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Why it pays to take the time to find a tonic to lessen the spending hangover

It's the time again when we make New Year's resolutions that may not last the month.

But giving our basic finances a makeover could prove the best resolution to make for 2014 - and keep.

If you are one of the many people who have run up debts over the Christmas period, it's time to get rid of your festive hangover - and a credit card that charges 0% interest on balance transfers can be just the tonic you need.

Let's say you have accumulated a debt of £5000 on a card that charges a typical interest rate of 19%. If it took you two years to clear the balance, you would pay total interest of about £1000. Switch to a 0% two-year deal and you wouldn't pay a penny.

The Barclaycard Platinum credit card with extended balance transfer is currently top of the best-buy tables, charging 0% on balance transfers for 29 months. Barclaycard also offers a card with 0% on balance transfers for 28 months, as do Halifax, Tesco Bank, NatWest and Royal Bank of Scotland.

However, watch out for fees - most balance transfer cards charge a fee of 3% or more - and be sure to clear the outstanding balance before the 0% deal expires, or costs will quickly mount up.

On the other hand, if you are still in spending mode, you should consider a 0% purchase credit card to spread the cost of your shopping.

The Halifax Purchase credit card is currently the best buy with 0% interest on purchases for 17 months. Tesco Bank and the American Express Nectar credit card are close behind, charging zero interest for 16 months. You might be happy to settle for the slightly shorter promotional period, as the Tesco and Amex cards also give you the opportunity to earn loyalty points. However, the Amex card charges an annual fee of £25.

As with a 0% balance transfer card, you should aim to pay off any balance on a 0% purchase card by the time the promotional offer expires. The typical standard interest rate is between 17% and 19% (however, the American Express card charges 25%). You might therefore have to limit your spending - if, for example, you spent £2000 on the Halifax card, you would have to set up a direct debit for about £118 a month to make sure the debt was cleared after 17 months.

Switching your current account could also save you money, and there is now the guarantee of a seven-day switching period.

Nationwide's FlexDirect current account pays interest of 5% on credit balances of between £1 and £2500, which is more than a savings account offers. There is, however, a minimum funding requirement of £1000 a month to gain the interest. The building society also offers a fee-free overdraft for 12 months if you switch to FlexDirect.

Alternatively, you can earn credit interest of 4% on balances up to £3000 with the Current Account Direct from Clydesdale Bank. The overdraft rate is also competitive at 9.9%.

However, if you're more interested in rewards, the Halifax Reward account remains popular. You enjoy 12 reward payments of £5 per month, as long as you remain in credit, pay in at least £750 a month and pay out a minimum of two monthly direct debits.

Alternatively, Bank of Scotland will from this month allow customers to earn up to 15% cash back when they spend on their Bank of Scotland debit or credit card with a range of retailers including Homebase, Argos and Domino's Pizza.

Everyday Offers is available to all Bank of Scotland personal current account customers who have registered for internet banking. The money back will be paid into their current account at the end of the following month. The bank will also select at random hundreds of customers every month and repay a purchase they have made on their credit or debit card, up to the value of £500.

If you are able to save, there is some hope on the horizon as the rate of inflation fell to a four-year low of 2.1% in November, and the end of the Government support for mortgage lending should see savings rates start to recover. The best easy access accounts currently pay about 1.5% and are available from Virgin, the Post Office, Tesco Bank and the AA. Coventry Building Society pays 1.6% in its Online Saver.

You still have to lock your money away in a fixed-rate bond if you want to earn a higher rate of interest. Tesco Bank pays 2.05% fixed for 18 months on a minimum balance of £2000. Or you can earn 2.35% with First Save's two-year bond when you invest a minimum of £1000. If you want to take a longer-term view, Skipton's online limited edition seven-year bond pays 3.5%. The minimum deposit is £500.

Finally, if you have a mortgage you might think your interest rate is already low, but the market is so competitive that you could find a better deal.

For example, brokers London & Country Mortgages suggests a two-year fixed rate deal from HSBC at 1.49%, though you need a minimum 40% deposit and the fee is a whopping £1999.

Alternatively, Skipton Building Society is offering a two-year fix at 1.89%, again with a minimum deposit of 40%, but the fee is a more manageable £995. Plus, there is free valuation and free legal work for remortgage customers.

If you would prefer to fix your rate for five years, Yorkshire Building Society has one of the lowest rates, at 2.69%. The minimum deposit is 35% and the fee is £1475.

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