The summer holidays are practically here. While you're looking forward to some time away with the family, remember cash gets tight this time of year. Now's a good time to get your money working a little harder, and stretching a little further. Here are some RIFT tips for making your family budget forecast a little sunnier.

Child's Play : Understanding Your Benefits and Tax Credits

Bringing up kids is an expensive business. Even so, loads of families are missing out on money they're owed by the government. If you've got kids, make sure you know what tax credits you qualify for. Depending on your circumstances, you could be getting:

  • Child Tax Credit, which goes up the more children you have.
  • Working Tax Credit, if you're working on a low income with or without kids.

Whichever you're claiming, you'll have to renew it every year or risk losing it.

While we're talking about looking after kids, childcare vouchers could see you saving piles of cash on childcare costs. Here's how it works: your employer lets you "sacrifice" some of your pre-tax salary in exchange for childcare vouchers. It's the "pre-tax" part that makes this worthwhile. Let's say you sacrifice £1,000 of salary for £1,000 of vouchers. Because that £1,000 is only worth about £700 after tax and NI, you're actually getting £300 more than you're paying for!

There are loads of schemes to help make bringing up children easier and less expensive. A little time spent checking what you're entitled to could be worth thousands of pounds each year.

Kids' Savings Accounts: Better than a Piggy Bank

It's really never too soon to start your kids saving. Just like adults, though, there are good and bad places to keep your money.

Look at the interest rates your children could be getting. Shop around, and don't be distracted by silly gimmicks.
That Goes for the Grown-Ups, Too!

Saving money isn't something you can always count on, and with interest rates so bad it may not even seem worth it. Don't fall into the trap of giving up on savings, though. Now more than ever, you need to be smart about where your spare cash is going.

Interest rates are changing all the time, so be flexible and look around for the best deals. That goes for more than just savings accounts, too. Don't leave your next egg rotting in a high street account. You'll probably find that the great rate you were offered when you opened it drops off a cliff after a year.

Get good advice, and look into ISAs if you can. You can save £15,000 a year in a cash ISA, and the taxman can't touch it. Also remember you can swap over to another to another cash ISA with a better rate if one crops up.

When Saving Is a BAD Idea...

This is a trap that catches out so many people. Those savings you've got stocking up are no use if you've got mountains of debt to go with them. Particularly now that interest rates are in the toilet, debt usually costs way more than savings earn you. Pay them off if you can before you think about saving up. In the long run, you'll be much better off.

Top Tip: Keep the Taxman Honest

This is the number-one secret for keeping your family finances healthy. Don't assume that the tax you're paying is automatically correct. HMRC only works with the information you give them.

They'll never try to cheat you, but that doesn't mean you're not paying too much. A lot of people are doing exactly that, simply because they don't know the rules for allowable work expenses.

Maybe you're paying for travel to temporary workplaces or shelling out for tool repair. Perhaps you're losing 20% of your wages working construction under CIS. There are many reasons why you might be owed a tax refund, but HMRC usually won't fork it over unless you prove you're entitled to it.

No one knows the tax rules better than RIFT. We've been getting refunds from HMRC for our clients since 1999, and we're still on great terms with the taxman. With an average 4-year refund worth about £2,500, there's no reason to miss out. Contact RIFT to see how we can put your money back in your pocket. Get in touch any help you need with self assessment tax returns or getting your money back with tax rebates by calling 01233 62864, we're here to help.