Whether you feel as though your money situation is reeling out of control or you just want to tweak your finances, it can be hard to know where to start. And because of that, many of us end up doing nothing. We turn a blind eye and hope our finances will magically sort themselves out. But it doesn’t have to be this way. If you set aside a few hours, you’ll find there are plenty of smart money moves you can put into place in order to set yourself on a new course. Plus, a bonus: Once you get the ball rolling, the effects are often compounded. So, where to start? Keep reading to discover the easy money moves you can make starting now.
1. Go through your bills
Make a list of all the bills you pay, covering everything from your mobile phone plan to your gas and electricity accounts. Then, look around to see if you can get a better deal, either with your current provider or with a new provider. (Note: If you want to switch providers, you need to make sure you’re not currently locked into a contract with early exit fees.) You might be surprised to see how quickly you can get a new deal or a benefit. As an example, electricity and gas providers often switch up their plans. You could potentially move to a new plan that offers a bonus, such as a 10 per cent pay-on-time discount. Or you may find a plan that provides identical rates to yours. So, why would you switch? Sometimes, by merely re-upping your contract for another 12 months, you’ll receive a $50 or $100 credit to your account. Regarding mobile phone bills, if you’re out of contract, you may be able to switch to a bring-your-own plan with the same provider. By doing this, you might be able to get a higher data allowance for less money – and keep your number. Once you’ve gone through all your bills and found the best deals possible, make a note on your calendar to do it all over again a year from now.
2. Move credit card debt to an interest-free card
If you are working to reduce a credit card debt, you may be able to transfer the balance to an interest-free card. But there are a few things to keep in mind before you do. Firstly, take note of the interest-free period. If the bank offers a 0 per cent interest rate on balance transfers for, say, 12 months, but then 20 per cent interest after that introductory period, you need to make sure you’ll be able to pay off the majority (if not all) of your balance in that 12-month period. Secondly, make sure you’re really going to commit to paying down your debt. When you make the transfer, avoid adding any new debt to any of your credit cards and put any extra money you have towards paying off the balance.
Once you’ve gone through all your bills and found the best deals possible, make a note on your calendar to do it all over again a year from now.
3. Figure out your habits
When you know how and why you spend money the way you do, you’ll know how to make smart decisions going forward. Here’s an extreme example: If your card regularly gets declined because you’ve hit a $0 balance, it probably means you’re not budgeting correctly. To start, grab your last three bank statements for each of your accounts. Take a look at your spending habits. Take a look at any fees you’re paying. Are you paying overdraft fees? Again, that might be because you’re not budgeting correctly. Are you paying for subscription services you’re not using? For instance, do you pay for a Netflix subscription, but only find yourself using Netflix’s services now and then? If so, you might want to cancel your account for a while. (Netflix saves your list for 10 months, so you can rejoin for a month here and there without losing your preferences.)
4. Take advantage of employer benefits
Often, when we start a new job, we’re given a stack of paperwork to sign and sort through. But how many of us pay attention to the details? If you’re not 100 per cent sure about the benefits your employer might be able to offer you, now is the time to go back and check it all out. For example, some employers offer discounted (or free) gym memberships, so that’s a win-win. You might also find your employers can get you discounted phone bills or insurance. Also, your employer may allow you to salary sacrifice, which enables you to pay for certain goods or services straight from your pre-tax salary. If you’re not sure what’s available, ask your HR department (or the appropriate person) for more information. That’s why they’re there.