This Christmas has been a bit of a struggle – I did not start buying things early enough so was left with a lot to do and get and I overspent. I am determined that I will get my finances in order in 2021 and this will not happen again. Do you have any tips?
You are not alone in overspending at Christmas or in feeling that you need to regain control over your finances in the New Year.
At Citizens Advice Carlisle & Eden we are expecting to see an increase in people seeking advice on financial matters in January – people are more likely to research financial decisions in January than any other time of the year.
Analysis by the charity shows that across the country, demand for money and debt advice is highest in January and February, with one person contacting their nearest Citizens Advice for help every 11 seconds and people visiting the Citizens Advice website every 3 seconds in January.
January is a great time to take stock of your finances and think about your priorities for the future, not just for the next month but for the next year and beyond.
Although many people will be focusing on their next pay check after the busy Christmas period, people can also use the time to review whether they can save money on their bills or set a savings goal.
Whether you’re looking to deal with debts, cut your costs or budget better, Citizens Advice can help you review your overall finances.
Top tips for getting your finances in order.
Do a simple budget
Write down your income and take away your essential bills such as gas and electric, food and transport. If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save. If you don’t, look at ways to cut your costs. Use our online tool (at www.citizensadvice.org.uk) to set a more detailed budget.
Save money on essentials
You could save an average of £300 on your energy bill by changing tariffs or suppliers. Use Citizens Advice’s energy comparison tool to see if you can save or book an appointment with an energy worker at your local Citizens Advice.
Diarise the dates of annual contracts that are up for renewal, like your mobile phone or car insurance, and use a comparison site to see if you can get a cheaper deal.
Look at your spending on non-essential items – do you need these or can you do without? For example, a daily coffee can amount to £650 over the year; a daily newspaper costing 50p (more at weekends) will save you at least £180 a year. This could make the difference between being able to save for planned events (like Christmas) or emergencies.
Check you’re claiming the right benefits
If you have a family or are married, check if you can apply for working tax credits or marriage tax allowance on gov.co.uk
If you live alone, you may be entitled to a discount on your council tax bill.
If you claim benefits, visit the Citizens Advice website to check if you are eligible for discounts on your water or energy bills.
Start saving if you can – it doesn’t matter if it’s 50p or £5 a week, every penny will help improve your finances.
Saving is an important part of everyday finances, giving you a buffer for emergencies, helping you buy bigger items and giving you more financial security for the future.
Keep tabs on your overdraft
Sign up to free text alerts from your bank so you know when you’re close to going into your overdraft. Then make adjustments to your spending if you can.
Be choosey about your borrowing
If you need to borrow money, it’s important to know that there are different offers with credit cards and loans, from free balance transfers to paying no interest for the first few months.
Get your debts in order
If you can’t pay all your debts at once, it’s important to prioritise. Rent or mortgage and council tax are more important than credit card debts for example, as the consequences can be more serious if you don’t pay. Find out how to prioritise on the Citizens Advice website or contact your local Citizens Advice office for help.
Invest in your future
Pensions are a great way to save for the future and are also good value, as your contributions are topped up your employer and the government.
If you’re eligible for auto-enrolment, consider paying more than just the minimum.
Those who are self employed can still set up their own pension but make sure it’s with a regulated company.
If you’re over 50 and have a defined contribution pension you can get free a Pension Wise appointment (at a local Citizens Advice) to learn more about taking your pension. You can book a telephone or face-to-face appointment online at www.pensionwise.gov.uk or by calling your local Citizens Advice office.