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How to get your finances in order: Some helpful advice

Helpful advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau on how to get your finances in order. Photo: PA

Citizens Advice in Newcastle say they are expecting over 200 people to seek their advice on financial problems in January.

They are a local charity which provide free advice on issues such as money, housing, family problems and consumer issues.

Analysis by the national charity shows that across the country, demand for money and debt advice is highest in January and February, with one person contacting their nearest Citizens Advice for help every 11 seconds and people visiting the Citizens Advice website every 3 seconds in January.

The advice bureau in Newcastle anticipates that the most popular money queries will be budgeting for bills and credit cards, while the most common questions around managing debt will cover problems paying Council Tax and fuel bills.

'The most popular money queries will be budgeting for bills and credit cards.' Credit: PA

Citizens Advice Newcastle’s 8 top tips for getting your finances in order:

1. Draw up a simple budget

Write down your income and take away your essential bills such as rent or mortgage, gas and electric, food and transport. If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save. If you don’t, look at ways to cut your costs.

2. Save money on essentials

You could save an average of £300 on your energy bill by changing tariffs or suppliers. Note down the dates of annual contracts which come up for renewal, like your mobile phone or car insurance, and use a comparison website to see if you can get a cheaper deal. 3. Check you’re claiming the right benefits

If you have a family or are married, check if you can apply for working tax credits or marriage tax allowance on www.gov.co.uk. If you live alone, you may be entitled to a discount on your Council Tax bill. If you claim benefits, visit the Citizens Advice website to check if you are eligible for discounts on your water or energy bills.

4. Start saving

Start saving if you can - it doesn’t matter if it’s 50p or £5 a week, every penny will help improve your finances, and could improve your credit rating. Check out the local credit union, Moneywise at www.moneywise.org.uk

Draw up a budget: 'Write down your income and take away your essential bills. If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save.' Credit: PA

5. Keep tabs on your overdraft

Sign up to free text alerts from your bank so you know when you’re close to going into your overdraft. Then make adjustments to your spending if you can.

6. Get the best deal if you’re borrowing

If you need to borrow money, it’s important to know that there are different offers with credit cards and loans, from free balance transfers to paying no interest for the first few months. Check what your own bank can offer you first, then see if you can get a better deal elsewhere.

7. Get your debts in order If you can’t pay all your debts at once, it’s important to prioritise. Rent or mortgage and Council Tax are more important than credit card debts for example, as the consequences can be more serious if you don't pay.

8. Invest in your future

Pensions are a great way to save for the future and are also good value, as your contributions are topped up by your employer and the government.

If you’re eligible for auto-enrolment, consider paying more than just the minimum.

If you are self-employed you still set up your own pension but make sure it’s with a regulated company.

If you’re over 50 and have a defined contribution pension you can get free a Pension Wise appointment to learn more about taking your pension.

Source: Citizen's Advice Newcastle.

Citizens Advice Bureau. Credit: PA

January is a good time to take stock of your finances and think about planning ahead for the future, not just for the next month but for the next year and beyond.

Although many people will be counting the days until their next payslip after Christmas, you can also use the time to see if you can save money on bills or set up regular savings.

We can advise you on dealing with debts, how to cut your costs and budget better.

Citizens Advice Newcastle can also help you review your overall money situation so you can make changes to improve your financial security.

– Shona Alexander, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Newcastle