If your finances have suffered an unlucky 2013, consider if poor financial habits are to blame. Many of us are lazy or apathetic about our money, even though our financial freedom is at stake. It’s time break these bad habits.
Either log into your account reasonably frequently, or take a few minutes when you receive your bank statements to actually open and read them. This is the only way to know if there has been a mistake or you’ve been charged when you shouldn’t have.
It’s also smart to check for any potentially fraudulent activity, and alert your bank as soon as possible if you spot something strange. Be particularly careful with any accounts you don’t use frequently, as you’re likely to be less familiar with the associated fees and amount held in the account.
Keep all financial documents in a safe place, and if you are throwing documents out, shred or tear them up first. Be smart when choosing passwords and PINs, don’t use an obvious combination like a birth date, and change passwords and PINs periodically. Never keep a record of your PIN in your wallet or written on your bank card! Unauthorised use of your bank account can usually be rectified, but your bank may not be so sympathetic if you’ve been lax with your security.
Whether you want to save more or pay down debt, setting financial goals and drawing up a budget is essential. Keeping track of your expenditure (all of it!) means you’ll quickly notice problem areas – too many dinners out? – so you can be aware of where your cash is going, and where it would be better spent.
Sure, having overdraft protection means you don’t have to keep such an eagle eye on your bank balance, but your bank will likely be charging you dearly for the convenience. Overdraft fees aren’t cheap, and add to your negative balance, meaning second or third purchases or direct debits when you’re already in the red can cost you more and more. You’re better off keeping a watchful eye on your bank balance, and knowing what payments are coming and going from your account.
If you’re having financial difficulties, not asking for help can compound your problems. Ignoring repayment letters and dodging calls is not going to get you anywhere, you’re much better off having a frank discussion about your financial situation with your lender or bank. Most banks or financial institutions can renegotiate loans or terms, to help make things simpler or your load lighter. You can also compare loans and savings accounts to see if there’s anything better on offer. Another provider may be able to help if your bank can’t.
If any of these hit home – don’t despair! It’s never too late to turn over a new financial leaf, and there’s no need to wait until January to make new resolutions. Start today.
[author image=”http://www.woman.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/kirsty-lamont-2013.jpg” ]Kirsty Lamont is a finance expert at Mozo.com.au which helps Australians get the best out the banks by finding the best value across a wide range of products from credit cards to home loans. Kirsty has a long history in banking, having held a senior role at BankWest and helping set up Virgin Money in Australia.[/author]