With the new year well and truly underway, our team of money experts look at the best ways you can save, spend and protect your money in 2011.
Bag a better bank account
If you’ve been with the same bank for years, it’s time to switch. Whether you’re always in credit or tend to go overdrawn, there’s an account out there to suit you. And if good customer service is important to you, look no further than our Which? recommended providers, which combine good service and good rates.
Get tips on bills and budgeting
Learn to love online shopping in 2011. Use websites to compare the cost of everything from CDs and DVDs to books and groceries before buying, track down discount codes and use cashback websites to maximise your savings.
You could end up hundreds of pounds better off over the course of the year. For more ways to save on shopping and to make your budget stretch further, check out our bills and budgeting guides.
Get clever with credit cards
The new year is a great time to clear out your wallet and make your plastic work harder for you. If you’re planning a major purchase in the January sales, a 0%-on-purchases credit card will let you spread the cost over the year without paying any interest.
If you’d prefer to pay off your bill in full, a cashback card will pay you up to 1.25%, while a retailer-branded reward card could earn you up to 5% in gift vouchers.
If you already owe money on your credit card, don’t despair – a 0% balance transfer period of up to 16 months could slash the cost of borrowing, helping you to clear your debts much quicker. For loads more information, check our guide to choosing the right credit card.
Don’t pay over the odds for insurance
The new year is a great time to assess all your insurance needs – car, travel and home. As well as protection, it’s important to reassess your requirements as with each new year your circumstances will change.
For some this might be as simple as driving fewer miles or something more significant such as changing your job or retiring. By reviewing your needs you could make significant savings. Check our Best Rates and Recommended Providers here.
Is it time to start investing?
The most common way for people to invest is through a mutual fund, a collective investment run by an expert fund manager who decides on where to invest in different sectors and geographies. A fund is a good way to invest – it allows you to spread risk and invest in assets that you might not be able to alone. But with this comes high fees, which have been rapidly increasing over the past decade and are the quickest way to erode any good performance your investment might achieve.
Before choosing an actively managed fund, look at tracker funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs) – they are much cheaper, meaning more money comes back to you, the investor. And if you decide on an active fund, investment trusts can be a cheaper option too.
Consider moving your mortgage
If your mortgage is less than 80% of your property’s value and you are currently paying your lender’s standard variable interest rate, check whether you could save money by switching to a new deal. Our mortgage comparison tool tells you how much you could save and lets you compare deals by total cost.
Play safe when it comes to your property
If you are planning any renovations or repairs to your home in 2011, make sure you choose a reliable tradesperson who will give you value for money by using Which? Local. The website is exclusively for Which? members and lets you search for tradespeople in your area who have been recommended by other members.
Prepare properly for retirement
If you are approaching retirement, it’s a good time to get a pension forecast to make sure you’ll get a full state pension. You can take stock of your private pension saving too. Do you know what you might get as retirement income? Will you need to buy an annuity? Has your partner got an independent pension, or do you need to make joint plans?
If you are younger, you might look at how much you are saving. Do you need to put away more? Is your company scheme defined benefit or defined contribution? Are you on track for sort of pension you want? Our guide to pensions and retirement will help you need to consider what you need and why.
Get a better return on your savings
Now’s a good time to check whether you’re getting the most from your savings. Some accounts are paying dismal rates – check what rate you’re getting and if you could do better by using our Savings Booster. And don’t forget you’ve only got until 5 April to use up your £5,100 cash allowance.
Pay less tax – legally!
Those who pay tax on savings and investment income can take advantage of their 2010-11 Isa allowance (£10,200) before the end of the financial year and make plans for future tax-free investments when the 2011-12 allowance becomes available. As well as making the most of your allowance, you should shop around for Best Rates and consider transferring past savings, rather than leaving them in low-paying accounts.
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