Money Bulldog http://moneybulldog.co.uk Personal Finance One Bite at a Time Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:30:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 How much do we know about pensions? http://moneybulldog.co.uk/how-much-do-we-know-about-pensions/ http://moneybulldog.co.uk/how-much-do-we-know-about-pensions/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2017 16:46:41 +0000 http://moneybulldog.co.uk/?p=16245 With seemingly endless press attention, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the need to save for our future, post-retirement. However, while we may be aware of pensions, few truly understand their options and how their pension savings can benefit them. Because setting up a pension could be essential to ensuring your comfort in later life, it’s

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With seemingly endless press attention, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the need to save for our future, post-retirement. However, while we may be aware of pensions, few truly understand their options and how their pension savings can benefit them.

Because setting up a pension could be essential to ensuring your comfort in later life, it’s important that you know all of the facts. Here, personal pension investment specialist, True Potential, explains the essentials:

The current situation

In 2015, figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a significant rise in the number of workers who were not saving for their retirement because they couldn’t afford it. Increasing from 38% in 2010/11, 50% of people in 2014/15 did not contribute to a pension as a result of having a low income, not being in employment or still being in education.

A lack of available cash was largely attributed to rising living costs, specifically the cost of rent. Clearly people prioritised how they spent their money — because their pension is further down the line, saving for it falls to the back of the queue.

However, we witnessed significant changes to attitudes towards pensions in 2016. Data from True Potential shows that the proportion of people saving nothing into pension pots dropped from 39% in Q2 2016 to 35% in Q3. It’s clear young people’s attitudes are changing too; Q3 2016 saw the number of 24-34 year olds making no pension contributions falling to 19% — down from 26% in the previous quarter.

While the number of people saving for their pensions has improved, a new issue is emerging. In True Potential’s survey, over half (57%) of over 55s said they hadn’t decided how they will access their savings. Clearly, education and knowledge will be key in the coming years to helping savers make informed decisions.

How much will you need for your pension?

It seems that there is a disparity in the amount we believe we need to enjoy a comfortable retirement and the reality. True Potential’s Savings Gap campaign has found that £23,000 is needed annually to live comfortably in retirement.

What’s interesting to note is that despite these figures, UK people are on course to receive just £6,000 per year from their retirement fund. In fact, the average UK person’s monthly contribution to their pension pot is £325.

Clearly, there is a divide between what we think we should be doing and what we’re actually doing or are able to do. As the survey further underlines, this can be attributed to the UK’s debt worries. Instead of putting spare cash towards our pensions, 42% of savers would use an unexpected windfall of £1,000 to pay off debts.

It’s important to remember that your retirement pot may need to sustain you for around 20 to 30 years after your retirement, so you’ll need to save up a decent amount if you are to enjoy a worry-free retirement. Consider the following when determining how much you’ll need for your retirement:

  • Consider your outgoings — At retirement age, your outgoings will likely be significantly lower. This is because many people will have significantly reduced or paid off their mortgage, have grown-up children who no longer require their support and will no longer need to consider the expense of commuting.
  • Factor in your State Pension — Your State Pension will effectively “top up” your retirement pot. Under the new flat-rate State Pension scheme for those retiring post April 2016, you’ll receive £7,582 per year (£151 per week). This means you may not have to save as much as you originally thought.

Of course, you can only access your State Pension once you have reached the age threshold. New ages are expected to be announced in May 2017 and come into force from April 2028. The current State Pension age for men is 65 and between 60 and 65 for women. By 2020, this is expected to rise to 66 for both. In the late 2040s, estimates predict that it will rise to 69 and 70 by the early 2060s. Depending on the age you’re planning on retiring, it’s important to consider at what point your State Pension will become available to ensure you’re properly supported.

The amount you’ll realistically save up is also dependant on your age. Obviously, the earlier you start saving, the longer you’ll have to generate a large pension savings pot. If you start your pension in later life, you may find yourself saving extra in order to make up lost time.

Types of pensions

Regardless of how much you save or when you start, it’s clear that saving for your retirement is very important. Being aware of the different pension types can help you make the right choices for your needs.

Personal pension

A personal pension is a pension pot where you pay in an amount each month, which is then invested with the aim of growing the fund over time before you retire. You can decide where and how the money is invested to grow.

The maximum you can invest each year is £40,000, however this is dependent upon your earnings. The current age to withdraw your funds is 55 years. When you retire, you can use the amount to purchase an annuity, which is a regular monthly payment that’s paid until you die, or take an income from this by using Drawdown.

New rules brought into play in April 2015 mean that we can also withdraw up to 25% of our pension pot, tax free, whether this be in one lump sum or multiple smaller withdrawals.

Benefits of personal pensions

  • You’ll receive tax relief on your personal pension contribution.
  • You can invest with the aim of increasing your overall fund.
  • They’re useful for self-employed people, who don’t have access to a workplace pension.

Auto-enrolment

A workplace pension is a retirement investment scheme that is organised through your employer. You’ll pay a portion of your wages each month into the pension pot, with your employer and the government also contributing.

Currently, the minimum contribution is 2% of your earnings — 0.8% from you, 1% from your employer and 0.2% as tax relief. This will increase from April 2018 to 5% of your earnings (2.4% from you, 2% from your employer and 0.6% as tax relief). From April 2019, this will increase again to 8% of your earnings (4% from you, 3% from your employer and 1% as tax relief).

To be automatically enrolled, you must be over 22, under the State Pension age, not currently in a scheme and earn over £8,105 a year. Those who earn less or work on a part-time basis can opt in too, while you can also choose to opt out. By 2018, all employers must offer auto-enrolment to a workplace pension scheme or access to an equivalent scheme such as a group personal pension.

Benefits of auto-enrolment

  • Auto-enrolment makes it easy to join a workplace pension scheme.
  • Joining isn’t mandatory; your employer will ask if you want to contribute to your workplace pension scheme.
  • You’ll receive contributions from your employer and enjoy tax relief from the government.

Defined contribution pensions

Defined contribution pensions are a type of personal or workplace pension. The money paid in that can come from either the employer, employee or both is invested by your pension provider. The amount that is paid out is dependent on how much is paid in and how well the investment performs.

Defined benefit pensions

Defined benefit pensions are always workplace pensions. The amount paid to you upon retirement is dependent on your salary, the time you’ve worked for your employer and the rules of your pension scheme. This guarantees a certain amount once you retire.

With investing, your capital is at risk. Investments can fluctuate in value and you may get back less than you invest. Tax rules can change at any time.

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First-Time Buyers – 5 Ways to get Yourself on the Property Ladder http://moneybulldog.co.uk/first-time-buyers-5-ways-to-get-yourself-on-the-property-ladder/ http://moneybulldog.co.uk/first-time-buyers-5-ways-to-get-yourself-on-the-property-ladder/#comments Mon, 13 Feb 2017 21:28:48 +0000 http://moneybulldog.co.uk/?p=16235 The financial benefits of owning a property can be huge. But with the average UK property costing £232,885, just a 5% deposit could require over £10,000 in savings. This is why property experts and solicitors, abacus-law are here to share some useful ways you can get yourself on that all important property ladder. Savings plan For many

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The financial benefits of owning a property can be huge. But with the average UK property costing £232,885, just a 5% deposit could require over £10,000 in savings. This is why property experts and solicitors, abacus-law are here to share some useful ways you can get yourself on that all important property ladder.

Savings plan

For many who rent, moving back into your old childhood home so you can save simply isn’t a viable option. That is why you will need a stringent savings plan. Work out the maximum you can afford to save each month and transfer the money out on payday. This is so you won’t be tempted to spend it. If it means being extra frugal with your money for a few months, with your weekends in front of the TV, just remember what it’s all for.

Government first- time buyer schemes

There are a number of Government schemes aimed at helping first- time buyers get a foot on the property ladder. These include:

What is the Help to Buy: Equity Loan?

If you’re buying a new build home, you can put down a 5% deposit. The Government will then top it up with a 20% equity loan so you only borrow 75% from your mortgage lender. As the first few years are usually financially straining, you won’t have to pay anything for the first 5 years.

What is the Help to Buy: ISA?

With the Help to Buy ISA, the government will top up any savings of yours by 25%. For instance, every £200 you put away, the government will contribute another £50. This is essentially free money for first time buyers, and the most you can receive is £3000. This means the maximum you can save in a Help to Buy ISA is £12,000.

What is Help to Buy Shared ownership?

If you cannot quite afford a mortgage on the entire home, the Help to Buy: Shared Ownership scheme offers you a chance to buy a share of it. You can buy between 25% and 75% of the homes values and pay rent on the remainder. When you can afford to in the future, you can buy bigger shares.

Joint Mortgage

With today’s housing climate, this is becoming an increasingly popular option for younger people looking to combine their earnings and get a mortgage. It can be a great option if your own salary isn’t enough and you want to effectively double your income. If you have a good relationship with the other person, it could be the option for you. However, this option also comes with some drawbacks. Firstly, you will only own half of the house. Secondly, if you fall out with the other person or one of you wants to move on it can create an awkward situation, both domestically and financially.  You will need to carefully consider what will happen in this situation and protect your investment so you will need to get clear legal advice.

Be prepared to compromise

If you have your heart set on a certain area, but you discover the house prices are incredibly expensive, it may be time to start thinking about a cheaper area. If you are willing to do this it can make buying a house a real possibility. You never know what can happen in the future, the area may undergo redevelopment. Or perhaps you can always move to your preferred area later on when you can afford to. It is always worth taking the time to research the average house price house in various areas nearby.

Time it right

If you finally have a deposit and you are raring to go, you should still think about the timing of the purchase. Although it can be difficult to guess how the housing market will change, keeping on top of the news will help you get a feel for the market a lot better. This way you will be able to make a well-informed decision.

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Dressing Well on a Tight Budget http://moneybulldog.co.uk/dressing-well-on-a-tight-budget/ http://moneybulldog.co.uk/dressing-well-on-a-tight-budget/#comments Mon, 13 Feb 2017 21:10:58 +0000 http://moneybulldog.co.uk/?p=16228 The key to staying debt free is living within your means. Doing so can make a huge difference to your long-term financial health. Every time you buy something on credit and have to pay interest, you are effectively burning money. Shockingly, according to a study carried out by credit.com, the average person in the US

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The key to staying debt free is living within your means. Doing so can make a huge difference to your long-term financial health. Every time you buy something on credit and have to pay interest, you are effectively burning money.

Shockingly, according to a study carried out by credit.com, the average person in the US ends up paying $280,000 in interest, during their lifetime. This includes mortgage payments, so in some states the average is closer to $450,000. You can see a breakdown of those statistics here. Sadly, it is a pattern that is repeated the world over.

Without a doubt, it is worth taking as many steps as possible to reduce, or eliminate, your debt burden. The key to doing so is to shop wisely and use your resources carefully. That is certainly the case when it comes to buying clothes.

Stop buying on impulse

Most people find that when they stop buying their clothes on impulse they are able to cut their clothing budget in half, sometimes more. We have all done it, seen something on the rack and bought it with no idea of when we are going to wear it. Often, it is those items that end up languishing at the back of the wardrobe, until they are bagged up and given to a charity shop or put in the bin. This is bad for the environment as well as for your wallet.

Shop online

Another tip is to do as much of your clothes shopping online as you can. The fact that you can shop at anytime gives you the chance to shop around and really find the bargains. You will save the most money by buying expensive items this way. These days it is easy to buy affordable suits, shoes and coats online.

If you do choose to try out this way of shopping, remember to factor in the cost of postage before buying. Usually it still works out cheaper than buying elsewhere, but you always need to check before you buy. It is also wise to check out the firm’s returns policy.

Once you find online shops that you like to use, sign up to receive their promotional material. That way you will be notified of the best deals, which gives you the chance to buy quickly before they run out of stock. However, you do need to be careful not to buy items you do not really need just because the price is low.

Get more out of you existing wardrobe

Think before you throw something out. Often you can find another use for that item. For example, a pair of jeans with a hole in the leg could be turned into a pair of shorts, or used for gardening.

Learn how make simple alterations and do basic repairs

Often people end up throwing out perfectly good clothes because something no longer fits, or because the zip has broken. This is a shame because with a little time and patience you can usually alter or repair these clothes and get a lot more wear out of them.

Do you have any more tips for dressing well on a tight budget?

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Shepherds Friendly Stocks and Shares ISA Review http://moneybulldog.co.uk/shepherds-friendly-stocks-and-shares-isa-review/ http://moneybulldog.co.uk/shepherds-friendly-stocks-and-shares-isa-review/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2017 23:14:55 +0000 http://moneybulldog.co.uk/?p=16214 Finding the perfect investment account isn’t easy these days, as there are so many good options to choose from. Having said that, one excellent alternative worth looking at in more detail is the Shepherds Friendly Stocks and Shares ISA. There are some strong reasons for believing that this could be the right type of investment

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Finding the perfect investment account isn’t easy these days, as there are so many good options to choose from. Having said that, one excellent alternative worth looking at in more detail is the Shepherds Friendly Stocks and Shares ISA.

There are some strong reasons for believing that this could be the right type of investment to help you to get the financial future that you dream of, but are Shepherds Friendly the right ISA provider for you? This is what we’ll be looking at in this Shepherds Friendly Stocks and Shares ISA review.

Why a Stocks and Shares ISA?

Perhaps the very first point to consider is around why this kind of Stocks and Shares ISA is so popular right now. The truth is that it is seen as offering a clever way of aiming for a high return in a tax efficient way.

You don’t need to be an expert in the stock market or on tax policies in order to take advantage of this combination. Instead, you can very simply enjoy the benefits of a Stocks and Shares ISA in which the experts make the important investment decisions.

A Flexible Approach

One of the reasons that so many people look for an ISA now is to take advantage of the flexible approach that they offer. Not everyone has the same financial situation and needs, just as not everyone carries on with the same investment needs month after month.

For this reason, it is worth paying attention to the flexibility and easy access offered by the Shepherds Friendly Stocks and Shares ISA. For a start, you can increase, decrease, stop or start your investment whenever it suits you to do so.

You can also choose to pay in a lump cash sum at any time that you feel you can do this, or to pay in a regular monthly amount. Importantly, you’ll also get the chance to access your savings whenever you need to do so.

Simple to Set Up and Run

The idea of investing in Stocks and Shares is very appealing, especially for someone who wants to try and maximise their return over a long period of time. However, the thought of getting involved in complex stock market transactions is enough to put off many people.

This is why a Stocks and Shares ISA like the one from Shepherds Friendly can be a good choice. You get to invest in something that could make you a lot of money but without the potential hassle that comes with dealing directly on the stock market.

The fund managers will make all the big decisions for you, meaning that you just need to sit back and watch as your money hopefully grows at a fast rate. It is a straightforward option that you can get started up very easily and then not have to worry about keeping too close an eye on it.

Having said that, it is also easy to keep an eye on the growth of your money online if you like the idea of doing this.

How to Get Started

Opening up a brand new Shepherds Friendly Stocks and Shares ISA account is very easy to do. Also, it doesn’t matter whether you already have a cash ISA set up or whether you are completely new to the idea of investing in an ISA of any type.

If you like then you can then get started right away by applying online. The process for opening up your new account is fast and easy. You just need to read the most important points about the ISA and add in your own personal details

The starting amount for investing with Shepherd Friendly is just £30 per month, meaning that you can get going without making a huge upfront investment. Of course, if you plan to invest a higher amount in the future then you can increase this up to your entire annual ISA allowance if and when you are ready to do so..

Current Promotions

At the time of writing, there is a fantastic promotion that makes it even more rewarding to open up your new Shepherds Friendly Stocks and Shares ISA account. Basically, when you open up your account online and then make your first payment, you get a Love2Shop voucher code that is worth up to £50!

This voucher can be redeemed online at any one of many big online retailers such as Argos, Debenhams, HMV, River Island, TK Maxx, Matalan, Mothercare and many others. However nice this gift is, there is no denying that setting up a great new savings plan should give you far more long-term satisfaction and value anyway.

Easy Tax Efficient Investing

If you want to get a tax efficient savings scheme with high growth, then it is well worth checking out the Shepherds Friendly Stocks and Shares ISA. It could be the key to a brighter future for you without the need for much great effort on your part.

Remember that the value of investments can rise as well as fall, meaning your initial capital may be at risk.

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Stocks & Shares ISA vs SIPP – Which Is Right for You? http://moneybulldog.co.uk/stocks-shares-isa-vs-sipp-which-is-right-for-you/ http://moneybulldog.co.uk/stocks-shares-isa-vs-sipp-which-is-right-for-you/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2017 23:11:51 +0000 http://moneybulldog.co.uk/?p=16212 The wide variety of types of saving account around means that there is something that is right for everyone. Yet, this extensive range of options can also end up being confusing if you just can’t work out which one to go with. This is often the case when investors compare Stocks & Shares ISA accounts

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The wide variety of types of saving account around means that there is something that is right for everyone. Yet, this extensive range of options can also end up being confusing if you just can’t work out which one to go with.

This is often the case when investors compare Stocks & Shares ISA accounts with Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs). The good news is that there are some differences between these two that help to make it an easier decision for you.

The Tax Benefits

Most people are already aware that both of these types of saving account offer attractive tax benefits. Indeed, this is one of the most powerful reasons for choosing either an ISA or SIPP investment in the first place.

What not everyone is aware of, though, is that the tax benefits are set up differently for these accounts.

For instance, in the case of SIPPs, you get tax relief on the money you pay in via a government top-up of between 20% and 45%, depending upon your earnings and circumstances. On the negative side, you may need to pay tax when you take the money out of this account if withdrawing more than 25% of the pot. You can find out more about the tax benefits of a SIPP on this page.

When it comes to Stocks & Shares ISAs, there is no top-up paid by the government when you pay in, but you don’t need to pay tax when taking the money out either.

In most cases, SIPPs work out to be more tax-efficient for savers. This is especially true for those people who pay higher-rate tax while working but expect to move down to paying basic-rate tax when they take out the money, as they’ll get a larger top-up when paying in but then pay less in tax when they withdraw the money during retirement.

If you are a complete newcomer to SIPPs, then you may find it useful to have a read through this Free SIPP Guide before signing up for one.

The Growth Possibilities

In both of these types of account, the rate at which your money grows will largely come down to what it is invested in. If you are planning to invest your money rather than leaving it sat in a Cash ISA, then both Stocks & Shares ISAs and SIPPs can allow you to make your own investment decisions, although you can also hand over as much control of the day to day handling of the investments as you want to.

One issue to bear in mind is that the top-up for the SIPP mentioned previously gives you more money to start with and try and grow over the years. If you get a good growth rate then the extra money that you started with could go on to become a very handy sum.

There is also the fact that SIPPs often have higher charges and fees attached to them than ISAs. This is due to them needing more work carried out but the difference shouldn’t be enough to sway your decision on its own. You can find out more about SIPP charges here.

If you want to pick your own investments through a Stocks & Shares ISA, then you will need to make sure that you choose an account which allows self-trading. One award winning Stocks & Shares ISA which allows you to pick your own shares is the Do-it-yourself ISA from Hargreaves Lansdown. If you want to take a truly hands off approach then you might want to try a Stocks & Shares ISA with a robo-advisor firm like Nutmeg.

Making Contributions

Another difference to be aware of is in the amount that can be paid in to these types of account each year. At the time of writing, you can pay up to £15,240 into all your ISA accounts during the 2016/2017 tax year, regardless of how much you earn.

If you invest in a SIPP, then you can invest as much as you earn each year up to a limit of £40,000 during the 2016/17 tax year. There is also a lifetime allowance of £1 million to take into account.

Those high earners with a salary of over £150,000 need to take a few minutes to work out exactly how much they can invest each year in a SIPP.

When and How to Access Your Savings

One of the essential differences between ISAs and SIPPs is that the former is designed to be accessed pretty much whenever it is needed. You still won’t be taxed if you take the cash out at short notice but you may be charged a small fee, according to the terms of your ISA provider.

SIPPs are set up to only be withdrawn once you reach the age of 55 of after, although withdrawals of over 25% of the pot are going to be subject to tax at your marginal rate when you access it. It’s also worth remembering that the age at which you can access your SIPP funds may rise in the future.

This means that probably the main point to consider in this respect is whether you might need the money in the short-term or not. Are you saving for your retirement years or are you saving for something like a new car, home deposit or your child’s university fees?

By considering your short-term and long-term plans you can make a smart and informed decision in this respect.

Invest in Both Ways?

Of course, it is possible that you will look to get the best of both worlds by investing in both an ISA and a SIPP. There is nothing to stop you doing this if you like.

If you decide to go ahead and invest in both ways then you will want to be sure that you don’t over-stretch your finances by investing more than you can realistically afford to put away. Ideally, you would look to use the best SIPP for your retirement savings and then use your ISA for a shorter-term goal such as buying a car, a house deposit or saving for a child’s university fees.

Summary

There are definitely strong reasons for choosing an ISA account, just as there are for picking a SIPP.

If you can realistically afford to save in both of these ways then it could certainly make sense to do so. By doing this you can get the best of both worlds and invest in the smartest and most tax-efficient way possible.

If you are only going to invest in either a Stocks and Shares ISA or a SIPP then it basically comes down to what your short-term and long-term goals are. By considering your future plans and choosing the perfect type of investment then you have far more chance of making your dreams come true.

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Shop the last of the January sales, without breaking the bank http://moneybulldog.co.uk/shop-the-last-of-the-january-sales-without-breaking-the-bank/ http://moneybulldog.co.uk/shop-the-last-of-the-january-sales-without-breaking-the-bank/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2017 13:18:40 +0000 http://moneybulldog.co.uk/?p=16201 Gerald Grimes, MD of Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance, explains how consumers can make the most of this last period of the January sales shopping We can all heave a sigh of relief now that January is over. The bluest month of the year has been and gone and most of us have done well to

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Gerald Grimes, MD of Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance, explains how consumers can make the most of this last period of the January sales shopping

We can all heave a sigh of relief now that January is over. The bluest month of the year has been and gone and most of us have done well to survive the longest pay gap of the year. However, one of the few perks of this past month isn’t quite over yet – the January sales.

Booking holidays and making big purchases for ourselves and our homes requires a cash surplus, which is not available to most in January after the Christmas binge. When digging deep into our own pockets isn’t possible, forms of alternative finance may need to be sourced. Fortunately, with the range of options now available, there is no reason for anyone to miss out on the last weekend of sales.

Hitachi Capital tracked successful finance applications made by retailers on behalf of customers in 2016 and found that January had the most, 34% higher than the monthly average for the rest of the year.

Retail credit empowers consumers to make the most of the sales, purchasing what they want while being able to pay the money back in manageable amounts over an extended period of time. Customers shopping during the imminently concluding sales period can ultimately save themselves money by acquiring items at a reduced rate, rather than purchasing later in the year when stock is at full price.

Taking out a personal loan is another popular method for capitalising on the early 2017 sales. With Hitachi Personal Finance’s loan calculator, you can get a quote and start turning your purchasing plans into reality. With so many fantastic deals to be had, consumers risk missing a trick by not researching the loan market thoroughly.

So, before the sales end here are some final dos and don’ts – which you can use to apply to any sales period:

  1. Do be thorough in your research

Have a considered approach for sales periods to help avoid impulse buys. Rather than unnecessarily splurging on new clothes, you can instead invest in an expensive sofa or buy family gifts for later in the year.

  1. Don’t be taken for a fool

A lot of products are marked down throughout the year so don’t feel like you have to buy something just because it’s got a big sale sticker on it.  Also consider that some items may be cheaper during later sales periods e.g. May for outdoors equipment and spring clothing, and November – specifically ‘Cyber Monday’ – for electronics.

  1. Don’t get greedy

Only buy what you can afford. The best way to use credit is arguably for a single, one-off and defined purchase. By picking a deal which offers 0% on new purchases for as long a period as you’re eligible to qualify, and doing some careful planning, it is possible to borrow at no cost.

Above all else, make sure you take out a manageable loan which works for you.

  1. Do keep your eyes peeled

While the stated deadline for many sales may be on a Sunday, retailers often extend these periods so it is worth keeping an eye out. You can do this by subscribing to various newsletters as well as bookmarking online retailers’ pages.

  1. Do consider other means of cost-cutting

Finally, why not cut back on the alcohol intake this month or cycle to work to avoid transport costs?

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A house staging photography guide http://moneybulldog.co.uk/a-house-staging-photography-guide/ http://moneybulldog.co.uk/a-house-staging-photography-guide/#comments Mon, 23 Jan 2017 13:40:50 +0000 http://moneybulldog.co.uk/?p=16169 More often than not, the first impression a potential buyer will get of your house won’t be when they step through your front door – it will be online. So, the first step of any house sale is through attractive and enticing imagery. Therefore, whether you are looking to sell your house outright or advertising

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More often than not, the first impression a potential buyer will get of your house won’t be when they step through your front door – it will be online. So, the first step of any house sale is through attractive and enticing imagery. Therefore, whether you are looking to sell your house outright or advertising a rental property, remember that good quality photographs will attract more buyers. Read below to find out the key factors and common pitfalls when creating photography of your property in preparation for a sale.

Competition

Before you start taking snaps of your house, take a look at your competition. Browse a few estate agents’ sites for similar properties in your area, as these will be the ones potential house buyers will be looking at in direct comparison to your house or flat. Inspect how the photographs are styled, what aspects of the images work well, and how are their USPs presented. Think critically from a buyer’s perspective as well; are there enough images to help me get a feel for the property? Could you imagine yourself living there? This research will help you frame how you photograph your house.

Look at for how individual rooms are displayed and how you could improve upon that

Look at for how individual rooms are displayed and how you could improve upon that

Clutter

One of the biggest faux pas in house photography is cluttered space, dirty rooms and untidied living areas. It may sound obvious but it is one of the biggest repeat offenders with bad interior photography. Unflattering images will immediately lose you a potential buyer, so ensure photographed spaces are clean and tidy, treating them as if you were staging for a face-to-face viewing. Moreover, clutter makes an image feel chaotic and will draw the viewer’s attention away from a room’s best features. Another reason that clutter is terminal in interior photography is that is makes your house or rooms appear smaller. You should always aim to make you area seem as spacious as possible, as it helps a house buyer’s ability to see potential in a property – a critical aspect when looking at a future investment. Remember – you are here to sell space not stuff.

Children’s bedroom may be a nightmare to get tidy, but a presentable room makes a big difference

Children’s bedroom may be a nightmare to get tidy, but a presentable room makes a big difference

Logical Progression

It is more than likely that the first viewing of your house won’t be with you showing guests around, it will be remotely by a potential buyer that has never stepped foot in your home. Therefore, don’t presuppose that they will understand the design of your house in the same way you do, instead lead them on a journey around their potential new home. Thus, when composing your photographs, make sure that they are arranged in logical order and that browsing the album seems like a natural and seamless progression. This will help potential buyers get a better understanding of the property and will help them imagine themselves living there. Also ensure that you provide a sufficient variety of images, including a mix of interior and exterior shots. Buyers want to get a feel for the entire property and an absence of a key area of a house will lead to suspicions that there is something to hide.

Always make sure you get a great front-on exterior shot

Always make sure you get a great front-on exterior shot

Recent photos

Often in the house selling process, you will have made improvements to your property to boost the chances of a sale, so make sure that you use house photography that is up-to-date. Whether, you have upgraded your kitchen or even just changed the front door, think about the effect it will have on a house buyer if they arrive at a house that is different to the one they have envisaged? Seasonality is important too, if you are selling in the summer, don’t use photographs of a gloomy winter’s day – it will do nothing but arrest the imagination potential of the house buyer. One last thing, nothing says an out-of-date photograph like Christmas decorations!

If you've upgraded your kitchen, then update your photos too!

If you’ve upgraded your kitchen, then update your photos too!

Lighting

Perhaps the most important thing to get right when taking photographs of your house (along with clutter) is lighting. This is because a person’s interpretation of your property (space, potential, ambiance) is so intrinsically linked with its lightness. For example, dark lighting makes a room look small and dull, whereas bright natural light will make the same space look clean, crisp and most importantly, inviting. Brightness will boost a buyer’s mood too, and heavily effect how they ‘feel’ about the place, regardless of the room’s shape or structure. Therefore, when taking interior photographs of your house, turn on all lights to ensure brightness but also look at natural light coming in from windows creating blinding and unflattering reflective light. Thus, it is best practice to draw blinds when photographing rooms such as the lounge. Additionally, it is better to take photographs of the interior when it is cloudy outside as the clouds will provide a natural soft box and diffusing any contrast in light. Finally, if you are taking images of your garden, make sure the sun is behind to limit long shadows forming.

Effective use of lighting will cause a soft and inviting scene

Effective use of lighting will cause a soft and inviting scene

Angles

When taking photographs of your property, always ensure that you are presenting the room or space in its most flattering manner. You can maximise the illusion of ‘space’ by using a wide lens camera as well as using a horizontal orientation rather than a vertical stance to give the image maximum exposure. It is also important to shoot from straight-on and keep in line with the architecture of the room rather than at odd angles – let the architect’s design reflect in your work. A good tip to help things look ‘orderly’ is to bend your knees when taking a photograph (if you do not already have a tripod) as shooting from standing can make the room’s structure appear slightly skewed. By having everything in ‘order’ it will help highlight the key areas of the room which you want to show present to the buyer.

The framing of the image really sells the value of this room

The framing of the image really sells the value of this room

Quality

It is vital that the photographs you provide are of a good quality and give a sense of crispness to the property. Any images that are blurry or fuzzy will not portray the area in its fullest form and also looks like sloppiness on your part which may put off buyers from collaborating with you. On the other hand, while quality is a critical factor, go easy on the Photoshop as images that have been heavily doctored can look odd and uninviting. Remember, people are looking for a home not a spaceship. They want natural images so be flattering but importantly be truthful.

Provide photos that are high quality but also natural looking to establish a welcoming ambiance

Provide photos that are high quality but also natural looking to establish a welcoming ambiance

Getting Involved

A golden rule of selling your property is to never get emotionally involved, and that is also true when taking photographs of it too. Including images of yourself – either deliberately or via reflection is rather off-putting and no matter how cute your pet is, leave it out of the photographs. People often feel that showing off the small, personal touches they have done to their property will help a house sale, however more often than not it has the adverse effect (remember that you are selling space not stuff). While selling your home may be an emotional thing, channel it in the right way by helping sell a dream or a lifestyle to a potential buyer by taking photographs that demonstrate space and potential.

Always remember to keep clear of any photos!

Always remember to keep clear of any photos!

If you’ve remembered these key elements of house photography, you will gain an upper hand in a tough market. This could mean the difference between an average house getting a good price or a superb property not getting the amount it is truly worth.

Jantiene Sobry
Vivo Property Buyers

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PPI CLAIMS GUIDE 2017 http://moneybulldog.co.uk/ppi-claims-guide-2017/ http://moneybulldog.co.uk/ppi-claims-guide-2017/#comments Fri, 20 Jan 2017 12:32:56 +0000 http://moneybulldog.co.uk/?p=16147 Millions of people in the UK who were the victims of mis-sold PPI have been successful in claiming compensation back from the banks. But many more people – millions of them are yet to make a ppi claim or are unaware that they are eligible to claim compensation. If you believe your bank mis-sold PPI

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Millions of people in the UK who were the victims of mis-sold PPI have been successful in claiming compensation back from the banks. But many more people – millions of them are yet to make a ppi claim or are unaware that they are eligible to claim compensation.

If you believe your bank mis-sold PPI to you, or on the other hand you aren’t sure and would like to know more about the PPI claims process, this article – PPI claims guide 2017 will hopefully answer your questions and move you closer towards getting back money from the banks which is rightfully yours.

This article will show you how the UK’s banks mis-sold PPI to their millions of customers and if you too were one of these people. Also the article will disclose the manner in which you can claim compensation from the banks, in addition to showing the best and most effective way of receiving a ppi claims refund.

Can I Legally Make A PPI Claim?

If you know you were mis-sold PPI, or if you believe that you were, there are two simple steps that you need to discover. Those two items are:

  • What is the number of PPI policies that you possess?
  • Do those policies match the mis-sold PPI criteria?

It’s as simple as that. Also anyone wanting to make a PPI claim will also need to carefully check through all of the bank statements, paperwork and terms and conditions that they have and try to see if these documents show that they were paying for a Payment Protection Insurance policy. You could also use a PPI Claims Company to help you with the process. Occasionally PPI will not be listed in these statements. Some banks called PPI insurance by other names. These names include:

  • ASU (Accident, Sickness, Unemployment.)
  • Cover
  • Loan Protection

How The Banks Mis-Sold PPI

The most common ways in which PPI was mis-sold by the banks to their customers are highlighted below.

Pressurised Into Buying PPI

Many people were pressured into buying PPI insurance by bank representatives. They were told by the banks that they had to take out PPI insurance if they wanted their mortgage or loan application to go through. Others were also told that PPI was compulsory when an individual took out a loan or any other kind of financial product with a bank.

In reality the banks lied to their millions of customers about PPI. Payment protection insurance was neither compulsory when someone took out a loan or finance agreement and folks should not have been told that they had to buy a PPI policy if they wanted their loan or mortgage application to be approved.

Unsuitable For PPI

Rules created by banking regulators made clear that certain sectors of the UK population were ineligible for PPI and should not have been sold this type of insurance products. If you were in the following groups when PPI was sold to you then you may be able to make a PPI claim.

  • The Self-Employed
  • Contract workers
  • Temporary Workers
  • Part-Time Employed
  • Unemployed
  • Students
  • Under 18s
  • Over 65s
  • People with pre-existing health conditions

As we can see then, banks systematically mis-sold PPI and you could be eligible to reclaim any monies you paid out on this type of insurance.

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8 Tips to Save £1000 This Winter! http://moneybulldog.co.uk/8-tips-to-save-1000-this-winter/ http://moneybulldog.co.uk/8-tips-to-save-1000-this-winter/#comments Wed, 18 Jan 2017 18:46:19 +0000 http://moneybulldog.co.uk/?p=16124 With the aftermath of the Brexit vote now playing out and inflation starting to rise, the last thing people need is for the winter frost to start driving up their energy bills too! Unfortunately, as temperatures drop it is inevitable that we will see at least some rise to our winter fuel costs. It’s not

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With the aftermath of the Brexit vote now playing out and inflation starting to rise, the last thing people need is for the winter frost to start driving up their energy bills too! Unfortunately, as temperatures drop it is inevitable that we will see at least some rise to our winter fuel costs.

It’s not all bad news, though, as there are also plenty of things that you can do to bring these costs down and save money this winter and also during future cold snaps. Recently, I came across a visual guide which has been put together by the well-known window installation firm Everest which outlines 8 ways by which homeowners can ‘winterproof’ their homes and save around £1000 this winter. Not only this, but many of the winter focused money saving tips suggested in the following infographic will also be likely to add value to your home too, so they really should be taken seriously.

So, if you’re worried that recent inflationary pressures as well as rising fuel costs are likely to make this winter one of your most expensive yet, then why not think seriously about implementing the following 8 tips to save you money both now and on into the future!

How to save money this winter

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How to Make Safer Investments in 2017 http://moneybulldog.co.uk/how-to-make-safer-investments-in-2017/ http://moneybulldog.co.uk/how-to-make-safer-investments-in-2017/#comments Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:27:33 +0000 http://moneybulldog.co.uk/?p=16104 Whether you’ve been investing for a while or you’re just starting out, the new year is a good time to try something new with your investments. Perhaps there’s a better place to invest your money, or perhaps there’s a way to make your investments more secure. Given the current financial and political climate, there’s never

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Whether you’ve been investing for a while or you’re just starting out, the new year is a good time to try something new with your investments. Perhaps there’s a better place to invest your money, or perhaps there’s a way to make your investments more secure. Given the current financial and political climate, there’s never been a better time to focus on making safer investments. Why not do something different with your money in 2017? Maybe you could try investing in gold bullion (long-term investment) or money market funds (short-term investment), or you could also try to find the best high-yield online savings account for you. I’ll explain each of the options below.

Invest in Gold Bullion or Coins

Investing in gold bullion or gold coins is considered to be safe and secure. The security comes from the fact that physical gold doesn’t tend to go down in value in times of economic strife. In fact, during an economic crash, gold prices tend to rise. Overall, the gold bullion market is much more secure and less prone to fluctuation than most other markets, so it’s the ideal investment for anyone who likes to invest their money but doesn’t want to risk losing it all.

Gold Bullion

Buying gold bullion also offers an additional advantage: you own the physical gold, so it is not held or partially owned by a separate third party. This means that you avoid the additional risk of a company or financial entity going under and taking your investment with them.

If you’d like to invest in gold bullion or coins, then keep an eye on the London Fix. This is the official price of gold each day, based on various economic forecasts, the political climate, and gold demand. The London Gold Fix is the price determined in the London markets and this value is then fixed and used by many other countries around the world. The London Fix is updated twice a day, at 10.30am and 3.00pm. London Gold Bullion has a widget on their homepage that gives you real time updates on the value of gold. It also offers free delivery on its gold bullion – something that can get pretty pricy otherwise!

High-Yield Savings Account

High Yield Savings

Image Source: FlickrLicence

If you don’t have enough money to begin investing in gold just yet, then finding a high-yield savings account instead could prove to be a shrewd move. Normal savings accounts that people usually get with their current account, only usually offer 0.01% interest rates. High-yield savings accounts, however, offer around 1.0% interest and sometimes as much as 1.5% interest. This means that a big bonus, previous savings, or perhaps inheritance money, can all make much more for you if you move it into a high-yield savings account instead of a standard one.

Look out for a high-yield savings account that gives you more perks and control over your money. One thing many of the better accounts offer is ATM access. This gives you the flexibility to access your money should you need it, as opposed to having to go through painstaking, lengthy processes to access your own money. Another good perk that you’ll find with the better high-yield savings accounts is that there isn’t a minimum deposit amount, so you can add in deposits in little dribs and drabs if that’s how you prefer to do it. This is especially useful if you’re self-employed and make different, inconsistent, amounts of money each month.

For peace of mind, you should make sure you trust the bank or organisation you’re making the savings account with. Barclays’ online savings account offers a very high rate of interest and it is a name you can trust. Shop around, however. Make a list of different high-yield savings accounts and put their pros and cons in bullet points. Try grading how much you trust each bank and using that along with the pros and cons when deciding which to go with.

High-yield savings accounts are relatively safe. And if you’re still interested in investing in gold bullion, you can always use a high-yield savings account to generate enough money to then buy some gold bullion when the gold prices are lower.

Money Market Funds

Money market funds are low risk and should always gain some kind of positive growth. This rate of growth should be above the rate that banks lend to each other, which is called the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Money market funds are designed to maintain liquidity, so you can withdraw your investment quickly and put it into something else if you want to. Money market funds are often used by those who have larger sums of money to invest as they look to safeguard their cash.

Despite the risk of money market funds being very low in comparison to other types of investment (such as bonds, real estate, stocks, etc.), it isn’t fool proof, so make sure you read around the process a little more before you start investing.

And that’s all the advice we have for you in this article. A new year can represent a change in attitude; it can be a time to try something new. I hope this article has given you some investment inspiration and that 2017 is a great year for you!

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