New Year financial resolutions you can stick to - Martin Lewis
So, my aim is to show you things you can do now, that should have impact over the year or longer. It could save you thousands. This year I resolve to…
Check if I’m due up to £1,188 via the marriage tax allowance
If you're married or in a civil partnership, and one of you doesn’t earn enough to pay income tax, and the other does, at the basic 20% rate this is a heads up. The marriage tax allowance lets the non-taxpayer apply at www.gov.uk/marriage-allowance to transfer 10% of their personal allowance (the amount you can earn tax-free) to their spouse.
This year that’s £1,250, meaning a gain of £250, but as you can back claim to 2016/2017 if eligible it could mean you’re due a further £938. Over 1m eligible are still missing out, so it’s worth checking.
Check if I’m pouring money down the drain
You can't switch supplier to save on your water bills, but some may be better off with a meter. Those in England and Wales, my general rule of thumb is if you have the same or more number of bedrooms in your house than people then it’s definitely worth checking on www.ccwater.org.uk – some save £100s.
Check if I can slash £1,000s off the year's mortgage repayments
For those with decent equity in their house, the historically low UK base rate means lower LTV mortgages are super-cheap right now. So everyone check right now if you’re on the best deal. Use www.mse.me/mortgagebestbuy or MoneyFacts.co.uk to benchmark if you may be able to save.
Sadly, if you’re on furlough or self-employed grant it may be more difficult right now, but otherwise use a broker who’ll be able to home in on which lenders are most likely to accept you.
Sort a power of attorney
One in three over-65s die with dementia, and many lose their faculties earlier from strokes, accidents, or even due to long covid hospitalisations. Without a power of attorney to get access to your funds, even to pay for treatment or cover mortgage payments, your family would need to make a hard, slow and costly attempt to apply in court.
With all that’s going on in the world right now, do get it sorted (I have at 48). Don’t worry it only kicks into effect if you lose your faculties. You can do it yourself at www.gov.uk/power-of-attorney or a solicitor can help.
Check if you can cut credit card interest by £100s
If you can’t afford to clear your credit cards in full, you can’t afford not to check whether you can do a 0% balance transfer. This is where you get a new card(s) that repays debts on existing cards for you, so you owe it instead, but at a far lower cost, for a small fee.
Of course acceptance is the challenge for most. That’s now easier to find out as many cards have eligibility checkers which give your chances pre-application. Or you can see most top cards together in one place via comparison tools, such as the one on my site at www.mse.me/balancetransfer.
Take just five minutes to save £200/year on energy bills
Depressingly over 50% of the UK is still on a big-six standard tariff, paying the price cap amount of £1,042/year for someone on typical use. Yet just because it’s a ‘fair’ price, doesn’t make it a good one.
It only takes five minutes to put your details into a comparison site and find your best combination of price and service. My www.mse.me/CheapEnergyClub also gives cashback you don’t get going direct, and you can use the Pick Me A Tariff tool, if you find choosing confusing. Or use any www.Ofgem.com approved site, though be aware most don’t show all tariffs by default.
Make a bank pay me (in wine) to switch
If you didn't switch in 2020 and don't regularly sing your bank's praises you're missing out. Sadly, few banks are offering switching incentives right now (I expect a few more to launch in the next few weeks), any new ones will go on www.mse.me/topbankaccounts.
The pick of the crop is Virgin Money which will give you 15 bottles of wine free (worth £180), plus it’s giving 2% interest on the first £1,000 in it. There’re a few hoops to jump through so make sure you do your reading first and meet its terms, and do be Drinkaware.
Check my savings rate
Rates have dived over the last year. Many now pay at most 0.1%. While the best buys are pretty dismal too, you can earn up to 1% in a fix. So, check what you’re getting and ditch and switch, full best buys in www.mse.me/topsavings.
Call up a debt counsellor and make the change if you’re struggling
If your non-mortgage and non-student loan debts are bigger than a year's after-tax income, you can't meet your minimum repayments or you're having sleepless nights over debt, a non-profit debt advice agency is the place to turn.
Whilst they do get rammed in January, book an appointment ASAP. There's free, one-on-one help from www.citizensadvice.org.uk, www.nationaldebtline.org, and www.stepchange.org, which also runs an online full debt advice service that operates 24/7. The biggest comment I get is “I called, and finally slept last night”. Watch the Martin Lewis Money Show live on Thursdays, 8.30pm on ITV. If you really want to save do watch the show. It’s on every Thursday until the end of March – you can’t afford to miss it. To join the 13 million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/latesttip
Martin Lewis is the Founder and Chair of MoneySavingExpert.com