Spring-clean your money this Bank Holiday
The bank staff have drawn the blinds – but you don’t have to. Remember you promised to sort out your money as soon as you had a spare moment? Later you can go out and throw bread to the ducks, but first think about how well you’re feeding your savings.
Our bank holidays in the UK date back to 1871 when Liberal politician (and banker himself) Sir John Lubbock designated certain days as special: you couldn’t force anyone to make a payment on such a day, making them the equivalent of Christmas Day for banking purposes. And there was much rejoicing.
Nowadays we’re more likely to laze by the river bank. But if the weather’s a let-down (as usual) then you can use the long weekend to sort out your finances and be your own bank-manager.
Tips to bank on this bank holiday Monday
- Write up your personal balance sheet
A balance sheet is a statement used by a business to describe its assets, income and expenditure. But it can be just as useful to do this for your personal finances. It’s about finding the answer to the simple question ‘What am I worth?’ – and the process can be surprisingly satisfying.
But more than that, it’s incredibly useful. If you apply for a mortgage, for instance (or any big loan) then the lender will probably want to see details of your income and spending. Similarly, if you see a financial adviser, they’ll ask you to provide this information. Having it all ready can save you a lot of time and hassle.
Even better, you can get a full understanding of your circumstances, identify waste and spot savings. Why have you still got a subscription to a magazine you rarely read? Why do you spend so much on coffee? Add up all the waste and the final figure will be a great motivation to take action.
Work out how much extra you could save each month, and keep the figure handy – you’ll need it later.
Finally, include the current estimated value of your home (minus mortgage) and any other assets. Knowing your total wealth is important if you’re to make a proper financial plan.
- Switch current accounts
On the list of things that people never get around to, this has got to rank at least number 3. But look at the interest on your current(!) current account – and if the answer is ‘What interest?’ then it’s time to shake things up.
The new personal savings allowance means you can earn up to £1,000 of interest per year tax-free, outside of an ISA. Meanwhile there are some stellar current account rates out there – you can earn up to 5 per cent on some. A lot of these accounts have special requirements (like maximum balances or minimum monthly deposits) and some have fees, so don’t just grab the highest rate you see. But if you can take the time to find the right one for your circumstances, you can say goodbye to feeble interest rates and get your savings working again.
- Check up on other savings and investments
When you receive ISA statements, it’s natural to just file them away ‘to study later’. Well, later has arrived. Put your recent statements in order and see if your savings are growing at the rate you need. If not, it may be time to switch ISAs or savings accounts, or work out a new savings strategy. If you write up a personal balance sheet (see tip 1 above) you’ll know how much extra a month you could save.
You can also book a free investment check from a financial adviser on unbiased.co.uk. Even if your investments are doing well, it’s important to keep them balanced so that they reflect your attitude to risk. Find out how to do this in our special feature on investment strategies.
- Health-check your mortgage
If you can avoid it, you should never let your mortgage revert to your lender’s standard variable rate (SVR). Remember that a fixed or tracker mortgage rate is only for a limited time, not the full term of the mortgage. This holiday, take a moment to refresh your memory as to when your mortgage deal will run out, so you can get ready to remortgage. The more time you can give yourself to prepare, the better your chances of achieving the best deal.
Another way to give yourself an edge is to arrange a free mortgage check with a financial adviser or mortgage broker. This can be even more useful, by enabling you to find the perfect mortgage for your circumstances.
- Monitor debts and loans
Check up on any loans you may have or debts you’re paying off. It can be easy to get into the habit of paying them off gradually, and may seem more comfortable that way – but it’s costing you much more in the long term. See which ones you might be able to eliminate early.
- Cancel old cards
Dig out any old credit cards or store cards and cancel them. Having too many cards can damage your credit score.
- File your tax return!
What, already? Yes, the window has opened for filing your 2015/16 tax return, if you pay tax by self-assessment. Many of us left it very late last time, and it’s easy to forget to do until the last moment. If you make sure to do it during one of these bank holidays (or at least get the groundwork done) then that can be a huge weight off your mind – and will save you a rush or even a fine later on.
We hope most financial advisers will enjoy a day off on Monday – but you can still submit your enquiry online and they’ll get back to you soon. Have a great bank holiday!