8 Surprisingly easy tips to simplify your finances

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8 easy ways to simplify your money

Last time you had it simple, you were probably year 4 in primary school and I’m guessing life has become a lot more complicated since then. The modern world does not make simple living easy; now, more than ever, we are being told that we should be doing more, earning more, owning more.

Miss the simple life (and primary school afternoon nap sessions)? Me too, so let’s do something about it (although I can’t help with the nap sessions, I’m afraid; talk to your boss about that one).

Our finances often bring complexity to our lives, so let’s start there, with a few tips to get “simple” back:

1. Pay cash.

Swap plastic for cash and you’ll see how much easier it is to keep track of your finances. I can’t be the only one who feels like, because I’m not actually handing anything over, I’m not spending “real” money when I use my card. This especially applies to credit cards: swiping them is a doddle, but making timely payments on all your cards often isn’t. Pay in cash and it’s done.

2. Consolidate accounts.

If you like using credit cards, then have as few as possible. I know, I know, they keep offering you rewards to open new accounts! Then, all of a sudden, you feel like you’re Beyoncé and can spend what you like. Chances are you’re not, and you can’t. It’s harder to manage and keep track of multiple cards and easier to overspend. Instead, limit yourself to a couple of accounts and find the best credit card for you. Pick one for everyday spending and rewards, and another with low interest for balance transfers.

Pro tip: If you have opened several accounts, to preserve your credit score it is advisable not to close them immediately after paying them off. Cut up your card but keep the account open for a while. This spreads out the decrease in your total available credit which is less damaging than a sudden, large reduction.

3. Automate.

Anyone else “file” bills by shoving them in an overflowing drawer, to deal with later, and then promptly forget all about them? That was me until I set up auto-payments. This is perfect for recurring bills like your mortgage, car payment, credit card charges or gym membership and you’ll never miss one by mistake (not a fun experience). You can also automate your savings with online banking, choosing an amount to transfer to your savings account every month. The result: less things to think about, or forget, which is always a winner.

4. Go paperless.

It’s easy for letters and statements to get lost in the myriad of other crap, for want of a better word, which we’re sent every day. Also, if you receive them by post then you have to file them (not in the aforementioned overflowing drawer), becoming surrounded by more “stuff”. A simpler way is to register for electronic billing and receive your bills and statements by email. Bonus: you save some trees, too.

To deal with the contents of that drawer I keep mentioning, simply scan all of your documents so you have copies and then shred everything you don’t need (except for important documents such as certificates and titles). There are plenty of tools to help you organise your paperless finances and store them safely on your computer, the cloud or another platform.

5. Own less.

A juicer lived on my kitchen worktop for two years before I was forced to sell it because, to be honest, I don’t like juice and had only used it once. It’s easy to overbuy in our consumer society where we are constantly being told that we “need” more things. Have you found your “enough” yet? The more you have, the more time you have to spend maintaining and organising it (and trying to justify its existence when you have only used it once…). In many ways, less is more. Build a healthy relationship with your wallet, save a quid whenever possible and spend on experiences and things that really matter.

6. Close old accounts.

Banks seem to feel the need to send you letters and statements informing you about how much is in your account even when the answer is £0 and it has been for several years. That’s not fun for anyone. If you’re not using an account and are not intending to, close it and save everyone some hassle.

7. Pay Off Debt.

Instead of letting it mount up, pay off debt as soon as you can, even if it means you have to tighten the purse-strings for a while. This may seem obvious (hey, I never said this was rocket science!) but you would be amazed at the number of people who keep sinking further and further into debt, often in pursuit of a certain type of lifestyle. Try not to live beyond your means as that is definitely not the route to a simpler life. Again, you’re not Beyoncé.

8. Take Advantage of Technology.

For better control over your finances, sign up for Bean. Yes, this is a shameless self-plug but, as the purpose of Bean is to help you simplify your financial life, and save you time and money, it would have been a crime not to include it!

Want to save money on your holiday? There’s an app for that!

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Slash the cost of travelling aboard

Summer is here, apparently, and I don’t know about you but my mind has turned to escaping the rubbish English weather and getting my behind on the first flight out of here, ideally on a luxury holiday, paid for by someone else. Sadly, the last bit isn’t going to happen (although I remain open to offers…) and my grand ideas of not spending anything for the last few months haven’t exactly gone to plan. So, as I’m sure some of you are in the same boat, and the wonders of modern technology can help us out, below are my tips and tricks for going on a luxury holiday without the luxury price tag.

Skiplagged

Skiplagged

Ever thought of saving money by booking a flight to somewhere you don’t want to go, but which stops at your desired destination en route, thinking this may be cheaper? No, me neither. That was until I was introduced to Skiplagged, an app which makes this “hidden city ticketing” possible. You see, if, for example, I wanted to go to New York, it may actually be cheaper to book a flight that stops at Charles de Gaulle, JFK and finally goes on to Heathrow, and I could alight at JFK. Airlines have tried to block Skiplagged, with United Airlines even bringing court action against the company. However, at the moment the app is still available, and is very popular amongst travellers. It’s not hard to see why!

Skyscanner

Skyscanner

An old favourite, I also use Skyscanner a lot for comparing prices of flights and getting the best deal. As well as allowing me to compare prices to get a bargain, the app also directs me to the sites from which I can buy my tickets, providing simple filters to make the process as no-nonsense as booking a holiday can be in this day and age.

Hotel Tonight

Hotel_Tonight

Planning a last minute trip away? You spontaneous thing, you. Hotel Tonight offers hotel rooms at late notice. It was originally for those who wanted to book a hotel room for the same day, only offering rooms in hotels with vacancies that evening. They then moved into the more traditional discount hotel business, offering rooms at reduced rates up to a week before departure. Get booking and take that last minute trip!

Roomer

Roomer

You know that awful feeling when you book a holiday and then something, usually bad, crops up and you can no longer make it? Not only are you dealing with this new turn of events, and missing your holiday, but normally you have to still pay for it too! Salt. In. The. Wound. Then, happy days, Roomer came along and this was a thing of the past. Roomer is an app which allows me to sell my unwanted room reservations to other travellers seeking a discount. It also acts as a traditional marketplace for those looking for a good deal, so I often have a browse to check availability if I am planning a weekend away. Simply upload your unwanted hotel room to the app and you will get paid when someone else books the room, or use the app to get the best rates on a last minute reservation. Thank you, Roomer.

ExpertFlyer ExpertFlyer

I’m not made of money (still working on that), but I like to travel in style. ExpertFlyer uses a database to allow me to find all of the offers and upgrades available for an upcoming flight. I then just download the codes to my smartphone, and then I can upgrade. So, you can get the best deal possible and fly in comfort as you rack up air miles.

Hipmunk Hipmunk

Hipmunk acts like a comparison website, comparing rates for hotel rooms, air and coach travel and other incidentals so I can get the best deal. I simply select my destination and dates, or the app can make suggestions, and Hipmunk will provide a visual comparison of the deals available.

Hopper

Hopper

Named the best travel app by Apple in 2015, if you want to get the best deal for a flight, Hopper is the app for you. The massive databank allows me to compare prices for billions of flights, and the app will even make suggestions for dates that will be cheaper, and will send notifications to my phone to alert me to the latest bargain.

Priority Pass

Priority_Pass

Who loves airports? People in airport lounges, that’s who. Everyone else finds them stressful, crowded and full of bad food and endless duty-free which you have to walk through before you can get anywhere; a necessary evil to be endured before we are whisked away on holiday. Priority Pass is an app which gives members access to hundreds of airport lounges. Perfect for if you arrive at the airport early (apparently that does happen to some people), so you can start your holiday off in style with cocktails, access to the internet to plan your trip and nibbles. Also try LoungeBuddy, a similar app which I also use.