07 January 2019
Advice Column: Financial Healthcheck

I know that I overspent at Christmas and will struggle to pay my bills this New Year. What should I do to make sure I am in a better financial situation next year?

It is a good idea to start the New Year with a resolution to carry out a money overhaul and make sure that you are getting the best possible deals.

Ten top tips for 2019:

1. Check that you are not missing out on money that you should be getting in benefits or tax credits, tax rebates or allowances.

2. If you really need to consider taking out a loan, make sure you shop around and get the best deal. Look out for low interest rates.

3. Be wary of consolidating your debts. Get advice and don’t put your home unnecessarily at risk. Defaulting on a loan secured against your home could mean that you lose your home.

4. Plan to build up an emergency savings fund by saving a regular amount each week or each month.

5. Shop around for the best savings rates and check regularly that it is still the best deal available.

6. Check out tax efficient ways to save money like cash ISAs (Individual Savings Account)

7. Be wary of low interest credit card transfers. Check the terms and conditions carefully.

8. You may be losing money by sticking with your existing bank or energy supplier; shop around, it‘s simple to change.

9. Don't automatically renew your car, holiday, or house insurance without comparing prices.

10. Start planning ahead for next Christmas by setting a little aside each week and save it in an interest bearing account, such as a Credit Union or special Christmas savings account

All too often people come to us when they've already reached crisis point or can no longer cope with their problems. By carrying out a regular financial overhaul and taking some preventative measures many problems could be averted before they become crises. Traditionally people make New Year’s resolutions to change bad habits - we're urging people to do the same with their finances.

For more information and advice about debt and money, go to www.citizensadvice.org.uk

21 December 2018
Advice Column: Energy Costs 

I am really worried about my gas and electricity bills. I am struggling to keep up with my payments. What can I do?

Citizens Advice Torbay is on hand to help you understand the ways in which you can save on energy costs. We can help compare your energy usage with other suppliers to see if we can find you a cheaper deal and save you money. We can also help negotiate with your current supplier or help you switch energy provider if this is something you wish to do. 

In many cases people can save significant amounts of money on their gas and electricity bills. Citizens Advice has estimated that as many as 4.7 million households in England haven’t switched their energy supplier in the last ten years.

Recent research revealed 3 in 10 people believe they will be unable to heat their homes to a comfortable level over the winter.

Our Energy Best Deal project is delivered by Citizens Advice and funded by voluntary contributions from energy companies. We can check to see if you are getting the benefits that you are entitled to, plus we can check if you are eligible for extra help in making your home more energy efficient.

If you are having problems paying your energy bills or if you require help with any energy related issue please contact our helpline on 0300 330 9026 (9.30am – 12.30pm each weekday, except Wednesday) or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk

17 December 2018

New Year, New Opportunity!

New Year, New Opportunity!

If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to be a volunteer with Citizen’s Advice Torbay, come to our Volunteer Taster Afternoon on Tuesday, 8th January, at 2pm.

You’ll be able to meet some of our wonderful volunteers, and hear from them what it’s like helping your local community. We need more receptionists, telephone assessors, face to face advisers, debt advisers, and administration workers, and we will be running training courses starting later in January. So if you have two mornings or afternoons, or a whole day per week, then we’d love to hear from you!

For Dan, pictured below, the journey to volunteering has been long. “I have been job hunting through the Jobcentre for the past four years, looking for work experience to help with my job prospects. What with being registered blind, lacking work experience and confidence, and even feeling like the world was against me; my life has really turned around since I contacted Citizens Advice Torbay last summer. I’ve now completed training, and am shadowing a fellow telephone assessor, until I feel confident to take the plunge to take my first call. The training was excellent, and they’ve been amazing in making adaptations for me. They’re a friendly and approachable bunch, and not for one moment do I feel out of place, or get treated differently. Making this huge decision to become a volunteer was one of the best choices I’ve made. I highly recommend volunteering with Torbay Citizens Advice, whatever your situation. I’m looking forward to the journey, which is only beginning for me”.

·        Jean works part-time, but still finds time to volunteer as a telephone assessor two mornings per week, having recently completed training as a telephone assessor. “I love volunteering at Citizens Advice Torbay. In fact, I wish I didn’t have to work, so I could spend more time here”. 

·        Clare trained with Jean, and has also started as a telephone assessor two mornings per week, having recently completed training. She says of the training that it was “educational without being frightening, inclusive without being nerve-wracking, and altogether I found it a very enjoyable time, learning new skills amongst very friendly faces”. 

·        Samantha joined us five months ago and is volunteering as a Receptionist two mornings each week. Samantha’s is one of the friendly faces that greets people coming in to the drop-in service, and she says she is enjoying “working with a great team of volunteers. I have gained confidence, I get to meet lots of different people, and I enjoy contributing to the valuable service that Citizens Advice Torbay has to offer”. 

·        “It’s a fantastic experience on many levels”, says Dick, one of our face to face advisers, who started volunteering nine years ago when he retired, in a bid to keep mentally active. “It’s rewarding to help people get to a better place, and it’s great to meet, and work with, other volunteers”. 

·        Terence has been volunteering for the past eleven years, and says he gets a lot of personal satisfaction from being able to help people who genuinely need help. 

·        “Dealing with clients and being able to help with their problems is a privilege”, says Colin, who began volunteering earlier this year, after spending many years as a full-time carer, adding that it’s given him a new purpose in life. 

·        Katie trained as a telephone assessor ten months ago in order to help rebuild her confidence after years away from the workplace. She chose Citizens Advice Torbay because she wanted to give something back and help others. “I never knew I could actually help so much, it’s so rewarding”, says Katie, who quickly made herself an invaluable member of the team. 

So, if you’re thinking about a fresh start for the New Year, why not come along to our Volunteer Taster Afternoon on Tuesday, 8th January at 2pm at our Paignton Office. This could be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for!

You can find more information on our website www.citizensadvicetorbay.org.uk or email dolores.unwin@torbaycitizensadvice.org.uk