Black Toe Money

Tips and Suggestions for Better Money Management

6 things you can do to improve your financial life

Simple changes to help improve you money situation

Many of us find at the end of the month that we ae down to the last few pennies in our accounts. Somehow, the money that we get into our accounts is nearly all evaporated by the time payday rolls around.

If this sounds like you then take solace in the fact that you are not alone. According to short term loan broker Growing Power - more than a third of Brits have to dip into their overdrafts in the week before payday. So why not take some positive action to try and break the cycle and follow our top tips below.

1. Walk or cycle

It's easy to forget just how much we spend on transportation, particularly in a big city.

Not only do walking and cycling save the environment, but they also save money. Even the initial down payment on a bicycle can be done with institutional assistance, via cycle schemes.

When living in a relatively central location, the choice to avoid crowded buses or delayed trains is a simple one to make. One can live by the old adage: "Anywhere is walking distance, if you have the time."

On top of this, you get a workout, which leads into our next point...

2. Workout at home

Staying in shape can be expensive.

Aside from bodybuilders, most people can workout at home with a fair amount of ease. Yoga classes? There are literally thousands available on YouTube. Weights and dumbbells? Body-weight fitness is an effective method of building muscle. Treadmill? Find a park, and jog in it.

An added benefit of working out at home is the convenience. How often have you found yourself sat on the sofa, debating whether or not you can be bothered getting dressed, packing your things, and physically going to the Pure Gym down the street? When your gym is your living room, your commute is suddenly under one minute, and you don't need to worry about looking presentable.

Gyms can feel like a luxury, particularly when living in an apartment necessitates low impact exercises. But when cutting costs, anything extraneous has to go, and a gym membership is near the top of that list.

3. Start meal prepping

It is standard money-saving advice to pack your own lunch. What stops many people from taking this advice is often twofold: time and skills.

This is where meal prep comes in.

Over the course of an hour on Saturday or Sunday, you can prepare your meals for an entire week. Chicken, fish, veggies, burgers - anything can be prepped, frozen, and then cooked in 10 minutes while you prepare for work in the morning. Suddenly, the cost of a £6 per day Pret a Manger habit is reduced to an average of £2 per meal.

This can also lead to more variety throughout the week, as you can add some spice to your own lunchtime life by preparing a variety of easy meals, instead of the same sandwich and packet of crisps.

4. Freshen up your accounts

Credit cards, energy suppliers, and even your phone can be optimised by switching to a different provider (or just threatening to do so). Competitors are always looking to lure new customers their way, and they're willing to pay for the pleasure of attracting your business.

New customers will have access to a range of exclusive benefits, most of which expire after a set time period - when it might be time to switch yet again. Often, people will accept paying higher rates simply because they don't want to go through the trouble of switching. By switching banks, for example, you could sacrifice a single lunch break and emerge with £175 from HSBC.

The same applies to energy providers, whose goal is to make the switching process as simple as possible for you. Even when ringing up your current provider to suggest switching, you can remember that you are the client. They don't want to see you go. If you play your cards right, you might hang up with the same provider, for a much better deal.

5. Pick up a side hustle

On one hand, it's unfortunate that we've normalised the existence of a capitalist system that requires us to secure additional streams of income in order to survive.

On the other hand, side hustles can be fun! By day, you might work a typical office job. But in the evenings and over the weekend, you could develop a small business that might eventually grow into a full-time dream job.

Side hustles usually start on a small, freelance basis. You could transcribe audio tapes from home, tutor university students in your degree subject, flip thrift store items on eBay, or hop onto a food delivery or rideshare app. With the internet at your disposal, there is almost no industry immune to side hustle penetration.

6. Make a budget

It might be the most obvious solution, but it's one that is often ignored. A spreadsheet and a calculator are all you need to make and manage your own personal budget. If you'd like to get more technical, there are also formulas that can breathe life into your spreadsheet. Enter how much you spent today, and in a flash, it will calculate how much you can spend each day for the rest of the month.

Many banks now offer services within their apps that track how much you spend each month, catching onto the overarching trend of budgeting apps. After a month or so of tracking, you can paint a clear picture of your expenditure and begin making changes. £300 on restaurants in January? Cut back on the sides and post-dinner cocktails, and you can easily halve that number.

Above all, be a conscious spender. The more you save now, the more you will appreciate it in the future.


Is an Individual Voluntary Agreement (IVA) ever a good idea?

Understand what an IVA entails, what it is and when it is a good idea to utilise one

An Individual Voluntary Agreement is a contract that a debtor makes with his creditors to repay part or all of their debts. You, as the debtor, consent to make payments regularly to their preferred insolvency practitioner (IP). The IP divides the money amongst your various creditors.

An IVA gives you better management of your assets in comparison to filing for bankruptcy. This is attributed to the fact that, while repaying your creditors through an IVA, you take accountability for your debts. You are, in essence, paying the debts, albeit slowly. This kind of arrangement enables you to repair your credit rating, which would not happen if you were declared bankrupt.

Insolvency Practitioner (IP)

An IP is an individual authorised and licensed to work on behalf of an insolvent individual or company. Insolvency Practitioners are insolvency specialists or accountants who work in accounting firms.

How it works

Insolvency Practitioners are either accountants or lawyers. Once you engage their services, you will pay a fee to cater for the IVA. The fee is determined by the amount of money you will pay back via the IVA. When the IVA is working, you cannot receive additional credit. However, once it elapses, you can seek more credit. An IVA provides an excellent avenue for the debtor to create a solid financial prospect within a short time. Before you get into an agreement with an IP, find out how much it will cost you. An IP in a debt management company can be more expensive as they have another charge besides the IP’s fees.

Options

Your chosen IP assesses your finances while considering your revenue, assets, liabilities, and debts. The IP uses the information gathered to come up with a workable reimbursement plan for you. The IP will negotiate on your behalf which also includes any legal requirements.

After agreeing on the number of your payments, your IP will consult your creditors. The IVA becomes effective once the creditors who hold 75% of your total debts consent to your repayment plan. The remaining 25% have no option but to consent to your terms once the others have agreed to it.

Payments

When you gauge your ability to make the payments, you will then decide to take the IVA or not. An IVA is a good way to repay your loans if you feel that you can make the payments comfortably. A successful IVA gives the best outcome concerning future solvency.

Protection

An IVA shields you from your creditors. An IVA stops any legal action by creditors as it is recognizable by law. In the process of drawing up the agreement, the court issues Interim Orders to prevent any legal proceedings, and once it is accepted, your creditors cannot pursue you any further.

How IVA repayments work

Once you decide to pursue this action, the IP will assist you in crafting a workable repayment plan. You can choose to make the repayments in instalments, monthly, or via a lump sum. You should agree to a repayment amount that you can pay comfortably and to which your creditors agree. Monthly repayments of the IVA last for at least five years.

You do not make the repayments directly to your creditors; instead, you pay to the IP which then distributes the money to all your creditors. Parts of the repayments remain with the IP as their fees of service. If you still owe money by the end of the agreement, you are not obliged to pay the remaining amount. If you come into a large sum of payment such as winning the lottery or enter into an inheritance when the agreement is effective, the money will be used to pay your debts.

Individual Insolvency Register

Once the agreement is in effect, it becomes a public record at the Individual Insolvency Register where it sits pending the expiry of the contract. When you are on the register, it affects your chances of obtaining new credit as it lowers your credit score.

Obtaining new credit with an operational IVA

As explained above, obtaining additional credit during an IVA is difficult. However, there are exemptions to this; like when you are obtaining the money to cater for living expenses that involve your family. Also, if you are a sole proprietor or own a company, you can obtain finances to run the business. But, due to your low credit score attributed to the IVA agreement, creditors will charge you more interest than average. Any additional credit above £500 will require you to submit written consent to your creditor prepared by the insolvency practitioner.

In conclusion, an IVA is a good way of reorganizing your finances. If you feel that you are stuck and you are unable to repay your loans faithfully, take an IVA instead of filing for bankruptcy. This will also shield you from legal action from the creditors and give you more time to repay your loans.