Many of us enter January financially stretched. Lots of people overspend at Christmas and those paid monthly have to wait five weeks to be paid. Here are some tips for tackling your finances in 2018:
- Draw up a monthly budget. You need to include all your income and expenses, and try your best to stick to it.
If you can manage to put some money into savings each month, then that's even better.
- If you have long-standing credit card debt that you are finding hard to shift, think about switching to a card with a 0pc balance transfer offer, making sure to pay the balance off within the interest-free period.
It is little use having a savings account if you are also paying off credit card debt at a rate of 22pc.
- Ensure you are not paying more than you need to for your household essentials. If you have not switched your energy, broadband or phone plan in some time, make it one of your new year's resolutions to do this.
You will be amazed at the savings you can make, with some switches taking no more than a half-hour phone call. Switching energy alone could save you up to €335, while savings of up to €432 are available on some broadband packages, according to Switcher.ie.
- Take time to review all of your monthly payments. This should include fees being paid to the gym, a cinema membership, or a streaming service. And cancel any you no longer use.
You might be surprised at the monthly membership fee that is still going out of your account for a member of your family, or yourself, but the service is no longer being availed of.
- Make the most of any tax reliefs or benefits you are entitled to by checking the Revenue.ie site. You can claim tax relief on some medical expenses that are not covered by the State or by private health insurance.
There's loads of information on benefits and taxes on the Revenue website, so take some time to check these out. Up to a third of eligible taxpayers are unaware they can get sizeable tax reliefs to offset some of the cost of nursing home fees, home-care costs and medical expenses. Tax relief at 40pc is available for those funding nursing home fees.
Tax relief is also available for expenditure incurred by an individual for themselves or family members which have not been fully reimbursed by a private health insurer or local authority. Relief is granted at the 20pc rate.
- Take some energy-saving measures around the home.
Simple changes, like turning down the heating by just one degree, can knock up to 10pc off heating bills, while turning appliances off, rather than leaving them on standby, will reduce the appliance's energy use by around 20pc.
- See if you can get a discount by switching from monthly to annual payments. The chances are you are paying extra for the convenience of paying things like gym membership or insurance on a monthly basis.
Although paying upfront will be larger outlays of cash in one go, it will save you in the long run.
- See if you are eligible for fee-free banking.
Although many banks have reintroduced fees on current accounts in recent years, many still have accounts that offer fee-free banking once you meet certain criteria.
This may involve keeping a certain amount of money in the current account at all stages, or you may be entitled to fee-free banking because of your age.