17 ways to be better off in 2017
1. Switch bank account
Many bank accounts pay a welcome bonus to new customers, but you generally have to be a customer for a couple of months before you receive the payment. However, if you switch now, then that bonus will still arrive in your account in the first quarter of 2017.
For example, you can get £100 with First Direct’s 1st Account or £100 with Halifax’s Current Account, Reward Current Account or Ultimate Reward Current Account.
Switch to one of Marks & Spencer's bank accounts and you'll pocket a £100 gift card, plus up to another £120 (£10 each calendar month) if you stay with it.
How much better off will I be? Up to £220.
Current mortgage rates are around the cheapest ever recorded, so even if you think you’re on a cracking rate already it pays to shop around and see if you can do even better.
We aren’t talking about tiny savings here either – research from conveyancing service provider LMS found that more than one in 10 people who remortgaged in August 2016 managed to save more than £500 a month on their repayments.
LMS also found that 85% of remortgagors were able to lower their mortgage rate in September, highlighting the fact that now is truly a great time to consider taking the plunge.
How much better off will I be? About £6,000.
3. Switch your energy tariff
Winter is coming and, as a result, more of us are switching on the central heating. These next few months are generally the most expensive when it comes to your energy bill, and typically it's the time when suppliers announce price releases.
Scarily, huge numbers of us have never switched energy supplier. As a result, we are on the standard tariff, the most expensive of all. But moving to a fixed-rate deal could save you a packet – as much as £366 a year, according to Gocompare.com*.
How much better off will I be? Up to £366.
* At least 51% of customers who received a price for switching energy supplier for both gas and electricity with Gocompare.com or saved £366 or more (1 April to 30 June 2016).
4. Move your debt
Are you sitting on credit card debt? If so, you aren’t alone – according to The Money Charity, total credit card debt in the UK in August 2016 stood at £65.7 billion. That works out at more than £2,400 per household.
If that debt is on an interest-charging credit card, then paying it off will cost you even more – a chunk of your monthly repayments will go towards the interest, rather than reducing the debt.
But move it to a 0% balance transfer credit card and you can pay it off in manageable chunks, without paying a penny in interest.
At the time of writing, you could enjoy 41 months of 0% interest with the Halifax Balance Transfer Credit Card, though you would have to pay a transfer fee of 3.5%.
Alternatively, you could make use of a card with a smaller 0% period but which doesn’t charge a transfer fee, such as the Halifax 25-Month Balance Transfer Credit Card, which offers more than two years of interest-free borrowing.
If you moved a debt of £2,400 on to this card and made monthly repayments of £96, you’d clear the debt without paying a penny in interest in 25 months. On a card with a 17.2% APR, and the same monthly repayment, it would take 32 months to clear the debt, costing you more than £650 extra.
How much better off will I be? Up to £650.
5. Cashback/rewards credit cards
If you clear your credit card bill in full every month, you should be doing your spending on a credit card that offers you some sort of reward when you spend with it. For example, with a rewards credit card you’ll earn points when you spend, such as the Tesco Purchases Credit Card which rewards you with one Clubcard point for every £4 spent in Tesco or for every £8 spent elsewhere.
Alternatively, you could cut the cost of next year’s holiday by earning Avios points with the British Airways Amex Card, which has no annual fee.
You could also go for cold, hard cash with a card that pays cashback on your spending. The American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday Card, for example, pays 5% cashback on your spending in the first three months (capped at £100), followed by 1% so long as you spend more than £5,000 over the year. Spend £750 a month, and over the first year you’ll earn £167.50.
How much better off will I be? £150 minimum.
6. Move your Isa
You can save up to £15,240 each tax year in an individual savings account (Isa), and the returns you enjoy are absolutely tax free.
The interest rates available on Isas today aren’t exactly the stuff of dreams, but you can at least ensure a better return on your savings pot by moving your Isa balance to a better deal.
According to financial information site Moneyfacts, the average rate of interest available on a cash Isa has fallen below 1% for the first time to 0.83%. At the time of writing, the best rate from an Isa that accepts transfers of previous years’ balances is the 1% two-year fixed-rate on offer from the Kent Reliance cash Isa.
On a balance of £15,000, over a 12-month period, that means an extra £25.50 in interest over the average cash Isa rate.
How much better off will I be? £25.50.
7. Sign up to a cashback website
Cashback websites are a terrific way to make a little money back every time you shop online. Search for the retailer you want to shop with on a cashback site, and then follow the tracked link to the retailer's site. You’ll then receive a percentage of your spend back in the form of cashback.
Cashback sites to consider include:
According to TopCashback, its members earn an average of £325 a year in cashback on their spending.
How much better off will I be? £325 on average.
8. Rent out your space
The ‘sharing economy’ has really taken off over the past couple of years, and it can be a serious money maker.
If you have a spare room, you could take advantage of the government’s Rent a Room scheme and take in a lodger. The scheme means that you don’t pay any tax on the first £7,500 you receive in rent.
According to Spareroom.co.uk, during 2015 the average lodger landlord pocketed more than £700 a month in London.
Alternatively, you could rent out your home when you’re away through a site such as Airbnb. Renting out a four-bedroom property in Hertfordshire, for example, would secure you around £525 a week on average.
What is more, in this year’s Budget, the then Chancellor George Osborne announced that from next April if you use a sharing platform such as Airbnb, you won’t have to pay tax on the fi rst £1,000 you earn a year.
How much better off will I be? About £8,000.
9. Become a mystery shopper
Signing up to be a mystery shopper is really easy and offers a simple way to make a bit of extra money in your spare time by reviewing the service on offer from specific retailers.
Mystery shopper agencies to consider include Market Force UK and Checkout UK.
At the time of going to press, projects with Market Force included reviewing Next, Pizza Express, Cafe Rouge and William Hill. You’ll tend to get around £5 for an assignment, plus expenses.
How much better off will I be? £250.
10. Claim the marriage allowance
The marriage allowance can reduce your tax bill by up to £220. It allows those who earn less than £11,000 a year to pass some of their Personal Allowance (the amount you earn free of income tax each year) on to their higher-earning partner as long as they don't earn more than £43,000. It is open to those who are married or in a civil partnership.To apply, go to Gov.uk/apply-marriage-allowance.
How much better off will I be? £220.
11. Track down old bank accounts
It’s estimated that as much as £850 million is sitting in old, lost bank accounts. Thankfully, it’s easy to find out if you have one. The British Bankers’ Association, the Building Societies Association and National Savings & Investments (NS&I) have set up a website Mylostaccount.org.uk – a simple search on there could quickly see you reunited with your cash. According to NS&I, the average amount retraced from its old accounts stands at a whopping £1,942.
How much better off will I be? About £2,000.
12. Claim what you are entitled to!
Are you entitled to benefi ts that you aren’t claiming? Many of us are: according to Turn2us, a national charity that helps people in financial hardship, almost half of low income households are not claiming the benefits and tax credits to which they are entitled. It believes around £16.6 billion in welfare support goes unclaimed each year.
Be sure to check its easy-to-use calculator at Benefits-calculator.turn2us.org.uk to see if you’re missing out.
How much better off will I be? Up to £500.
13. Check your tax code
Are you paying too much tax? If so, you certainly aren’t alone. According to the National Audit Office, more than three million people have been placed on the wrong tax code in the past couple of years and could be owed hundreds back.
Be sure to always check your tax code. You can fi nd your tax code on your pay slip – it will be made up of a letter and number. The number makes clear how much you can earn free of tax each year. Most people have a code of 1100L, meaning they earn £11,000 before paying tax.
How much better off will I be? Up to £300.
14. Flog your old stuff
One person’s junk is another’s treasure, so when clearing out your cupboards don’t just bin it: see if you can turn it into cash.
For example, if you are sitting on old mobile phones or other devices that you no longer need, see what you can get from one of the many mobile recycling sites like Mazuma or Envirofone. For example, at the time of writing, you can get £95 for a 16GB iPhone 5S from Mazuma. Go via a cashback site and you may pocket even more.
But do your homework first: some recycling sites have a poor reputation for changing their offer for spurious reasons when receiving the handset.
For other items, such as clothes, CDs or books, you can use auction sites such as eBay or even attempt a boot sale.
How much better off will I be? At least £100.
15. Give your investments a makeover
It has been a turbulent year for the stock market. But while you can’t control what’s happening with the FTSE 100, you can control what you are paying your fund manager or platform for your investments.
A mystery shopping exercise this year by financial expert Andrew Hagger earlier this year found that stocks and shares Isa investors with £30,000 invested in one of the UK’s main platforms could save as much as £230 a year by switching to a cheaper platform.
How much better off will I be? Up to £230 a year.
16. Get paid for your opinions
There are lots of different ways that you can make a bit of extra money from your opinions. Online surveys can be completed in a matter of minutes and, while you won’t make a fortune from them, you will get a little extra pocket money for very little effort. Sites to consider include Valued Opinions and Opinion Outpost.
You can make a fair bit more by signing up with a focus group. You’ll need to attend meetings in person, but the money can be pretty good – around £50 for an hour’s session is not unusual with the likes of Focus4people.
How much better off will I be? Up to £600 (based on attending one focus group session a month).
17. Get the flu
You can make some decent money by signing up to take part in medical experiments. For example, sign up with the Flu Camp at Flucamp.com and you’ll be paid up to £3,000, in exchange for taking part in an outpatient or residential trial lasting up to 14 days.
How much better off will I be? Up to £3,000.
Invidivual Savings Accounts were introduced on 6 April 1999 to replace personal equity plans (PEPs) and tax-exempt special savings accounts (TESSAs) with one plan that covered both stockmarket and savings products, the returns from which are tax-exempt. The ISA is not in itself an investment product. Rather, it’s a tax-free “wrapper” in which you place investments and savings up to a specified annual allowance where the returns (capital growth, dividends, interest) are tax-exempt (you don’t have to declare ISAs and their contents on your tax return). However, any dividends are taxed within the investment, and that can’t be reclaimed.
An individual employed by an institution to manage an investment fund (unit trust, investment trust, pension fund or hedge fund) to meet pre-determined objectives (usually to generate capital growth or maximise income) in prescribed geographic areas or investment sectors (such as UK smaller companies, technology or commodities). The manager also carries the responsibility for general fund supervision, as well as monitoring the daily trading activity and also developing investment strategies to manage the risk profile of the fund.
The term is interchangeable with stock exchange, and is a market that deals in securities where market forces determine the price of securities traded. Stockmarket can refer to a specific exchange in a specific country (such as the London Stock Exchange) or the combined global stockmarkets as a single entity. The first stockmarket was established in Amsterdam in 1602 and the first British stock exchange was founded in 1698.
Used by an employer or pension provider to calculate the amount of tax to deduct from pay or pension. A tax code is usually made up of several numbers followed by a letter. If you replace the letter in your tax code with ‘9’ you will get the total amount of income you can earn in a year before paying tax, for example 747L would mean a person could earn up to £7,479 before paying tax. The wrong tax code could mean a person ends up paying too much or too little tax.
A market-weighted index of the 100 biggest companies by market capitalisation listed on the London Stock Exchange. It is often referred to as “The Footsie”. The index began on 3 January 1984 with a base level of 1000; the highest value reached to date is 6950.6, on 30 December 1999. The index is “weighted” by how the movements of each of the 100 constituents affect the index, so larger companies make more of a difference to the index than smaller ones. To ensure it is a true and accurate representation of the most highly capitalised companies in the UK, just like football’s Premier League, every three months the FTSE 100 “relegates” the bottom three companies in the 100 whose market capitalisation has fallen and “promotes” to the index the three companies whose market capitalisation has grown sufficiently to warrant inclusion. Around 80% of the companies listed on the London Stock Exchange are included in the FTSE 100.
An account opened with a clearing bank (few building societies offer current accounts) that provides the ability to draw cash (usually via a debit card) or cheques from the account. Some pay fairly minimal rates of interest if the account is in credit. Most current accounts insist your monthly income (salary or pension) is paid directly in each month and they offer a number of optional services – such as overdrafts and charge cards – which are negotiable but will incur fees.
Moving money from one account to another, whether switching bank accounts or more likely transferring the outstanding balance on your credit card to another card that charges a lower – or 0% – rate of interest. Some card providers may charge a transfer fee that can be a percentage of the balance transferred.
Rather than shopping online directly with a retailer, if you go to the retailer via a cashback website (you have to register as a member), when you make a purchase the cashback site gets a commission and rebates some – or all – of this back to you. The cash being paid back to you will vary wildly from site to site and even from product to product, so check you’re getting the best deal before you buy.
The branch of law concerned with the preparation of documents for the buying and selling of property (or remortgaging), always handled by a qualified solicitor. The conveyancing process covers many of the legal aspects of the sale/purchase/remortgage such as land registry, local authority searches, freehold and leasehold status, title deeds and much more.
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.
This is used to compare interest rates for borrowing. It is the total (or “gross”) interest you’ll pay over the life of a loan, including charges and fees. For credit cards where interest is charged at more frequent intervals, the APR includes a “compounding” effect (paying interest on interest). So for a credit card charging 2% interest a month (equating to 24% a year), the APR would actually be 26.82%.