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Send your finances back to school

Feeling a little out of control with your cash? We help you get your financial affairs in order

By Esther Shaw

Published: 04 August 2021

With the start of the new academic year just weeks away, families will be starting to think about their little ones returning to school.

But this is also a time to think about teaching ourselves a few things – or at least reminding ourselves of the basics.

We are coming to a crucial time for our personal finances as Covid support measures are being scaled back, and we are slowly returning to day-to-day expenses, such as commuting and socialising.

If your bank balance has taken a bit of a battering due to lockdown – and the long summer holiday – now could be the perfect time to send your finances back to school.

1. Download a budgeting tool

You can now find a host of useful budgeting apps online, such as Yolt or Moneydashboard. These can help you manage your finances and keep track of your monthly commitments and essential bills.

Elsewhere, the new Couch to Financial Fitness – inspired by the popular training app, ‘Couch to 5k’ – is another useful tool which guides users through a four-week programme to help them master money basics, including budgeting.

2. Cancel subscriptions you no longer use

A good way to free up some cash is by going through your bank statements and looking at the various subscription services you may have signed up to during lockdown.

Ask yourself if you’re still making good use of things such as meal kit subscriptions or online gym classes. If  not, cancel these. 

3. Switch your current account

If you’ve been loyal to your bank for as long as you can remember, now could be the time to take action and find a better current account offering.

Decide which features are most important to you. This could be a decent rate on in-credit balances, or a competitive overdraft. Think carefully about whether you’re going to make good use of the ‘benefits’ on offer before agreeing to pay a monthly fee for a ‘packaged’ account.

Right now, there are some tempting ‘freebies’ on offer, including £140 if you switch to HSBC (before 19 August), and a £150 gift card if you make the move to Virgin Money.

But don’t get lured in by the offer of free cash. Make sure the account is right for your needs.

To compare deals, head here. Switches should complete in seven working days.

4. Move debts to a balance transfer credit card

If you’ve got niggly balances sitting on a handful of credit cards, seize the opportunity to move all your debts to the same place on one 0% balance transfer card. You may be able to find deals that are interest-free for as long as 29 months, giving you lots of breathing space to pay off what you owe.

Ensure you clear your debt within the introductory period. If not, you will start getting interest added to your bill. Also remember to factor in balance transfer fees of up to 3%.

5. Consider a money transfer card

If you’ve got a costly overdraft, you could use a money transfer card to pay this off.

With this type of plastic, rather than shift a balance from one card to another, the money is transferred directly into your current account – for a small fee.

As well as using this cash to clear an overdraft, you could also use it to boost your balance. But don’t see this as a green light to go on a spending spree.

6. Look at cashback credit cards

If you’re careful about how you use your card, you could think about a cashback credit card where you get rewarded on your everyday spending.

But you need to be disciplined, as if you fail to pay off your plastic in full, you will start getting charged interest, and this could wipe out any gains from the rewards.

7. Start saving for next summer

If you’ve found affording this summer a bit of a stretch, take action now to get some savings in place for summer 2022.

A good option could be a regular saver where you tuck away a sum of money each month. It’s an easy way to get into the savings habit, and a simple way to build a sizeable pot.

Note that regular savers can come with lots of Ts and Cs, so read the small print carefully. Also shop around for the best rates you can find.

8. Switch to a cheaper fixed energy tariff

Now is a great time to look at your gas and energy provider to see if you can make savings by switching.

Ofgem, the regulator is due to announce a change to the price cap on August 6, with a significant increase expected due to rising wholesale costs – and partly also due to the pandemic.

If you’re currently on a variable rate tariff, you might be able to make big savings by shopping around and moving to a cheaper fix. Switch with MoneySuperMarket and you could potentially save £273* on your bills.

To compare deals head here.

9. Move your mortgage to a cheap fix

While the mortgage market took a big hit last year in the midst of the pandemic, with many lenders pulling products, things are on the up. Banks societies are launching lots of new deals and rates are coming down.

There are now more fixes available at a higher loan-to-value of 80% and 85%. There is also improved availability for borrowers with a deposit of 10% or less – great news for first time buyers.

With average rates on two-year and five-year fixed rate mortgages having fallen, now could be a great time to get into a cheap fix.

While a host of lenders have begun offering deals at sub-1%, tread carefully, as some can come with hefty fees. As with any mortgage, it’s vital to work out the overall cost: rate plus fees. To compare deals head here.

10. Get protection in place

Most of us are in the habit of getting car insurance, travel insurance and home insurance in place, but don’t forget about life insurance, too. If you have dependents, this cover is vital in case the worst happens.

For peace of mind, also look at other protection policies, such as income protection and critical illness cover.


*30% of consumers that applied to switch via MoneySuperMarket saved at least £273.92, April 2020 – March 2021. Excludes NI, CI & IOM.