By Ann Francis

Cambrian Credit Union

With the cost of living going up, Ann Francis has some tips to help you make the most of your money.

At this time of year, we all feel the squeeze, with thermostats up and many of us still counting the cost of Christmas, but this year is more of a squeeze than usual. The escalating prices of essentials like food, heating and fuel along with other goods mean we are facing higher costs but wages and benefits are not keeping up with inflation.

It seems that just as society is really opening up again, we have less money to enjoy our freedoms!

If you are struggling to make ends meet, help is available. Citizen’s Advice is a great place to start as they can help you identify benefits that you may be entitled to receive and work out a plan to manage your financial commitments.

There are also some specific schemes from Welsh Government that you may be able to access such as:

• the Discretionary Assistance Fund,

• Winter Fuel Support Scheme (a £200 payment available towards energy bills this winter)

• and, if you are a tenant in private rented accommodation, the Tenancy Hardship Grant (THG).

Whether you are entitled to extra benefits or not, the best way to start managing your money better is by working out a budget.

Before you can work out your budget, it’s important to be honest about your spending as that will give you the best understanding of where you can cut back. The best place to start this process is by opening up your bank app or digging out those bank and credit card statements, and face the raw reality about your spending habits.

We have seen a huge rise in the use of the buy now pay later schemes such as Klarna and Clearpay, and people losing track of how often they’ve clicked that ‘easy payments’ button.

Buy now pay later schemes grew with the rise of online shopping during the pandemic and while it can help to spread the cost of a purchase, unless you keep track of each purchase, these deferred payment schemes can soon mount up, which can lead to financial problems when it’s time to pay up.

There are some great interactive budgeting tools and planners at to help you get in control of your money, whether it’s your day-to-day finances or planning to making a big purchase like a car or even the deposit on a home.

Once you have worked out a budget, the key is to stick to it, and if possible, include some savings to make sure that you have money set aside for a rainy day or that sunny summer holiday that we’ve all been waiting for!