23 Jan

Written by Lizzie on January 23, 2014

Financial Planning for the New Year

January is a time for organisation. It’s a time to reflect on how you did things last year and how you might do things differently during the year ahead. It’s the best time to sit down with a piece of paper and a pen, and track all of the things you can do to make your life easier. Financial planning for 2014 can be as in depth and detailed as you want to it be, whether you have specific goals to hit (maybe a holiday of a lifetime in 2015?) or you just want to tighten up on what you’re spending. We’re here with some simple pointers on how to get ahead.

Get Organised Off the cuff spending rarely results in a good deal. If you plan ahead and designate money to different areas, it should help you stick to your budget. It may sound horrible, but sit down with your bank statements and bills in front of you. Work out what your income is, what your average monthly spend is and where that money goes. This way you’ll know exactly how much money you need to cover your bills and expenses, and what’s left over.

Different methods work different for different people but a popular choice is to deal mainly in cash. After bills, split your money into weeks. Then split your weekly budget into sections which work for you (think groceries, travel and fun) and place the amount for each into an envelope. This method can help you stick to your guns because when you’ve run out that’s it! If credit card debt is your downfall, this could be a good choice for you, allowing you time to make repayments without racking up more debt. Allocating money to different areas of your life means that you’re aware of how much you have on a week to week basis. Knowing where you are can help you to avoid bank charges and missed payments. You may even come out with somehing leftover, which you can place into a “Stash Pot” for something special.

A pen and a notebook may be all you need but if you want an added push, you can buy full budget planning sheets from Etsy. Personally, I like this set from PolkaDotPosiePrint. It’s a bargain for just £3.09 for worksheets to help you get ahead and it’s an instant download you can print at home. Free printables are also available all over the web. Stores like Paperchase and Waterstones also stock budget planners in pretty binders, but they all come in a lot pricier!

Shop Around If your budget plan involves saving, make sure you shop around to get the best deal for you. Different banks and building societies can offer different rates and benefits on savings accounts so it’s worth doing your research. The same goes for your credit card. There’s no need to put up with a high interest rate so play the field to find a deal that works for you. Many companies are offering 0% balance transfers that can help you make headway on your debt while the interest is put on hold. When it comes to insurance, we have some amazing deals from John Lewis Home Insurance, Travel Insurance and Saga Motor Insurance, including discounts just for buying online! As for mobile phones, take a look at all the providers before resigning with the one you’ve always been with.

Before you buy anything in the shops, it’s just good practice to have a quick search online first – you’ll be amazed what a code or deal can save you. Sign up to our newsletter on the homepage to be alerted of our best deals every week, some of which are exclusive only to us. It comes out on a Monday so keep an eye on your inbox!

Meal Planning Aside from a mortgage or rent, groceries are usually the number one spend for an average family in the UK. It’s worth including your basic toiletries, household and medical spends in your groceries budget if that’s what works for you. If you’re busy during the week, try your best to use a spare hour at the weekend to put together a plan for Monday to Friday. Knowing what you plan to make ahead of time saves your resolve softening when time and patience runs short. Buying your groceries with ideas in mind means you won’t be resorting to that midweek take-away or a pricey meal out. Once you have a rough meal plan (and try to include breakfasts and packed lunches in this) go to the supermarket, or log on to their website, with a list to hand. Even simple things like having the kids with you, feeling tired or a rumbling tummy can throw your shop off course and before you know it your cabbage, onions and pototoes have morphed into Mars bars, jellies and cans of fizzy drink. Come up with a plan and stick to it! Better yet, scout the website before you buy and base your meals around the 3 for 2 and money off offers the supermarkets are running. Check our website as we often have great codes for Tesco, Ocado, Asda and Sainsbury’s to save up to 25% off your shop. Using codes to stock pile bulk items when they’re cheap, think big bags of rice, pasta and cans of kidney and cannellini beans, will make it easy to flesh out meals when you’re in a pinch, too. Currently Tesco are offering £12 off all First Orders over £60, while Ocado are offering £10 off £50 spends and £20 off £80 spends.

Fun Allocation When money’s tight, morale can really take a hit. It’s important to set some money aside to have a nice time every now and again. If you have kids, that might be as little as £6 a month to pay for a Netflix or LOVEFiLM membership so you can watch a film together once a week, or up to £40 to spend a Saturday at the pictures or the Soft Play. If you’re a couple or single, you might want to eat out once a month or buy some clothes. If you can, make sure you do set at least a little money aside just for you to have a good time. It’ll help you commit to your cause! Check out our ideas for Date Night on a Budget!

Big Spends Finally, when it comes to big spends, saving up is important. Planning ahead does make sense, but sometimes when there’s a deal to be had you just have to snap it up! Don’t be too hard on yourself. If the only way for your family to go on holiday is to buy in the January sales, then take advantage of the savings you could make. Alternatively, work out when you think the deals will be best and set a target to save until that point. This is when your “Stash Pot” may come in handy. If you come in under budget each week and there is some cash left over, the Stash Pot is the perfect place to put it. Keep it out of sight and out of mind, and at the end of the year take it out and use the money on something big that you otherwise couldn’t afford. A holiday is a great idea, or maybe you need a new TV or an upgrade on your car. You could also apply this rule to Christmas. The holiday season is a big demand and can put you out of whack for months. Putting a little aside every month can help you have a worry free time and get your new year started on the right foot too.

How are you planning for 2014? Do you have a strict financial system or are you more a “seat of your pants” kinda guy? Let us know what works for you down in the comments or over on Twitter @twit_codes or @LizzieShopScoop.

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