The rising cost of living: 5 things households can do
Rising food and energy prices are hitting every household in the pocket. Here are five ways to make sure you’re being smart with your money:
Since a mortgage is likely to be your largest monthly outgoing, now is a good time to check if you can save on repayments.
Rates on mortgages remain extremely competitive with two and five-year rates available under 1%.
While interest rates have been a record low of 0.1%, last month the Bank of England cautioned it may soon raise the base rate to combat rising inflation, which jumped to a nine-year high in August.
A rise in interest rates usually feeds through to mortgage rates, so you might want to start exploring your options sooner rather than later.
Some mortgage offers are valid for up to six months so even if your existing deal doesn’t expire until 2022, you can still secure a low rate now.
Take action: Explore what’s on offer from all lenders in the market with the help of a mortgage adviser who has access to far more products than if you went direct to a bank or building society.
- Use tax breaks
There are plenty of generous tax breaks that are not to be missed. You just need to know about them – and use them. While not everyone can afford to save as much as they’d like each year, putting a little something away every month is better than doing nothing. Crucially, the earlier you save, the more time your money will have to grow. You can place your investments inside an ISA or in a pension where both offer invaluable tax breaks.
You can invest up to £20,000 in an ISA and gains are tax-free.
When investing in a pension the tax treatment is different. You get a tax top-up when you contribute to your retirement pot, at the rate of 20%, 40% or 45%.
Take action: Make sure you are considering the tax breaks offered by ISAs and pensions. Check your tax code too. Even the taxman can get things wrong sometimes. You will find your tax code on your P45, the PAYE Coding Notice sent by HM Revenue & Customs or on your payslip. An adviser can help you maximise tax breaks.
- Savings accounts
Long-suffering savers have seen little return on their savings while interest rates have been at rock bottom.
While rates are so low, it’s still important to maintain the all-important rainy-day account for unexpected expenses, so just make sure you’re getting the highest rate you can find. Some are offering 0.65% or more if you take a fixed rate account.
Even if and when rates do start to rise, banks don’t have to hike interest rates. So don’t leave your money in a poor paying account in the hope it will rise soon.
Take action: Use a comparison website or talk to your adviser about the best place for your easy access savings.
“You can invest up to £20,000 in an ISA and gains are tax-free.”
- Be a budget bore
Dig out your recent bank statements and spend some time going through them to work out what is paid in and what comes out. Start with what comes in each month from a salary, any income from pensions or investments or perhaps family trusts.
Look at your spending on direct debits and standing orders – is there something lurking that you had forgotten about? Hanging onto gym memberships is a common trend among those who only manage to go a couple of times a year. You might even spot a magazine subscription you have been meaning to cancel.
Take action: Study your everyday spend and try to identify things you could cut out.
If frittering is a weakness, keep a diary of everything you spend for a couple of weeks and see where you can make savings.
Check what you’re entitled to
The government offers benefits and tax breaks that many people fail to claim or use. People are missing out on over £15 billion of benefits. pensioners are the least likely to check what benefits they can claim – 63% of whom have never checked. They are also the least likely to claim the benefits they have a right to, with one in three missing out on Pension Credit.
Anyone on a low income needs to regularly check that they’re getting all the help available to them.
Take action: Website turn2us.org.uk can help ascertain what benefits you might be eligible for.
Pensioners can speak to the Department for Work and Pensions about Pension Credit on 0800 99 1234.
 Turn2us.org.uk, May 2021