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Northern Ireland families dogged by money worries advised to draw up a budget and stick to it

By Claire McNeilly

Published 15/01/2016

One in six adults in Northern Ireland is in serious financial trouble and in urgent need of a money makeover, it can be revealed today. Image posed
One in six adults in Northern Ireland is in serious financial trouble and in urgent need of a money makeover, it can be revealed today. Image posed

One in six adults in Northern Ireland is in serious financial trouble and in urgent need of a money makeover, it can be revealed today.

New research from Money Advice found that almost eight out of 10 (77%) of the working age population do not have enough savings to cover unexpected expenses.

It also discovered that around 193,000 individuals who have money difficulties are not getting any debt advice.

The shocking statistics come after it emerged that people here spend more on a variety of goods - including clothing and footwear, children's garments, cosmetics, toiletries and electronic appliances - than anywhere else in the UK.

Northern Ireland also boasts the highest regional spenders when it comes to holiday outgoings and takeaway food, according to the Office for National Statistics family spending report, published last month.

Money Advice programme coordinator at Citizens Advice Kathy McKenna said that 41% of adults fail to use a household budget that could help them plan ahead. "Now the Christmas decorations have been put away and the credit card bills have dropped on the mat, this is the perfect time to shine a light on our finances," she added.

"Citizens Advice has devised a monthly budget planner for 2016 that should help ordinary people better understand their income and outgoings.

"January is the best time for a new year financial spring clean and hopefully this will make it easier to see where your money is going and underline areas where you can drive down costs.

"Following these simple steps can help put your household bills on a steady footing for the rest of the year - and beyond."

An individual is defined as being in debt if they have missed three out of six monthly payments.

The Money Advice Service said it was particularly concerned that eight out of 10 adults do not have savings equal to three or more months household income.

"Having a savings buffer can help build financial resilience to deal with unexpected life events such as redundancy, bereavement, divorce or other major crises," added Ms McKenna.

"It can also reduce money-related stress and the effects it can have on health, relationships and a sense of wellbeing.

"A good rule of thumb is to have three months' essential outgoings available in an instant access account for emergency savings.

"So, if you spend £1,000 a month on mortgage or rent, food, heating bills and other things you can't live without, you should aim for £3,000 in emergency savings.

"If money's short, start small. For example, saving just £3 a day adds up to £1,095 over a year."

Another way of managing money effectively involves keeping a spending diary.

If you save up all your receipts and add up how much you have spent at the end of each day, you might be shocked at just how much you have blown on treats and impulse buys.

The Belfast Telegraph has reproduced online a monthly budget planner from Citizens Advice for anyone wishing to save a fortune with a money makeover in 2016.

To complete the process, just grab your bank statements and look at all your income and outgoings, including direct debits, standing orders and bills.

For a more in-depth analysis of your finances, the online Citizens Advice Budgeting tool can be found at https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/debt-and-money/help-with-debt/budgeting/budgeting-tool

Case study

Jenny and Tom are married and have a 13-year-old daughter. They rent their home and both work full-time.

Jenny says: "I was paying minimum payments to my credit cards and loans and struggling to keep within my overdraft limit until I contacted Citizens Advice for help.

"As part of the money advice process Tom and I completed a monthly budget planner. It involved writing down all our household income and expenditure - not just our monthly outlay but also irregular expenses that come up occasionally such as birthday presents, annual rates bill, visits to the dentist and annual spending on school uniform and trips for our daughter. On paper we should be managing well and we couldn't understand why we were going overdrawn each month. In the past, when our overdraft became too high, we took out a further loan but we didn't want to do that again.

"When the money adviser examined our budget it became patently clear that we weren't making provision for irregular monthly bills such as the breaking down of the washing machine, Christmas presents, the annual holiday or the annual MOT and car service.

"By carrying out the spending review we understood the need to budget for irregular expenditure and how important it is to set aside money each month (for example in a separate bank account) to cover exceptional expenses when they arise.

"Citizens Advice helped us negotiate reduced payments with our creditors so as to resolve the situation and get back on track."

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