Pancake day, spring cleaning and organising, but have you ever thought about doing it for your money?! In the past, I’ve often been a bury your head in the sand kind of person with money but over the last few years I’ve really taken control of my bank accounts. I get so much satisfaction from familiarising myself with all my outgoings and knowing where I’m at with my finances.
One of the easiest things I have worked on this year is direct debits. Did you know that the UK wastes £25 billion a year on unused direct debits? That’s according to research by NatWest*. And even if we’re not guilty of an unused gym membership (I accepted long ago I will never use a gym enough to warrant it), we could possibly swap a few of our default direct debit payments for a different provider and save some money.
And it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds! Just making a list of direct debits is a start. I had already vowed to tackle subscriptions this year and called around different buildings and contents insurance providers in January to change my provider. We had been with the same one for 3 years and it has gone up every year significantly, and the money had been coming out of my bank by default. I made an active decision to call around to see if I could get a better deal (but was very careful to make sure we got the same cover) and we managed to save £200 over the year!
To be honest, I thought I had all my outgoings totally sorted in preparation for this article, but when I made a list of my direct debits, I still found a few rogues ones I didn’t need or use anymore. Sometimes just the practice of writing down your outgoings can really open your eyes!
It’s crazy how many you don’t even think about coming out of your account. Obviously a few are non-negotiable (Peggy is so settled at nursery now, for example, plus it’s good value including all her meals!) but I highlighted a few that could be looked into or cancelled.
I split mine into ‘Work’ and ‘Home’. This can be really handy, especially if you’re Freelance as it’s so easy to forget work ones when you’re so busy. For work, I looked into the scheduling apps (Later, for example, costs me £10 a month through work) and realised that actually, since I don’t use it to schedule as many Instagram posts as I used to, I could access the free version! And we realised that software like Adobe weren’t being used to their full potential and found a free programme (‘Canva’) that served the same purpose for what we needed.
The first one on my ‘Home’ list that was glaringly obvious was ‘1SE’ app (1 second everyday) – we bought the Pro version to be able to edit Peggy’s first year of videos but at £32.99 for the year, I haven’t even been using it since her first birthday! I decided I’d rather that money go towards going out for a lovely family dinner. I also looked into Life Insurance by doing a quick online application but found that, thankfully, we have a really good deal and no one could match it. Sometimes that’s good enough in making you feel financially confident!
A few tips when going through direct debits:
Look into the terms and conditions, I looked closer at my email receipts for some subscriptions and realised that I could save 10% if I paid at once as opposed to monthly.
Is it really useful, or just convenient? Sure, a lot of us like to pay for convenience but I cancelled Amazon last year and have never looked back. I don’t actually need much delivered to my door at record speeds and it stops me buying something just because ‘I can’.
Look into penalties. Sometimes you get charged a fee if you are in a contract so it’s a good idea to research (or call-up) and see if this is the case. There are a few brands that offer money to help pay fees when switching, too.
Don’t be afraid to call-up your existing provider. You don’t have to go cold turkey, especially if they’re doing a good job. I have been with the same phone company for around 5 years and I was happy with them, but I called up last year as my bill just kept going up and they offered me an amazing deal on a new phone contract as I had been a loyal customer.
Do you need to pay for this service? We often pay for apps/subscriptions that we could access elsewhere for free and this is worth looking into. I cancelled Audible a few months ago as I realised I could in fact access audiobooks and ebooks for free through my local library app.
Ask around for recommendations. Not sure if it’s worth making the leap? I find friends can usually help with recommending companies/brands I’ve not used before and let you know whether they’re worth the money (or not!).
Don’t apologise. It’s your right to cancel a subscription that you no longer use or want, don’t feel guilty or that you’re letting someone down, it’s your money. Be strong. (Remember that episode in ‘Friends’ when Chandler tried to quit the gym?! That’s me – I have to use this mantra before making the phone call sometimes!).
Use the ‘pause’ button. Often, brands can let you pause your subscription rather than cancel it altogether. I find this is often good for things like period subscriptions (I am with TOTM but had to cancel it for a while due to pregnancy last year -I just clicked a button and it’s back on!).
Set alarms. If you use a free trial, make sure you add an alert/alarm to your diary to cancel it before you get charged. I try and do a few days before to give myself notice in case I’m particularly busy that week.
NatWest offer Financial Health Checks (they’re free and open to anyone, you don’t have to be a NatWest customer) across the country. I visited my local branch and chatted with a lovely woman about my financial goals and we looked into areas/outgoings that could possibly be simplified or accounts that could make our money work harder. I came away feeling more confident than ever and resolute in knowing where all my outgoings were going and that we are making a start on our future for Peggy. If you’d like to do one for yourself, it’s easy to book online – follow this link.