If you are starting 2015 with an ambition to improve your finances, the chances are you will have to make some changes to how you manage your money situation.
Doing the right things can have a transformative effect on your financial fitness. Here are some fairly easy lifestyle changes that will help you get your money in shape this year.
Start budgeting and setting targets
Having a clear idea of what you have coming in and going out is the first step to improving your financial situation.
Drawing up a thorough budget will shine a light on the inefficiencies in your accounts – areas where you are spending more than necessary and could make cutbacks. It will also give you a greater feeling of security and control over your money.
Another tactic that can prove useful is target-setting. Identifying an amount that you want to save within the next three months, for instance, gives you a clear goal to work towards and provides a genuine sense of satisfaction if you are successful.
Don't be too hard on yourself if you fail to reach the target; use the experience to inform your future habits and increase the chance of achieving your next goal.
Make the most of technology
There are so many hi-tech services and lifestyle solutions available these days, using them to get your finances in optimum condition is a no-brainer.
Internet banking makes it easier than ever to track and manage your finances, so ensure that you are making full use of online resources to keep an eye on your bank balance and carry out tasks like making transfers and payments.
Smartphone and tablet users can choose from many apps that will help them manage their personal finances. PocketMoney, for instance, offers features including a budgeting tool and a display of your various accounts and financial products, while HomeBudget could help you manage recurring bills and income streams.
Question and compare prices
The growth of mobile technology means most consumers can always compare prices, wherever they are. If something seems expensive, see if you can find it cheaper elsewhere and don't pay more than necessary out of complacency.
You might be surprised to find that many stores are willing to reduce their prices if you can show proof that one of their products is available cheaper from another retailer.
Increase your income
Bolstering your income is one of the most powerful ways of improving your financial fitness, and there are a number of ways to do it.
One of the most obvious is to secure a pay rise. If you have been a loyal and valuable member of staff – particularly during recent years of economic adversity – your employer might be more than happy to increase your salary to keep you onboard.
It's also worth asking if you could be getting paid for easy tasks or things you do every day. Cashback credit cards pay you a proportion of the sum spent every time you use them, and you can also get paid for taking surveys online.
Selling things that have been clogging up your drawers and cupboards for years can also be a useful money-spinner. Old phones, cameras and mp3 players can be particularly lucrative, while unwanted CDs, DVDs, clothes and children's toys are also easy to sell on internet auction sites.
Review your financial products
It will be much easier to get your money situation in shape if you know that every financial product you are using is the right one for your needs and circumstances.
Take savings, for instance. Are you making the most of the government's annual tax-free savings allowance available through an ISA? Or if you have a lump sum you are willing to lock away for a set period, could you get a better interest rate with a fixed-rate savings account?
As far as mortgages are concerned, could you benefit from remortgaging your property? You could save money by remortgaging if your current fixed-rate, variable or discount deal is coming to an end, or if your home has experienced a big increase in value.
However, it's important to consider the costs involved, such as early repayment charges or exit fees.
If you have previously given in to the temptation of catalogues, store cards and the like, remove the lure of such expensive sources of credit by getting rid of them entirely.
The same goes for online and high street shopping. If there are certain websites or stores where you know you will struggle to resist dipping into your pocket, avoid them altogether.
If your financial fitness plan goes well, save trips to your favourite shops as a treat for when your money situation is looking more positive.
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