Make your new year's resolutions count
Is it wrong to admit a secret love of January? For one month only, being savvy with cash becomes sexy. People lust to sit down and tackle bills. So let me take advantage of this and suggest the key money-saving resolutions that could save thousands.
● I resolve to… properly assess my finances
I am sure you know how much you earn but do you know how much you spend each year? Without knowing both you don't have a real handle on your finances. Spend more than you earn and you eat up savings and build debts. So this must be calculated.
Finding this out requires a real budget. I don't mean willy-nilly looking at a month's expenditure - that misses out things like holidays or new sofas - I mean a year's finances. The free www.budgetbrain.com tool does this for you and shows how to balance your finances if there is an issue.
● I resolve to… stop my car chugging so much fuel
Think of your car's accelerator as a money pump. The harder you press, the more you spend. Keeping the revs low and changing up gear earlier make the car work less hard.
Think of your brake as a money burner. Press it and you burn up the fuel you paid to put in it. By pre-thinking your road positioning you maximise fuel use. Many can save 20 per cent this way.
● I resolve to… check if I can reclaim £1,000s in PPI
Anyone who has had a card or loan active over the past six years should dig out the paperwork and check. Banks have put aside £6 billion to pay claims. Reclaiming is easy - you just send off a quick letter. Full step-by-step guide with free template letters at www.moneysavingexpert.com/ppi.
● I resolve to... haggle with call centres
In mature industries such as mobile phones, TV, broadband and more, companies grow by tempting customers from other firms. So if your deal is not cheap, tell your provider you will ditch and switch unless it improves it. Often you will be put through to "disconnections" - really "customer retentions" - whose job is to keep you. A poll of 3,000 users on my site showed haggling worked for 78 per cent of Sky TV, broadband or home phone users, 73 per cent of AA breakdown cover customers and 72 per cent of Virgin Media ones.
● I resolve to… repay my credit cards in order
If you have multiple cards don't just repay the same amount off all. Focus repayments on the highest interest-rate one to clear the highest quickest. Only repay the minimum on the rest.
Once it is gone, focus on the next highest. However, if you have just one card beware paying just the minimum - for instance £3,000 at 18 per cent could take 27 years to clear.
● I resolve to… save £300 on my 2012 energy bills
The typical home on a standard tariff in the UK pays £1,350 a year for its gas and electricity, but could pay as little as £1,030 on an online-billed tariff. If you haven't switched recently, do a comparison to see how much you could save.
Use a comparison site approved by www.consumerfocus.org.uk. Just put in your details and they tell you your area's cheapest option. Better still, through special links listed at www.moneysavingexpert.com/gaselec, you can get £30 cashback or a crate of wine on top.
● I resolve to… not auto-renew my car insurance
Car insurance costs have shot up. Yet by simply combining comparison sites like Moneysupemarket.co.uk, Confused.com and Gocompare.com, you can slam that down. But always check the policy is right for you.
● I resolve to... get a tax refund on work clothes
If you wash your work uniform - whether it is full nurse or police attire, or just a polo shirt - you may be able to reclaim tax.
Provided you only wear it for work, if you wash and maintain the clothes, you may be due an extra tax-free allowance each year.
The amount can be anything from £12 to £56 back per year, and you can backdate claims for up to six years. See www.moneysavingexpert.com/uniforms.
● I resolve to… prepare for next chanucah now
Buy cheap wrapping paper, cards, decorations and even presents now while they are super-cheap in the sales.