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Time to do your own autumn budget?

After the Chancellor had a look at the nation's finances, it's a good time to get your own affairs in order before the Christmas spending season descends.

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In the Autumn Statement the new Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, focused on trying to improve Britain’s economic competitiveness.

But, while Phillip Hammond grapples with the nation’s finances to find more cash and juggle the national debt, we look at what financial wizardry you can do to improve your household budget.

Use cards wisely and avoid interest

You could effectively borrow for free if you cleverly use the right credit cards. Many cards offer introductory offers where no interest will be charged on card borrowing.

There are three types of 0% interest cards:

  • 0% balance transfer card – You can move existing card debts onto one of these cards and avoid paying any interest for up to 40 months, however a one off transfer fee of around 2% will normally apply.
  • 0% purchase card – You can make purchases interest free during the offer period of up to 30 months.
  • 0% money transfer card – This allows you to transfer money from your credit card into your current account to spend as cash. This effectively gives you an interest free cash loan with no charges to pay for up to 40 months, but there is normally an upfront transfer fee of around 2-4%.

In all cases, you will need to meet at least the minimum monthly payments or the 0% offer will be withdrawn. Also as a rule, always aim pay off the the card balance in full before the 0% interest period expires.

Keep your mortgage bill steady

A fixed-rate mortgage can help you keep one of your biggest monthly costs at a fixed level for up to ten years. At the moment fixed rate deals are at the lowest they’ve ever been, with two year fixes starting from just under 1%.

You should also aim to remortgage after your initial or fixed rate period expires, if you are on the lender’s Standard Variable Rate (SVR), as you could often switch to a far cheaper deal.

The mortgage with the lowest initial headline rate isn’t always cheapest in the long run. So don’t get wowed by the lowest rates on the market, take time to fully consider the lifetime cost of a mortgage and all the associated fees.

Thinking of fixing your mortgage rate?

Enjoy fixed monthly mortgage costs for a set period, whatever happens in the financial markets

Compare fixed mortgages

Get cash or rewards back for your spending

With a cashback credit card, you can earn cash back on your card purchases, alternatively, a reward credit card gives you points as your spend which you can exchange for discounts or offers.

Cashback rates vary between 1-5%, but there will often be catches and upper limits meaning a typical annual cashback amount would be at most around £100-£500.

Cashback cards often have high interest rates, meaning they’re only really worth it if you’re always able to pay off your balance in full each month.

Reward cards are typically linked either to retailers or airlines. A retail reward card could save you hundreds from your grocery bills whereas an airline reward card can get you free flights and upgrades.

Compare reward credit cards

Take a look at credit cards that offer retail, airline and other rewards.

Compare reward cards

Get better returns from your savings

The government promised to introduce a market leading savings scheme to help savers suffering from record low interest rates, but if you can’t wait for this to be implemented, you could look at a high interest current accounts.

Some current account accounts still offer interest up to 5%, but there are normally upper limits and caveats to this (such as minimum monthly deposits)

Could your current account pay you more?

Find a current account that will pay a higher rate of interest on your deposits

Compare high-interest current accounts

Improve your credit score

It’s worth checking your credit report and score before applying for any loans, credit cards and mortgages to make sure you are eligible for the best deals.

It’s relatively simple to improve your credit score: make sure you’re on the electoral role, build a history of responsible borrowing (ie meeting all repayments) and make sure your name is a few on household bills if it’s not already.

Are your finances in good shape?

Check your credit report to make sure you're in good shape to apply for loans, credit cards, overdrafts, mortgages and mobile phone contracts

Compare credit reports

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