Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Twixmas is a boring time of year for all of us. We’re stuffed full of overly rich Christmas food and all daily routine is out the window. In 2020, twixmas is set to be even more boring than ever, as we’re stuck at home and unable to visit friends and family as usual!
That’s why it’s the perfect time to get your finances sorted. Each day of Twixmas (the time between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day), take action on just one thing to do with your money – and you’ll set yourself up for a richer year next year. Promise!
Here’s your Twixmas finance checklist to make sure you’re getting set up for a smooth financial year to come…
Now’s the best time of year to check for special deals on everything from house insurance to energy tariffs. It’s a time-consuming exercise – which makes it an ideal way to pass the time during the weird non-time between Christmas and New Year.
It doesn’t have to take AGES, either. If you plan your strategy, you could save hundreds of pounds (or even thousands!) in just one day.
Setting reminders for contracts that renew later in the year will help you stay organised – and stop you running onto expensive ‘out of deal’ contracts (such as broadband doubling in price after your introductory offer ends). Once you know which comparison tools and cashback sites you like to use, it’ll also be easier to quickly switch throughout the year as each contract comes up for renewal.
Do you know how much is in your pension pot? Where is it invested? Could you save thousands of pounds by consolidating your pensions?
We all ignore pensions to a certain degree. It’s easy to forget about them – it’s just something that goes out of the monthly paycheque, for many of us. However, as you move jobs it’s easy to lose track of old pension pots. Track them down and take a look at the fees charged. It could be time to move older pots into one main one!
We’ve got our FREE pension guide that’ll help you arrange a comfortable retirement no matter if you’re in your 20s, 30s, or nearing your 60s with retirement on the horizon. Download the guide HERE and spend time reading through. We’ve written it together with our trusted partners, PensionBee, so you can rest assured that the content is not only useful – but trusted (and there’s even a section on pension scams to watch out for, too!).
If you’ve not set up passive income streams before, it’s really easy! And now’s a great time to do it – in just a few minutes, you could net yourself a few hundred pounds by next Christmas without doing much at all!
For example, signing up to the Ipsos Mori app nets you up to £130 a year for surfing the web – and you don’t have to do anything different to your usual web browsing. Market researchers need valuable user behaviour information like this – and trusted companies like Ipsos will pay you for it. Read more about earning by surfing the web here.
You could also make the most of refer-a-friend offers with your favourite retailers, cashback sites, and even energy supplier. For example, Bulb offers a refer-a-friend incentive of £25 for both you and a friend when they sign up from your link. Topcashback also runs regular incentives – wait for their special promotional periods and you and a friend could net up to £25 each! Refer a few friends each year and you’re looking at a couple of hundred pounds in your bank account for doing nothing!
Finally, it’s not QUITE doing nothing – but if you while away the hours on survey sites like InboxPounds, you could easily boost your side income to a tidy pot without leaving the sofa!
There are plenty of ways to get free money – read our guide on Ten Ways to Get Free Money for more ideas.
One way to boost your Twixmas finances is to look around for banking deals. It could take a little longer than usual this year, as Brexit means we’re all a little unsure of what lies ahead – so banks could delay their bank switch incentives. However, it’s always worth shopping around to see if you could earn up to £100 just for switching your current account!
While we’re talking about switching banks and saving money, if you’ve got a mortgage that’s coming to the end of its fixed term, now’s definitely a good time to shop around. Look for a new mortgage deal that makes the most of the historically low interest rates on offer at the moment – and consider locking it in for a few years if you can. A lot of banks also bundle offers together such as mortgages, better savings rates, and home and contents insurance. Spend your Twixmas doing a few sums to see if it’s worth remortgaging to a new deal (remember – fees could make it too expensive to be worth it) and see if you could save by bundling your household expenses together in this way, too.
Do you know how much your savings earn in your ISA? Or your easy access savings account? It’s shockingly low!
Research the best savings accounts around and shift your cash across. If you’ve only got the one easy access savings account, look at how much of that you actually need as an instant emergency buffer – and how much you could tuck away for longer. Fixed-term and limited access savings accounts often offer higher interest rates than instant-access accounts.
If you’re on Universal Credit or certain other benefits, you could also be eligible for the Help to Save account. This lets you pay in £50 a month for four years maximum, and the Government tops your highest balance with a 50% bonus. That means that, if you save the full £50 a month for four years, you could save £2,400 yourself – and bag £1,200 free money as a bonus! Read more about Help to Save here.
You could also look at other options for savings, such as apps that sweep pennies into a saving pot. They round up your spending to the nearest pound (or fiver, or whatever you choose) and ‘sweep’ those extra pennies into a savings pot. For example, if you spend £3.49, a total of £5 leaves your bank account: £3.49 for your purchase, and 51p into your savings account. It’s a really easy way to make small differences add up to large savings.
Jasmine runs investing webinars for beginners – a great place to start! Investing isn’t a scary word – and it’s something EVERYONE should think about doing. It’s especially important right now as cash savings accounts are paying little to no interest at all. (Keep an eye out on our Facebook and Twitter feeds for announcements about the next investing webinar from Jasmine).
Investing does come with some risk, yes – but if you keep all your cash in a savings account with below-inflation interest rates, you’re GUARANTEED to be losing money in real terms. The £100 you put in this year might only be worth £97 or even £90 in a few months’ time!
Learning how to invest doesn’t mean you need to scan the stock market every day and understand what’s going on in the FTSE and global markets. Of course, if you want to do that (and have capital you can afford to risk), that’s great! However, you can start small with things like a stocks and shares ISA – they come with pre-selected fund groups depending on your risk appetite. You’re still more likely (though, of course, not guaranteed) to see better returns than if you leave your cash in an easy-access savings account.
Other ways to invest include options like Hyperjar. Here, you’re essentially investing in retailers. You put your money into ‘pots’ that earn a 4.8% bonus for that retailer. If you do this for retailers you’d usually buy from – such as grocery shops or Shell for fuel – you’re getting more for your cash! It’s entirely risk-free ‘investing’ too, as if you need the cash you can take it back at any time (just without the 4.8% bonus).
Your credit score could be languishing and you might not even realise it! When did you last check your credit report? Do you know what your score is – and whether it’s in good shape or not?
Checking your credit report is the first step to better finances – it’s easy to do and is a great way to pass the dull Twixmas time. You’ll be able to see any challenges on your report – such as late payments, defaults, or even credit that’s fraudulently taken out in your name.
Traditionally, building your credit score takes months or even years. Anyone with serious debt or bankruptcy will know just how long it can take to recover to a point where it’s easy to borrow credit – or get a mortgage – again. However, that’s because credit agencies haven’t taken into account our changes in spending in recent years – until now.
Experian Boost lets you use your existing spending to instantly boost your credit score by up to 66 points. It’s free to use and – importantly – it won’t damage your credit score at all. So, how does this work? Well, Experian realised people pay regular bills all the time – Netflix, Spotify, Council Tax – that aren’t used by credit reference agencies. However, these agreements you have can help prove that you’re responsible with your money – and establish a credit history.
So, Experian Boost uses Open Banking software to check through your bank accounts for these regular payments. If it spots them, it can use them to increase your credit score! It’s entirely risk-free, won’t damage your credit report AND could help you improve your credit score fast. Find out more in this article.
*This is not financial or investment advice. Remember to do your own research and speak to a professional advisor before parting with any money.