Ways to save money: Are you a serial balance checker?

If you're strapped for cash half-way through the month and constantly checking your bank account to see what you can afford, you're probably not alone.

According to a new survey, one in five people check their bank account at least once a day, with a further 22 per cent making sure they've got enough to get by more than three times a week. As a result, almost 40 per cent of us claim to know how much cash we've got, to the nearest £5.

Start with the basics

If you're feeling the pinch, it's easy to take the credit that keeps you afloat for granted, so get a reality check by looking at your credit report. This lists your credit accounts, from mobile phone and catalogue accounts to cards, loans and your mortgage, along with your repayment history. It gives you a snapshot of what you owe and how well you are coping with debt management.

Drop what you don't need

Direct debits, subscriptions, old accounts – they can all drain money from your bank account without you really noticing; so go through your bank and card statements, and credit report, looking for anything that's now redundant, such as subscriptions that you no longer use. Closing down any credit accounts you don't need can also remove temptation, and could help to improve your credit score.

Pay less when you borrow

Lower interest payments mean more money in your pocket, but to get the best deals you need an immaculate credit history that's up to date and accurate. Check for any errors in your credit report, such as inconsistencies in the way your address is recorded, and ask the relevant lender to amend them. Register to vote at your current address and, if circumstances such as illness or an accident explain past problems, add a note of explanation.

Remember your repayments

No matter how tight money is, try never to skip or delay a repayment without talking to your lender first. The evidence will stay on your credit report for at least three years, showing other lenders that you may not be reliable. Direct debits may be the best solution. If you really can't make a repayment, ask the lender if you can pay later or reschedule the debt to make repayments more affordable month by month.

Target the deals you want

Even in today's climate, there's a flood of advertising for different cards, loans and other credit to help with debt. The knack is to do your research carefully and to be realistic. Use personal finance and price comparison sites to find the offer that best matches your circumstances. Don't send of lots of applications in the hope that someone will say yes – each one will trigger a search of your credit report, which leaves a record that will be seen by other lenders. Too many, too quickly, could make them fear that you're desperate, or may make them suspect a fraud.

Keep on top of your credit score

The higher your credit score, the better the deals you should get – if you let it slip, some lenders may even charge extra interest on existing accounts. So schedule in regular checks on your credit report as well as your bank account and find out your Experian Credit Score.

Experian Credit Expert: A monthly fee of £14.99 applies after your free trial. You may cancel during your 30-day free trial without charge. New customers only. Free trial period starts on registration - further ID verification may be required to access full service which may take up to 5 days.

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