Budgets, banking and switching: 10 tips from Sunderland City Council to take control of your finances ahead of Blue Monday
Credit card statements and other bills are arriving on the doormat as the reality of Christmas spending hits home, making it easy to see how Blue Monday gets its name.
But Sunderland City Council's advice services are issuing tips to help families across the city take control of their finances and keep the negative thoughts at bay.
Councillor Dr Geoffrey Walker, the authority's Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care said: “We know that this time of year can be really difficult for families struggling to cope after Christmas, but there's lots of useful help and advice out there and I would urge people to take advantage of this and of the advice services available in the city.
"The good news is that if you take action now, this could be as bad as your finances look all year.
"You can take control of your budget and your debts, pay off the cost of Christmas, and start to build up some savings, so that expensive times of year don’t push you into the red.”
These are the top 10 tips from the council's advice team to help you get your finances in order.
Check your bank balance on a regular basis: Knowing your spending patterns is the first step to managing your money.
Work out your budget: By writing down what money you've got coming in and taking away your essential bills such as food and transport. If you have money left over, plan in advance what else you’ll spend or save - if you don’t, look at ways to cut your costs.
Prioritise your debts: If you’ve got several debts and you can’t afford to pay them all it’s important to prioritise them. Your rent, mortgage, council tax and energy bills should be paid first because the consequences can be more serious if you don't pay. Also go and speak to your housing provider. Gentoo and other housing providers have their own money matters teams and can advise on how to avoid arrears and evictions.
Consider banking apps: Apps such as Monzo or Starling Bank track your spending for you and tell you how much you spend on purchases such as eating out and groceries.
Credit Cards: Pay off more than the minimum. If you’ve got credit card debts, aim to pay off more than the minimum amount on your credit card each month to bring down your bill quicker.
Don’t go further into debt: If you have an unpaid balance on your credit card, or are in an overdraft, spending more will just lead to higher charges, making it more difficult to repay. If your credit rating is good, apply for a balance transfer card, transfer your card debts to it and pay the debt at the 0% rate. This will make repayments much easier and more affordable.
Pay your most expensive credit card first: If you have more than one credit card and can’t pay them off in full each month, prioritise the most expensive card (the one with the highest interest rate).
Switch: Switching is a very simple way to save money, and it could save you a lot. It’s also a good time, after Christmas, to try and get better deals with Sky, BT & Virgin Media.
Start small in January: It’s easy to make over-ambitious resolutions which you’re unlikely to keep. It’s much better to make simple changes as they are easier to stick to, like bringing in a packed lunch, walking to work, making your own coffee at home, or having a car boot sale.
Get free advice: There is help out there - If you’re struggling to pay your debts month after month it’s important you get advice as soon as possible.