We don’t need to tell you that everyone is feeling a little anxious about their finances right now. We have all been on tenterhooks since March 2020 waiting to see if our employment situation was as secure as we thought. Whether you were working from home or placed on furlough, or indeed were made redundant, there has been a horrendous amount of uncertainty as we looked for ways to do more with less.
It is also a fact that healthy financial habits are hard to maintain in such a chaotic time. Many of us found ourselves in a situation where we had to help out a family member or assume more financial responsibility in our own household. During the bleakest months of lockdown, we all indulged in more online spending than usual too.
As we look ahead to the winter, there are plenty of reasons to be cautious about our budgets. The government is raising taxes as well as cutting universal credit. Energy prices are about to skyrocket, which will affect businesses as well as households. Supermarkets are warning that food prices are going to go up as a result of shortages. In short, this is a time when it is sensible to be planning ahead and thinking about how you can tighten your belt. If you are wondering how you can get into some healthier financial habits, here are a few tips to help you.
Understand your budget
One of the best habits you can get into is getting to grips with your monthly budget. It is easy to let this slide when you are busy or stressed but knowing exactly how much you have coming in every month and knowing where every penny is going will give you a solid blueprint to work off. You need to be factoring in every expense, starting with the big ongoing costs such as your mortgage or rent, any outstanding debts, life insurance costs and energy bills. Go all the way through your outgoings, right down to the cup of coffee you buy on the way to work.
Look for easy trims
There is always the temptation to start hacking away at your outgoing costs when you are anxious about your budget, but a much healthier option is to sit down and think carefully about the easy cuts that you can make without making too much of a difference to your daily routine.
Something as simple as taking your lunch with you to work, along with that morning coffee in a thermos, will add up to a decent chunk of money saved. Planning your meals for the week will help to cut down on the risk of getting takeaways because you have nothing in the fridge. Take a look at your subscriptions to film, TV and gaming streaming services and cancel anything you are not using anymore. Are you still using your cinema or gym memberships, or could you save tens of pounds every month by cancelling them even if it is just for a few months?
Don’t make hasty decisions
Cutting the wrong things haphazardly could cause some serious headaches in the long run. It is always worth taking the time to think about the repercussions of any major changes to your finances. One of the biggest trends that we have been seeing in the wake of the pandemic is that people are starting to save less. This isn’t because people don’t know how to save money. When it comes to traditional savings accounts, the explanation seems simple. A lot of people have had less money coming in, and there simply has not been enough to continue their usual monthly deposit into their savings account. When it comes to pensions, the issue is a little more complicated. Why are people saving less into their pensions? This report from Procentia breaks down the combination of factors and warns that stopping saving for your future is a risky proposition.
Avoid taking out further loans
A lot of us have needed a helping hand to get through the pandemic, and as a result, many of us have ended up committing to more long-term payments and loans to help us make ends meet. However, incurring additional debt can leave you in a hard place to get out of, especially when they start piling up. This is especially true if you find it hard to get into healthy financial habits in the first place.
If you can avoid taking out more loans and taking on more debt, you may find yourself in a tough spot in the short term. But you will also avoid facing tougher interest rates and tough decisions in the long run. If you are struggling to find a way out of your debts, think about using an investing app.
Insurance is a sensible investment
When you are looking at what costs you can cut, insurance should never be on your list. Yes, insurance policies can be costly and when you are trying to trim your spending those big monthly fees can seem like too much. But the amount that you will save upfront is negligible compared to what you might end up losing if you are not properly covered.
Make sure that you keep your policies up to date, and that you inform your provider of any changes to your household or situation. You do now want to find yourself in a position where they will deny a claim because you have not given them the right information. You might also want to think about taking employment insurance out. This can cover a large chunk of your gross annual income if you find yourself out of work due to redundancy, illness, or injury.
Work on your rainy-day cushion
This can be easier said than done if you are having a hard time with your finances, but one of the most important habits to get into is to work on building your emergency fund. If this seems like something that is a little out of reach at the moment, then do not be afraid to start small.
Think about how much you can set aside each month, even if it is a small amount. Another way to approach creating a rainy-day cushion is to set a target. It is always easier to keep to good habits if you have a clear number that you are working towards, and there is a real sense of satisfaction as you see your savings account slowly tick towards that figure.
Stop being afraid of talking about money
Finally, a note about attitudes. A lot of people find that money is a difficult subject to discuss openly. This is especially true of people who have a hard time getting to grips with their finances. But anxiety only grows if you do your best to ignore it, and these kinds of worries are always better addressed head-on. There is always a way to rethink your financial plan and there are always different ways for you to create better habits.
Worrying about money is one of the biggest causes of stress and we are all having a hard enough time with our mental health to be adding to it. Try to be open with your friends and family about your finances and do not be afraid to ask for help or advice.