Money saving tips for 2023: how to keep your personal finances in order amid continuing cost of living crisis

With high inflation and soaring interest rates set to squeeze household budgets even further in 2023, here’s how to seize control of your cash

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One of the reasons I can look my readers in the eye and offer advice and guidance is I’ve made every personal finance mistake going.

My past is littered with maxed out credit cards, poor financial decisions and lots of denial about my situation. So I know what puts people off facing down their finances – and I really do understand why you might not want to tackle the reality of your budget.

So, rather than write a guide for highly motivated people, here are my realistic tips to help you seize control of your cash in 2023.

Keeping hold of your cash has become much harder since the cost of living crisis (image: AFP/Getty Images)Keeping hold of your cash has become much harder since the cost of living crisis (image: AFP/Getty Images)
Keeping hold of your cash has become much harder since the cost of living crisis (image: AFP/Getty Images)

Do your finances in little chunks

I hate going through my bills and looking at what I’ve spent. Dealing with your debits can be a real endurance test – especially if you’ve let things go for a while. So tackle things a little bit at a time.

Go through each bank account, credit card, store card and phone bill one at a time (shockingly, you might be paying for other services on your phone bill and not know it). Start by noting down your direct debits and standing orders on each account… then walk away. It’s important to give yourself lots of breaks when budgeting so it doesn’t get on top of you.

Later, go back through your statements looking for payments you don’t recognise. These monthly and annual subscriptions can be cancelled and claimed back if you didn’t authorise them.

Divide your to-do list into separate sections

Making a list can help your mind make sense of the tasks ahead of you. Nothing beats putting a big tick next to a task that you’ve completed. There are loads of free online tools you can use to do this - or you can just go old school and write them out on paper.

I divide my own lists into categories, including: ‘urgent’, followed by ‘money and finance’, ‘home and bills’, ‘complaints I need to make’, ‘friends and family things’, ‘health and welfare’ and ‘things I need to follow up’. Limit the number of lists you make, though – the more you have, the more likely you are to forget to follow them up (or lose them).

Make complaints

Speaking of complaints, I’ve been working through my own list of businesses I need to tackle. Despite being a consumer rights campaigner, I hate making complaints just as much as everyone else. So here’s what I’d recommend to minimise a bad experience.

Take a few minutes to write down in your own words what you’re unhappy with – and what you want to happen that would sort things out. This will help you to focus on the key issues and not get distracted.

Many businesses are making it difficult to email them your complaint these days, so if you manage to speak to a person, tell them you want to make a formal complaint and ask them what the process is.

To my intense annoyance, you might have to write a letter (it’s 2023!). If this is the case, make sure you report the business to your MP, a regulator or Trading Standards. Just send them all the same cover letter.

Personal finance apps could make your life easier (image: AFP/Getty Images)Personal finance apps could make your life easier (image: AFP/Getty Images)
Personal finance apps could make your life easier (image: AFP/Getty Images)

Use apps and free websites

If you can think of it, there’s an app for it. When it comes to money and finance, there are loads of open banking apps you can use to: stay on top of your finances, keep an eye on your spending and even save cash and win rewards.

Look for the free, simple options. The more complex they are, the less likely you are to stick with them. Why not start by asking friends and family for recommendations?

To fail is to be human

I never manage to achieve all the things on my New Year’s resolution list, so don’t worry about failing. Just focus on a few key things you need that will make you happier or less worried.

If you get any of the rest, it’s a bonus. And allow yourself a reward when you achieve your goals too. You deserve it.

Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.