Make this the year of living prudently: Sue Fieldman asked six experts for financial resolutions to help us spend and save wisely in 1994

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The Independent Online
The coming year is the time to put your financial affairs in order. No more unauthorised overdrafts, or forgetting your tax return, or leaving your money in accounts that pay a pathetically low rate of interest.

We have enlisted the help of professionals to help you spend and save wisely. Here are their financial resolutions for 1994.

CHECK OUT THE BARGAINS

Noelle Walsh, author of The Good Deal Directory 1994, has some timely advice for the spenders in the family.

Before you book a holiday through a travel agent, check with your credit card company. Many run travel clubs that offer worthwhile discounts to cardholders booking through them.

The Airfares Guide, published quarterly, lists 'wholesale' airfares. You can save money by missing out the travel trade mark-ups. Phone 0243 539394 for details.

Boots offers a free delivery service for nappies if you buy one month's supply at a time.

Store real coffee in the freezer to prevent it losing its flavour.

When new envelopes have sealed before you could use them, heat in the microwave for 20 seconds to open them.

Get your hair done by an apprentice, supervised by a professional, for one-sixth of the normal price at more than 150 Glenby salons in department stores around the country.

The Good Deal Directory (071- 352 8976)

STAY AHEAD OF THE BANK

Linda Cleaves, a personal sector manager for Barclays Bank, says your most important financial resolution is to keep control of what is going on.

Keep a record of your cheques, especially debit card transactions and cash withdrawals.

Order your bank statement frequently and check it carefully. Remember that the balance of your account shown through a cash machine will not include any items not yet presented.

Work out your monthly budget.

Make arrangements with your bank if you are likely to go into the red. You will pay a lower fee.

Use a debit or cash card to withdraw cash from machines - using a credit card incurs charges.

Ask your bank for a full tariff of charges so you know what to expect.

PAY LESS TO THE TAXMAN

Michael Norrie, a partner in the chartered accountants Norrie Stokes and Perrett, offers his tax-saving tips.

Minimise the total tax burden between husband and wife. Arrange for banks and building society accounts to be in the name of the lower taxpayer.

Each child has his or her own personal allowance of pounds 3,445. Complete form R19 to ensure they get interest paid without deduction of tax on their bank and building society accounts.

Taxpayers with pensionable earnings should undertake a detailed review of their pension arrangements before 5 April 1994, to maximise income tax relief on personal pension premiums.

Make a will.

File your tax return on time. Remember to request a tax return if you are not sent one. Since the introduction of independent taxation in April 1990, the Revenue has seemed reluctant to issue returns to wives.

PLAN AHEAD FOR A HOME LOAN

If you are minded to move house this year, then your first resolution should be plan ahead. Make sure you get the mortgage you want and do not succumb to a hard sell on an endowment mortgage because of the handsome commission earned by the adviser.

Cynthia Cray, a branch manager with Cheltenham & Gloucester Building Society, gives this advice.

Save up as large a deposit as possible. This helps prove to the lender that you can maintain a regular savings pattern.

Compare a selection of mortgage offers.

Do not be afraid to ask if you have any questions or doubts.

Make sure you do not overstretch yourself. Consider what you would do if interest rates went up.

Do not forget the additional costs, for example stamp duty, legal fees, new curtains and carpets.

Decide whether you prefer the certainty of a fixed interest rate on your mortgage, which can help your monthly budgeting, or are happy to go along with the possible ups and downs of a variable rate.

CONQUER THE DEBT MOUNTAIN

Tessa Farrell of National Debtline, which offers debt advice and a free debt information pack, has some financial resolutions for people who find themselves faced with a mountain of debts.

Do not try to ignore the problem. Debts will not go away.

Do not borrow money to pay off debts.

If you have lost your job or are off work sick, check whether your repayments are covered by insurance.

Contact all your creditors immediately and explain your difficulties.

Work out a budget showing your income and household expenditure.

Tackle your priority debts first. This means debts that could lead to you losing your home or having your electricity cut off.

If you are making reduced payments to creditors ask them to freeze interest.

National Debtline (021 359 8501)

INVEST YOUR MONEY WISELY

Robin Bloor, of the financial adviser Chase de Vere, says before you do anything else get independent advice.

Start regular savings. As long as it is a reasonable and affordable amount, you won't miss it, and the benefits can be considerable.

For equity investors a personal equity plan should be the first choice of investment

Check your pension. What income do you need when you retire? How much are you likely to retire on? What is the difference? If you do not know the answers to these questions find out.

Review your investment portfolio. There is an abundance of advice. Selling can be as important as buying so periodic reviews are a must.

Check the interest rate after tax you get on your building society and bank deposits. Consider switching to a postal account to get a slightly higher rate. (Photograph omitted)

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