given the current cost-of-living crisis, but if anything, right now is the perfect time to honestly evaluate your finances.
With rising inflation and interest rates, plus energy and food shortages globally, this is an unprecedented time for our economy and maintaining our financial wellness is very important.”
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 Helper have free, easy-to-use tools that give you a good idea about how things are going. You can set yourself a new overall budget, or zero in on expenses related to a specific part of your life: family, mortgages, debt, pensions and more.
You should also take a note of all your outgoings, without cheating or downplaying the amount you spend on things, 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. One option would be to use a simple Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets template that sets out your monthly totals.
Alternatively, track as you go with your bank. Some, such as Starling and Monzo, are specifically designed to help categorise and monitor your spending. If your provider charges for in-depth budgeting, consider whether or not that expense is worth it, or if an alternative service might do the trick for free.
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.
Whether your financial troubles come from mounting debt or from worries about the bills that are causing serious distress, don’t hesitate to ask 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 Helper 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?
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.
With all of these money-makers, remember not to overstretch yourself. If the purpose of a side-hustle is to relieve financial anxieties, you don’t want to end up in a position where you’ve replaced one pressure with another.
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, as there are painless ways to trim the expenditure:
Fees and subscriptions - Do you use all the things you pay for? Have you been meaning to cancel a subscription for ages but haven’t quite got round to it yet? Consider cancelling some of the services you don’t use very much – you may even find that the cancellation process leads you to some better offers. A simple phone call can also get you an improved deal from your phone, TV or internet provider.
Is there a cheaper way? - Include the less obvious things in this review, too. For example, do you really need to be a car owner when using taxis or occasional hire cars might leave you considerably better off? Most major cities now have good car-share providers, which are perfect for occasional-drivers. 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. Once something is in your basket, try to wait 24 hours before clicking buy. This pause will help you identify whether the purchase was just an impulse.
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’ll be able to save 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 Monzo and 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.
Saving is a lengthy process. Don’t be fooled by services that offer quick investments – any decision to invest in stocks, shares or other options that can result in you losing money should be carefully considered, with expert advice if possible.
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.