Ten Things to Help You Stay on Top of Your Finances

1 – Check your Statements Regularly.

If you are in financial difficulties, or even if you’re not, it is easy to avoid reading your bank account and credit card statements. However, by not doing so, you could be losing money. There may be bank charges on your bank statement or transactions on your credit card statement that are fraudulent or simply erroneous. Examine

your statements every month and ensure you account for all of your outgoings and all of your fees. If there is anything you do not recognise or anything you do not understand then contact your bank or your credit card company and ask them for help.

2 – Don’t Hide from Debt

If you are starting to struggle with debt, the worse thing you can do is hide from it. Believe it or not credit card companies, loan companies and banks do not want to see you struggle to repay a debt. They would much rather it be easy for you as that way, they will continue to get their payments and they are more likely to get repeat business. So, at the first sign of trouble, call them or write to them and let them know what the problem is and how you intend to resolve it. Some companies may even help you out with a payment holiday for a month or two while you get back on your feet. Sometimes they will see this as being in their best interest as it becomes expensive for them to try to recover debt from someone who is struggling to pay.

3 – Reduce the Interest you Pay

If you have debt on credit cards you may be paying more interest than you need to. There are plenty of credit card companies that offer a zero percent introductory rate for new customers. These rates can last for anywhere between 6 and 18 months. By moving your debt to a zero percent deal and paying off as much as you can each month you will see the debt reduce quicker as interest will not be added every month.

4 – Check Your Credit Rating

Check your credit rating at least once per year to ensure you remain in good standing as mistakes made by the credit reference companies can be costly as a poor credit rating may mean that you can only get credit at higher interest rates. In the UK the two main credit reference agencies are Experian and Equifax. Contact them and ask

for a copy of your file.

5 – Don’t Invest if you Don’t Understand

If you are thinking of dabbling with investments then follow this one simple rule – don’t invest in something that you do not understand. This way you will be able to make your own decisions about whether or not to invest in something. If you understand the company and the product or service they offer then you are much more likely to understand if they seem like a worthwhile investment.

6 – Don’t Lend to Family and Friends – Consider Giving

This tip is really more about the importance of family and friends than it is about finances. The point is that if you do lend money to family or friends and you value that relationship then consider that money unrecoverable. That way, when the friend or family member is unable to pay you back it won’t lead to a falling out. Family and friends are more important than money. You never know when you may need them.

7 – Create Passive Income

This may mean that you have extra work to do in the shorter term but it could lead to genuine extra income for very little effort in the longer term. An example would be setting up a useful internet site or blog that provides useful advice to people. If this advice is in an area of expertise that you have knowledge of or an interest in, it won’t be too much of a chore to keep adding info to the website or posting to the blog. As your site gets more popular and people start visiting to get your advice you could start to carry ads that pay you money when your visitors click on them. This can be quite lucrative if done correctly.

8 – Get the Best Deals

Don’t stick to routine, and don’t be lazy, especially with utilities and other services that could be offered by more than one company. Shop around and get the best deal. Don’t be afraid to switch to a new service provider to save money.

9 – Stop Paper Waste

Ok, this isn’t necessarily about getting all environmental, this is about saving money. Most credit card companies, loan companies, banks and even utility and mobile phone companies will now give you the option to get your monthly statements online. This will save them money as they will not have to pay for the statements to be printed and they will also save on postage. Some of this cost saving will be passed on to you. You can also save money by setting up direct debits so that your monthly payments are made electronically, on time, every month. This will also sometimes see a cost saving being passed on to you.

10 – Use a Prepaid Credit Card

These are becoming more and more popular for a couple of reasons. First they cannot be borrowed on – they are not a credit facility. The idea is that you load them up with funds in advance and you are only able to spend what has been added to them and no more. This is a great way of budgeting. Pre paid credit cards are also good from a security point of view, if they are stolen or skimmed by credit card fraudsters, they cannot be used to run up huge debts the same way that credit cards can. The most you will lose is what has been loaded up front, and if you notify the issuer quickly enough, you may not even lose that!

Wayne Armstrong is the owner of the Living Cheap [http://www.livingcheap

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