Dust off your finances and save £5,000

It's not our homes we should be spring cleaning but our finances, according to research from the price comparison service Moneysupermarket.com.

By switching their existing financial products to better-value providers, a typical family could save more than £5,000 in a year.

Moneysupermarket is just one of a host of comparison services that can help you brush the cobwebs off your financial affairs and source the cheapest products and services.

As your mortgage is likely to be your biggest monthly expenditure, this is a good place to start for big savings - especially if you are languishing on your lender's standard variable rate (SVR) of interest.

Remortgaging is a fairly simple process, and the number of low fixed-rate deals on the market is increasing. Opt for one of these, and you could make considerable savings.

For example, homeowners on the Woolwich's SVR of 7.39 per cent might try moving to Yorkshire building society, which offers a two-year deal fixed at 4.79 per cent.

Next up, take a look at the rate on any personal loans you have.

Despite recent base rate rises - to the current 5.25 per cent - there are still some good deals to be had. There are at present six loans on the market charging an annual percentage rate of less than 6.5. These include products from Masterloan, Barclaycard and Moneyback bank.

Based on a £7,000 loan taken out over five years, a typical family could save nearly £170 in interest payments in just one year, according to Moneysupermarket.com, if they were to switch from a Lloyds TSB - with a typical annual percentage rate (APR) of 10.9 - to a Moneyback Bank loan, with an APR of 6.4.

Next up, try your savings. If you have money squirrelled away with one of the big four banks - HSBC, Lloyds TSB, Barclays or Royal Bank of Scotland - chances are you'll be earning little interest in a poor-paying account.

For example, if you had £10,000 saved up in the RBS instant access savings account (which pays 1.85 per cent) you would earn only £185.04 in interest over a year. Switch this to Alliance & Leicester's direct saver account and you'd be getting 5.8 per cent, or £579.86, over the same period - nearly £400 more.

Don't forget to review your gas bills and general insurance premiums too.

Of course, all this work takes time but it should be worth your while - a few hours of graft can turn into a goldmine.

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<p>
<b>Kathryn Williams</b>
</p>
<p>
When I was supporting Ray La Montagne I was six months pregnant. He had been touring for a year and he was exhausted and full of the cold. I was feeling motherly, so I would leave presents for him and his band: Tunnock's Tea Cakes, cold remedies and proper tea. Ray seemed painfully shy. He hardly spoke, hardly looked at you in the face. I felt like a dick speaking to him, but said "hi" every day. </p>
<p>
He was being courted by the same record company who had signed me and subsequently let me go, and I wanted him to know that there were people around who didn't want anything from him. At the Shepherds Bush Empire in London, on the last night of the tour, Ray stopped in his set to thank me for doing the support. He said I was a really good songwriter and people should buy my stuff. I was taken aback and felt emotionally overwhelmed. Later that year, just before I had my boy Louis, I was l asleep in bed with Radio 4 on when Louis moved around in my belly and woke me up. Ray was doing a session on the World Service. </p>
<p>
I really believe that Louis recognised the music from the tour, and when I gave birth to him at home I played Ray's record as something that he would recognise to come into the world with. </p>
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