SPRING is in the air, and while we get ready to embrace the warm days of summer, we should also brace ourselves for the financial challenges that lie ahead. Giving your budget a good spring clean is a great place to start.
Budget Insurance marketing manager Susan Steward says: “With a double digit fuel price increase expected in September, consumers are faced with yet another financial blow. Combine this with inflation and keeping budgets in check becomes more important than ever.”
Here are 10 tips for reviving and refreshing your finances:
1. UPDATE YOUR INCOME AND EXPENSES
By this time of the year, many people will have received their annual increase. Have you adjusted your budget accordingly? If the last time you reviewed your budget was in January, consider the significant changes that have taken place since then, like the VAT increase and the numerous petrol price increases. An up-to-date budget gives you a good idea of where you need to save more or where you now have a couple of free rands to pay off debt a bit faster.
2. BE SMART WITH YOUR SPENDING
It’s not always easy to keep track of your spending, especially when making payments and purchases happens at the tap of a card or the click of the mouse. Luckily, advancements in technology have also made tracking your spending easy too. Take advantage are various budget planners and apps available.
3. MAKE SOME CHANGES BEHIND THE WHEEL
There’s nothing you can do about the petrol price increase, but there are things you can do to help your tank go further. Did you know that at 110km/h your car uses up to 25% more fuel than it would cruising at a more moderate 90km/h? Add to this: keeping a safe following distance, avoiding harsh braking and acceleration, and regular vehicle maintenance checks, you could reduce your fuel spend significantly. According to the Department of Energy in the US, smart driving could increase your fuel economy by as much as 40%.
4. UPDATE YOUR INSURANCE
Now is the perfect time to ensure that your home contents’ insurance is up-to-date. If you’ve bought new items for your home, the amount you’re currently insured for may not be sufficient and you could be underinsured. On the flipside, some items may have devalued, you may have sold items or downsized and may want to reduce cover for your home contents, which could save you a substantial amount of money.
5. STOP UNNECESSARY AND OUTDATED FEES
Are you paying subscription fees for magazines you don’t read, membership fees for a gym you never go to or fees for a bank account you no longer use? This is wasted money that could be going towards saving or paying off debt, so cancel them to free up extra cash.
6. BUDGET FOR DEBT REPAYMENTS
From credit cards to store cards, it’s easy to get carried away and buy on credit. Go through all your statements and pay off outstanding debts or at least put a plan in place to do so. It’s a good idea to pay off debt with the highest interest rate first. If you have a home loan at an interest rate of 10%, a retail card at a rate of 20% and a personal loan at a rate of 25%, pay off the loan first.
7. KICK BAD HABITS
From piling up paperwork and not keeping accurate records to slacking on saving, we’ve all done it from time to time, but when it becomes a habit, it’s time to take action and make a change. Wherever there are areas to improve on, like brushing up on your admin skills or reviewing your saving goals, there’s something that each of us can do to improve our financial health.
8. COMPROMISE AND REPRIORITISE
That pricey perfume, the designer sneakers and those many meals out, they all add up and sometimes that leaves you compromising where you shouldn’t. To ensure you have enough money for the things you and your family need first, and then compromise on the things you want, find a cheaper fragrance, do without the sneakers or have less meals out a month.
9. REAP FROM YOUR REWARDS PROGRAMMES
Many of us are part of loyalty programmes offered by entities from banks and supermarkets to healthcare providers. Understanding how to make the most out of these programmes is critical to really enjoying their benefits – from earning the most amount of points to receiving the highest possible discount or cash back. Read the terms and conditions, and frequently asked questions on the relevant websites to ensure you know exactly how and when you should be rewarded.
10. STICK TO YOUR SAVING GOALS
Saving is hard, but it’s not impossible. There are many different ways to save from setting up a monthly debit order to an investment account and opening a tax-free savings account to increasing your pension fund contribution and requesting the 13th cheque option from your employer. It’s best to build savings into your budget as a non-negotiable monthly expense, which should help you to be more disciplined. “Implementing simple changes like taking advantage of technology, kicking bad habits and saying goodbye to unnecessary expenses will go a long way to regaining and maintaining control of your budget – putting the spring back in your financial step,” concludes Steward.
Susan Steward is the marketing manager for Budget Insurance