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A two pound and one pound coinNew year, new resolutions. But how long will they last? I have a tendency to set myself unrealistic targets and then feel disappointed when I can’t achieve them.  So this year, I’m going to kick off 2010 with a plan to cut some of my unnecessary outgoings.  Here are some ideas which I hope will get 2010 off to a healthy start.

Bills

We all have bills to pay, including gas and electricity, broadband, home phone, mobile phones, insurance, water and so on. But there’s no need to pay above the odds for any of those services.

It might sound obvious, but comparing your services online really is the quickest way to save a lot of money. Compare your gas and electricity prices regularly, compare your insurance every time you receive a renewal notice, and always keep your eye out for great deals on TV packages, broadband and mobile phones.

Managing your money

Are you paying interest on your credit card, or incurring unnecessary charges on your overdraft?  These are things that can easily happen, but can be easily prevented. Switch your credit card or current account online and make huge savings by getting a better deal.

If you haven’t done so already, then consider setting up online banking, particularly for your credit card.  This will help you keep track of your spending and prevent the shock of an unexpected monthly statement.

Savings

Are your savings providing you with the best possible return?  Savings rates have had a lot of negative press lately, but it’s still worth putting money into a savings account. Don’t assume that the interest rate you initially had on your savings account still applies.  Your rate may have dropped, in which case finding a new savings account with a better rate could be highly beneficial.

Cutting costs

Finally – here are a few quick tips to help you save money easily.

  • Write down your list of outgoings and see where the money goes – you might be surprised how much you spend a week on small things like coffee and magazines. Remember to do this annually and not monthly so that your list includes one off costs like holidays and car MOT’s
  • Use our budget planner and you can really find out where your money goes
  • Join a library or set up a book club at work to share books
  • If you drive to work, try setting up car sharing to save on petrol
  • Eat your breakfast at home and/or take your lunch into work instead of buying it in a shop
  • Read the newspaper online
  • Use voucher codes for hundreds of deals and cashback online
  • Recycle old mobile phones to get some extra cash
  • Make sure you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to

Which just leaves me to wish you all a Happy New Year!

Photo credit to: Sam Fox Photography via Flickr

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Train in stationIt’s that time of year again when many of us need to think about renewing our season tickets and travel cards.  The annual ticket option is usually the best value for money, but is a big initial outlay at any time of year. If like me, your renewal date coincides with Christmas, that debit from your account can certainly sting a bit.

So what are the options when it comes to paying for your season ticket?

  1. Get a season ticket loan from your employer.  Some companies will pay for your season ticket upfront and then deduct monthly payments from your salary to spread the cost over a year. It’s a great option for helping you manage your money, as the payment is taken from your salary before it even hits your bank account.  It’s definitely worth checking with your Human Resources (HR) department to see if this option is available.
  2. But your ticket on a 0% purchase credit card.  Take out a credit card which has 0% interest on purchases for as long as possible, which will give you some breathing space after Christmas. You can then pay it off at your own pace in more manageable chunks.  The downside is that if you don’t pay off the outstanding balance before the 0% period runs out, you’ll start paying interest on the balance, which can quickly cancel out the saving you made by buying an annual ticket.
  3. Pay on a rewards or cashback credit card.  If you already have the money to pay for your season ticket, use a rewards or cashback credit card rather than your debit card so you can get something back on your purchase.  Make sure you pay it off as soon as the bill comes in so you don’t incur any interest charges.

If you decide to apply for a credit card, always check your credit report beforehand to make sure it’s accurate, up to date and that you have a decent credit rating.  It’s damaging to your credit score if you apply for credit cards and get rejected, so don’t take the risk!

Christmas is coming. Love it or hate it, it’s only 44 days away.  Whatever your feelings are towards Christmas, it generally tends to be an expensive time of year.  Good budgeting can help you avoid the financial burden in the New Year, as well as help you to feel more in control of your finances.

It is important to consider how you’re going to cover the costs associated with Christmas. Firstly, you should consider what your budget is going to be, and then make sure you stick to it!  If you’re considering a credit card, here are some tips to choose the right one for you.

  • Take out a 0% purchases credit card.  You will need to apply now otherwise you many not receive it in time to do your Christmas shopping.  By having 0% interest on purchases, it will help you spread the cost of paying off any balance you have on the card.  Make sure you don’t use this card for balance transfers; this may cause you to start racking up interest charges. Only use it for purchases and pay off the outstanding balance before the 0% deal ends.
  • Load money onto a prepaid credit card. If you have been lucky enough to save in advance, then you may wish to load that money onto a prepaid card rather than carry large amounts of cash around with you.  There are many options on the market, and some cards offer discounts with online shopping retailers.  It’s a great way to manage your Christmas budget without being tempted to overspend.
  • A rewards or cashback card could be ideal if you have an excellent credit rating. A rewards or cashback card will reward you with points or cash whenever you spend on your card.  These cards will often have higher APRs, which charge you much higher interest on any outstanding balance. For this reason, it’s advisable that you pay off your balance in full each month. It’s also worth checking your credit rating before you apply for this sort of card; if you don’t have an excellent rating you are likely to be rejected and will have wasted the application.

Hopefully these tips will help you get a grip on your Christmas finances, so you can see in the New Year in without any financial burdens or unmanageable debts.

While many people consider switching their energy provider or credit card, very few would think about changing their current account provider. Figures from Age Concern suggest that more people get divorced every year than switch their bank account.  It is a sad fact that people will put up with poor customer service and overcharging because they believe it is too much hassle to switch to a new current account.

The most common argument is that it is ‘too hard’ or ‘complicated’ to switch.  Naturally, people are worried about their direct debits and the potential of missing payments to their mortgage provider. However, many banks offer a switching service which deals with all the direct debits, standing orders and payments into your account (such as your salary) on your behalf. It is now much easier to change accounts, but the important part is choosing the right one.   Like credit cards, there is no ‘one size fits all’.  You need to assess how you use your current account. Do you regularly use your overdraft? Do you always stay in credit? Would you benefit from taking out a packaged account with a small fee attached, which offers you extra benefits such as insurance?

If you do stay in credit every month, look at the interest rate you get for your loyalty.  Some accounts offer up to 6% AER on balances when you remain in credit, so it is worth checking around.  If you regularly dip into your overdraft, look at what you are paying for this facility.  Some of the best accounts have free overdrafts up to a certain limit, so you could save a lot of money by switching. Packaged accounts have attracted a mixed range of opinions, but my advice is to consider them only if you believe you could really benefit from the extras provided.  Only take this option if the monthly fee is less than the cost of the services on the account that you would have taken otherwise.

With some great switching incentives out there now is the time to look at how well your current account performs against the rest in the market.