Help at hand with running the family finances

The Money Advice Service has reported that more people than ever before are using its services – and, more importantly, taking action on the advice they receive.

This can only be good news - particularly since the figures also show that thousands more people are using their online tools to help manage their finances.

Running a family budget is like managing a small company these days – in fact a lot of people with experience of both would say that the first is the harder job.  To make matters worse, it’s not a job that we are trained for.  Financial education will finally appear on the national curriculum for second schools in September, but it is still a long way down the priority list.

Helping people to run their finances successfully is also a low priority for the banks.  They will have some advice and online tools available, but you will have to search for it.

On the other hand, there are many, many people trying to make your finances much more complicated.  Every provider of a commercial service – gas and electricity, phones, insurance, television, music, books, gyms – wants you to take out a direct debit, to commit to paying them money every month. 

If the bill is essential – utilities, car insurance or a season ticket to travel to work, for example – then clearly it is very helpful to know that you are paying the same amount every month.  But that mobile game app subscription, or the film download service?  Would you even remember those if you listed your monthly outgoings?

Online banking does make it slightly easier to keep track of the direct debits – most banks show all your direct debits as a separate list.  What they don’t do, though, is make the calculation for you, taking your priority payments away from your regular income, to show how much you have left to cover everything else – such as the credit cards, unsecured loans and the costs of everyday life.

The Money Advice Service tools do help with that - as do our own, here - so it is good to see that people are discovering this reasonably painless way to keep on top of their finances.  It would be good to see banks promoting their own money management help in the same way they do their credit cards and personal loans...

For Money Advice Service click here