Iona Bain: It’s never too late to start being moneywise

You probably put off switching things like your energy bills because they seem too difficult and scary Picture: John Devlin

You probably put off switching things like your energy bills because they seem too difficult and scary Picture: John Devlin

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DON’T be shy looking after your finances, writes Iona Bain

Be honest: when was the last time you made a budget? Re-assessed your spending? Switched your current account, mortgage or energy bills? You probably put off these things because they seem too difficult and scary (not to mention boring). But being sloppy with money costs us all dearly – £7.6 billion a year, to be exact.

That’s the astonishing figure given by the Institute of Inertia (yes, it really does exist) to show the price of neglecting our finances. It reached that number by calculating how much we lose out by staying with the same banks, utility providers and insurers for years on end.

But is this entirely our fault? Most of us don’t even have the maths skills to suss out the best deals at the supermarket, according to the Open University Business School.

It asked 2,000 adults to sit a personal finance school exam last year. Most of them got questions wrong, while a third of them scored 43 per cent or less. Their teachers probably would have written: “Good effort, but must try harder.”

To be fair, things are getting better. Financial education has been on the Scottish curriculum since 2008. The PPI scandal showed that we need to be eternally vigilant when dealing with the banks. And countless websites and blogs (like mine) have sprung up to uphold consumers’ rights and help people educate themselves about money. Young people are particularly vulnerable to spending pressures and misguided financial decisions.

It’s never too late to start afresh with our finances. One instant improvement we can make is to start scrutinising the banks and companies we deal with. Consider your local credit union…

Remember – it’s your money. You decide what to do with it.

•Iona Bain, editor of youngmoneyblog.co.uk, will be hosting a workshop in the free Good Money Week Conference on Saturday at St Andrew’s and St George’s West Church in George Street, starting at 9:30 and ending with lunch at 1:30.

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