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Budgeting and Maximising Income

October 2014

It is essential that we ensure all of our clients are doing everything they can to put themselves in the best possible financial position.

Below, we have identified key areas where our clients can and more importantly have saved money by using some very simple cost cutting methods;

There are a number of independent price comparison websites that you may wish to choose when comparing providers, especially for items such as utility bills, insurances, phone and broadband. You should also contact your local council to ensure that you are on the correct council tax band, and speak to your local travel providers about the most cost effective way of travelling.

You can also compare the costs of shopping in the major supermarkets, and you may also want to consider using one of the budget supermarkets such as Aldi or Lidl, who have been receiving excellent reviews recently regarding the quality of their produce.

Aside from cost cutting exercises it is also important to look at maximising your income.

There are a number of different tools available to you at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk which will help you increase your monthly income.

Being in a Debt Management Plan can be stressful, you are in a situation where every penny counts. This is why it is important to prioritise your non essential outgoings. Things like Sky Television or a Gym membership can be an unnecessary luxury so we would always ask you to ask yourself a few questions;

  • Can I live without it?
  • Can I honestly afford it?
  • Is there a cheaper alternative?
  • By removing this expenditure, would I be in a better financial situation?

If you answered YES to any of these questions you should seriously consider cancelling your contracts as soon as possible and start using these extra funds on more essential items. If you would like further information or advice on maximising your income or reducing your expenses, please call us on 0151 252 0111, or email  .

Home phone and broadband

Step 1 - Call your current provider

You want to see if your current provider is giving you their best deal. To find out, get straight on the phone to them. Have a pen and paper handy and ask them to tell you your usage as you are double checking you getting the best deal.

By asking this question you are letting them know that you are possibly looking to switch! They will do their best to keep you onboard by offering "special deals" but don't agree to anything straight away. Get your information and tell them you now plan to shop around and will get back to them shortly.

Step 2 - Analyse & Compare

Analyse your information and use one of many comparison websites to compare all the best deals out there.

Think about:

  • When do you make most of your calls?
  • Do you mostly call local, national or international numbers?
  • Do you text more than call?

Step 3 - Switch or Stay Put!

It isn't difficult switching just make sure you have compared all the deals and read all the small print. If you switch provider ensure you have followed the correct cancelation procedures.

You can use these same techniques when renewing your mobile phone contract.

Council Tax

Council Tax is an annual tax that your local council charges you and sets each year. The amount you pay depends on which valuation band your property is in, how much the council needs to fund its services, and your personal circumstances. England and Scotland have eight Council Tax valuation bands ranging from A (the highest) to H. In Wales there are nine bands - from 1 (the highest) to 9. Northern Ireland still has domestic rates based on rental values rather than Council Tax.

Check your property's valuation band

If your home has been put in a higher valuation band than it should be, you're probably paying more Council Tax than you need to.

If you think this is happening, ask your council to re-value your property. Then, if you've been overcharged on your Council Tax, you may get a refund of the extra you've paid.

Before asking for a review, remember there's always a chance your council might decide to put your property in a higher band as a result so it's best to do some research and even speak to a few neighbours.

If you are in England and Wales, check your Council Tax band on the Valuation Office Agencies website at http://www.voa.gov.uk/

If you are in Scotland, check your Council Tax band on the Scottish Assessor website at http://www.saa.gov.uk/

Grocery Shopping

Knowledge is power! Doing your research on which supermarkets are offering the best deals can be vital when trying to save money.

Pay attention to special offers though! They aren't always as good as they seem! For example;

Your children's favourite breakfast cereal is on a "3 for 2" offer when each box is usually £1.50. Three boxes cost you £3 so you have saved £1.50 right?

Not necessarily. If another supermarket is selling the same cereal at 0.80p per box then 3 boxes would cost you £2.40 saving you 0.60p if you ignored the offer.

Organising your cupboards and making a list of what you need is also a very clever way of making sure you don't buy things you don't need.

Another great way to save on grocery shopping is to have meal plans for the week and only buy the ingredients you need to make these dishes.

Vouchers have become big business so use them to your advantage. The supermarkets are constantly battling for your custom by offering vouchers so get saving them up and use them to fit into your shopping schedules. For example, if a supermarket is offering vouchers for meat products, take advantage whilst the offer is on and freeze the meat you buy for when you need it. You can sign up for vouchers to be emailed to you directly. Just go to all the big supermarkets websites.

Gas & Electric

By using any one of many comparison sites it could take you all of 20 minutes to check if you can save on your gas and electric. It could save you up to £200 per year!

Make sure you have all the relevant information to hand;

  • Name of your current supplier
  • An idea of how much energy you use, preferably in kWh (Kilowatt hours) - you will find this on your statement but if you're not sure just call your supplier.

Then just follow these easy steps;

  1. Check whether it's a good time to switch
  2. Choose a comparison site
  3. Decide if it's worth fixing your energy tariff

Things to remember;

  • Don't automatically take the dual fuel option. It isn't always cheapest so check first.
  • Speak to a few suppliers, get an idea for what deals are out there.
  • Choose an online tariff. They are easier to manage and the supplier doesn't need to charge you for statements to be sent out by post.
  • Pay by Direct Debit. It tends to be cheaper.

The most effective way to save on your energy bills is to use less energy.

Top tips - that don't cost anything

Start saving right away - we've picked out five of the Energy Saving Trust's top ten tips to help you on your way. They all have a big impact, so even if you just do one of them, you'll still be better off.

  1. Turn down your thermostat. Just reducing it by 1C could cut 10% off your heating bill - it usually saves around £55 per year.
  2. Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
  3. Fill up your washing machine, tumble dryer and dishwasher. One full load uses less energy than two half loads. Wash your clothes at 30C and don't use the tumble dryer if you can avoid it.
  4. Don't boil more water than you need but remember to cover the elements if you're using an electric kettle.
  5. Use energy saving light bulbs if you haven't already switched. They last up to 10 times longer than ordinary bulbs, and don't cost much more. Using one can save you around £55 over the lifetime of the bulb.

Get a free home energy check and save money

Find out what home improvements you need with a Home Energy Check from the Energy Saving Trust. It's free, it's easy, it takes under 10 minutes and it could save you up to £250 per year. You'll get a personalised report about your home, telling you what could save you the most in the long term.

Travel Costs

Cut the cost of driving

You can save money on almost every aspect of using a car - from insurance to the way you drive.

Shop around for cheaper car insurance

Use price comparison sites when buying car insurance. This will help you to get the best deal possible.

Cut the cost of fuel

Saving just 5p a litre on the price of petrol or diesel could save £100 a year for the average driver.

Find the cheapest fuel prices in your area at PetrolPrices.com

Supermarkets will often give you a discount at their petrol pumps when you spend a minimum amount in store. These discounts can be as much as 5p to 10p a litre.

Fuel economy

You can save a surprising amount of money by changing the way you drive. An AA test found that the average driver could go 10% further on a tank of fuel by changing a few habits, and the best drivers could go 33% (one third) further.

That means that, if you usually get 600 miles on a tank of fuel, you could get 200 miles further before needing to fill up again!

Top tips for driving to save fuel:

  • Don't stop and start aggressively - try to smooth out your acceleration and braking
  • Don't over-rev the engine
  • Drive in the right gear
  • Block shift gears to brake - don't go to each gear individually
  • Don't drive around with heavy things in the boot
  • Keep your tyres at the right pressure
  • Don't drive too fast
  • Get the car serviced when it's due
  • Don't use the air conditioning
  • Take the roof rack off

Public transport

Public transport is cheaper than driving, but even so there are ways to save significant amounts of money - mainly by planning ahead.

Top tips for saving on train tickets

  • Get a season ticket if you travel regularly
  • Buy advance tickets. You can usually buy a ticket up to three months before you need to travel, and it's often cheaper
  • Always check for advance tickets. Some cheap advance tickets might still be available the day before you travel
  • Get a Railcard. You get a third off on many routes, so you might save £20 on a ticket that would have cost £60.
  • Split your ticket. For longer journeys, it's sometimes cheaper to buy several tickets for different segments of the journey.
  • Get an Oyster Card if you travel in London. You can use an Oyster card on the Tube, on buses and on most local overground trains, and it's cheaper than buying paper tickets. For example, a short Tube journey in Central London will cost you £4.30 in cash but just £2.70 on an Oyster Card. Find out about Oyster Cards on the Transport for London website
  • Think about going by coach instead. It usually takes longer, but if you have time then going by coach is often cheaper than making the same journey by train
  • Go by bike - Travelling by bike is almost free - plus, it keeps you fit! If you don't have a bike and are thinking about getting one to commute with, then you may be able to benefit from a tax-free bike through the Cycle to Work scheme.

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