Updated: 16th May, 2017
Once upon a time there was a young girl from Newcastle who was absolutely terrible with money. Like most young people in the UK she didn’t receive a lot of guidance growing up on how to manage your finances.
As a result, she graduated university with a £15,000 student loan debt, despite having worked two part-time jobs during the whole three years.
She then walked straight into her first crummy full-time job, earning a pittance and yet still wanting the young professional lifestyle.
Jump ahead a couple of years and a bank loan and two credit cards have been added to the list of mounting debt, permanently maxing out the overdraft every month was the norm.
It wasn’t until this young girl met a nice boy from Yorkshire who actually knew a bit about looking after your pennies that she started to get her act together. She worked hard to pay off the debt and actually started saving some money, a shocking concept!
She’s gone from being massively in debt to having enough money to travel the world for 13 months. It’s taken a while but seriously, if I can do it anyone can.
By far the most frequent question we get asked is ‘how can you afford to travel long term?’
The short answer is a lot of commitment to saving every penny we could. As soon as we’d made the decision to travel it was like a switch turning off for me, I just stopped spending on anything that we didn’t absolutely need.
We had a strict weekly food budget, stopped going out for dinner, went through the process of reducing as many household bills as possible and started selling some of our stuff.
All of these things are what drove us to save money but…
How do you make whatever money you have work for you?
There are a few really simple tips that can make a massive difference to whatever funds you have, all of these are based on the UK market.
Get a cashback credit card
Credit cards have a bad rep and trust me, I’ve used and abused them in my time! However, I got to the stage where I sat down and said to myself ‘you’re an adult, exercise some self control and use it properly’.
With a properly managed credit card your credit score will actually be better than without one.
How do you do it? Open a credit card that gives you a cash rebate on everything you spend, my latest one gives me 1%.
Put absolutely every daily expense you have on the card and pay it off by direct debit every month to avoid interest charges, NEVER let the balance sit on the card.
If you do this then normally you will get a payout once a year with the cashback you’ve accumulated.
It takes discipline not attack the money that sits in your bank account all month, but you soon get the hang of it and then that money can earn interest too!
This approach works particularly well if you travel a lot for business, you’re getting cashback from spending someone else’s money.
Open a cash ISA
This is a no brainer. If you have ANY spare money at all it should go straight into a tax free cash ISA, I’ve always used easy access accounts for the ‘just in case’ scenario. Every UK citizen is entitled to place £20,000 (FY 2017/18) into an ISA where they can earn interest tax free.
You can open one cash ISA per financial year, look out for the new ISA’s appearing in April every year.
Once you feel confident saving into a cash ISA, then you can look at opening a stocks and shares ISA – more info on this to follow in another post.
Shop around for better bank accounts
A lot of people still feel that you open a bank account with someone and then stick with them for the next 25 years, it really doesn’t have to be like that.
It is incredibly easy to transfer banks accounts, the bank will switch all of your direct debits and standing orders for you.
Now the high street market isn’t what it used to be, and interest rates are at an all time low. But, there are a few banks out there that are still offering cash bonuses for joining and cashback every month just for having an account.
These freebies and the interest offered can make a huge difference to what funds you have, I usually take a look every few months to see what’s on offer.
Have a portion of your salary go straight into savings every month
It doesn’t have to be a lot, I think I used to put in £20 per month when I first started saving.
No matter how much you tell yourself that you don’t have any money, chances are you will have spent £20 without realising it during one calendar month.
If it disappears into a savings account before you’ve had a chance to think about spending it then all the better.
I was guilty of complaining about having no money but still finding some for that coffee or that cheap top, I certainly didn’t miss it once money started filtering into savings and my pension.
If you travel a lot, open a dedicated account
This is incredibly important and something that has saved us so much money. If you take a lot of holidays or are travelling long term it’s really important to get the right accounts.
We have a current account that offers free cash withdrawals anywhere in the world, saving us around £3 per withdrawal. We don’t receive any interest on the account but we simply transfer our monthly budget in on the first of every month, the rest of our funds sit in savings.
Every traveller must have a back-up plan and ours is a credit card that doesn’t charge for international transactions, we’ve had it for years now and use it on any holidays we take.
Again, you must pay it off every month to avoid charges. Always use a credit card if you spend more than £100 on a single transaction, ‘section 75’ laws state that whatever goods you’ve bought are protected in case there’s a problem or the company goes under.
Using plastic carefully is the safest way to access travel money in my opinion.
Keep a record of lost/stolen helplines somewhere safe and your account can be shut down in minutes if you lose your card. We have met people that take huge sums of cash on their holidays and it’s just asking for trouble.
This one is a bit more risky and I’d only recommend it if you’re really good at managing your finances. The basic premise is you take a 0% interest credit card (these are becoming harder to find!) and put all of your normal expenses on it. The money you would normally use to pay it off goes straight into the best savings account you can find.
You make money on the savings and then simply pay of the credit card just before the interest free period ends. You have to be completely on the ball but it can really make a difference.
We put some of our long haul flights on a card way back in February before we left so we could keep on earning interest on the money elsewhere.
It saves having to sort through the minefield of products on offer and it is completely focused on the consumer so you know you’re getting good advice.
These are the tips we use in everyday life but if anyone has any other great money saving advice please let us know.
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