2020 has been tough, and 2021 could be even tougher with job losses set to climb. That makes now a good time to get your finances in order, for whatever the next 12 months throw at us.
1. Build a cash buffer
Around 11.5 million people have less than £100 in savings, according to the Money Advice Service. Ideally, everybody should have enough “rainy day” money in an easy-access account to cover six months of spending in an emergency such as illness or redundancy.
Start building yours as soon as you can.
Read more: Simple ways to start saving money
2. Draw up a budget
Make 2021 the year you bring your spending into line with your income.
Scour your bank accounts to see where the money goes and check whether you can cancel any direct debits. Budgeting apps may also help.
3. Stop throwing money away
Quitting smoking, drinking less, buying fewer takeaways and reducing food waste could save you more than £3,700 a year, Hargreaves Lansdown says. You should feel better too.
4. Be a savvy shopper
Plan your weekly food shop and work out meals in advance to make your money stretch further and prevent impulse buying.
Check voucher and discount websites to see what offers are available.
5. Target your debts
Debt is a four-letter word and possibly the most damaging of all. Get on top of yours by paying down your most expensive debts first, such as store card or credit card debt, then tackling the next most expensive.
Read more: How to get free debt advice
6. Transfer your balance
If you cannot clear your credit card, try shifting the debt to a card balance transfer card that charges zero interest for an introductory period.
Just remember to pay off the debt before the full APR kicks in.
7. Get switching
Everyday costs such as car insurance, broadband, mobile phone, digital TV, a mortgage and energy bills can eat cash.
Make sure you are getting the best deal by checking rival offers on comparison sites. You could save thousands.
8. Claim your state benefits
If struggling, claim all the state support that you are entitled to. This includes furlough, mortgage holidays, universal credit, housing benefit, pension credit, carers' allowance, and more.
The website Turn2us.org.uk can help you get started.
9. Use tax allowances
Pensions tax relief, the Lifetime ISA, Help to Save and other schemes give people government cash as an incentive to save for the future. See what applies to you and use it.
10. Find a hustle
Millions now have a side hustle to generate more cash, such as being a courier, taxi driver, tutor, dog walker, childcarer or selling crafts on Etsy.
Use the skills you have.
11. Seek help
If your finances are a mess, don't stick your head in the sand. You can get free advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau, StepChange or National Debtline.
Avoid commercial operations that charge fees for debt management advice.
12. Plan for the future
Once you have got finances under control, start planning for tomorrow.
Consider saving a regular monthly amount in a pension or tax-free Isa to build retirement wealth.
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