Our Top 12 Ways to Save Cash This Year; Jeremy Gates Offers a Range of Straightforward Personal Finance Tips to Help Get Home Budgets Back in the Black

Article excerpt

Byline: Jeremy Gates

THE New Year is only two weeks old -but 2004 appears to have set something of a record in transforming the financial outlook overnight.

Remember 2003, when household debt soared towards pounds 200 billion, personal pensions collapsed,and investments looked so risky that boring old Premium Bonds became the hottest show in the town?

Suddenly, the news brings hope of economic recovery, rising share prices,and no house price crash. But millions still start the New Year with finances under pressure. The need to take stock -and squeeze better value from our money -has probably never been greater.Here's a dozen ways to make money go further: 1 If in debt,look around for a better rate: a remortgage is usually the cheapest source of finance,but otherwise look around for a cheaper lender,or a credit card with a cheaper rate. Beware store cards, whose high rates have incensed MPs.

2Use your ISA allowance for 2003/4-at least so far as cash is concerned. Good rates are paid by Nationwide,Kent Reliance,Intelligent Finance and Tipton & Coseley Building Society.

3Your private sector pension will hardly be enough to live on, so start saving now if you don't want to work forever. Online internet accounts -Northern Rock,Coventry BS,Abbey -offer 4.2pcor more on minimum pounds 1 deposits, which will be nearly four times Gordon Brown's re- adjusted inflation rate.

Birmingham Midshires' phone account pays 4.35pcon a minimum pounds 1,000.

Go offshore with your savings -particularly if retirement abroad is an option.A&L says an extra 2.3m over-50 year-olds will retire abroad in the next ten years, with one in five older people living abroad by 2020. Would-be ex pats can get A&L's Complete Guide to Life and Work Abroad free on 01624 613598 and www.alil.co.im.

5Get a re-mortgage, the big craze in 2004. Nationwide predicts pounds 137 billion worth of remortgages will be fixed in the next 12 months,and almost the same again when borrowers get better deals from existing lenders.

6Cut the smoking: if 12 million smokers in Britain gave up, saysinsuresupermarket.com, they would save pounds 255a year on life and critical illness insurance alone.(Seepanel below for help on quitting).

Savings beyond that are immense. Sainsbury's Bank reckons 4.86 million home buyers spend pounds 298 million a MONTH on smoking. On a 25-year mortgage of pounds 60,000,giving up half a packet a day saves pounds 14,000 on repayments and reduces the repayment term by seven years. 7Don't buy travel insurance when you book a holiday: Sainsbury's Bank says nearly 11 million people who book holidays between now and February 29 will waste pounds 40 million because travel agents take such a hefty commission.

Determined to stop smoking?The Daily Post is offering two readers the chance to quit smoking using hypnotherapy with renowned TV hypnotist Wynne Roberts, who is also employed by health giant,BUPA. …