For many of us the festive season was a time of overindulgence, whether it was eating, drinking or spending. So each New Year is a great time to hit reset, define your priorities and make any necessary changes to reach your goals.
We can’t help you shift any holiday weight, but if this year you’re hoping to gain an extra few pounds (in your bank account), we have some tips to help you start the year off right.
1. Beware of optimistic spending
At the beginning of the year it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘new year, new you’ mentality and to make optimistic purchases, like expensive gym memberships, costly equipment for a new hobby, or subscriptions that will go unused after February. Splashing out might even make you feel temporarily more committed to your goals, but sustaining these resolutions is another question altogether.
It’s great to start the year in this spirit, but consider testing the water first and postponing any major purchases until after this initial burst of enthusiasm has passed.
As an alternative, look out for trial periods and rolling memberships, or look to borrow or rent equipment rather than buy. It may make sense to spend a little more in the first month, rather than sign up to ambitious, year-round commitments that you regret later.
2. Make one money-saving resolution that sticks
There are hundreds of ways to cut out avoidable costs, which most of us know but few of us follow. For example:
- Ditch the pricey daily coffee
- Prepare a packed lunch for work
- Find your cheapest energy provider
- Switch to generic food brands
- Buy household items in bulk while they’re discounted
- Commute by bike to work
- Carry a refillable bottle rather than buying bottled water
These take a little effort, and the savings may seem small. But pledge to do just one, and put the savings aside for a full year so you can see the results.
Committing to one small change over the long term can be much more effective than many little changes in the short term. And it might help you find the motivation to pick up a few more good habits the following year.
3. Set a debt-free goal
You don’t need us to tell you that it makes financial sense to pay off your overdraft, student loan or credit card debt. But if you don’t have a specific timetable for when you’ll become debt-free, now is a great time to make one.
Review your spending carefully, create a budget, and decide on a realistic amount you can afford to pay back each month. Perhaps you can put the savings from one of your money-saving resolutions towards this goal.
4. Choose the right strategy
Have you been putting money into a cash ISA in previous years, only to see very minimal growth? Perhaps this year is the time to make sure your strategy matches your goal.
If your financial goals are short-term (i.e. within the next three years), like a holiday or new car, or you might need access to your savings at short notice, most people prefer to keep their money in easy access cash savings. But if you already have some cash set aside for emergencies, you’re willing to accept some risk, and your financial goals are longer-term, like a house, or a university fund for your child, investing your money could be a better option for you.
Our guide to understanding ISAs could help you decide what’s best for you.
According to Alex Neilson, Click & Invest’s Investment Manager, “Making effective investment choices largely comes down to your personal time horizon, loss tolerance and risk appetite.”
5. Make regular savings a priority
Whether you’re saving or investing, setting up a regular monthly payment can help you stay on track to meet your goals, if you can afford to. Make this a priority at the start of the month, or immediately after you get paid, to avoid making excuses, or spending money you intended to save or invest.
A simple standing order, which can be done via online banking for most accounts could make a big difference at the end of the year.
If you have a Click & Invest account, it’s easy to set up a regular payment so that each month you’re contributing a little more into your actively managed, globally diversified portfolio.
6. Don’t miss the ISA deadline
Taking advantage of your personal ISA allowance, which for the 2018 / 2019 tax year is £20,000, is key to tax-efficient saving or investing. So if you want to use your full allowance, you need to top up your ISAs by the deadline of 5 April 2019.
The start of the year is a good time to take note of how much you’ve paid into your cash ISA and stocks and shares ISA so far in this tax year, and check how much of your ISA allowance is remaining. If you’ve got plenty left, you have a couple of months to make regular payments up to your limit.
If you don’t have an ISA at all, it’s not too late to open one. Even if you don’t invest the full £20,000 you’re entitled to, you’ll still benefit from the same tax breaks. Take a look into our Stocks and Shares ISA for more information.
7. Get educated on financial matters
Learning about the fundamentals of investing can help you to take control of your finances and move them in the direction you want.
Jane Warren, CEO of Click & Invest comments, “An education in investing is an investment in itself. Learning the basics of compounding, inflation, risk and return gives you the freedom to make informed decisions around your financial future”.
You can also keep up-to-date on the latest market movements, and the world events driving them, by simply signing up to our email newsletters, or following Click & Invest on Twitter. We break down the financial news hitting the headlines, and explain why it matters.
Taking control of your finances doesn’t necessarily mean making huge changes; even these simple steps can put you in a much stronger position for the year to come. Make this one of the resolutions you don’t break this year.
With investment your capital is at risk. The tax advantages of ISAs may change in the future and also depend on your individual circumstances.
Opinions given within this article are the authors own personal views. The views and opinions are effective from the date of publication but may be subject to change without notice. This article is not intended to constitute personal advice and no action should be taken, or not taken, on account of information provided.