Money and mental health: 10 tips to give yourself a financial check-up
It’s World Mental Health Day today – a time to reflect on your wellbeing. As finance is such a big part of our lives, here are 10 tips to give yourself a money health check.
There’s no escaping the current cost-of-living crisis and with the changes announced in the mini Budget (and U-turns thereafter), so it’s a good time to evaluate your finances and make sure you’re not spending more than necessary.
Consumer champion Which? has launched a free Money Health Check tool to give Brits personalised, expert tips for cutting living costs. It asks seven simple questions about personal spending habits and then signposts users to relevant guides.
But for now, here are 10 tips to help give yourself a money health check:
1) Give yourself a ‘money health check’
The first step to understand your current situation. Note down your direct debits or any regular loan or credit card payments you need to make each month. The Which? Money Health Check tool can factor in these kinds of financial commitments and give targeted help to improve your finances.
2) Transfer credit card debt
If you are making large interest payments on credit card debt, you may be able to move it all onto a 0% balance transfer credit card. This type of credit card doesn’t charge interest on transferred debts for a set amount of time, so users have an opportunity to repay the balance. For example, a £2,000 debt on a card charging an 18.9% APR that you pay £60 a month towards will take 46 months to clear, and cost you £2,755.
However, shifting this £2,000 debt onto a 0% balance transfer card, with the same repayments of £60 a month, will take 34 months to clear and cost £2,000 – saving you £755. However, the interest tends to jump at the end of the promotional period, so be sure to either pay off the balance in full before this happens, or switch to another balance transfer card.
3) Check if you’re eligible for any benefits
More than £15bn goes unclaimed from the Treasury each year, with around seven million UK households missing out on benefits they’re entitled to, like council tax discounts, pension credit and Universal Credit.
What you can get depends on your circumstances. For instance, people who are out of work or on low incomes may be able to claim Universal Credit, where you’ll receive regular payments to top up your income.
It can be tricky to know which benefits you might be able to claim, and how much you’ll get. Which? suggests checking what might be available to claim by entering details about you and anyone else in your household into the Entitled to calculator.
4) Check the overdraft fees on your bank account
Going overdrawn can be costly, especially as some accounts charge up to 39.9% EAR (effective annual rate). If your bank charges a high rate of interest, it could be worth checking to see if you can switch to an account that offers a lower one – particularly if you use an overdraft regularly.
Nationwide currently offers a free authorised overdraft on its FlexDirect account (subject to status) – but this only lasts for the first year. Keep an eye on the best current account switching offers too. for example, First Direct is offering £175 to new customers and Nationwide is offering £200.
5) Use price comparison websites
Insurance policies, credit cards and broadband bundles usually have huge differences between the cheapest and most expensive. Before signing up for new financial products and policies, check the best deals available by using price comparison websites to compare different products, and make sure you choose the best for your individual circumstances.
6) Get a better mobile phone deal
Evaluate phone bills to make sure that call, text, and mobile web use isn’t consistently above or below your monthly allowance – if they are, it could be worth looking for a cheaper deal that matches your current usage. You could also haggle to get the best deals as Which? research found these customers saved an average of £35 per year on mobile contracts.
7) Cancel unnecessary direct debits
It’s worth checking bank statements regularly to keep an eye on direct debit payments and cancelling anything you’re not using. Get into the habit of logging into your online bank account and checking statements to ensure you’re not shelling out for services you no longer need or use.
8) Use budgeting apps
Budgeting apps are a great way to get an overview of account activity and spending habits. Many apps allow users to link multiple bank accounts to help keep track of overall spending. By checking regularly, you can keep an eye on unnecessary costs and budget more effectively.
9) Sign up for loyalty cards
Many retailers, restaurants and supermarkets offer loyalty schemes to reward customers by allowing you to collect points each time you dine or make a purchase. Often, the points earned can be converted into discount vouchers, or offer one-off discounts and deals.
When shopping, it’s worth checking if there is a scheme to sign up to and take advantage of. For example, Tesco shoppers could get one point (worth 1p) for every £1 they spend and access to lower prices with the Clubcard scheme.
10) Reduce your tax bill
You may be able to keep hold of a bigger chunk of earnings by claiming all the tax reliefs and allowances you might be entitled to. From marriage allowance to the Rent-a-Room scheme, there are lots of ways to cut your tax bill, yet relatively few people are aware these reliefs exist. For example, those renting out a room, rather than a whole property, can take advantage of the Rent-a-Room scheme, which means you can earn up to £7,500 tax-free.