» Go back to school with your finances Your Money
If you are a parent feeling the pinch or just need a refresh, VICKY SHAW has money lessons that will help you make the grade
SUMMER is over – and family finances are likely suffering dents from the holidays, as well as children’s back-to-school costs.
Parents across the UK have collectively spent nearly £1.2 billion sending their children back to class, according to a report from Mintel – making it the third biggest retail spending event after Christmas and Black Friday.
But now the kids are back in the classroom, there are some ways you can help improve your finances – whether it’s sorting your pension, saving for a rainy day, even getting a new mortgage or dealing with debts.
“Parents who have done everything they can to prepare their children for the new school term may feel that they have neglected their own financial wellbeing,” says Rachel Springall, finance expert at Moneyfacts.co.uk. “If this is the case, there are steps parents can take to rein in their finances and get back above board.”
You don’t have to be a parent to benefit from getting into ‘back to school’ mode with your finances either – these tips could be useful for anyone.
Plug the pension gap
“IT’S vital that consumers seek advice to ensure they have a comfortable pot ready for their retirement, as it will only get harder to plug the gap as they get older,” says Rachel. Depending on individual circumstances, she says someone could potentially build up £30,000 just by saving an extra £100 per month over 25 years. But even this extra amount may run out more quickly than expected. “While this sounds a lot, it may not last long, or could be just a one-year salary for some,” she adds.
Re-mortgage to reduce your monthly repayments SOME borrowers may be sitting on their mortgage lender’s standard variable rate (SVR) after an initial deal has come to an end. But big savings could be made by switching to a new deal. According to Moneyfacts.co.uk, in early September, the average SVR stood at 4.89% – but the average two-year fixed rate mortgage on the market had a lower rate of 2.47%. “Borrowers may also be concerned about economic uncertainties and are looking to fix for longer,” says Rachel. “Thankfully, there have been significant cuts to deals in the five-year fixed market, as well as more deals surfacing for even longer terms, such as 10-year and 15-year fixed deals.
“All in all, borrowers have plenty of choice, but seeking independent financial advice may be wise to navigate the mortgage minefield.”
Shift credit card debts to an interest-free card
CREDIT cards can be costly – but there are still plenty of interest-free deals available. It’s important to bear in mind any fees for transferring your balance to an interest-free card though, as well as whether you can clear your debt before the interest-free period ends and charges start to apply.
Rachel highlights a 29-month interest-free deal which has been offered on balance transfers from MBNA, for a fee of 2.75%.
Alternatively, Natwest has been offering a 23-month 0% interest balance transfer deal without a fee.
Consider a low-cost loan to consolidate debts
RACHEL says some lenders have been offering personal loan rates as low as 2.9% to borrow £10,000 over five years, including John Lewis Finance. Personal loan rates have become cheaper in recent years. Five years ago, the lowest rate for the equivalent amount and term was 4.1% from Sainsbury’s Bank, Moneyfacts says.
Switch current accounts for some ‘free’ cash TRADITIONALLY over the summer, free cash offers for people switching their current account tend to dry up, Rachel says, but this year there’s been better news for switchers.
For example, Royal Bank of Scotland recently announced it would give £150 to consumers who switched. Other examples of cashback perks include First Direct, which has been offering £50, while new customers who switch to M&S Bank can get up to £180 in gift vouchers when they switch and stay.
Build a savings fund
AS WELL as saving small amounts often yourself, you may also be able to get extra help to save, which could be particularly helpful if your budget is very tight.
The Government Help to Save scheme aims to help eligible people on low incomes to build up a rainy day fund. More information is available at gov.uk/get-help-savingslow-income.
You may be able to get extra help to save, which could aid tight budgets Rachel Springhall of Moneyfacts.co.uk
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