Most resolutions hardly outlast Christmas turkey leftovers, but I've designed these so if you do 'em now, the impact's felt all year
There's one silver lining to January's financial clouds. As Christmas splurges and December's early pay mean some sadly struggle to make cash stretch, it does mean many are ready to put in the work to save cash, and that can pay large.
Throughout January, this email will give you a detailed money makeover. Yet if you're ready to rock 'n' roll already, here are some quick resolutions you can do now while the 'I WANT TO SAVE' fervour's still in place, and the impact will last all year.
I resolve to...
1. ...check if I can slash £1,000s off the year's mortgage repayments. Mortgage rates are still near all-time lows, yet there's a chance UK interest rates could rise this year. Everyone with a mortgage should check right now if they're on the best deal. First use our Mortgage Best Buys Tool to find your cheapest rate, then use the mortgage calc to compare it with your current deal. Full help in our Free 60-page MSE remortgaging booklet.
2. ...check NOW if I'm owed £100s from AI Scheme (Sentinel). Are you one of 2m who've been sent a letter about AI Scheme mis-selling? You may've ignored it thinking it was spam. It's not. Fill in the form for cold hard cash - the deadline's 18 March. As Patrick tweeted: "Just got £313 AI reclaim. If it wasn't for your weekly email I probably would have binned it. Top job." Free templates & help if you've lost the letter in AI Scheme reclaim.
3. ...sort a power of attorney now (even if you're very young, like me). One in three over-65s die with dementia, many people lose their faculties earlier from strokes, accidents, and more, too. Without a power of attorney to get access to your funds, even to pay for treatment, family would need to make a hard, slow and costly attempt to apply in court. Sort one now (I have at 43), so it kicks into effect ONLY if you lose your faculties. See Power of Attorney for help. Plus while we're at it, sort a Cheap & Free Will too.
4. ...call up my OLD energy firm, to see if it owes me £100s. If you've switched energy in the last six years and were in credit, some providers operated a don't ask, don't get policy. So ask now - we're swamped with successes, like forumite Drakekard's: "Got £134 from Npower from an Aug 2012 switch and £53 from Scottish Power which is probably from 2009." Full help in Reclaim Old Energy Bill Credit.
5. ...finally ditch my crap bank account & earn £220 doing so. An easy win, and a price war means today's the day. Scroll down for full info.
6. ...claim marriage tax allowance worth £212/year. If you're married or in a civil partnership, the Marriage Tax Allowance lets some couples transfer a proportion of their personal allowance (the amount you can earn tax-free/tax yr) between them. Natalie tweeted: "That's £212 a year saved thanks to @MoneySavingExp & @MartinSLewis, didn't know about the marriage allowance, thanks for the heads up."
7. ...take a few mins to bag unbeatable exchange rates for all trips this year. Specialist overseas credit cards give you the same near-perfect rate on euros, dollars and the rest that banks get - smashing bureaux de change, and saving up to 8% over other methods. So apply now, set up a direct debit to repay IN FULL each month to minimise interest and the job's done for the year.
Our top picks are the tried and tested Halifax Clarity and the new player Creation Everyday. Full help, pros, cons & options in Top Overseas Credit Cards (APR Examples).
8. ...not just renew AA, BT, Virgin, Sky, but to haggle £100s off. If you're renewing a service with a call centre - they want you to stay, so haggle. Success rates of those who try are huge: 88% at AA, 73% BT, 88% Sky, 83% Virgin, and savings can be large, as Sarah found: "Haggled £324/yr off my Sky bill (TV, b'band, phone)." For full help see our Haggle with Sky, AA & more guide.
9. ...print 'Martin's Money Mantras' to stop overspending. To curb impulse spending, I've two money mantras, so get the free wallet-sized Martin's Money Mantras Printout as a reminder each time you spend. Here they are, and if any answer is no... DON'T BUY IT:
- Skint?: Do I need it? Can I afford it? Can I get it cheaper elsewhere?
- Not skint?: Will I use it? Is it worth it? Can I get it cheaper elsewhere?
10. ...use MSE's free automated budget planner to check if I'm on track. You likely know your income, but not your expenditure - without that you can't balance the books. Our Free Budget Planner tool takes you through step-by-step.
11. ...shop & save for next Christmas NOW. Pre-Christmas is the most expensive time to buy, Jan sales the cheapest, so see our Jan sales list and buy now to save. Plus spread the cost of Xmas; the average family spend is £800, so save £70/mth now. See Save for Xmas.
12. ...take just five minutes to save £305/year on energy bills. Depressingly 70% of the UK is still on a big-six standard tariff, which with typical use costs an average £1,095/yr. The cheapest deals are under £800/yr for the same. It takes just FIVE MINS to find your winner & start a switch. Use my Cheap Energy Club to do it (if you want help on top tariffs click the Top Picks tab).
PS: Renting, only use elec or on prepay? You can still do this.
13. ...cut credit card interest by £100s or £1,000s this year. A big, easy save and firms are fighting for your business, scroll for full info.
14. ...do a direct debit check up (you could gain £100s). Millions wrongly let cash drip from their bank accounts for things they don't really want, like unused gym membership or worse, like Tuftyhead: "We'd paid insurance for our daughter's old phone - she upgraded 4yrs before but the direct debit wasn't cancelled. It amounted to £400." So do Direct Debit Check Ups (includes standing orders & recurring payments) and let me know if you find any.
15. ...check if I'm overpaying for car insurance. Prices are predicted to rise this year, so check now if you're overpaying and lock in at a cheaper price, via our full Car Insurance Cost-Cutting System. Even if you're not at renewal you may be able to switch & save now, though do read our switching mid policy help first. Andy tweeted: "You gave us the confidence to challenge our insurance mid-policy. It was £40/mth, now it's £16 - thanks. We didn't take no for an answer."
16. ...check my savings to see if I'm being ripped off. Check your savings interest rates now - owt under 1.2% is dismal, and most are dismal. So move the money. You can earn up to 3% on lump sums via our Top Savings Accounts guide and up to 6% on money saved each month in Top Regular Savers.
17. ...check my tax code to see if I'm overpaying £1,000s. At least six million people are paying the wrong amount of tax due to an incorrect tax code - the little piece of info that tells your employer how much it should take from you. Our Free Tax Code Checker can check for you. Some even get past refunds, the biggest so far is £5,000.
18. ...pay off my debt with savings. Those with debt AND savings are likely wasting big money. Eg, £1,000 owed on a typical 18% APR credit card costs £180/yr; the same in a top savings account earns £13/yr after tax. So pay off the card with the savings, and you’d be £167/yr better off.
Full pros & cons in my three guides to SHOULD I USE MY SAVINGS TO PAY OFF MY 1) Debts? 2) Mortgage? 3) Student loan?
19. ...start a Help to Buy ISA (as I'm 16+ and have never bought a home). They're the no-brainer place to save for anyone (aged 16+) who's never owned a home. Save in one, then use the money for a deposit and the state adds 25% on top, up to £3,000. Full help, FAQs & best buys in Top Help to Buy ISAs.
20. ...become a diary tart. Many products like mortgages, energy fixes, credit cards and car insurance only give a good deal for the short term. So check now when things end, and put a big note in your diary/calendar a month before so you've time to check, ditch & switch.
21. ...watch the Martin Lewis Money Show 8pm ITV Fri. Series five recommences this week, but the day's moved to Fridays, 8pm, until 12 Feb. This week's programme is quite simply how to save yourself £1,000s. Watch & find out.
This article first appeared in the weekly email on 6 January 2016.