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To manage your money more effectively, it is important to try and maximise your income wherever possible.
This is often the simplest step you can take to ease financial pressures and increase the amount of money you have in your pocket day-to-day.
Maximising your income is about both securing extra income from any available sources, and making your money go further by identifying savings wherever possible.
It is vital to think about how to maximise your income if you are struggling with debt, or finding it hard to make ends meet. However, whatever your financial situation, securing additional income or identifying savings can really improve your quality of life.
The Money Advice Service has information available to get you thinking about how you may be able to maximise your income.
Check Your Benefit Entitlements
It is estimated that around £200 million of benefits to older people in Northern Ireland go unclaimed every year. It is therefore always worthwhile for you to check that you are accessing your full benefit entitlements.
As well as checking that you have claimed your State Pension entitlements, there are a number of other benefits you should check.
If you think you are missing out on your full benefit entitlements, you can contact Advice NI on 0800 915 4604. Age NI also offer free benefit advice on 0808 808 7575.
If you require more detailed advice about a benefit problem you can search for an advice centre in your local area.
Make Your Money Go Further
Maximising your income is not just about increasing your income. It is also about taking a common-sense approach to saving money wherever possible.
There is some useful guidance available on the NI Direct website about reducing expenses.
Reducing Expenditure on Utilities
Keeping your home warm is essential to your health and well-being.
However, it can be difficult to balance this with the ever-rising cost of fuel.
Many older people could reduce these costs both by considering energy efficiency measures and by shopping around for better deals on their electricity and home heating costs. You can use The Consumer Council's Energy Comparison Tool.
If you own your own home or rent from a private landlord, then the Warm Homes scheme may be able to assist with a grant to help with home energy efficiency measures. The scheme not only provides assistance with home energy efficiency measures but also provides a benefit checking service as well.
Even if you do not want to change suppliers it is always worthwhile contacting your own supplier to check you are on their cheapest tariff, or if you could reduce your bills by changing your payment method to direct debit for example.
Many of us pay too much for the services and products we use regularly, such as our telephones, insurance products, bank accounts, and even our weekly grocery shopping.
There are a number of price comparison sites operating which may help you find the best deals on many financial products and are easily accessible through any online search facility.
However, not all of these sites cover products specific to Northern Ireland, so it is worth checking this carefully before you buy.
The Money Advice Service has some useful information about getting the best out of price comparison sites. Many newspapers also produce ‘best buy tables’ for products such as mortgages, loans and credit cards.
It can be tempting to ‘stay loyal’ to a firm you have used for a number of years for the likes of insurance or telephone services. However, companies rarely give their best deals to existing customers, so it is always worth making regular checks to see if another firm could give you a better deal for the service you require.
Shopping around also applies to all of your regular household expenditure on food, cleaning products and toiletries. Switching to supermarket’s own brands, or keeping your eye out for special offers can save you money every week.
Most of the big supermarkets also offer price matching deals where they promise to refund you money if your weekly shopping would have been cheaper at one of their rivals, which is another simple way to save money on a regular basis.
Pay the Right Amount of Tax
Tax rules for individuals over the age of 65 are different than for other taxpayers. It is therefore worthwhile checking that you are getting the right tax allowances, and that you are not paying any more tax than you need to.
HMRC allocates everyone in the UK an amount they can earn in a year without paying tax on it. This is known as your personal allowance.
Find out how much tax you should pay on the HMRC website.
Advice NI also offers a telephone advice service covering tax matters on 0800 915 4604
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