Making ends meet

There may be 70,000 British homes raking in more than £25,000 a year in State handouts, but mum-seven Nicola Bertram has bucked the trend and refused the cushy option.

The single Mum from Cramlington, Northumberland, has had enough of being stuck at home, and as soon as her kids were old enough decided to take up work as a welder. But such is the state of the UK’s benefits system that opting to pick up tools has ended up costing Nicola £106 a week.

Up until last year the family received £267 a week in benefits as well as a £90 family allowance and had her rent and council tax paid. Now, despite Nicola’s efforts, the family of five boys and two girls has suffered a serious cut in their budgets.

Nicola won’t be putting out the blow torch just yet, though: "It’s a struggle but we manage," she said. "My kids are happy and well cared for."

If your finances have suffered a similar strain in recent months Sun Money can offer some top tips that won’t require you to trudge cap in hand to the benefits office just to make ends meet.

Switching does the job

Switching your debt from your current credit card to one that offers a 0% balance transfer deal is still a great way of cutting down on monthly bills. And that goes for other debts you’ve got too, for example on overdrafts and store cards.

A balance of £3,000 on a credit card deal charging an average 16.9% APR will cost a whacking £507 across the year. If you can switch the balance to a 0% deal that lasts for 12 months and structure your repayments to clear the debt in that time you’ll clearly make a major saving – just watch out for those balance transfer fees.

The curse of car insurance

With the cost of petrol constantly climbing, staying on the road is proving a costly business. Car insurance premiums are on the up as well but you shouldn’t put up with a dodgy deal.

Again you can save yourself a great deal by simply shopping around for the best offer, and even if you’re sticking with your provider it’s definitely worth negotiating for a better price.

If you find that a one-off bill for car insurance is too much to face – you could be hit with a premium of as much as £800 – then you might be weighing up paying by Direct Debit. But beware – plenty of providers CHARGE to let you pay monthly. So while this spreads the cost and makes life easier, you’ll also end up paying a lot more for the privilege.

A better deal on current accounts

If you’re likely to be seeing red in the coming months it’s definitely worth considering a current account that won’t penalise you heavily for doing so.

If, on the other hand, you’re current account is in a rosy condition you should look to make the most an account that pays you a decent rate of interest.

The Alliance & Leicester Premier Direct Account at 8.5% and the Abbey Account at 8% top the tables, though you’ll need to make the most of them soon as the rates are only for a limited period.

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