Help available to deal with post-Xmas money worries
Citizens Advice is expecting more than 370,000 people to seek help on financial issues such as pensions, investments and debts in January after analysis by the charity reveals that people are more likely to research financial decisions now than at any other time of the year.
The analysis of demand for advice over the last year shows that January and February were the busiest months of the year for queries about finances, with someone viewing online advice pages every 3 seconds in January.
While January is often associated with squeezed budgets and debt worries, the research reveals that people also used the New Year to take stock of their money situation and plan their finances long-term.
The charity is expecting demand to reach its peak on 12 January – after people visited twice as many online advice pages about issues around money, insurance and pensions on the same day in 2016.
Issues people are more likely to investigate in January than the rest of the year ahead include:
- Workplace, personal and state pensions
- Ways to save money
- Joint bank accounts
- Vehicle insurance
As well as going online, people contacted Citizens Advice every 11 seconds with more in-depth questions around debt and money.
Citizens Advice services across the country are expecting to help as many as 2,400 people every working day in January with queries about their finances.
People are most likely to seek advice on personal pensions, bank accounts and credit referencing, while those with debts need help with council tax arrears, credit card debts and debt relief orders.
Hitesh Patel, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Halton said:
“January and February are our busiest months of the year and here in Halton we expect to help over 600 people. Although debt worries can be more acute in January people are also taking stock of their finances and thinking about the future.
“It doesn’t matter what your earn – whether you are on minimum wage or have a comfortable salary – everyone can benefit from reviewing their finances.
“Considering your overall financial situation can help you find a solution for urgent problems, and start planning your finances so that you are better prepared for tomorrow and more financially secure in the long term.
“If you’d like to understand more about how your circumstances affect your money options or are struggling with debt, Citizens Advice Halton can give you the information and advice you need to find a way forward.”
With thousands of people seeking money advice every day, Citizens Advice Halton is sharing eight simple steps you can take to review your finances and start planning for the future.
Get your finances in order
- Do a simple budget – Write down your income and take away your essential bills such as gas and electric, food and transport. If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save. If you don’t, look at ways to cut your costs. Use our online tool to set a more detailed budget.
- Save money on essentials – You could save an average of £300 on your energy bill by changing tariffs or suppliers. Use Citizens Advice’s energy comparison tool to see if you can save. Diarise the dates of annual contracts that are up for renewal, like your mobile phone or car insurance, and use a comparison site to see if you can get a cheaper deal.
- Check you’re claiming the right benefits – If you have a family or are married, check if you can apply for working tax credits or marriage tax allowance on gov.uk. If you live alone, you may be entitled to a discount on your council tax bill. If you claim benefits, visit the Citizens Advice website to check if you are eligible for discounts on your water or energy bills.
- Start saving – Start saving if you can – it doesn’t matter if it’s 50p or £5 a week, every penny will help improve your finances. Saving is an important part of everyday finances, giving you a buffer for emergencies, helping you buy bigger items and giving you more financial security for the future.
- Keep tabs on your overdraft. – Sign up to free text alerts from your bank so you know when you’re close to going into your overdraft. Then make adjustments to your spending if you can.
- Be choosey about your borrowing – If you need to borrow money, it’s important to know that there are different offers with credit cards and loans, from free balance transfers to paying no interest for the first few months.
- Get your debts in order – If you can’t pay all your debts at once, it’s important to prioritise. Rent or mortgage and council tax are more important than credit card debts for example, as the consequences can be more serious if you don’t pay. Find out how to prioritise on the Citizens Advice website or contact your nearest service for help.
- Invest in your future – Pensions are a great way to save for the future and are also good value, as your contributions are topped up your employer and the government. If you’re eligible for auto-enrolment, consider paying more than just the minimum. Those who are self employed can still set up their own pension but make sure it’s with a regulated company. If you’re over 50 and have a defined contribution pension you can get free a Pension Wise appointment to learn more about taking your pension.