Preparing for the future – saving tips to keep your budget healthy and avoid costly payday loans

by Mrs Money

The global economy has been in turmoil in recent years but as things start to slowly recover, now could be a great time to improve your personal finances too. Whether you’re in debt or not, it’s never too late to start afresh and plan for the future, so take a look at these top savings tips that will help keep your budget healthy and save your resorting to payday loans.

Cut back on non-essentials

In life, we all have things we need to pay, such as rent, council tax and utility bills, as well as things we don’t need to pay, such as gym membership, digital TV subscriptions and regular cappuccinos. While it’s important to have a work/life balance, cutting down on non-essentials could help put some extra money in your pocket, which is always beneficial. If you find it hard to avoid the things you like, simply set yourself a budget for luxuries and try not to go over it.

Be a smarter supermarket shopper

Do you spend a fortune on the weekly shop? If so it could be time to become a smarter supermarket shopper. There are many ways to reduce your bill including buying home brands, looking for special offers and checking out price comparison apps and websites for the best deals.  As many supermarkets put high-priced goods at eye level, try looking high and low for more reasonable priced products and don’t be put off by cheap packaging because what’s inside can taste just as nice as well-wrapped goods.

Download money-saving apps

If you’ve a smartphone or tablet, why not download one of the many money-saving apps available these days? Whilst Mysupermarket allows you to create a list of groceries then work out where it will be cheapest to buy them, Kabbee compares taxi-prices in London, if you’re ever visiting the capital. Moreover, there’s Zwallet, a mobile wallet, which lets you keep loyalty cards on your phone, as well as Ticketysplit, which will ensure you find the cheapest train journey around – even if it means making several shorter journeys. Throw Whatsapp into the mix, which is designed to save text-loving people a ton of cash, and you can start to see the benefits.

Download savings apps

As well as apps specifically created to save you money, you can also download applications that will help you keep track of your bank accounts and savings, including LearnVest, Personal Capital and BillGuard. What’s more, apps such as Mint will also connect all your accounts and categorise your transactions, allowing you to see exactly what you’re spending and where. All information is displayed in lovely graphs and charts, helping you to understand your finances in a clear and concise way. As if that’s not good enough, SaveUp will even reward you for saving and will enter you into a host of prize draws, if you meet your goals.

Saving for the future is easier than you might think, so it’s certainly worth taking these pointers on board and giving it a try.

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Playing the market, playfully

by Mrs Money

Some people like to play with their money, and some people like to play more seriously than others. Different folks, different strokes, we’re not here to judge – as long as everyone pays their taxes and generally behaves in an ethical manner.

Ordinarily we would not spend a lot of time talking about gambling, but Financial Spread Betting (FSB) is not your everyday gamble. In fact, it’s one part gamble, one part investment. On that basis, we thought it was worth bringing to your attention; that and the fact that it is weirdly quite fascinating.

What is FSB? In a nutshell, it’s a way to bet on the stock market. At its simplest, you pick a stock or a currency and you place a bet on whether you think it might rise or fall. If it goes the way you’ve predicted, you win. If it doesn’t, you lose. Simple!

Obviously, it is possible to research different markets and the businesses whose shares trade on them in a way that is far more rigorous and scientific than an ordinary bet. The trades that you and I might make are essentially the same as someone on Wall Street or the London Stock Exchange. The big difference, though, is that whilst Mr Wall Street might be trading in tens of millions we can do it for just a few pounds.

What is more, with no dealing fees, commissions or taxes to pay there is no cost to entry. All it takes is an internet connection and a few pounds to put down as a deposit. In fact, there are even demonstration accounts that you can open up for free that give you the full experience of being a trader without having to part with a penny. The demonstrations are designed as a taster and as a way to get up to speed before you start playing for real. But in a world that is quite complex it is no bad thing to start out slowly and carefully anyway.

The way it works is that you have a fully-interactive dealing screen. You see share prices flicking up and down in real time – they are the actual real-life market prices – and, with a notional balance in your virtual account, you decide what to invest in and how much to put down. There are historical charts and all sorts of analytical aids helping to inform your decisions.

From that point on it’s a roller coaster ride of ups and downs as you see your winnings turn into losses and flip back into winnings again in the blink of an eye. If it’s exciting to play for pretend cash, imagine what the buzz is like when you’re looking at turning a £5 stake into £100. It’s the ultimate video game for finance geeks.

Some people have made fortunes with FSB, but others have lost big, too. We’re certainly not advocating it as a lifestyle. But as a way to play, and a deeply engaging way to play for a real profit, it is definitely worth looking at.

The demonstration account we looked at was provided by Tradefair.

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