From apps that automatically move your money into savings accounts to websites that will notify you when you need to switch energy, here are 12 simple ideas to make managing your money much easier.
For some reason, there are certain tasks that always seem to go straight to the end of the to-do list – and a lot of them tend to be money related. Sometimes life simply gets in the way. At other times, the tasks appear overly complex and it’s easier to think taking action just isn’t worth the hassle. Whatever the reason, plans that are more fun often get prioritised. And these jobs remain firmly rooted at the bottom of the pile.
Sadly, it’s these tasks, from getting a new car insurance quote to earning cashback, which can actually make a decent difference to your bank balance by hundreds of pounds each year.
But thanks to new technology, and a few old tricks used smartly, it’s possible to take the effort out of banking, paying bills, saving and spending money. We highlight the top tools below, which are all free to use unless otherwise stated.
Set up text message alerts for your bank
Most of the big banks will send free text messages to your mobile phone informing you when you’re low on funds. It’s a simple and easy-to-activate trick that can be the difference between getting overdrawn and being stung with fees or not. And if you consider how expensive an overdraft can be, it’s well worth setting up.
Many banks also let you set alerts for more functions, such as high balances (for example, when your salary has been paid in), or if you don’t have enough money to pay a standing order.
You can usually set up alerts in your online banking but if not, ask in branch.
Help friends pay you money they owe straight away
Say you’re out for lunch with a friend and when the bill comes it turns out they’ve forgotten their wallet, so you put it on your card. Or perhaps you’re off to the cinema and, since you get there first, you buy the tickets. It should be simple for your friends to pay you back, but we all know it doesn’t always happen. Most of the time it’s down to one of you forgetting – but there is a way you can get it sorted there and then, and it’s really easy.
If you go into your online banking, you can quickly register your mobile phone number for Paym.
Pronounced ‘Pay-Em’, this is a system where people can pay you via your phone number rather than asking for your account details. They just need to open their mobile banking app and select ‘pay a contact’. They don’t even need to be registered – only the person receiving the money must be – so you can ask friends to pay you right away.
Aggregate your accounts
There have been a flurry of apps that allow you to see all your accounts in one place – handy if you have a couple of current accounts, plus other credit cards and savings accounts.
So if you’d like to see all your money at once glance, then download the likes of Money Dashboard or Yolt. These apps also analyse your spending, pulling it into groups such as travel, eating out and bills. That’s far easier than poring over your bank statements, trying to work out where your money goes each month, and enables you to visualise which areas you need to cut back on.
Pay your bills automatically
Unless you’ve a formidable memory, it’s likely you’ve forgotten to make a bill or credit card payment in the past. If so, you’ll know that dawning realisation a day or two later as you stare at the penalty fee that has appeared on your bank statement.
One of the easiest ways to avoid this happening is to set up a direct debit or standing order for any regular payments you need to make. With these, the money will be taken from your account on the same date each month and you’ll never forget a payment again. All you need to do is ensure you have enough funds in your bank to cover the costs.
Be smart with your meter readings
To get accurate gas and electricity bills – and therefore avoid over- or underpaying – you need to give regular meter readings. But ask your energy company to install a free smart meter and you can put an end to shining a torch into the dark cupboard where your meter lives.
An extra bonus should be that you are able to see just how much your energy use costs, enabling you to cut back if you need to – though it could temporarily become a ‘dumb’ meter if you choose to switch to a different supplier.
Get reminded when your subscriptions and bills are due to end
One of the biggest reasons people don’t switch when their energy tariff or mortgage fi xed rate expires, or cancel services, is because they’re likely to forget. As a result, payments are taken for another year, or you’re moved to a more expensive rate. You could write it all down in your diary, but then you’ve got to remember to check that too.
One solution is websites such as Onedox, which lets you register many of your utility accounts, as well as annual payments, such as your MOT and car tax. You’ll then be emailed an auto-reminder when you need to take action.
Another website, Bean, will monitor recurring payments in your bank account and let you cancel unwanted subscriptions with a few clicks.
Switch to a cheaper energy firm without comparing prices
Switching energy isn’t difficult, but still lots of people find it too much hassle. If that sounds like you, then you can sign up to service Mespo. It will analyse your bills and show you a new and cheaper deal. If you want to switch, you just say yes and let it happen in the background.
If you want to take it a step further, another tool called Flipper will keep switching your energy every time its computer algorithms find a better deal – though it does cost £25 a year.
SAVINGS AND INVESTMENTS
Send money to your savings accounts
Another innovation is an automated savings system, which should make saving easier.
Three tools to check out are Chip, which offers up to 1% interest in the first year for every friend that joins (up to 5%), Plum and Squirrel – although the latter costs £3.99 a month.
By sharing your bank details, these smart services work out how much money you can afford to save each week. That money will then be moved to a separate savings account – all three apps move your money to a Barclays account (though no interest is paid). With these apps, not only will you not forget to save, but you won’t see that money disappear on everyday spending.
Let the robo-advisers manage your investments
For people who want to dip a toe in the investing waters, or who are just short of time, active investing might be a step too far. But ‘robo’ firms, such as Moneyfarm, Nutmeg and Wealthify, can take the pain away. These use computers – often called robo-advisers – to work out a risk profile for investors and then manage their investments based on this. You just leave your money and let the ‘robots’ look after it. Easy!
As a result, fees are often much lower than investing via fund managers and some fund platforms. However, it is possible to pay less if you do it yourself and pick passive funds from the likes of Vanguard.
Let your computer show you when cashback is available
Cashback and voucher code websites are fantastic ways to save money as you spend, but they all require you to do a bit of searching online or activate offers specific to the retailer you want to shop at.
If that’s all a bit much, you can install plug-ins to your internet browser, which will notify you when it’s possible to save at the website you are shopping on. Messages pop up at the top of your screen, sharing the savings you can make – handy reminders that take out the effort.
Both Quidco and TopCashback offer these plug-ins for their own cashback, while Pouch works for vouchers and discount codes.
Use a cashback credit card
To earn money on spending without thinking at all, you could just sign up for a cashback credit card. These usually pay cashback on every £1 you spend, regardless of the shop. The highest paying across all retailers generally come from American Express, though there are still shops that won’t accept them.
Add your cards to your phone
By now, we’re all used to contactless payments, but you will still need your four-digit PIN for payments over £30.
If you have a problem remembering different numbers for different cards, you can add all your cards to your smartphone via Apple Pay or Android Pay systems. These digital wallets don’t have a limit, so you can then use your handset to tap and pay without entering your PIN.