In addition, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, more than a million workers are on contracts that offer ‘zero hours’ as standard, effectively meaning their job is never guaranteed, and making it even harder to cobble together enough money to see them through the month.
But there are some ways to take your income into your own hands and give your bank balance a welcome boost. Try these five for starters:
1. Rent out your driveway
If you have a driveway that rarely gets used, or it's always empty during working hours, renting it out to others is a quick and easy way to increase your income, particularly if you live in a big city or close to a busy commuter station.
You can advertise your driveway space on websites such as mondaytofriday.com and parkatmyhouse.com – though this does come at a price. You'll have to pay £14.95 to post your space on mondaytofriday.com for 12 months, while parkatmyhouse.com takes a commission of 15% of the value of the parking space booking.
But, in return, parkatmyhouse.com reckons you could earn as much as £100-£250 a month if you live near a train station, while those living near an airport could earn around £40 a week. Even those living near a stadium or concert hall could earn around £10-£25 a day, and those near a popular high street around £2 an hour.
However, remember this income is taxable so you will need to declare your earnings to HMRC.
Contrary to the information provided by some local authorities, you do not need planning permission to rent out your driveway – so long as it doesn't cause any problems with your neighbours.
2. Track down lost savings accounts
If you've ever forgotten to update your bank with a new address or name, or your parents opened an account for you when you were a child, chances are you might have lost track of a savings account somewhere. And that account could have a tidy sum of money tucked away in it, waiting for you to reclaim it.
The website mylostaccount.org.uk helps customers to find accounts they've forgotten about. The service is completely free to use and combines the tracing schemes of the British Bankers' Association (BBA), the Building Societies Association (BSA) and National Savings & Investments (NS&I). This means that anyone who has an account with a bank, building society or NS&I can use the service to locate it.
All you need to do is fill in a form on the website and provide as much detail as you can, including any previous names and addresses. You will need some patience as it can take up to three months to carry out a search, but the time could be well rewarded - more than 300,000 people have been reunited with lost money since the service first launched five years ago, totalling an impressive £645million.
3. Sell unwanted goods/holiday at work
Perhaps one of the easiest ways to make some extra cash is by decluttering your home and selling anything you no longer want or need on sites such as eBay and Amazon Marketplace, or at a car boot sale. You can find out more in my article: How to sell unwanted junk
But items aren't the only thing you can sell - if your employer permits it, you might also be able to sell back a few days of annual leave and boost your monthly income that way.
4. Find out what you're owed
Wouldn't it be great if you could receive a sizeable tax rebate and give your bank balance a boost? A simple check of your tax code could make this dream come true.
You'll find your tax code on your payslip or P45 and it will usually be made up of several numbers and a letter such as 117L.
Multiplying the number in your tax code by 10 should give you the total amount of income you can earn in a year before paying tax. The letter shows how the number could be adjusted due to your age or living and working arrangements, for example – you can see a list of the common letters here.
If you think your tax code is incorrect, contact HMRC, though be warned this can be a double-edged sword. If you've been paying too much tax, it will be refunded to you (you can claim back up to four years’ overpaid tax). But if you've underpaid, you will have to pay what you owe.
Tax isn't the only area where money might be owed to you though. If you think you were mis-sold payment protection insurance (PPI) alongside your mortgage, loan or credit card, you could be entitled to a refund. Your bank is legally obliged to get in touch if this is the case, but you can speed up the process by claiming yourself – find out more in my article.
5. Move your savings into a current account
There's no escaping the fact that savings rates are pretty pathetic and, with the government’s Funding for Lending Scheme now extended until 2015, it's unlikely that we'll see any improvement in the near future. But the good news is that interest rates on current accounts have been steadily improving over recent months and some accounts now pay higher rates than savings accounts do.
For example, the Nationwide FlexDirect Current Account pays a handsome annual equivalent rate (AER) of 5.00% fixed for 12 months on balances up to £2,500. You'll need to pay in £1,000 a month and after 12 months, the rate falls to 1.00%.
If you tend to keep a larger balance in your account, the Santander 123 current account pays an AER of 1.00% on balances from £1,000, 2.00% on balances from £2,000 and 3.00% on balances between £3,000 and £20,000. In addition, you will earn cashback on some of your direct debits that leave the account – you'll receive 1.00% cashback on your water bills, council tax bills and Santander mortgage payments, 2.00% on your gas and electricity bills and 3.00% on your mobile phone, home phone, broadband and paid-for TV packages. However, you must pay £500 or more into the account each month and pay a £2 monthly fee.
Alternatively, the Halifax Reward Current Account pays you £5 each month you pay in at least £750 and pay out at least two direct debits, and stay in credit. You will also receive £100 for switching to the account.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.