Save £1,000+ in a day, with a checklist to overhaul your money
It's the week many bills come in. So it's time for my annual clarion call to take a day to sort your finances - even if you can't do a full day, scan the timetable to save as much as you can. As Emma found: "Following your tips so far in 2016 I've slashed Sky from £36 to £20/mth, got £150 switching bank & saved £80/mth card interest. Savings so far? £1,300."
Many families who've never bothered before can save £1,000+ for the year, making it 2016's best-paid day for all but those on £470k+ salaries.
07:30. Save up to £500/yr on water bills. While showering, ask yourself if your home has the same or more bedrooms than people. If so & you're in Eng/Wales, use a water meter calc to see if you can save by switching to a meter, as Carole emailed: "Never thought I'd benefit, but got a meter and my rate dropped from £65 to £18/mth. Thanks Martin." That's a £560/yr saving.
07:50. Wear a uniform? You may be due an up-to-£300 tax rebate. As you're dressing, if you or anyone in your family normally slips on a work uniform (or used to) - from branded T-shirts to nurses' kits - & you wash it yourself, you may be due up to 4 years' back tax, like forumite kevbev321:"Woo hoo - been in a uniform role for 5yrs, got a tasty £250 back." For full info and templates to reclaim FOR FREE see Uniform Tax Back.
08:10. Earn £220 switching bank. Grab free dosh - now's the perfect time as there's a bank switching price war. Switch to M&S to get £100 vch + £10/mth + 6% savings or First Direct to get £150 cash + 6% savings + no.1 service. It takes just 7 days to switch, 82% say it's easy and hassle free. Save £100s. Full info & options in Top Bank Accounts.
08:20. Grab £1,000s of childcare help. As you feed the baby or battle to get your kids to school, think childcare costs. If you pay for childcare (including after-school clubs), there are two things to check:
1) Earn under £46,000 and work 16+hrs/wk (both of you, if a couple)? Check if you're entitled to Childcare Tax Credits, worth an avg £3,000/yr.
2) If not, Childcare Vouchers let you pay tax-free, saving some £1,000s.
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09:00. Save £300/yr on energy in 352 secs (give or take...). If like 70% of people you're on a big 6 standard tariff you can slash bills. Even if they all slash prices as E.on’s announced today (5% on gas, not elec, on 1 Feb) they are still hugely more expensive than the market’s cheapest.
We timed how long it took four MSE Towers newbies to compare and start a switch using Cheap Energy Club - on average it took 5m 52s saving £320/yr. And it can be more, Rachel tweeted: "@martinslewis consider myself money savvy, but just did your energy swap 'n' saved £548/yr."
09:06. Save up to £500 in minutes haggling down Sky, AA, Virgin, etc. With breakdown cover, digital TV, broadband & mobiles, if you're near or beyond the end of your contract and don't want to switch... haggle. Call 'em up, ask for a better deal and let 'em know you'll go elsewhere if not.
As Brian told us: "Rang Sky & asked it to match Virgin's Big Kahuna movies & sport - now £50/mth, down from £100/mth." See our Haggle down your bills guide for where it works best and how to do it.
09:30. Check if your books are balanced. Switch off Jeremy Kyle, things just got serious. Do you KNOW you consistently spend more than you earn? If so, you're either eating your savings or risking the build-up of dangerous debts. My Budget Analyser works through your outgoings to help work out how to get your finances in shape. Give it at least an hour.
10:50. 10 mins to check if you're due £1,000s back on council tax. Before you take a break, up to 400,000 homes in Eng & Scot are in the wrong council tax band. Use my Council Tax Check & Challenge System to check, if so, as the appropriately named Rich told us: "Thanks. I got a £4,400 refund as my band was reduced and backdated to 1993 - plus £350/yr better off in future. RESULT."
11:00. Get a free tea (or coffee). It's elevenses - time for a treat. So sign up for a free DAILY tea or coffee at Waitrose.
11:30. Bag superb exchange rates for every holiday abroad. A moment to relax and think holidays. Smash bureau de change rates whenever you go away by using a specialist overseas credit card. Grab a Halifax Clarity or Creation Everyday card and you get the same near-perfect rates banks get in every country. Ensure you repay the card IN FULL each month.
11:45. Spend a penny. No way to save here (except cut loo paper use).
12:00. Can you save £100s on food bills? Before lunch, look through your fridge & kitchen cupboards. If you spy lots of branded goods, try something different - use our Downshift Challenge Tool or 30+ Supermarket Tricks. Or take it to the next level with Extreme Couponing.
13:15. Time's ticking - are you owed £1,000s in PPI back? Don't assume "this isn't me". Even some who rejected this insurance had it wrongly added to loans, credit cards, overdrafts, catalogues & store cards without knowing.
With a time-bar on claims on the horizon, check now. Full help, FAQs & free templates in Reclaim PPI for FREE. As Elaina emailed: "Massive thanks for a £2,800 PPI cheque. I was adamant I'd never paid PPI - shows how wrong you can be."
13:45. Can you slash your mortgage by £1,000s? Rates, esp fixes, are near all-time lows. Check your mortgage now to see if you can save, read the MSE Remortgage Guide and use our Mortgage Best Buys tool.
OR first-time buyers, get £1,000s added to your deposit. If you want to get on the property ladder, take a look at the Top Help to Buy ISAs where the Govt will add up to £3,000 to your mortgage deposit savings. Also see my free First-Time Buyers' Mortgage Guide.
15:15. Can you slash ALL debt costs to 0%? Whether you've loans, credit cards, store cards or more, see if you can slash debt costs to 0%.
16:00. Check your tax code - if wrong, you could be due big money. Millions of people have had incorrect tax codes, so a huge chunk of the UK population has paid too much (or too little) tax. We've built a unique checker to help work out if you're owed. Use the Tax Code Calculator.
16:15. Get up to 5% cashback on all spending - you could make £200/yr. A cashback credit card pays you every time you spend on it. So grab one and use it for all spending. Top pick is Amex Everyday that gives up to 5% back - just ensure you repay the card IN FULL each month to avoid interest. Also use Top Cashback Sites to earn more when you shop.
16:30. Reclaim and reclaim and reclaim and reclaim... Many are due money in lots of areas. Here are some key ones to check...
- Did overdraft charges cause hardship? Reclaim bank charges.
- Switched energy in last 5yrs? Take 2mins to check if you're owed £100s.
- Flight delay of 3hrs+ in the last 6 years? See Flight Delay Compensation.
- Paid a monthly fee for your bank account? You can reclaim fees, as a very excited Cheryl tweeted me: "Someone give that man a knighthood. £980 back from mis-sold bank package and £200 on my energy bills."
17:15. A must do - grab a diary and fill it in. Sounds dull, but this is perhaps the most important single thing you'll do today. Grab a diary, then go through all products with timed elements - eg, car insurance, savings bonus rates, 0% cards, broadband & mobile contracts & more. Put a note in a month before each one ends to swoop & fix.
This article first appeared in the weekly email on 20 January 2016.