The Consumer Price Index is rising and, at 3.5% in March, racing ahead of the Bank of England’s 2%t target, with food, clothes, recreation and culture showing the most significant hikes. Petrol has broken through the £1.40-per-litre ceiling for the first time and air passenger duty has jumped eight per cent.
When you set that against projected pay freezes or minimal rises that don’t keep pace with inflation, one thing’s for sure – buying BOGOFs and making your own packed lunch probably won’t be enough to keep up your standard of living. You may need a new approach to making the most of your money.
Know where the money goes
Jot down everything you spend, from a coffee and a paper to your mortgage or rent, every week for a typical month. Use bank and card statements to factor in direct debits and occasional expenses, such as birthday presents. You will almost certainly see areas where you can make significant savings without equivalent pain, so do it.
Get something for nothing
Switch current accounts – some will give you cash for moving to them, others offer cashback on regular bills such as utilities. If you don’t have a savings account, look for a current account that pays interest. Do your research to ensure you’ll qualify and the deal’s right for you.
Find cheaper credit
That means improving your credit score, so you qualify for the best possible deals on everything from cards to your mobile phone package. Start by scanning your credit report to ensure it’s accurate and up to date – lenders use it when they decide whether to make you an offer and a single minor error can cost you valuable points. Challenge any errors with the relevant lender, make sure you’re registered to vote at your current address, close unused accounts and set up direct debits so you never miss regular payments. You can see your Experian credit report for free with a 30-day trial of CreditExpert. Your Experian Credit Score is also free during a trial, so check it before and after you’ve made improvements to see how well you’ve done.
Make your holiday pound go further
Pick a country where the pound in your pocket buys you more. The euro’s continuing freefall isn’t the only good news: Bulgaria, Egypt, Hungary, Poland and Turkey are among countries that are cheaper for us than they were in 2011. For long haul, think about Brazil, Dubai, India and South Africa, where our currency is buying as much as 14% more this year.
Use savings to pay debts
With savings rates historically low, you might be better off using some savings to pay off debts charging the highest interest. For example, £100 in a savings account paying one per cent (which is currently quite generous) will earn you £1 a year before tax. Pay the same amount off a credit card charging an average 14% and you save £13.
Reclaim lost cash
Reportedly, there’s around £4 million lurking under British sofa cushions. Clear out handbags, check under the bed, in the car and in pockets of clothes you haven’t used recently. More seriously, visit UAR.co.uk if you’ve got a dead account that you can’t trace. Pensions, premium bonds and life insurance policies can also yield unexpected cash.