How does using cash help you keep a handle on your finances?

When you need to pay for something, it is all too easy to whip your card out of your wallet and tap four numbers into a machine. Contactless payment, which is becoming ever-more widespread, makes this process even easier and potentially a lot more dangerous. If you're one of those people who struggles to make ends meet every month, you could save some serious money by switching to cash payments instead.

Easier to see what you have

Spending money via a card doesn't bring home the realism of what you're spending. Unless you visit a cash point or do online banking every day, it's impossible for you to really keep track and see what you have left. For example, if you're going for a night out but know that you can only spend

Money worries keep 38 per cent of first-time buyers up at night

A new survey has found that first-time buyers seriously underestimate how much it costs to buy, move into and maintain a property, as 38 per cent of first-time buyers said worrying about their finances keeps them up at night.

According to thisismoney.co.uk, the report from the Money Advice Service (MAS) found that 19 per cent of Brits who had bought their home in the last two years said they now regret the decision and wish they had bought somewhere cheaper. Moreover, 74 per cent have admitted they needed to stretch their finances to be able to afford their home.

The cost of running a home is too stressful for some, as one in ten buyers claimed they hadn't even considered how much it would cost to run their new home. More than half also said their bills were higher than they thought they would be, reports moneyadviceservice.org.uk.

Caroline Rookes, CEO of the Money Advice Service, said it's important to be aware of all the maintenance costs involved in order to keep household expenses under control.

“It's really concerning to hear so many recent first-time buyers have over-stretched themselves financially,” she stated. “I urge all home buyers – even those higher up the property ladder – to ensure they are not taking on too much if they've borrowed the maximum available.

“Being able to afford the mortgage doesn't mean you can necessarily afford the home – and all the associated costs.”

Majority of Brits leave the heating off even when cold

Even if Brits feel cold, 64 per cent won't turn the heating on or up over fears that they won't be able to afford their bills, a new survey has revealed.

According to mirror.co.uk, the research conducted for energyhelpline.com shows that young people are worst off, as a huge 76 per cent would rather stay cold than have to pay expensive heating bills. Although over-55s are the least likely to avoid turning their heating up, 58 per cent still admit they leave it off. This is particularly worrying, since older people are more likely to become ill due to living in a cold house than their younger counterparts. In fact, 42 per cent of Brits are concerned that their elderly relatives may be living in cold conditions during the winter period.    

Sometimes it takes extreme temperatures in order to persuade people to turn the heating up, as 37 per cent won't touch their thermostat unless they feel very cold or freezing. Moreover, women are more likely than men to put up with being very cold or freezing, reports energyhelpline.com.

Mark Todd, co-founder of energyhelpline.com, commented that the research's results are very worrying.   

“This research paints a very stark picture of the real issues arising from years of sharp energy price rises and the UK's poorly insulated homes,” he said. “Clearly millions of Britons are putting their health on the line as they fear that they cannot afford to heat their homes.”

A third of Brits have no money saved at all

A new survey reveals that many Brits could find themselves in trouble if they lose their jobs, as a third of people don't have any money saved at all.

According to thisismoney.co.uk, the study, which was conducted by Legal & General, also reveals that the average working family would only survive 11 days before depending on others for financial help if they lost their jobs.

However, this length increases to 26 days if over-65s are included, presumably because they're more likely to have money stored away in case they lose their other sources of income. Six months ago, the average time a family could cope without regular income was just 18 days, showing that there are signs of improvement.

Moreover, the average household isn't aware of how far away they are from the breadline, as Brits actually estimated they could survive for 72 days on just their savings alone, reports yourmoney.com.

John Pollock from Legal & General said although the improvements in the economy are encouraging, many families are still in a worrying financial situation.

“The employment market has strengthened, especially for over-65s as many are delaying retirement,” he explained. “However, earnings are still struggling to keep up with the cost of living, which is keeping many families under a lot of financial pressure.”

Almost half of Brits cut food and clothing spend to heat their homes

New figures have revealed that soaring energy prices are a growing problem for many Brits, as 48 per cent have said they have had to cut back how much they spend on food, school equipment and clothes to be able to afford to heat their homes.

According to energylivenews.com, the figures, which were released by the Energy Bill Revolution, showed a shocking one in five Brits have decided to save money by turning off their heating over the winter months, even though they are cold.

It also estimated that around seven million people are currently living in fuel poverty, 2.2 million of which are children. Moreover, the number of children in fuel poverty has increased by 26 per cent compared to a year ago, meaning 460,000 more children are now growing up cold.

An additional survey from uSwitch backed up the Energy Bill Revolution's claims, as it also found that around seven in ten homes have chosen to turn off their heating at some point during the winter due to high fuel costs. Furthermore, a third of this group believe turning their heating off has had a negative effect on their health.

Ann Robinson, director of consumer policy at uSwitch.com, said there are a couple of things Brits can do in order to save themselves money instead of turning their heating off altogether.

“Rather than compromising on their health, I would urge consumers to follow the two golden rules to lowering household energy bills,” she explained. “The first is to ensure their home is as energy efficient as possible so that they aren't wasting energy, and the second is to pay as little as possible for what they do use by switching to the cheapest tariff for their needs,” reports thisismoney.co.uk.

Two thirds of adults plan to spend less time with friends to save money

In a bid to save some much needed cash, 66 per cent of Brits are planning to spend less time with their friends and family this year, new research shows. 

Despite an improving economy, research from Citizens Advice shows the majority of Brits believe they will have to cut down on their spending this year, with 53 per cent cutting costs in order to cope with the rising cost of living, reports thisismoney.co.uk. Moreover, three in five people are already starting to worry about how higher bill costs will impact their finances. 

According to the research, 59 per cent of Brits will try to spend less on food and 37 per cent will attempt to cut down their energy bills. In addition, Citizens Advice claims 200,000 people searched for advice regarding energy bills online last year, reports metro.co.uk

Some people are already struggling this year, as 20 per cent of the respondents said they are falling behind with their bills and a further 32 per cent claim they are keeping up with the costs for now, but do struggle every so often.

Winter fuel bills are a big concern for some, as 15 per cent have had to dip into their overdrafts to pay their bills and 11 per cent have borrowed money from a friend to cover them.

Citizens Advice chief executive, Gillian Guy, said it is important to ensure that people are not taking drastic action to save money.

“The soaring cost of living will force millions of people to cut back on basic necessities like travel, energy, housing and food,” he commented.

Too many people not doing enough to deal with debt problems, charity claims

Debt awareness charity Stepchange has claimed that too many people are ignoring their financial problems, which could make things worse.

Mike O'Connor, chief executive of Stepchange, commented on thisismoney.co.uk: “The sooner they take action, the easier it will be to solve the problems they face. Problem debt can have a devastating impact, not just on individuals but on families and whole communities.”

According to Stepchange's research, 31 per cent of adult in the UK are showing at least one of the five signs of debt problems, equivalent to 15 million people. Of those displaying debt problems, a quarter said they are not worried about their situation, which the charity says is concerning news.

Six per cent of people have used credit to pay off other credit commitments and two-thirds of these people are employed on a full-time basis, reports credittoday.co.uk.

Besides from borrowing more to pay off existing debt, other key signs of problem debt include: falling behind on essential household bills, borrowing to make it through payday, only paying the minimum on debt repayments and being charged with late payments or overdraft charges.

Nerys Lewis of Confused.com also added that consumers should deal with any credit card debts now before they get worse, after its research found that today (20th of January) tends to be the most popular day to take out a balance transfer card.

A quarter of Brits too ashamed to ask for help with mortgage costs

A new survey has revealed that a quarter of Brits feel too ashamed to admit they are struggling to pay the mortgage and need help.

According to bbc.co.uk, the research from Shelter also found that two-fifths of people think they wouldn't be able to tell their friends or family if they were struggling financially either.

Instead, almost a million households have turned to pay day loans to help them pay their rent or mortgage costs. The charity additionally revealed that calls from people struggling to pay the mortgage increased by one third last year, reports dailymail.co.uk.

Overall, 19 per cent of Brits have been forced to borrow money, with the majority building up debt on their credit cards.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said that people should not keep their worries to themselves. “Sky-high housing costs, stagnating wages and the high cost of living have taken their toll,” he explained.

“The economy as a whole might be on the up, but losing our home could now be a frighteningly real prospect for any one of us. We're now hearing from record numbers of families up and down the country who are desperately struggling to keep the roof over their heads.”

Chief executive of the Consumer Finance Association, Russell Hamblin-Boone, added that short-term loans shouldn't be used to fund long-term debt.

One in five scared of opening post in case it's a bill

New research has found that almost one in five people don't like to open their post if they believe it's a bill or late payment reminder.

According to thisismoney.co.uk, shocking research from charity Shelter has also revealed that one in eight put their post in the bin without even opening it if they think it's a bill.

Families are the worst affected, with 70 per cent of those with children responding that they are struggling financially more than they have previously. In comparison, 63 per cent of the general population believe they're struggling more.

One in eleven people are concerned they may not be able to afford to pay the rent or their mortgage this month and the charity has warned that many could face losing their homes as a result, reports theguardian.com.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said a number of costs are contributing to many families' struggles.

“It is a worrying sign of the times that so many of us are starting the new year worried about how they will pay their rent or mortgage in 2014,” he commented.

“Despite recent discussion of an economic recovery, we know that a combination of high housing costs, wage freezes and rising food and energy bills has created a nightmare scenario for many families that is pushing them to a breaking point.”

Economic recovery not felt by vast majority of Brits

Despite the news that the economic recovery is now well under way, the vast majority of British voters don't feel the same, with many believing they won't see any of the benefits next year.

According to thisismoney.co.uk, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) survey found that only one in 50 voters think they will benefit from the economic recovery. This is despite the fact the government recently said the recovering economy will be slowly felt by everyone as conditions continue to improve in 2014.

In fact, only one in five voters believe the gains of the recovery will be evenly shared with everyone, showing there is little faith in the government or the recovery. Furthermore, most voters predict that the living standards crisis will continue in 2014, reports theguardian.com.

Frances O'Grady, TUC general secretary, said Brits are realising that the wealthy will likely see further tax cuts and growth in pay, whereas those at the bottom will be left with zero hours contracts and pay cuts.

“Our new poll is bad news for the government,” she explained. “Voters do not expect to benefit from the recovery next year, do not expect their wages to keep up with living costs and do not trust the government to spread the benefits of recovery fairly.”