Citizens Advice South Hams is expecting January to be their busiest month for advice on finances. To help people at this difficult time of year, Citizens Advice South Hams and Dr Sarah Wollaston MP will be hosting a Debt Advice Surgery.
Citizens Advice South Hams has been flooded with enquiries on financial matters in January as people are more likely to tackle their finances in January than any other time of the year.
Analysis by the national arm of the charity shows that demand for money and debt advice is highest in January, with one person contacting their nearest Citizens Advice for help every 11 seconds and people visiting the national Citizens Advice website every 3 seconds.
While this time of year is often associated with squeezed budgets and debt worries, Citizens Advice South Hams has seen the number of debt enquiries double compared to this time last year. The biggest enquiry areas are around council tax arrears, credit card debts, rent arrears and debt relief orders.
Janie Moor, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice South Hams said:
“This is a difficult time for many people, but a great time of year to take stock of your finances. It’s important to think about your priorities for the future, not just for the next month but for the next year and beyond.
“Whether you’re looking to deal with debts, cut your costs or budget better, Citizens Advice can help you review your overall money situation so you can make decisions that improve your financial security.”
Dr Sarah Wollaston said:
“I know that this is a particularly difficult time financially for many individuals and families. Teaming up with Citizens Advice we can bring practical support to those who need it most and hear more about the background problems contributing to debt.”
The surgery with Dr Sarah Wollaston will be held on Tuesday 14th February at the Totnes Library, which is fully accessible to all. It will run from 11am until 1pm.
For further advice, or for more information about the Debt Advice Surgery contact Citizens Advice South Hams on 03444 111 444. Alternatively you can look at our poster for the event: Debt Advice Surgery poster
You can also visit Dr Sarah Wollaston’s page: http://www.drsarah.org.uk/ or call 01803 868 378.
To help people get started, Citizens Advice South Hams is sharing its eight top tips to help people get their finances in order for the New Year:
- Do a simple budget
Write down your income and take away your essential bills such as gas and electric, food and transport. If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save. If you don’t, look at ways to cut your costs. Use our online tool to set a more detailed budget.
- Save money on essentials
Diarise the dates of annual contracts that are up for renewal, like your mobile phone or car insurance, and use a comparison site to see if you can get a cheaper deal.
- Check you’re claiming the right benefits
If you have a family or are married, check if you can apply for working tax credits or marriage tax allowance on gov.co.uk
If you live alone, you may be entitled to a discount on your council tax bill.
If you claim benefits, visit the Citizens Advice website to check if you are eligible for discounts on your water or energy bills.
- Start saving
Start saving if you can – it doesn’t matter if it’s 50p or £5 a week, every penny will help improve your finances.
Saving is an important part of everyday finances, giving you a buffer for emergencies, helping you buy bigger items and giving you more financial security for the future.
- Keep tabs on your overdraft
Sign up to free text alerts from your bank so you know when you’re close to going into your overdraft. Then make adjustments to your spending if you can.
- Be choosey about your borrowing
If you need to borrow money, it’s important to know that there are different offers with credit cards and loans, from free balance transfers to paying no interest for the first few months.
- Get your debts in order
If you can’t pay all your debts at once, it’s important to prioritise. Rent or mortgage and council tax are more important than credit card debts for example, as the consequences can be more serious if you don’t pay. Find out how to prioritise on the Citizens Advice website or contact your nearest service for help.
- Invest in your future
Pensions are a great way to save for the future and are also good value, as your contributions are topped up your employer and the government.
If you’re eligible for auto-enrolment, consider paying more than just the minimum.
Those who are self-employed can still set up their own pension but make sure it’s with a regulated company.
If you’re over 50 and have a defined contribution pension you can get free a Pension Wise appointment to learn more about taking your pension.