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We all have bad habits, but when it comes to finance, it’s the little things that can add up to a big money problem. But making a few changes here and there can mean huge savings, so now’s the time to clean up your act and reap the benefits.
Being loyal: Banks rely on our apathy, but if you shop around for the best current account you could save, or even make money. It’s easy to stay with the same bank but loyalty rarely pays, so find the right account for your needs, whether it’s a cheap overdraft or an account that pays you for being in credit.
Forgetting old direct debits: Few of us check our statements carefully every month, but if you don’t keep an eye on regular payments coming out of your account, you could be wasting money on things you don’t need or use.
List all the standing orders and direct debits going out every month and ask yourself if you need to keep paying them or can get them cheaper elsewhere. Remember to speak to your provider before you cancel any payments to avoid charges.
“You should have a clear idea of what is coming in and going out of your account each month. Spend five minutes looking at statements and identifying any mysterious payments you don’t recognise,” says Kevin Mountford, head of banking at MoneySupermarket.
Relying on plastic: We live in an increasingly cashless society and although credit cards are convenient and handy for one-off purchases and transferring existing debt, relying on them is dangerous. They can make it tricky to keep track of spending and you are more likely to buy things without thinking. Withdrawing cash instead is a great way to stick to a budget.
Paying off the wrong debts first: Different types of credit cost more – home loans and student loans are cheaper than personal loans and credit cards – so pay the most expensive debt first. High interest rates on credit cards are the cause of many debt problems so it’s usually the first port of call.
Paying off as little as possible: Card issuers love people who make only the minimum repayments each month. If you do this it will take you much longer to pay off your debt and the interest will quickly stack up.
Using the wrong plastic: Credit cards are a useful tool, but only if used correctly. Steer clear of store credit cards enticing you with discounts at your favourite shops. These cards have high interest rates so any discount will be wiped out if you miss a payment.
Never checking your credit report: Checking your credit report for mistakes or inaccuracies could mean you are more likely to be approved for the best credit cards and bonds. You can also see if anyone has fraudulently applied for cards, loans or bank accounts in your name. Get a copy of your report.
Automatically renewing insurance: Review your home, contents and car insurance every year, not only checking for cheaper cover but also reviewing the level of cover you’re paying for.
Don’t opt for the cheapest policy without checking that it provides the cover you need. The cheapest travel insurance policies may not cover lost luggage, for example. Check the excess level too. High excesses render a policy pointless if you can’t afford to pay them.
Not preparing for emergencies: Create an emergency fund to cover you if you can’t work, or have to pay a surprise bill. Experts recommend a safety net to cover your expenses for, ideally, six months. If you have insurance policies such as income protection (which replaces your salary if you have an accident or illness that prevents you from working) make sure they are up to date.
Never creating a budget: Knowledge is power, so draw up a budget to work out what you spend your money on and identify areas where you could be saving. Remember, a little time and effort can go a long way, whether it’s taking a packed lunch to work or booking train tickets in advance. – The Independent on Sunday