Running a household isn't easy. As we cope with everything from fixing the car to feeding the kids, most of us find it's all but impossible to spend as much time as we should on making financial decisions - even the ones that'll have a major impact on our life.
Which goes some way towards explaining the popularity of 'top tip' lists! Here are five simple tips that could help you save money - and keep your household ticking over nicely - without spending hours and hours going through your finances with a fine-toothed comb.
Top tip 1: get it cheaper
From gas and electricity to home insurance and car insurance, there's a lot of competition in today's world. For example, a recent report from Defaqto found that the number of companies offering home insurance has grown by 73% since 2004.
So the price you're paying isn't necessarily the best price. It's well worth looking around for a cheaper deal. Just remember that price isn't the only factor.
Top tip 2: learn to budget
What's your disposable income? If you answer this question with "What does disposable income mean?" you're not alone. Disposable income is simply the money that you don't need for your essential costs (gas bill, mortgage / rent payment, essential food and transport costs, etc.).
Really, this should be your money - money you can spend on anything you like - but if you're carrying credit card balances and other unsecured debts, you'll be spending at least part of your disposable income on them every month.
To manage your finances properly, you'll need to make sure you can afford (at least) all your essential expenses and unsecured debt payments every month.
Top tip 3: save when you can
Once you've accounted for your essential expenses and unsecured debt payments, you'll know what's left of your monthly income. Even with today's low interest rates, one of the best things you can do with this money is save it: whatever financial surprises you run into in the future, whether it's fixing the roof or replacing the cooker, they'll be a lot easier to deal with if you've got some money in the bank.
Of course, if you're carrying debts, it may make more sense to focus on repaying them first…
Top tip 4: overpay your debts when you can
Every month, there are certain payments you'll have to make: to your credit cards, loans and other debts. But why stop there? If you can afford to, you can save yourself a lot of money by overpaying your personal debts - paying more than you actually have to.
The sooner you repay a debt, the less you'll spend on interest. You'll be surprised what you can achieve if you put a little bit extra towards your most expensive debt (the one with the highest interest rate) every month. Just make sure you find out whether you'll be hit with an 'early repayment charge' before you actually do this.
Top tip 5: prepare for the future
No-one can predict the future, but there are thing you can do to prevent problems before they arrive. If you think interest rates are about to go up, start looking at fixed-rate mortgages. If you're changing to a new gas supplier, make sure your monthly payment isn't based on your usage in during the summer months. If there's a cracked tile on the roof, sorting it out now could save you a fortune - replacing a tile tends to be a lot cheaper than repairing water damage!
These are just a few examples, but always remember it isn't enough to hope for the best - you also need to prepare for the worst.