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It’s Debt Awareness Week, the perfect opportunity for re-assessing your finances post-Christmas to find out if you need help, and where to get it.

“The combination of changes to welfare benefits and rising household costs is taking its toll” says Birmingham Settlement CEO Martin Holcombe.  “Our debt advice service has seen record numbers and we now have to turn people away as we just don‘t have the resources to meet the demand.”

Recent figures released by the Money Advice Service paint a similar picture. They report that one in three UK adults is estimated to have started 2014 in debt, and figures released this January for the end of 2013 paint a bleak picture with the average household debt at £6,016 without including mortgages.

“We have put together our top ten tips to help families budget and help them manage their money better, this year, more than ever, people need help controlling their finances” says Martin, they include.

1.  Compile a weekly budget and keep to it. Work out your spending limit after bills for food and drink.

2.  Cut back on unnecessary expenses. Make shopping lists and do not be distracted by bargains. Ask yourself: “If I didn’t need something this morning, do I really need it now?” Be wary of tempting 2 for 1s on products you did not intend to buy.

3.  Buy supermarkets’ own brands, the reduced price is often down to lower spend on packaging rather than lower quality products.

4.  Shop online for cheaper items rather than the High Street, but check delivery costs as these can often put up the total costs.

5. Try home-made gifts. If you are looking for a birthday gift, why not bake one?

6.  Ensure that you continue to pay your priority debts such as mortgages, rent, and Council Tax, fuel and court fines – if you’re unsure how to order your priorities, speak to a money advice service.

7.  Consider applying for financial help if you are in debt and struggling. Birmingham Council has discretionary top-up funds for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support.  Some utility companies have independent Trust Funds – Severn Trent WaterBritish GasEDF and NPower, for example.

8.  Do not spend money that you do not have! But if you need to borrow money, be aware of the interest rate and amount repayable. Payday loans are not cheap.

9.  Don’t hold on to unwanted items – Ebay them! Whether it’s duplicate wedding gifts, unwanted Christmas presents, or simply clothes you never wear, you could convert your clutter to cash.

10.   You don’t have to do it alone. Start a budget club with friends, where you can share low cost recipesgreat discount websites, and more ideas on saving money.

 

Local charity Birmingham Settlement will be holding a workshop on the 22nd of January to encourage and educate Birmingham residents on taking control of public land and buildings for community management.

The workshop aims to explore the benefits of transferring ownership of facilities such as libraries, town halls, sports centres and other public assets from public bodies to community groups. The scheme recognises any public land or building as a potential community asset, and looks to reinvest profits made from these resources into activities that benefit local citizens.

Commenting on why community asset transfer is an important issue for Birmingham, Martin Holcombe, CEO of Birmingham Settlement revealed how taking control of your facilities can really bring people together.

“It is important for communities to take ownership of the buildings and spaces they use on a regular basis,” he explains. ”Having a stake in how these places are managed gives residents the opportunity to influence how their area develops, and how income generated is spent improving their locality.”

The workshop will equip participants with all the information they need to apply for asset transfer of buildings they may be interested in taking over. If you’d like to attend the workshop, which takes place on the 22nd of January between 9.30am and 12.30pm, contact Sharon Thompson on 0121 250 3003 or sharon.thompson@bsettlement.org.uk.

The KBSA and the Dulux Design Service will launch an innovative partnership between KBSA retailers and interior designers at KBB that will provide consumers with a comprehensive design service.

The collaboration which links KBSA retailers and Dulux interior designers across the UK will offer opportunities for Dulux interior designers to access the KBSA network of independent retailers for their customers.

KBSA marketing director Ruth Wards says: “This is a very exciting development for KBSA retailers, providing them with new opportunities to increase their customer base.

“There will also be added benefit for KBSA retailers that want to access additional design skills. More and more homeowners are looking for design advice on colour and furnishings for ‘living kitchens’ that incorporate elements of what used to be dining rooms and living rooms into the kitchen.

Alan Slaney, General Manager at Dulux Design Partnership added: “This is a significant partnership for us.   Our designers work with homeowners that are improving all aspects of their home and knowing that they can recommend, with confidence, specialists that have earned the KBSA badge enhances their offer.

“KBSA retailers are perfect partners as they also operate under strict codes of conduct and   deliver the same high standards of customer care and professionalism as the members of our design service.”

To celebrate the launch of a new partnership the KBSA and the Dulux Design Service will present an exciting seminar about colour trends and how to interpret and use them in the home at KBB on Monday 3rd March.

The seminar will be presented by creative director at Dulux and design director for Dulux Design Service, Marianne Shillingford and will explore in depth each of the 5 new trends identified for 2014 by the Dulux team.

Ruth adds “This seminar is a must for all kitchen and bathroom designers that want to keep abreast of emerging trends and embrace design and colour themes throughout the home.”


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