However organized you are with your money, it’s easy to occasionally forget something important, especially when life is busier or more stressful than usual. You might end up overspending on your budget, forgetting to cancel a trial subscription, or missing an important payment. This can cause problems in the short or long term, and the more extreme examples may have a negative effect on your credit rating.
The good news is there are several ways to improve your “money memory” and keep on top of your finances, helping your life to run more smoothly. These include monitoring and early warning techniques, safety nets to keep you out of serious trouble, and a few simple good habits that put you back in charge.
1) The power of monitoring
Monitoring your spending can focus your mind and improve your habits in a very powerful way, and it doesn’t need to be time consuming or complicated. The simple act of recording your everyday spending makes it easier to remember to stick to a budget, and you can do this with a notebook, in a spreadsheet or with a simple app. When you’re accustomed to your daily spending habits, anything out of the ordinary will jump out at you!
Writing down your goals helps too, especially if you put them somewhere you can see them every day. Making it into a challenge or a game keeps you motivated, so you might like to track your progress with dashboard-style apps, or even a homemade wall chart.
2) Using alerts
Set up alerts and reminders to keep your finances in order. Add recurring monthly reminders to your calendar to pay regular bills before they’re due, and get into the habit of creating a one-off alert to start looking for a new deal on your energy bills, WiFi, or insurance a couple of weeks before they’re up for renewal so you never miss a more competitive offer.
3) Making a safety net
If your bank has a text or email alert option, use it to get a warning in case you’re about to unexpectedly overdrawn. This allows you to dip into savings to pay it off, or gives you time to negotiate with the provider.
Set up direct debit payments for specific amounts so you never forget to pay a bill, or to add regularly to your savings, and let automation do the hard work for you. If you’re paying off credit and you aren’t sure how much you’ll have spare, you can also set up a minimum monthly repayment with most providers as a safety net. Ideally, try to pay off more than the minimum amount each month otherwise it’ll take much longer to clear the balance and cost more in interest.
4) Getting into good habits
Creating regular habits also helps to keep your finances at the front of your mind. Try sitting down for a few scheduled minutes at the same time every week or month to look at your spending, earnings, borrowing, investments or savings, and it will soon become second nature. It’s also a good time to check that any refunds have been sent back to you, especially if you shop online a lot and make returns.
By using a combination of good habits, simple apps, calendar alerts and automated features from your bank or credit provider, you can give your money memory a real boost without having to make too much effort.
Penny Golightly is a journalist and author who set up her site to share bargain-hunting tips and information. After living below the poverty line as a child, she decided to avoid running up unnecessary debts as an adult and now lives happily and creatively within her means, and loves finding all the nicer things in life for less. She has written for titles including the Huff Post, The Times, The Guardian and Independent.