If I had a pound for every time I advise someone to...
Procrastination: is it keeping you skint and in debt?
Right now I’m putting off doing three things. Two drawings that people have offered to pay me for and a meter reading. I like drawing, so there’s no reason for me to not be doing that. And the meter reading is a two second job.
It doesn’t stop there. Only yesterday I cancelled my TV subscription. That seems thrifty but my TV broke in December (I fell on it) and I haven’t replaced it. That reminds me I should cancel my TV licence too.
I wonder how my life might be different if I wasn’t so good at procrastinating. It’s pretty obvious to see that I’m throwing money away through my own laziness. Money that I really need.
So what day-to-day tasks that we put off end up costing us money? Here’s the list of shame.
Procrastination problem 1: Getting debt advice
Did you know that it can often take people a year after realising they have a debt problem to get advice? This could be for a number of reasons, including:
- Feeling anxious about talking to a debt advisor over the phone
- Having to face up to their debt problem
- Worrying about how creditors might react
- Fears over how a debt solution might impact their life
- Not wanting loved ones to know they have a debt problem
As with many worries that keep people awake at night, getting debt advice doesn’t have to be traumatic. In fact, debt advice charities such as StepChange are here to give free, confidential and non-judgmental advice and support.
If you feel anxious about talking over the phone about your debt, you’re by no means alone. StepChange has a confidential online debt advice service that you can use in your own time, at your own pace. There’s also webchat so you can have a natter with one of our friendly debt advisors if you get stuck or have any questions. Pretty neat-o, right?
Unsure if you even need debt advice? If you have a minute spare, try the 60 second debt test. By answering a few quick questions, you’ll know if you’ll benefit from taking a closer look at your budget and any debt solutions that might be beneficial for you.
Procrastination problem 2: Meal planning
Planning meals throughout the week helps save money. That’s obvious. If we only buy the ingredients we need it helps reduce food waste. We’ll also be less likely to order a sneaky takeaway if we’ve already got food in the house.
It’s not that simple though. While I salute the food planning gurus, who religiously stick to their food plans, that life is not for me. I need food flexibility. How will I know if the food I planned for Wednesday is the food I’ll want to eat on Wednesday? It never is, guys. IT NEVER IS.
The answer to this problem is simple. Freeze some meals in advance and have a few ‘store cupboard’ options in your plan. As long as you keep monitoring your food to make sure it’s not going off, you can mix up your food plan and make it more realistic. Money-wasting disaster averted. Phew.
Procrastination problem 3: Paying bills
Getting home to find a bill at your doorstep is the worst. Remember when you were a kid and post used to be fun? I miss those days. Where are my old pen-pals now? I feel so abandoned. The bank is probably the worst pen-pal I’ve ever had.
Setting up Direct Debits for bills means you can avoid late payment charges and your bills are sorted without you even thinking about it.
Obviously you need to make sure you’ve got enough money in your account to cover the bills, but that should be fairly simple if you set up a budget. Some places even offer discounts for paying by Direct Debit. I’m definitely going to do this – as soon as I get round to it.
It’s worth mentioning that certain bills are considered priority bills because of the actions that can be taken by the creditor if you don’t pay them. So make sure you’re paying these first, you can find out what priority bills are on our website.
I thought I’d mention that our 7 Days, 7 Ways email programme can help you deal with bills that you’ve been avoiding. Give it a try!
Procrastination problem 4: Decluttering
Decluttering is one of the few things in adult life that I’m actually good at. I love throwing or giving stuff away. That’s the problem. Instead of giving stuff to charity shops, why am I not trying to sell it on eBay? Because I never get round to it, that’s why.
eBay has even simplified the selling process by creating an easy to use app. But then there’s the whole situation of going to the post office to send it off.
However, with a host of simple online selling apps making it easier to sell your stuff, isn’t the post office a small price to pay for some extra cash? MoneySavingExpert.com has some great online selling tips, so there’s really no excuse.
Procrastination problem 5: Cancelling contracts
I’ve already mentioned my TV subscription cancellation situation and yeah, I feel pretty bad about it. Especially as I can’t afford to be throwing money away on a service I don’t use. But I don’t think I’m alone in delaying cancelling contracts I no longer use.
Why do we do it? We sign up for a free trial, then forget to cancel and end up paying for something we don’t use.
Then there’s the gym. If you’re anything like me, you enter into a year-long contract and go about three times before giving it up as a bad idea. And then you end up paying to be reminded of how unhealthy you are.
Cancel unused contracts as soon as possible. If you’re leaving a contract early, check the agreement for early cancellation charges. If cancelling costs a lot, it might be cheaper to ride the contract out. If that’s the case you should make use of the service. If that means moving into the gym then so be it!
Procrastination problem 6: Meter readings
Again, something I mentioned I’m guilty of. (Well, I’m guilty of this whole list aren’t I?)
Taking regular meter readings means energy companies won’t use an estimate to base your bill on. As a result, you should only be paying for the energy you actually use. Hooray!
You don’t even have to write the reading down, just take a photo of it on your phone. Then upload the number to your online energy account. So simple.
Procrastination problem 7: Forgetting to pay fines
Parking and speeding fines are a whole different kind of nightmare. I don’t even drive and they haunt my dreams. If you forget to pay the fine can rapidly increase and get out of hand.
If you’re not disputing your fine, get it paid as soon as possible. Pin the ticket to your fridge. Make it the background on your phone. Frame it on your desk. Do whatever it takes. If you remember one thing for the rest of your life, make sure it’s to pay that fine.
Procrastination problem 8: Health check ups
Did I ever tell you about the time I didn’t go to the dentist for about ten years? Yeah. That happened. By the time I was finally able to register with an NHS dentist (after a three year waiting list) it was a miracle my teeth were perfectly fine.
Others have not been so lucky. A few of my other dentist-deprived pals have visited the dentist to be told they needed fillings but had narrowly avoided a root canal and any later would have resulted in costly treatment.
Make sure you allow some funds in your budget to pay for stuff like the dentist and eye checks. Then, make sure you schedule in appointments so you can avoid any disasters.
Procrastination problem 9: Checking your bank account
My bank account is either my best friend or worst nightmare. Around pay day, we get along great. Towards the end of the month, we don’t even make eye contact.
The thing is, it’s important to keep an eye on your account so you can track your spending. Avoiding the situation doesn’t make it go away. Instead, you’re at risk of overspending and could face overdraft charges as a result.
There are easy ways to keep track of your money. You can get a budgeting app, or you can download an online banking app and some banks even send weekly texts of your account balance so you know the situation.
Procrastination problem 10: Not buying insurance
I’ve got a little secret for you. I don’t have contents insurance. Every time I get to work and try to remember if I’ve turned the oven or my hair straighteners off I imagine my flat burning down and taking all my stuff with it into a fiery grave.
I can’t afford to replace my things, so why don’t I have insurance? I’ve even written before about the importance of forking out for pet insurance (RIP Pepe the cat) and holiday insurance after a mosquito mishap in Turkey ‘09.
It may seem annoying to pay for something you don’t use month after month. But when something does go wrong, you’ll thank your sensible self for sorting it out.
I’m going to get contents insurance today. Let’s just hope today is not the day my flat burns down.
As we reach the end of this list I think it’s pretty clear I need to make some serious changes to my lifestyle. If you’re like me, we should probably be friends. But also, you should probably read these tips that can help us stop procrastinating when it comes to money related things and hopefully save us some cash. (Procrastinating with homework and other non-money related stuff is fine obviously.)
- Set reminders on your phone to complete certain tasks
- Remember, avoiding a task doesn’t make it go away. You’ll have to do it one day so just do it now
- Sign up to apps to help you budget and keep track of your finances
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