Today’s Star columnist: Martin Lewis

Money-saving expert Martin Lewis.
Money-saving expert Martin Lewis.
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We’re told the economy is improving, wages are finally rising above inflation, yet many people still feel far from flush. 

Financially 2015 is still likely to be challenging. There’s little any of us can do as individuals to change the big picture, but you can create seismic changes in your own money situation.

Hhere are some crucial MoneySaving resolutions to grasp hold of.

I resolve to…

Do a real budget

Most people know how much they earn, but not how much they spend. 

Unless you balance this financial seesaw you don’t really understand your finances.

It’s important to do a budget to calculate whether you’re in what the government call’s “a deficit” – in other words overspending.

If you are it either eats up savings, or worse, builds debts. The problem is most budgets don’t work. They tend to just look at a snap-shot of one month’s expenditure which misses out big annual spends like Christmas and summer holidays – plus the categories are too broad; don’t think “motoring” instead think MOTs, car insurance, petrol, breakdown cover and more.

Break it into small categories.

To help my free www.mse.me/Budget-Planner does it for you. Once it’s done use it to work out where you’ll save cash or cut back so you can balance the books.

Pay debts with savings

If you have £1,000 debt on a typical 18 per cent interest credit card, it’d cost you £180 a year. If you had the same in the best interest-paying account (Santander 123’s 3 per cent), you’d earn 2.4 per cent a year after tax (or £24 a year). So pay off the credit card with the savings and you’d be £156 a year better off.

Don’t pay more than you need on credit card debt

A balance transfer is where you get a new card that pays off the debts on old cards so you owe it instead, but at a cheaper interest rate. You can now shift debts for up to 34 months interest fee, though you will pay a one off fee of around 3 per cent, still over that period you’d save over £1,000 on a typical £3,000 debt.

Just ensure you aim to You can use my balance transfer eligibility calculator which shows which of the top cards you’re most likely to get. It’s at www.mse.me/ BTeligibility.