The start of every new year brings a fresh opportunity for you to get your finances in order. Whether it’s saving for a house, putting a big dent in your mortgage, or just securing a nest egg in case of emergency, now is a great time to put your financial plan into place. We spoke to two of our favorite money experts — Bessie Hassan, money expert at finder.com.au, and Shelley Marsh, managing director of Marsh Financial Advice — for all the new-year money secrets they wish you knew.
1. Pay yourself first.
When we asked our experts for one thing we should all be doing to take better care of our money, their answers were immediate and exactly the same. “Pay yourself first,” says Hassan. “Transfer a set amount from each pay check into a high-interest savings account. You won’t overspend this way.” Marsh agrees. “This is one of the most simple and effective savings strategies,” she says. “The key is to make sure the amount you save is affordable for you.” Even $10 a week (roughly two coffees), means you’ll save $520 by the end of the year.
2. Become aware of your spending habits.
The best way to cut down your spending, says Marsh, is to really get to know where your money is going. “Write down what you spend every time you spend for a week, even if it’s only for a cup of coffee. Write it all down.” At the end of the week, examine the list. Where are you spending money and where can you cut back? Hassan concurs. “Go through your bank statements and see what is going out and coming in.”
3. Set a budget.
Again, says Hassan, this is a simple way of setting up great money habits, but one that people seldom do. “I think people assume budgets are complicated,” she says. “But that’s not true. Once you’ve done the hard work of tracking your spending, you can then use a budgeting app like Pocketbook to set up a simple budget and track your spending.”
4. Try another source of income.
While not everyone can take wedding photos on the side, there’s a lot to be said for having multiple streams of income, says Hassan. “Think about the skills you already have,” she says. “Are you a baker? Maybe you could bake for sales. Do you do web design? With skills you already use in your day job, many of us can freelance on the side to generate passive income.”
You can also do things such as work as an Uber driver (if you have a long commute, this is a great way to subsidize your trip to work), rent out a spare room and sell old belongings on eBay and Gumtree.
5. Assess your current payments.
“Use your downtime to check that you’re getting the best interest rate on your mortgage,” says Marsh. “All it takes is a quick look on some of the financial comparison websites to see what rates are out there, and a quick call to your bank to see whether they can improve on the current rate you are paying.” Marsh says she did this at the beginning of 2017 and got a 0.5 percent reduction on her mortgage interest rate on the spot. Over the life of the loan, it’ll save her around $50,000 — not bad for five minutes of googling and a phone call. If you don’t have a mortgage, you can also see if you can improve the rate on your credit card or personal loan while you’re on the phone.
This applies to other payments, says Hassan. “Do some market research to see if you’re paying too much for a bill, such as electricity or gas. All it takes is a little knowledge and a call to your provider. I’ve found they’re normally very quick to offer you a new package — the market is very competitive and they want to do everything they can to keep you as a customer.”
This article was originally written by Lauren Sams. For more, check out our sister site, Homes to Love.