Published Friday, 02 March 2012
In these tough economic times people are naturally more cautious about spending money. We will help you to set a budget and give you tips to make your money stretch further.
The Consumer Council's Home Budget Planner will help you to work out what money you have coming in, what's going out and where you can save. For your free copy, contact 0800 121 6022 or download a copy from www.consumercouncil.org.uk.
Work out your expenses
Gather all your paperwork together. First, add up all your expenses; this can include rent or mortgage, electricity, phone and gas bills, grocery receipts, insurance and bank/credit card statements. Also, include annual bills in your budget, for example Christmas, birthdays, summer holidays, MOT and rates. Next, work out your income; this can include wages or benefits. Subtract your expenses from your income. What you have left is money that you can save, or spend as you wish.
Tips on making your money go further
1. Keep a spending diary for a week - this will help you see where your money goes. Research shows that we spend £33 every week (that's £1,716 a year) yet we can't remember what we spent the money on .
2. Northern Ireland households spend more on food and non-alcoholic drink and more on take away food compared to people living in the rest of the UK. Limit the amount of take away food you buy. Cooking food at home could save you money.
3. It pays to be disciplined in the supermarket. A Which? report said that two thirds of supermarket shoppers tend to spend more than they had planned. Write a shopping list before you go the supermarket and stick to it.
4. Compare prices by using shelf-edge labels as much as possible. Use the unit price (price per kilogrammes or litres for example) to compare the costs of similar items.
5. Use your calculator to compare value among multi-packs and single items. Don't always assume that bigger packs are cheaper or that loose fruit and vegetables are cheaper than pre-packs.
6. When shopping around for insurance, compare products and prices from insurance brokers (check the phone book for telephone numbers or online at www.biba.org.uk ), price comparison websites and directly from insurance companies.
Start the savings habit - even putting a little bit aside can make a real difference, so start planning for tomorrow.
Improve your money management skills
The Consumer Council's research shows that people in Northern Ireland are bottom of the UK league table when it comes to having good financial skills. Women are better at keeping track of their money than men but men are more likely than women to plan ahead. If you want to boost your money skills visit www.moneymadeclear.org.uk. Money Made Clear is an impartial website operated by the UK's Consumer Financial Education Body (CFEB). CFEB have useful guides for life changing circumstances such as Managing Your Money in Tough Times, Redundancy, Divorce and Separation and Parents Guide to Money.
Maximize your money
There is £12 million sitting in forgotten bank and building society accounts and £6 million in Ulster Savings Certificates. To check if you may have money in a bank account you have forgotten about, contact the Consumer Council on 0800 121 6022 and we can send you all the forms you need. You can also visit www.mylostaccount.org.uk for bank, building society, national savings and investment accounts or www.dfpni.gov.uk/index/finance/ulster-savings-certificate.htm for Ulster Savings Certificates.
The Consumer Council's research shows that over 50 per cent of adults here are worried about making ends meet and just four out of ten people are keeping up with bills and credit with out difficulties. If you have money problems and need help contact a money advisor at:
advice4debtNI - 0800 917 4607
Advice NI- 028 9064 5919
Citizens Advice - 028 9023 1120; or
The Consumer Credit Counselling Service - 0800 027 4990.
Finally, if you want to find out what benefits you may be entitled to, use Access to Benefit's (A2B) free, simple and anonymous calculator at www.a2b.org.uk. The calculator can be used by anyone - whatever age and whatever your circumstances are. (A2B is a not-for-profit organisation working to improve benefit uptake for people of retirement age).