Citizens Advice Northumberland is expecting the month of January to be the busiest for advice on finances.
Many more people than last year are expected to be seeking advice on financial matters, with people more likely to research financial decisions in January than any other time of the year.
While January is often associated with squeezed budgets and debt worries, the charity is also expecting people to contact it with other money queries as they take stock of their situation and plan their finances long-term.
It anticipates that the most common money queries will be about energy bills, insurance and pensions, while the most common questions around managing debt will cover credit cards, council tax arrears and rent/mortgage arrears.
Moira Macfarlane, chief executive of Citizens Advice Northumberland, said: “January is a great time to take stock of your finances and think about your priorities for the future, not just for the next month, but for the next year and beyond.
“Whether you’re looking to deal with debts, cut your costs, or budget better, Citizens Advice can help you review your overall money situation so you can make decisions that improve your financial security.”
Citizens Advice Northumberland is sharing eight top tips to help people get their finances in order.
l Do a simple budget. Write down your income and take away 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.
l Save money on essentials. You could save an average of £300 on your energy bill by changing tariffs or suppliers. Diary the dates of annual contracts that are up for renewal, like your mobile phone or car insurance, and see if you can get a cheaper deal.
l 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 www.gov.co.uk. If you live alone, you may be entitled to a discount on your council tax bill.
l Start saving. 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.
l 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.
l Be choosey about 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.
l 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 as the consequences can be more serious if you don’t pay.
l 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 over 50 and have a defined contribution pension you can get a free Pension Wise appointment to learn more.
For information and advice, contact Citizens Advice Northumberland on 0300 303 1931 or see the website for office opening hours at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/northumberland