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Money matters

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CreditWise is a new tool from Capital One that gives you free access to your credit score and helps you understand the factors that affect it. Find out more opens in a new tab

June 2017Capital One Essentials

I don't think you are ever ready for your card to be declined as you try to buy a cheese and pickle sarnie in Tesco Metro for your hungry toddler. That's also not to mention the swathes of quietly judging people behind you as that sandwich gets popped back on the chilled shelf of financial dreams. ("How is she in charge of a human?")

But aged 35 I'm still a shambles with money. My wallet resembles a bulging rubbish bin after a West Ham football match. There's receipts in abundance and out of the 25 cards (including one from Claire's Accessories with a 2014 expiration date) in there, only one that isn't dog-eared and scratched to within an inch of it's usable life.

But wallet admin aside, that shame-drenched sandwich-yearning moment made it abundantly clear that it's not just about me anymore. I can't be left high and dry with my hungry toddler thankful that I'd randomly stuffed a warm Babybel in my back pocket. Alone, yes, it would have been an amusing pub story, chez squawking life burden ("Mama why can't I eat the sandwich?"), less so.

So I told you all about it; I penned a blog post about being 35 and not being on top of my dosh. I said that while the Instagram pixels can seem all tap dancing and jazz hands at times, we're all just Sellotaping over the cracks – financial and emotional. And the response I got was overwhelming; from those of us rifling through the bargain bin for a 34p loaf to others celebrating a Pizza Express two-for-one deal and delighting in the power of eBay for second hand goods.

Two people got in touch, who made me take it from words to actions: my Dad, who is a self-made man with a truly razor-sharp approach to money (he owned his own house called ironically 'The Shambles' at 24) and someone from Capital One - a company that aims to dispel the myths and clear up the jargon opens in a new tab around credit - who read it and got in touch to say that I'm not as alone in navigating this financial jungle as I initially thought.

At school I learned about algebraic equations but never about APR (Annual Percentage Rates), for example. I understood how to dismantle a Bunsen burner but couldn't tell you about how mortgages work. I even got an A at A-level in Economics for my intricate knowledge of macroeconomic policy. And, yet, while launching a business, buying a house and keeping a small human alive, I've dropped the money ball.

So instead of the whole 'New Year, New You' guff at the beginning of this year, I decided to focus on the bedrock of making it through the day: dollar. I don't want to close my eyes at the cash point and hope anymore, I don't want to furrow my brow at complex credit terms such as credit scores and eligibility checkers, I don't want to have a head-in-the-sand approach to credit cards. I truly want to know my APR from my CPR.

It's time to clear out those receipts, edit down my Claire's Accessories discount cards and sort the confused wood from the potentially fruitful trees.

To get us started, check out these basic tips below to help you take control of your financial health;

  • Know your credit score – if you know where you stand, you’ll know whether you need to make changes to improve your score or not, you can find your score at the three main credit reference agencies Experian, Equifax, TransUnion or you can try CreditWise opens in a new tab from Capital One.
  • Check your eligibility before you apply for a credit card, Capital One's Quickcheck opens in a new tab tool will tell you with 100% certainty whether you'll be accepted before you apply, without affecting your credit score.
  • Know the APR (Annual Percentage Rate) you're applying for and whether this could change after you've applied. Check the terms and conditions, all available product details and the summary box. With Capital One the APR you see when you apply is the APR you'll get. The Capital One Classic credit card features a 34.9% APR representative variable rate.
  • Try and pay more than the minimum, if you already have a credit card paying more than the minimum amount each month will save you time and money.

This post was created in partnership with Capital One who I will be working with to help cut through the confusing world of credit over the next few weeks. Check out their blog.