It is perhaps the most frustrating situation for a dedicated money-saver … being married to someone who is less than organised with their finances.
But opposites attract, and like all aspects of marriage, compromises and understanding are essential. Money matters are one of the major causes of marital disharmony, leading to between 35% and 57% of divorces, depending on which study you read.
There is nothing more frustrating for the frugal partner to see her other half splurging cash on unnecessary luxuries, but equally, one who might be described as “too generous for their own good” will wince at a penny-pinching spouse’s way.
But whichever side of the financial fence you sit on, no matter how rich or poor, there are some basic rules that everyone should follow. Even if one of you is a saver and the other a splurger, you’re bound to agree on one thing: No one likes to throw money away unnecessarily.
- Keep an eye on renewal letters. This must be one of the easiest ways to throw money down the toilet. You know the scenario, the car insurance letter drifts onto the doormat, you take a cursory glance while hurriedly packing the kids off to school and instantly forget all about it the moment you “file” it away in a safe place. A month later, you’re outraged when the direct debit leaves a bigger than usual hole in your account.
*But the good news is, it’s really easy to prevent this price hike, so long as you take notice of the renewal letter and act. Have a quick look at a comparison site to see what you could be paying, then call your original company and ask what they can do. Say you’re really happy with their service, you’d like to stay with them but you don’t want your bills going up. If you’ve seen a better price elsewhere, tell them.
Three times I’ve done this in the last year, and it’s worked every time. Companies don’t want to lose your custom. And if they can’t bring the price down, then go elsewhere.
With contracts which don’t come up for annual renewal, for example TV and broadband services, it’s worth checking in every so often to see if they can do you a better deal. eg I wanted to cancel a couple of parts of my BT TV/Broadband package, and without even having to ask, the operator offered to bring my monthly fee down.
- Spread the costs. Paying a big billin one go, like TV licence or car tax, is usually a cheaper option as monthly direct debits often incur a sneaky extra charge BUT if you haven’t got the cash in the first place, then splitting into manageable monthly chunks might be more worthwhile in the end. I do this with pretty much all my big bills, like car tax and insurance, because paying it out in one go would either plunge me further into overdraft or put more money onto my credit card, and the interest on that would cost more than the little extra I pay for the privilege of doing direct debit.
- Don’t go to the shop every day. I do a big supermarket shop once a week, and granted we do often need extra “bits” but Husband is a habitual shopper – it gives him a break from working at home all day and an excuse to get out. But it also means he is far more likely to snap up unnecessary impulse buys. Usually snacks! Which is not only adding to the weekly cost of food shopping but adding unnecessary calories too.
- Use cash wherever possible. If you’re puzzled as to where your salary disappears to, it probably means you’re blindly paying out on your debit card more than you think. The odd Starbucks latte on Contactless here, a few beauty essentials swiped through the tills there … it all adds up. You might not think you’re guilty of this, but you almost certainly will be. Just tot up your extra purchases on your bank statement if you don’t believe me. One way to test yourself – and save money – is to withdraw a set amount in cash for your disposable income per week. And don’t use your card AT ALL. You’ll soon realise just how often you swipe at the tills.
- Know what’s in your bank account. I reckon I check my online account every other day – sometimes daily – and could tell you within say £30 what’s in there. I know exactly what day each standing order and direct debit leaves my account. Husband, however, visits his online account far less and is therefore surprised by how little is left when he does check in. This is a constant source of frustration for someone who basically calculates what we’ve got and what we can spend every day.
- Check you haven’t already got something before you buy it. Whether it’s a roll of wrapping paper, a tape measure or a garden water spray, it just makes sense to search at home first to make absolutely sure you haven’t got one before buying another. This doesn’t occur to money-splurgers whose brain process goes something like this: See natty new kitchen item looking all shiny and tempting in the shop, think “We definitely need one of those,” buys said item (using debit card).
A money-saver’s brain would have followed this pattern: Sees natty new kitchen item looking all shiny and tempting in the shop, thinks, “We’ve already got something similar at home” and leaves shop empty-handed.
- The same goes for being prepared on every occasion. So, if it’s bitterly cold and you’ll likely to need your gloves, look for them before leaving the house instead of resorting to buying a new pair that you probably don’t even when your fingers turn blue. (I admit to being a bit of a failure on this one, particularly with sun cream which I never seem to remember and end up with bottles of the stuff from every daytrip in the summer)
- Stop buying lunch out when you could make it at home for a fraction of the cost. Pity the money-saving half who wakes up 20 minutes earlier just to assemble cheese and pickle sandwiches and Tupperware boxes full of snacks so she/he doesn’t have to resort to splashing out on the canteen/snack machine/local Pret a Manger. And pity her/him even more when their other half continues their wasteful ways of throwing £5-£7 a day on their plastic box of sushi or gourmet sandwiches. One of the simplest ways to cut monthly costs is by making your lunch, which could save around £100 – and that could cover your utilities bill.
- Don’t buy things when you’re broke. This sound so obvious, but the habitual money-splurger has no such self-control and even when facing a scarlet-red minus figure on their bank balance, will still suggest shopping for garden furniture, or booking a holiday, or going away for a night, or a trip to Ikea… These things can wait, let’s pay our bills first and maybe next month we’ll be on a better footing. Yes, I know, I’m a terrible bore.
- Pay penalties on time. Even better, don’t get them in the first place. Parking fines and speeding fines are the biggest waste of money, and what’s even worse is the punch-in-the-gut feeling that you brought this fine on your own stupid self. Do everything you can to avoid them, but if you happen to slip-up then make sure you cough up within the initial period, before the charge hikes up and you find yourself even more out of pocket.
Here endeth the lecture.