Stop debt becoming a problem

Category Archives: Financial Education

kari-shea-107390-unsplash

Stop debt becoming a problem

Everyone who has unmanageable debt has their own unique story as to how borrowing money has ended up causing them a whole load of grief.  However, debt problems are generally resolvable and taking action puts you back in control and on track to feeling your world is a brighter place.

Ever got paid and realised that you’re still overdrawn?  Sweated at a check out to see if your card goes through? Most of us have been there but having monthly expenses and debt payments that are greater than your income can become a real problem if you do not acknowledge or manage the situation.

 

Debt becomes a problem…..

 

  • if you are living beyond your means – you like the finer things in life but don’t have a salary to match the lifestyle you want, it’s likely that you will end up in debt.

 

  • if your income reduces – you need to reduce your hours or take time off work to look after a sick relative, this will reduce your income and may force you into debt.

 

  • if you’re money management is poor – don’t budget or track your spending, then it’s inevitable at some point that you will be overspending.

 

  • If you are “robbing Peter to pay Paul” – an old saying that means you are taking money from one place or person and giving it to another. In other words you are not solving the problem, simply moving it around.

 

The impact of debt is also a problem, not just for the person or people responsible for repaying it but also for others around them like family members and colleagues at work.  Unmanageable debt can affect the way you make decisions, cause families to break down and affect your physical and mental health.

 

OK, so I think that this might be me……

 

Acknowledging that you might have a debt problem is always the first step to finding an appropriate solution and there are many specialist, free organisations that can help you confidentially for example, Step Change, Citizens Advice and National Debtline.

 

However if you think that you can resolve the problem yourself, think about the following tips to help you get on your way to a debt-free you…..

 

  • set yourself a weekly spending budget and don’t go over it
  • know your finances, what’s coming in and going out each week – each day if you have to! This information will help you plan.
  • if it helps, get an affordable amount of cash out each week and only spend that. Put your cards away in a safe place and try not to use them unless you have to.
  • Inform the people and lenders who you owe money to, particularly your bank – if they are aware of your situation, they may be able to help and could support you in coming up with a suitable repayment plan
  • Open your bills! Come on, you can do it! They won’t bite.
  • By avoiding and ignoring the problem won’t change anything. In fact it will make you more anxious and worried.
  • Renegotiate your contracts – your phone/TV/internet providers can always help you find a cheaper deal
  • Check money saving websites to find great deals from insurance to your food shopping
  • Make sure you are getting the benefits you are entitled to – visit gov.uk to check your eligibility
  • Avoid situations where you could impulse buy – you CAN do without that coffee, magazine, sweets by the till (for now!)

 

eye-for-ebony-402233-unsplash

Top 10 Budgeting Tips

Creating a budget isn’t just about managing your money in order to tackle debt and reign in your spending, it can also help you find a way to spend cash on the things that you enjoy. Make a list of things that make you happy; it could be going to the cinema, buying the latest PS4 game the day it comes out, owning the complete works of Franz Kafka, or just a Friday night takeaway with the family.  Now have a go at creating a budget that allows you to achieve these things.  

Here you can find a list of Budgeting tips in order to make sure that you are spending less than you’re bringing in. Simples! Many people think of ‘budgeting’ as depriving themselves, but that certainly doesn’t have to be the case. It merely allows you to know how much money you have coming in each week or month, how much you have to cover all the essentials (rent or mortgage, existing debts, bills, groceries etc.) and therefore how much you have left to spend on the things you love. The good news is that sticking to a budget will give you the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have the essentials covered, whilst allowing you to free up money to spend on those little treats, guilt-free.

Our top 10 budgeting tips

If you follow our budgeting tips it shouldn’t be too difficult making a budget, but sticking to one always proves trickier! With these handy hints, you can do it!

  1. Be honest. Be honest. Don’t try to skip certain items or underestimate your spending. Burying your head isn’t an option when it comes to budgeting.  
  2. Be consistent. Keep track of your daily spending. The little things that you buy can soon add up, which means you are probably spending more than you think.
  3. Keep motivated. Regularly remind yourself of the things the budget enables you to do.
  4. Plan for occasional expenses. Make sure you are creating a budget for expenses that only happen a few times a year like gifts, car insurance and trips to the dentist.
  5. Plan for both fixed and variable expenses. Fixed expenses are things like rent and council tax, that don’t often change and variable expenses are things like utilities, groceries and travel that vary over time: that’s why we think is important making a budget for that.
  6. Assess the ‘extra spending’ in your budget. If your budget still doesn’t balance, it’s time to cut back on non-essential spending. Could you have one less coffee shop coffee a day? Or take sandwiches into work?
  7. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t beat yourself up. Everyone will go off their budget occasionally, no matter how much money is available to you. If you end up going out for dinner with your mates, instead of a quick drink after work, don’t get disheartened, simply revise your budget and see where you can recoup the money moving forward.
  8. Don’t try to deprive yourself too much. Just like a diet, if you do, you will find it much harder to stick to in the long term! Find a balance between saving and the occasional treat such as that bottle of wine or those new flowers for the house.
  9. Review your budget every month. This will help you keep on track.
  10. Want more budgeting tips? Well, we can only say have fun! Enjoy spending your hard earned money as long as you’ve made provision in your budget and you’re following our budgeting tips!

If despite all this, you’re still struggling to balance your budget after cutting back on spending and are concerned about the amount of money you owe, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Spending more than you earn each month isn’t sustainable in the long-term, and will push you further and further into debt.  To find a provider that can help consult the Money Advice Service.

 

priscilla-du-preez-623040-unsplash

Benefits

There is no denying: the benefit system is a complex one.  With regular changes and renewals (just to keep you on your toes!), such as the on-going rollout of Universal Credit, it means many people are missing out on money because they don’t know what (or how) they can claim.  Don’t let that person be you!  

 

Benefits – the basics

While we only offer an outline of the UK benefits system here, we cannot emphasise enough the importance of making sure you are aware of what you are entitled to. If you think any of the following might apply to you, then it’s definitely worth looking in to.  

For further information on the benefits system works, we recommend visiting: www.gov.uk/browse/benefits.  Alternatively, you can visit www.turn2us.org.uk to find out what benefits and other support you may be eligible for.

Attendance Allowance (AA): or people who are disabled, over the age of 65 and need help looking after themselves. It does not cover mobility needs.  It is paid at two different rates depending on your level of disability and is not means tested.

Carer’s Allowance: available to those who look after someone who receives a qualifying disability benefit. You will need to look after that person for more than 35 hours a week and earn £120 or less a week (after deductions).

Child Benefit: you may be entitled to this if you are responsible for a child under the age of 16 (or under 20 if they stay in approved education or training).  However, if you or your partner have an individual income of more than £50,000, the benefit has now effectively been removed. Check out www.hmrc.gov.uk/child-benefit to find out more.

Child Tax Credit: Child Tax Credit: you could be eligible for this, for any child until the age of 16 (or under 20 if they stay in approved education or training).  You don’t have to be working to claim, and if you do claim, it won’t affect the child benefits you already receive.  How much you get will depend on your individual circumstances.

Disability Living Allowance (DLA): Disability Living Allowance (DLA): for people who are severely disabled and are under the state pension age. You must meet the ‘disability rules’ for DLA for a qualifying period of time. This means, in some cases you must have had care needs or mobility problems for a certain period of time before you can claim.

Personal Independence Payment (PIP): Personal Independence Payment (PIP): gradually replacing Disability Living Allowance, for people aged between16 and state pension age. Children under 16 will not be eligible for PIP.

Housing Benefit: it’s part of the benefits system and it is specifically designed for those on a low income, needing help with rent payments. You can only claim if you are living in the property you are paying rent for.  You cannot get Housing Benefit to help with the repayment of a mortgage or home loan.  It also does not help with Council Tax – however, there are other schemes that may be able to help you with this, such as Council Tax Reduction.  Housing Benefit is being replaced by Universal Credit.

Income Support: if you are on low income, you may be entitled to help with your day-to-day living expenses.  You must be under state pension age, and usually over 16.  To claim, you must have no income or a low income, work under 16 hours a week, and not be signed on as unemployed. Also, it is means-tested, which means that any money you have is taken into account in deciding how much you should get. Income Support is being replaced by Universal Credit.

Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA): in order to be eligible, you must be at least 18 years old, and below the state pension age. You must work less than 16 hours a week, and not be in full-time education. If you qualify, you will be entitled to receive the benefit to help you get by while applying for a full-time job.  There are three types of JSA you can apply for; “new style”, ‘contribution-based’ or ‘income-based’ – for further information on each, visit https://www.gov.uk/jobseekers-allowance  

Employment and Support Allowance (ESA): for those who can’t work because of sickness or disability and aren’t receiving Statutory Sick Pay.  You must be over 16 and under state pension age.  There are three types of ESA; “new style” ESA  contribution-based ESA and income-related  ESA. For more information on each, visit: www.gov.uk/employment-support-allowance

The Government’s Department for Work & Pensions has produced an online guide which can help you check if you qualify for any of these benefits and more. It can also give you an estimate of how much you may be able to get according to the benefits system in the UK. To see the online guide, go to www.gov.uk

Universal Credit

If you are currently claiming some of the benefits above or believe you should be entitled to any of them, it is crucial that you start to get to grips with the concept of ‘Universal Credit’.  You may have heard the term used more and more recently, but still don’t fully understand what it is, or whether it affects you – well, you certainly wouldn’t be alone!  

Put simply, it is a new benefits system that will replace some of the existing benefits above, with one single monthly payment.  

Under this new ‘Universal Credit’ banner, most of the benefits explained above are being merged together, in a government bid to simplify the welfare system.  The execution of Universal Credit will bring with it a whole host of major changes, including:  

Several benefits and tax credits will merge into a single, monthly payment, according to the benefits system 

The monthly payment will be paid to a household rather than an individual and will be put straight into a bank account.  

If you currently get help paying your rent, instead of going direct to the landlord, the money will come to you, in order, for you, to start paying the landlord.  

The introduction of an online-only claiming process, with accounts also managed online.  

Nearly everyone will need to reapply for their benefits.  

Benefits will be automatically adjusted depending on earnings, which employers enter into a computer system called real-time information.  

Universal Credit is currently being rolled out postcode by postcode usually starting with new claims and existing claimants being migrated to the new scheme later.  Therefore, if you currently claim benefits, now is a great time to start to get your head around Universal Credit and how you will manage your budget moving from weekly to monthly payments.  

We have really only scratched the surface of what Universal Credit is here, so please don’t worry if you are still a little confused; there is lots of additional support available to better understand how the benefits system works. 

For further information visit:  https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/universal-credit-an-introduction

 

 

Banking – Product and Services

What can a bank or building society offer you?

Don’t opt to stash your cash under the mattress when there are safer places to deposit your wage, that also provide convenient ways to manage bill payments, offer loans and give you interest while you save. What more could you want?  

What is a bank?

At a very simplistic level, banks accept deposits and make loans, and then make a profit from the difference in the interest rates paid and charged. So whilst the products and services they provide can be invaluable, remember they exist to make a profit.  

How is a building society different?

A building society differs ever so slightly from a bank, in that they were originally owned by their members, i.e. the customers who invest in savings schemes and those who hold mortgages and other accounts with them. Over recent years many of them have changed their ownership, meaning they have become more like a normal public company, but for the few that remain mutual (owned by its members) there are some important differences. There are no shareholders to pay dividends to, and so any profits are reinvested in the building society, and it is often run and managed by those who have some ownership. Nowadays, building societies offer pretty much exactly the same services as banks.  

Why might I need a bank or building society account?

In order to store and manage your money safely; it allows you to easily pay bills, cash cheques, pay wages in, purchase goods in-store or online, make mobile payments, record your spending – the possibilities are endless (well, not quite endless, but you know what we mean!).

Why types of bank accounts are there?

The terms used can differ from one bank to another, but here are four main types to look out for:  

Basic bank account – the simplest type of bank account that allows you to receive and access your money as well as pay bills via cash, debit card and online but doesn’t include overdrafts, cheques or credit cards.  

Current account – allows you to receive regular payments, e.g. salary, benefits, pension etc, and regularly withdraw money either in cash, or payments via debit card or cheque.  

Packaged account – a current account that offers extra features, e.g. travel insurance, interest free overdraft, motor breakdown cover, for a monthly fee (often between £10-20)  

Joint account – largely used by people that live together in order to manage bills, shared expenses, mortgage and rent payments. Just remember that if anything happens with the account, you are all responsible; and (unless you require everybody to authorise each transaction) people can spend money without the others knowing!  

As you know these are not the only services available from a bank or building society – most will also offer savings accounts, investments, mortgages, insurance, credit cards and loans.  

Which bank or building society is for me?

Choosing the right bank or building society for you shouldn’t be too hard. Firstly, you have to figure out exactly what you need from it – for example, if you have a tight schedule and are often busy you will need to find a bank with flexible (or weekend) opening hours, that allows ATM deposits and can be managed online. Alternatively, if you would prefer to do your banking over the telephone, look for those who have the best track record in offering this service. For the more tech-savvy, there is now app-based banking which allows you to manage your money from your smartphone.  

Once you know what to look for, you can quickly evaluate the competition. The most important thing to remember is that it is an incredibly competitive market, with each bank trying to look better than the next. That is why it is crucial to shop around! Focus on what is important to you and not what the (literally) all-singing all-dancing adverts try to tell you. For more help choosing the right account visit: www.moneysavingexpert.com

It is crucial to shop around!

And lastly – statistics show that the average person is more likely to get divorced during their lifetime than change their current account! But this shouldn’t be the case. You can change both of them as often as you like – the rules and process have been changed to make it much easier for you to do this. As a result, many companies have responded by offering enticing cashback switching offers and promise to transfer any direct debits you might have quickly so that you don’t miss a payment. Why not check them out or ask your bank what more they can do for you to make your money work harder? 

Hastee Pay