From handy payment reminders to “robo-advisers”, Andy Webb offers some simple tips on managing your money better
If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a long to-do list. Even if it’s not written down, it’s there, nagging you somewhere at the back of your mind. And I bet a fair few of the things on your list are financial, and no doubt many of them are tasks that come around again and again... Well here’s how you can stop the déjà vu and get them sorted once and for all.
Let someone else switch energy for you
Though it doesn’t take much effort to do an energy comparison every 12 months, it’s certainly a financial chore that many choose to ignore. Well, you’ll run out of excuses by using a service such as Look After Your Bills or WeFlip. They automatically move you to a cheaper deal—all you need to do is sign up. And they’ll keep monitoring the different tariffs out there to see if you can pay even less. If the saving is over a certain threshold you’ll get switched again.
Of course, these services aren’t perfect. You probably won’t get as many energy companies to choose from as you would with Money Saving Expert’s Cheap Energy Club—my pick of the comparisons sites—and you’ll miss out on cashback for switching too.
But they will still save you a pretty penny versus doing nothing, so if you know you’re going to put off doing it yourself then it’s better to save something than nothing.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao
No more meter readings
To get accurate meter readings on your gas and electricity you need to provide regular meter readings. But not only can these be a pain to remember, they can often be a pain to access. So if you want to avoid whacking your head trying to read the electricity or going outside to measure the gas, you should look into getting a free smart meter installed.
The important thing to look out for is that you’re getting a second generation meter, or SMETS II, installed. This means that when your autoswitching kicks in, your smart meter will stay smart—though it’s worth checking that will be the case before any switch happens.
Get a nudge when other switches could happen
Sadly you can’t auto-switch your broadband or car insurance, but you can get reminders from the website Onedox for these and other bills that your contract is about to expire. This’ll stop expensive auto-renewals and rolling over onto a pricey standard contract. Yes, you’ll still need to look for a better deal, but you can rest easy knowing you won’t forget. It also works for subscriptions such as Netflix and things like your MOT. Plus it acts as a vault for all your accounts—saving you time searching through your inbox or home filing systems to find paperwork. Pay your credit card on time every time I think we all know about direct debits for lots of our bills, but these and standing orders are also perfect for any other payment you need to make as they mean you’ll never miss a due date. I’ve got one set up for my credit card so the full amount is paid out on the same date every month. Paying on time means I’ll avoid missed payment charges, and clearing the whole balance prevents any interest getting added on.
See all your accounts in one place
If you’ve got multiple current accounts and credit cards then it can sometimes be a hassle to check each and every one of them, particularly if they are with different banks and therefore have different log-in details.Well, you can see them all in one place now thanks to apps like Yolt. Once you’ve connected each of your banks you can see every transaction and balance together, making it simple to keep track.
Let your savings sort themselves
You can make saving easy too. Apps such as Plum and Chip—once they’re connected to your bank account—analyse your spending to work out how much you’re likely to have spare at the end of the month. Then the app moves the money to a separate savings account before you can spend it. These are smart ways to boost your savings, whether for an emergency or something specific. You’re also able to make manual saves as and when with a few taps on your phone.
Let robots manage your investments
“Robo-advisers” take the effort of managing your portfolio of stocks and shares away from you and into the hands of computer algorithms. You simply need to answer some questions to identify your approach to risk. It’s worth checking the fees. Though the likes of Nutmeg and Wealthify will be a lot cheaper than having a professional advisor consult you on what to buy and sell, some of these platforms are pricier than others.
Merge your pensions into one pot
It can be hard enough to track a pension and what it’ll be worth when you’ve only got one. But if you’ve had a number of employers over the years, then you might have as many pension pots out there. So if the idea of one balance and one projection appeals to you, then you can merge them using PensionBee.
The hard work of finding and moving the pensions is done for you—by a person—so you’ll just need to give the initial information when signing up to get the ball rolling. You can also continue to pay into your new PensionBee pot.
However, this isn’t a good idea if you have any defined benefit pots, such as a final salary pension, as moving those will reduce the value you’ll get when you retire.
Stop searching for voucher codes
Savvy shoppers should never pay full price—but that can mean a trawl through Google for voucher codes which don’t always work. Instead you can try extensions for your internet browser which automatically tell you what codes you can use for the web page you’re on. Take a look at Piggy, Honey or Pouch. There’s even an extension that’ll quickly show you the price history for Amazon from Camel Camel Camel. Most of these require you to use the Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox web browsers.
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