The tricks that mean I'm £1,350 better off this year

MoneyOver the past year I have employed a number of savvy exercises which have left me £1,382.64 better off so far.

Here's how I managed it.

Fighting the tax man: £113

Sadly I wasn't one of the 3.5million taxpayers that got a rebate at the beginning of the tax year.

Instead in April I got an assessment through the post informing me I had underpaid tax by £113 during 2010-2011 on £560-worth of Jobseeker's Allowance (JSA) and would be put onto a new tax code that would reclaim this amount.

The problem was that I didn't claim this benefit in 2010-2011; instead I worked throughout that year. The only claim I made was during 2009-2010 in the first few months after graduating. And this amount was well under the personal limit allowance anyway.

But HMRC steamed ahead changing my tax code to account for the underpayment, putting my finances under added pressure while I tried to rectify the mistake.

In my battle to prove I had not underpaid, I went back and forth between HMRC and the Job Centre growing increasingly frustrated at the bad record keeping - at one point the Job Centre declared I had never even claimed JSA - for seven months to prove I wasn't in the wrong. The perseverance meant I saved £113.

Read how to get a tax refund if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

Cashing in on old stuff: £748.82

Over the past year I have had periodic urges to de-clutter and used various methods to make cash from my old stuff.

From January through to July I was able to make £922.59 using eBay to sell 70 items of unwanted furniture, clothes, shoes, bags and electricals. Big sales included two Ikea Hemnes chests of drawers which I sold for £231.90, an iPod for £100 and a knackered Packard Bell laptop that didn't work for £28.

eBay fees came to £92.26, PayPal fees reached £27.33 and I estimate postage came to near £180 as some people picked up their items. So all in all I managed to make £623 of profit.

I also took part in two car boot sales in the summer which made me £100 in total. If you're interested in maximising your profits like I did take a look at this article: How to be successful at a car boot sale.

Elsewhere I also made smaller gains using Music Magpie (£7.98) to sell old DVDs and Envirophone (£17.84) where I cashed in on a broken Nokia 6700 Classic.

PPI compensation: £448.44

When I went to HSBC to set up a student account six years ago I was mainly in search of a place for my student loan to go into. Plus the account advertised ten free CDs. What I got on top were financial products I barely understood.

As well as an £800 overdraft I was told I was eligible for a credit card with a £500 limit. The advisor told me payment protection insurance needed to be taken out with the card, which I thought was strange at the time as I didn't have a job.

Years later when the PPI scandal hit I decided to make a claim as I felt it had been mis-sold to me. I didn't like the thought of paying a company to do it though so I looked at how to do it myself. Back in April I made an initial inquiry to HSBC about how to claim using a template letter and was sent the forms to fill in from my bank a couple of weeks later.

Thankfully I didn't need to contact the Financial Ombudsman Service to prompt HSBC with a decision and got an offer of redress totalling £448.44 to settle the case seven weeks later. The settlement was made up of the total PPI premiums I had made between October 2006 and April 2012, plus interest that had been applied to my card directly because of the premiums, as well as 8% interest on any money I could have had if I had not taken out PPI and interest applied.

It was a lot easier than sorting out my tax issue that's for sure.

Traced a lost account: £10.22

When I found an old Abbey passbook this year showing a balance of £8 from back in 2003 I decided to trace the account. I used a website called My Lost Account to locate it and had a result within a few weeks. I was able to get £10.22 back from Santander fuss-free.

Cashback and rewards: £62.16

Back in May I wrote about new cashback website Incahoot Plus. I was very interested in what the site offered so I have been using the service ever since.

So far I have been able to make £24.41 cashback from spending about £249. This has been achieved through putting money on reloadable gift cards for B&Q and Argos for a home renovation project and for general spends in Costa and Boots. It requires a bit of forward thinking but I have found the process very rewarding for purchases I would have made anyway.

For other ways to earn cashback on spending read the top cashback websites and the best cashback credit cards.

Shopping has also been lucrative because of my loyalty cards. Over the year I have been able to get £10-worth of vouchers back through points earned on my HMV Pure card, £3.41 on my Boots Advantage card, £4 in Tesco vouchers via my Tesco Clubcard, £3.34 worth of points on my Sainsbury's Nectar Card and £2.00 on my Superdrug Beauty Card.

Plus through my AA rewards credit card I was able to earn enough points for a £5 HMV voucher and £10 off breakdown cover. Read the best reward credit cards if you too like the thought of being rewarded for spending.

So all in all, a good year for tying up loose ends and making some extra money.

What about you?

How much have you made this year and how did you do it?

Tax tricks to improve your wealth
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The tricks that mean I'm £1,350 better off this year

If you wear a uniform of any kind to work and have to wash, repair or replace it yourself, you may be able to reclaim tax paid over the last four years. For some people, this could mean a windfall worth hundreds of pounds

The interest you receive on savings accounts (with the exception of cash Isas) is automatically taxed at a rate of 20%.

Higher-rate taxpayers therefore tend to owe money on the interest they are paid throughout the year. If, however, you are on a low income or not earning at all, you should be able to claim all or some of the tax deducted back

You can apply for a refund of vehicle tax if you are the current registered keeper or were the last registered keeper of your vehicle that no longer needs a tax disc

If you pay tax on a company, personal or State Pension through PAYE (the system employers use to deduct tax from your wages), you may well end up overpaying

There is a limit to the amount you need to pay in NI, whether or not you work for an employer.

Instances in which you may find that you have overpaid include if you work two or more jobs and earn more than £817 a week and if you move from self-employment to employment, but continue to pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions


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