A debt charity has warned consumers in Northern Ireland to take control of their finances sooner rather than later.
The call comes after it emerged that six out of 10 adults in the UK admitted to being in the red – with debts totalling twice those of 2020.
Sinead Campbell, from Advice NI, said hard times are likely to prevail.
"Cost of living increases are hitting low income households hard and they're going to continue with National Insurance to rise in March,” she said.
“Small business owners are finding things particularly difficult due to low footfall and staffing shortages due to Covid-19 - the festive season hasn't brought the usual windfalls.
“We're encouraging everyone to take a look at their finances now to help deal with what's coming over the next year.”
With that in mind, here are ten tips for healthy finances in 2022:
1. Budget: The best way to improve your finances is to find out exactly what they are. A budget planner will help you know exactly how much income you have coming in, where you are spending your money, and how much you have left over each month. Check out a budget planner at https://www.adviceni.net/money-debt/tools-and-resources
2. Income: Once you’ve established your budget, check if there is any way to increase your income. Are you claiming everything you are entitled to? Can you do overtime? Can you sell unwanted items? Can you cut back on anything? The Benefits Advice team can ensure you’re receiving everything you’re entitled to, from pension credit to help with childcare. The service is free and confidential to anyone living in Northern Ireland.
3. Debts: The first step in dealing with debt is establishing exactly how much you owe and to whom. Once you have reviewed your budget, you will know how much you can pay towards your debt. If you are struggling, contact your creditors to see what assistance they can offer you. Or if this is too much, contact our Debt Advice team who can support you on the most effective way to deal with your debt and negotiate on your behalf.
4. Pay more: Pay a little more than the minimum amount each month. Even a small amount over the minimum each much can help reduce your interest payments, pay the balance off faster and help your credit score.
5. Save: A good rule of thumb is to have between three and six months’ worth of household income saved as a safety net. If something unexpected happens you will have some funds available to help ease financial stress.
6. Start Small: Banks are providing customers with smarter ways to save. Online banks like Monzo and Starling can save your spending rounded up to the nearest pound, with the extra pennies moved to a separate savings account. It’s a way of saving every time you shop without even noticing it. Or perhaps it’s time to invest in a piggy bank to put your loose change at the end of the day.
7. Goals: Decide what you would like to achieve with your money in 2022. Plan how to do it. For example, if you want a holiday, create a holiday fund and start saving.
8. Lifestyle: If you’ve been paying for a gym membership that you’ve used twice in the last year, it might be time to ditch it and pocket the cash.
9. Recycle: Going green can help your bank balance too. If you’re getting rid of old clothes and gifts, try selling them online on sites like Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and Ebay.
10. WFH: If you’ve been working from home for the past couple of years, did you know you’re entitled to tax relief from HMRC? Visit this link or speak to an Advice NI Tax & HMRC Advisor.