Shave £100s Off Your OutgoingsPosted on: 17 July 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
There's no need for credit crunch panic with our easy advice to reduce spending.
We could all do with saving some money, and the need to do so is becoming pressing as the credit crunch bites and bills rise.
Here you'll find the advice you need to take hundreds of pounds off your outgoings.
If you're confused as to where you could save money, it helps to write a simple budget. If you haven't done this for a while, it should clarify exactly where your money is going each month. Split a sheet of paper into columns for your income and outgoings. Divide this into essentials that you have to pay, such as mortgage or rent, council tax and utility bills, and non-essential spending such as clothing or going out.
The first step is to maximise your income.
Claim Any Benefits
Check whether you are entitled to extra benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit or Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit. Ask at your local Department for Work and Pensions office, council, or local advice centre or contact Citizens Advice Bureau for advice.
You may also be entitled to help with healthcare, travel and grants for improvements to your home for example.
Nearly half of all pensioners are entitled to Pension Credit. This tops up your weekly income to a guaranteed minimum level if you're over 60. Call the Pension Credit Line on 0800 99 1234 or complete a form online at the Pensions Service.
Ensure Peak Performance
Ensure any savings and investments are giving you the best return. For example if you have savings make sure they are in a top performing ISA and not languishing in an old account earning little interest.
After maximising your income, if your outgoings are still more than the money coming in, you need to reduce spending. Of course you should try not to cut down on basics like food, gas and electricity. So how can you cut down on your outgoings?
With all expenses, ask yourself if each is absolutely necessary, if not can you do with out it, and if not can you substantially reduce spending? Once you have identified the areas where substantial reductions can be made, you will need to think of ways to actually achieve your goal.
Doing without some non-essential items may be what you need to do to help you get back on track. However, it's important to enjoy life. You can cut costs in comfort if you reduce the price of essentials and find ways to get the luxuries cheaper, as our advice shows.
If you have a mortgage, search for a better deal. It's most people's largest monthly outgoing, so re-mortgaging could save thousands. Further advice can be found here.
Check any outstanding credit card or loan debts. If you are not paying a 0% interest rate, it is likely they are costing you more each month than you are receiving in interest on your savings than you should pay them off immediately, rather than leave surplus cash sat in an account. Either that or transfer your credit card debts to a 0% deal. Shop around using a price comparison website.
Pay off loans that charge most interest first.
Reduce Your Bills
With the price of utility bills rocketing, switching from uncompetitive gas and electric suppliers could save you a packet each month. There are various internet switching services or search engines you can use. You can find out more here.
You should also review any other providers you are not tied into, including mobile phone, landline and broadband suppliers. You can also use price comparison websites to do this. Further information can be found here.
Find out if you can save money by spreading the cost of bills using direct debits. Cancel any non-essential regular payments. Also check all your current direct debits as you may find you are paying for something you no longer need so you may be able to cancel some payments.
Check your council tax band, to ensure you are not paying more than you need to.
Don't buy insurance without comparing prices, whether it's home, car or travel.
Slash Your Shopping Bills
Food, clothing and so on all adds up, but great savings can be made.
Techniques such as writing down all your purchases and paying in cash can make you think twice about whether you really need something and stop spending creeping out of control.
If you don't already save, consider opening savings accounts for holidays, Christmas, birthdays or utility bills, where you can deposit money each month to help save for these lump expenses. Set up a standing order to a savings account. You will be surprised how quickly you will forget you are saving.
If reducing your spending is not enough, it's important not to ignore the problem or it will get worse. Contact those who can help. You'll find useful websites below.
Citizens Advice Bureau: www.citizensadvice.org.uk
National Debtline: www.nationaldebtline.co.uk
Consumer Credit Counselling Service: www.cccs.co.uk
Directgov - over 50s - information on benefits and so on: www.direct.gov.uk/en/Over50s
Are you or your family being hit by the credit crunch and having to cut back? Do you have any tips on reducing your outgoings? You can share your experiences or advice in the comment box or 50connect forum.
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