Spring clean your finances (without living like a monk)

  •  By
  •  Murray Humphrey

When we were brainstorming solutions for our financial spring clean, one of our team foolishly went down the road of nanny state nagging.

You’ve read those kinds of articles: ‘maybe it’s time to cancel those subscriptions that leech money out of your bank account every month and do you really need that posh coffee?’ type of patronising twaddle.

That’s not us. It’s your money; spend it how you like. But if you are looking to get a bit more bang for your buck, here’s how you can make your moolah do more without giving up the mochas.

Budgeting like a boss

Now that we can tap a card or a device to pay for things, it’s really easy to spend money but harder to track it. Managing your money can feel like a big mountain to climb. How can you possibly keep track of everything you spend? Though the words ‘monthly budget’ might feel like a chore, here’s a good reason to keep reading: you will feel happier.

87% of Brits told us that financial stress impacts their mental health.

Feeling in control of your money can have a positive impact on your wellbeing. In a survey of 1000 nationally representative people we conducted at the end of 2022, 87% of Brits told us financial stress was impacting their mental health. If you're overspending on something (hello, online shopping addiction), a budget helps you see that and adjust your habits.

If you’re savvy with a spreadsheet, this is certainly one life moment they are good for. Pen and paper is just fine too. If neither of those appeals, stick with us – we’ve got suggestions for easy app alternatives further down.

To understand what you are spending your money on, you need visibility of everything. Let’s start with the basics:

Food and shelter

  • Your rent or mortgage payments will be the same every month and your weekly food shop will mostly average out the same over a month.
  • We’re just talking about the stuff you store in your kitchen here. We’re not talking about the Deliveroo deliveries or the takeaway coffees – they’re coming out of your ‘fun’ budget (more of which later).

Bills, bills, bills

  • Also consistent will be the services that you pay for: electricity, gas, council tax, phone, wifi and water. If you know what you are paying every month, you can set that amount aside.
  • Then add in the things you choose to pay for monthly: insurance, subscriptions or memberships of any kind (Netflix, your gym). If you have to spend money travelling to work (on public transport or petrol) add that in. 


  • Both long and short term. Saving for a deposit to buy a property or a new car might take a few years, while how much you’d like to accumulate in your pension pot is going to take longer. Then there are the things that come up annually: birthdays, holidays and Christmas to pay for.

Phew! There’s a lot to pay for, right? Once you have set aside the money from your wages for all of the above, the rest is your fun budget – what you’ve got for everything else you want to do, be it drinks with your mates, zumba classes or bird watching. No judgement here.

Just as the Penfold app will give you a clearer picture of the money you have saved and what it will pay for when you stop working, there are lots of apps that bring clarity to your spending and help you budget if you’re not a fan of a spreadsheet.

Many of them will link to all your various accounts and credit cards to give you a more complete picture. A few to mention (and check out) are You Need A Budget, Emma and Honeydue.

Drive down the debt

The idea of debt usually produces strong reactions in people. It’s a bit like touching your own eyeball. You will if you have to, but you’d probably rather not. Debt’s got a bad rep from headlines about unscrupulous lenders driving people into poverty but, as always with shouty media, the truth is a bit more nuanced.

Debt is a normal part of the modern financial landscape and can serve a useful purpose. For example, if you have minimal credit history, trying to get a mortgage without any debt can actually be more challenging than dealing with an unwelcome credit card bill.

Reducing personal debt can be a challenge. First things first, it's important to create a budget (see above) that helps you keep track of your expenses and identify areas where you can cut back.

Focus on paying your high-interest debts off first, and consider consolidating your debts with a low-interest loan to simplify things if you’re carrying a few.

Credit card debt is one of the most common forms of personal debt, and sometimes the most challenging to manage due to high-interest rates.

If you're carrying a balance on one or more cards, start by creating a plan to pay them off as quickly as possible. Where can you stop spending money that you can then divert to paying more than the minimum payment each month? This will reduce the principal balance faster and minimize interest charges.

You could also try transferring your balance to a card with a lower interest rate or consolidating your credit card debt with a personal loan. If you’re worried about your debts, two organisations that can help are Citizen’s Advice Bureau and MoneyHelper.

Let the market make you millions! (maybe)

Unless you concentrated hard in chemistry class, the word compound isn’t going to mean a whole lot to you. It’s just one example of the pesky jargon that prevents people from saving enough for their future – the words make most people switch off.

Suffice to say that ‘compound interest’ means that, if you put some money into the right financial product (a pension, let’s say) and leave it for a decent amount of time, that money will grow and grow. We’ll give you an example.

Put £1000 in a pension, top it up with £100 every month and you'll end up with £84,000 after 30 years (your contribution being £37,000).

If you put £1000 into a pension and didn’t touch it for 30 years, you’d end up with £4300. If you topped it up with £100 every month, you’d finish up with £84,000. You would have paid in £37,000 yourself over that time and compound interest will have done the rest. Magic, right?

That’s assuming an annual growth rate of 5% and we’re being cautious here; the actual annual growth of stock markets (in which pensions are mostly invested) in the last decade has been 11%. As ever, past performance is no guarantee of what will happen in the unknowable future.

But you’ve got to be in it to win it, right?

Trust us: feeling in control of your money feels good. We don’t want anyone to feel financially stressed and to that end, if you haven’t already, do check out the ‘Your Forecast’ tool on the Penfold app. It’ll tell you how much you have in your pension, what it will pay for when you retire and even help you target how much to save for the lifestyle you want.

We also try to help by publishing blogs that aim to be the sunshine clearing the mist of financial fog. Two to try: The Most Expensive New Year’s Resolutions (how many have you given up on and what has it cost you?) and How to Talk to your Loved One about Money.

With investments, your capital is at risk. The value of your investment can go down as well as up, and you may get back less than you invest. This information should not be regarded as financial advice and past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

A photo of Murray Humphrey

Murray Humphrey


Get started in 5 minutes

1. Get a Penfold account by registering your details online or with our app.

2. Transfer an existing pension, or make a one-off or recurring payment (pause or adjust any time).

Done! Check savings progress, change investment plan and more with our app or online dashboard.

Get started now