Thursday 11th Jan, 2024
A New Year is always a great time to review our finances and take some practical steps to make our money go further. As we all battle the still-rising cost of living, we hope the following tips will provide some helpful ideas for boosting your financial resilience:
Make a budget – download a free budget planner tool from MSE
Before you can improve your finances, you first need to know what income you get and what you spend it on. Start by using a free budget planner tool – like the one by Money Saving Expert – to help you understand your current finances. Then you’ll be able to look for ways to increase your income and reduce your expenditure.
Cut back on unnecessary spending
Inflation may be coming down but with prices predicted to rise by at least 3.5% this year, it makes good sense to look for areas to economise. Is that £4 coffee on the way to work really necessary? Making your own in a travel cup could save you £900 a year. Similarly, resisting the temptations of a £3 Meal Deal could put £720 a year back in your pocket.
Cancel those unused subscriptions
Check your bank statement and cancel any subscriptions that you no longer use. It’s easy to forget about gym memberships, magazines that started as free offers, and streaming services like Netflix, Spotify and Amazon Prime. All these add up and keep coming out of your account whether used or not.
Push down your use of energy
The huge increase in energy bills has made us all think carefully about how we use gas and electricity. Keeping our homes heated to a basic level is important for our health and to avoid condensation and mould growth, but turning the thermostat down a little may be possible. Avoid leaving the TV or lights on when you are out of the room, and charging your mobile devices all through the night. Installing a smart meter could help you control your usage; many people have saved hundreds of pounds a year in bills once they installed one.
Try switching to supermarket own-brands
When shopping in the supermarket, why not try some of their own-brand products instead of your normal branded items? If you enjoy the new product and are happy to make the switch permanent, experts reckon you could save 30% a year.
Sign up to Loyalty Scheme
Most supermarkets offer these. Co-op, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s loyalty schemes for regular shoppers are highly regarded. The rewards can include money-off vouchers or swapping points for vouchers to gain cracking deals from their partners like food and leisure venues.
Check you are not paying too much tax
Taxation rates are still significant for many despite the political promises about future tax cuts. If you’ve been working from home, you may be able to claim £6 a week tax relief through PAYE. You can check here. If married or in a civil partnership, you may be eligible to save up to £252 a year by claiming the marriage allowance, and can backdate claims for up to four tax years, gaining a maximum of £1,220.
Check your benefits entitlements
In these difficult times, it’s worth checking that you are receiving all the income that you are entitled to. Use the MoneyHelper website to learn more about the benefits available when working, not working, bringing up children, sick, disabled or caring, running a home and later in life.
Shop around for cheaper motor insurance
It’s typical for insurers to jack up renewal costs by an average of £47. If you have stayed with the same insurer without shopping around for 10 years, the comparison site Confused.com reckon you could save almost £500 by switching, with the average saving a worthwhile £100.
Return unwanted gifts
If you have received a gift that you don’t want, or can’t use, why not see if the retailer will give you a credit note? Or try to re-gift it, which saves money, helps the environment and means the unwanted gift may actually get used.
Beware “buy now, pay later” credit
In recent years there’s been a big rise in BNPL schemes, which appear very attractive with their offers of free credit on purchases. However, if you don’t pay the money back on time, the interest charges are severe, while missed payments will lower your credit score. According to a survey by Open-Money, they are encouraging people to follow an unaffordable lifestyle and risk leading more into problem debt.
Enrol in your works pension scheme
When you are enrolled into a workplace pension scheme, your employer must contribute at least 3% of your salary, and some pay more. Try to avoid opting out, as you are turning down free money! The Government also gives you tax relief, as every £100 paid into a pension by a 20% taxpayer only costs you £80 (£60 if a 40% taxpayer).
Build a “rainy day” fund
If you can, it’s a good move to build up a “rainy day” fund for life’s emergencies, such as car repairs, boiler replacement or vets fees, of around three to six months of your salary. Starting even a small regular saving habit, built into your monthly budget, will soon accumulate a worthwhile reserve for when the unexpected comes along.
Take a look at our handy Saver accounts.
Encourage the children to be money savvy
It’s an ideal time to teach children about the value of money. Let them help you check your shopping bill, or to plan the meals for the week, and involve them in decisions like saving up for a holiday or treat. Open a junior saver account and pay in when they help you with household chores or tidy their room. Let them see the balance grow as they edge closer to a saving goal.
Plan ahead for next Christmas
Imagine reaching Christmas 2023 with a savings nest-egg and no money-worries? If you open a HEY Credit Union Christmas Saver Account, that’s very possible. You could even get a £25 bonus, plus our annual Dividend! Save as much as you like, as often as you want. Your savings are locked down until 1st November, so that you can’t dip in too early (T&Cs apply).
Give these tips a try, to start the new year on the best foot. Encourage all your family, friends and workmates to become members of HEY Credit Union so that they can benefit too!
This article is for general information only and does not constitute financial, legal, or any other form of advice.
Updated 8.1.2024. JES.