Every year I’m amazed by how many people file their tax returns between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.
If there is a lull in the family festivities, there is not a chance I’ll be turning on my computer.
I’d much prefer to re-watch The Sound Of Music for the millionth time, while pondering what I’d like to eat (and drink) next.
Golden opportunity: Around 31,400 taxpayers pressed send on their returns between December 24 and 26 in 2020 – and more than 2,700 of them did so on Christmas Day itself
Yet according to HM Revenue & Customs, around 31,400 taxpayers pressed ‘send’ on their returns between December 24 and 26 in 2020 — and more than 2,700 of them did so on Christmas Day itself.
We can’t even say this was because we were in lockdown this time last year, as even more people filed over the same period in 2019.
While I draw the line at completing tax returns at Christmas, the limbo days between Boxing Day and New Year are, in fact, a golden opportunity to get your finances in order.
Without wanting to spout too much doom and gloom when there are still presents to be wrapped, there is no escaping the fact that household budgets will be hit hard in the months ahead.
Inflation is now expected to reach 6 per cent next year, the average energy bill is predicted to exceed £2,000 by the autumn and it has never been more expensive to fill up your car.
And people never worry more about these two fundamental living expenses than when they are stuck at home over Christmas.
On top of this, there are tax hikes on the horizon, while higher interest rates will pile yet more pressure on struggling families.
There are some expenses — namely energy bills — that you can’t currently do much about. Suppliers do not have any cheap tariffs for you to switch to and there is only so much power you can save before you become cold and miserable.
But if you have a mortgage and do not plan to move home any time soon, locking into a cheap deal could save you thousands of pounds a year.
Even after the Bank of England raised base rate last week, there are still plenty of two and five-year mortgages at well under 2 per cent. But if rates continue to march upwards as expected, these could soon disappear.
Meanwhile, if you have always allowed your insurance policies to automatically renew, there is a good chance you are paying well over the odds.
From January 1, insurers will no longer be allowed to charge loyal customers more than new policyholders.
This is expected to push up costs for new joiners as insurers seek to protect their bottom line. So if your home or car cover is up for renewal, now is the time to negotiate a better deal.
If you have expensive credit card debt, there are scores of interest-free balance transfer offers up for grabs that could slash these bills, too.
Or, if you have a good borrowing record, you could apply for a new credit card that will reward you with points or cashback.
And a quick trawl of your bank statements may reveal old direct debits for services you no longer need or want.
Even ticking just one job off your to-do list will put your finances on a stronger footing for the New Year — and then you can celebrate freely with the last of the mulled wine.
Dear all companies everywhere, Please stop harassing me with requests to fill in ‘feedback’ surveys. Argos has sent me six chasing emails in the past six weeks.
I bought a baby monitor online for my cousin who has just had a little boy and it arrived — I really have nothing more to say on the topic.
Yet, for some reason, firms now expect us to give them a pat on the back every time they provide the service for which we’ve paid.
Businesses claim these surveys help ensure all customers get the best experience.
I’m more inclined to believe they simply want to boost their satisfaction scores on review websites such as Trustpilot.
Either way, it’s needy and annoying. Please stop.
Last but not least, a very Merry Christmas from everyone here at Money Mail.
I know this is not quite the carefree festive season we had hoped for. But we send our warmest wishes to you all.
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