Financial Fitness Challenge Week 1: Tracking your spending

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Getting on top of your money can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be.

During Finder's 4-week Financial Fitness Challenge, we'll share easy ways to get your finances sorted, using the Finder app and the power of technology to help you maximise your money. It's simple, and it's 100% free.

To kick off Week 1, let's dive into how to track your spending and bills and find simple ways to save.

THIS WEEK'S GOAL: Learn what you really spend and find an easy way to cut one of your regular expenses.

Where is all my money going?

Every guide to setting a budget starts with the same advice: identify how you're currently spending your money so you can find areas where you can cut costs.

We know; that sounds painful and tedious. But the Finder app makes it much easier.

Connect the app to your bank accounts and it will analyse your transactions, showing you how you're really spending your money. It does the hard work of categorising your expenses and adding them up, leaving you free to focus on where you can save. And it offers suggestions for that too!

So to get started you'll need the app. Get it here for iPhone or Android - it's 100% free.

The next step after installing is to connect your bank accounts, so that the app can help you sort through your spending. If you've already done that, excellent! If not, follow these simple instructions:

Learn what you're really spending

Once you've hooked up your accounts, you're ready to find out how you spend. From the home page in the app, scroll down to the Spending this month section and tap on Dig into your spending.

You'll see an overview of your spending for the month, divided into categories such as mortgages, utilities, groceries and general merchandise. For each category, you'll see a dollar total and also the percentage of your spending that that category accounts for.

Example of spending in Finder app

For a more detailed view, tap on a category and you'll see all the spending that the app knows about that falls into that category.

Spotted something that's in the wrong category? Tap on that expense, then tap on the category name to change it to something more accurate or meaningful for you.

Sample transaction in the Finder app

Now let's use that information to help you spend more wisely. Look at any expenditure category that's above 10% of your total spending. This is where you'll have the potential to save. You'd expect your mortgage or your rent to fall into this category, and your grocery shopping may well appear there too.

But if, for example, general merchandise is also more than 10% of your spending, that's a sign that you might be shopping a little too often. I'm guilty as charged on that one! After using the app, I've made a conscious effort to delay buying any non-essentials for 24 hours. That makes it clearer if it's really worthwhile, or if it was just an impulse purchase.

It's normal for expenditure to vary a little from month to month, since bills such as electricity or rates only occur quarterly. The chart at the top of the Spending screen shows your spending in previous months as well. Tap on any month to see what happened during that month.

EASY WIN: Streaming services such as Netflix might "only" cost $10 a month each, but if you sign up for a few, you're probably paying for shows you'll never watch. Want to get your streaming expenses under control? Check out our step-by-step guide on how to use the Finder app to do that.

How to find better deals with the Finder app

Why pay more than you have to? The Finder app can help you find cheaper alternatives for unavoidable regular expenses like your mobile, broadband and electricity bills.

To do this, head back to the home screen/dashboard and tap on Savings at the bottom of the screen.

Toolbar from Finder app

If you're paying your monthly mobile plan, broadband or energy bills through any of your connected accounts, the app will automatically analyse your spending and highlight if cheaper alternatives are available. (There may also be recommendations for credit cards and savings accounts; we'll cover those in Weeks 3 and 4 of the challenge.)

Let's use your mobile plan as an example. Tap on the mobile plans section under Savings and the app will ask you three simple questions so it can accurately compare plans for you:

  • How often you pay for your mobile plan. (Typically this is 30 days, but it might be every 28 days or every 35 days depending on your provider. Sorry, the app can't handle phone plans where you're also paying off a handset yet, but we're working on it.)
  • How much data is included with your plan.
  • Which type of contract you prefer: no lock-in or longer-term. I usually recommend no lock-in plans, because the mobile plans market is competitive and new deals come along frequently.

After answering those questions, the Finder app will look into our product database and see if there are cheaper plans available that match or better your current plan. If you find one you like, you can apply for it immediately.

Example of a mobile deal comparison in the Finder app

You can do the same with your energy and broadband bills. If you see those listed on the Savings tab along with a magnifying glass, tap on them to complete a simple quiz and start finding better deals. For energy, you'll need your most recent bill, so dig that out.

Credit score in the Finder app

Don't have the Finder app yet? You're missing out

The Finder app updates your credit score automatically each month and lets you know if anything changes. Plus get access to savings insights, track your spending, and see all your accounts in one place, plus more. Pop in your phone number below to get your download link.

So what's next?

Congratulations on getting through the first round of the Financial Fitness Challenge! You've now got a clearer idea of what you spend, and you know how to use the tools to find cheaper alternatives for many of your regular bills.

In Week 2, we'll look at how to check your credit score and what it means for your financial future. If you want more ideas on saving money in the meantime, check out this helpful video.

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