MILLIONS of households are bracing for a cold winter, with a 15-month recession heading our way.
Soaring inflation, rising interest rates and the rocketing prices of petrol, energy and groceries are pushing family finances to the brink.
Yesterday, we heard from families who already have nothing left.
Many of us are scared to fill up our petrol tanks or worried about how to feed the kids this summer.
But as the cost-of-living crisis starts to bite, our Squeeze Team experts are here to help you survive.
MAKE A SPREADSHEET
TRACK your monthly out-goings, and make a note of the date that all bills are paid.
Helen Morrissey, above, a senior pensions analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Knowing what is coming in and going out each month is important to help you stick to a budget.” Use a spreadsheet to help find areas to trim.
Expert Martyn James reckons you can save £192 a year by axing three streaming services. Alice Haine, personal finance analyst at Bestinvest, says: “Now is the time to find out if you can secure a cheaper deal on insurance, utilities, phone and broadband bills.”
LOCATE LOST CASH
THERE are billions of pounds in missing savings, pensions and bank accounts.
Savers with a lost account are missing out on an average of £450, according to finance firm Gretel.
The Pension Tracing Service can help you find old pension pots.
Dig out old paperwork and contact providers where you have had accounts.
My Lost Account can help you search if you don’t have details. And anyone turning 18 should check whether they have up to £2,500 in a forgotten Child Trust Fund.
HELP IS AT HAND
THERE is help available and you should make sure you are using it.
Jonathan Chesterman says: “Make sure you’re claiming everything you are entitled to.
“An online benefits calculator is a good place to start.”
Some energy firms offer hardship grants to those in arrears.
And be sure to check if you are eligible for a council tax reduction with your local authority – or for your bill to be written off entirely.
Millions of people qualify for cost-of-living payments of up to £1,700 – find out what you can get.
IF you are worried about your finances, it’s easy to panic.
But making any knee-jerk financial decisions would be a mistake.
Focus on the things you can change, such as using a cheaper supermarket or shopping around for the best petrol prices.
Do not be tempted to borrow money or gamble to solve the problem if you are worried.
Jonathan Chesterman, above, from debt charity StepChange, said: “Start to plan now. Don’t wait for the impact of the recession to hit your wallet – by then it may be too late.”
IF you are behind on bills, speak to your providers.
Helen Morrissey said: “Don’t suffer in silence. If you are struggling, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible.”
Companies must work with you to set up an affordable payment plan if you are struggling.
Ask about the Breathing Space scheme.
Under this, you won’t rack up interest charges or late fees on debts for 60 days. You are also protected from debt collectors.
Contact debt organisations such as StepChange. Jonathan Chesterman said: “The sooner you seek help, the more options you will have.”
DODGE MORE DEBT
NOW is not the time to take on extra debt.
Andrew Hagger, of Moneycomms, said: “Don’t take on any unless it’s for an emergency purchase such as car repairs or a broken boiler.”
And consider moving your existing debt to a cheaper deal. Balance transfer credit cards often charge zero interest for a fixed period.
But remember that you will pay a fee and you’ll need a good credit score to switch.
Use sites like MoneySavingExpert to find the best deal.
TICKING TIME BOMB
HOMEOWNERS have been warned of a mortgage “ticking time bomb”, with millions on fixed rates ending soon.
As interest rates rise, so do mortgage payments.
Those on variable and tracker deals will be the first to feel the rise – adding £233 a month to average bills.
If your mortgage deal is ending within the next six months, you can apply now to lock in a deal. A typical two-year fixed deal has gone up from 2.34 per cent in August 2020 to 3.95 per cent today, according to Moneyfacts. Tenants may also feel the pain as landlords look to increase rents.
GET A SIDE HUSTLE
CONSIDER ways you can earn some extra cash in your spare time.
Andrew Hagger, below, said: “Sell items you no longer need through sites such as Ebay, Gumtree or Vinted.”
You can earn up to £7,500 a year tax-free by renting out a spare room.
If you are a renter, check with your landlord before doing this. You could rent an unused driveway or garage too. You can make up to £1,000 a year tax-free this way through the Property Allowance.
If you earn more, you will need to declare the extra income to HMRC.
Source: The Sun