Ok, you’ve signed up at the gym (again…) started to eat more healthily and reorganised the post Christmas clutter but what about your finances? Just a few hours (or minutes) of your time spent reviewing everything from your broadband to your mortgage could save you a few hundred pounds a month. Read My Nametags’s 10 ways to save…
The phrase “Time is money” was never truer in today’s society where the pace of life is so hectic. There’s always something more pressing to do but if you set aside an hour or two you could be reaping the benefits.
Mortgage – It is the single largest expense for most families so shop around for the right deal and you could seriously save a fortune. Cutting a mere 1% off a £100,000 mortgage will save you around £80/month. If you’re in a fixed deal don’t forget that you can actually fix another deal three months before your previous rate expires. Try price comparison sites such as www.moneysupermarket.com and http://www.moneyfacts.co.uk. You can also try online brokers www.lcplc.co.uk and www.charcol.co.uk.
Tip: Read one of the many mortgage guides on the web before you speak with anyone.
Food – If you don’t already, try doing your weekly food shop on the internet as it avoids the temptation to buy things you don’t really need. If you want to be super savvy then write your menu first and your shopping list will pretty much write itself. While you will almost definitely spend less, the bonus is that it may also force you to get out of that cooking rut and try some new recipes. If you’re going out and you know where you’re going then be sure to look online for restaurant discount vouchers. Or try one of the dining websites like www.toptable.co.uk or www.squaremeal.co.uk. You can search for restaurants in your area, see the latest offers and book your table online.
Tip: Most supermarkets have recipes online, which makes it even easier to plan and shop.
Energy – With the chill factor this winter pushing gas and electricity bills ever higher it is a good time to cut your usage and find a cheaper energy deal. The good news is that changing supplier on line is really easy and will only take about 10 minutes of your time. Have your postcode and bills handy so that you can get an accurate quote. In January www.moneysupermarket.com said that online energy deals could save consumers 24% on their New Year energy bills. Try www.energyhelpline.com or http://www.uswitch.com. To cut your bills turn down your thermostat by just 1% and you could cut your heating bills by 10% and fit a jacket to your hot water tank could save £35/year, says the Energy Savings Trust. It sounds obvious but remind everyone to turn off lights when they leave a room. UK households spend around 8% of their electricity bill just powering appliances like TVs, stereos and computers on standby. So switch off and save!
Tip: Change to energy saving bulbs as they use up to 80% less electricity than standard ones and last around 10 times as long. For more tips visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk.
Childcare Vouchers – If you are working register with your employer for Childcare Vouchers to pay for childcare from your pre-tax income. If they don’t do it then you could suggest they sign up to the scheme. The vouchers can be used to pay for a wide range of childcare: day nursery, nursery school, child minder, crèche, pre-school, nanny, au pair, out of school club or holiday play scheme. Your chosen childcare provider must be a registered or approved form of childcare. You could save £1,195/year. See www.childcarevouchers.co.uk for more info. Childcare Vouchers may affect your Tax Credits entitlement. Visit www.hmrc.gov.uk to find out.
Tip: If both parents are both working you can each get vouchers and double your savings.
Credit cards – First, decide what kind of credit card user you are. If you always pay off your balance each month then you need to get the best deal for spending – perhaps a ‘cashback’ credit card where you will get paid to spend. If you don’t always pay off your balance then you probably need to transfer the balance to a low or zero interest rate to cut the cost of your borrowing. But be prepared to pay a balance transfer fee of around 2-3% for the pleasure. Try a comparison site for the low down on the latest deals.
Tip: ‘Cashback’ credit cards only work if you pay the card off in full each month!
Savings – Never assume that once you’ve opened a saving account that your bank will always make sure you get the best rate going. Banks and building societies are constantly revamping their interest rates so if you aren’t careful your savings could be left to fester in a low interest account. Watch out for high rates that diminish each time you withdraw cash. Try a comparison site for the latest rates. If you can afford it, make use of your ISA allowances. You can save up to £7,200 each tax year, and the interest is tax-free.
Tip: Pay off your debts with savings as almost everyone with both debts and savings is wasting a fortune.
Car – Comparing car insurance is relatively simple on the net as there are several price comparison sites like www.confused.com, http://www.gocompare.com and www.comparethemarket.com. Just make sure you know what you want to include e.g. courtesy car, breakdown cover, and legal assistance.
Tip: Always know where to find the cheapest petrol in your area by joining http://www.petrolprices.com.
Direct Debit – Pay all your bills by direct debit and avoid late payment charges forever. An added bonus is that there are direct debit savings to be had from dual fuel, broadband and mobile phone bills. Bacs say setting up a direct debit can save the average household as much as £230/ year see www.bacs.co.uk.
Tip: Avoid charges by paying the minimum monthly fee on all your credit or store cards.
Mobiles – Whether your contract is up for renewal or not, play hard ball with your mobile phone provider to give you the best deal. Be aware of how many minutes and texts you use a month. If you’re on pay as you go it can sometimes be cheaper to move to a contract and then your phone is free. Try comparison sites like www.onecompare.com or www.mobilephonechecker.co.uk.
Broadband – Review your usage. How much do you download from the web? If you use the web for just three hours a day then two gigabyte (2GB) usage will be enough but if you work from home you’ll probably need more. If you’ve got broadband already, then check your internet speed with on www.thinkbroadband.com speed detector. Both www.firsthelpline.com and www.broadbandchoices.co.uk.
Tip: Some of the best broadband deals come packaged with your home phone.