Monday, January 21, 2013

New Year, New Budget: How to Cut Your Outgoings

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2012 was a tough year for household budgets, and Christmas is likely to have many families feeling the squeeze even tighter. The start of a new year is a great time to overhaul your finances, and see if any changes can be made in order to boost the coffers and free up some cash.

The good news is that most households have expenses that they can save on quite quickly and painlessly; so don’t put it off any longer. Grab your paperwork, sit down with a cup of tea, and see if savings can be made in any of the following areas:

Save on Grocery Shopping

The cost of food essentials continued to rise throughout 2012, but this is still an area where savings can usually be easily made. Meal planning will cut down on food wastage (estimated to cost the average family around £400 per year!), and doing your shopping in an online grocery store will cut out on the temptation to go ‘off list.’

It’s easy to compare prices at MySupermarket.co.uk, so you can be sure that you’re shopping at the place offering the best value. When you do your shopping online at ASDA your grocery shop is guaranteed to cost at least 10 per cent less than Morrisons, Sainsburys, Waitrose or Tesco – or they will give you the difference. Using the ASDA price guarantee is an easy way to guarantee the lowest possible price on your shopping.

Save on Utilities

Head to moneysupermarket.com to compare prices on utilities and make sure that you are on the best possible plan for you. Taking both fuels from the same supplier, paying by direct debit and switching to paperless billing can all also slash your bills further.

If you do decide to change supplier, check quidco.com first for details of cashback deals when you switch.

Save on Services and Insurances

Likewise, quidco.com also offers great cashback deals on services including phone and internet, and all insurances (home, contents, car etc).

Moneysupermarket and comparison websites such as Go Compare can also help you to find the cheapest deals on all those essential services.

Check Your Council Tax Band

It’s a little know fact that some homes are in the wrong council tax band. Should your home be one of them, you could get your bill adjusted and also get a rebate on past overpayments.

It’s easy to check that your property is in the correct band. The first step should be to check which band the other houses on your street are in. You’ll find details of the council tax band of every house in England and Wales on the Valuation Office Agency website at www.voa.gov.uk. If your banding is different to your neighbours then it’s likely that you have a case.

Another method is to check the value of your house in 1991 (when houses were put in council tax bands). You can do this online on websites including nethouseprices and zoopla. The value can then be used to determine the correct council tax banding.

If you think that your property is in the wrong band you should ask the council to make a reassessment. Do be aware however that your band could be made higher, so you need to be sure that you have a good case before alerting the council.

Once you’ve done the above, have a good look through your bank statements to check for any old and forgotten about direct debits, or any areas that you find yourself spending excessively in. These can then be addressed, slashing pounds from your household spends.

A financial MOT will see you going into the new year with more pounds in your pocket, and hopefully give you a bit more of a buffer against the household budget squeeze.

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