Bills, payslips and making the most of your earnings
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Feeling stressed about money? Financial charity, MyBnk, give their top tips
As the coronavirus crisis develops, life as we know it continues to be reshaped. For many of you, the impact on the economy means that your finances have taken a hit; perhaps you’ve been furloughed, or have even lost your job. This can be a worrying and upsetting place to be in, but know that we’re here to support you and offer as much useful advice as possible to get you through it.
We’ve teamed up with experts from MyBnk to answer as many of your questions as we can. MyBnk are a charity who work with young people to offer them a financial education and support them with money-related issues. In part two of their financial guide, they help you understand your utility bills and payslips, offer guidance on earning extra cash and suggest ways that you can be a savvy consumer and avoid paying more than you have to. You can read part one of the guide here.
This article will cover:
- Handling your utility bills
- Understanding your payslips
- Ways to make extra money when you need it
- Being a critical consumer
Handling your utility bills
When you move into your new accommodation, it can be quite overwhelming when faced with so many new bills to pay. Electricity, gas, water and a TV licence are some of the new expenses you may be required to take care of on a monthly basis as part of your independent living.
Five top tips on how to deal with your bills
Moving-in day – meter readings
On the first day of moving in, it’s a good idea to locate where your electric and gas meter is placed, to take what is called a meter reading. This simply involves you writing down the first five numbers on the screen which will then be given to your suppliers when you create a new account.
Contact your providers
Refer to your tenancy agreement or contact your landlord to find out who are the main providers of electricity, gas and water. This will help you identify who they are and set up a new account. Upon request, give them the original meter readings from your move-in date.
Create a budget
One of the best ways to manage your utility bills is having a plan in place to handle them all. Create an Excel spreadsheet where you can log the dates and amounts for each utility bill; each month you can refer to this document and adjust if any changes occur.
Set up automatic payments
Most suppliers prefer that you to set up automatic payments in the form of direct debits from your bank account, this ensures each month is made in time and in full. Some banks will charge you for any missed or failed direct debits, so do make sure enough money is in your current account by the date agreed.
Shop around for deals
Be sure to shop around for deals on your utility bills; in a competitive market you will undoubtedly find a company offering more for less, which you can switch to and take advantage of. Websites such as USWITCH are great for comparing household utilities as well as finance and mobile phone contracts.
How to make bill payments
There are so many options available to pay your bills; simply turn over your bill and have a glance at the back and see which one is convenient for you:
You can make online payments via the supplier’s own website, where you can create your own account and monitor your usage.
Set up an automatic payment with your bank via your current account, this will enable you to choose your payment date and frequency of payment.
If you are a bit wary of online banking, some suppliers will offer you the option of taking the bill directly to your post office where you can pay over the counter.
This offers you the chance to make in-store payments wherever you see the Paypoint sign displayed. These pay points will typically be found at your local newsagent or off licence, and are great for paying utility bills, but for also charging gas or electric prepayment cards/keys.
Independent living can be a liberating and awesome experience, but be sure to prepare for it financially as well.
Do I still need to pay my bills during the coronavirus crisis?
At the moment, despite what you may have heard or seen, all bills need to be paid as normal. While landlords have been offered protection on their mortgages, you’re still expected to pay your rent to them. If you think you are going to struggle to pay ANY of your bills in the future due to this situation, call your landlord or supplier ASAP and see if you can work out a plan.
Many of the energy companies have info for low income households on how they plan to help – check with your supplier if you are worried about the bills in the next few weeks.
The other point to make is that EVERYONE is affected by this in some way. You may well find companies are more open to alternatives when it comes to payments – don’t be afraid to explain if you need help, and to take that help if offered.
The other thing to say is you may well have to change your lifestyle to fit the current climate – some people might even find that spend less money out due to shops being closed down! Be prepared to cook more at home, shop in cheaper supermarkets and use family and friends to help if available.
How to understand your payslips
If you’re working at the moment, you should be receiving regular payslips, but you might not always properly understand all the information you’re given with each one. Fear not, because we’re about to help break that all down for you
Your payslip is important for a number of reasons, for one thing, because it lets you know how much you’re getting paid each month! However, that’s not the only piece of information that is contains. Below, we’ll take you through some of the information you’ll find on a payslip.
Reading your payslip
Firstly, I would encourage you to take note of your tax code. Your tax code is particularly important because this is the piece of information that HMRC uses to ensure that they tax you correctly.
There are a number of tax codes, however, most people’s tax code will correlate with the tax free allowance for this current year. For example the current tax-free allowance for this tax year (April 2019- April 2020), is £12,500, meaning that the majority of people will have 1250L as their tax code, so once you earn above £12,500 in the tax year, you will be taxed at 20% of you income.
Another thing to pay attention to when it comes to your payslip is the terms ‘gross’ & ‘net’.
Your Gross Pay, is the amount of money that you earn before any deductions are taken from your pay.
Your Net Pay, is the amount of money that you receive once all your deductions have been accounted for.
What deductions might appear on my payslip do I hear you ask? There are a number of deductions that may come out of your payslip, the most common ones are:
This is a deduction taken once you have earned over the tax free allowance to contribute to the tax system. Money taken for tax goes towards a number of services, e.g., the NHS, housing, the welfare system, education, and many more!
National Insurance (N.I)
This is a deduction which is similar to tax, it helps to build our entitlement to a few services, i.e. State Pension; we must have 35 years of qualifying N.I Payments to receive a full State Pension.
If you went to university, your student loan costs are repaid through your monthly pay. You pay this only after you earn over a certain amount per year and this also depends on when you started university. For example, if you started university in 2011, once you start earning over £21,000 every year you will start paying back your student loan, so you will begin to see the deductions being made on your payslip from this point.
You may have heard of the Workplace Pension. This is a way to save for your future by deducting a set amount from your salary each month, which your employer will then match an agreed percentage of. This will be set up by your employer and you can choose to opt in or out. Any contributions that you want to make to your pension will be documented here, and come out of your payslip, before you get paid.
Tips for making extra money when you need it
In order to live a life that is comfortable, where you’re not worrying about your expenditures and keeping an eye on every penny and pound that comes your way, it can be helpful to have other streams of income.
There are so many ways to make an income that you might not have even thought of. Some of these include things such as selling clothes online, earning cash back by simply spending money or doing small tasks to earn a little cash on the side.
Crafty ways to make some extra cash on the side
This is an awesome cashback website which gives you cash back when you make a purchase, depending on what retailers you shop with.
Is an online marketplace that matches freelance labour with local demand, allowing those that specialise in different trades to get work. This could be assisting others with everyday tasks, including cleaning, moving, delivery and handyman work.
This app enables you to complete short surveys in shops around you and earn up to £10. The app is available on iPhone & Android to find out more.
Shoppix is an app, available on both iPhone and Android that allows you to upload your receipts in return for points, which can eventually be redeemed for PayPal cash or an Amazon voucher.
Voxpopme is a technology company specialising in video capture and analysis. In order to fulfil their services they usually engage with third parties to perform or provide data collection. You’re able to earn cash from answering questions via videos.
Prolific is a survey website that hosts academic surveys, such as university research projects. This is great way to learn about a variety of different projects whilst earning money on the side.
Populus Live is an online community that allows you to earn money in return for your time completing surveys. As a participant you will be financially rewarded for completing surveys, whilst enjoying some other benefits.
Sweat Coin is a digital currency that you earn by walking or running (yes, really!). You can simply earn Sweatcoins through an app on your phone where it tracks your outdoor steps throughout the day and rewards you for your physical progress.
While some of the ideas above aren’t an option right now due to our current lockdown, they might well be useful as the lockdown ends and everyone is looking for ways to make a bit more cash! Some of the ones above – getting cashback via Quidco, surveys and focus group websites – are still good to go!
Other ways to make money during the current crisis
Sell items online
You could consider either selling old stuff you have lying around, or things you make, if you are a bit crafty. You could also try reselling items you buy cheaper online. You can earn up to £1,000 a year like this without having to declare anything to HMRC. Although remember, if you earn more than £1,000 in a tax year, you will need to declare this.
Become a digital freelancer
Sites like Fiverr let you advertise your skills, set your price and work from home. If you have digital skills – design, typing, audio engineering, music making etc – you can make money as a digital freelancer! Don’t forget to declare your earnings to the tax man!
Save money rather than make money
It’s usually easier to reduce our outgoings than it is to increase our income. It might be easier for you to find ways to cut costs rather than finding new income sources right now. Think about changing shopping brands, cutting back on online shopping (which is so easy when bored at home!) and having a budget to stick to to help keep spending in check.
Top tips for becoming a critical consumer
Every day we find ourselves bombarded with so many messages and stimuli encouraging us to consume products left, right and centre. Whether it be through TV adverts or social media, brands are constantly competing for our attention, but the question is how do we sift through all the choices and make savvy, critical decisions as a consumer?
Five top tips on how to make good consumer decisions:
Do the maths
Contrary to popular belief, not every deal is a good deal, no matter how well it is presented to you. One thing that can help you make an informed decision is by whipping out a calculator and doing the maths to see if in the short term or long term the deal makes sense for your budget.
If you were looking to book a holiday abroad, rarely would you book the first flights or hotel you came across – you would shop around for the best deal. This same approach can be applied everyday household items, clothing, phone contracts and subscription services.
Alternatively, voucher codes serve as great way to save money as you start to become a consumer who likes to make their money go further. Sites such as Pouch – will help you scan the web for discount codes for various online stores.
Identify needs and wants
The age old advice of identifying what a need or want is can often go unheeded, but in reality it is at the very core of becoming a critical and savvy consumer. Marketing and advertising is primarily there to persuade us to purchase our wants over our needs.
Whether it be the latest phone or designer handbag, the messaging is constantly: “What you already have, is NOT enough!”
NEED: Something essential to your survival
WANT: Simply a desire
Looking through your monthly budget and establishing what is a NEED or a WANT helps to not only cut back on unnecessary spending but also curbs impulse buying.
Read the small print
The number one weapon of choice for the critical consumer is – information. Reading through contracts and making note of the small print help you to make decisions that are informed and beneficial to you in the long run because you are aware of your rights at the time of signing.
Never be afraid to ask questions before you settle on making a purchase. Sales people are geared to work you into a corner where you have no choice but to surrender to their hard sell, however always remember the real power lies in the hand of the consumer.
If you have any queries, be sure to voice them, and never be afraid to walk away and have time to think if you change your mind in the buying process.
You have the power.
Getting a refund during the coronavirus crisis
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has put out additional guidance to businesses, including highlighting that it expects in most cases a full refund would be paid if a business has cancelled a contract without providing any of the goods or services as a result of the current lockdown – under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you should get refunds if companies do not or cannot meet the obligations of your contract or purchase. This include things like childcare providers, wedding caterers, cleaners etc.
Note that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, you are entitled to a refund if you do not receive the service you paid for, no matter the circumstance. That means that if a supplier or store doesn’t deliver the goods or services you have paid for due to coronavirus, you are STILL entitled to a refund. If you have trouble with this, contact Citizens Advice for support.
I’m still feeling anxious about money
If you’re still feeling worried about your finances, that’s ok and we’re here to help. Money can be a really stressful issue to navigate, especially while everything is so uncertain. But our support team are here to listen, offer reassurance and connect you to the right advice. Head here to speak to our team of experts and trained volunteers.
Additionally, you can find more information and tips on managing your mental health and finances on our coronavirus hub here.
- The Money Advice Service offers free, unbiased and independent advice about all financial matters. 0800 138 7777
- StepChange offers free advice on your debt problems, basing it round what's right for you. 0800 138 1111
- Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
- Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.
By Holly Turner
Updated on 26-May-2020
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