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Last Updated: Friday, 3 February 2006, 07:42 GMT
Sorting out your budget
Whatever your situation, it is sensible to make the most of your day-to-day money.



PLAN YOUR BUDGET

It is always a good idea to keep track of your money especially if you are struggling to make ends meet.

If you haven't done so already, you should take the time to work out where all your money comes from and where it goes - using an online budget calculator might help you do this.

Try to make time to review your budget regularly. And remember to look at it again if your circumstances change or your debts start building up.

And don't just think about the present - thinking early on about how your needs might change in the future can help to prevent problems occurring later on.

You could use some of the calculators mentioned below to do this.

SORT OUT YOUR DEBTS

If you are having problems with debts, it is better to sort things out sooner rather than later - or your situation could easily get worse.

How big is the problem?

Make a list of all your debts - remember to include any borrowing, such as your mortgage and any credit or store cards, and other debts, such as any unpaid bills for example.

Check what could happen if you don't repay your debts - some will be a higher priority than others because the consequences of not paying them are so severe.

For example, if you don't keep up payments on your mortgage there is a real risk that you could lose your home; if you don't pay court fines, you could be sent to prison.

Then you can start thinking about which debts are the top priority for repayment and how much you can afford to pay off each week or month.

Contact all the people you owe money to as soon as possible and don't ignore their letters or phone calls. Explain the problem and how you intend to pay.

Offer to pay off the debt at an amount you can afford, even if it's only a small amount per week or month.

And think carefully before you borrow any money to repay your debts.

You can review your borrowing in more detail and get more information on how to tackle any debt problems by taking our Debt Test.

BOOST YOUR INCOME

Make sure you claim any benefits or tax credits you are entitled to. You can find out how to do this by looking at the Directgov website.

And make sure you aren't paying any more tax than you need to - on your savings for example. You can also check this by looking at the Directgov website.

You could consider switching any savings or investments to get a better return - but remember to check whether you will pay a penalty for switching.

Information comparing the different products on offer is widely available on BBC 2 Ceefax, the internet and in newspapers and magazines.

REDUCE YOUR SPENDING

If you need to cut back on your spending, look for areas where you are confident you can really make savings.

Set yourself targets and stick to them. But remember to be realistic.

You could consider switching to a cheaper supplier for basic services, such as gas and electricity, or for other major items of expenditure.

You might be able to save money by reviewing any loans or other borrowing.

You could think about switching to a cheaper credit card or to a different mortgage for example.

Again, you can find information on what's available both on BBC 2 Ceefax, the internet - eg the FSA's mortgage tables - and in the press.

GET HELP

If you are having real problems with your money or would like some help with sorting things out, you could think about speaking to an adviser.


Useful checklists and information


Handy tools

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Contact numbers and internet links

Citizens Advice Bureau
Free confidential and independent advice to those with money problems.
Check the phone book for the number of your local CAB office

Consumer Credit Counselling Service
Free advice and information to those affected by debt.
Tel: 0800 138 1111 (freephone)

Community Legal Service Direct
Information and free initial advice on legal problems in England and Wales
Tel: 0845 345 4 345 (call rates may vary)

National Debtline
Helpline offering free, confidential and independent advice to those in debt.
Tel: 0808 808 4000 (freephone)

Money Advice Scotland
Provides information on local money advice agencies
Tel: 0141 572 0237

Advice UK
Links to advice services across the UK
Tel: 020 7407 4070

Financial Services Authority - Consumer Information
Information from the UK's financial services watchdog
Consumer helpline: 0845 606 1234 (call rates may vary)

Payplan
Debt management and free confidential debt advice on resolving debt problems

Directgov
Links to all government information and services

Energywatch
impartial information and advice from the independent watchdog for gas and electricity consumers
Tel : 0845 9 06 07 08 (call rates may vary)

British Bankers' Association

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


This checklist was developed jointly by the BBC and the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the UK watchdog for the financial services industry. It does not provide financial or other professional advice. If you want advice specifically tailored to your personal circumstances you should consult an adviser.






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