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 we at Citizens Advice launch our 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) of 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.
As the New Year gets underway, Citizens Advice is 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.
Planning your finances ahead can keep you in the black.
Looking at how you spend your money and where you can trim back will help you plan a budget that meets your daily costs. It can also help you build up savings so that you’re prepared for any sudden changes, from one-off expenses like replacing a washing machine to a change in your employment.
It’s also important to shop around so you get the best deal on your household bills. Energy, broadband and mobile phone tariffs all vary widely, and paying over the odds for lots of bills can all add up. Suppliers need to present the options clearly, so people can make informed choices to keep their costs down.
Not everyone is confident managing their money so it is really important people are able to access free, impartial help and support to get their finances on track.
Citizens Advice can help you sort out your debts and give you the knowledge to plan your budget and achieve a more financially secure future.
Citizens Advice financial health check
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 (www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/help-with-debt/budgeting/budgeting-tool).
Get 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: www.energycompare.citizensadvice.org.uk/
Water down your water costs
Smaller households may be able to save money by moving to a water meter. With a meter, you only pay for what you use. Work out if you could save by visiting www.ccwater.org.uk.
Diarise 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.
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, go to your local Salford Citizens Advice bureaux or telephone us on 0161 737 3371 for information and advice on which debts should take priority, and negotiating with your creditors.
Maximise 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.
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 www.pensionwise.gov.uk/, so you can start planning your financial future long-term.
Salford Citizens Advice