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Five steps to get your finances in order for the new year

POSTED: 17th December 2014
IN: Personal Guides
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Now is the time to get your money situation ship-shape.

undefinedNow is the time to get your money situation ship-shape.

With the start of a new year just around the corner, there is no better time to search for solutions to those financial concerns and inefficiencies that have been hanging over your head for so long.

If 'sort out finances' has been on your to-do list for an age, this is your opportunity to do something about it.

Here are some key steps that will put you on the right path to improving your money situation.

Tackle debt

Clearing outstanding debts on products such as store cards and credit cards is an obvious step, but it's something that it's all too easy to be lazy about. Many borrowers fall into the trap of making the lowest possible repayments every month, leaving themselves worse off in the long run.

Start by prioritising the debts with the highest rate of interest, as these are costing you the most. Arrange your finances so these products are paid off first, or look into making balance transfers to reduce your interest.

You could also consider the option of consolidating your debt into a single loan, which will give you a clear point in the future at which all of your borrowing will be paid off.

If you need help with debt problems, don't be afraid to ask for it. Bodies such as Citizens Advice, Step Change and the Money Advice Service offer free, impartial support for people in financial difficulty.

Start saving

It is never too early to start saving, even if you can only afford to put away a small amount each month. A little is better than nothing, and over the period of a few years relatively low deposits made on a regular basis can add up to a handy sum.

Make the most of the benefits offered by products like ISAs, which allow you to save up to £15,240 every financial year without paying tax on the interest.

Other options include high-interest regular savings accounts for people who can afford to put away set amounts every month, and fixed-rate products if you are willing to lock a lump sum away for a set term.

Before choosing a product, make sure you shop around to find the best interest rates, which are often offered by smaller banks like Aldermore.

Refine your outgoings

Budgeting is a key part of improving your financial situation, and the first part of creating a budget is compiling an exhaustive list of your outgoings.

When you have a rundown of your costs (both regular and sporadic) in front of you, it becomes clear how much you are spending and where you can cut back.

If you are serious about saving money, start by getting rid of any financial commitments that aren't essential. Do you really need the sports and movie channels as part of your television package, for instance, and is that gym membership worth the expense?

It could also prove beneficial to see what you are being charged by energy providers, insurers and utility companies, and doing some online comparisons to see if you could save by switching.

Boost your income

Reducing your outgoings can improve your budget, and so can increasing your income. If you have been a reliable, productive employee for a long time but don't feel that your efforts have been reflected in your wages, enquire about the possibility of a pay rise.

Make sure your employer is fully aware of the work you do and your contributions to the organisation. No one else is going to fight your corner for you, and the worst that can happen is your request will be turned down.

If there is no scope for earning more money in your current position, start the new year by looking for a new job that will give your finances a much-needed boost.

Review your housing situation

Could you improve your financial situation by changing your housing arrangements? If you are currently renting, now could be a good time to take your first step onto the property ladder.

The government's Help to Buy scheme offers equity loans for first-time buyers and home movers, allowing you to get a mortgage with a deposit as low as five per cent.

If you are able to get a mortgage with an introductory interest rate that is lower than what you are currently paying in rent, you could put the resulting monthly savings away as financial assurance for the future.

For those already paying off a mortgage, remortgaging can prove beneficial if your property has increased in value or you are about to move from a fixed level of interest to your lender's standard variable rate.

Another option is making overpayments, which could help you pay off your mortgage quicker in the long term.

Researched and timed properly, changes such as these can have a transformative effect on your money situation and help you make 2016 the year of financial wellbeing and security.

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