12 steps to fix your finances in 2012

Child with abacusThe start of a new year is a great time to get your finances back under control and make the most of your money - however much you have.

That's why we have come up with 12 quick and easy ways to improve your wealth in 2012.

1. Start from scratch
Forget about the past and all the things you should or shouldn't have done. Be forward thinking – New Year, new money-savvy you.

2. Set a budget and be honest about your spending
Setting a budget and doing your utmost to meet it will compel you to confront bad spending habits and think more carefully about your outgoings.

3. Set aside an hour each week to do your accounts
This is a great way to establish a money management routine. You'll soon get a clearer idea of where your cash is going each month.

4. Use online banking
You can check your cleared balance more regularly, allowing you to keep up to date more easily and to avoid fraudulent transactions.

High street banks such as Barclays also offer virus protection software free of charge for customers who bank online.

5. Try home accounting software
Once you put in all your income and outgoings you'll get an instant, up-to-the-minute snapshot of where you stand financially and where you can make savings.

Quentin Pain of accounting software firm Accountz said: "The Home version of Accountz software is designed for people with no accounting experience and comes with the added bonus of free phone support should you need help."

6. Don't pay over the odds for your debts
Scour the market for better deals on your credit card and current account overdraft facility using a specialist site such as MoneySupermarket.

After all, the less interest you pay, the quicker you can get out of debt altogether.

7. Set up text alerts with your bank
Most of the big banks offer this service. You can ask them to text you when a large sum enters or leaves your accountant when your funds are running low, for instance, when you're down to your last £100 or if you will soon exceed your overdraft limit.

8. Always have a financial goal
Having a goal of some kind can be a great incentive to better money management.

Pain said: "This may be clearing a credit card debt or saving for a holiday or fabulous new outfit but if you have a goal you're more likely to stick to a spending plan in order to reach it."

9. Shop around for lower bills
Use comparison sites such as uSwitch to ensure you are getting the best deals on utilities and mobile phone tariffs.

10. Exercise some self control
Buy only what you need and try to resist buying on impulse. When you see something you really want wait 24 hours and only go back to buy it if you still want it as desperately once that time has elapsed.

11. Take advantage of voucher codes
These can minimise the cost of everything from your weekly shop to family meals out. Have a look at websites such as MyVoucherCodes to find savings that suit your lifestyle.

12. Make the most of cashback offers
These are available from both credit card providers including Santander and American Express as well as specialist websites such as Quidco and can save you a packet over the next 12 months.
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