The credit crunch has lessened the number of good offers out there somewhat but some companies still offer 0% interest on balance transfers and/or purchases for a certain time when you switch. Applying online is quite painless too. uSwitch.com also offer a good comparison service for credit cards and banking which is well worth checking out.
The most expensive way to buy anything is on credit - if you don't already have a credit card - don't get one! It only makes things cost more unless you pay off the balance each month. If you already have outstanding balances on credit cards which you have had for a while it is a very good idea to transfer them to cards with low interest rates so that more of your monthly repayment actually goes to repaying the debt. If you are paying 20% or more APR you are really being ripped off.
A newly emerged loan option is peer to peer lending, where you bypass the banks and financial institutions and borrow from people. Zopa is one such organisation. It's lenders offer some of the lowest rates around, only lending to highly credit worthy borrowers.
The quickest way to get rid of credit card debt is to first arrange the lowest interest deals possible (remember it is worth asking your current lenders if they would give you a lower rate - tell them you're thinking of changing cards and they might be persuaded!), then pay the minimum monthly repayment on all but the most expensive card - pay as much extra into that as you can manage until it is gone - then move on to the next most expensive. It takes determination and staying power to do this as it may take years but it is possible - the more frugally you live the quicker you can do it and YOU CAN DO IT!
If your credit cards and loans have spiralled to unmanagable repayments you do have the option of refinancing to lower the payments. Loans like this are often secured on your home and may take you longer to pay off but can be a lifeline at times.
Whenever you apply for loans and cards the lender checks up on your credit record - these are not always accurate and you can be turned down for loans due to errors on your credit report. You can get a free trial which allows you to check it yourself from http://www.creditexpert.co.uk - they welcome corrections.
Mortgages and Loans
The same goes for these - if you can get away without them - fantastic - if not make sure you get the best deal. With interest so low at the moment there are many great packages around. If you have trouble obtaining a mortgage there are companies such as Mortgages.co.uk who can help find the best deal for you.
Short term loans are another option if you find yourself stuck with unexpected bills or expenses - PaydayUK offer an instant online decision on loans of L80 to L750 over a typical period of 20 days, from the date of application to payday. This kind of loan is not cheap but this company is very upfront about their charges.
Whether it's house and contents, car, pet or any other kind of insurance it really pays to shop around - contact lots of different companies for quotes. Remember companies that check several quotes for you are taking a cut - it is cheaper to do it yourself.