JANUARY can be tight after Christmas, so if you’re worrying about how to pay the bills, here are four budgeting tricks to get back on track.
Households overspend by an average of £740 over the festive period, according to the Bank of England.
But with bills from energy to food and fuel spiralling under a cost of living crisis, millions are feeling the squeeze – and may be worried about January.
Budgeting is a great way of taking back control over your money – especially if you’re in debt after Christmas, debt charity StepChange head of media Sue Anderson said.
“If you’ve overspent or turned to credit to pay for the festive season, January can be a difficult time for your finances,” she said.
“If you find yourself lying awake at night, worrying about how you’re going to manage the next bill coming in, it’s likely that you could benefit from some advice on how to start to address the issue.”
Here are her top budgeting tricks for getting to grips with your finances in the New Year.
Make a monthly list
Making a list of what’s coming in and out of your bank account is a good way of seeing exactly what is going on with your finances.
Not only can it help you see if you’re spending more than what you earn, you can also factor in extra expenses coming up, like birthdays or car services.
“Write down all of your income – including wages, benefits and pensions – and everything you’ll have outgoing during the month, from your household bills to your food shop,” Sue said.
Once you’ve made this list, you can then see what money you have leftover to put towards any debts you may have.
There are resources out there to help you pull together your list.
MoneySavingExpert.com offers a simple to use budget spreadsheet, and there’s a free budgeting tool from the government that could help you get on top of things.
Rank your debts
If you have debts, the trick is to prioritise which ones to focus on.
You should meet all the minimum payments on every debt you have, otherwise you could rack up fees and your credit score will take a hit – but some will be more urgent than others to tackle.
First, identify which debts are attached to “priority bills“.
These are bills where the consequences of not paying them are greater than with others, though you should still keep up with all your repayments.
Priority payments include rent or mortgage, and council tax.
Then, you’ll want to focus on dealing with high-cost debt like credit cards and loans.
“Highest-cost borrowing are the debts on which you’ll have to pay most interest and charges,” Sue said.
You’ll want to clear these quickly, as they’ll drain your money making it harder for you to clear other existing debts.
Make bill tweaks
Once you’ve got your list in place, you’ll be able to see which outgoings you may be able to cut down on.
“It could be as simple as changing which supermarket you shop at, checking if you’re eligible for a social tariff on your broadband or cancelling unnecessary subscriptions,” Sue said.
For example, you can save £520 a year by buying cheap supermarket own-brand products compared to branded items.
Social broadband tariffs are available to people on certain benefits, including Universal Credit – they can cut bills by hundreds of pounds a year.
Millions are still missing out on the tariffs – and Ofcom says you could cut bills by £230 a year by switching to one.
While one money expert saved £1,000 a year making bill changes like cancelling subscriptions.
Factor in a side hustle
Budgeting isn’t just about cutting back – you should try to incorporate ways of making cash too.
This is especially important if your disposable income – what is left after you’ve paid your bills – isn’t enough to cover your debts.
“There are loads of ways to make a few extra pounds, such as by using cashback websites or selling unwanted clothes and household items in online marketplaces,” Sue said.
Savvy saver Holly Smith says she gets £40 a month from using cashback websites – TopCashback and Quidco are popular sites.
Shops pay a percentage that can be anything between one and 40% of what you spend, or a fixed amount.
You’ll need to sign up for an account, log in, and check if the retailers you’re planning to buy from are offering deals.
Selling unwanted items from around the house could make you more than £1,000, according to eBay expert Clare Seal.
While you can earn up to £4 per online survey you fill out – try i-say, run by Ispos, Ylive, Prolific, Crowdology, Curious Cat and Qmee.
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