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Personal finance expert Sarah Pennell’s tips on managing your money
My general tips for keeping on top of your finances. Well first of all, is to start by checking where your money is going. So just get out your bank statements, and have a look and make sure that you are not paying for things you have cancelled, that you haven’t got any direct debits that really you should have cancelled by now.
Secondly, if you have savings, check the rate your savings are earning. Interest rates are very low at the moment, but there is still quite a big difference between the best and worst paying rates. The best accounts tend to have bonuses on them which tend to drop off after about a year, and the rate you get then can be very low indeed. If you are a tax payer, then make sure you use your cash ISA allowance. But don’t forget any old cash ISAs you have, because you can always transfer those and make sure you get a good rate on them as well.
If you want to get some tips and advice on what to do, the money advice service is a good place to start. It’s a free to use website, but you can also telephone them or arrange a face-to-face visit.
The advice I’d give to someone thinking about taking out insurance is to first of all to check whether or not you need it. There are some insurance that are really important, like house insurance. And if you drive a car, then by law you have to have motor insurance. But some things like identity fraud insurance or mobile phone cover are, in my view, unnecessary.
If you’re coming up to renew your policies, some policies such as motor and household insurance also include extras, such as legal expenses cover. But these aren’t free; you do have to pay for them. Now they can be useful, but it is worth checking firstly whether you need it, and secondly whether you are doubling up cover because you have it on your car policy and also household insurance.
When it comes to shopping around for insurance, price comparison websites are worth looking at, but I would also suggest that you talk to an insurance broker, because they may be able to get you a better policy at the same price.
For more money and consumer advice, visit www.ageuk.org.uk/letstalkmoney
I think a lot of people worry about shopping online, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself. For a start, if you are shopping on a website for a company you are not familiar with, I suggest you put its name into a search engine alongside a complaint or problem. If there are issues, you will certainly find out about it.
Often you can get goods much cheaper online than you can on the high street, but there may be times when a really good service or using a local shop that you know are more important. If you shop from home, whether that’s online or by mail order, you get really good consumer protection. Basically, you can change your mind up to seven working days after the goods have arrived. There are a couple of exceptions, such as if you’ve ordered something to be customised or if it’s fresh food.
If you’re actually going to transact and you are at the checkout, make sure the address is started with “https”, and the “s” stands for secure. Also look for a golden padlock. It will either be at the top of the screen or the bottom. It is worth bearing in mind that some companies who do have secure sites don’t use this system. So because there isn’t a padlock, doesn’t automatically mean the website is unsafe.
And lastly, I would always recommend that you look for a physical address and not just a PO Box. And also check that they have a phone number. If things go wrong, it is all too easy for companies to ignore emails.
The advice I would give on paying with cards is that credit cards give you really good protection. And the basic rules are that you have to buy something costing more than £100 and less than £30,000, but you don’t have to pay the full price with your credit card. Paying a deposit is enough to secure these rights. What this means is if the goods don’t arrive, if they are not rewarded or if the company goes bust, you can make a claim against your credit card provider.
And lastly, some people struggle with chip and pin cards. If you do, you can ask for a chip and sign card, which may be easier for you to use.
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