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Clare Francis: With the credit crunch and recession biting, life is tough for many people at the moment and unfortunately things could get worse before they get better. That said there are steps you can take which could ease your financial pressures.
Tim Moss, who is a loans and debt expert at moneysupermarket.com is here with his top ten tips to survive the credit crunch.
Tip 1: Although interest rates are coming down there is still time to make savings. People have still got a squeeze on disposable income out there, so do you need your Starbucks in the morning? Do you need to go and get your pre-packed sandwiches - can you make your own lunch? Look at your magazine subscriptions - do you need some of those magazines? And look at your gym membership - when was the last time you went? Look at all the things you are spending on and see if you can cut down.
Tip 2: Be a savvy shopper! There are so many offers out there, and retailers are desperate for your business. The 'buy one, get one frees' or what they call in the industry BOGOF's are out there, have a look at those. Use vouchers sites - there are tonnes of voucher sites out there, so before you go and buy something have a look on the internet and see whether you can get some money off there. And one last thing, haggle! It's a thing we have forgotten, we have forgotten how to haggle, so try asking - you don't know unless you ask.
Tip 3: Before you go down the high street, have a look online. Online shopping has revolutionised the way we buy things, its meant that things can cost less and it means you can also compare prices easily - have a look at our shopping channel, there is lots of things on there for you to be able to buy and compare. So before you go and walk the pavements have look online.
Tip 4: This year's accessory isn't the iPhone - it's a great credit score. You need a good credit score, right now the lenders, the people that want to give you the money out there, they're looking for the best customers. What's a best customer? It's someone with a good clean credit score, so go and check it. Send your £2 off to one of the credit bureaus, see if there is any problems on there; if there is, issue what's called a 'notice of correction' - if not stay on top of your credit score.
Tip 5: Store cards and sometimes credit cards, if you are on a standard variable rate, is an expensive way to be borrowing money. So have a look and see if you can add up those debts and what's called 'consolidate' them - put them into one place and see if you can get a loan to cover those and put it into a fixed repayment vehicle, so you are paying the same amount each month, that means you can end up paying less.
Tip 6: Don't borrow unless you really, really need to - now is not the time to be borrowing more money, so unless you have to, it's essential to buy a car to get to work or its essential to consolidate some debts. Don't take on new debt and now is not that time to be putting things on what they call the 'never never' or the 'tick' because you need to pay your debts now.
Tip 7: Build up a savings account - its amazing, you only have to put away a couple of pounds a day, so the money you are saving on those Starbucks I mentioned before. Start building up a savings account, with unemployment on the rise through redundancies you need to have that savings buffer behind you should the worst happens.
Tip 8: Don't forget about protection - if you lost your job or got made redundant - how would you pay some of your bills? There are some good income protection policies out there that offer you a level of protection that means if the worse happens, at least you can get the basics paid for.
Tip 9: Review all your product providers. It might seem like an arduous task but trust me its time well spent. Look your financial, insurance and home energy providers - you can save thousands of pounds by just reviewing what products you are on. We recently did a financial review for Liberal Democrat MP Mark Oaten, and we were able to save his family £10,000 a year by just reviewing the products he was on.
Tip 10: Start using cash, we have forgotten how to use cash! It's amazing when you have to get those notes out of your wallet, so instead of paying for those sandwiches with your card anymore. Get the notes out - it will make you think about the money you are spending and it will make you spend less.