As times are getting tough, some tips to boost your budget

Household budgets are going to be very stretched in the coming months, as the financial impact of coronavirus continues to be felt.

Check through your bills and statements to see whether your outgoings really add up. Picture: PA

While many people are feeling a significant impact on their finances, there may be some small ways to ease some of the pressure.

Consumer rights expert Martyn James, from complaints help website, offers some suggestions.

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Are you paying for the same service more than once?

Many people routinely pay out more than they think – by spending on several services that basically do the same thing.

For example, are you saving your online data to “the cloud”? Some people might be using a paid-for service they took out with their computer or laptop - and maybe another through their phone provider. Music streaming services are also often duplicated. If someone is paying for two cloud services and two music streaming services and they reduce that to one each, the potential saving could be as much as £400 a year.

Have you fallen into a subscription trap?

Lurking in your statements, you may discover one-off payments or sneaky monthly subscriptions. You may have signed up to free trials and forgotten to cancel. Or perhaps you tried out a service a while ago but you simply don’t use it.

Trawl back a year and one month in your banking, which will allow for every annual payment to be tracked down. If you didn’t authorise these payments, weren’t told you were going to be debited or you think you’ve been scammed, contact your bank immediately. You might even find you eventually get some money back.

Look for mistakes and mishaps

Honest errors on statements may be missed, whether it’s duplicate transactions or payments for services still going out despite having been cancelled. If you spot anything you don’t recognise, ask your bank or card provider to “charge back” the money.

Check you’re not paying for more than you need in online bills

Go through what’s included. You might not need the full package you’re on and could instantly save be reducing it.

Phone bills can contain a range of charges. Flag up anything you haven’t authorised with your provider. The Phone-paid Services Authority, the UK regulator for content, goods and services charged to a phone bill, may also be able to help point you in the right direction.

Stop paying the price for loyalty

In 2018, the Competitions and Markets Authority found that a range of businesses – from lenders to mobile phone companies, insurance to broadband firms – had been charging loyalty penalties to customers who let policies or services automatically renew each year.

If you feel you’ve paid too much for loyalty, you may want to complain to the company concerned. Turn detective and check online to see what you’d be offered for the deal you’re on as a new customer, take a screenshot and take it up with the business.

Cancel insurance policies you no longer need

Perhaps it’s a mobile phone insurance policy for a phone you’ve upgraded years ago that you’re still being charged for. Or maybe an expensive gadget insurance policy would be cheaper if you update your home insurance.

And if you’re paying for a bank account that comes with certain perks such as insurance, make sure it covers what you expect it to.

Finally, remember to use kindness and courtesy

Making a few savings can really help you make your cash go further. But businesses may be extremely busy currently with many people trying to get through. For non-urgent inquiries, take your time and try to avoid tying up phone lines where possible by going online.

And be friendly even if you’re frustrated. A bit of kindness goes a long way.