If you took a look at your bank statement right now, what would you feel? Happy and relaxed – or anxious and worried? According to research, many millennials are likely to feel embarrassment – if they check them at all.
One in three (32%) of 18-24 year olds suffer from the 'ostrich effect', admitting to being too scared to check their bank balance, according to financial technology company Intelligent Environments.
This comes at the same time as research from AA Financial Services shows 62% of millennials (18-34 year olds) are likely to be embarrassed about their statements, with 28% saying they would feel particularly ashamed if their parents got sight of them.
This can have a detrimental mental impact, with Intelligent Environments showing nearly half (46%) of 18-24 year olds saying they lose sleep over their debt and personal financial situations.
Of course, these figures aren't nice to read, but being brave about your financial situation is the first step to improving it.
Don't lose sleep over your finances
1. Open your bank statements
The first thing to do is to open your bank statements and check them. Check for anomalies and really take a look at what you're spending your money on. This is never fun, but there could be some simple ways you could put money back into your pocket.
2. Cancel unneeded subscriptions and memberships
Subscriptions and memberships, for example, are often forgotten about and can prove a money drain if you're not making the most of them. Take a look at yours and consider which you can cancel. Do you really use the gym that much? Or your TV streaming service?
3. Work out your budget
Next is working out your budget and where you could be spending a little too much. Little habits like buying magazines or snacks on the way from home can really add up, and often you don't even notice you're doing it.
If you're going out a lot as well, this can often be expensive. Don't get yourself caught in rounds if you can and don't be frightened about saying no to social occasions. Having dinner or drinks at someone's house is a cheaper alternative and also means you can have a proper conversation away from a noisy bar or club!
5. Pick the right bank account for you
Also make sure your account is working for you too.
Fees can vary a lot between banks and between accounts, with one of the highest fees being charged for going over your agreed overdraft limit.
If you regularly spend more than you have in your account, choose one which will give you an overdraft up to an agreed limit without charging fees and/ or with a low interest rate.
If you really feel your finances are getting on top of you, you are not alone. There are plenty of free, confidential places you can go for help. To find one local to you, try our Debt Advice Locator tool.
The supermarkets invest in enormous shopping trolleys, and then put bulky special offers by the door - like packs of beer or enormous cereal boxes.
The idea is to tempt you into taking a big trolley, because tests have shown that it’s likely to make us buy more. Martin Lindstrom, author of Brandwashed, found that by doubling the size of trolleys, customers would buy 19% more.
This is a disaster for a couple of reasons. The first is that you’ll end up buying things you don’t need - because you already have plenty in the fridge or the cupboard. You’d be surprised how many people come home with tomatoes every week, then throw out the ones that have gone rotten in the fridge. They'll do this every single week without ever spotting that they don’t eat as many tomatoes as they think they do.
The other problem is that you’ll end up forgetting things, and have to go back to the store, which will leave you susceptible to the next common mistake.
Apparently we’re giving up the weekly grocery shop in favour of a number of trips to different stores to pick up bargains.
If you do this right, it can be a great way to save. However, if you don’t plan it properly, you’re just giving yourself more opportunities to buy on impulse.
In the book ‘America’s Cheapest Family’ the authors claim that more than 50% of what we buy in store is on impulse. The authors actually only go to the supermarket once a month to cut back on impulse purchases.
If you browse at eye-level using your peripheral vision, that’s where you’ll find the expensive brands.
Look around at the top and bottom of the shelves for the own-brand versions or the cheaper brands - and try out the cheaper versions of your usual shopping.
Aside from Christmas, stores will play quiet and relaxing music, with a slow tempo. This is designed to make you shop more slowly, and take the time to spot the impulse buys.
If you put headphones on and play something with a faster tempo (it doesn't have to be any particular type of music), then you’ll pick up the tempo, and studies have shown you’ll buy around 29% less.
On the one hand, if you do the maths, you might find that buying a larger pack means that each packet of crisps or can of coke costs less. However, Vestcom, a retail services company, has found that when we buy bigger packets, we consume more.
It means that when you’re buying things like toilet rolls and washing powder, straightforward maths will tell you the cheapest size to buy. When it comes to crisps and drinks, consider carefully whether you will just end up eating and drinking more.
Sometimes that big red sticker is a great discount on something you need: usually its not.
Don’t let special offers tempt you into buying things you don’t need, and don't assume that anything with a big red sticker is a bargain. It’s worth taking your receipt from your previous shop with you when you go shopping, so you can easily compare whether the new price is a good discount or not.
The end of the aisle gets more of our attention, because it's where we need to turn the trolley, so we’re going slower.
However, this isn’t always where the stores put the incredible bargains. They often sell these positions to companies trying to promote a particular product. When the company has the budget to spend on this sort of promotion, it means they may not necessarily be the cheapest option.
If your cheese has been grated, your salad washed, or your carrots chopped, then you’ll pay the price for it.
Not only will you pay significantly more for your shopping, but in many cases you'll get an inferior product too. Grated cheese has additives to stop it sticking, for example, while bagged salad will go brown significantly faster than a head of lettuce.
Frozen food is often far cheaper, so people assume it’s likely to be inferior. However, the fresh fish at the counter has often been frozen, so you’re gaining nothing for paying more here - in fact you're losing out because you have to use it up more quickly.
The other things that are well worth considering are frozen vegetables. These are much cheaper than fresh vegetables, and are often frozen at the peak of their freshness, so are better for you too.