Get financially fit in 2016

Tuesday 05 January 2016, 12:00 PM

Sam Barratt
Financial Journalist , Freelance

  • Leap piggy lg

Whether your finances are suffering from a post-Christmas hangover or you'd just like to be a bit more financially secure - and richer - in 2016, it could be worth investing a little time into a money workout. By putting everything from your daily spending to your credit record and protection through its paces, your finances could end up significantly healthier.

  • Assess your financial fitness
  • Whether you're training for a marathon or determined to lose a few pounds, the key to success is tracking your progress. The same's true for your finances. To get an idea of where your money goes, write down everything you spend for a month. This exercise will highlight any areas where you might be slacking. For example is your weakness a quick pint or six after work on a Friday? Or are you the local takeaways' best friend? You might also have some regular outgoings such as gym membership or magazine subscriptions you no longer need.

  • Shop around for the best deals
  • It's also worth carrying out this exercise on other parts of your finances such as your credit card, savings accounts and mortgage to see if you could move to a better deal.

  • Design a money training plan
  • Once you've assessed your financial fitness levels and trimmed and chopped where necessary, set yourself a budget. This needs to cover all your essentials such as rent or mortgage, utility bills, travel, food and phone so you can see what's left. Whatever's left can then be divided to give you a daily spending allowance or left to accumulate so you can treat yourself - without overspending - from time to time. You might even want to consider earmarking some of the surplus for a savings account, pension or investment. Set up a standing order and you won't even notice the money leaving your account.

  • Profit from your new year's resolutions
  • If you're planning to pack in the fags or cut out the chocolate or coffee shop lattes, your resolution could make you richer in 2016. Public health charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) says a 20-a-day smoker spends around £3,000 a year on cigarettes. Even a slightly less addictive regular latte on your way to work will still set you back around £625 a year.

    To get the maximum benefit, stash the money you save in a savings account or cash ISA. As well as encouraging you to stick with your resolution, this will build into a handy fund so you can treat yourself to a well-deserved reward.

  • Give yourself some credit
  • It's also worth checking your credit record as part of your annual overhaul. Your record contains details of all your credit arrangements such as the repayments of loans and credit cards, any County Court Judgements and information such as whether you're on the electoral register and your address. There are three main credit reference agencies - Callcredit, Equifax and Experian - all of which have a statutory obligation to provide you with your credit report for £2. But it's also possible to get free access to your credit information through Callcredit's Noodle service and ClearScore.

  • Use protection
  • It's a scary fact but few of us would survive for more than a week if we lost our jobs, with research by HSBC finding that as many as 8.5 million UK households have savings of £250 or less. While many said they'd rely on their friends or family, use a credit card or apply for benefits if their income dried up, having at least a few months' income tucked away can take some of the stress out of these situations.

    As well as building up this financial safety net, consider protection. Income protection will provide a regular income if you're unable to work due to long-term illness or injury; critical illness insurance pays a lump sum if you're diagnosed with a serious condition; and life insurance will pay out if you die.

    These plans needn't cost the earth either. If you're young and healthy, you can secure this peace of mind for a relatively low premium. Contact LifeSearch on 0800 316 3166 or visit www.lifesearch.co.uk for more information.