Your 2010 survival guide

2010 is going to be a tough year, and only the strongest will survive. To get you in shape, today we present the 2010 survival course.

Tax hikes, state spending cuts, spiralling debt, growing unemployment and rising base rates will test even though bravest throughout 2010.

Are you tough enough for it?

Defuse the debt timebomb.

The clock is ticking, you have to act fast. Even if you can handle your debts now, what happens when interest rates rise? Hunt down every debt, starting with the most expensive first, and dispatch them with extreme prejudice.

Snowballing isn't a game. Slay that store card. Crush your credit card. Take that overdraft down. Then turn your sights on your mortgage, because when interest rates climb it could blow up in your face. Debt is your biggest enemy - Cliff D'Arcy knows, he's been there.

Destroy it now, before it's too late.

Slash your spending.

To survive, sometimes you have to be cruel. So line up your soft little luxuries, and hack them to shreds. Take a knife to your daily café latte, choccy biccy binge, after-work pint or regular takeways. Here are Three top ways to have a cheap night in.

Next, tackle the essentials. Spending too much on your weekly shop? Website can help you forage for the best deals. Stalking a bargain? Try Frugal Friday, our weekly round-up of the week's top bargains (which you can sign up for registering on Scavenge through your kitchen cupboards for forgotten tins, jars and packets of chow. Some people could live for weeks on what they find. Or brave the elements and Grow your own fruit and veg.

Outwit the taxman.

He's clever, he's cunning, he's cruel and he understands the tax game better than you ever will. But that's no reason to admit defeat, because you have some pretty mean weapons at your disposal, such as your tax-efficient ISA allowance.

It's got quite a kick, and better still, it automatically reloads every 6 April. You have £7,200 worth of tax-free ammunition this financial year (£10,200 if you're over 50), and £10,200 next year. If you want more ammo, there's also pension tax relief. You hate tax so much you can taste it. Use that to your advantage. Lock and load!

Know your enemy.

Your bank is not your friend. Your credit card is not your friend. Your overdraft is not your friend (even if it is authorised). Your utility supplier is not your friend. Retail therapy is not your friend. You owe them zero loyalty. Once they have served their purpose, get rid of them.

And watch out for enemies lurking in the bushes. Hide your identity from ID thieves. Beat this rising fraud threat. Avoid the worst scams. Evade foreign currency thieves. Protect your credit record.

Keep a clear head.

Your mobile phone is a practical tool, not a costly symbol of your identity. If you're selling your house, Make sure your estate agent doesn't rip you off. Don't pay when you can get stuff for free. Be rational, fight superstition. Feeling cold? Don't turn up the heating, put on a jumper. Slash your car costs and cut your petrol costs by a third.

Get some back-up.

Even the toughest can't do it all on their own. If you're up to your neck in debt, there is no shame in calling in free and confidential support from a specialist such as Citizens Advice, the Consumer Credit Counselling Service or PayPlan. These guys know what they are doing. But watch out, others will betray you, such as debt advisory services that charge a fee for setting up a debt management plan or IVA. Stick to those you can trust.

Adapt and survive.

OK, so you can't switch mortgage now, because your loan-to-value is too big. That may change, as lenders ease their criteria. Keep watching, keep waiting, and when you spot a better deal, pounce.

Your savings account may have been a killer when you took it out, but today you're the victim. Turn the tables on your bank, by switching to a better deal.

Lost your job? So fight back, right here, right now.

Spare a thought for the future. If you don't have any pension, retirement really will be a survival course. Here's how to avoid working until you die.

Remember: When the going gets tough, the tough read! If you've got a question about your finances, go to Q&A and ask your fellow, highly knowledgeable readers for their hints and tips.

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