The last year will be remembered for many things, but it won’t go down in history as the most prosperous year for personal finances.
With the New Year just around the corner, Which? suggests some financial resolutions to help make the most of your cash in 2017.
Top tips for saving money in 2017
Haggle for broadband, insurance and mobile phone deals
You can simply be saving hundreds of pounds by haggling for your services like broadband and insurance. We recently found the average annual saving haggled off telecoms bills is £156. Before you make the call, quickly make a note of a better deal you’ve seen – perhaps one advertised on TV, or spend a few minutes checking a price comparison site.
Your current provider is likely to ask you what better deals you’ve seen. Having these details to hand will make it more believable that you’re prepared to leave, even if you’re not. In most cases, the haggling itself will be quick and easy – no more than a few minutes.
Planning a holiday in 2017
If you’ve not yet booked your 2017 holiday and you’re flexible about when you want to go, the holiday ‘sweet spot’ could save you hundreds on long-haul trips. Top picks include Miami in October when you could save £804 on average against peak summer season.
Visiting Buenos Aires in April, when the city is quieter and there are fewer tourists around, makes it easier to see the biggest sights. You can also save £333 on average against the peak season price.
Keep your travel spending in check
Holidaymakers could save over £100 a week by opting for an overseas spending card or credit card instead of buying currency at the airport. We found that credit cards or debit cards, such as Halifax Clarity and Metro Bank (credit and debit), or prepaid cards such as Revolut, provided the best value for tourists for a trip within Europe.
Reward cards with bank accounts
With interest rates on traditional savings account and Isas at all-time lows, interest-paying current accounts are worth a look. You can still earn a generous 5% on balances up to £2,500 from Nationwide Building Society, although this drops to 1% after the first year.
Tesco Bank offers 3% on balances of up to £3,000, and Bank of Scotland’s Classic Vantage account pays 1.5% on balances from £1, 2% from £1,000, and 3% from £3,000 (it pays nothing on any cash in excess of £5,000).
Take a look at all your savings accounts, Isas and current accounts. Are they giving you the best return on your money? If not, switch to a better account. If you don’t need instant access to all your savings, consider investing. There is, of course, the risk that your investments will go down as well as up. But in the current market, there’s also a risk of your cash savings being eroded by inflation.
Switch your energy provider
Around 16 million people – over half (58%) of energy customers – are stuck on standard variable tariffs with a ‘Big Six’ provider, the default and usually most expensive tariff. Renters and homeowners with the ‘Big Six’ could be saving up to £330 a year by moving to the cheapest dual fuel deal on the market this winter. To compare deals visit Which? Switch, a transparent and impartial way to compare energy tariffs and find the best gas and electricity supplier.
Cheaper train fares
Split ticketing involves buying multiple tickets to cover separate parts of one journey. The only rule is that the train must stop at all the stations named on your tickets. The reason it can save you money is that different train companies have their own prices for different parts of the journey. This tactic could save you hundreds of pounds on an annual season ticket. Rail staff aren’t allowed to advise on split tickets, but must sell them if asked.
If you’re paying interest on your debt, get it moved to a 0% balance-transfer credit card. Some of these charge 0% interest for up to three years, which means you could be saving hundreds in interest and start paying down your debts.
However, it’s important that you clear the debt before the end of the 0% period to avoid being charged at the standard APR – typically around 18.9%.
The Which? Money Compare 0% balance-transfer credit card tables let you search hundreds of cards from providers large and small to choose a great deal based on quality of service as well as cost and benefits.
Stay in/join your company pension scheme
A pension might be the last thing on your mind if you’re in your 20s. In most cases, the government and your employer contribute to your pension. This is the main reason for people joining company pension schemes – it’s like receiving additional pay from your employer. Contributions aren’t liable for income tax, which is another plus. You can usually take some of your workplace pension as a lump sum when you retire. And you can withdraw 25% of that tax-free.
The Lifetime Isa is a new tax-free savings or investments account designed to help under-40s buy their first home or save for retirement, where you can earn up to £32,000 in free cash from the government. The Lifetime Isa will be available to open from 6 April 2017.
‘There’s never been a better time to take control of your money’
Gareth Shaw, head of Which? Money online, said: ‘With lots of uncertainty over the last year, there’s never been a better time to take control of your money rather than putting it off to later. People can be saving hundreds of pounds by simply switching energy provider or having a prepaid travel card on holiday.
‘Consolidating your debts, choosing the right Isas and bank accounts can also save you money in 2017, which can leave you with more money in the long-term.’
- We’ve listed some top tips for creating an effective household budget
- See our all-inclusive money-saving guide: 50 ways to save money
- Your financial query answered by calling the Which? Money Helpline
Which? Limited is an Introducer Appointed Representative of Which? Financial Services Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 527029). Which? Mortgage Advisers and Which? Money Compare are trading names of Which? Financial Services Limited.