Do not pass go

21st December 2007 at 00:00
...until you have put your financial house in order. Alison Brace explains how to end the year solvent.

Did you know that 270 people filed tax returns on Christmas Day last year? It is one of those fascinating facts that would merit turning up in your Christmas cracker. Now it's not that the Wealthy Teacher is suggesting for one minute that you should consider doing the same - even HM Revenue and Customs is mildly amused by the devotion to duty shown by a handful of its "customers".

But setting aside a little time over the next couple of weeks to put your financial house in order would give you a head start come January. After all, what is the point of having fantastic New Year's resolutions, if you are still trying to disentangle yourself from last year's myriad financial arrangements?

First, the dreaded credit cards. Check how many you have and, more importantly, how much you owe. Don't get caught out with a late payment charge at this busy time of year. If your bill doesn't have to be paid until December 22, don't leave it until the last minute. Chances are you will be so busy - and so happy to be on holiday - you'll forget.

Are there any cards you no longer use? Make sure you close them down before Christmas Day. Don't forget, even if you are not using the card, the available credit is still there and this can adversely affect your credit rating.

You might find that this available credit blocks a mortgage application or stops you switching your Christmas spending to a 0 per cent card in the New Year.

The same goes for store cards. Be ruthless with them. Pay off what is owing and ditch the ones you only use occasionally. This is a simple way of streamlining your outgoings.

Second, check your bank account for any direct debits or standing order arrangements you no longer require. Again, make sure they are cancelled from your account. You can do this easily online with most banks.

Work out exactly what you have spent in the run up to Christmas. If you had a budget and you are within it, then well done. If you've splashed out a little too much on the seasonal trimmings, work out just how much you will need to set aside from January's pay packet to get yourself back in the black.

If your spending is on a 0 per cent credit card, check when that offer runs out and look at to tee up another 0 per cent card to switch to in the New Year.

Third, if you have a fixed-rate mortgage, check when your current deal ends and make a date in your diary to start shopping around for a new one a good two months before.

If you are on a standard variable rate you are probably paying out far more than you need to. For the best fixed rates see or If you haven't time now, put a date in your diary for the second week of January to sort it out then.

Fourth, how is your filing and shredding? Try and empty the in-tray and get everything filed away before Christmas so you can start the New Year with a clean sweep.

Shred what is no longer needed. If you are running a business as well as teaching, keep statements for six years. Otherwise you just need to keep them for two.

Check when your travel insurance runs out: is it part of your bank package? Make sure that you know when your home and contents insurance is coming up for renewal and pop that date in your diary, too.

If you are planning to travel with the family over the New Year, check that your Family Railcard is still valid. If not, see for prices and special offers.

If you are really serious about a big financial makeover in January, then find yourself a financial adviser at, the official website for IFA Promotion, the industry body responsible for promoting independent financial advisers. Make a date for mid-January.

As for that tax return, if you are a self-assessment taxpayer, you will need to file it before January 31 or pay a pound;100 fine. That is a task best not put off. Don't leave it until Christmas Day, unless you badly need to escape the relatives. Fill it in now by registering at and file online.

On December 25 itself, restrict your financial dealings to the Monopoly board. A Christmas tipple or two can seriously skew your handling of statistical data.

Instead, enjoy being the proud owner of Park Lane, raise a glass to the taxman and feel smug about getting your finances in order well before Santa has had a chance to get home to Reindeerland.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today