If we judge UK personal savings as still too low and overall consumer debt as still too high, then we are in a situation where a few reminders about not deluding ourselves about what we can each afford, will not go amiss. So you should spend only what you can afford and save what you can. Here’s how:
1. Don’t buy a house you can barely afford because you expect your income to rise later. For someone working and signing on for a mortgage, it might be natural to assume the payments will become more affordable as your income grows. However, the economy of the past few years clearly shows that it is no longer safe to assume that your natural career path is onward and upward, through promotion or perhaps with annual salary increments. Don’t buy a house that you risk getting squeezed out of.
2. Don’t buy a house where you can barely afford the mortgage repayments without anticipating at this time of low interest rates, that things won’t change. Plan to gain for yourself some slack in your future budgeting.
3. Don’t borrow money for short term expenditure, for example, try to avoid borrowing money for a week’s holiday now, that you will take another 12 months to repay. As a rule of thumb, the time it takes to pay back your borrowing should not last longer than the life of what you purchased. You’ll have a hard time building wealth if you take on long-term debt for short-term purchases.
4. Don’t spend simply because that’s what others are doing – don’t succumb to peer pressure. Each of us may have very different financial circumstances and should not try to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ and you may want to think carefully about whether your peers are good role models in the first place.
5. Save for your retirement – don’t persuade yourself that saving is only for older people to worry about, the sooner you start saving, the longer your money pot will have a chance to grow, so now is the best time to start.
6. Don’t justify not saving because you’ve been too busy paying off your debts. This is a bit like people who are always on a diet but never seem to lose any weight. If you don’t see results, you need a new plan.
7. Don’t give up your work or change your job without having something in line to continue giving you income. In this day and age, few of us can expect a job for life and employment change and mobility is common. But think long and hard about whether living off savings or benefits for a length of time is worth the satisfaction of saying “I resign.”
8. Don’t blame your partner even if in your opinion they are ‘bad with money’ and you feel aggrieved as a provider. You’re in a partnership, with shared responsibilities and financial behaviours – work on it together. If you don’t, the partnership may end up dissolving itself and that costs, big-time!
9. Don’t buy something to save you revenue expenditure if the cost of the purchase over time exceeds the potential saving. Increasing your capital debt is not the best basis for saving a little on weekly outgoings. Don’t use the revenue saving argument to justify buying a luxury.
Recognize yourself in any of these nine examples? Don’t feel too bad — you’re definitely not alone. Do you owe more money that you did a year ago? As long as you are paying interest rather than earning it, you are falling behind rather than getting ahead. The sooner you begin seeing your finances clearly, the sooner you can begin to correct them.