Why Can’t I Stick To My Budget?

Budgeting is vital to achieving financial stability, and it starts with developing a good attitude towards saving. However, once you start out, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only budgeting month-to-month, and not reaping the benefits that would come with budgeting long-term. Doing so is more rewarding as it takes account of irregular spending patterns, and allows you to plan in a way that more accurately represents your lifestyle.

Factor in Unexpected Spending

One reason budgeting can be difficult is that life is unpredictable. You may set up a £100 monthly spending limit for car costs, and then be hit with a £300 repair bill. You might have a string of birthday dinners that you’re obliged to attend. Anything can happen, and if you haven’t factored the costs in, the whole system will be thrown off course for the rest of the month, which can be frustrating and discouraging.

TIP: If you set aside a portion of your budget towards unexpected costs, that will prevent being blindsided. And if you don’t need to dip into it, that’s extra savings!

Every Month is Different

Some months will have added costs – such as December due to Christmas and New Year – so remember that spending patterns will be different month-to-month. Life events such as starting a different job, or moving home will also affect some months more than others. Keeping track of your spending over a longer period of time will help you predict and manage your budget needs.

Notice Overall Trends

By looking at your expenses over a six-month period, you will be able to notice spending trends, giving you a clearer idea of what six months of your life looks like, financially speaking. For instance, you may notice that in some months, you’re more inclined to dine out. This could be due to a large number of birthdays or a rise in free evenings.

If that’s the case, make sure you account for it in your overall savings by cutting back on spending in the couple of months leading up to this busier month. This way, you can treat yourself without having to worry about it not fitting into your financial plan. The ‘bigger picture’ you get from noticing these different spending trends will enable you to budget more effectively and accurately.

How Money Dashboard Can Help

Money Dashboard’s Budgeting function makes it possible to view a budget history of up to six months, and highlights instances of spending over the limit.  This makes it possible for you to see at a glance how much you have spent, and if you’ve gone over or under.

Additionally, all your transactions are sorted via a tagging system that allows you to view your outgoings in categories. In this way, you can see which areas you may be overspending in, which will help you set up an appropriate budget.

Taking Control of Debt by Starting Small

Debt can be overwhelming, especially if you’re behind with several different payments at once. When it comes to scheduling repayments, it can be hard to strike the right balance. It can be easy to get disheartened, and resign yourself to constantly paying out.

However, research into money repayment strategies has shown that if you start small, there can be a light at the end of the tunnel. Read on to find out how small financial wins can help you on your way to a debt-free life.

 

Why There’s Power in Small Wins

Some people may have multiple credit card accounts, perhaps in addition to a high interest loan, or other money owed. They may take a ‘scattergun’ approach to repayments, regularly distributing a chunk of income amongst the different credit card accounts, or towards various loans. However, research states that people are more likely to work towards getting out of debt completely if they concentrate on paying off the smallest amount first.

The research dealt specifically with credit cards in arrears (though the theory can be applied to most forms of debt), and consisted of various exercises. The results of the exercises show that people who focused on paying towards only one of their multiple accounts eventually paid more of their overall credit card debt in comparison to those who attempted to balance multiple accounts.

 

Why is this?

It turns out it has a lot to do with psychology. It has been shown that concentrating on making repayments towards one account increases motivation to work towards the aim of paying off that same account completely. This, in turn, makes people work harder, and more quickly, to become debt-free.

It works because it makes the goal seem more realistic, and makes the progress that has been accomplished feel more tangible and meaningful. That is the power of a small win: there is solid proof in a paid-off debt, and this proof is motivating as it shows paying off an outstanding sum as doable.

This is the nature of small wins in general: if we experience a feeling of making progress, we are more likely to continue to do so in the future. We feel as though we are getting somewhere. We feel as though we are accomplishing something. Additionally, making progress is also a mood-booster as well as a powerful motivation tool – so keep that in mind!

When it comes to your own personal finance needs, it’s good to know that by starting small, and concentrating your repayments, you may eventually achieve huge goals. You may find it is an easier method of managing your debts, if not a road to complete freedom.

 

The Advantages of Prioritising

When it comes to achieving these little victories, it’s great to start small, but you also need to prioritise. Make sure you know which outstanding amounts deserve the most attention. This comes from understanding your debts, so be sure to refresh your knowledge of their terms and conditions.

Look out for high interest rates on credit cards and loans. Those are the repayments you should probably prioritise above an arranged overdraft that doesn’t incur monthly charges, for instance. The advantages of doing this are that you won’t accumulate further debt in the form of interest charges.

 

Keeping Track of Your Progress

You can use Money Dashboard’s personal finance assistant to help manage your debts and achieve your repayment goals. You can track any bank accounts you have, taking note of savings, income, spending patterns, and repayments of debts. You can then use the budget planner to account for repayments into your spending. You can calculate and allocate an appropriate amount of money that will go towards paying off that one smaller debt, for example, which gets you a small victory and a motivation lift.

By setting these goals, and any other personal financial goals you may have, with Money Dashboard, it is easy to track your progress. By working hard to fulfil your repayment goals month after month, you will gain that sense of achievement and productivity that is needed to eventually shake off debt completely.

So, next time you’re planning your repayments, consider choosing the smallest outstanding amount that you owe to focus on clearing first. That said, make sure to prioritise and eliminate the sources of extra charges. Plan carefully by using Money Dashboard’s personal finance assistant to keep track of multiple accounts.

As always, if your debts are causing you an overwhelming amount of stress, or your feel you aren’t managing, you can seek free advice from National Debtline.

Money Dashboard Launches Mortgage Affordability App

Pioneering mortgage technology enters FCA Sandbox

Money Dashboard is launching a new tool to create a digital mortgage journey. TrueView™ offers an instant assessment of a consumer’s ability to afford a mortgage, by aggregating and organising financial transactions from online accounts and mapping them to mortgage lenders’ criteria.

The innovative nature of the offering has seen it taken into the FCA’s Sandbox for live testing. The FCA Sandbox is part of Project Innovate, an initiative launched in 2014 to provide new innovations with support to navigate the regulatory system, and promote competition in the interest of consumers.

Steve Tigar, CEO of Money Dashboard commented:

“Our consumers’ top financial goal is to get on the property ladder but they find the prospect of getting a mortgage incredibly daunting. The complexity of information gathering means they put off seeking professional advice until the very last moment, which is far from ideal given that it’s the most important financial decision that most people will ever make”.

Applying for a mortgage is still a painfully offline, paper-based process. According to research conducted by GBG, an estimated 65% of consumers no longer receive paper bank statements and 42% do not hold paper copies of utility bills, resulting in a 3 hour document collection process. The whole process is so stressful that 35% of buyers are made ill by it, and according to research by Aldermore, the top consumer priority to alleviate this problem is simplification of the customer journey.

The start of a borrower’s journey is equally difficult. Research by Money Dashboard found that 76% of consumers take over 2 years to prepare for a mortgage. Contrary to expectations, it is only in the final 3 months prior to applying for a mortgage was there any significant increase in activity to financially prepare or seek advice from a broker or lender. The preceding 21 months were occupied almost exclusively online with trying to understand how various different product and information providers might be able to help them.

As Money Dashboard’s Head of Operations, Rory Bailey explains:

“Spending 21 months searching for assurance from one information source after another, akin to being knocked around the inside of a pinball machine, blindly hoping for the result you want, is far from ideal.”

Money Dashboard’s TrueView™ solution instantly aggregates & organises income and expenditure data from all online current accounts, savings accounts and credit cards, giving a unique bespoke assessment of what a consumer can afford based upon lender criteria. It replaces nervous consumer ‘guesstimates’ and potentially unfavourable models with an impartial and accurate view of their financial position.

Consumers can use the tool to both plan for and improve their affordability, and when they are ready use the assessment and data to apply for a mortgage. The app replaces fact-finds, affordability assessments and bank statement collection. Verified data can be directly accepted by brokers and lenders to support a digital mortgage application making applications digital, simple and transparent.

TrueView represents the latest evolution to Money Dashboard’s affordability tool, which was in beta last summer and formally launched at The Council of Mortgage Lender’s inaugural digitisation conference in October 2016.

For more information please get in touch with us at info@moneydashboard.com or 0330 221 0574.

 

Money Dashboard empowers consumers to make better financial decisions via its free personal financial management service, crowned “Best Personal Finance App 2017” by the British Bank Awards.

Based in Edinburgh, the company’s mission is to help anyone and everyone who wants simple, digital accounting to enjoy their money more.

They pioneered this industry in the UK in 2010 and today are the largest provider in the market.

A Great Christmas that Doesn’t Cost the Earth

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It’s no secret that Christmas can be a costly time of year. There’s dinner to prepare, rooms to decorate, gifts to purchase, and guests to entertain. We all want our Christmas to be special but we don’t want to end up spending money we just don’t have. Nobody wants financial worries to dampen their enjoyment of Christmas or for their budget to be broken. Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be like that.

Going Home for Christmas?

For a lot of us the most important aspect of Christmas is gathering with family. Whether you’re making your way across the country or hosting for a large party, you could end up with unwanted additional costs, be it a plane ticket or another head to cater for.

If you’re travelling, consider booking your tickets in advance or looking for cheaper ways to travel such as by bus or car-sharing.

Another money-saving tip is to let out your home online while you are away, thus recouping the costs you’ve spent on travel. Plenty of people are looking for places to stay short-term over the Christmas season.

Be a Thrifty Host

If you’re the one hosting this festive season, why not share the load? If you live near parents, siblings or friends, team up and share hosting duties. This will reduce the financial burden and prevent wastage.

You could divide up important tasks or have Christmas dinner ‘pot luck’ style. If you really need to squash the cost of Christmas this year, consider organising ‘Secret Santa’ for the grown-ups. That way everyone gets a gift and nobody has to buy a whole host of fancy and expensive presents.

Plan Ahead for Christmas Dinner

It’s important to know how many people are coming to dinner so you can make an appropriate shopping list. Don’t ‘overbuy’.

Supermarkets will have special offers on Christmas food in the weeks leading up to Christmas so know what you need and buy things week-by-week so you don’t have to do a big, expensive shop in the few days before Christmas when things are more expensive.

While you may want to opt for high-quality brands it’s vital to remember that discount supermarkets offer food that can be just as delicious at a smaller price.

Finally, think outside the box. If you’re catering for a small group, it might not be essential to buy a large, pricey turkey. Consider cheaper alternatives such as a roast chicken or a shoulder of pork.

Finding Great Presents for Less

Sign up to a cashback site. By teaming up with leading companies and brands, these sites are able to give you money back on your purchases. The site will track what you’re buying and offer a cashback reward. That way, you’ll receive a chunk of the money back on your Christmas essentials.

‘Black Friday’ sales and deals have become popular in the last couple of years. Check both in-store and online to see what popular gift items you can get at a reduced price.

Check online classifieds for ‘Nearly New’ items. They say ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ for a reason – you might just find the perfect present in good condition, for a fraction of the price you’d pay for it brand new.

Reap the Rewards

It’s good practice to collect vouchers whatever the season, but you’ll definitely notice their usefulness at Christmas. Before throwing them away, check old magazines, newspapers, brochures and advertisements for vouchers. There are also handy online resources you can check out such as websites dedicated to collecting the best voucher codes all in one place.

Keep an eye on any extra vouchers you receive as a result of reward card transactions. If you have a Nectar card or a card from Boots, Superdrug or Tesco you’ll probably receive additional vouchers whenever you put points on your card. Read the vouchers and save them – you could end up with a voucher you can combine with an in-store deal.

Get Creative

If you’re a crafty type, make your own presents and decorations. You’ll save money and you’ll be creating personal and thoughtful gifts.

Be sure to check in at charity shops and local reuse projects as lots of people donate decorations and Christmas supplies once Christmas is over. You never know what you might find.

Be on the lookout for free Christmas activities. Lots of Christmas markets and fairs are free to enter. There might even be free events such as fireworks displays. You’ll get into the Christmas spirit without spending a penny.

Budget, Budget, Budget

With Money Dashboard’s personal finance assistant you can now categorise your spending exactly how you like with your own custom categories and tags. Why not make a specific budget for ‘Christmas’ and track everything you spend so that no expenditure goes unnoticed? That way, when it all starts again next year you’ll have a much better idea how much you’ll need to set aside and Christmas financial woes will be a thing of the past!

 

Saving energy this winter: how to stay warm without breaking your budget

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When it starts getting chilly and all you want is to keep warm, it’s very tempting to turn your central heating on, and leave it on all winter. When the energy bill arrives you might wish you had looked into some money-saving alternatives. Luckily, we’re here to provide you with some efficient ways to stay warm and save the pennies this winter.

Keep an Eye on the Weather

While it might feel cold, the sun may still be shining. Keep your windows uncovered during these sunny spells so that the heat can make its way into your home. Just remember to close your curtains again once it starts getting dark. This will reduce the effect of those cold winter drafts.

Invest in a Portable Heater

In some cases, it is wise to use a portable heater. This is especially true if your central heating lacks temperature controls or if you rely on storage heaters. Make sure to research which models are particularly energy-efficient. Also, if you mostly use just one room of the house, you can save on the cost of heating the whole home by using a portable heater in the room that you use the most. Just make sure to close all the doors to keep the heat in.

Understand the heating system your home utilises, and be conscious of that system when making choices that will affect your personal finance.

It is also worth considering that, for safety reasons, or because of the size of your home, it may make more sense to heat the whole house.

Be ‘Smart’ with Heating Controls

Some heating controls will have a timer. You can use the timer to set heating times so that it only comes on when you need it. This is especially useful when you’re leading a busy lifestyle and are always coming and going.

If you heat your home via a gas, oil or electric boiler, it might be useful to look into getting a ‘smart’ heating control. They can do a lot of good around the home in the colder season, from creating a heating schedule to automatically shutting off when you leave the house. Remember these ‘learning’ thermostats can be expensive themselves, so make sure you get a good deal and practice budgeting resourcefully. Use Money Dashboard’s budget planner to do this.

Cold-Proof Your Home

Doors and Windows – A lot of heat can escape around doors and windows. You can prevent this in a variety of ways. First, keep them locked. This will seal them tightly, reducing any gaps. Secondly, check the stripping that surrounds your doors and windows. If necessary, replace any bits that look worn or ineffective. Finally, while covering windows with insulating film may sound a bit odd, it can work towards eliminating heat loss. This temporary layer will work towards keeping you warmer and you can remove it when you no longer need it. Kits are available to purchase online. Prices can vary so always check to see which materials you can afford.

Insulation – Insulating walls and lofts can eliminate the risk of cold weather creeping in and help towards cutting the costs of bills. Some energy providers may offer free insulation deals – check with them and see if you’re eligible for this service. If not, consider insulating your home. Always make sure to check if you can work this into your budgeting.

Around the Home – There are lots of little ways you can keep the warmth in around your home. These include keeping radiators clear so that furnishings won’t absorb their heat.  It is also easy to forget that there may be various gaps in your walls that are letting cold air in. There could be gaps around pipes and electrical sockets, for instance. While these may have been filled in at the time of installation, the materials may have worn away. It’s vital to check for holes around your home and give them some TLC by sealing them.

Wrap-up and Wear Your Slippers

The Energy Saving Trust affirms that reducing your heating by even one degree can help you save money on energy bills. You can compensate for this extra degree by wrapping up.

Wear layers. Layering is important as thermal insulation is created between the layers of clothing. It therefore makes more sense to wear many layers of clothing, rather than just one thick layer. Remember to wear slippers or thick socks as well.

Other things to have on hand are a hot water bottle and a cup of tea. With all these things keeping you warm and cosy, you’ll be less likely to feel the drop in degrees.

And if you have to keep your heating on…

Make sure you’re getting the best deal. Money Dashboard’s personal finance assistant will help you see how much you’re spending, and price comparison services will help you find the right energy deal for you.

Switch energy suppliers or change tariffs if it means paying less. Some energy providers will offer discounted rates if you choose to pay by monthly direct debit, so keep that in mind.

 

Exam results: what they mean for parents and students

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Getting exam results is exciting for both parents and their children. It may lead to elation, or disappointment. It may determine what academic institution the child is attending next and therefore how they will spend several years of their life.

If your child recently got their exam results, it could be a good time to re-address both of your finances.

Spending Changes

If you’re supporting a child in education, it’s good to re-address your spending plan when they are changing circumstances.

Whether they’re heading to college or university, starting working life or going travelling, if you plan to continue to help them financially you should look at the costs involved. You may be saving money on certain things when they have left the house: grocery bills, transport costs, school uniforms and PE kits, you might even save on your energy bill by turning off the radiator in their bedroom. But these costs could all be replaced with other costs. There are still books and stationary to be bought, plus housing, household bills, and living expenses to consider.

It may affect your current home insurance or car insurance cover, or you may have to look into new insurance policies. Try to make a list of expected savings and costs associated with the change, and figure into your budgeting.

Discuss Finance with Your Kids

Some young people going off to university will have university fees or accommodation paid for by their parents, or receive a regular allowance. Other parents do not have the means to provide this, or their children are better able to support themselves through student loans, grants, bursaries, or a part time job.

Access to finance for both parents and students can vary greatly, but it’s worth examining in all situations. Students need to have a solid understanding of what sort of costs to expect.

Learning to Budget

Good financial planning starts with budgeting. Students should calculate how much they will have to spend each month in total, make a list of expected costs, adding in a safety net for unexpected costs.

Money Dashboard’s personal finance assistant will help with monitoring spending to make sure it stays within the budget, but it’s also important to adapt. Overspending isn’t a failure, it just means the budget should be updated based on actual spending habits.

Child Tax Credits and Benefits

Children are legally obligated to attend schooling until the age of 16, but many continue education for years to follow. If you receive child tax credit or child benefits, the benefit will be automatically be stopped when your child reaches 16.

If your child is looking for work, it’s likely you’ll no longer be entitled to these benefits, unless you have a younger child as well.

But you may still be entitled to these benefits if your teenager is:

  • Staying in school to study A-levels, Highers, or similar qualifications.
  • Attending college to study A-levels, Highers, or similar qualifications.
  • Attending a vocational school
  • Attending some training courses (subject to Government approval)

If you think you are still entitled to benefit, you will have to re-apply via your personal tax account or by contacting HMRC.

Student Finance Sources

Tuition fee loans are available from student funding bodies. These differ depending on which nation of the UK you are in; Student Finance England, Student Awards Agency Scotland, Student Finance Wales, or Student Finance NI.

Scholarships and bursaries are offered by universities and further education colleges, as well as charities, trusts and local councils. They may be based on exam results, or offered for other reasons, such as disability.

Other Financial Support

The Government also provides a calculator, that allows students to find out what they are entitled to in terms of student loans and additional funding. It takes into account the student’s earnings, and the earnings of their partner or parents:

https://www.gov.uk/student-finance-calculator

Students can seek additional financial guidance from their university or college’s student advice centre.

Returning Home

Students returning home from study may still need some financial support. Even intelligent, educated individuals have a hard time finding work without experience. If you have been supporting your child through university, don’t presume you’ll be better off now. They may need a little more time to become truly financially independent.

Personal Finance for Freshers

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The freshers’ parties are over and students across the country are settling into their new routines. But student life can be more expensive than expected. Some people are content to accept the label of “poor student” and build more and more debt that will follow them into their working life, slowing their ability to save up and achieve their goals.

But that doesn’t have to be you. By taking steps today you can build good spending habits and leave University with the best possible opportunities and the least money squandered. The following advice should help you down the right path.

Buy Pre-Owned Text Books

Textbooks are a big cost for students every year. Ask your university or college’s student information office about schemes for re-using textbooks. You may be able to purchase one for cheap from a student in the year above. Look for websites online selling the books second hand and look out for thrift shops near the campus. Be wary of the edition number though as you may need the latest release.

Home Cooking

If you don’t already know some basic recipes, you will at some point in your life have to learn. If you start now you’ll be saving a lot of money compared to students who spend on takeaway, delivery, and fast food. The extra time and energy invested are worth it because home cooked meals are often healthier and so your mood and energy level will improve too. It’s easy to find recipes online catering to almost any taste or diet and some are specifically written for students. The key is planning your meals at least a day in advance and making a list of what you need to buy to make them.

Explore Student Discounts

Discounts for students are very common. Hairdressers, cinemas and other entertainment, clothes shops, and public transport are just some examples. Look out for places that offer student discounts, and make note of them for future. Take your student ID wherever you go as it will come in handy. Check out Save the Student’s Directory of student discounts. However, keep in mind that just because a place offers a student discount it doesn’t mean it is the cheapest deal available. always compare prices.

Book Travel Far in Advance

Your term times and holidays are set before the academic year begins. If you are travelling a long distance to go home for the holidays you can book your transport months in advance. Advanced bookings tend to be cheaper for trains, buses, coaches, and flights. This may put you out of pocket today, but it will pay off throughout the year.

Personal Finance Assistant

It’s much easier to build good spending practises when you have a clear understanding of how much of your money is being spent on what. Money Dashboard’s budget planner functionality allows you to set your budgeting expectations, monitor the progress, and see quickly and easily the areas where you are spending more than you should be.

Update Your Budget

Working out your budget is surprisingly easy. The bigger challenge is to stay on top of your budget and make sure you don’t overspend. If you don’t spend what your budget predicts, you need to either change your spending habits or change your budget. Either way, it’s important to keep monitoring your spending.

Don’t Buy It Yet

There are a lot of things that you could spend money on that you may feel would improve your life. It might be furniture for your dorm or flat, weights to help you exercise, shot glasses for parties or a poster or decoration that will inspire you. While you might want all these things, you have to prioritise. If you see something in a shop or online that you think might be useful, don’t buy it right away. Write it down on a list, with the cost, give it a day, a week, a month, or however long it takes for there be to enough space if your budget to afford the purchase. Don’t make impulsive purchases that you’ll regret.

Saving for Success

Whatever you are studying, and whatever you plan to get out of life, the best way to achieve it is to put any resources you have to the most effective use. That means having a successful university experience, both academically and socially, without creating restrictive debt and indulgent spending practises.

 

Should You Lend Money to a Friend?

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If a friend or family member asks you for help, your instinct will be to help, which is good. Human beings should help each other. But dealing with personal finance issues requires logical decisions, based on you and your friend’s monetary situation.

It might be that by temporarily postponing reaching your savings goal, you can help someone close to you avoid paying high interest rates. On the other hand, you may never get the money back.

Do you have the money?

You shouldn’t be dealing with other people’s financial problems if you have not yet mastered your own. If you are in debt, you should be budgeting to pay off your debts before lending any money. Otherwise, ask yourself:

  • Do you have the money in your savings already? Never borrow to lend.
  • If you have the savings, what were you saving up for?
  • Is it OK to postpone your saving goal? How long did it take you to save this amount?
  • If you have an unexpected large cost, will you still have savings to cover it?

Do they have the prospects?

Your friend is close enough that you are considering lending them money, but consider what you know about them:

  • Are they in regular employment?
  • Do they earn enough to make repayments?
  • What other costs are they committed to paying?
  • Have they managed money well in the past?
  • Will you have to chase them repeatedly to make sure they make repayments?

If they are in the habit of borrowing more rather than repaying debts, another loan will not help break the cycle.

What Is the Money for?

It’s your money, you have a right to know how it is being used. If you are delaying reaching your savings goal, there needs to be a good reason.

Don’t Expect the Money Back

Make your peace with it now. No matter how much you trust your friend, there’s a chance that you will never get the money back. If you aren’t willing to risk losing the money altogether, don’t lend it.

Make it Interesting

If you didn’t give out the money, you could be making interest off of it. At the very least, your friend should be expected to pay the interest that you would get from your savings account. You may want to ask for more, to make it worth your while to take the risk. It may seem unfriendly, but if your friend is sincere, they will appreciate your gratitude in spite of the terms.

Formalise Your Agreement

At the very least, you should discuss the following terms:

  • How much are you lending?
  • How long are you lending it for?
  • Will they pay interest?
  • How much will they repay at a time?
  • How regularly will they repay?

Once agreed, best practise is to write down the terms and sign it. A contract doesn’t have to be too formal, it is unlikely that anything will end up in court, but writing down and signing an agreement now can prevent allegations and arguments later on. If the loan is a large amount of money, you may want to consider speaking to a solicitor or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau about legitimising your contract and having an independent witness as a signatory.

Don’t Forget About It

Transfer the money by bank transfer or cheque, so that there is a record of the payment, or get a receipt if you are making a payment on their behalf. Have your friend set up a standing order for the repayments and monitor your account to make sure they arrive. If circumstances change, or your friend struggles to meet the repayments, discuss a new repayment plan and formalise it as before.

If You Have to Say No

Whether it’s because you can’t afford the loan, or they can’t afford the repayments, it might be that you just have to say no to your friend. If they are having money issues that they can’t deal with, you should refer them to free advice services like Citizens Advice Bureau or Money Advice Service.

 

The Shining Path to Financial Freedom

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It’s easy to feel like you are imprisoned by your finances. There never seems to be enough. But it doesn’t have to be this way, if you can achieve financial freedom.

What is Financial Freedom?

Total financial freedom is enough money to do whatever you want with your life. Whatever it takes to stop worrying if you are going to have enough to cover your expenses each month. With financial freedom you can focus instead on savings goals like buying a home, a car, paying for children’s education, or financing your hobby.

The Tough Road Ahead

There is no easy solution. Achieving financial freedom requires dedication, willpower, planning and above all, patience. You may need to start working on it today if you want to be financially comfortable when you retire. But your financial dreams are achievable. Take control of your destiny by adhering to the following advice.

Budgeting to Save

While everyone knows they’d have more money if they saved more, it is challenging to put into practise. It’s tempting to spend money on making your life more comfortable when you are living off beans in a home needing repairs, putting on a second jumper to stay warm, or walking home in the rain watching taxis pass you by. But in the long run, there are better rewards for saving money. You will earn off interest, rather than paying it on debts, and you can build towards an early retirement, where you can live easy or make your hobby full-time.

Personal Finance Assistant

Money Dashboard is a personal finance assistant that anyone can use as a budget planner. It will keep track of your spending, and automatically sort each transaction into categories, so you will easily be able to compare your budget to your spending, and clearly see when you are reaching or passing your budgeted limits.

Using Money Dashboard, keep a record of everything you spend money on in 30 days. You might be surprised to see where your money goes. This list can form the basis of your monthly budget. Reduce the spending in areas where you feel like you spent too much, and only increase an amount if you spent less than normal.

Invest

Once you have built up enough savings to form a financial cushion, you can start thinking about investing your savings. Investing in property is usually a prosperous endeavour in the UK. If you are renting out a property, there are agencies that can deal with all the legal paperwork, listing, tenants, repairs, etc. on your behalf. However, the more service you pay for, the less you will make from the property.

If you can make time in your life to deal with it, the best landlords are those that communicate with their tenants regularly, and respond to repair requests promptly. It may seem more expensive, but happy tenants will stay for longer, and the administrative and incidental costs of changing tenants is not worth the savings on improvements.

You can also speak to any bank, building society, or pension firm about options for investing your savings. Pay attention to interest rates, risk or liability, liquidity (in case you need to turn the investment back to cash), associated fees and expenses.

Work out the best return on investment at a level of risk you are comfortable with. If you find all the information confusing or overwhelming, a decent Independent Financial Advisor might be able to suggest ways to invest your money that will make you enough in revenue to cover their costs.

Although it may take time, it’s possible to achieve financial freedom by saving and investing. Keep your eye on the ball and remember that work today will pay off with interest in the future.

Do You Have a Financial Cushion?

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It’s wise to set aside an amount of money that will sit in your account at all times. This means if you are faced with a large unexpected cost you will have money available to pay it off, like last-minute travel to a funeral, a major fault with your car, or replacement of broken furniture. It’s a “cushion of cash” for when your account balance falls.

But it can be confusing figuring out what your budgeting priorities should be. Should you save money for emergencies? Or repay your loans and credit? Once you decide to take control of your personal finances, you can be actively making decisions about where your income is best spent, and therefore deciding what to do with what’s left after your living expenses are paid.

Step 1: Consolidate Your Debts

This process ensures you are paying the minimum possible for your debts. Depending on the terms of your credit agreements, it may be possible to refinance debts like your mortgage, car loan, hire purchase, student debt, etc. into a single debt with a more favourable interest rate.

If you have a credit card with a high interest rate, see if you can transfer the debt to a card with a promotional offer for balance transfers. If you qualify, some will charge 0% for 18 or 24 months.

Unless you don’t have enough income to pay for your debts each month, don’t agree to a consolidation loan that extends your terms, or you will end up paying more for interest. Try to pay the same amount per month that you are already paying, and if you are getting a better rate, the debt will be paid off faster.

Step 2: Pay Your Debts

Before you start to put money in savings, you should pay off your debts. The interest that you will pay on debts will almost always be more than the interest you earn on savings, so the frugal priority is to eliminate your debts as soon as possible.

Step 3: Create Your Cushion

If you don’t have a financial cushion, then you may have to pay unexpected costs by borrowing money. Whether it is a personal loan from a friend, a credit card purchase, or going into your overdraft, it will add to your debt.

The size of your cushion can depend on your lifestyle. Think about the biggest emergency costs you might face (household, car, travel, etc.) and try to at least match this cost. Three to six months of expenses would be useful in case there is a sudden interruption to your income flow, to loan to a family member when they are in need, or if you are faced with several large, unforeseen costs at once.

If you have to spend your cushion, put your savings on hold until you have replenished the fund.

Step 4: Start Your Savings

What comes next depends on what’s important to you. Some people save towards a new car, a family holiday, or a month long backpacking trip. Other people would like to own a home. ISAs often offer the best rates for savings as the interest you accrue is tax free within certain limits. Some types of ISA will even offer incentives for spending these savings on buying your first property.

It’s also wise to start saving for your retirement as soon as possible. Depending on your type of employment, you may be able to pay into a workplace pension. These usually offer the best rates, but personal and stakeholder pensions are also available, so it’s worth comparing. The one that’s right for you will depend on how much you can afford to contribute and how much risk you are willing to take with the money. Also be wary of charges and the terms regarding moving to other pension policies.