Money. Everyone wants more of it, it’s almost impossible to live without it and we all work hard to get it… yet surprisingly, it’s not something we ever get lessons in how to handle.
We had a huge response on our posts asking you the things you wish you’d learnt about money at school, with useful suggestions and ideas from followers of all ages. It seems many of you would love to have had more advice about pensions and mortgages early on, while others would have loved - and are still keen to hear - sensible tips on how to budget, save, and spend wisely.
As a result, we’ve gathered your advice here – with the hope these handy tips will help to support both you, and the next generation of savers and spenders…
1. Make sense of mortgages
It’s the biggest purchase you’ll ever make, so it’s not surprising two-thirds Link opens in a new window of homeowners say they find the process of getting a mortgage ‘intimidating’. In a nutshell though, a mortgage is a loan – a way of borrowing money over a long period of time, to spread out the cost of buying a property.
The best advice is to take things one step at a time. Start by looking at a mortgage calculator to work out how much you may be able to borrow, and what your repayments may look like. You’ll also need to think about saving up a deposit - usually at least 5% of the price of the property you wish to buy. The bigger the deposit you can save, the less money you’ll need to borrow.
Then, once you’re ready, download a free mortgage coaching app, such as Virgin Money’s Home Buying Coach, to guide you through each step of the house-buying process. It’ll help you grow your deposit into a bigger sum by setting smart targets; support you with checklists to chart your mortgage journey and provide detailed answers to all your questions.
2. Starting work? Start a pension
One of the biggest tips our followers have for others is not to wait to start a pension – set one up as soon as you start work. It’s good advice – one in five Link opens in a new window of Britons have no private pension savings at all, missing out on the chance to make their retirement years more comfortable. While everyone will get a state pension from the government, this is currently just over £9,000 a year. If you’d like more than this once you’ve stopped working, now is the time to start saving.
A pension sounds complicated, however it’s basically a pot of cash that you can pay into over the years. When you retire, you take money from the pot for a regular income.
While saving for a pension means having a little less disposable income right now, you won’t be doing it alone. The government rewards you for planning for your future by giving you tax relief. This means some of the money you would have paid in tax goes into your pension pot, rather than to the government. Your pot can be topped up by your employer too, without costing you a penny. Think of it all as an extra bonus!
To find out more about how pensions work, the different types and how to start one, visit the government’s free advice service Link opens in a new window. And to see how much pension you could receive by saving different amounts each month, take a look at the impartial MoneyHelper personal pension calculator.
3. Save, save, save
Saving for a rainy day - or a well-earned treat - is the number one piece of advice our followers would love to have given their younger selves. But it’s not always easy. Over a third of Brits currently have less than £600 in savings, while scarily, one in ten Link opens in a new window have no money put away at all.
The good news is, it’s never too late to start. The most popular tip shared with us is to save whatever you can, no matter how small – even a fiver a week from your salary soon adds up. Set up a direct debit from your main account to a savings account at the start of each month, so you’re not tempted to touch it.
Making a budget can be a big help (see below) in working out where you can save money; as can reassessing things such as mobile phone and insurance policies. Are you on the best deal, or can you swap to a cheaper plan? Automatic online bill payment can often save you money too.
Another tip is to work out whether you ‘need’ everything you currently spend money on. Perhaps you can save by using less electricity round the home, having fewer takeaways or meals out, buying fewer non-essential clothes, or taking your own lunch to work.
The best tip of all? Always have a goal - something you’re saving for - not only to encourage you to continue, but to give you a smug sense of achievement when you reach it!
4. Spend sensibly
It’s great to save wisely; but spending wisely is just as important. Surprisingly - as many of our followers tell us - this doesn’t always mean going for the cheapest option. Sometimes, paying slightly more for something that will last longer or that you can reuse regularly may be better than buying a cheaper, disposable, less well-made alternative. Taking time to shop around before you make big purchases in particular can save you money in the long run.
Another tip, as with when you’re saving, is to separate ‘wants’ from ‘needs’ and avoid impulse buys you may regret later. Beware of special offers – don’t be tempted by something just because it’s discounted; you’ll be spending extra money rather than saving it. And think about when you want to spend – if your bank balance is looking less than healthy, you may feel much happier about waiting until you’re back on an even keel.
To make spending decisions easier, the Virgin Money Mobile Banking app can help you work out when to save or splurge by setting up alerts to let you know if your bank account balance falls below a set level.
5. Be brilliant at budgeting
As with most things in life, it helps to have a plan – and a budget is simply a plan for how to spend your money. Budgeting helps you save, stay out of debt, be prepared for emergencies, and work towards your long-term money goals. Knowing what you have to spend and when you can spend it, will mean you’re in control of your finances, rather than them controlling you. Basically, it’s the key to financial happiness!
So how do you set one up? Do it with a partner if you have shared finances and start by working out how much you need to spend each month on important things – rent or mortgage, bills, food, travel and paying off debt. Set aside an amount to save, too. Then you can fill in other categories, such as entertainment, with what’s left.
Some people swear by following the 50/30/20 rule – splitting your monthly income so that you allocate up to 50% of it for ‘needs’, 30% for ‘wants’ and 20% for financial goals (such as paying off debts or saving for a treat). You can then tweak these percentages depending on your personal circumstances. Remember: each month is different, so prepare for special occasions such as Christmas and holidays by reassessing your budget regularly.
The Virgin Money Mobile Banking app is packed full of clever tools to help you budget, top up your savings and sort out your spending.