If you’re anything like me, a twenty-something with a shopping addiction living in London, then getting your finances in order can seem like a bit of a fun sponge. However, now that Covid-19 has uprooted not only normal life but normal spending habits, it seems like a pretty good time to reassess our finances. With lockdown bringing an array of new money issues from furloughing to increased food prices, these are the tips I’m using to control and streamline my money.
MONEY MAKING APPS
Saving money isn’t always as easy as it sounds, especially if you don’t have a lot of disposable income after rent and bills. Luckily for us millennials, apps have been created to help us do just that. Apps like Chip and Plum monitor your account and use a fancy algorithm to work out how much money you can save without you really noticing. Plus, they automatically put it into a moneybox for you. Additionally, the smartphone-based bank Monzo offers a ‘save the change’ feature on their accounts, whereby it will round up all purchases made and keep the money in a handy little pot. Saving money you didn’t know you had.
DIRECT DEBIT DETOX
Signed up at the gym but you never went? Have a Now TV subscription but always watch your flatmate’s Netflix? It’s time to detox your direct debits and reap the rewards. Often, direct debits are totally forgotten about; out of sight, out of mind. However, you could be paying for things you no longer use, therefore draining your money without you realising. Time to open up your online banking and assess the direct debits tab and clean them out. Be mindful that you need to cancel your subscription and let the company know you’re leaving before ceasing the payments to avoid extra charges.
TOP TIP: Some companies will require you to end the direct debit and continue to take money even after you’ve cancelled your account – beware.
Now is the time, during the lockdown, to get your budgets under control. Since we’re all living a bit more frugally, be savvy in your spending to make sure every purchase is worth it. For example, when food shopping, create weekly meal plans and concise lists to only buy what you need. Since we’re all eating 3 meals at home now, whereas in regular times we would only have dinner at home and sometimes breakfast. Add an extra £50 to your food budget from money you would usually spend on social situations.
Use banks like Monzo to create monthly budgets for different things e.g. groceries, bills. Plus, this bank lets you visually see where your money is going – which can often bring flamboyant spending back down to earth with a bump. Also invest in apps like Squirrel (run by Barclays so you know it’s legit) which take your monthly income and drip-feed it back to you, ensuring no unnecessary splurges.
SHOP FOR A NEW BANK
Much like your favourite pair of jeans that are falling apart at the seams – it’s time for an upgrade. Shopping for a new bank account might sound dull on paper, but in practice, it’s very rewarding. Just because you’ve been with your current account holder for years, doesn’t mean you can’t cut loose and say goodbye. Banks are constantly looking for new ways to entice people, whether that be interest-free overdrafts or free money switching bonuses. Online bank First Direct offers new customers £100 to switch your account to them and will do all the work for you. Assess your needs and wants, especially if you’re graduating or wanting to take out a new loan. Use websites like Money Supermarket and Money Saving Expert to compare the best deals.
INVEST IN YOUR INTEREST
Similarly to shopping for a new bank account, lockdown is the time to look at your savings and make some changes. While interest rates have taken a nosedive since the start of the pandemic, there are still plenty of banks with decent offers. Check out the current interest rate on your savings account and compare with other banks to see if you could be getting a much better deal elsewhere. A lot of banks have high-interest rate accounts but with the stipulation that you can’t withdraw for at least 12 months. Which, in the current climate is the perfect time to invest your money and keep it locked away. For example, HSBC offers a whopping 2.75% interest rate on their regular savings account. If you don’t have a savings account, then no time like the present to set one up. Where else will you put all this money you’re saving?
TRANSFER THOSE BALANCES
If, pre-lockdown, you were splashing out on your credit card, chances are you’ll be feeling the pinch when it’s time to pay it off. Enter the world of balance transfers. The concept is simple: shop around for a credit card with low to zero interest rates and move across your existing balance to the new card. Although this doesn’t magic away all your debt, it stops interest piling up, helping you to spread the cost of your repayments over a longer period of time without more fees. Simple maths really.
SPEND MONEY TO SAVE MONEY
Interested in a world where you can get paid to shop? Who wouldn’t be? If you’re shopping online more frequently, then you might as well earn some money while you’re at it! Websites like Quidco and TopCashback offer a percentage value back on the transactions you make, sometimes with special offers for a higher payback rate. Sign up to these sites and make sure when you shop you click through the link on their website to the shopping browser to redeem your earnings. Equally, use the Honey app to automatically claim discounts on your shopping. It recognises offers on the website you’re using and applies them straight to your basket.
TOP TIP: Some cashback websites require you to accumulate a certain amount of money in the pot before withdrawing it, which is great for a rainy day saving fund.
No matter what your financial situation is during the lockdown, hopefully, these pointers will help you continue to live a senior editor’s lifestyle on a junior writer’s budget. Plus, they’re handy tips to carry on practising in a post-lockdown world.
Words by Rebecca Boffey