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Six best ways to get your bank balance back in shape


When it comes to reviewing your finances, it makes sense to focus on the areas that could save the most cash with the least effort. We show you how.

piggy bank 

There is never a bad time to get your finances in shape. But where do you start?

Most of us have lots of outgoings, from mortgages or rent to utilities bills and mobile phone contracts.

Then there’s our savings and pensions – provided we have any.

We’ve taken a look at the potential changes that offer the biggest bang for your buck – that is, they are simple to implement and stand to save or make you the most money.

1. Sort out your debts

If you are borrowing on an overdraft or credit card, you could be paying high rates of interest and extra fees on top.

Patrick Connolly, a Certified Financial Planner at Chase de Vere, says there are certain questions you need to ask, such as:

  • What interest rates are you paying on your debt?

  • Would you face any exit penalties if you pay off your debt?

  • Can you reduce how much you’re paying by moving your debt elsewhere?

  • How much are you able to put aside each month to reduce your debts?

"Work out a plan to pay off your debts, starting with those where you pay the highest rates of interest and have little or no exit penalties – and then make sure you stick to it," Connolly says.

2. Clear out your direct debits

Andrew Hagger, a personal finance expert at Moneycomms, has a very simple tip to potentially save cash.

"Look through your bank statement and cancel those non-essential direct debits, such as gym membership, dental plans, magazine subscriptions and so on," he says.

"The sums may not be large, but every little helps."

3. Find a cheaper mortgage

Home loan repayments are many households' biggest monthly outgoing.

Connolly says you should check when your current mortgage ends and what penalties you would face for moving to another deal.

He adds: "Review your existing mortgage deal to make sure it is competitive.

"Work out if you can afford to make overpayments to reduce your mortgage debt and make sure you can afford to pay your mortgage even if interest rates rise in 2015, as many people predict them to do."

4. Get the best deal on fuel

 fuel pump

Petrol and diesel prices have fallen dramatically over recent months, but there can still be a significant difference in the costs from garage to garage.

Check out our petrol prices tool to make sure you know where the cheapest petrol garage is near you.

Even though fuel costs are getting lower, it can still help you save an extra 2p or 3p per litre."

5. Join a pension scheme and get free money

If your employer has a company pension, you could be missing out on free cash by not joining.

Yes, you’ll have to contribute some of your salary – but it’s all in a good cause, namely being able to retire at a reasonable age.

As a bonus, most firms’ schemes include an employer’s contribution – so if you pay in, say, 3% of your salary your firm may match it.

Connolly says: "If you have access to a company pension scheme then you should probably join it.

"While retirement might seem like a long way off, the sooner you are saving regularly into the pension the easier it will be to achieve a comfortable standard of living when you do retire."

6. Don’t accept your insurer’s offer

When your home or car insurance comes up for renewal, your current provider will make you a new offer and may renew your cover automatically if you don’t cancel your policy.

Chances are, their new price is not the cheapest available so it makes sense to see what other deals are available.

Hagger says: "Shop around for cheaper cover, but also review the level of cover you have – you may be able to cut back here and there to save £20 to £50 on your annual premium."