Making Cents: Keep track of your life by making a list of outgoings

The presents have been opened, turkey dinner scoffed and admit it, you ate several chocolates before breakfast this morning.

Welcome to the lazy days between Christmas and New Year, when it takes a couple of moments of mental maths to work out what day it is. If you are lucky enough not to be working until after New Year’s Day, a whole week stretches ahead.

It is fun to slide into a semi-coma of children’s films, staying in pyjamas and debating if a shower is strictly necessary but it can get a little monotonous. If you want a smug glow of productivity to make the lazy days even more enjoyable, why not set aside some time to sort out your finances?

Either by drawing up a short list and ticking off an item each day, or dedicating one full afternoon to the task, you could start back to work in 2018 knowing you have put some money matters in order for the year ahead.

Go through all the debits on your account and ensure you are not paying for anything you don’t use. Assess each direct debit on your list, when did you sign up for things like your mobile or utilities provider? If you are out of contract, now is the perfect time to have a browse online and see if you can get a better deal.

If you prepay for mobile phones add up how much it has cost you to top up in the last few months. Depending on your usage, it may work out cheaper to sign up for a bill pay package.

If you use PayPal, check that account for recurring amounts too. There could be automatic annual renewals going through for services you don’t use any more.

If, like me, you are a sucker for deal sites and special offer emails, consider spending an hour doing a mass unsubscribe. With special offers popping into your inbox each morning, it is easy to decide you really want that beauty treatment or household item.

Get rid of the temptation. What the eye doesn’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over and the offers will all be there waiting online if you ever do actually need them.

Register for ROS — the Revenue online service. Despite all the reminders thousands of taxpayers, particularly PAYE workers, leave substantial tax reliefs and refunds unclaimed. I’m not asking you to do a return now, just get the ball rolling by registering at ros.ie.

Employers are obliged to hand out P60s within six weeks of the New Year. If you have already registered it will make you more like to go through the form and claim tax back once you get it.

If you are already a saver, check that you are getting the best rate for your savings. Rates are low generally but most of the banks have regular savings accounts that offer a better rate for a set term, usually 12 months.

If you have been using one of those for longer than that, set up a new one. Have a think about whether you can increase the savings amount, even slightly, it adds up over the year.

If you are not currently saving, why not make a start? No matter how small the amount, it will give some cushion for unexpected events. The best way to save consistently is to automate it. Set up a debit to go out on your pay day, for whatever amount you are comfortable with.

Set a reminder on your phone to review it in three months. Maybe you will find you don’t miss the saved amount and can increase it. Even if you don’t, you will have started the savings habit and can aim to build it up if circumstances allow on the future.

It might be painful, but work out how much Christmas cost and what debt you are bringing into the New Year.

Getting a clear picture will allow you to make a plan to clear it as soon as possible and prevent you adding to it unnecessarily in the sales.

The above are general steps that almost everyone can benefit from doing. Next week, I will look at specific advice for those who have particular plans for the year ahead. Whether you are starting a family, clearing debt or 2018 is the year you hope to buy your first home, there are steps to take to get yourself in financial shape.

DEAL OF THE WEEK

Now that the Christmas splurge is over and the sales are ready and waiting to use up any  spare cash floating around, many of us are planning a very quiet January. It is traditionally a busy month for cinemas, with going to a film the ideal option for those choosing to avoid

the pub. However, if childcare, geography or plain old laziness rule out a trip to the flicks, Sky Ireland has put their Sky Cinema package on special offer.

If you are not a Sky Ireland customer, you can get its TV package with Cinema for €44 for the first six months, a discount of €14.50. If you are a Sky customer and just want to add the film package you can do so for the same discount, an extra €14.50 a month for the first six months rather than €29. If you already have the Sky Sports bundle you can get it for even less — €8 per month extra.

The offer comes with a 12-month minimum subscription, the full price will apply after the

first six months. Find out more at sky.com.

If there are any consumer issues that you’d like Gráinne to address or if you have problems that Gráinne could help with, she can be contacted at makingcents@examiner.ie


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