Image by Dean Ward
Spring is now in the air, which means for many of us thoughts are turning to summer holidays, new clothes, days out with the kids and numerous other ways to spend money.
You may have lower heating bills, but are they offset by a higher spend on picnicking and general summer merriment? The days are longer, and there's a lot of temptation to make hay while the sun (literally) shines.
If you tend to rush headlong into the warmer months without much of a thought about how you'll finance your fun, it's a good idea to pour cold water on that hot head and start thinking ahead.
Recent research shows that many cash-strapped Britons are already plundering overdrafts, credit cards and savings to make ends meet and this could well ramp up further when the sun comes out to play.
Some things you might want to do...
This is the first step to successful budgeting and particularly important for big spends such as holidays, where shopping around and booking early could really pay off. You'll also probably have more time to save.
Check your credit report
This shows the credit you've had such as mobile phone accounts, credit cards and your mortgage along with your repayment record. Lenders use this information to calculate your credit score, so if you are thinking of borrowing more, it needs to be accurate and up to date be sure to query anything that isn't.
It's free to see your Experian credit report with a 30-day trial of CreditExpert. New members only. Monthly fee applies after free trial. Free trial period starts on registration further ID verification may be required to access full service, which may take up to five days.
Put money aside
Interest on savings may be infuriatingly low at the moment, but at least putting cash away in a separate account might help stop you spending it and you may earn higher interest if you contribute regularly. If you have a credit card that offers reward points, save them too.
Look out for money saving ideas
It's an idea to use price comparison sites to cut household bills, take advantage of store loyalty schemes and scour the Internet for money saving tips and discount vouchers think summer clothes, family meals and days out. And try free, money saving apps they cover everything from cutting the cost of calls to tracking spending and finding cheap parking.
Tidy up your finances
Lenders want to see that you're a reliable and responsible borrower. So closing unused credit accounts, staying within your agreed credit limits and registering to vote at your current address can all help with this. Lenders use the electoral register to help confirm where you live. By all means use some credit on a regular basis, but use home finance software to make sure you don't spend over your limit.
Some things you might want to think twice about...
Avoid Multiple Applications
Try not to apply for lots of different cards at once. Multiple applications in a short space of time could potentially alarm lenders, who may think you're in financial trouble or even a victim of fraud. Space out your credit applications if you can. It's also best not to take your credit card abroad without checking the charges so do your homework well in advance.
Old can be gold
If you want a new summer wardrobe, try online auction sites and charity shops, or arrange a clothes-swapping party with friends.
Don't be tempted to skip or delay repayments
It may seem like an easy answer but late or missed repayments stick around on your credit report for at least six years.
If you are turned down for a new card or loan, understand why you were turned down. Asking the lender is a good starting point, as they will have their own lending criteria.