2023 has been a volatile year for our money, so now’s an ideal time to check all your rates and deals. Our personal finance expert Lynn Beattie shares her tips for accomplishing an effective once-over
Christmas can be a sticky time for our finances with so many temptations to spend. But whether you stick to your budget or push the boat out, it’s a good idea to review your finances and bills at the turn of the year. Knowing that you’re getting the best deal, or the highest return on your money, will help give you a great start to 2024. Here are the outgoings to look at…
Mortgage interest rates are the highest they’ve been for years, and it’s a concerning time if your fixed deal will come to an end in 2024. You can speak to an independent mortgage broker or your lender up to six months before the end date of your fixed deal to lock in a new interest rate – and this is a good idea, in case interest rates continue to rise. You don’t have to take the rate offered when it comes to renewing, but you’ll have evidence of something agreed, and you can compare it to the rates available closer to the end of your current deal.
If your new mortgage at the higher interest rate becomes unaffordable, there are options to consider such as extending the term of your mortgage or moving to interest-only for a limited period. Talk to your lender, but be aware that this is only a short-term fix.
Mobile phone and broadband
Do you know when your current contracts end? Or maybe you’re not in a contract anymore – if so, it’s a great time to switch and see if you can find a better deal.
Renewing your mobile phone or broadband contract offers the chance to benefit from a decent cashback deal, too. Find the network or broadband company you want to switch to, and check to see if it’s on a cashback site such as Top Cashback or Quidco. The cashback deals on new broadband contracts can reach more than £100 (typically offered as vouchers).
If your mobile phone is still working fine and you’re out of contract, switch to a SIM-only contract – Uswitch says this could save you up to £335 a year.
Energy prices fell through 2023 and, thanks to a further energy cap price reduction for the last quarter of this year to £1,923, average households should see a further £151 drop in their bills. This should mean lower bills than you were paying in early 2023, although still considerably higher than two years ago. Give your energy company a call to ensure you’re on the best deal.
You might be able to save money if you can switch your tariff to one that’s cheaper for off-peak times – and keep checking a comparison site such as moneysupermarket.com to see if you can change suppliers to save more.
The plus side of higher interest rates is that you can earn higher returns on cash savings now. Rates of 4–5% on instant access savings are easy to find; for the latest deals, visit a comparison website or moneysavingexpert.com.
The interest rates on savings accounts where you save a regular amount each month for a year are even higher. If you have sizeable balances sitting in high street bank current accounts, switch your money to a higher rate saving account and benefit from these higher rates – 4% interest on a £10,000 balance, for example, is a handy £400 a year.
Credit card balances
Of course, those interest rate increases mean it becomes more expensive to service debt, as the rates on loans and credit cards go up – so be sure to check yours. If you have a credit card with a high APR rate, could you move it to a 0% deal (credit rating dependent) and prioritise clearing this debt before the 0% interest period ends.
This has been a bumper year for bank account switching deals. If you’re willing to switch your main bank account – the one into which your salary or other income is paid, and where bills are paid from – you can benefit from a cashback bonus. It’s common to get a payment of £150 to £200 for completing a full bank account switch.
Do more with Boundless
Boundless members enjoy year-round access to deals and discounts, with savings on everything from holidays to high-street shopping, motoring services and meals out. If you haven’t signed up yet, visit the Boundless membership page.