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Surviving January…a New year…a new financial you

7 minute read
Posted: 17th January 2020

With Christmas fast becoming a distant memory, the first few months of the New Year can be a struggle. Many of us are paid earlier in December, making January feel like a looong month.

According to the Money Advice Service, the number of people looking for debt advice is expected to surge over the next three months with many placing Christmas as the reason.

But, a New Year presents itself with the opportunity for us all to reset ourselves financially.  In this blog, I’ve got some tips on how you can have a fresh look at your finances, and make sure you’re as ‘financially healthy’ as you can be!

1. Budget Planning

When it comes to getting control back of your budget, you need to plan. Our interactive budget calculator is a great way to do this.

Halton Housing Budget Calculator

Give it a go and see how you can keep an eye of your spending. Every penny saved is more money in your pocket. “Look after the pennies and the £s will look after themselves” is the old saying….

Alternatively, the Money Advice Service has a fantastic budget planning tool.

The Money Advice Service Budget Planner

 The Money Advice Service also has lots of hints and tips on anything to do with your money and finances. From saving money on shopping to the best bank account for you or saving money on your household bills,.This website is essential reading and can guide you on what you can do to make sure you are getting the most from your money.

2. Are you receiving all the benefits you are entitled to claim?

According to entitledto, (one of the leading providers of online benefit calculators in the UK), over £20 billion is unclaimed in means-tested benefits.

Whether you are working, on a low income, sick, disabled or retired you may not always be getting, or be aware of, all the Welfare Benefits you may be entitled to. This is especially true of Universal Credit, which is a benefit that working-age people can claim to supplement their income whether they are in work, unwaged, sick or disabled.

Entitlement does depend on your individual and household circumstances and knowing what you are entitled to, or what you can/can’t claim can be confusing.

If you want to carry out this check yourself, the Money Advice Service is a great starting point.

For more information on how to claim Universal Credit or to check what benefits you are entitled to please visit the Money Advice Service or the government’s benefits calculator.

 3. Fee-free basic bank accounts

Did you know you can have a basic bank account that does not charge any fees? In the UK, it is estimated that there are 1.2 million so-called “unbanked individuals” who are paying a “banking poverty premium” because they are missing out on preferential deals and discounts on utility bills, mobile phone contracts, broadband and personal loans (The Guardian, 2019).

You can use a fee-free basic bank account to receive money and pay bills and use a debit card, but they will not allow you to use an overdraft.

Fee-free basic bank accounts don’t allow you to go overdrawn, so you don’t need to pass a credit check when you open the account meaning if you’ve had money problems in the past, it can be a good way to help improve your credit score until you qualify to open a standard current account.

For more information on which banks offer this account and for links on how to apply to, visit the Money Advice Service.

4. Help to Save:

Did you know you can boost your savings without having to pay any more? Are you receiving any of the following:

  • Working Tax Credit
  • entitled to Working Tax Credit and receiving Child Tax Credit
  • claiming Universal Credit and your household earned £569.22 or more from paid work in your last monthly assessment period

If so, then opening a ‘Help to Save’ account is for you, as it allows those entitled to Working Tax Credit or receiving Universal Credit to get a bonus of 50p for every £1 they save over 4 years.

help to save - get 50p for every £1 saved

The great thing about Help to Save is that it is backed by the government, so all savings in the scheme are secure. You can save between £1 and £50 (monthly limit) each calendar month but you do not have to pay money in every month.

Saving bonuses are paid into the account at the end of the second and fourth years and are based on how much you’ve saved but you can access your savings at any time.

For more information and how to apply please visit the Help to Save website.

5. Heating your home

Do you think you are paying too much for your energy? Struggling with high energy bills? Switching can be very confusing so if you are looking for advice and support you may want to contact the Save Energy Advice Line for advice on switching, help to pay your bills, warm home discounts and other energy-saving information. For more information call 0800 043 0151 (Mobiles with free call time can use 0151 637 3670) or visit Save Energy Advice Line.

You may be eligible to claim a Winter Fuel Payment, Cold Weather Payment or Warm Home Discount payment depending on your individual circumstances to help you manage your energy bills. To find out more information and for help on how to check eligibility and apply, visit one of the following links below:

Winter Fuel Payment

Cold Weather Payment

Warm Home Discount Scheme

6. Struggling to pay your water bill or concerned at how much water you are using?

United Utilities offer various schemes to help support those in financial hardship to manage water debts or support to pay their ongoing water bills, especially if you have an illness or disability that means you may have a need to use more water than expected.

You can contact them on 0800 072 6765 or visit their dedicated website page. They offer a live chat service so you can get help and support sooner rather than later.

I hope you’ve found these tips useful.  Let’s be honest, most of us who start a diet or exercise plan in January have given up by February.  Why not challenge yourself to make 2020 the year when you get yourself financially ‘in trim’!

Help for Halton Housing customers

We recognise that for many customers, managing your finances can be challenging. If you’re a Halton Housing customer and struggling to manage your finances, budgeting issues or just want to make sure you are receiving the correct benefits, why not get in touch with myself and the Welfare Benefits Money Advice team. The sooner you seek advice the sooner you can get practical solutions to manage you issues.

The team are experienced Money Advice Practitioners and can offer advice over the phone, digitally, by letter, home or office visits. You can contact us via the Welfare button on the Halton Housing App, by emailing welfare@haltonhousing.org or by calling 07801548205 and ask for a referral to the team.

Written By

Jeanette Gustafson

Senior Welfare Benefit & Money Advice Officer
Jeanette Gustafson MIMA (Cert) Senior Welfare Benefit & Money Advice Officer

Jeanette Gustafson is the Senior Welfare Benefit Money Advice Officer here at Halton Housing. A Certified Money Advice Practitioner, Jeanette manages the in house benefit and advice service. 

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