If you're not quite ready to set aside the time to dig deep into your financial situation, how about starting with the really easy things? If pensions, taxes, mortgages, and loans bore you to death, then start with these genuinely easy steps that'll send you in the right direction. After all, if you look after the pennies, the pounds will look after themselves!
1. Give Up Just One Unnecessary Expenditure
Not ready to go completely cold turkey on all your treats and indulgences? Identify just one thing you can cut out starting now. Obviously it's best to pick something that costs you a reasonable amount, but if you're new to this, it could be something as simple as a subscription you rarely (or never) use, or a direct debit you forgot to cancel. When you've done this once (and realised quickly how much you don't miss the thing you've quit), you can do the same with the things that are a bit harder to give up. Focus on what you'll do with the money you save. Giving up takeaways is much easier if you keep thinking about the weekend away you'll be able to afford with the cash you saved.
2. Let a Bot Give You Some Real Talk
There are a whole host of AIs like Cleo and Olivia that will help you keep track of your spending, and they can be particularly useful if you have multiple accounts or credit cards that you use frequently. Give the AI access to your accounts (it can only read them, it can't actually do anything with your money), and it'll keep you updated on your overall balance, help you budget, and send you cheeky messages letting you know how you're spending your money. I've found these tools really useful as I mostly spend on a credit card that I pay off at the end of the month (hello, air miles), but it also shocked me into realising how much my ASOS addiction is eating up my salary!
3. Consolidate With Your Partner / Flatmate / Family
Little expenses quickly add up, and if you live in a house with four Spotify accounts, three Netflix subscriptions, and four different bottles of balsamic vinegar in the cupboard, you're not the only one spending unnecessarily! Make a list of all the things that more than one person in your household uses, and work out where you can consolidate to save cash. For example, a Spotify family account costs $14.99 a month and allows for up to six users. At $11.99 for a single account, you only need two people to club together for this to save you money, but if there are more of you, you can cut the cost to $3 each! If you live in a shared house but you don't shop for food together, think about at least doing quarterly shop for nonperishable stock cupboard ingredients (you'll save space, too). If you live alone, make sure you've looked into the various discounts you're entitled to as a single dweller. You can probably make big savings in other ways too, like installing a water meter and smart electricity/gas meter.
4. Use Cash
It's time to get old school. If you're genuinely trying to stick to a budget, leave your debit/credit cards at home and carry only the cash you need each day or week. When you can physically see the money you have left, it's much easier to make decisions that will help you stretch it, rather than falling into the trap of impulse spending. It never feels like "real" money when you pay by plastic.
5. Think Before You Throw Stuff Away
Before you donate or bin something, see if you can sell it. Local forums, eBay, and apps like Shpock or Depop are a great way to turn your trash into treasure. Old phones, CDs, books, and games can also be traded in for a few dollars a pop. Pay more attention to your food waste, too. Though you shouldn't take risks when it comes to a "use by" date (especially on meat or dairy products), the "best before" date on food items is just a guide. You don't need to throw away fruit and vegetables, pickles, sauces, or spices just because the packaging tells you they may be past their best. Trust your eyes and your nose, not an arbitrary date. If that onion looks OK, it probably is! If the tomatoes aren't mouldy, they're completely fine to eat! Use up ingredients that are on the turn in soups, stews, and casseroles that you can freeze for the future, or portion out for cheap lunches during the week. Double win!