Our aim is to help you effectively manage your money to improve your finances to help you steer clear of debt. This guide is therefore packed full of informative tips to help boost your bank balance.
Who is the Guide for?
Our Money Management Guide is for everyone. Whether you are struggling to manage your finances, suffering from debt or just want some helpful money advice, we can provide the tools you need to fix your finances once and for all.
Do I Need to Read the Whole Guide?
We recommend you read the guide from beginning to end if you really want to make the most of our advice. However, we’ve separated our tips into handy chapters to help you easily find the tips that apply to your needs.
Part 1 – Personal Budget
In this chapter, we’ll provide helpful hints and tips to help sort your finances, such as boosting your income, planning a budget, comparison shopping, as well as helpful tools that could help you step out of the red.
Part 2 – Financial Support
In this chapter, you’ll identify new ways to receive financial support and advice. You’ll read about financial opportunities you might have been previously unaware of, as well as schemes and grants that can improve your circumstances.
Part 3 – Debt Management
We’ll provide handy debt management tips in this chapter, so you can say sayonara to your debt worries. You’ll learn how to talk to your lender to resolve outstanding debts, make an informed decision on consolidation loans and how to prevent stepping into a debt spiral.
Part 1 – Personal Budget
Before you start, we recommend you grab a pen and a piece of paper to take some notes, as we’re going to offer a few money management tips that you’ll need to follow.
Now that you have your pen and paper at the ready, we can start.
Step 1: Write down a list of your monthly debts.
Step 2: Once you’ve done that, number them from your highest priority debts down to the smallest priorities (1 being the highest). Priority debts are often things such as a mortgage, rent, council tax and utility bills.
Step 3: Take a look at your small debts, which are usually things like credit card repayments. Could you boost up the repayments to eliminate the debt as soon as possible? Removing a debt as quickly as financially achievable will reduce the stress on your bank balance.
The Domino Effect
Think of your finances as dominoes. Try to knock each one down until there are no more left standing. By eliminating the smaller debts first, you’ll give yourself more financial room to kick your bigger debts to the kerb. You’ll then have financial freedom to do all those things you’ve been dreaming of – such as buying a new car, taking a holiday or home improvement tasks. Sounds good, right?
Plan a Budget
One of the reasons you might be struggling with debt is because there’s more money going out than coming in – that’s why it’s essential to continually review your finances.
Remember when we asked you to write down a list of your debts earlier? Write down how much each debt is costing you on a monthly basis, add the sum together and see whether you’re living beyond your means. Don’t worry if you are, we’re about to provide some helpful tips to help reshuffle your finances. The Citizen Advice offer an easy household budgeting tool.
Budget Tip #1: Comparison Shopping
Most of us spend more money than we actually have to – and many of us don’t even realise we’re doing it. Websites such as comparethemarket.com and confused.com are superb tools to see if you’re receiving the best bang for your buck.
Here are some ways you easily reduce your finances:
• Compare insurance policies online (including car, life, employment and health insurance)
• Switch energy providers for a better deal
• Browse the market for the best grocery deals
• Compare banks to see if you can receive a better deal
Budget Tip #2: Grocery Shopping
The thought of switching from premium brands might not sound like an appealing alternative, but there really is little difference in the quality of the food. All foods sold in store are subject to strict tests by the Food Standards Agency to ensure quality; therefore, you can trust they wouldn’t be sold in store if they weren’t up to standard. Switching to no frills produce really is a great way to cut back on your finances without changing your lifestyle. So there’s no harm in switching for a week to see if it boosts your pockets without impacting a diet.
Budget Tip #3: Savings Day
Pick one day every few months to spend time ringing suppliers to see if you’re entitled to a better deal. You could find that a provider is willing to cut back on a package due to customer loyalty or because they sympathise with your financial situation. You could save hundreds of pounds per year simply by rearranging a repayment plan.
Budget Tip #4: Recycle Old Goods
You could be sitting on more money than you realise. Look in your cupboards and drawers to see if you can flog any old phones, games consoles, DVDS, books or even clothes. Websites such as Music Magpie offer a great facility to flog your old stuff in one quick swoop. They’ll even pick it up from your address.
Budget Tip #5: Pay Debts with Savings
Should you find you have a little extra money remaining one month, we suggest you use it to pay off your debts. Whilst your first thought might be what you can be buy with your influx of cash, think of how much better you’ll feel knowing you’ve paid off all your debts. That’s a feeling even money can’t buy.
Part 2 – Financial Support
Did you know you might be missing out on extra cash? So many people are unaware that there are financial opportunities out there just waiting to snapped up. For this reason, we’ve compiled a list of helpful money breaks that could help you take control of your finances.
Finance Tip #1: Benefits Check
If your family earns less than £72,000 per year, you could be entitled to benefits, such as tax credits. A great way to identify if you’re eligible for benefits is to take Money Saving Expert’s Benefit’s Check Up tool.
Finance Tip #2: Uniform Tax Rebate
You might be surprised to learn you can claim a tax rebate between £12 to £56 per year if you wear a uniform. The money covers the cost of washing, repairing and replacing the garments – and you can claim back cash for the past six years. Visit http://www.uniformtaxrebate.co.uk/ for more information.
Finance Tip #3: Tax Rebate
Most people don’t check they’re on the right tax code, and could therefore be missing out on a significant amount of money each year. You should therefore ensure you’re on the right tax code, as you could receive a rebate if you’ve paid too much. Visit http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/incometax/tax-codes.htm to find out what tax code you should be on.
Finance Tip #4: Energy Grants
As we all know, utility bills are becoming more and more expensive. However, there is support out there to help with heating bills. However, to do so you’ll need to know what energy saving measures you have in place (such as double glazing or cavity wall insulation), as well as a rough idea of when your home was first built. Visit https://www.gov.uk/energy-grants-calculator to find out if you’re entitled to help.
Finance Tip #5: Support for Mortgage Interest
Homeowners receiving income related benefits could be entitled to government help towards interest payments on mortgages and loans. This is known as Support for Mortgage Interest (SMI) and will be paid straight to a lender. However, the help will only be towards the interest and not the borrowed amount. Apply for SMI here: https://www.gov.uk/support-for-mortgage-interest
Finance Tip #6: Energy Trust Schemes
Many utility suppliers offer an Energy Trust scheme to their account holders if they’re struggling with their finances. In order to receive help, account holders will have to complete a full income and expenditure budget sheet, as well as providing proof of income. Debt details will also need to be provided, such as how the arrears have built up; for example, redundancy or illness. Visit British Gas Energy Trust, Npower Energy Fund or EDF Energy Trust for more information.
Finance Tip #7: WaterSure Scheme
The WaterSure scheme can cap your average household water bills if you:
• are on a meter
• are entitled to benefits
• have 3 or more children (under the age of 19) living in your home
• have someone living in your home with a medical condition
It’s also worth talking to a water provider to see if you are entitled to special tariffs that could match payments or write off your existing water debt by entering an arrears repayment plan.
Finance Tip #8: Local Council or Housing Association Grants
Your local council or housing association may be able to offer Home Repair Assistance Grants to help you with repairs or improvements within your home. Each local council will offer different grants, so it’s worth visiting their website to see what you may be entitled to.
Part 3 – Debt Management
There is no shame about being in debt. £163 million was the daily amount of interest paid on personal debt in November 2013 – so you can trust you’re not alone. Many people fall into debt due to a number of reasons, but it’s how you deal with your financial situation that will set you apart from the crowd. While it might seem easier to suffer in silence, it’s really not. You need to tackle the problem head on to quickly recover your finances, and here’s how…
Debt Tip #1: Talk to Your Lender
If you have struggling to meet debt repayments, the first thing you must do is talk to your lender. Explain to them your financial situation to see if you can arrange a new debt repayment plan – but ensure excessive interest rates won’t be added on top of the amount.
Debt Tip #2: Repay Debts Quickly
You should strive to repay your debts as soon as possible. Try to pay back as much as you can afford each month – which could mean paying more back than you originally owe that week or month. The sooner you make the repayments, the sooner you’ll be debt free.
Debt Tip #3: Avoid a Debt Spiral
It can be so easy to fall into a debt spiral when faced with debt. What you must not do is enter into one debt to pay for another. This is a vicious circle that will not only sink you into further debt, but will take a toll on your personal life.
Debt Tip #4: Never Take Out a Payday Loan
There is a reason payday loan companies are criticised so widely in the media, and that’s because they offer loans with excessive interest fees. Even though the money can be delivered to your account the same day, the service comes at the cost of your bank balance. Avoid.
Debt Tip #5: Consider a Consolidation Loan
Should you have multiple debts that are taking a toll on your finances on a monthly basis, a consolidation loan might just be the answer. Instead of paying multiple debts to multiple lenders, you could consolidate all your existing debts into one affordable monthly repayment to one lender. Therefore, you can quickly eliminate your finances whilst taking the weight of the debt off your shoulders.
When it comes to managing your money, you just have to remember to plan ahead, make the most of financial opportunities and avoid being sucked into a debt spiral. It really is as simple as it sounds.