If you need to self-isolate in the coming days or weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak, you may find yourself running out of ways to keep yourself occupied. In which case, it could be a good opportunity to go through your finances and potentially put some money back in your pocket. Here are some ways to do just that.
Go through your bank statements
It might not sound particularly thrilling, but you’ll be surprised by what you find if you take the time to read through your bank statements. For instance, do you know exactly how much you spend on food bills, socialising or subscriptions each month? Are you aware of all the direct debits on your account?
Research by NatWest recently found that Brits waste a collective £25 billion each year on payments for services they don’t use. So, go through your direct debits with a fine-toothed comb to see whether there are any you should cancel, such as your gym membership or video streaming services you no longer need.
Making cutbacks should give you some extra cash which you can then put towards paying off loans or a mortgage, giving your savings a boost or even treating you and your family to a day out – once you’re out of self-isolation of course.
Move your savings
With the Bank of England base rate having been pushed back to its all-time low of 0.25 per cent, savers are likely to continue to get a raw deal. However, it is worth checking exactly how much interest your savings are earning and switching to a better deal if you can. Opting for a fixed rate bond for between one and five years can be good if you want the security of an interest rate that won’t change for a set term. But bear in mind you won’t be able to access your cash during that time either – at least, not without paying a penalty.
Also be aware that if you lock away your money for three, four or five years there is the possibility that interest rates will start to rise during that time and you could find yourself locked into a deal that is no longer competitive. You may therefore prefer to stick to a one or two-year deal.
Alternatively, if you need access to your cash, shop around for the highest paying easy access savings account. Just keep in mind that interest rates on these accounts are usually variable, so they can change at any point.
Remember too that you have until April 5 to use up your £20,000 ISA allowance for the 2019/2020 tax year.
Switch your energy tariff
If you haven’t switched your energy tariff for several years or you have never switched, you are likely to be on your supplier’s standard variable tariff. This is the most expensive type of tariff so it pays to look at what else is on offer and see if you can switch to a more competitive deal. Fixed rate tariffs can be a good option as they will shelter you from price increases for a set time.
Review your broadband
Why not also take the time to review your broadband and consider whether your current deal is offering you value-for-money? Comparing broadband packages online is easy and you may find a cheaper deal that also offers faster speeds and better customer service. Consider too whether a bundle deal, including broadband, TV and landline, is right for you. Just check whether your existing provider charges a fee if you want to get out of your contract early.
Check your mortgage rate
Now that the base rate has been cut, we can expect mortgage rates to tumble further – which is great news for anyone looking to buy a home or remortgage. If your current fixed rate or variable rate mortgage is coming to an end, start shopping around to see what sort of interest rate you might be able to get. If you are currently on your lender’s standard variable rate, there’s a good chance you will be paying over the odds and should switch to a better deal as soon as you can.
Get ready to renew insurance
If your car insurance or home insurance is coming up for renewal, now is the ideal time to start comparing deals online. Price comparison sites such as GoCompare, Compare the Market, MoneySuperMarket and Confused are all worth checking out in order to help you find the right deal.
Plan for your retirement
If you have a pension, it doesn’t hurt to go through your statements to remind yourself how much retirement income you’re likely to get and whether this will be enough. Consider how many years you have left before you want to retire, as well as how much you would like to receive annually, to assess if you need to increase your contributions. Pensionbee.com has a useful calculator to help you with this. If you have a workplace pension, remember that your employer must contribute too.