Hey Skint pals,
As I blogged last time, I’ve been using this month to start sorting out some finances that were frankly getting way out of shape. Like, so out of shape they’d basically given up hope. You know like when you skip the gym a few times and then suddenly it all seems to have become too out of hand to tackle and you just concede defeat and start spending your evenings with sticky toffee pudding and The Killing instead? That’s how bad my finances had got; we’re talking years of fat to shift.
But, this January I committed to tackling the big six things that were bothering me. At a slow pace of one a week, because after years of inaction I don’t think my mind could work much quicker than that. And I promised to keep you posted on my progress, so here’s the first update on the great money-saving plan of 2012.
Checking my Statements: I own a large gift bag. It’s very pretty. Pink and black, from Agent Provocateur, it looks just darling, tied with a big satin bow. It sits in the corner of my bedroom and gives the room a sexy, slightly sleazy feel – but in a good way. And inside?
Oh, inside it’s the pit of hell. One glance beneath the satin bow could kill you outright. See, that bag is where all my financial messes go to die. All my unchecked bank statements, Inland Revenue nasties, depreciating ISAs and expired cheques. That bag is the outward manifestation of my financial chaos. It scares the crap out of me. But, in the spirit of this money-saving challenge, I have delved into hell and stared it in the face. I’ve sorted a year’s worth of bank statement (frankly anything that happened in 2010 or earlier has been written off – my life really is too short for that), and gone through them line by line in a bid to identify where I’m hemorrhaging cash. And the reading, though not pretty, wasn’t all terrible. I discovered that my internet and phone costs are actually okay, that the mortgage deal’s not bad at all and the leccy bill, though needing shaved, isn’t as bad as feared. I did discover some regular outgoings though that had slipped through unnoticed (well frankly, an HGV could have slipped through), and have begun to deal with them, as faithfully promised.
Identify the Moneyeaters: This is the step where I’ve started to tackle those expenses that siphon away my income bit by bit. We’ve all got them, whether it’s a subscription for a magazine we could do without or a titchy standing order we forgot to cancel. This month I’ve dealt with two. First up, I discovered from scrutinising my statements that I was paying £10.66 a month to my previous web host for this blog. I didn’t cancel it when I moved across to WordPress because I wanted to keep it active for a month or so, in case there were any problems with the switch. And what happened by the end of that month? I forgot, dammit. So, I’ve been paying £10.66 a month for exactly a year for sweet FA. When I called Vistaprint to cancel they couldn’t have been nicer and the whole thing was sorted in minutes. Saving – £127.92 a year.
Secondly, and this was such a biggie it took me a fortnight – I’ve sorted something which I’ve been meaning to do for FOUR YEARS. Yup, you read it right. Since 2008, my massive home insurance premium has been hanging over me like the school bully, occupying more of my head space than any piece of paper should. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve written ‘sort out home insurance’ on a to-do list, then not done it, because I was, well, I don’t even think I can articulate a good reason. A killer combo of lethargy and pain avoidance maybe – see, I knew it would take ages and it did. Still, once I got stuck in and did the homework, sorted all the bits of the policy, agreed the excesses and cover and got all the paperwork together it probably took three hours. To recap, that’s three hours versus four years. You know how much my old premium was? An eye-watering £1200 a year, buildings and contents. Mm-hmm. It started out at £300 back in 2004 and steadily climbed to the point where last year I was rewarded for my loyalty with a giant price hike. A fortnight ago, before casting around for another insurer I asked the Halifax what they could do and they took £100 off a year. Not enough, guys. And so today, after three hours of work I have the same cover, a slightly higher excess (but only marginally) and the new premium is . . . drumroll please . . . £251 a year! Ha! I am feeling a combination of jubilance and embarrassment right now. Embarrassment that I didn’t challenge the rising cost before, mixed with the joy that can only come from scrapping something from the to-do list that’s been there for FOUR YEARS!! So, Skint pals, that’s a saving of £949 a year!
Which means that from these two actions I’ve saved myself £1076.92 a year so far this January. Now, home insurance was the biggie, so I don’t expect anything else I do to net me such a large saving, but oh, I’m starting to enjoy this. Good riddance to the financial ostrich I used to be. I’m getting my head out of the sand, one piece of paper at a time.
What about you? Does this inspire any true confessions? Horror stories and tales of hope equally welcome – what have you done to get your finances into better shape, or how are you planning to do so? I’d love to hear from some fellow survivors – let’s face it, few of your tales of financial neglect could be worse than mine! Will you commit to sorting something that’s been skulking on your to-do list for years? Let me know, xx