Cash ISA

 

ISAs, or Individual Savings Accounts, were set up by the government to encourage people to save, and offer significant tax benefits. There are many types of ISA.

Taking Control of Your Finances

It can be a struggle to manage our money, either because we don’t know how or maybe our circumstances have changed, meaning our income has gone down or our outgoings have gone up, so carrying on as before is no longer an option.

 

Here are some tips and suggestions that others have found helpful. Remember that they are no substitute for tailored, professional advice and if you are worried about your finances there are people that can help you .

 

  1. Do an honest assessment of your income and spending.

 

The first thing you need to do if you want to take control, is to know what you have coming in and what you have going out. The key word here is ‘honest’.

 

Lots of us find this difficult. It might be that you’re worried about what you might find – things might be worse than you thought and if you find a problem then you might feel you need to do something about it – ignorance is bliss, right? Sadly with money, the longer you leave it, the worse it gets.

 

There are many websites and books that will help you work out your finances. We have given you some useful links to sites with budgeting tools here.

 

  1. Work out if you need to spend less.

 

It’s simple enough, are your (real) outgoings less than what’s coming in every month?

 

Maybe you’re reassured to find that you have enough money to live on comfortably and don’t need to do anything else, however, the chances are if you’re here on this page, you’d like to spend less, save more or both.

 

If you think you need immediate help, click here for Financial Problems.

 

  1. Where can I spend less?

 

Again, you’ll need to be honest, if you find yourself hiding bills and receipts and feeling guilty about your spending, it’s time to ask yourself some tough questions.

 

It’s vital to be realistic. Like a dieter, even the most ardent of money-savers should allow themselves a little treat now and then, otherwise they’ll quickly go off the rails – the trick is to make sure it’s affordable and accounted for.

 

There are masses of resources and information available for money-savers: books in your local library, on the internet and, if you prefer face-to-face, there are free courses run by charities and community groups.

 

  1. Good areas to review

 

Household utilities and entertainment

 

Use one of the many comparison sites to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your gas, electricity, TV, phone (landline and mobile) and internet.

 

Insurance

Again, comparison sites are your friend here. If you are under the impression that loyal customers are rewarded with lower prices, sadly you need to think again. You may be able to save hundreds by moving or even just threatening to move.

If you are in a traditionally high-risk category of car insurance, e.g. you’re a young driver, there are steps you can take to bring your insurance costs down Remember though, that insurance companies can and will invalidate claims if you have lied to them – it is fraud, don’t do it.

 

Groceries

There are discounters, there are ‘own-brand challenges’, there are free supermarket trolley comparison sites (they usually make their money through showing you ads and sending you promo emails), but the best thing you can do today to cut the amount you spend is to start menu planning!

Love local? You can save money and support local traders at the same time by using independent local shops and businesses. Markets are often the cheapest place to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, for example. One of our Guest Bloggers wrote about her quest to do more of her shopping locally, which you may find useful, read it here.

 

Buy little and often or bulk discounts? There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that some people may spend less doing daily shops to only buy what they need for that day, rather than a big shop, where it is easy to overestimate what you need. You could combine this, doing a monthly shop for bulky items and smaller shops for fresh produce.

 

Debts

Debt is a fact of modern life, whether it be credit cards, mortgages or loans. It is worthwhile reviewing your debts and seeing whether you would get a better deal elsewhere. Don’t forget to take into account any early repayment fees.

 

  1. Places to get stuff cheap and for free

 

No, we’re not suggesting a crime spree, but that you make the most of resources in your local area.

Charity shops: not for nothing do the Australians call them ‘opportunity shops’ or ‘op shops’, they can be a great source of books, clothes, household goods – pretty much anything you can think of. They sort and dispose of anything not of sellable quality and often keep prices low as part of their social mission. Having said this, they often have a strict ‘no returns’ policy, so examine items closely and try on clothes before you buy them!

Recycling sites are gaining in popularity. Common ones include Freecycle and Freegle, where members can post unwanted items and even request specific items, there are also Facebook sites set up for a similar purpose. Obviously, normal safety rules apply when meeting people you don’t know and never pay money upfront for postage or anything else, but as long as you’re sensible, it’s a great way to reuse unwanted items and get the most surprising things for free.

Selling sites, car boot, table-top sales and listings papers can be a source of bargains if you know exactly what you want and can ignore the other wares on display! There are also now huge numbers of local selling sites on Facebook. Like the recycling sites though, you would usually be expected to arrange collection of items yourself. Be aware and never put your personal safety at risk for the sake of an apparent bargain.