January may be cold, bleak and wintry, but it's also the perfect time to give your finances a once-over. Doing so could set you up well for the year ahead – and ideally, for many years to come – and happily it seems that many are committed to making a change.
Research from Standard Life has found that Brits are determined to become savvier about their spending habits this year, with 46% of those surveyed making a money-related New Year's resolution to try and improve their situation. A further 76% are prepared to adapt their lifestyle to ensure that, allowing them to save more for the future in the process: 22% of those making financial resolutions planned to save more this year, while 19% hope to cut day-to-day costs.
The survey also found that just 28% of respondents are happy with the amount of money they currently save, with 26% not saving at all despite thinking they should. A further 37% don't save as much as they think would be preferable, so the fact that so many people are committing to saving more has got to be a good thing.
Of course, some people are still planning on making big ticket purchases this year – 65% of those surveyed, in fact – but most are being sensible in how they go about it. Many will put their new-found savings habit to great use, with 53% of respondents planning to use their savings to cover the cost of a major purchase, while 27% will cut back on day-to-day spending to provide the necessary funds.
Additional research from Money Dashboard has pinpointed the times of year when big expenditures are likely to occur, which could help you budget accordingly. By analysing spending habits, the research found that September is likely to be the most expensive month for gas and electricity bills – which could mean it's time to compare alternative tariffs before the big bills arrive – while April is likely to be the month when most money is spent on flights and travel bookings in anticipation of the big summer getaway.
Christmas is coming earlier than ever with people set to start thinking about gifts in July, while the most cash-strapped day of the year is predicted to be 20 December, the day after most people complete their Christmas shopping. This means you'll want to start saving early this year, ideally stashing a bit away each month in a suitable savings account in preparation for the Christmas shopping frenzy, and make sure to put extra away for that all-important summer holiday – you don't want to completely empty your savings in April for the privilege!
Ultimately, this all means that now's a great time to start reassessing your finances, as Sylvia Waycot, editor of moneyfacts.co.uk, commented: "It is still early enough in the year to make clear plans of all your money objectives for 2015. Sit down with a calendar and make a note of each big ticket event, such as holidays, special birthdays and Christmas, then add up the total cost and see how many months you have to save the cash. It's at this point that savings planning comes to the fore – you could consider everything from regular savings accounts to ISAs, and even longer-term fixed accounts depending on your specific goals. Advance planning is not only less stressful, it means your credit card gets an easier time, too."
Why not get things started? You've got a whole year to make the necessary changes and by the end of it could be in a great savings habit, and hopefully you'll be a budgeting king (or queen) and will know exactly how you can cut day-to-day costs, too. For example, consider setting up a regular savings account to truly kick start your habit, remember to review your insurance policies prior to renewal so you know you're getting the best deals, and be on the lookout for vouchers to cut your everyday bills. Anything you can do to cut costs and boost your savings pot will be worth it, setting you up well for the year ahead.
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