1) You’ve sworn to put £50 into a savings account every month but somehow your precious salary never quite stretches that far. Oh well, there’s always next month…
Take the matter into your out of your own hands by setting up a direct debit from your bank account to a savings account, to be transferred on the day that your salary is paid. Be realistic about what you can afford, though, so you don’t get into the habit of ‘borrowing’ from your savings (as we can guarantee you won’t pay it back the following month).
2) Supermarket offers like ‘buy one get one free’, ‘three for the price of two’, and ‘buy one, get one half price’
We’re all bombarded with these every time we venture to the shops, but before you kneecap a little old lady with your trolley in your haste to grab a ‘bargain’, ask yourself if you’re really being canny with your cash or simply being seduced into overspending? Is the offer on something that you would normally buy? And if it isn’t, do you really have any use in your life for three industrial sized tins of Super Slug Pellets when you don’t even have a garden?
3) You saved 10% on your latest shopping spree just by signing up for a harmless little store card that you’ll cut up as soon as it arrives in the post.
Don’t fool yourself! Once that little bit of plastic lands on your doormat, it’ll be taking up residence in your purse, and you’ll be paying for that initial discount long after the clothes you bought with it are languishing in a charity shop. It takes a very strong will to resist the temptation to solve your latest need-clothes-no-cash dilemma by giving your shiny store card an outing.
“Store cards have high interest rates – usually around 29% – which means that if you don’t pay the debt off very quickly it will mushroom,” says personal finance expert Jasmine Birtles (www.moneymagpie.com ). “If you want your opening discount, pay the debt off immediately and then close the account down. You can always open an account later and get the 10% benefit again.”
4) Congratulating yourself on having some money left over at the end of the month, only to open the post and discover that your gas, electricity and water actually has to be paid for. Again!
Arrange to pay your utility bills by monthly direct debit, to avoid being ‘surprised’ every quarter (and because this makes life easier for your utility providers, they’ll usually offer discounts as an incentive). You can do the same with your water and council tax bills. You might also be able to make savings by switching your utility providers (try www.uswitch.com ).
“Monthly direct debits can be a great way to help you become a financial goddess,” says Jasmine. “They spread the cost over the year and help you keep your finances under your thumb. It doesn’t take long to switch to cheaper providers either. Just set aside a few hours once a year to go through all your essential bills and see if you can find a cheaper version online.”
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5) Mobile phone packages that offer a zillion free minutes and enough free texts for you to keep in touch with everyone in the entire country.
If the most you use your mobile for is to call your mum and text your bloke to pick you up from the station after work, you’re wasting your money on ‘extras’ that you’re not using. Switch to a pay-as-you-go scheme and only pay for the calls that you make.
6) That monthly gym membership that works out at a mere £2.50 a day…if you were to spend 8 hours, 7 days a week there.
Carrying around a laminated card identifying you as a member of Swanky Fitness Centres R Us and showing up there from time to time to meet your mates in the juice bar isn’t actually going to get you fit. If you can only remember what your gym’s called because you see the name next to an exorbitant debit on your bank statement every month, being pregnant is the perfect excuse to ditch the guilt and your membership, and sign up for antenatal classes instead.
7) Your best friend in the whole world is your credit card – it gives so much more and only asks for minimum repayments in return.
Unless you’re clearing your balance every month and therefore not incurring interest, your flexible friend is, in fact, your worst financial enemy. Check the interest (APR) you’re paying on your credit card debit and transfer the balance to a card that offers a lower rate. Beware of 0% APR offers, however – they only last for a limited period and are usually restricted to balance transfers, rather than new spending.
“My advice to anyone who can’t stop themselves spending on credit cards is to cut them up,” says Jasmine. “Keep one for emergencies; put the card in a bowl of water in the freezer. Freezing won’t harm the card, but microwaving it will. So when you’re tempted to use it you’ll have to wait for it to defrost, by which time you may well have decided you can live without whatever you were going to buy with it!”
8) The designer sandals that would cost a month’s salary, but are actually quite reasonable on a cost-per-wear basis – based on wearing them every day, rain or shine for the next 10 years
Enter the shop. Try on the designer sandals in your usual size. Fail to squeeze your poor puffy feet into them. Request a larger size. Sit on shop floor in an ungainly fashion in order to get sandals on without your bump getting in the way. Look in the mirror. Note precisely how the delicate sandals contrast so strikingly with your swollen ankles. Remove the shoes and then hand them back to the assistant. Proceed to the shop next door, and purchase lovely, comfy flip-flops for only a tenner.
Sue Hall, 40, is mum to Liam, 9, Oliver, 5 and Eliza, 3.
“I’m quite sensible with money but having 3 children is an expensive business, so when I was pregnant with Eliza I started keeping a diary of our household spending and my personal spending. It’s amazing how just writing everything down in a notebook can make you think twice before buying something on a whim.
We stopped using our most expensive credit card and transferred the balance to a cheaper one, then shopped around for cheaper car and household insurance deals. It can be time-consuming but it’s worth it as you can save quite a bit, even if it seems like small amounts. Once it’s all added up, it can be the cost of a family holiday!”