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  • Make 2016 the year you take control of your cash

    Multiple debts

    10 tips for cutting down on what you owe

    1. Save regularly

    Putting even a little bit of money aside every month means you won’t have to borrow to pay for any of the unexpected expenses that creep up from time to time. It doesn’t have to be much, just try to do it regularly, and do it as soon as you get paid so that you are not tempted to spend before you save.

     

    2. Pay bills by direct debit

    Some companies will give you a discount if you pay their bills by direct debit every month. Arrange your direct debits to come out of your current account just after you get paid – that way you will know how much you have to spend for the rest of the month, and can budget accordingly.

     

    3. Work out a budget

    Keep a note of everything you spend for a month to get an idea of your total monthly expenditure. Build in a bit of slack for unexpected spending and remember to add in the cost of things that you only spend money on once a year, such as insurances and Christmas.

     

    4. Keep an eye on your utility bills

    Use price comparison websites to make sure you are on the most suitable/competitive tariff for all of your utility bills, and check your bills regularly to make sure you are paying enough every month. That way you might be able to get back any excess that you build up if your usage drops and will avoid having to borrow if your bills increase suddenly.

     

    5. Is your bank charging you?

    Don’t borrow money from the bank without asking them. The charges for unauthorized overdrafts can be horrendous when compared to the cost of borrowing money on a planned overdraft where the bank knows how much you need.

     

    6. Borrow sensibly

    Don’t use expensive store cards and make sure the credit card you use has a low Annual Percentage Rate of interest (APR). Transfer any balances that you can’t pay off immediately to a card with a zero per cent APR.

     

    7. Don’t just pay the minimum

    Making the minimum payment on credit cards can add thousands of pounds to your overall debt and also add years to the time taken to repay the loan. Ideally you want to pay your total balance every month, but if that’s not possible, avoid paying the absolute minimum.

     

    8. Seek advice

    There are plenty of debt charities and advisers out there who can offer help and guidance. Check our debt section where you’ll be signposted to someone who can advise you in your area. 

     

    9. Don’t use payday lenders

    Payday lenders offer short-term loans that should be an absolute last resort, and only used when you are certain that you can repay in full at the end of the original term. If you don’t use them this way the charges are astronomical and they should be avoided at all cost.

     

    10. Don’t get taken in by phone scams

    You probably receive phone calls every day asking you to buy insurance or make a claim for insurance that you were wrongly sold. Both can add to your debt at the end of the year if you’re not careful, so avoid it all by just saying no and hanging up.

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  • Are you affected by changes in the debt management sector?

    The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) are aware of a number of debt management firms leaving the sector. These changes may affect consumers with debt management plans and they are taking steps to help them.

    As a result of the changes occurring in the debt management sector, consumers may be informed that their debt management plan has been impacted, for example, that it has stopped or moved to another firm.

    The FCA's authorisations team is currently assessing the applications of a number of debt management firms.  Only those firms that can demonstrate that they can meet the required standards will be permitted to carry on debt adjusting or debt counselling.

    To help consumers with debt management plans get advice and help the FCA is:  

    • working closely with the Money Advice Service and other consumer groups to help increase advice and support for consumers with debt management plans
    • in contact with debt management firms, trade bodies, banks and creditor organisations to ensure that customers who have been impacted are treated fairly
    • writing to customers of firms which no longer have the relevant permissions with advice.

    Consumers who need advice on their debt management plan can contact the Money Advice Service. It is a free and impartial service set up by the government. You can contact them online at www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/debt-management or by phone on 0300 330 2222. Calls cost no more than to a standard UK-wide number.

    Read the full news release by the FCA here.

     

  • Ask the experts to find the answers in a live blog on Thursday 21 January

    If you have money worries, or are simply looking for advice on managing your finances, this Thursday (21 January) will be your chance to find the answers.

    Representatives from the StepChange Debt Charity and Citizens Advice, Daily Record's Money Doctor Fergus Muirhead and Sunday Mail columnist Elaine Colliar will be on hand to answer your questions and help with any problems.

    Follow the Daily Record on Facebook to submit your questions from 1.30pm - 3.30pm on Thursday 21 January and take part in their live blog or email webeditor@dailyrecord.co.uk if you want to ask a question anoumously.


    View the live blog here
  • Citizens Advice Scotland offer practical advice on how to deal with debt

    Citizens Advice Scotland offer practical advice on how to deal with debt:

    If you’re in debt, don’t panic.

    However, it’s important to do something, because the problem won’t just go away. Don’t ignore calls or letters from the people you owe money to (your creditors). Contact them to explain why you’re having problems and follow the steps in this fact sheet to help you get back in control of your finances.

    If you don’t agree that you owe any money, or don’t agree with the amount you’ve been asked to pay, get advice from an experienced debt adviser straight away, before following these steps:

    Make a list of your debts:

    Before you can tackle a debt problem, you need to collect together information about your money affairs. Make a list of all your creditors. You will need the following

    information for each debt:

    - the name and address of the creditor.

    - the account or reference number.

    - the amount you owe.

    It’s a good idea to keep the latest letter or statement for each debt together in one place so that you can easily find them if you need them. If you’ve received any court papers or letters that are urgent, for example, if a court date has been set, you may need to act quickly. If you’re not sure what you should do next, get advice straight away from an experienced adviser.

    Once you’ve made a list of all your creditors, you need to work out which ones to deal with first. You need to deal with some debts first before others because the consequences of not paying these debts can be more serious than for other debts.

    The debts you deal with first are called priority debts. The debts you deal with after your priority debts are called non-priority debts.

    Contact the following organisations for more help and advice on dealing with debt.

    Citizens Advice Scotland

    StepChange

    National Debtline


     

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  • Are your bills ready to cope?

    As a result of the oncoming cold front, households will spend an extra £46 on energy this year. Gas bills in particular are set to rise by 6.2% as customers turn the heating up in the face of freezing temperatures, according to new research from Comparethemarket.com.

    One third of consumers admit to being ‘shocked’ by their energy bills, but this is set to get worse as they try to stay warm this winter. But, never fear, there are a few proven ways you can slash your heating costs this winter.

    Stay toasty and keep your bills under control

    There are plenty of ways to save money on your energy bill – even when it’s freezing!

    For example, you could try turning the thermostat down by just one degree. This can knock up to 10% off your heating bill. You can also make sure you turn off electronics when you’re not using them and switching off lights when no one is in the room.

    You can also consider getting better insulation for your home and old boilers.  There are a number of government grants available to households looking to become more energy efficient.

    The organisations below offfer free and impartial advice on keeping warm for less this winter

                  

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  • Money Doctor's top 5 tips for first time buyers

    The Money Doctor shares his advice for first time buyers

    Having saved hard for your deposit and the other fees involved, you should be getting used to taking regular amounts out of your salary or income every month.

    And this will continue with your mortgage payments once you have moved into your new home.

    So, here are my tips for getting the right deal, and making sure you can afford your monthly repayments.

    1. Look at fixed-rate mortgages

    If every penny counts then you might want to look at a fixed-rate deal, at least initially. This way you will know exactly how much your mortgage is going to cost you every month during the fixed-rate period, which could be up to five years.

    With this option, regardless of what happens to base rates during the fixed-rate period, your monthly repayments will not change, and this does make it easier to budget.

    2. Consider your future

    You will also have to think about the length of time you want to fix your mortgage rate for.

    Usually this will be between two and five years, but if you have a job that requires you to move from time to time then you might want to stick to a shorter period to avoid penalties for selling while in a fixed-rate period.

    3. Good with money? Look at variable rates

    If money is not so tight, or you would be able to cope financially with higher monthly repayments if rates were to go up, then a variable option might work better for you.

    The advantage is that most variable rates will be lower than fixed rates – although there's not much in it these days, and you can find fixed rates that are really good value. Often lower variable rates mean your monthly repayments could be lower to start with.

    4. Remember – interest rates might soon rise

    The disadvantage of a variable rate is that if interest rates rise soon after you start to repay your mortgage you could find your payments going up by quite a bit every month, and this could impact on your budget.

    5. Research the market for the best rate

    If you do choose a fixed rate then the chances are that you will move to a variable rate at the end of the fixed period.

    Variable rates can differ dramatically from provider to provider. The one with the best value fixed rate won’t necessarily be the best one to use when that fixed rate ends and you are moved to a variable one.

    Find more Money Doctor advice on mortgages and personal finance here

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