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Guest post: Five tips to improve your finances

AlexW_Scope Scope Posts: 225 Pioneering

The festive season may now seem like a distant memory, but for many the financial pinch is still being felt. To help you get things back on track for the rest of 2017, Scope’s Alex White presents five useful tips for improving your finances.

1. Draw up a budget

Planning out your finances will help you to manage them going forwards. You can use the Budget Planner on the Money Advice Service website to help you draw up a budget.

Analyse your income and expenditure and keep copies to send to the relevant people so that they can help identify areas in which you need some extra support. If you are having difficulty, you can call the Scope helpline for free on 0808 800 3333 or email helpline@scope.org.uk.

Your priority outgoings are your rent or mortgage, council tax, utility bills and court fines. You should pay these bills first. Don’t avoid dealing with these, as they will get worse if left.  Do not be afraid to talk to your lender/landlord/local authority/energy provider if you are having financial difficulties. They might be able to help. Scope’s information about Discretionary Housing Payments may also be useful if you need help with housing costs.

If you’re struggling with your fuel bills, take a look at Scope’s information on helping with fuel costs.

2. Maximise your income

Are you getting all of the benefits you are entitled to? Try our free benefits calculator to check whether there’s anything you can claim which you are currently missing. If you’re unsure, you might like to ask our online benefits advisors a question.

You may also be able to apply for additional financial help using our grants search.

3. Manage your debt

There are various sources of help available to help you manage your debt and finances. You can seek help from charities such as Step ChangeMoney Advice Service and National Debtline. Do not pay for financial advice. There are plenty of advice agencies who offer free advice.

Avoid payday lenders who charge excessive amounts of interest and avoid debt consolidation without getting advice about this first. You can access money advice at your local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, approach your local credit union and, in some areas, your local council.

4. Apply for local welfare assistance schemes

If you find that you have no money for essential bills or you need help due to an emergency or unforeseen event, you can apply to your local council for welfare provision payments. Find your local welfare assistance scheme on the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) website.

Each scheme has different criteria but Local Welfare Assistance would usually be considered as a last resort and you may need to access money advice to qualify for the scheme. Your local authority may not help you until you have exhausted all other options including a Budgeting Loan.

5. Sell unwanted items for extra cash

Why not put your unwanted belongings on Ebay or organise a car boot sale with friends or family? You can even sell your items at an online car boot sale. Sell your unwanted gadgets on sites such as Cash In your GadgetsMusic Magpie, or at your local CeX shop.

Have you got any tips for saving money or managing your finances? Let us know in the comments below.
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