From expert legal help to penning the perfect letter of complaint…

MISS MONEYSAVER: From expert legal help to penning the perfect letter of complaint… Where to find free advice to weather a financial storm

 Free advice can save you a lot of money if you know where to look. OK, sometimes you may have to pay for more in-depth help further down the line, but there are plenty of times when an organisation offering free support and guidance will guide you out of a hole — so make the most of what’s out there.

For legal issues such as navigating redundancy, your first port of call should be Citizens Advice. You can speak to an adviser on the phone or find a local office (see citizensadvice.org.uk). They can help with a multitude of legal issues such as tenancies, small claims and employment issues as well as the more general ones such as benefits and grants, sick pay, maternity rights, scams, and separating from a partner.

For a more serious problem, say if you’re at risk of losing your home, you may be able to get legal aid if you’re on a low income. The Law Society can help you find a legal aid solicitor (lawsociety.org.uk).

If you can’t get legal aid, you may be able to find a solicitor who will take on your case ‘pro bono’. The charity LawWorks (lawworks.org.uk/legal-advice-individuals) puts people in touch with lawyers who offer this. It also runs the LawWorks Clinics Network, which provides free initial advice to individuals on areas such as employment law, housing matters, consumer affairs, welfare rights and debt. You can also often get free legal advice (and representation) from your union or professional association that is covered by your annual membership. For example, members of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) can access a legal advice line 24/7 as well as a growing legal library for document and policy templates.

For legal issues such as navigating redundancy, your first port of call should be Citizens Advice. You can speak to an adviser on the phone or find a local office (see citizensadvice.org.uk). They can help with a multitude of legal issues such as tenancies, small claims and employment issues as well as the more general ones such as benefits and grants, sick pay, maternity rights, scams, and separating from a partner

The Government-backed MoneyHelper (moneyhelper.org.uk/en) is a great first place to look for free advice on benefits, savings, pensions and more. Many banks now offer free advice, too. For example, Nationwide Building Society offers a cost-of-living support helpline for members on 0800 030 40 66

Many unions give free legal advice in a range of areas. Unite has a legal helpline where you can get free initial advice for a 30-minute session on non-work related matters. Their advisers can advise on things like criminal law, property and land law, wills and family law. Membership costs from £2.38 a month.

If you have a dispute with your employer, or an employee, you can get very useful, free help from Acas (acas.org.uk) an independent body funded by the government. It also offers mediation to resolve workplace conflicts.

If you’re a single parent and need general advice or help with legal matters, try the charity Gingerbread (gingerbread.org.uk). Another useful site is maternity action.org.uk, which advises on your rights while pregnant and after birth.

It can cost from £100 to £750 to have a will professionally drawn up, but you can get one written for free by certain charities if you are 55 and over and include the charity as a beneficiary. Or wait for Free Wills month in March when you can get a will drawn up by a solicitor for free. (freewillsmonth.org.uk).

When it comes to consumer compensation, the Financial Ombudsman Service is your best bet. This free, easy-to-use service helps with issues between consumers and businesses that provide financial services (financial-ombuds man.org.uk).

If you’re having a problem with a particular company — a retailer, or holiday company, say — the The Complaining Cow website (thecomplainingcow.co.uk) has free advice and tips on making an effective consumer complaint, as well as complaint letter templates (for a small fee).

For help with managing money, there are many great resources out there. Obviously there is my own (MoneyMagpie.com).

The Government-backed MoneyHelper (moneyhelper.org.uk/en) is also a great first place to look for free advice on benefits, savings, pensions and more.

Many banks now offer free advice, too. For example, Nationwide Building Society offers a cost-of-living support helpline for members on 0800 030 40 66. Even investment platforms like eToro offer free tutorials on how to buy shares and invest in all kinds of products (etoro.com/academy/).

For help with budgeting, debt, and dealing with creditors, contact one of the free debt advice charities: Christians Against Poverty, StepChange and National Debtline all offer help.

Community Money Advice (communitymoneyadvice.com) is particularly good at holding your hand through your journey from debt to freedom.

Finally, the online service Mental Health & Money Advice has a very helpful budget planner as well as advice on how to get help and therapy for mental health issues. (mentalhealth andmoneyadvice.org/en/).

Got a question for Jasmine? Email her at [email protected] MoneyMagpie.com 

How to bag fruit and veg at knock down prices 

The instant grocery delivery app, Gopuff.com, has launched GoBags: mixed bags of produce coming to the end of their shelf-life at a knock-down price. There are four GoBags available to purchase: fruit and veg for £3, which contains products for the value of £6; mixed grocery (non-meat/veg) £5, worth £10; meat and fish for £3, worth £6 and mixed grocery (with meat) for £5, worth £10. Just put ‘GoBags’ into the search bar and then choose the one you want. They deliver to most major cities in the UK and there’s a flat delivery fee of £2.49 per order or you get unlimited free delivery if you pay a monthly £4.49 fee.

Do you love eating Weetabix in the morning? If so, you should grab a free, digital recipe book full of Weetabix-based recipes for meals at any time of the day. Every recipe in the book costs around 80p per serving and has been specially developed by experts to enable you to create a range of simple dishes you can have at different times of the day

It’s still Veganuary and, to celebrate, you can get yourself a free bottle of scrambled OGGS, a vegan egg substitute, which you can use for your breakfast, for making cakes, quiches and more.

To get a bottle of OGGS for free, just download the GreenJinn app using this link greenjinn.com/oggs-scrambled-gj-pr then upload your receipt to the app (you can buy a bottle of OGGS for £2.50 at Sainsbury’s or Waitrose this month) and the money will be transferred to your account.

Do you love eating Weetabix in the morning? If so, you should grab a free, digital recipe book full of Weetabix-based recipes for meals at any time of the day. Every recipe in the book costs around 80p per serving and has been specially developed by experts to enable you to create a range of simple dishes you can have at different times of the day. Go to weetabix.co.uk to download it.

For those who are busy preparing their tax return for the January 31 deadline, it’s worth checking your tax code is correct. It’s quite possible that you have been overpaying tax in the last year or so, particularly if you are retired, or semi-retired, and have investment income and a part-time job.

Ed English of Tax Assist accountants says: ‘If you have more than one source of income there is potential for your coding to be wrong. If it is then HMRC might recalculate it at the end of the year and find that they owe you money back, but then they often sit on it and forget to tell you it’s there.’

Your tax code should be clearly printed on your pay slip, if you’re in work, and on the letter you get from HMRC asking you to send in your tax assessment. Your code is determined by a number of factors, including age, health benefits, marital and employment status. If you recently started a new job you might have been taxed under an emergency tax code which hasn’t been corrected yet, or your employer could have been using the wrong code.

If you get a pension — whether or not you have other income — your pension provider could have the wrong tax code or perhaps your taxable income has reduced but your tax hasn’t been adjusted accordingly.

Last year HMRC repaid a total of £22,317,529 in the first quarter of 2022 to people who overpaid tax because they had accessed some of their pensions, according to the Government Pension Schemes Newsletter.

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