Blue Monday: Advice NI’s top 10 tips to help improve your finances in 2022

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With today dubbed ‘Blue Monday’, Advice NI is encouraging anyone who may be experiencing debt to get in touch with them.

Six out of 10 adults in the UK have admitted to being in debt, with those debts totalling twice what they did back in 2020.

Advice NI, Northern Ireland’s largest advice charity, is advising individuals to take action now to help control their finances in 2022.

CEO, Bob Stronge, commented: “We have seen the cost of just about everything rise in the last year, from energy bills to food costing 10 per cent more than it did previously.

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“Coupled with the removal of the £20 Universal Credit uplift, families are struggling more now than ever.

“Many households are having to choose between food and heat to make ends meet, with many being forced to visit food banks.

“Help is available though, Advice NI and the Independent Advice Network can provide a benefit check for anyone living in Northern Ireland.

“Our debt advisers can help by creating a plan to start dealing with debts, in some cases they can even negotiate with creditors.

“Help is also available for small businesses and limited partnerships from our Business Debt Advisers. ”

Advice NI’s Money and Debt service, funded by the Department for Communities, has issued its top 10 tips to help plan for stable finances in 2022.

1. Make a budget
The best way to improve your finances is to find out exactly what they are. A budget planner will help you know exactly where your money is being spent, and how much you’ve got coming in. Knowing where every pound is being spent is a great first step to begin saving, getting out of debt or preparing for retirement. Check out our budget planner here https://www.adviceni.net/money-debt/tools-and-resources

2. Maximise your income
Advice NI’s Benefits team can perform a full benefits check to you ensure you’re receiving everything you’re entitled to, from pension credit to help with childcare. The service is free and in confidence to anyone living in Northern Ireland.

3. Deal with your debts
The first step in dealing with debt is establishing exactly how much you owe and who to. Once you have established that Advice NI’s Advisers can help you make a plan on the most effective way to deal with your debts.

4. Pay off just a little more
If you’ve been watching your credit or store card balance hover around the same amount for ages, why not pay off a little more than the minimum amount each month.  Even a small amount over the minimum each much can help reduce your interest payments, pay the balance off faster and it can reflect positively on your credit score.

5. Every penny counts
If two years of a pandemic have taught us anything, it’s that everything can happen. A good rule of thumb is to have between three and six months’ worth of household income saved as a safety net. It’s not possible for everyone, but if something unexpected happens you will have some funds available to help ease financial stress.

6. Start Small
More and more banks and banking apps are providing their customers with cleverer and more convenient ways to save. Rather than pocketing change you get, online banks such as Monzo and Starling can save your spending rounded up to the nearest pound, with the extra pennies moved to a separate savings account. It’s a way of saving every time you shop without even noticing it. If you’re a little more old school, perhaps now is the time to invest of a good old-fashioned piggy bank and dispose of your loose change in it at the end of the day.

7.  Set achievable goals
What do you want to achieve with your money in 2022? Decide what you would like to do, then you can work out a clear plan on how to do it. Want to save for a holiday? Create a holiday fund and consider every saving that goes to into that one step closer to a pina colada on the beach.

8. Consider lifestyle changes that help your pocketVeganuary, Dry January and so on all focus on giving something up, and most of them involve some financial savings. If you’ve been paying for a gym membership that you’ve used twice in the last year, it might be time to ditch it and pocket the cash.

9. Reduce, reuse, recycle
Going green doesn’t just help the planet, it can help your bank balance too. If you’re having a clear out and want to get rid of old clothes and gifts try selling them online before consigning them to landfill. There are plenty of sites to help – Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and Ebay are just a few.

10. Make working from home work for you
If you’ve been working from the kitchen table for the past couple of years, did you know you’re entitled to tax relief from HMRC? Visit this link https://www.gov.uk/tax-relief-for-employees/working-at-home or you can speak to our Tax & HMRC helpline for help.

Sinead Campbell, Head of Money, Debt and Quality, Advice NI, said: “As the reality of the festive season hits home and credit card bills start arriving, Advice NI is encouraging everyone to take control of their finances in 2022.

“There’s a chance we could see even more rises to the cost of living this year so now is the time to prepare for the unforeseen.

“Advice NI and the Independent can help people start to deal with their money, to start paying back their debts or stop clients from heading to the debt spiral.”

Advice NI and its members dealt with over half a million enquiries in 2019/20.

During 2020, the debt service dealt with over £28m of debt in more than 7,500 agreements.

The Independent Advice Network provides free and confidential advice on money and debt, benefits, tax & HMRC products, housing, employment, immigration and more.

For advice, or to find your local advice member, visit www.adviceni.net or call the helpline on 0800 915 4604, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

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