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Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Headlines
  • Clearscore credit score – what is it and should you use it? - What is a credit score? Your credit score is information accessed by any lender in order to decide whether you are a viable recipient for their type of credit. This could be a mortgage, a loan, a credit card or other financial service. Your application for any of these products...
  • How does Shpock work? - First things first – what is Shpock? Shpock is an online selling app based on a local marketplace. It is not a dissimilar concept to other trading websites such as eBay, eBid or Gumtree but instead of a web-based payment system or an auction facility, the buyer has the choice...
  • Mint vs Quicken – which finance app is best for you? - In a day and age where technology is king and personal financial advice from actual humans is becoming a thing of the past, our world of finance is becoming more and more competitive between software providers in giving you a new ease in organising and accounting your personal financing. Having...
  • Remortgaging with bad credit: How, why and where - Wherever you look online, there are going to be plenty of warnings and cautionary tales from ‘experts’ about the risks of getting into debt or falling into bad credit. These warnings are not without merit, after all a bad credit rating can have a damaging effect your chances of being...
  • Mental Health, Physical Health, and Financial Health: It’s All Linked! - You might think you are a healthy person, but did you know there are all kinds of health? And most importantly, that they are all linked? Your physical health is what we traditionally think of as health; your body’s wellbeing, and your mental health is how your mind feels; your...

Money Saving Strategies – Our Top Tips For 2018

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Mint vs Quicken – which finance app is best for you?

Mint vs Quicken – which finance app is...

In a day and age where technology is king and personal financial advice from actual humans is becoming a thing of the past,...
Remortgaging with bad credit: How, why and where

Remortgaging with bad credit: How, why and where

Wherever you look online, there are going to be plenty of warnings and cautionary tales from ‘experts’ about the risks of getting into...
Mental Health, Physical Health, and Financial Health: It’s All Linked!

Mental Health, Physical Health, and Financial Health: It’s...

You might think you are a healthy person, but did you know there are all kinds of health? And most importantly, that they...
Money Saving Strategies – Our Top Tips For 2018

Money Saving Strategies – Our Top Tips For...

Hopefully, some of the tips elsewhere on the site have given you some ideas for areas of your life where spending could be...
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Insiders’ Tips for Buying Life Insurance – All You Need...

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Clearscore credit score – what is it and should you use it?

What is a credit score?

Your credit score is information accessed by any lender in order to decide whether you are a viable recipient for their type of credit. This could be a mortgage, a loan, a credit card or other financial service.

Your application for any of these products can be affected by how you score and can determine whether your application is successful or not. Those with a higher credit score are often seen as a lower risk to lenders so will generally be more successful in their applications.

All lenders use their own policies when deciding whether or not to accept or deny an application, and that they will invariably use different credit score agencies; often this means that different lenders will arrive at different decisions. If one lender declines your application, another lender might still accept you. If you have an application rejected you can check your credit score to see the activity and understand what the rejection was based on. Understanding these factors can help you improve them and raise your credit score accordingly.

How does it work?

Each time you apply for any kind of credit a search will be made on your credit report and a reference to this will be left on your file. Too many applications in too short a period of time will give you a lower score.

If you show lenders you are stable by living at the same property for an extended period of time then this will raise your credit score as will being on the electoral roll. Again, this gives lenders the assurance of stability.

Any long lasting credit agreements show that you can adhere to your commitments; again this shows a positive towards how you handle your financial commitments.

Alternatively, if you miss a payment, several payments or are late paying any of your credit arrangements then this will lower your score. Missing a payment has a much more detrimental effect on your credit score than a late payment. Missing a payment can stay on your report for up to six years (the maximum length of time any credit information is held).

How much credit you’re utilising is also a key fact in your credit score. Using up to half of your available credit limit is seen as an acceptable amount, whereas between half and three quarters will trigger warnings – using over three quarters of your total credit limit will more than likely have a negative impact on your credit score and your loan applications.

Any legal financial disruptions on public record will also be available on your credit score report. County Court Judgements, Individual Voluntary Arrangements, or bankruptcy will all appear and will have a negative effect on your credit report and credit scores. If you have any of these you must adhere strictly to any conditions applied in order to not warrant further reductions in your score. There are options to help rebuild your score once you have the debt back under control. Credit builder credit cards are one such means.

Any mistaken information appearing on your report can affect your score. Simple errors such as the wrong address or a spelling difference in your address or previous addresses can alter your rating. Your electoral roll information might be missing or information about a loan might not feature – all of these elements can be updated in order to improve your score.

Having no credit arrangements will work towards a negative score. Even if this means you have always been in credit the lack of a credit application or credit repayment doesn’t offer the lenders any information in how you handle a loan or its repayments. To gain a better credit score try to at least engage in one such activity.

What is Clearscore?

Clearscore is a UK technology business that provides its users free access to their Equifax credit score and report. It is the only free access service to Equifax’s credit reports and registered over 5 million users in 2017.

What’s the difference between Experian, Equifax and CallCredit?

In the UK nobody has a universal credit score so there isn’t a hard and fast way to achieve a perfect rating over the various agencies. In the UK everyone has three credit scores, each of which gathers their own information from various banking facilities. These three credit reference agencies use the information to offer a maximum score and each also has a different score and scale depicting what is a good score and what isn’t.

The three agencies are Equifax, Experian and CallCredit. Equifax gives you a credit score out of a maximum of 700 points, Experian’s score from a maximum of 999 points, and CallCredit from a maximum of 710.

Equifax’s credit scale dictates that scores between 0 and 279 are poor, between 280 and 379 are poor, 380 to 419 is fair, 420 to 465 is good and 466 to 700 is excellent.

The Experian credit scale however shows 0 to 560 to be very poor, 561 to 720 to be poor, 721 to 880 to be fair, 881 to 960 to be good and 961 to 999 to be excellent.

CreditCall give you a credit rating that they work out from your credit score where 1 is very poor, 2 is poor, 3 is fair, 4 is good and 5 is excellent.

Over 55% of all lenders, for example banks and finance companies, supply financial and loan information to Equifax, 77% of all lenders supply information to Experian and 34% supply information to CallCredit.

Not all lenders supply their information to the same agencies, some will supply their details to Experian only, some will supply to Experian and Equifax but not CallCredit, as will other lenders will choose their own choices across the three agencies and this is why each offers a different view of your credit rating, in turn leading to why one lender migh approve your application and another might not.

Should I use Clearscore?

Yes.

Realistically you should utilise all three of the credit score agencies to achieve a complete picture of your credit reports and scores and which instances over which agencies offer weak areas you can improve on.

So you should be using Clearscore to check your credit report with Equifax, CreditExpert or CreditMatcher to view your Experian score, and Noddle or CheckMyFile to view your CallCredit report and credit score.

You need to choose which of these website services offers the detail of information that suits your needs best and consider if you can get the same level of information from the free services provided

How does Shpock work?

First things first – what is Shpock?

Shpock is an online selling app based on a local marketplace.

It is not a dissimilar concept to other trading websites such as eBay, eBid or Gumtree but instead of a web-based payment system or an auction facility, the buyer has the choice of arranging to pay the seller face-to-face when collecting their chosen item in person.

Shpock, or the ‘shop in your pocket’ has branded itself ‘the bootsale app’ selling itself as the online equivalent to a local car boot sale. It’s an app and website where you can offload unwanted items or acquire new to you clothing, devices, sports equipment, cars, toys and more, and all in the area close to where you live.

You’re going to need an account

Whether buying or selling the first thing you’ll need is an account – so login using Facebook, Google or create a Shpock specific account using a valid email address and password.

You’ll be expected to provide a username and telephone number, they can’t be changed once you’ve confirmed them but your email address and profile picture can be updated any time you like.

Buying

It’s simple to use if you’re a buyer; you choose from pre-selected categories, of which there are nine to cover most eventualities; Fashion and Accessories; Home and Garden; Electronics; Movies, Books and Music; Baby and Child; Sport, Leisure and Games; ServicesCars and Motor; and ‘Other‘ – or you can enter exactly what you’re looking for in the search bar. There is an additional filter option to tweak your search further if you need to.

If you’re using the app then your search results will automatically correspond to items in your area using the location services built into your phone or device but if you’re using a web browser then you’ll have to enter your location or postcode manually.

All the items relating to your search will appear on your screen. When browsing the many items shown for each of which you’re interested in you can click through for further details. At this point you’re given two choices; you can message the seller or you can make a private offer. If the buyer likes your offer it gets accepted and all you have to do is arrange to meet and make the transaction. Alternately you will have agreed on a payment method and delivery costs if you’ve searched further out of your area than you can realistically travel to.

If you choose to message the seller you can enter into a debate about the item, its price, striking a deal and any haggling that may be involved in making your decision whether to buy or not.

Selling

Selling is easy. And why wouldn’t it be? Shpock want as many of us to use their apps and website in order to maximise their earning capacity so they’ve created an interface to make everything as easy as possible for its users.

To create a post in order to sell your item you simply hit the sell button. You’re prompted to upload a photo or a selection of photos of the item that you’ve taken yourself, not images you’ve downloaded from the Internet or another shopping site, and then complete the dialogue boxes for its title, description and choose the nearest of the nine categories that your item relates to (don’t worry if you can’t see one that fits, there’s an option for ‘other’ for those items). Once that’s taken care of hit the ‘sell it’ button and wait for the offers to come rolling in.

If you decide you need to change your product information you can enter the selling section of the app at any time, select which item it is you need to change and click the ‘edit’ option to access the information fields.

What can and can’t you sell?

This should be common sense really so obviously you can’t sell illegal items, counterfeit products, weapons, alcohol and tobacco products, animals or food. However, there is an option to sell pets in a small handful of European countries but you must abide by Shpock’s specific rules for them.

You also can’t sell social network pages, likes or followers, sexual services, lotteries and gambling systems and nor can you advertise job offers.

Are the sellers trustworthy?

As with any service dealing in pre-used goods you’re taking a risk so be careful – but after every transaction you get the chance to review the seller and the product you’ve bought.

This works on a 5 star rating system where 5 is high and 1 is low, you can enter a few words describing your experience which is available for any other user to review when they are considering making a purchase from the same seller.

You should always wait until the deal is complete; that you have taken ownership of your item and you are happy it is in good working order.

If you mistakenly give a rating you didn’t mean to you can contact Shpock and they’ll look into it and correct it for you if they think it appropriate. In the same way if you feel you’ve been unfairly reviewed then again, contact Shpock and let them know. They’ll investigate it and make a decision on a befitting way to resolve the situation.

If you have a particularly bad experience with a seller or any user then you can report the incident to the support team and they’ll look into it. You can report items that never got paid for, nor delivered, items that didn’t match the representation of them on the app or website, or if the seller unbefittingly disengages with you or uses inappropriate behaviour or language.

What does it cost?

It’s absolutely free.

There are a handful of paid features that can help promote your item if you choose to engage with them and these range from 69p to £13.99. There are also a few areas that feature ads but the Premium Membership running from £4.58 to £9.99 per month will remove them as well as allowing you to post up to ten photographs of your item instead of only five. With the Premium Membership you also get to utilise the Shpock Super Boost to further enhance your products chance of selling.

And if you fall out of love with Shpock…?

If you decide you really don’t want to be part of the community anymore you can email Shpock’s support team with your account details and the reason you wish to close your account and they’ll take care of the rest.

Mint vs Quicken – which finance app is best for you?

In a day and age where technology is king and personal financial advice from actual humans is becoming a thing of the past, our world of finance is becoming more and more competitive between software providers in giving you a new ease in organising and accounting your personal financing.

Having a piece of tech to organise your budget now is able to take practically all the stresses of the decision making process away from you and making it as simple as following a pre-set plan mapped out specifically for you by the robot in your pocket. Budgeting for this weeks wages, this months salary, your yearly life plan or indeed, for when you finally plan to retire and spend your spare time on the golf course or brunching – if of course you’ve made the right accommodations to be able to afford it.

Two of the leading options in the market are Mint and Quicken. Originally both projects were developed by the finance company Intuit but in 2016 Quicken was sold to H.I.G. Capital who took over the reigns and developed it into the product it stands as today.

Quicken, having been on the market since 1983, and being one of the first pieces of software to capture this market, has the reputation of a tried and trusted brand. Mint on the other hand has very much the feel of the new kid on the block, often described as ‘designed for millennials’ but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad for the rest of us, just that it’s modern, forward thinking and will slip in and out of your pocket as fast as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

What do they do? And what do they do different?

Budgeting

Looking at their features they both handle your budget incredibly well. Both options allow you to link all of your bank accounts, credit cards, loans and more into your account and from there each of the software packages automatically imports, stores and organises all of your transactions to give you a clear overview of your financial health.

Both present this information in a way is simple to understand, they’re clear, simple and up front with graphical representations that are just fine for any user.

You can see, track and pay all your bills from within these apps that organise your spending into categories, and then alerts you to how these will affect your budget offering ways to stay in charge and in the black.

Mint will offer suggestions on how to save money too, and this advertisement of financial products, from insurance to credit cards and more, is one of the key ways it makes its money.

Technology and security

They both offer their users mobile apps as well as browser access, all of which will sync with each other to keep you up to date with where you stand right now whenever and wherever you log in.

Quicken however, is generally considered a desktop-based option so your data is stored locally on your own computer. In many cases this is seen as the most secure option away from the probing fingers of hackers and data-thieves. Yet just how safe is your data on your desktop?

Unless you’re making cloud-based backups then it’s in a different danger of becoming lost in the event of a burglary, a fire, a computer breakdown – there’s a reason we put so much of our treasured information in the cloud. Maybe this is one of them?

Mint, being cloud based, offers the additional security measures you would expect it to take with your security needs; a two-factor authentication system and also utilising Apple’s touch ID fingerprint sensor for further secured access. An added feature is that Mint uses text messaging and email to let you know when a bill is due and suggests ways to save on any transactions you may be about to make.

Retirement and investments

Quicken, seemingly based at a more mature generation of user incorporates a retirement plan into its package. It offers many options for investment tools considering the performance of the market and assistance with buying and selling decisions from your investments, where Mint just doesn’t. Quicken will also advice ways to minimise the tax you pay on those investments too. Mint will only track your portfolio value without offering any tools or ways to save or profit from them.

It isn’t just your retirement that Quicken considers as a long-term investment tool though; you can prepare for college, weddings, holidays, and property purchases – in fact anything you need to consider in your future. Unfortunately Mint touches on none of these things and concentrates on being purely a budgeting tool for the now.

What do they cost?

Here’s a deal breaker for the age-gap in users. Quicken which has been around since the very beginning and has always come with a price tag for its services currently hits the market from £45.00 to £125.00 in the UK depending on what level of service you need from it and which of its applications are relevant to you. It offers simple personal budgeting to a business edition. The cost in the US reflects the same from around $40.00 to $120.00.

Mint though, is completely free of charge with no hidden costs. For the millennial who wants instant access from the app or play store can be up and running in no time with no hit to their wallet. This should be a huge plus to anyone really, but where once upon a time we believed in the adage ‘you get what you pay for’ we now live in a world where we can get so much without spending a penny.

This is the case with Mint. It offers an excellent service and product, and isn’t funded by you but by its advertisers and also by financial data providers who buy aggregate information (the averages of Mint’s total learning; they never give away any individual’s information or data) regarding consumer spending, saving, debt, what type of accounts, how many and then selling their analysis on to the companies who use this new data to fine tune their own products and services.

So who comes out on top?

It’s a tough call but the overwhelming decision is that it depends on who you are and what you want. It seems fairly obvious through this discussion that both apps are more than capable of handling what you need them to do, it’s in the details where you’ll be better off with one over the other.

Quicken seems to offer more functionality and security to who we might consider a more settled and mature user with its investment and long-term budgeting planning and tracking.

Mint, with its completely free service and product design appears to be based at a younger more in tune with the technology trends market; and for them it would seem the obvious and tailor made decision.

And for anybody stuck in the middle? Well, you’ll probably have to dig a little further into what your specific needs are, but why stop at these two? There are a whole host of free and paid finance management packages out there, all offering their own take – you just need to find the right one to manage your own personal needs that little bit better than all the others.

Remortgaging with bad credit: How, why and where

Wherever you look online, there are going to be plenty of warnings and cautionary tales from ‘experts’ about the risks of getting into debt or falling into bad credit. These warnings are not without merit, after all a bad credit rating can have a damaging effect your chances of being able to borrow when you need to and remortgaging with bad credit is often seen as a risk by lenders.

Gaining credit in the future, such as a mortgage or bank loan, is going to be more difficult if your credit rating is on the wrong side of acceptable. If you re looking to remortgage your home, then a bad credit rating is going to affect you too.

If you do happen to be at a point where you want to renew the mortgage your home but you also have a poor credit history, then you are going to struggle. You may get ‘lucky’ with your current lender and offer you a remortgage on the property, but if your credit is not as up to scratch as you might like then that could be a problem.

In order to offset the perceived risk that they would be taking, by offering a remortgage agreement to somebody with a less than perfect credit rating, then they will most likely make an offer at an increased rate of interest… Assuming they make an offer.

If you are not able to get a deal with your current lender, or you want to ‘shop around’ (maybe the increase on interest is too steep?), then there are alternative lenders out there if you do want to remortgage with bad credit such as The Loans Departement. Lenders that are more willing to offer deals to those with bad credit histories do exist and will still lend at higher rates of interest than the standard.

A bad credit remortgage, or a subprime remortgage as they are sometimes called, could be compared to payday loans; interest rates can be steep but sometimes they are the only option if you really do need the credit loan.

Why do people need or want to remortgage with bad credit?

There are lots of reasons why people may want to remortgage their home, even though remortgaging with bad credit can be difficult in of itself:

Raising funds

If your household income has increased, since taking out your current agreement, or the value of the property itself has increased, then you may be able to increase the mortgage. Money generated in this way can then be used to fund other things…

Improvements around the home

Home improvements can increase property value in the long term and it can be a smart investment in the future of the property. Aside from property value, improvements will also make living standards in the home that bit more comfortable

Debt consolidation

If you are remortgaging with bad credit then there is a chance that you have several debts. If this is the case, and you are struggling to pay them off, you can use money gained from remortgaging your home to clear them. Interest rates on mortgages can be lower than is found on credit cards, although this may not be the case with bad credit remortgaging (it is worth checking around with lenders and comparing against the rates you are currently paying on other debts).

The loan can be used for a whole host of other things such as new car, holiday, college and university fees… Just about anything that requires a substantial amount of money that you may not have immediate access to.

Can you repair your credit rating?

Further borrowing when you are already in a bind with poor credit may seem like a bad idea, but it can actually play a large role in repairing your damaged credit rating. All you need to do in make certain that you are responsible and keep up with the payments on the new remortgage agreement.

Keeping up with regular payments and not falling behind with any payments, generally keeping the debt under control, is going to help with improving your credit rating. Late or missed payments will have an negative influence on your rating so be sure neither of these things happen if you do manage to get a new agreement for your home.

Assuming that you are able to manage the debt responsibly, and pay off the loan, then you will be in a much better position later on should you need another loan and you should be offered the standard interest rate.

When should you consider remortgaging

The best time to consider remortgaging with bad credit, or even stellar credit really, is right about when your existing deal is approaching its conclusion. It is at this point when your payments are usually earmarked to rise too. In order to get the best start on your new arrangement, you should be aiming to switch before your current arrangement ends; this will help make the transition go as smoothly as possible.

Remortgaging with bad credit? Finding a bad credit lender

No all mortgage lenders are going to offer credit to somebody with a less than great credit history, possibly not even your own lender. You can search online for those that do though, and there are plenty to choose from.

That said, maybe you prefer to talk to a person rather than a search engine? In that case it can help to talk to a professional advisor about your requirements and individual circumstances. They will be able to talk to you about your options and help find the best deals for you.

Remortgaging with bad credit is not always the easiest thing in the world, and the interest rates are not as favourable, but if it is something that you need, for whatever reason, then it can be done. Remember though, not keeping up with repayments can put your home at risk but if you manage the loan responsibly, it can go a long way to repairing your credit rating.

Mental Health, Physical Health, and Financial Health: It’s All Linked!

Mental Health, Physical Health, and Financial Health: It’s All Linked!

You might think you are a healthy person, but did you know there are all kinds of health? And most importantly, that they are all linked?

Your physical health is what we traditionally think of as health; your body’s wellbeing, and your mental health is how your mind feels; your mental wellbeing. But, you also have another aspect that is often ignored, or prioritised too highly: your financial health.

Your financial health is your financial wellbeing. This means your financial security, your credit score, your debts, and your plans for the future. There mere mention of these things can cause many people to break out into a sweat. Money is very stressful, and this is what we mean when we say that they are all linked.

It’s All Connected

For example, studies have shown that your financial health is a very good indicator of your mental health. While some people find that there is a cyclical link between your mental and financial health. You might damage your mental health by worrying about your finances, but then your poor mental health makes managing your finances even harder. This makes you worry more, and so on, until you are completely overwhelmed!

Similarly, your physical health and financial health are very connected. One study found that people are more likely to save for their retirement if they are living a healthy lifestyle. Researchers from Washington University argue that both these attributes are typical of people who think about, and plan for the future.

Or perhaps, your physical health suffers from something outside your control? When you are injured, your income can sometimes take a hit, which could cause financial trouble or, at the very least, serious worries and anxiety.

Having a debt problem, for example, is not just a financial health concern. When you are in debt, your mental health takes a serious hit as you worry about bankruptcy, or sequestration. For some people, this can simply mean a few sleepless nights, but for others it can be severe depression, anxiety, and other concerns.

When you suffer from mental health issues, you often begin to neglect yourself; you might turn to unhealthy foods for comfort, or lose the motivation to exercise. Your financial concerns may also make it harder to afford healthy food, gym memberships and other healthy lifestyle choices.

What can I do?

There are all sorts of things you can do to make sure you are healthy in every way and every aspect of your life.

Value Yourself

  • Avoid toxic thoughts, about yourself, about your life, and about your money. Remember: your worth is not tied to your finances.
  • Don’t compare yourself to other people. People rarely show the difficult parts of their lives, so you are likely to be comparing your life to a fictional version of theirs, and that is a recipe for negativity.
  • Don’t buy things for the person you want to be, buy things for you (because you are already the best version of you!). So don’t buy clothes that aren’t your size that you will never wear, and don’t buy expensive yoga equipment, smoothie equipment when you don’t yet know if you like yoga or smoothies.

Get Debt Help

  • Even if you aren’t yet struggling with your debts, looking into debt management can really help your stress levels.
  • There are many debt solutions, such as Individual Voluntary Arrangements, Trust Deeds, or Debt Management Plans. There is almost definitely a solution to suit your situation.
  • It is also important to realise that debt is not inherently bad – some debt, such as student debt, is very manageable. Don’t let normal financial situations build up in your head.

Make a Budget

  • Your finances might stress you out so much that you just avoid the subject. But, that is never a good idea. But, don’t worry – you can start small. You don’t need to worry about understanding bitcoin, investing, or even your pension just yet.
  • Start by simply working out how much money you actually earn a month from your income, after tax, housing, and bills.
  • Then work out how much you need for food and other essentials and take that away.
  • Then make sure you are paying off your priority debts, and paying more than your minimum payments on your other debts.
  • If you have anything left, then this is money you use to make a budget for leisure activities. Don’t be too strict with yourself, you deserve to have fun, after all! But try to save as much as possible for financial emergencies and your future.

Healthy Food on a Budget

  • Don’t forget to continue eating healthily, even if you are on a budget. There is no point becoming financially healthy, just so you can harm your physical health by ruining your diet.
  • There are some great cheap food ideas around. You might even find yourself spending less on food by learning to cook and prepare cheap meals!
  • Try to learn to cook in season. In-season fruit and vegetables are not only often cheaper because they don’t require expensive greenhouses, but they can be fresher and full of more nutrients because they haven’t had to travel long distances.

Exercise on a Budget

  • Similarly, don’t let your new budget stop you from exercising. It might be a good idea to give up on that gym membership, if it isn’t great value. But, there are plenty of ways that you can exercise and not spend any money at all!
  • Parks are free! You can walk, or run, at your leisure!
  • Look around for cheap local classes, if you prefer taking exercise classes – not only will you get fit, but you can make some great friends too!
  • If you love lifting weights, and have the space, you might want to save for some home gym equipment. It could save you money in the long term, but remember: don’t buy things based on the person you want to be, spend money on who you are now! If you don’t lift weights now, a home-gym is likely to be a waste.

Money Saving Strategies – Our Top Tips For 2018

Hopefully, some of the tips elsewhere on the site have given you some ideas for areas of your life where spending could be cut. The next question to address is what the best way to save this money could be. There are dozens of saving strategies to choose from, so selecting the right method for you can often feel like a challenge.

Below are a few strategies you might want to try, alongside the kind of financial situation they are most likely to work for.

Pay Yourself First

  • How it works

This method is fairly straight-forward: treat your saving commitments as another necessary monthly expense just like utility bills, rent, or grocery shopping. Work out what you can afford to set aside each month, and set up a direct debit into a separate savings account, ideally to come out soon after you have been paid.

  • Good for

This technique is good for people who struggle to stick to budgets. By deducting savings from your income as soon as it is paid, you can easily see exactly how much you have left to live on for the rest of the month, and don’t risk dipping into funds which you had ear marked for saving. The method can also help curb the spending of impulse buyers; if your disposable income is not readily available, because kept in a separate account, you are encouraged to really think through each purchase.

  • Advantages

This is a simple but effective way to save, and provides a helpful framework for thinking about savings – as another necessary expense rather than a separate special effort. With this kind of discipline, you can amass savings fairly quickly.

  • Drawbacks

If you are not experienced in sticking to a fairly strict budget, setting aside some of your income does run the risk of leaving you short at the end of the month, at least until you adjust. You might also be unable to save the same amount every month, meaning an automatic transfer might not be the best option.

Save the Change

  • How it works

This time-honoured saving method can serve many of us just as well in the twenty first century. The premise is simple: whenever you buy something with cash, set aside any coinage change in a piggy bank or jar. Although this technique probably won’t build significant savings on its own, it can be a powerful supplement to your saving efforts, and is a pretty good habit to develop.

  • Good for

If you struggle to set aside larger amounts of money all at once, starting with this technique might serve you well. We tend to miss money less when it leaves our bank accounts in smaller denominations. This can be a real issue when it comes to spending, but it can be turned to your advantage with this kind of saving.

  • Advantages

The advantages of this technique are fairly self-evident: save small amounts of money regularly, and you will end up with some degree of savings without really noticing the money missing from your account.

  • Drawbacks

The main drawback of this method is the fact that our spending is, more and more, revolving around debit cards and online payments rather than physical cash. You could combine this method with cash-only spending, to encourage sticking to a budget, or consider installing an app which rounds up your transactions to the nearest whole pound and saves or invests the difference.

Try a Savings Challenge

  • How it works

The savings challenge can come in many forms – the 52 week saving challenge is one popular incarnation, but it could be anything from committing to save every five pound note you get, to cutting spending in a specific area and saving the difference.

  • Good for

Framing saving as a challenge is a great idea if you have a competitive personality – especially if others take the challenge alongside you.

  • Advantages

Completing a challenge is inherently rewarding, no matter what its nature, so using this kind of saving technique can be a lot more motivating than more traditional methods – an end goal is clearly and consistently in sight. Undertaking the challenge alongside others also encourages a supportive network to keep you going.

  • Drawbacks

The main drawback of savings challenges is that they might not be sustainable in the long term. If you ‘fail’ the challenge, you may also be put off further efforts to save in the future. Remember that challenges can always be adapted to better fit your circumstances.

The 50/30/20 Rule

  • How it works

This is a simple rule of thumb for how to split your income. 50% is spent on “needs” – necessary expenses such as bills, food, and rent or mortgage payments – 30% is dedicated to “wants” – eating out, cinema trips and the likes – while the final 20% goes towards savings.

  • Good for

This level of saving is most likely to be possible for people with higher incomes – who only need to spend 50% of their earnings on basic living costs. The rule offers a simple way to organise your finances without having to break down spending into myriad categories.

  • Advantages

Consistently setting aside 20% of your income is a fairly quick and simple way to build your savings, and the method also encourages users to think critically about their spending habits by distinguishing clearly between “needs” and “wants”.

  • Drawbacks

On a lower income, it is likely that more than 50% of earnings will be dedicated to “needs” each month. It is possible to adjust the percentages, but this does not really allow for any flexibility on a month to month basis.

Not all of these methods will work for everyone, but hopefully one or more will fit in with your own personal spending habits. It is also totally possible to combine or utilise a hybrid of two or more methods to maximise your savings.

If you are having trouble setting aside savings because of debt obligations, getting in control of this could be a more valuable step towards getting your finances under control. You can read more about solutions such as a Debt Management Plan, Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) or Protected Trust Deeds by following the links. Good luck saving!

 

Finding the Right Loan for You

While there is no such thing as a perfect loan, depending on your circumstances different loans will suit you to different extents. Answering these questions may help you to work out what kind of loan would be best for you.

 

What Do You Want from Your Loan?

The first, and most important, step in finding the right loan for you is working out what exactly you want from a loan. How much money do you want to borrow and how long a period of time do you want to pay it back over?

Once you’ve thought this through and have an idea of what it is you’d like out of a loan it makes it much easier to compare different lenders’ rates.

 

 

Do You Understand Interest?

The main thing to consider when approaching applying for a loan is the APR of that loan. APR stands for Annual Percentage Rate and is the amount you’ll pay each year of your loan. This is based on the interest rate of the loan and any additional charges you may have to pay.

A simple way of looking for the best loan for you might be to simply look for the lowest APR, as this incurs the least extra cost while paying your loan back.

 

Do You Know What You’re Getting from this Loan?

Once you think you’ve picked a loan which fits what you are looking for, it’s important to look further into it and make sure you know all the facts.

While interest rates are important, you should know the other features of any loans you are considering applying for. For example, are there handling fees that you have to pay? Can you pay your loan back early if you want to? These features can make loans more or less expensive so can be helpful to look at when comparing loans with similar interest rates.

 

How Much Can You Borrow?

Beyond the fact that you will have to pay back any money you borrow, there are other reasons to consider carefully how large a loan you are going to apply for. There are even ways you could decrease your interest rates by increasing this amount.

This is because many lenders charge less interest if you borrow more, and it may not take as much of an increase as you expect to enter the next bracket and pay a significantly decreased rate of interest on your loan.

 

Where are You Applying?

Many different places provide loans; banks, building societies and supermarkets all offer different options and rates can be very competitive. This makes it a good idea to do a lot of shopping around.

You should, however, be careful to apply to reputable loan providers rather than smaller companies you may not have heard of. These often have high interest rates and are less likely to allow you to pay off your loan early without incurring heavy penalties. You should also be aware that the advertised interest rate for the lender may not be the rate you get, depending on your credit history, employment stability and other factors.

 

Do You Have a Poor Credit Score?

The higher your credit score the more likely you are to be accepted by the loan you are applying for. This is why it’s a bad idea to apply to several loans at the same time, as the checks they perform on your credit record can damage your score if too many happen in too short a time.

If you are unsuccessful in applying for a loan it can also damage your credit score so it’s always a good idea to be cautious with where you apply. There are ‘quotation search’ tools which use your personal details to tell you what loans you are likely to be accepted for, a risk-free method of trying out the market without causing permanent damage to your chances.

 

How Long Will You Take to Pay Off Your Loan?

Borrowing can be done over a wide variety of time periods, five or ten-year loans being common though shorter periods are popular and longer-term borrowing is also available.

Although long term borrowing can seem appealing as it reduces the monthly payments made on a loan, it also leads to a build-up of interest which may make your loan much more expensive in the long run.

If you are looking for a substantial long-term loan, a mortgage may be the best option for you, rather than a personal loan. On the other hand, if you are looking for a smaller amount than is usually offered in a personal loan, a credit card may be what you are looking for. This is especially true if you get a 0% interest offer on a new card and pay off the card before the offer expires.

 

Does Your Bank Offer Preferential Treatment?

The best choice for you may be to stay with the same people who handle the rest of your financial business. This is worth considering both for the sake of convenience and the growing trend of banks offering deals on other products for their existing customers.

 

 

Do You Really Need a Loan?

While it’s likely that you have already thought this through, it is always a good idea to do another quick check to make sure this is the right option for you.

If the loan would be for paying off some form of pre-existing debt then it could end up pushing you further into that debt, making your situation worse. If this is the case, think very carefully about taking on further borrowing.

If the loan is for a large purchase, such as a new TV, car, or other expensive household item, then consider waiting until you can save some more money on your own. While this is a less risky situation then possibly putting yourself further into debt, it might not be worth taking the risk at all.

 

Lifestyle hacks that are guaranteed to save you money!

Do you have enough time and energy in the day to earn more money?

With our fast paced lives it’s not uncommon to feel like you don’t have time to sleep – let alone do something that’s going to mean you earn more money.

With that in mind, there’s another way to boost what’s in your pocket – that’s to spend less money in the first place! But how do you do it and keep the level of lifestyle that you’ve become accustomed to?

Well, we’ve got 12 great ideas that will reduce your outgoing from today onwards. We can’t give you extra hours in the day, but we can definitely save you some money!

 

Plan your food

We waste a huge chunk of money by not planning our meals and just shopping either every day or every couple of days. Buying like this means we rarely ever take advantage of the lower prices that come with bigger packet sizes – leaving our freezers and wallets looking quite empty.

Draw up a list of meals for the week, plan ingredients and make one supermarket journey instead of 5!

 

Turn the thermostat down

It’s a well-known trick – but turning your thermostat down by one degree rarely makes any noticeable difference to the heat of your home – but can make a big difference to your heating bills when added up over a year.

 

Don’t throw good food away

As a nation we throw an enormous amount of food away each year – billions of tonnes in fact. Part of the reason for this is a misunderstanding around what’s good to eat and what’s not.

A ‘use before’ date means that the food could potentially be dangerous if you eat it beyond that date (think raw meat, diary, etc) – but on the other hand, a ‘best before’ date is really just advice.

Check your food, if it’s a few days over a best before date and it looks or smells as you would expect it to – the chances are it’s perfectly okay to eat! Check the wording and save a fortune on shopping costs.

 

Do free stuff

It doesn’t get much better value than free! And, if you’re smart with your searching, you’ll find dozens of things you can that are exactly this price.

From museums and galleries to beaches and parks – there’s some incredible free attractions that you can take advantage of if you’re willing to do some web searching to track them down!

 

Read more books

In this world of box-sets, paid TV channels and expensive streaming services, books look like incredible value for money! Instead of firing up the TV and flicking until you find something you like, pick up a few books. You can find them second-hand for next to nothing – and they’ll take a LOT longer to read than even the chunkiest box set!

 

Don’t pay more debt than you need to

If you’re struggling with debt you might not realise that there are some great options out there for coming to an agreement with your creditors and reducing the amount you repay.

To work out who you can turn to for support and guidance, check out reviews of companies who can potentially help – like this one from https://www.facethered.com – and slice your debt down to size!

 

Don’t shop when you’re hungry

Shopping when you’re hungry is a recipe for disaster! You’re far more likely to buy more than you need – as well as increasingly likely to spend money on expensive food that’s got attractive packaging made to appeal to your empty stomach!

 

Throw away your takeaway menus

If you ditch the takeaway menus and apps that mean you can order in just a few clicks, you’re far less likely to turn to them as quick and convenient (but expensive) options. What’s more, if you can keep a couple of keep and cheap options in the house – your hungry stomach will push you toward them – rather than hitting the internet to study menus…

 

Have a standard work wardrobe

You can thank Mark Zuckerberg for this tip!

Rather than pick out a different outfit each day – he sticks to a modest combination of a t-shirt and jeans. Now, you might not be able to do exactly the same – but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some staple go-to items.

Sticking to a basic wardrobe means you’re less likely to have to purchase new seasonal items – or pick out specific items that compliment only one outfit.

 

Delete your card details

Deleting your saved card details might not save you money directly – but it puts another barrier in the way of spending money online – which is one of the quickest and most tempting ways for us to spend our money.

If you’ve got to reach into your pocket each time you want to spend money, it gives you a little more time to consider whether or not you actually want and need that item…

 

Buy some thick jumpers

It’s a lot less costly to heat yourself than it is to heat your entire house!

Buying some decent quality wool jumpers means you can turn the heating right down – if not switch it off completely. Multiple layers works well too. You can worry about whether or not it feels like you’re being a ‘skinflint’ when you relax on the beach holiday you’ve managed to save for with money that everyone else has been spending on energy bills!

 

Book tickets well in advance

If you’ve got any long-distance journeys coming up try to look for tickets months in advance. Even if they’re not available right away you’ll usually be able to create an alert that will let you know when they go on sale.

In some cases, train tickets can be up to 90% cheaper when bought in advance – money that’s a lot better in your pocket!

 

Get an insulated coffee cup

Buying expensive cups of coffee might feel like a treat, but in reality it’s an extremely expensive habit if you do it every week or every day you’re at work.

If you check out your local supermarket or a good online store you can find insulated cups that will keep a homemade cup of coffee hot all day – and even fully waterproof ones that you can seal and throw in your work bag to be consumed whenever you want. We’re not saying that you have to downgrade to instant coffee either – even fresh home ground coffee is a fraction of the price of a shop made cup!

 

Image source: visualistan.com

Insiders’ Tips for Buying Life Insurance – All You Need To Know

Trying to find the best deal for life insurance can be particularly tricky and because of this many people are buying cover that is not necessarily the best deal they could get.  As this is a concern to us, we want to help you find the best cover possible with the best deal, especially if you are looking for life insurance over 80 with health problems

By following the insider tips in this post, you could save a considerable amount of money on the next life insurance policy you want.  As life insurance is a long-term investment, get the most for it.

 

See Your General Practitioner Or Family Doctor Before Applying

Regardless of whether you are applying for a Permanent life policy or a low-cost term life policy – all life insurance policy applications require you to undergo a medical examination.

We specifically suggest that you see your doctor before you start the application process to ensure that any unresolved issues on your medical records are sorted and that they include the most up to date information.

Many life insurance providers will request current and up-to-date medical records from your GP or family doctor.  If you have made significant changes to your health or lifestyle since the last time you were examined, it is crucial that these are highlighted in your records.

It may be that you were previously were overweight or a smoker and suffered from high cholesterol or high blood pressure.  You want to avoid being penalized unnecessarily by policy providers, particularly if you have stopped smoking or are in the process of quitting, have started a healthier living regime or simply improved your diet.

The more positive your health profile appears to life insurers, the better you will be rated.  All policy providers rate customers based on their health and each rating can cost up to 20% more which can mean a saving of as much as 25% of what you will be due to pay, if you have improved your circumstances.

 

Always Ask Agents For Screenshots Of Quote Results

Why is it important to ask agents for screenshots of quotes they generate?

It is unfortunate, but common that many agents tend to have a certain level of bias towards particular life insurance providers, and it could be that they are trying to pass more business on to a specific company.

Although it is not always that they are simply trying to trick you.  There is often good reasons for not quoting you specific companies.  If you have revealed something about your lifestyle or health that could stop you getting the lowest quote or best deal, for instance, they may not quote the most favourable company. 

Since you will never know for sure, it is wise to ask the agent to take a screenshot and show you it, even if it is via email, so you can see the quotes they got from their search.  If you discover that the quote they gave you is not the lowest, you could ask them politely why they didn’t put forward the best quote to you.

 

Layering Term Policies To Save Money

How do you go about layering term policies?

Many people sit down and figure out exactly what they need from life insurance and make the decision to buy a big and expensive policy that will cover everything.  However, there is no need to do this if there are aspects of your policy coverage that you no longer require after 5, 10 or even 15 years.

Basically, layering term policies means you are buying several term policies to cover different periods of time and purposes.  That way, when you do not need a cover for a specific reason you can simply cancel the policy.

 

Choose Annuity Over Lump Sum Payout

Although most of you that know a little something about life insurance will understand that your beneficiaries are entitled to a completely tax-free lump sum when you die, if you die while your policy is still applicable.

Did you know, however, that there is another option open to you in regards to how your beneficiaries receive the payout?

This option is called an annuity payout and it means rather than receiving a lump sum, they will receive benefits over a specific period of years.  Choose carefully as most life insurance companies have varying options for annuity payouts.

Needless to say, opting for the option of annuity payout will lower the premium you have to pay.  Unless interest is included, there could be some tax-related issues.  Always check with an independent financial advisor or life insurance agent before you make the final decision.

 

Never Give Unnecessary Information Voluntarily

Avoid giving information pertaining to your lifestyle choices, family history or health if the insurer does not ask for them.  That way you will avoid being penalised unnecessarily.

If they don’t ask, there is no reason to volunteer the information. 

For instance, virtually all life insurance providers will penalise you if your parents ever suffered from cancer.  There is one or two life insurers that ask if any immediate relatives have had heart disease on their application forms.  Therefore if your mother died of cancer, you are not hiding anything if you answer the above question about heart disease by saying no.  Don’t make more problems for yourself by adding an additional note to say ‘she died of cancer’.

 

When You Should Apply For An Exam And When You Shouldn’t

Although life insurance policies that don’t require a medical exam seem more convenient, you should bear in mind that the majority of these policies cost around 3 to 5 times more than the policies that require a medical exam.

If you are a healthy young person, or even a relatively healthy older person, we we would advise you to opt for a medical exam policy if you are looking to save money.

We would usually advise against you buying a no medical exam life insurance policy, unless you suspect something is wrong with your body and want to secure life insurance before you see a doctor.  The only other reason you should consider a no exam policy is if you have a major health problem that will undoubtedly prevent you from securing an approved insurance application.

If you have never been officially diagnosed with any medical condition, you can answer all the questions honestly when applying for a no exam policy and still qualify.  Even if you have health concerns, you could take the time to discuss these with an independent life insurance agent before buying a policy.

That particular health issue might not actually be as bad as you initially thought and you could get better rates with a no medical exam policy. 

More of us are saving for vacation time rather than retirement

Most Americans, in general, are woefully behind when it comes to their retirement savings. It’s no huge secret that people think more about their next vacation than they do about what happens to them once retirement comes knocking on the door. A typical household that is aged between 44 and 49 has as little as $81,347 stored away. This is compared with $121,831 that those aged between 50 and 55 have been able to save

Those that are closer to retirement age are not faring that much better, with the average savings balance of the 56 to 61 year olds being $163,577. What’s worse is that nearly half of all families in the United States have no retirement savings whatsoever.

You would think that more people would be keen on playing catchup, building that nest egg so that we are not left wanting when we do finally hang up our work boots. Sadly though, that does not appear to be the case. In a NerdWallet study that was conducted fairly recently, it was discovered that Americans are more intent on saving up for vacations rather than retirement.

That’s pretty shocking, really, when you realise just how easy it is to open a savings account. There are some really good ones out there too, for all kinds of savers, here are the best savings accounts of 2017 to give you an idea.

 

The culture of immediacy and instant gratification

We find ourselves in a curious situation these days where just about everything we need is either a tap, mouse click or call away. Even dating has been reduced to literally swiping a thumb across a screen. With the above being true, perhaps the fact that retirement is largely going ignored is not that much of a surprise – it just isn’t that imminent, and therefore not so important, for the majority of us.

It would also go some way to explaining just why so many of us carry as much credit card debt as we do. Add to that the fact that around 39% of individuals have no funds in immediate savings and the idea of saving for retirement not being a priority becomes even more understandable; how can you focus on saving when you need to eat?

Still, there is no escaping the fact that we need to save for the future and the sooner that people begin to realise this, the better chance they will have of turning things around before it is too late and they can still save enough to make a difference later on down the line when retirement is a reality.

 

You cannot risk your own retirement

Lots of people don’t save for their retirement, purely because they can’t – or at least, think they can’t. Having your paycheck eaten up by living expense such as utility bills, food, rent etc. is one thing, and there isn’t too much that can be done about that, when people somehow find the money to go on vacation that is a clear indicator that there is indeed money to spare, somewhere.

What that being the case, why is it that so many think that the future, which is getting closer every single day, can be safely ignored? Over reliance on social security could be the root cause, as lots of people seem to think that it will be enough to live on come retirement time. Sadly, they could not be more wrong, even if they put real effort into being wrong.

Right now, social security provides the average American retiree $1,360 a month or $16,320 a year. That is maybe just enough to live on, if you ignore everything else. Healthcare, for example, is a massive expenditure. A healthy, average 65 year old is, just for example, expected to throw $200,000 and more just on healthcare.

Social security was only meant to supplement savings, not replace them. In fact, savings were only ever meant to be supplemented by a maximum of 40% by social security. Most however need a minimum of 70% of former earnings to live on, so that 40% isn’t nearly enough to cover costs.

The onus is on the individual to start saving as soon as possible, and to save as much as we can each month and if that means forgoing every other, or more, vacation then that is something that just needs to be done.

 

Start on that savings nest egg

If you are one of the many that are planning on saving for that vacation, before you think of saving for retirement, just don’t. If you are putting into a an IRA or a 401(k), regularly, and want to put some of your hard fought for cash on a break away then that’s one thing. If you ever find yourself in the situation where you have to pick one over the other, however then don’t be under any illusions about which you should choose – retirement always comes first.

Let’s say you are saving up $2k to pay for and go away on vacation, and you would typically spend this amount each year on that. If you were to put that money into a savings plan instead, you could save $399,000 by retirement age if you start at age 25. That’s a huge chunk of change, and no mistake.

Giving up vacation time does sound like a painful compromise, but there are other options available to you so you can still get the break you need and deserve. Road trips to visit freinds and relatives, staycations where you can explore the local area are also a ton of fun especially if you do it with a companion.

Cheaper vacations are also an option. The point is, you have options and always will – not everything has to be high-cost in order for you to enjoy a nice break away from the daily grind. In the end, your retirement is much more important anyway.