Once you’ve found the right bank and the right account, you may be tempted to rest on your laurels. However, if you want to make the most of your money, you need to give it regular attention. The world of finance is changing continually, with new offers and opportunities cropping up every season. To take advantage of them, you need to keep your finger on the pulse.
Not only should you keep a flexible approach, but be prepared to do a bit of research to keep abreast of the latest financial news. You don’t need to be a stockbroker to read the money pages – most of the Sunday papers carry a finance section aimed at the average person. The internet can also be a good source of up-to-the-minute articles – check Yahoo or the BBC in their ‘personal finance’ sections.
As well as keeping an eye on the money market, you should have a clear idea of how your accounts work. Stay abreast of any direct debits and standing orders – paying bills by monthly instalments can save the hassle of posting cheques, spread the cost of services, and you will often gain from special discounts if you pay this way. However, monthly payments can cause problems if you don’t have enough cash in your account – charges for going over your agreed overdraft can be nasty and are money down the drain. Try to arrange for direct debits to come off around the same time – a few days after pay day is usually a good time, and you’ll often be able to choose which date. When budgeting, aim to plan for the whole year rather than just from month-to-month.
Credit card companies will offer introductory rates to new customers – if you don’t mind changing cards every six months or so you can avoid paying high rates of interest. Look for 0% APR offers on balance transfers and especially those that do not charge a balance transfer fee.
If you have debts, (and these days almost everybody does to some degree) make sure that you are on top of them. The worst thing you can do is ignore them – make sure you know what you owe, and how much interest you are paying. It might be a good idea to consolidate debts – for example converting credit card balances into a low-interest loan or second mortgage. Allocate as much as you can comfortably afford to pay each month, and stick to it. If you are struggling with debt, contact your debtors. They will often be able to help you plan your repayments, and will certainly be more understanding if you keep in touch.