1)Review your spending

“When did you last really review your spending? The start of the year is a great time to take stock of your outgoings. Prepare to be amazed! How much do you really spend on expensive coffees or snacks bought ‘in the moment’? Is your preference for branded food items pushing up the cost of your weekly shop? Do you know what your energy or fuel costs? Perhaps you have gym or other memberships that are no longer good value for money. It’s well worth putting time on one side to shop around for better deals on your phone, broadband, energy and insurance. One day spent on this each year might save you hundreds of pounds.”

2)Create a simple budget

“Budgeting is a great way to keep track of your spending and control your finances. All you need are details of your income and outgoings. It’s simple to do. Once you’ve reviewed your spending, you’re halfway there! You can find step-by-step guidance on how to create a basic budget using our MoneySkills app. The MoneySkills  app provides information on budgeting and saving through short video clips, e-zines, and an interactive budget planner. It is an interactive tool that you can use to help manage your finances on the go. Use the app to learn how to budget, start routinely saving and to set financial goals. “The app was developed out of CBiS’s research, funded by the Money Advice Service and in conjunction with the Open University. The research found that learning how to budget and working out how to save can help put people in control of their money.”

3) Set up a regular savings direct debit

“When the bills are stacking up, committing to regular saving might seem unrealistic. But it’s surprising how quickly a small amount saved each month can mount up. Creating a ‘rainy day’ fund can cut the stress of unexpected expenses and help you save for a special occasion or planned big spend. If the direct debit is timed for just after you’re paid, you’re much less likely to miss the money going into your savings.”

4) Set aspirational financial goals

“Having aspirational goals gives you a great incentive to save. Researchshows that we often spend for emotional reasons, to cheer ourselves up or to lift us through life’s challenges. Sadly, this kind of short-term spending can make it difficult to work towards our longer-term goals. Setting longer-term financial goals can be a great motivation for reducing day-to-day spending. Your goal might be the promise of a dream holiday, the desire to replace an unreliable car, to fund time off to visit friends or relatives, or even to become debt free. Some people work towards these goals by making simple changes – such as cutting back on coffee shop drinks or walking or cycling to work – to allow them to save toward these goals.”

5) Seek help quickly if you need to

“Money is one of the last taboos, with many of us resistant or embarrassed to discuss our finances, even with those we love. Often, we leave it too long when money problems hit, yet seeking help quickly can make all the difference. Our research findings show that some people resist asking for help because they don’t know who to trust and worry that a source of free help might actually be trying to sell them something. But there are many useful sources of independent and free guidance out there, including:

 MoneyHelper  https://www.moneyhelper.org.uk  offers free advice on money and budgeting.

 Stepchange  https://www.stepchange.org/  (0800 138 1111) and National Debtline  https://nationaldebtline.org/  (Freephone 0808 4000) both provide free and independent help on debt.”

According to new research from mortgage broker Boon Brokers, 83 per cent of people say they aren’t aware activity on their bank statements could be a red flag to a mortgage lender. Even when prompted, 58 per cent had never considered that gambling transactions on their account may cause any issues.

When given a list of transactions which might give lenders a reason to take a closer look, 55 per cent didn’t feel that payday loans would be a cause for concern, and 58 per cent didn’t feel that being constantly in an overdraft would be a red flag.

Three in four (72 per cent) didn’t believe that having multiple payments coming in with no clear reference of what they were for would ring alarm bells, according to Boon Brokers which surveyed more than 2,800 people in the UK.

Gerard Boon, partner at Boon Brokers, said: “Not all lenders will scrutinize your bank statements, but if you’re seen as a higher risk, perhaps with a smaller deposit or from being self-employed, lenders are more likely to take a closer look. Anything which shows that the account holder may struggle with debt or to control their spending is likely to create questions.

“Our research revealed that the equivalent of 1.38 million current homeowners** (four per cent) would consider trying to hide transactions on their bank statement to make sure their mortgage got approved – which we definitely would not recommend! If you’re planning on applying for a mortgage or remortgage in the next six months, it’s worth being aware of what may lead to further investigations – even though in many cases it’s totally harmless and easy to explain. You don’t want any unnecessary delays to your application which could stop you getting the property you want. As our research revealed, not all the things that could cause an issue are automatically that obvious – gambling, pay day loans and being in an overdraft are the ones people are more aware of, but there are others too.”

 

Boon Brokers’ research revealed the transactions people were least likely to know may be a red flag to a mortgage lender and impact on lending eligibility were:

1.       Working for a family business. Just three per cent of people realised this could be an issue. Lenders can be nervous that family have employed the relation just for the purpose of them being able to take out a mortgage.

2.       Using rude/joke references for payments to family and friends. Only one in 10 (nine per cent) said they thought it could cause any hold up with a mortgage application – but using ‘funny’ references which could be misconstrued may mean a lender needs to investigate further.

3.       Having multiple payments for luxury items. Only nine per cent thought this could be of potential concern. Lenders will worry if they feel that spending is out of control and exceeds what they would expect based on the applicant’s income

4.       Having lots of PayPal transactions. Although PayPal transactions in themselves are not a problem, because it’s not always clear who is being paid, having lots of vague PayPal transactions can raise concerns. Only a tenth of people had considered that (nine per cent).

5.       Catalogue or on credit payments. Buy now, pay later options may signal to a lender that you are unable to pay for day-to-day items upfront, or are buying things beyond your means – something which only 13 per cent of people realised.

6.       Playing bingo. Playing once in a while for fun with friends will cause no concerns, but a regular habit with larger sums would be classed as gambling, which may raise a red flag. Only one in eight had registered that as a potential concern (13 per cent).

7.       Multiple store cards. Store cards in themselves are not an issue, but if you’re struggling to clear the balance every month, given their notoriously high interest rate, it could be a warning sign to the lender, which 18 per cent of people hadn’t considered.

8.       Frequent payments to unknown third parties. There are lots of above board reasons to make frequent payments to third parties – but where possible, it’s best to make the reason clear to minimise any risk of a red flag. Eighteen per cent of people hadn’t considered that as an issue.

9.       Large cash deposits/cash-in-hand work. Surprisingly, only 20 per cent of people thought this would be of any interest to a mortgage lender – who will want to see evidence of steady, reliable and legitimate income.

10.   Taking out a recent credit card. Only one in five people (22 per cent) realised that applying for new credit can knock your credit score, which is something all lenders will look at to assess your eligibility.

Just Group’s twelfth annual State Benefits insight report finds that pensioner homeowners are missing out on thousands of pounds of extra income by failing to claim their full entitlement to means-tested State Benefits.

The annual research is based on in-depth fact-finding interviews with clients seeking advice on equity release during 2021 and, in its key findings, uncovers that among eligible pensioner homeowners:

  • Nearly half (49%) were failing to claim with each household missing out on an average of £1,197 a year extra income
  • Two in 10 (21%) who were claiming were receiving too little, on average missing out on £1,220 a year extra income
  • The highest amount of extra income lost was £9,090 a year to a couple in Kent who were missing out on claiming Guarantee Pension Credit, Savings Pension Credit and Council Tax Reduction.
  • Guarantee Pension Credit – the main benefit targeted at helping low-income pensioners – has the highest take up rate of all the four key benefits with 72% who are eligible claiming, but those failing to claim are missing out on an average £2,265 extra income per year, the most of all the benefits

“Every year we find meaningful income that would make a real difference to people’s lives is not being claimed,” said Stephen Lowe, group communications director at retirement specialist Just Group.

“It reinforces the message that benefits information is integral to retirement guidance and that those struggling for income should check if they are missing out which many fail to do.”

Below, are the results of the 12th annual Moneynet PersonalFinance Awards (2022) celebrating the best providers and products from the last twelve months.

The tough economic back drop and ongoing covid pandemic made it another challenging year for providers and customer alike, but the competition between banks, building societies, insurers, fintechs and credit card companies remained fierce throughout a turbulent 2021.

The best providers adapted to changing market conditions and outperformed their peers, delivering excellent choice, value, and innovative solutions for their customers.

There have been many eye catching best buy deals and some innovative new product developments, helping people to get more from their finances, and Moneynet is proud to recognise the top players for their outstanding achievements.

  • BEST OF THE BEST
  • Banking Brand of The Year – Zopa
  • Mortgage Provider of The Year– Yorkshire Building Society
  • Savings Provider of the Year – Investec
  • Best Overall Business Savings Provider – Hampshire Trust Bank
  • Credit Card Provider of The Year – Sainsbury’s Bank

  • MORTGAGES
  • Best Online Mortgage Broker – Dashly
  • Best First Time Buyer Mortgage Provider – Yorkshire Building Society
  • Best Specialist Mortgage Provider – Pepper Money

  • SAVINGS
  • Best Easy Access Savings Provider – Aldermore
  • Best Monthly Interest Savings Provider – Shawbrook Bank
  • Best Fixed Rate Savings Provider – Charter Savings Bank
  • Best Fixed Rate Cash ISA Provider – Paragon Bank
  • Best Fixed Rate Cash ISA Provider (Highly Commended) – Castle Trust Bank
  • Best Variable Rate ISA Provider – Cynergy Bank
  • Best Ethical Savings Provider – Gatehouse Bank
  • Best Regular Savings Provider – Principality Building Society
  • Best ‘No Strings’ Savings Provider – Ford Money
  • Best Building Society Savings Provider – Coventry Building Society
  • Best Savings App – Plum
  • Best High Street Savings Provider – Leeds Building Society
  • Best New Savings Provider – Castle Trust Bank
  • Best New Savings Provider (Highly Commended) – Recognise Bank
  • Best Online Savings Provider – RCI Bank
  • Best Notice Savings Provider – Charter Savings Bank
  • Best Children’s Savings Provider – Saffron Building Society
  • Most Transparent Savings Provider – Investec
  • Best Fixed Rate Business Savings Provider – Aldermore
  • Best Variable Rate Business Savings Provider – Close Brothers Savings

  • CURRENT ACCOUNTS
  • Best Current Account Overdraft – First Direct
  • Best Student Bank Account – Barclays
  • Best Business Current Account – Co-Operative Bank
  • Best App Based Business Bank Account – HSBC Kinetic
  • Best Ethical Current Account – Triodos Bank
  • Best Current Account Switching Performance – Triodos Bank
  • Best New Current Account – Chase

  • LOANS
  • Best Personal Loans Provider – Shawbrook Bank
  • Best Specialist Business Lender – Close Brothers

  • P2P & FINTECH
  • Most Innovative P2P Platform – Crowd2Fund
  • Most Innovative IFISA Provider – Crowdstacker
  • Best Credit Report Provider – Totally Money
  • Most Transparent Cryptocurrency Platform – Ziglu
  • Best Children’s pocket money app – Go Henry

  • CREDIT CARDS
  • Best Cash Back Credit Card – Santander All In One
  • Best Credit Card Rewards – M&S Bank
  • Best Business Credit Card – Metro Bank
  • Best New Credit Card – bip

  • TRAVEL
  • Best Travel Money Provider – Asda Money
  • Best Prepaid Currency Card – Caxton Red

  • INSURANCE
  • Best Pet Insurance Provider – Lifetime Pet
  • Best Funeral Plan Provider – Co-op Funeralcare
  • Best Home Insurance Provider – Policy Expert
  • Best Travel Insurance Provider – Asda Money

TotallyMoney, the credit app that helps everyone move their finances forward, highlights the cost of carrying a monthly credit card balance bearing interest and demonstrates why now is the time to act.

  • Figures show that more than half (54%) of customers with an outstanding monthly credit card balance are paying interest*
  • This comes at a time when balance transfer offers are at their longest since 2018**
  • TotallyMoney research shows customers are 31% more likely to be eligible for a credit card now than they were at the beginning of the pandemic†
  • A customer’s average interest-bearing monthly balance is £2,898‡, which means that not switching to the market-leading offer could cost an extra £1,831§

TotallyMoney warns that customers are carrying almost £30m in interest-bearing credit card balances‖, costing them millions in interest every year.

 

Play your cards right

With surging inflation massively increasing the cost of living in the UK, and the Bank of England’s interest rate rise making borrowing more expensive, the pandemic is showing no signs of releasing its squeeze on people’s finances.

One way in which customers can give themselves some extra breathing space is by cutting the cost of borrowing each month with a balance transfer card.

Balance transfer cards charge 0% interest for a set period of time — currently up to 35 months. This means 100% of your repayments will go towards clearing your debt and not towards paying interest, the result being that you can pay off your debts quicker and cheaper. On average they charge a fee of 2%¶ of the transactional value, so it’s always worth doing some calculations before applying.

TotallyMoney research shows that customers are a third more likely to be eligible for credit cards than they were at the start of the pandemic, so with more available offers, at even more competitive rates, now could be the best time to start saving.

Alastair Douglas, CEO of TotallyMoney comments,

“As we enter 2022 we should all be making the New Year resolution to avoid paying unnecessary interest. Especially at a time when many are feeling the squeeze of the soaring cost of living as the inflation rate hits a 10-year high.

“When it comes to credit cards, we know loyalty doesn’t pay. And with swathes of introductory offers coming to an end each month, customers can soon find themselves paying interest on any outstanding balances. One way to avoid this is by shifting interest-bearing debts to a balance transfer card.

“While balance transfer cards usually come with a small fee, customers can still save hundreds, if not thousands of pounds. With customers being 31% more eligible for cards than at the start of the pandemic, and lenders making even longer offers available, now could be time to grab a great offer.

“Customers should always check their eligibility, and keep a lookout for pre-approved offers. These will let you know how likely you are to be accepted before you apply. This can help you avoid credit rejection and protect your financial future.

“At TotallyMoney we’re on a mission to help everyone move their finances forward. One way to do this is by not paying interest when you don’t need to. Switching to a balance transfer card means customers can clear debts quicker and gain financial momentum along the way.”