Q: What will 2013 hold in store for our finances?

A: Here’s a quick round-up of where I see your finances next year:

Benefits: From the end of January, those families with earners bringing in more than £50,000 a year will see their child benefit reduced or even cut, with below inflation rises in other state benefits such as job’s seekers allowance.

Savings: Savings rates don’t look likely to increase, so it’s even more crucial to make what savings you do have work as hard as they can. First make sure you use your full £5,640 Cash ISA allowance up to April 2013, and then you can save a further £5,760 from April onwards.

Any interest you earn on this is tax-free, so it’s really important you max out your allowance before putting money elsewhere. After then, make sure any savings account you have offers the best of a bad bunch interest rates. Check comparison sites such as MoneySupermarket.com.

Bank accounts: If you always thought changing bank accounts was far too much hassle, but are still really annoyed with the service you receive or the rates you are offered, then you’ll be pleased to know 2013 sees new bank account switching rules come into force, forcing banks to switch accounts within seven days and to also automatically re-direct any direct debits and standing orders for a period of 13 months after the move to another bank.

So hopefully, this will make switching a lot easier. This, in turn, will hopefully force banks to up their game and offer better incentives for customer to stay or switch.

Car and life insurance: On 21st December, the EU ruling on gender came into play, which means insurance prices for things like cars and life – which were previously lower for women ‑ are likely to be affected. Whether it will mean significantly higher prices for women and / or slightly lower for men is still to be seen, but prices will definitely be affected.

Energy: If you switched to a fixed price deal before the recent lot of energy price increases, 2013 shouldn’t be too scary for you in terms of energy prices. They are likely to increase again at the end of the year, so if you haven’t fixed, it’s wise to do so some time next year when good deals are announced.

Although finances look to be as tight as they were in 2012, hopefully I can do what I can to guide you through your 2013 finances and tip you off when good deals are around. Happy New Year!

Andrea Ventress, money expert

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