My quick January personal finance detox
At the start of every January I always take a quick look at my general finances and do a speedy ‘detox’ on anything that needs urgent attention. Why? Well, for most of us there are two times of the year when we’re especially likely to overspend or get ripped off: namely the festive season, and the summer holidays. Now’s the perfect time to check in.
While this doesn’t promise a full, glowing financial state of health, it’s definitely a useful way to nip early problems in the bud, and it gives you the opportunity to at least start to turn more serious situations around if they’re lurking too.
It ticks the big boxes and covers urgent information you might have missed, the size and location of any debts, and anything out of the ordinary such as possible fraud or other financial irregularities. Essentially, anything potentially dangerous to your basic money situation.
How to do a quick personal finance detox
Here’s a summary of my basic two-part January money troubleshooting, starting with ‘look’ and followed by ‘take action’:
- Open any ‘red bills’, and check urgent text messages & emails etc < get informed about what’s most urgent & commit to tackle anything outstanding as soon as possible
- Check basic bank balance < is it in credit, overdrawn or about to go overdrawn?
- View all recent transactions in current account < is there any possible fraud, a direct debit that’s failed to cancel, or subscriptions to get rid of?
- Borrowing check: all credit cards, loans, buy-now-pay-later, informal borrowing from friends/family etc < how much is owed, and what’s the rate of interest?
- View all recent purchases on credit cards etc < is there any possible fraud, overcharging, or something that should have been refunded?
- Money owed to you < is anything unpaid such as wages, freelance work, benefits, child support, cost of living payments, grants etc?
- Quick look at upcoming bills in the next month < are there any large bills about to arrive such as insurance, utilities, changes to mortgage payments, annual memberships etc?
Of course this isn’t meant to be comprehensive money health check, or general fix for the whole messed up cost of living crisis, but it should bring up anything serious that needs urgent action. It’s best to know exactly what’s happening, even if you don’t necessarily like the look of it.
Your situation will be unique to you, but you might need to:
- Create or re-draw your monthly/weekly budget
- Move or consolidate some/all of your borrowing
- Report suspicious activity on your cards
- Chase up missing payments or refunds
- Look for extra ways to earn some money
- Contact lenders/suppliers to let them know you’re experiencing difficulties
- Ask for help from a reliable charity or non-profit advice organisation
- And so on…
For example, when I ran through my money detox list last week I found that the introductory rate on my credit card was about to expire, so I had to work out how to pay it off and/or look for another card that offered a better deal. Absolutely 100% not fun, but I took action and managed to sort it out, and I’m enjoying the peace of mind that brought with it.
If you’re lucky enough not to need to do any of these urgent actions, then you might like take a moment to work on the more positive side of personal finance instead, such as savings, pensions and investments.
There we have it, a quick check through those tricky start-of-year finances, and not a kale smoothie in sight.
Do you need a January money detox too?