My Money Credit
January Resolutions to Manage Your Money

Spent too much at Christmas and New Year’s Eve? Finances are sure to be tight in January but, with many others in the same boat, now’s the time to resolve to sort out your spending in 2013.

Write a list of all your income, including regular overtime and things such as tax credits. Then write down all your expenditure. Take the second total away from the first, and that’s what you have left to spend each month. Divide it by four (or five, if it’s a long calendar month) to break it down into a weekly sum.

It can help to write down everything you spend, or to sign up for online banking to keep track of what’s in your bank account. There is no doubt that the cost of essentials such as food and fuel is rising, but there are deals to be found by using price comparison websites. Use supermarket loyalty cards to collect points and you might find it helpful to go shopping armed only with cash, not credit or debit cards.

If you are really struggling financially, then make 2013 the year you sort it out once and for all. Speak to your bank manager or energy provider if you don’t think you can meet essential bills or mortgage payments. They might be able to suggest reduced payments or a short payment holiday until you get back on your feet. The Citizens’ Advice Bureau is there to help, while your local council’s website might also have links to useful agencies.

Fuel Price Comparison Sites – Are They Worth the Drive?

Fuel prices have escalated by a shocking 48% since 2009, with the latest AA figures showing that the average price is now 132p per litre for petrol and 137p for diesel.

And motorists have only narrowly avoided yet another hike, with Chancellor George Osborne having a late change of mind about a planned 3p rise this month. Many drivers are cutting back on days out and even reducing family commitments in a bid to save pennies, leaving no doubt it’s a crippling problem for millions.

One of the most popular resources for motorists are fuel price comparison sites such as www.petrolprices.com, where you can tap in your postcode and find the cheapest filling stations close to your home. But at what point does it become a false economy to drive to a fuel station with the lowest price? Petrolprices.com allows you to search within five, 10, 15 and 20 miles; it’s not rocket science to work out that driving 20 miles to save 1p per litre is not cost-effective. But these sites are invaluable if you use them with your daily or weekly journeys in mind. Are you passing one of the cheaper stations on your way to work, or could you change your supermarket of choice in order to buy cheaper fuel and do the weekly shop at the same time?

We could tie ourselves in knots with the mathematical calculations but really it’s just a matter of common sense. Keep an eye on the comparison sites and see if a journey to the cheapest forecourt can be conveniently factored into your schedule. Don’t run your tank down to the red and risk being forced to the closest – and maybe priciest – forecourt. And don’t forget these other fuel-efficient tips:

  • Air conditioning uses fuel, so turn it off and open a window instead. The same goes for windscreen heaters and demisters.
  • Watch the speed limit. Cruising at 70mph is more efficient than zooming along at 80.
  • Turn off the engine if you get stuck in traffic for more than three minutes.
  • Keep loads as light as possible, cutting down on those non-essential items you’ve been carrying around in the boot for months.
How to Make Money from Your Credit Card

How to Make Money from Your Credit CardIn the credit squeeze of the last few years it has become harder to make money from your credit card, but it is still possible. Here are three of the most common ways:

Stoozing is a widely used way of earning extra money from a 0% interest credit card. The maths isn’t difficult – but there are risks and it requires discipline, so make sure you understand the process well before starting. The idea is to get a 0% interest card and use this to pay for all your outgoings. At the same time, apply for a high interest savings account and let your unspent income build up in it. Set up a direct debit to ensure that the minimum credit card balance is paid off each month and when the interest-free period ends, you can either pay it off in full with money from your savings account or apply for a new 0% interest card and start again. Many people have made decent sums – quite legally – from stoozing. But remember that applying for multiple credit cards within a short time could affect your credit rating, plus balance transfer fees are charged when you take out a new interest-free card.

Cashback cards do what they say on the tin – they accumulate cash every time you use the credit card. By paying for all outgoings with your card you can potentially earn hundreds of pounds a year. But it’s essential to pay off the credit card balance in full each month, otherwise the interest will outstrip the amount you get back. Also, interest is charged on cash withdrawals and balance transfers, so these should be avoided. Don’t forget to use cashback cards in conjunction with store loyalty cards, in order to get double the benefit.

Reward credit cards work in the same way as cashback cards but, instead of cash, you accumulate points, which are turned into vouchers to be used in that store. If, for example you buy all groceries and fuel from the same supermarket, these points can add up to hundreds of pounds a year. Just be aware of the potential snags. Some store card points are worth a lot more than others, so look carefully for the best deals and choose a card which best suits your shopping habits. And again, make sure you pay no interest, which in the long term will be far more costly than the potential rewards.

Things to Consider Before Applying for a Pay Day Loan

In a recent survey people are turning to pay day loans instead of applying for a credit card. This is due to the fact that pay day loans are quick to apply for and the money can be deposited in your bank account in just a few hours ideal if you need the money in an emergency.

Here are a few tips you should consider before getting a pay day loan.

Pay day loans are only a short term money fix. They are ideal for one or two months maximum, if you need a loan for longer than this a pay day loan is not suited to you.

Don’t lie when filling in the application when it comes to your income. Don’t get greedy when it comes to applying for the loan; only ask for what you can afford to pay back.

Shop around for different lenders before you chose a pay day lender as different lenders have different rates. Ignore the APR figure as this is calculated over 12 months so it is a pointless calculation when it comes to pay day loans. Pay attention to the total repayment figure this will clearly be displayed on all the lenders websites.

Make sure you can pay back the loan on the date you agreed with the lender, if you keep rolling the loan over month by month this will become very expensive as you will charged a fee every time you do this.

Don’t get a pay day loan to pay another debt off, this will work out very expensive and you will end up in the pay day loan spiral. Contact the debtors you have and try to come to a payment schedule with them, or you could visit your local CAB office and they will come to an agreement with your debtors on your behalf.

And the last important tip is read any contract before signing anything. If you have any questions make sure you contact the loan lender before signing your loan agreement form.

Get A Cheap Holiday Deal

imageAs the school holidays are fast approaching some of us will be jetting abroad for some sun, sea and much relaxation.

While you could be tempted to take out a pay day loan to pay for your holiday, pay day loans are designed for short term use they should not be used for luxuries such as holidays, clothes shopping etc.

Booking a holiday abroad is a long term commitment. You can book holidays one or two years in advance, once you have booked your holiday you should save a little every month so you don’t stretch yourself.

Here are a few tips so you can save yourself a few pounds when it comes down to having a nice deserved holiday:

Book early or wait last minute: Booking a holiday early you will have a choice of cheap holidays and flights don’t leave it to long to book otherwise all the cheap hotels and flights will be snapped up. On the flip side if you wait to last minute to book a holiday you will find some really good deals.

Flying at popular times: Fly off peak hours such as at night or Monday to Friday this will save you a few pounds.

Shop Around: Comparison sites on the internet are very popular don’t fall in love with the first holiday you see, shop around to see what deals you find.

Currency: Keep an eye on the exchange rates these often go up and down so when they are up start buying your holiday money, shop around to get the best deal on your currency.

Transfers: If your holiday does not include transfers shop around to get the best price it is cheaper to book independent than it is to book via the travel agent.

Don’t forget the parking: If you are driving to the airport you will need car parking as always there are different companies that operate in the airport car park so search the internet to find the best possible deal.

Following some of the tips will hopefully save you some money when you decide to book your holiday abroad.

Top tips for reducing your energy bills

We all tend to use less energy around the home during the summer months, but there are still plenty of ways to conserve it… and reduce those bills! Here are our top tips:

  1. Don’t forget to close your curtains. It’s still cold at night, so even thought it’s tempting to leave them open during the longer evenings, closing them before dusk will keep the heat in.
  2. If you do need to put the heating on at all, make sure it’s on a timer – just an hour or so a day should be enough. Turning the thermostat down a few degrees lower than the winter setting will also save the pounds.
  3. Now might be a good time to think about loft and cavity wall insulation in preparation for winter - especially as homes lose about a quarter of their heat through the roof. Government grants are available and many people are eligible to have the work done for free or as little as £49. For more details see www.government-grants.co.uk.
  4. Again, you probably have your lights on less, but it’s still important to use low-energy bulbs. They last up to 10 times as long as ordinary bulbs and can save £45 over the course of their lifetime.
  5. Keep water use to a minimum, especially in the garden. Use a watering can instead of a hosepipe and recycle water by, for example, watering the plants with paddling pool water when it’s finished with!
What to do if you’re in debt

imageIn the news are reports that Spain’s fourth-largest bank, Bankia, is about to ask the Spanish government for €15bn. Everyone needs a bailout now and again, but if you’re worried about your debt there are some steps you can take to ensure things don’t get worse.

First of all, face up to your money worries. The more you bury your head in the sand, the worse things will get. Think about WHY you are in this situation - and you have to be honest with yourself about overspending otherwise things won’t improve. Draw up a budget for items such as food and fuel and stick to it, even if it means using only cash for everything and not a debit or credit card.

Speak to the people you owe money to, whether it’s the bank, utilities companies or catalogues. You might be able to come to an agreement about paying less every month, or extending a deadline. Look at your finances as a whole and find out what the worst-case scenario is for not paying each bill. From there you should be able to prioritise the bills which could land you in real trouble.

Free, confidential help and advice is available from organisations such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. Their trained advisors can help you work out your income and expenditure, plus negotiate with the people you owe money to.

Are On-line Payday Loans Companies Really That Bad?!

imageMost on-line, pay-day loan companies face regular criticism for their inflated APRs, simplistic approach and transparent lending criteria. The criticism is aimed at those companies offering short-term, instant loans to customers looking for a quick-fix of cash for a short period of time. But are they really as bad as they are made out to be?

Back along, loan sharks preyed on the vulnerable, lending large amounts of cash, without checking a victim’s ability to re-pay and then charging extortionate amounts of interest when regular payments were not met. Furthermore, loan sharks terrorised neighbourhoods, were often involved in illegal drug-related activities and resorted to acts of extreme violence in order to redeem their ‘investments’.

The high street pawn-broker offered little more to an individual, struggling to meet the demands of a financial crisis or in need of a quick injection of cash. More often than not, the pawn broker would offer the customer a fraction of an item’s value in order to make money out of somebody else’s poverty and despair.

Hire purchase schemes and mail-order catalogues offered low-income families the opportunity to buy bigger and better, all on the ‘never-never’. Interest rates were over-inflated and goods were over-priced. Repayments were advertised in pence per week, making the purchase seem insignificant and affordable.

These days, under the scrutiny of the internet and media, modern-day lenders need to meet stringent guidelines on who they lend to, how much they will lend and need to set out clear and concise repayment terms, all before the customer applies for the loan. So have pay-day loans companies finally found a way to clean up one of the oldest professions?

Lenders need to be licensed by the Office of Fair Trading. Advertising of these loan companies is scrutinised heavily by the Advertising Standards Agency and adverts are also subject to the Consumer Credit (Advertisements) Regulations 2004. All of this, combined with a policy to be up-front with fees and loan interest rates, means that the industry has never been so clean or regulated.

imageMany of the on-line loan companies operating today use state of the art technology to make lending quicker, simpler and more effective. Their clients can finally approach a range of lenders safe in the knowledge that they do not have to barter their goods in exchange for a pittance of cash, will not become the victim of over inflated goods or hidden interest rates and will have the safe and secure knowledge that their loan can be repaid in a fixed, mutually agreed term.

But more than this, customers can finally borrow money on a short-term basis without the threat of violence or intimidation hanging over them.

Gas and Electric Token Meters, What Are You Really Paying?

Electric and Gas token meters are a simple way of not getting a nasty surprise at the end of the billing period. They are also used when you fall behind with your gas or electric bill. With token meters you pay as you go for the service based on the usage of your gas and electricity. You can also monitor your usage, so you can make adjustments as required to use less gas and electric.  How do you pay for your gas and electric using the token meter? When the electric and gas supplier fit your new token meter you will be given a plastic key or a swipe card, you will then have to visit your local convenience store, petrol station or post office, to credit your key or swipe card. The minimum you can credit your card or key is £1 and there are no maximum limits. Once you return home simply insert the key or card in to the meter and then your meter will be in credit.  Obviously during the warmer and lighter months throughout the year you will not be using as much gas and electricity, but the idea is to keep the meter topped up as when it comes to using more during the darker colder months you will have credit on the meter and you will not be playing catch up.  There are some disadvantages to prepayment meters. One of these is that with some service suppliers you pay a fee that they claim is for maintenance of the meter and for financing charges. According to some groups this can cost up to 195 pounds a year for this service. There are some suppliers that do not charge this fee and it is crucial that you shop around to determine the best company to go through. There is also the risk of Back Charges, these are when the rate for consumption may increase but there is a delay before the meter is recalibrated for this change. This is through no fault of the customer, but often they need to pay the difference when they go to reload their meter. Many suppliers no longer do this Back Charge however some still do.  Despite these shortcomings, a large percentage of users of the Electric and Gas pre Pay Meters say they are very satisfied with this type of service; however it is believed that half of these do not realize that they are paying the finance charges.Electric and Gas token meters are a simple way of not getting a nasty surprise at the end of the billing period. They are also used when you fall behind with your gas or electric bill. With token meters you pay as you go for the service based on the usage of your gas and electricity. You can also monitor your usage, so you can make adjustments as required to use less gas and electric.

How do you pay for your gas and electric using the token meter? When the electric and gas supplier fit your new token meter you will be given a plastic key or a swipe card, you will then have to visit your local convenience store, petrol station or post office, to credit your key or swipe card. The minimum you can credit your card or key is £1 and there are no maximum limits. Once you return home simply insert the key or card in to the meter and then your meter will be in credit.

Obviously during the warmer and lighter months throughout the year you will not be using as much gas and electricity, but the idea is to keep the meter topped up as when it comes to using more during the darker colder months you will have credit on the meter and you will not be playing catch up.

There are some disadvantages to prepayment meters. One of these is that with some service suppliers you pay a fee that they claim is for maintenance of the meter and for financing charges. According to some groups this can cost up to 195 pounds a year for this service. There are some suppliers that do not charge this fee and it is crucial that you shop around to determine the best company to go through. There is also the risk of Back Charges, these are when the rate for consumption may increase but there is a delay before the meter is recalibrated for this change. This is through no fault of the customer, but often they need to pay the difference when they go to reload their meter. Many suppliers no longer do this Back Charge however some still do.

Despite these shortcomings, a large percentage of users of the Electric and Gas pre Pay Meters say they are very satisfied with this type of service; however it is believed that half of these do not realize that they are paying the finance charges.

Looking for Bank Accounts for Bad Credit? Try These

imageIt becomes quite difficult to open a bank account if you have bad credit. In fact you might be trying to open the bank account for a very valid reason like the fact that you might have relocated to a new place that is very far off from the bank branch that you used to have an account with. But whether you can open an account or not and what facilities you would be provided with that bank account depends a lot on the type of bad credit that you have.

Bad credit happens for a variety of reasons, some legitimate where some wrong reporting might have happened at the credit agency and some illegitimate where you have not managed your finances properly and so might have ended in bankruptcy or even some kinds of financial fraud. So, depending on the type of bad credit, you might be allowed to open a bank account. If you have filed for bankruptcy or have been involved in financial fraud, then you will most probably not be allowed to open an account with any of the leading banks. It’s basically a blot on your financial status and unless you hit on some luck with many of the online schemes that promise you a bank account in exchange for a fee, you are likely to be stuck without a bank account.

But if your bad credit is only due to some minor financial irregularity or due to some incorrect reporting, then there is a good chance that you might be allowed to open at least a basic bank account, where you have credit and check withdrawal access but not debit cards or overdrafts etc. You can also set up regular payments for your credit cards and such stuff but this will be highly controlled and basically strictly monitored as well, at least in the initial phases. Your bad credit history will go away with time and as long as you maintain a good history and do well with the new bank account, you have a very good chance that the other facilities will be restored as well, albeit a bit slowly.

So, judge what kind of bad credit history that you have and discuss with a few banks about your history and what kind of account that they can offer. You can discuss with them about your needs, the reason for the bad credit and see what kind of facilities they can give you. You need to be careful if you choose to go for the several offers online that promise you a fully fledged bank account for a fee. Most of these are scams and they tend to take money from you and vanish. You would be better off sticking to directly dealing with the banks but if you don’t make much headway with them, then trying out a trustworthy company for opening a bank account in return for a fee might be well worth trying. Choose such companies carefully after hearing feedback about them from various sources and also after discussing thoroughly with them about all the details.