Whether it's your debts, council tax, childcare bills or energy, Martin Lewis can help you save thousands
Slash your council tax bill
Up to 400,000 homes in England and Scotland may be in the wrong band, meaning you could be massively overpaying. Yet it only takes ten minutes to do a quick internet check. If you are in the wrong band not only can you get the amount you pay lowered, you could get a backdated payout from when you moved in – and that may be £1,000s.
Save £100s on gas and electricity
There is a real price war for special online tariffs deliberately set up to tempt new not existing customers and the average saving is £300 a year. The best way to do this is to use a comparison service, you simply tell it what you use and it tells you who's cheapest.
Do a proper budget.
It's crucial to know if you spend more than you earn; if so you urgently need to tackle it or it can cause a major financial problem.
A decent budget will answer this question; yet most budgets are nonsense as they only look at a typical month's spend forgetting a daily coffee, weekly shops, annual holidays and more. For example spend £600 on Christmas and you need to factor in as much as £50 a month
To do it you need to gather a few months worth of bills and make some time. You can either do it on paper or I've developed some tools that do the whole process for you.
Slash the cost of childcare by £1,000s
If you pay for childcare and are a couple both working 16+ hours a week, or a single parent doing the same, and earn under £40,000 in total, check out if you're eligible for childcare tax credits. The average pay out for those eligible is over £3,000 a year, so well worth seeing if you're eligible.
Alternatively childcare vouchers are part of a little known Government scheme, which can save many parents with kids aged up to 15. It enables you to pay for childcare from your PRE-TAX income. While this doesn't sound much, the benefit is huge and can save you over £1,000 a year. However for lower income families, using these vouchers may hit your tax credit eligibility so check that out.
Dealing with debts.
1. Cut existing interest costs.
First ask all your existing credit card providers if they'll allow you to shift debts to them at a cheap rate (as then it doesn't hit your credit score); then move the debts to where they're cheapest.
If that doesn't work or you've still got some expensive debts, then consider doing a balance transfer, that's when you get a new card that pays off your existing debts for you so you now owe it the money, but hopefully at a lower rate.
See the useful links section for more info on balance transfers
2. Pay off the highest interest rate debts first.
Always focus all your spare cash on paying off the debts with the highest interest rates, just pay the minimums on everything else, it'll help you clear the debts more quickly.
3. Really struggling?
If you are in debt crisis meaning you can't even meet the minimum repayments on your cards, urgently speak to one of the free impartial debt help charities. These include the Citizens Advice, Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS – 0800 138 111), Christians Against Poverty (01274 760 720) and National Debtline (0808 808 4000).