Getting fit or learning a new language are great ambitions for the New Year but making 2024 the year of saving money and financial freedom feels a lot better.
Here are top ten practical money management tips will make it easier to save for the things that really matter in 2024.
Sit down with a pen and paper or use an excel spreadsheet and list your income and outgoings so you can calculate exactly how much you have coming in and going out.
Your online banking will help. List regular bills for utilities, transport, loans, shopping and services, as well as once-off costs for Christmas, holidays and back-to-school. Also provide for estimated home and car repairs, and medical expenses.
This highlights potential overspending, and helps you get to grips with your personal finances. Be ruthless about cancelling direct debits you no longer need but be careful about cutting back on important financial products, like insurance or pension contributions. Talk to a financial planner to see if, and where, savings can be made, especially on expenses like the mortgage or insurance payments.
2 Get Debt Free
Use all your spare cash and any windfalls to get rid of personal loans, credit cards, car loans, or credit union loans.
Deposit interest on savings is nowhere near the interest you pay on debt. It is generally a good idea to pay off the smallest loan first, then the next smallest, as motivation to keep going. Also remember to check the percentage interest being levied on different debts too and tackle the highest first such as any high interest credit cards.
3 Ditch the Cards
Credit and debit cards make it far too easy to spend money. The Covid pandemic produced a nation of card-tappers, but cash is still king.
Checking what is in your wallet, and handing over cash, puts your spending in clear perspective. If you must use a debit card, check your online balance every few days. And only use a credit card if you’re confident you can clear the balance each month. Credit card debt and missed payments are horribly expensive. Try it for January; hide away your cards or freeze them on the app. You will be surprised at how taking away the convenience of spending is a great savings trick.
4 Fitter Finances
Do take up exercise, but don’t get a gym membership, unless you are 100% committed. Try pay-as-you-go sessions. Walking, jogging or an at-home exercise routine is free, and there are no opening hours.
Losing weight can be as easy as following an online nutrition plan or walking more. If you take up cycling or golf, you don’t need the latest hi-spec equipment. Buying used sports gear online makes sense for novices.
Master this between January and March, and then invest in a gym membership if you like; it will be easier to find a treadmill in April too.
5 Claim Tax Back
Get onto revenue.ie (My Account) and claim your tax back on medical/dental expenses from last year. From A&E department charges to fertility treatment, there’s a raft of allowable Med 1 expenses you can claim for, and you can go back four years.
Check out any additional credits or allowances you might be entitled to like tuition fees, and home renovation incentives, while you’re at it.
6 A Rainy Day Account If you don’t have a second bank account, get one, and lodge money from your main working account into it. Put savings away for big ticket items or rainy-day emergencies, ideally with a regular standing order, using savings made elsewhere.
The coffee at €3.50 a day is €70 a month saved. Switching the gym membership for a daily jog is another €50 per month. That’s before you consider loyalty cards and coupon savings, or switch to generic groceries and a packed lunch.
7 Switch Providers
Get the best of value out of banks, utility providers, and financial products. There are major savings to be made. Give yourself an hour with a laptop, bank statements, and all your bills and statements. It’s usually better to do this, Monday to Friday, 9-5, if possible, so you can speak to existing and new providers if needed.
Gas, electricity, and refuse collection are good places to start, moving on to your mobile phone, home phone, broadband, and TV provider, which can usually be cost-effectively bundled. Look at insurances like your car, travel, home and health insurance costs, which again can be bundled for savings, and talk to a broker about better deals. The mortgage is worth looking at too. Check price comparison websites, although be aware that many only compare a handful of the top providers, not them all.
8 Stop paying unnecessary items
Small amounts add up. Not buying bottled water and café coffee can save you €1,000 a year.
9 Break Expensive Habits
Stop smoking. Yes, it’s difficult and a lot easier said than done, but savings of €4,000 or more every year must add to the motivation of the health benefits for you and your family.
A regular pub or restaurant habit can be expensive too; try cutting back on one night a week for a more comfy, less costly at-home drinks and dinner.
10 Don’t Change the Car
Unless it’s on its last legs, consider if you really need a new car. Changing the car in January can be an impulsive move, but, unless you’ve got cash, do not take out a new loan or an even bigger loan. Make 2024 the year to get completely debt free.
Whatever your household income, spending money mindlessly is a pointless waste. And, like all good habits, if you carefully watch your spending for January and February, and always question the costs, then, by late springtime, it will come automatically and you can start to enjoy the benefits.
Carol Brick hails from a dairy farm in Kilmoyley, Co Kerry and is managing director of CWM Wealth Management Ltd. She has a particular interest in financial planning for Irish women and launched HerMoney, a specialist service, in 2017 with an all-female team of advisors. Carol advocates for urgent legislative change around the qualifying criteria for a State pension. Email email@example.com.