New Year Financial Health Check

Have you been struck by the January blues, especially when it comes to your bank account? You’re not the only one - planning finances in the short-term and not shopping around for deals means people could be missing out on hundreds of pounds of savings a year, according to new research from Citizens Advice.

As the charity launches its New Year financial health check, the research into people’s finances shows that only one third (31 per cent) are planning their financial future long-term and one third (33 per cent) could be missing opportunities to make savings on their household bills.

The survey showed that in the last two years, 1 in 3 people hadn’t personally checked if they were on the best mobile phone contract (32 per cent), had the most appropriate energy tariff (33 per cent) or the best broadband deal (34 per cent).  Yet switching energy suppliers or changing tariffs alone could save people up more than £200 a year.

Although nearly two thirds (62 per cent) of people prefer to plan their finances ahead, most are making short term plans with only one in three people (31 per cent) considering their finances more than a year into the future.

While two in three (68 per cent) people felt confident planning their future financially, many felt they could benefit from extra support with just under two in three (64 per cent) saying they’d consider getting free guidance on how to look after their finances.

In the last quarter alone, Citizens Advice Manchester dealt with over 3500 queries about debt and personal finances; up 15% on the same time last year

As the New Year gets underway, we’re encouraging people to take a ‘financial health check’ to get their finances in order for the year ahead; reviewing where they can make savings and getting on top of any debts.

What Do I Do?

First things first...

Blitz your budget

Get a clear idea of how much you spend. Some bills vary from month to month, so take an average of these outgoings and use it to build a realistic budget.  The Citizens Advice budget sheet can help. The first step here may well be to...

Sort out your debts

Make a list of your creditors, how much you owe and when you need to pay it back. Refer back to your monthly budget and see what you can afford to pay. If you can’t afford them all, we have a team of specialist money advisers who can help with information on which debts should take priority, and negotiating with your creditors. Give us a call on 03444 111 222. One key area for this would be to….

Make sure you’re getting the best deal on your energy

The best energy deal for you depends on anything from the size of your home to the time of day you use the most fuel. To work out if you can save, use the free Citizens Advice energy comparison tool, or you can contact our dedicated energy team for advice. And it’s not just energy; make sure you also...

Water down your water costs

Smaller households may be able to save money by moving to a water meter, meaning you only pay for what you use. Work out if you could save by visiting www.ccwater.org.uk. It’s not just about making savings, it’s also about...

Maximising your income

Overpaying taxes and not claiming what you’re entitled to can have an impact on your income. Make sure you’re on the right tax code by visiting gov.uk. If you’ve got children, check if you’re eligible for tax credits. If you live alone, make sure you’re not overpaying council tax - single person households should get a 25% discount. You can also make sure you get the best deals by...

Diarising your contracts

Unless you’re buying an upgrade, things like broadband and mobile phone services can’t be switched until your contract ends. Put contract due dates in your diary - this is your chance to see if you can get a better deal elsewhere. And, for future planning, make sure you...

Get to grips with your pension

When you retire you'll need your income to support you, and give you a decent standard of living. Most people get a State Pension but some people can find it hard to live on this alone. If you can, you should top this up with your own pension to make sure you'll have enough money to see you through your retirement.

Over 50s with a defined contribution pension can get free impartial guidance on their pension options from our Pension Wise team, so you can start planning your financial future long-term.