Top money stories - 2nd - 6th January 2008

A Happy New Year from all the team here at Moneybasics! We trust that you had a really good holiday and hope that this year we will continue to provide simple, clear, independent information about money that is relevant and accessible to you.

Top Tip: With the recent announcements about rises in electricity and gas prices over the last week, now is the perfect time to have a good look at what energy deals are available. Price comparison websites are a good place to start the search. A few suppliers are offering fixed-rate deals that, with the likelihood that there are more price rises on the way, may help you to save money over the course of the year.

Wednesday 2nd January

Oil prices hit US$100 a barrel – Concerns raised by violence in Algeria and Nigeria, as well as the delayed elections in Pakistan, increased oil prices to US$100 a barrel. With unprecedented levels of demand for oil thanks – in a large part – to the emergence of China and India’s oil guzzling economic success stories, prices doubled over 2007.

While the debate continues as to whether the price of oil will continue to rise or not, the fact is that energy costs for the consumer have risen and that seems destined to continue. It is important to save energy where you can, therefore reducing electricity and gas costs and doing your part to help the environment too! If you are thinking of buying a new appliance, check the energy rating of the product beforehand. When buying light bulbs, while energy-saving ones are usually more expensive, over the course of a year you can save up to £17. By turning down the thermostat by 1degree centigrade, or using one hour less heating per day, you could cut your fuel bills by 10%. Don’t overuse the heating, but also don’t give yourself a cold by never turning the heating on! Have a look here for more energy saving tips.

Thursday 3rd January

28,000 expected to be declared insolvent before April – The chartered accountants Grant Thornton predict that there will be almost 30,000 personal insolvencies, with three in four filing for bankruptcy, in the first quarter of 2008. If you have not set out budget for 2008, the official time for New Year’s resolutions may be over but it is never too late to add another one! Why not make it a resolution to draw up a budget and spend 15 minutes every month keeping it up to date? Go to the Budgeting page for more info on setting up a budget.

Friday 4th January

Mortgage approvals fall to 2005 levels – The latest figures released from the Bank of England show that the housing market is continuing to slow as a result of the credit crunch and the interest rate rises of 2006/2007. The number of mortgages approved fell to 83,000 in November, down 6,000 from the previous month.

However, while positive forecasts for the housing market seem few and far between at the moment, government data from the month of November showed that the average house price rose 0.6%, a gain of 8.1% on an annualised basis. Growth may not be as robust as at the start of 2007, but it is important not to always be doom and gloom about the economy. At the same time, it is also vital to recognise that putting money away for “a rainy day” is always a wise thing to do, and especially wise right now considering the uncertain economic environment.

If Christmas has taken its toll on the finances and you can already see that you are going to struggle to meet your payments, get in contact with the Consumer Credit Counselling Service (CCCS). They offer free, independent and confidential advice in how you begin to deal with your financial situation. Call 0800 138 1111 or visit the CCCS website to find out more.

Prepared for Moneybasics by Jason Taylor, Advocacy Officer.