Are you in need of a fresh financial start? I run the Ingeus Justice division’s money management workshops and speak to people every day who struggle to manage their finances. It’s important for everyone to take time to look after their money and tackle debt.
Here are my top tips to help you to make better financial decisions:
 
1. Take control of your contactless cards
Contactless payments are very quick and convenient so they can encourage you to spend more than you should. There is extra need to be cautious as the limit you can spend on contactless cards has now increased from £45 to £100.
But you have options to tackle this temptation – you can ask your bank for a non-contactless card or for a reduced limit.
 
2. Get your utility bills under control
We all know that there has been a big increase in the cost of gas and other utilities.
So now is the time to be aware of when your contract is due to end and make sure that you shop around on comparison sites. It can make a real difference.
 
3. Reduce your winter energy bills
Winter energy bills can put a big dent in your finances. While it’s important to stay warm, there are many ways to keep the cost of heating as low as possible. For example, you can keep doors shut, wear extra layers, use draft excluders and reduce your heating temperature by two degrees.
 
4. Always think – WANT or NEED
Impulse buying without thinking can lead to overspending.
Before you buy something on impulse, just think to yourself, I WANT this but do I NEED this?
Don’t make a rash purchase, leave it a day or so before deciding.
 
5. Track your spending
Many people don’t keep track of their spending. But it’s important to understand where your money is going so make a list of your spending for a month.
Write down everything including bills, living costs, car costs, gifts and monthly outgoings like phone bills. This will help you to reduce unnecessary spending and means you are less likely to end up in debt.
 
6. Plan big expenditure ahead so it’s not a shock
Take the time once a year to think about the big items you know you want to spend money on. Try to plan wherever possible so that you are not caught out.
 
7. Challenge yourself to save for a treat
Everybody deserves a treat. Challenge yourself to save for something you want – look at your expenses and save where you can. If you set a goal and budget, you can save hundreds or even thousands of pounds a year. That money could also be used to pay off debts or kept for an emergency.
 
8. Understand credit cards
It’s all too easy to pay for purchases with a credit card, but the interest can really build up.
A credit card charges around 20 per cent interest and a lot of people don’t understand what that means. Try to pay the balance in full each month to avoid interest charges and if not, pay as soon as you can.
Be aware of how much you might be getting into debt - it’s best to have as few credit cards as possible with the lowest rate available.
 
9. Find out how much you owe
Create a list of all your debts which will then enable you to plan, it could even be less than you think. A good way to start is through a credit history report from Experian, which is free.
Then you can work out which debts are a priority and need to be paid off first.
 
10. There are always solutions if you ask
Being in debt can feel overwhelming but there are lots of things you can do such as debt consolidation, debt relief orders and money management plans.
Never ignore the problem – take High Street advice from Citizens Advice.
And don’t take on any more debt. Instead, work to pay off what you already owe.
 
Ingeus’s money management advisors urge people to seek help if facing financial concerns.
From budgeting to dealing with debt, the team has practical advice to offer and is ready to reassure everyone that there’s always a solution.
 
We give money management workshops for ex-offenders and jobseekers. The courses help people be more financially aware, in terms of living on a budget, getting bank or credit union accounts and learning about how to find expert debt help.
 
Alongside the money management service, there are lots of organisations offering free and confidential support:
 
· Citizens Advice: 0800 144 8848, www.citizensadvice.org.uk
· StepChange: 0800 138 1111, www.stepchange.org
· Christians Against Poverty: 0800 328 0006, www.capuk.org
· PayPlan: 0800 280 2816, www.payplan.com
· National Debtline: 0808 808 4000, www.nationaldebtline.org