Almost a quarter of Brits aren't saving
The amount of money we're saving in the UK is on the decline. On average, we squirrel away just £87 a month, down from £100 in the same period last year, according to National Savings & Investment's (NS&I) latest Quarterly Savings Survey.
More worryingly, almost a quarter of us (23%) are saving nothing at all, up from 17% in spring 2011.
As a percentage of income, monthly savings have dropped from 8.31% in spring 2011 to 7.08% in spring 2012, despite income levels remaining broadly stable.
"When times are tough it can be difficult to save but even putting away a few pounds each week will help act as a financial cushion, should you face an emergency," says John Prout, retail customer director at NS&I. "It is worth everyone taking another look at their finances to make sure their money goes as far as possible."
The age group who are struggling the most are those people aged between 35 and 44. This group only saved 5.82% of their income in the spring, compared to 7.58% in the winter. And over a quarter (28%) of them didn't save at all.
How to start saving?
If you want to get into the habit of saving a little each month, then you could consider opening a regular saver account. These accounts offer a decent rate of interest as long as you pay in a set amount each month (usually between £25 and £300). The best of the bunch is the First Direct regular saver, it pays 8% interest but you have to have a First Direct current account in order to open it.
Once you've set up your savings account, it's also worth asking your bank if it will set up a 'sweeping' service for you. This means that at the end of the month your bank will 'sweep' whatever is left in your current account into a savings account. So you can start saving without even having to think about it.
Another great savings trick if you are a Lloyds TSB customer is to sign up to its 'Save the Change' scheme. With this service, whenever you use your debit card your bank will round up the amount you spend to the nearest pound and put the difference in a savings account for you.
It's a great way to start building up some savings without having to significantly change your spending habits.
And once you've built up some savings don't forget to use your ISA allowance so you keep all your interest rather than having to hand some of it over to the taxman.
There are limits to how much you can invest in any tax year. For 2011/12, the limit is £10,680. Of that, the maximum you can invest in cash is £5,340 and the balance of £5,340 can be invested in shares (individual company shares or investment funds). If you don’t take the cash ISA allowance, you can invest up to £10,680 into a stocks and shares ISA.
Invidivual Savings Accounts were introduced on 6 April 1999 to replace personal equity plans (PEPs) and tax-exempt special savings accounts (TESSAs) with one plan that covered both stockmarket and savings products, the returns from which are tax-exempt. The ISA is not in itself an investment product. Rather, it’s a tax-free “wrapper” in which you place investments and savings up to a specified annual allowance where the returns (capital growth, dividends, interest) are tax-exempt (you don’t have to declare ISAs and their contents on your tax return). However, any dividends are taxed within the investment, and that can’t be reclaimed.
Issued by a bank as part of a current account and, in a nutshell, serves as electronic cash. Unlike a credit or charge card, where you get an interest-free period before you have to settle the bill, the funds spent on a debit card are withdrawn immediately from your current account. Unless you’ve arranged an overdraft, if you don’t have the cash in the account, you can’t spend it.
An account opened with a clearing bank (few building societies offer current accounts) that provides the ability to draw cash (usually via a debit card) or cheques from the account. Some pay fairly minimal rates of interest if the account is in credit. Most current accounts insist your monthly income (salary or pension) is paid directly in each month and they offer a number of optional services – such as overdrafts and charge cards – which are negotiable but will incur fees.