- Living wage
Check that you are being paid the national living wage. This usually goes up every year in October. The minimum wage you are entitled to depends on your age. You can find more information at www.gov.uk. To complain if you think you are being paid too little, ring the Government’s Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368. From April 2016 this is £7.20 per hour.
- Consumer advice
The Citizens Advice Bureau have a portal for all consumer issues and advice: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/
- Maximise your income
Ask your tax office about the ‘rent-a-room’ scheme. This allows you to receive rental income, up to £4,250 tax-free (£7500 from 2016). You will usually also need your landlord’s or mortgage lender’s permission to do this, as your tenancy or mortgage agreement may not allow you to rent rooms out.
- Reduce food bills
Food waste is a major issue. Each month, the average family throws away almost £60 of food that was bought but not eaten. Plan your meals and shop with a list so you don’t shop for things you already have. You can check our list of tips on how to eat well on a budget.
- Make saving a habit
The easiest way to get your savings working for you is to set things up so that you automatically add a little bit each month to your savings. That way you won’t have to remember to make the payment and you won’t be tempted to skip a month.
The best time to put a bit of money aside is just after you’ve been paid, so set up your standing order to go out on, or just after pay day. Or ask your workplace if they have a savings scheme – and think about joining it if they do. This makes saving even easier, because the money comes straight out of your pay, just like your tax and National Insurance contributions.
- Credit Score
- Watch your credit card balances – One of the major factors in your credit score is how much revolving credit you have versus how much you’re actually using. The smaller that percentage is, the better it is for your credit rating
- Eliminate small accounts – The reason this strategy can help your score: One of the items your score considers is how many of your cards or credit accounts have balances
- Find a list of basic accounts on our Resources page, these accounts will not charge a fee for missed payments
Applying for a passport or driving licence will help lenders prove who you are.
Fees may not feature prominently in the headline quote when you search for credit on comparison sites. However, it’s important to check for any fees, such as late payment, default, or settlement charges, as these can make a huge difference to the total cost of credit.
There are a number of factors to consider when borrowing money. The TOTAL cost is probably the key factor. Although lower payments over a longer period looks attractive; paying the loan off quicker will usually mean you pay much less in the long run as less interest is applied.
If you’re shopping for a loan, it pays to do your rate shopping within a short time span. Every time you apply for credit, it can cause a small dip in your score that lasts a year. That’s because if someone is making multiple applications for credit, it usually means he or she wants to use more credit.
- Dealing with high levels of debt
- Don’t borrow money to pay off your debts without thinking carefully. Get advice first. If you own your home, this kind of borrowing could lead to you losing your home.
- Make sure you tackle your priority debts first – for example, debts which could mean losing your home or having your gas or electricity cut off.
- If you have lost your job or are off work because of illness, check whether your payments are covered by payment protection insurance. Check your credit agreement. Contact the insurance company or your lender to find out more details about how to claim.
- Make sure that any money you receive (for example, wages or benefits) goes into an account at a bank or building society that you don’t owe any money to. This means the bank or building society will not be able to take any of your income to pay your debt to them.
- Make mortgage arrears a priority. If you fall behind on your mortgage payments or a second mortgage or secured loan, you need to take action straight away to avoid your mortgage lender taking court action to repossess your home. Your lender is likely to offer you more options if you negotiate at an early stage rather than waiting until mortgage arrears become unmanageable. Mortgage problems can often be resolved without needing to go to court.
- Check out our blog about debt solutions and find out what is the best solution for you.
- Pay your highest interest debts before saving
Clearing off high interest loans and credit cards will reduce the total you have to pay back. Once these have been paid your disposable income will be higher letting you save in future. It is important to make sure you don’t break the terms of any of your agreements. So even if you’re focusing on paying down another debt, you must pay at least the minimum on any credit cards and your monthly required payments on any loan agreements.
- Personal tax allowance
Everyone is entitled to a personal tax allowance (or tax-free amount), but there are all sorts of tax allowances and tax reliefs available. These depend on your age and personal circumstances. You can check your entitlement to tax allowances and reliefs at www.gov.uk and www.litrg.org.uk. If you are still in doubt, contact your tax office on 0845 300 0627.
Personal allowance, at which people start paying tax, to rise to £11,000 next year. The government says the personal allowance will rise to £12,500 by 2020, so that people working 30 hours a week on the minimum wage do not pay income tax.
- Council Tax
Your Council Tax banding may be incorrect. Dropping a band may save you up to £200 per year, plus a backdated refund. Council Tax Bands
- Car tax
New VED bands for brand new cars to be introduced from 2017, pegged to emissions for the first year. Subsequently, 95% of car owners will pay a flat fee of £140 a year. This may be an increase on what you are currently paying.
- Benefits entitlement
Find out what benefits & entitlements you may be eligible for: Benefits Calculator
- Discount leisure pass
If you are claiming a benefit you may be eligable for a Discount Leisure Pass. This gives reduced entry to all Council owned leisure and sport facilities might be available in your area. Available to you and your children. Discount Leisure Pass
- Local welfare provision scheme
If you have no income or there is an emergency or disaster, you can apply for help from your local council’s assistance scheme. You do not have to be on benefits to apply but you can only get help with certain items. To find your local provider search here.
- Welfare advice
Check with your local council to see if you can have a home improvement or a disabled facilities grant. This will depend on your income, whether you have a disability and what repairs need doing in your home.
- Social fund
Social Fund also provides maternity grants and funeral expenses payments for people on qualifying benefits, www.gov.uk for further information or contact your local Job Centre.
- Budgeting loans
If you are on Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, income-related Employment and Support Allowance or Pension Credit or Universal Credit you may qualify for a short-term advance, a budgeting loan or a budgeting advance from the DWP, see www.gov.uk for further information or contact your local jobcentre.
- Gas and electric bills
Turn electrical appliances off when not in use. In 2012, the Energy Saving Trust revealed that across the UK, households were spending between £50 and £86 per year on gadgets in a “non-active” or standby state, equivalent to 9pc to 16pc of the average electricity bill.
You may be able to get a grant through the Energy Company Obligation (ECO) programme for insulation and heating improvements, plus advice about saving energy. You may also be able to get a loan through the Green Deal scheme. Ring the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234 or see www.energysavingtrust.org.uk.
- Water bills
If you have a water meter and are receiving benefits you may be eligible to have your bills capped under the WaterSure scheme. Contact your water company for further details.
Water meters only charge you for the water you actually use and this could make your bills cheaper. Ask your water company for advice or use the water-meter calculator at www.ccwater.org.uk.
- Mobile phone bills
If you discover that you are not using your full call and text allowance and have been with a network for more than three months, some providers will let you downgrade to a lower monthly tariff.
Don’t pay for TV channels you don’t use. Speak to your provider to see if they can reduce your monthly bill by changing your package. By bundling your phone, internet and TV with one provider you can save up to 20%.
- Switch suppliers
You may be able to save some money by switching to another supplier. This may work out cheaper, particularly if you have both gas and electricity from the same supplier. There are a number of independent internet price-comparison sites that can help you find the best deal. Make sure you use a authorised company for this service.
- Utility trust funds
Some fuel and water companies have set up trust funds that may be able to help you pay your fuel bills if you are in financial difficulties. Ask your fuel company if they run a scheme.
- Why your credit rating’s important
Your credit rating is used to help lenders decide whether to lend you money, how much to let you borrow and, in some cases, how much interest to charge you.
- Always pay bills on time
One of the biggest ingredients in a good credit score is simply month after month, on-time payments. Credit scores are determined by what’s in your credit report. If you’re bad about paying your bills -or paying them on time -it damages your credit and hurts your score.
- Factors Affecting Your Credit Rating
- Not being on the electoral register. This is used by lenders to verify that you are who you say you are
- Moving home a lot. Lenders feel more comfortable if they see evidence that you have resided at one address for some time
- If you receive a county court judgment (CCJ) (called a decree in Scotland) for an unpaid bill this will have a serious impact on your credit score. CCJs stay on your file for six years
- Missing or making late payments on anything from your mortgage, credit card, personal loan, gas or electricity bills will stay on your credit file for six years
- High levels of existing debt – banks and credit card companies may be nervous about lending you more as this could indicate that you are financially over stretched
- Applying for lots of credit at once. When you apply for credit it will show as a record on your credit report so it’s better to stagger applications. If you do not intend to actually apply for credit and simply want to compare rates, find out whether the lender can register a ‘quotation search’ on your credit report instead of a ‘credit application search’. Lenders know that quotation searches do not represent actual credit applications, so they won’t have a negative impact on your credit rating in the future
- Mistakes on your credit report, which lenders check as part of the credit score process. If there is something on your credit report which is incorrect or that does not apply to you – i.e. someone may have fraudulently applied for credit in your name without you knowing – contact the credit reference agency immediately to have this investigated and removed
- Being tied into any joint form of credit such as bank accounts, loans or mortgages with someone who a poor credit history, known as ‘financial association’, as this will affect your ability to gain credit.
- Healthy Start Scheme
If you are pregnant or have a child under four and you are on certain benefits, or you are pregnant and under 18, you may qualify for help with milk, fruit, vegetables and vitamins under the Healthy Start scheme. Contact the Healthy Start Issuing Unit on 0845 607 6823 or see www.healthystart.nhs.uk to find out if you will qualify for this scheme.
- Child Care
From September 2017, free childcare entitlement will be doubled from 15 hours to 30 hours a week for working parents of 3 and 4 year olds.
- Summer holidays and days out
- Order a ‘Weekend Box’ for free at www.weekendboxclub.com using a free code which you can easily find online. Delivered fortnightly, this is a box with four great ideas for kids in – something to cook, something to make, something to explore and something green. They contain almost everything you need (apart from things you will commonly find in your cupboard) and provide great entertainment for a quiet moment over the weekend
- LEGO has two kids magazines that are completely free. Arriving several times a year, they are packed with cartoons, model plans and competitions – perfect for any young engineer. And with different editions to suit your child’s needs, it really is a great freebie. http://www.lego.com/en-GB/club/member
- Free footie lesson: The FA Tesco Skills Programme will once again be offering free football skills coaching sessions to children between the age of 5-11 during the holidays. All you need to do is head to their website, find your nearest session and sign up your child for a free place
- Teens in England aged 16 and 17 can apply to the National Citizen Service for a two or three-week course, including activities such as canoeing, climbing and hiking followed by a team project in the community. It’s either free or capped at £50 with all meals included. How: Enter details on the National Citizen Service page (parents, get your child to apply) and to find out about your nearest scheme. You must be 16 or 17 at the time of the trip. It’s a Government initiative and bursaries are available as providers aren’t allowed to turn away kids for financial reasons
- Visit the park – If the sun’s out, why not go to the park? Here’s a handy page where you can search for award-winning parks near you – and they are free! See Green Flag awards to find your nearest park
- Some schools, community centres and youth groups offer clubs for children during the school holidays, with activities as diverse as motor quads and archery. Kids aren’t restricted to their own schools – ask local councils for details. Sometimes they’re free, sometimes not. If they’re not though, holiday clubs are often eligible for payment with childcare tax credits or childcare vouchers
- Use discount websites to save on days out. Sites like; groupon.co.uk, vouchercodes.co.uk and wowcher.co.uk offer daily deals and discounts on events, activities, travel and restaurants, to name a few
- Plan ahead and shop around
Buying holiday items on impulse will mean you miss out on the best deals. Look out for special offers on sun cream and toiletries, or cheaper travel money, insurance and car hire. You could save hundreds of pounds in total.
- Set a budget before you go
This will stop the cost of your holiday spiralling out of control by avoiding the ‘extras’ you hadn’t planned for. List all the things you will need to buy, including travel insurance, travel money, car hire, holiday clothes and swimwear, sun cream and toiletries. And estimate the amount you will spend each day on food, travel, entertainment and holiday treats.
- Good holiday deals
- For the best savings, book late– you may not get exactly what you want but you are likely to get a cheap holiday. If you want a particular destination, book early – prices will go up for in-demand destinations
- Haggle with high street operators – you might even get them to offer you something cheaper than an online deal
- Search online, websites like Holiday Pirates and SkyScanner are great tools to find cheap packages and flights.
- As with anything else, with travel insurance it pays to shop around. Don’t buy direct from your travel agent or travel website, unless you’re sure it’s the best deal. (It almost certainly won’t be.)
- Foreign currency
- The exchange rates and the fees you’ll pay for buying your currency will vary between different providers. Get the best deal on your money by shopping around for the best rate
- Buy it in advance – the bureaux de change at the airport and ferry ports are more expensive than high street and online providers
- Shop around for the best deal – use price comparison websites to find the best deal. They can show you how much you’ll get for your money once the exchange rate and any charges have been taken into account
- Pay for your money using your debit card – buying travel money is classed as a cash withdrawal, so if you buy on your credit card you’ll pay interest – and maybe a fee as well – even if you pay off your card in full each month
- Car finance
If you‘re struggling to meet your car finance payments or simply want to cut costs, you can pay off the agreement early or return the car. But there are some conditions and costs attached to doing this, so don’t make a decision until you know exactly what they are.
- Fuel costs
- Buying the cheapest petrol and diesel is the easiest way to cut your fuel costs, but there are other things you can do to get the most mileage out of your tank. https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/how-to-save-fuel-when-driving
- Riding around with underinflated tyres can increase petrol consumption, check your tyre pressure monthly.
- Buy your presents throughout the year, look out for sales and specials. If you’re feeling creative, try making presents
- Write a list of the people to whom you wish to give Christmas presents. It is fine to restrict this list to very close friends and family. Don’t feel pressure to give gifts to everyone you know
- Write down the maximum amount that you plan to spend on each person’s gift and calculate the total amount. If you are shocked by this total, go back and reduce some or all of the amounts until you reach a total you are happy with.
- The January sales start earlier and earlier each year and it’s a great time to pick up a bargain for next Christmas. It’s often hard to predict what gifts to buy but you might be able to pick up generic items, like Christmas cards, wrapping paper and decorations.
- Have a dry January. If, according to figures released last year from the Office for National Statistics, you are an average British household that spends £15.20 a week on alcohol, by not drinking for the entire month of January, you could save over £60.