PiggyBank has been nominated for the 2017 consumer credit awards

PiggyBank is delighted to announce that we’ve been nominated for “Best Short Term Loan Provider” in the 2017 Consumer Credit Awards!

The Consumer Credit Awards aims to find the best credit providers in the UK, selected by customer vote. This is a great opportunity for you to share your experiences and increase trust and transparency within the industry.

Our nomination is great, but now we need your help in order to win! The winners of the Consumer Credit Awards are voted for by you – the UK public, and we’d love for you to vote for us by leaving a quick review.

It takes about two minutes, and you won’t be asked for any account details. One lucky entrant will also win a £1000 cash prize! The deadline for votes is the 2nd July – so make sure to vote early for a chance to win.

Here’s what PiggyBank’s CEO Dan Ware had to say about our nomination: I am delighted to be nominated as “Best Short Term Loan Provider” in the Consumer Credit Awards 2017! It’s a testament to the hard work undertaken by every member of the PiggyBank team, our commitment to responsible lending decisions, treating customers fairly and a reflection of our culture of forbearance and delivering positive outcomes to our customers at all times.The most exciting part is that these awards are chosen by the customers who use short-term loans and we look forward to competing with our peers in the coming months.

The Consumer Credit Awards use people power to help crown the UK’s best credit providers. These awards are decided by real customers like you, not industry experts, so only you can decide who wins, and that’s why our customers taking part is so important.

Launched in 2016, there are seventeen categories in the Consumer Credit Awards such as “Best Credit Card Provider”, and new for this year, categories like “Innovation of the Year”, and “Best Finance App”. The awards are becoming a go-to resource for consumers looking for the best credit providers in the UK, with over 3 million UK consumers expected to see the results this year.

Finalists are announced on the 12th June and the winner will be announced on the13th July – so vote for us now for your chance to win £1,000 cash!

 

Summer Saving Tips

When you’re hit with an unexpected bill, a short term loan is a quick and reliable way to correct the situation. However, taking out a short term loan should be considered carefully as there may be cheaper alternative options. This is one of the many reasons why we save for a rainy day. Funnily, the best time to save is during the sunshiny summer days!

Yes, the kids may be on the big summer holiday, but it doesn’t mean it’s a more expensive time than any other season. As well as summer money saving tips, we bring you some ideas on how to have an amazing time by saving money on brilliant days out!

Saving can be fun

Here’s a clever trick we hold as a firm favourite here at Piggy Bank. The £1 Saving Challenge is perfect to start in the summer and continue for six months until Christmas time. It involves saving £1 in week 1, £2 in week 2, £3 in week 3 and so on. So if you start on the 1st June with the aim of finishing on 1st December you would have saved £364.50 – which is an amazing contribution towards Christmas presents and the Christmas dinner! If you’re worried about saving a larger amount nearer to the festive season then all you have to do is switch it around so you’re paying £26 on week 1, £25 on week 2 and so on. Concerned you’re going to open that piggy bank too soon? Just get yourself one of those smashable jars where you have to break it to get into it.

Visit your local library

Whether you have children or not, the local library can provide plenty of entertaining fodder for lazy sunny days your garden or local park. No matter if you’re into the classic, the latest thriller or acclaimed bestseller, you’ll find it at the library for free. Sunbathing just got a whole lot better with free books. If you do have children then it’s worth checking out the local summer holiday workshops and events held by your local library. This could include crafting sessions and storytelling by local authors. All of this is free and keeps kids occupied for hours on end. Find your local library here.

Free festivals

Forget Reading, Leeds and Glasto, there are hundreds of free music festivals all over the UK just waiting for you to check them out. From the incredible Summer Jam festival in Liverpool to the Birmingham & Solihull Jazz and Blues Festival, there’s a music festival for every genre! You can even bring your own food, drink and chairs for the ultimate chilled out festival experience. Check out Eventful or for free festivals near you.

Pay yourself to treat yourself

Every time you, your partner or your kids do something good like the washing up, hoovering, taking the bins out and so on, pay yourself a small reward of about £1 to put away in the piggy bank. Start in around May and give yourself an end date of the start of August (or a month if you’re on a tighter budget). Watch the pounds grow and by the time you come around to opening the money box, you’ll have enough for a financially guilt-free day out for the whole family – and a cleaner house because everyone will have chipped in! Some ideas include visiting a zoo, safari park, paintballing, the theatre, cinema and more.

Find the best theme park vouchers

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of money-saving vouchers for days out and activities. Theme Parks, in particular, can be a real money-crusher in the summer holidays. But if you shop around you can get as much as 75% off gate-entrance price. Even just buying tickets online can slash your spending. For example, it’s £32.50 to get into Blackpool Pleasure Beach on the day, but only £16.25 when buying at least 10 days in advance online. It’s also worth checking out the papers and using the coupons – you can save big money on theme park tickets. Take a look at this amazing cheap theme parkguide.

Shops with free kids activities

There are so many big-name stores that host free events for kids. A few fun examples include Dobbie’s gardening workshops, Halford’s bike workshops, Hobbycraft workshops and Pets At Home animal workshops! There really is something for every child – whether they’re a budding artist or an animal fanatic.

Sell stuff at a boot fair

Surprisingly, boot fairs can be great fun for the whole family. Think fresh doughnuts, ice lollies, bargain toys and actually making money at the same time. Find your nearest car boot sale and just pay a small price to pitch up and sell your items. The average person makes £115 in a car boot sale in just five hours – that’s £23 per hour! Not only will you be getting rid of stuff you don’t use anymore and making money, but you can also teach your little ones about money too. It’s a good idea to get your kids to help on the stall, handle cash and work out the change. A lot of car boot fairs have a bouncy castle – which is a small price to pay to reward your little hard workers!


What Finance is Best For You

Finance is a broad term – there are so many options available to you. From store cards to instalment loans for bad credit, there’s no shortage of how you can get credit, regardless of your credit rating. Over 60 million credit cards were in use last year and over 2 million people took out a short term loan, showing that lending can be a safe option. The short term loan industry has really improved in the last five years and is now seen as a fantastic way to cover unexpected expenses. But what finance is best for you? Here’s a summary of the various options available to you and which ones are the best choice.

Bank loans

A bank loan is paid off in instalments over a set period of time – anything from 12 months to 7 years. Mortgages are effectively a bank loan used solely to buy a house. It’s secured against your home and paid off in monthly instalments via interest-only payments or fixed payments. You can also take out a bank loan that isn’t classed as a mortgage. The rates can be very fair but are dependent on your credit history. For example, if your credit score is low then you’ll pay extortionate interest rates – that’s if you even get accepted because banks are very strict with who they give loans to.

Short term loan

If you go with a reputable company like PiggyBank, you’ll find that short term lenders can offer great customer service and fast payout times. We offer loans from 1 month up to five months – so you really do get a great deal of flexibility. The best short term loan lenders like PiggyBank are extremely transparent with costs and interest rates, so there are no shock-surprise fees. We’re authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) so we always make it clear how much you’ll pay back, as well as any potential late payment fees. Short term loans are highly recommended for people with a secure, regular income who need a bit of extra cash to cover emergency or unexpected expenses such as car breakdowns, fitting a new boiler, emergency prescription and so on. Short term loans are designed with you in mind, so if you take one out responsibly it’s really easy to pay them back and it could give your credit rating an amazing boost.

Overdrafts

All banks offer an overdraft facility, but you usually have to apply with them to get it (unless you have a student account!). If authorised, your bank sets your overdraft limit, so when you go past ‘0’ on your account you’ll have a financial cushion to fall on. But if you go over your overdraft it can be very costly in the long run – as the bank will charge you unplanned overdraft fees. The size of your overdraft will depend on your bank account activity and your needs. For example, you may get a £500 overdraft because your bank account shows you have a healthy regular income and little to no debts, whereas if your bank account shows a lot of debt going out and a poor or no income then you’d be refused. Banks are fairly strict with overdrafts so they’re not really suitable for those looking to build credit or those with a poor credit history.

Credit cards

Credit cards are flexible in terms of who can successfully apply for one. From credit builders to exclusive cards for businesses, there’s one of nearly every financial background. However, they do come with very high interest rates and you’ll most probably be charged a fee if you want to withdraw cash. This can all add up in the long-term and should be used very responsibly.

Peer to peer lending

This is where you apply for a loan from an online community. You’re effectively borrowing a real person’s money. The lenders on peer to peer lending sites use them to earn interest on their savings. But there are a few disadvantages to using peer to peer lending – you’ll need a fairly high credit rating to use the service. There are also several downfalls for the lenders too – you may need to lock in your cash for a minimum of one year and you probably won’t’ be covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Guarantor loan

You’ve probably heard of having a guarantor for your rent – where someone you know signs your tenancy contract and pays any outstanding rent if you can’t. A guarantor loan is pretty much the same! Typically, your guarantor must be a homeowner in full-time employment. He or she will cover the repayments of your loan if you can’t. It can be a good alternative for those of you who have a poor or very poor credit rating, but it can be damaging to your relationship with the guarantor if you don’t keep up with payments. PiggyBank offer fast loans for poor credit with no guarantor if you’d rather not have to find a family member or friend to secure credit.

 

What Your Taxes Pay For

There are just over 30 million taxpayers in the UK at the moment – that’s around 46% out of the total population of the UK. While that may look like over half of the population are avoiding paying tax, that definitely isn’t the case. Children, OAPs and the unemployed don’t have to pay tax, of course. But where does your tax go? What does your tax pay for? How are the government spending it? What do you get out of it?

Income tax

Most employed people pay income tax if they earn over £11,000 per year. So you’re probably wondering where it all your hard earned cash goes! It can be split into 12 categories:

  • Benefits and pension: Housing benefit, public sector pensions, income support, tax credits, child allowance, social services.
  • NHS
  • Education: Early years, schools, further / higher education
  • Public protection: Defence, police / civil defence, fire service, immigration / border control, courts / legal aid, prisons.
  • Government: Parliaments and council admin, European Union
  • Transport: Road, railways, local transport such as buses and trams
  • Industry & economy: food, farming, fisheries, research & development
  • Housing: Social housing, planning and regeneration
  • Recreation, sports & culture: Sports, parks, beaches, culture, broadcasting/publishing
  • Waste and environment: waste disposal and environmental protection
  • Overseas aid
  • National debt

As you can see, there’s a lot that needs to be paid for! The government also gets money from other taxes such as beer and cider duties, betting, gaming and lottery taxes, tobacco tax, VAT on goods and services, stamp duty, alcohol duties, vehicle excise duties and a few more.

National Insurance

As part of government deductions, you’re also paying National Insurance (NI) if you earn over £155 per week. It currently stands at 2% of your weekly earnings that go over £827 or 12% of your weekly earnings if you earn between £155 and £827. This goes towards state services and benefits including:

  • NHS
  • Universal Credit
  • Sickness and disability allowances
  • State Pension

NI contributions are designed to benefit everyone. Even if you’re in employment and under the State Pension age, there’s a chance you’ll rely on NI contributions at some point in your life whether it’s a trip to A&E, an unexpected redundancy or a sudden accident that leaves you sick or disabled.

Breakdown of where your taxes go

Income tax goes towards a number of different sectors in society. Last year the expenditure included:

  • Welfare: 25%
  • Health: 19.9%
  • State Pensions: 12.8%
  • Education: 12%
  • National Debt Interest: 5.3%
  • Defence: 5.2%
  • Public Order & Safety: 4.3%
  • Transport: 4%
  • Business & Industry: 2.4%
  • Government admin: 2%
  • Environment: 1.7%
  • Culture (libraries, sports facilities and museums): 1.6%
  • Housing and utilities: 1.4%
  • Overseas Aid: 1.2%
  • Eu budget: 1.1%

Overseas Aid

We’ve put this in the spotlight because it’s a bit of a controversial topic. You might have heard some people say ‘Why are the government spending so much of our taxes on foreign aid instead of on people in the UK?’ At just shy of 1.2% of the total expenditure, it’s actually a much smaller amount than you think and it’s used very wisely! Some of the things overseas aid covers include:

  • Lifesaving vaccines
  • HIV treatment
  • Mosquito bed nets
  • Clean water

For example, if you earn £20,000 per year, you’ll pay £3,445 in taxes. That means you pay £31 a year in overseas aid. That’s 43 vaccines, 60 days of HIV treatment and 5 mosquito bed nets – that’s a lot of people you just saved!

Where does my council tax go?

Seen as one of the biggest household bills, apart from rent or mortgage payments, council tax is used for all sorts of local services. It usually accounts for around 25% of your local council’s income and, with exception of students and under 18s, everyone has to pay it. It goes towards a lot of important things including:

  • Police and fire services
  • Local library services (including the computer facilities!)
  • Social services such as care homes, adoption services, dementia assistance and children’s homes.
  • Parks and culture such as theatres, leisure centres, swimming pools, public spaces and art galleries.
  • Water and sewage.
  • Street cleaning
  • Refuse collection
  • Street lighting
  • Road and bridge maintenance
  • Schools and after-school care
  • Admin such as local elections, registration services (births, deaths and marriage)
  • Council housing and housing advice

As you can see, council tax covers so many services and facilities in your area. But if you disagree with the way it’s spent, you can formally complain to the Local Government Ombudsman.

We know taxes always seem to be in the news – especially when it comes to where your money is going. The amount for each sector changes every year. When the chancellor of the Exchequer announces the annual Budget he or she also announces the proposed expenditure for all of the above-mentioned things.

If you find you’re short on cash this month, PiggyBank offer same day payday loans if you’ve had an unexpected bill.

Car Maintenance – Cut the Amount of Cash you Give to the Garage

The average hourly rate for garage repair stands at £75 – and if you go to a BMW dealer it can cost over £200! But getting your car fixed doesn’t have to be a financial pain – there are some brilliant ways to save some serious cash when you need to take your car into the garage for repair

Travel further away from home

We’re not talking driving 100 miles away (think of the petrol costs!), but even if you drive as little as 15 – 20 miles further from home, you might find a much cheaper garage. Compare prices and shop around – it could save you almost half the money if you didn’t. The rate is in line with London weighting, so if you live in the surrounding counties it may be worth travelling to the next county out. For example, if you live in Surrey you’ll be paying an average hourly cost of £85.83, but if you venture a couple of miles over the border to East Sussex you can expect to pay £77.76.

Take your car to a council-run MOT centre

A little-known trick to cutting the amount of cash you give to the garage is to visit a council MOT centre. You can save as much as 50% on your MOT bill compared to using a non-council MOT centre. They’re open to the public but rarely advertise this – so it’s all perfectly legal! This is especially a great tip for those of you with older cars – as a MOT would normally cost a small fortune. Another great advantage of using a council-run MOT centre is that the staff are far less likely to fail your car as they don’t do repairs.

Go independent

Franchised garages tend to cost around 45% more than independents. Of course, franchised garages already have an established reputation, so it may be worth asking around for people’s recommendations on independent garages as their reputations tend to fare well through word of mouth. It’s also a great idea to check the ratings of these garages and check that they’re registered with the Independent Garage Association (IGA) – home to the excellent Trust My Garage scheme. This shows that the garage has signed a declaration complying with the IGA’s strict code of conduct. Another good website is whocanfixmycar.com – just type in your car registration, when you need it fixed, what’s wrong with your car and your contact details to get details of the best deals near you.

Read up and be in the know

It takes years for mechanics to become car repair experts – but it only takes a few moments to research your car so you have at least some knowledge. All you really need to know is your car’s model, mileage, age, fuel type, engine size and registration to show the mechanic you’re in the know. If you have a bit more time, you could actually take a basic car maintenance and repair course – especially if cars are one of your favourite hobbies. You could end up learning how to fix certain things yourself, saving you hundreds, if not thousands, in the long run. After all, learning how to fix a car is a lifelong skill you can use anytime and could come in handy should you breakdown on a motorway! In fact, for simpler jobs, you don’t really need to visit a garage. For example, if you need to change a bulb in your headlight then it’s easy enough to watch a quick online tutorial…or even ask an experienced friend.

Drop hints

When you leave your car in the garage, it might be a good idea to leave your Hayne’s manual on the backseat of your car or somewhere the mechanic will spot it easily. This shows the mechanic you know at least the basic info about your car and might reduce your chances of being ripped off.

Ask for an estimate before the work starts

Being specific about what you want the mechanic to do and asking for an estimate before any work is done on the car is one of the best ways to go to cut the amount of cash you give to the garage. That way, you can go and compare prices in the area and even tell the mechanic you’ve found somewhere cheaper. They might try and do you a better deal if so! Make sure you ask if the price includes everything including VAT and, if applicable, a replacement car.

Get serviced every year without fail

This can save you so much cash in the long-run. Make sure you give your car a service every year, preferably at an independent garage. Every six months it’s wise to change the oil and filter to prolong your engine’s life, saving so much trouble in the long-term.

UK Unemployment Coming Down – Is it Easier to Find a Job Now?

Unemployment levels may have fallen to just 1.6 million people – which accounts for 23.25 million full-time workers and 8.55 million part-time workers. So, at 0.77 applicants per vacancy, does it mean it’s now easier than ever to find a job?

So why has the level of unemployment fallen?

The decrease in unemployment in recent years could be down to so many different factors. Here are just a few that affect the number of people in employment:

  • Wage growth: If it’s slower, unemployment may decrease because businesses can get ‘more for their money’ from workers.
  • Student population: Students are classed as ‘economically inactive.’ So if there are more students, it seems like there are more jobs available. But the reality is, they’re not on Universal Credit benefits, so they’re not counted as ‘unemployed.’
  • Growing businesses: There are even more self-employed people than ever starting up limited companies. Over the last five to ten years these businesses have boomed, largely in the tech industry, and created thousands of jobs.

It depends on the industry

The ease of finding a job can depend on which industry you want to work in. At the moment the tech industry is booming and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Other low unemployment rate industries include finance and health – there are a lot more vacancies for these sectors then, say, marketing, retail and sales. It’s all about niches. What is your unique selling point as an employee? Potential employers are always on the lookout for ‘niche’ skills. So, for example, if you’re a web developer you may specialise in PHP – and the demand for this is very high at the moment (well, demand is constantly high for web and software developers anyway!).

Location means a lot

Believe it or not, it’s easier to find a job in particular towns and cities in the UK. According to Glassdoor, here are the best UK cities to find a job:

  • Cambridge
  • Milton Keynes
  • Nottingham
  • Leeds
  • Peterborough
  • Coventry
  • Reading
  • Manchester
  • Chelmsford

The worst UK cities to find a job include:

  • Middlesbrough
  • Hull
  • Stoke on Trent
  • Sunderland
  • Southend
  • Wirral
  • Wolverhampton
  • Salford

Now, that doesn’t mean you have to up sticks and relocate your entire life just to be in with a bigger chance of finding a job. It’s just a case of widening your search radius. The average commute time in the UK is 54 minutes – which can give you plenty of scope in where you can look for a job. For example, if you live in Salford, you could extend your search to Manchester city centre, it’s literally a few miles down the road – a short tram or car journey away! Your willingness to commute a bit longer could greatly increase your chances of bagging yourself a job. If you live in Southend, you could always plump for Chelmsford as your ‘work city.’ Just make sure you pick a reasonable commute – you don’t want to burn yourself out!

The North-South divide actually has a lot to do with how easy it is to find a job. Although a fair amount of northern cities are in the ‘worst’ list, Manchester actually beats London in jobs per person ratio! It’s fast becoming a northern powerhouse again, along with Leeds (and Nottingham – even though that’s more ‘Midlands!’)

Creating your own role

Even though unemployment is low, it still means you might encounter those ‘Thanks but no thanks’ emails from potential employers. Many people create their own role and rather than apply for a vacancy they’re only half experienced for. Make a list of the companies you’d like to work for, including contact details. Get in touch with each one and tell them why they’d benefit from your skills…even if they aren’t advertising a vacancy just yet! This is because a lot of businesses recruit internally before reaching out to the wider community. What happens if you don’t have a strong skillset yet? Simply let them know you’re interested in working for their company as a trainee and you’re prepared to work your way up. Businesses love initiative and an employee that’s passionate about their company.

Going solo

Becoming a sole trader or starting your own business is an option a lot of people are taking theses days – which may seem why it looks like it’s easier to get a job. At 15.6% there are a record number of self-employed people, with the rate almost doubling since 1975! Self-employment has always been on the rise because people are aspiring to be their own boss and follow their career dreams. This is compared to the ‘baby boomer’ generation who were far more likely to take on a traditional career path in a secure role. But then again, the number of self-employed people over the age of 65 has doubled in the last five years! Perhaps everyone believes that life is too short not to pursue your dreams!

Can You Afford to Work For a Charity?

With over 195,000 registered charities to choose from, it seems it would be easy to find a job in the voluntary sector. From helping out in animal shelters to donating time to helping children to read, there’s no shortage of charities in the UK. Most people take on voluntary work as a hobby in their area of interest – but can people afford to work for charity as their main job? How does a charity employ people? Do charities pay their employees? Find out here as we explore what it’s like to work for a charity.

How charities are funded

All charities have to prove their income will be over £5,000 per year in order to register it with the Charity Commission. But some may choose to raise the money before they become a registered charity – just as a boost before they become officially registered.

Charities in the UK collectively spend around £80 billion per year – but where do they get the money from? Of course, they receive donations from people all over the country – and even the world. In fact, those with a low income tend to be more generous in their charity donations! Professor Yaojun Li, from the Institute of Social Change, discovered the poorest 20% of the people he spoke to gave around 3.2% of their income to charity and the richest 20% gave just 0.9% of their charity. So we can safely say that it doesn’t matter what someone’s income is – they’ll donate to charity regardless! Some may also choose to leave money in their will to a charity that means a lot to them.

There are a number of government funding schemes and grants available to charities in the UK such as the National Lottery’s Big Lottery Fund or the Arts Council. Charities can also give people the option to donate via Gift Aid. You’ve probably seen this when you’re buying tickets at somewhere like the zoo, as well as online. The charity can claim tax back – for every £1 that’s donated they will get 25p in return.

What is the funding used for?

As well as their actual cause, charity funds may be used for business costs such as office space, travel and admin. Some charities will pay their non-voluntary employees a salary – which is also classed as a ‘cost.’

In general, for every £1 donated approximately 65p will go towards the charity’s actual cause. The remainder goes towards a variety of things. Here’s a quick breakdown of how the typical large charity spends its funding:

  • Support and governance
  • Salaries
  • Merchandising
  • Education, marketing and awareness
  • Fundraising
  • Investment and management
  • Resources
  • Development work
  • Shops (if applicable)
  • Healthcare services (if applicable)

This is just a general rule of thumb – the amount a charity spends can vary greatly depending on which sector they’re working in. For example, healthcare charities such as the Good Shepherd’s Hospice, Macmillan Cancer and the British Heart Foundation have to pay for things like shop premises, hospices, care services, health equipment and more – so they may incur bigger costs.

How do charities employ people?

At the moment, there are over 800,000 people employed in the voluntary sector. But how do charities employ people both as volunteers or as paid employees? It’s pretty similar to a regular business advertising for a job vacancy. You’ll find the paid vacancies on the charity in question’s actual website in the ‘Careers’ or ‘Work With Us’ section. They’re also likely to advertise on regular job websites such as Indeed or Total Job. If you’re looking for a paid position then it could be a great idea to sign up to a charity’s newsletter as they are very likely to advertise job alerts.

Can people afford to work for a charity?

In short, yes there’s always a way. It’s just a matter of working out how much time you can donate so you can gain a bit of experience in your chosen sector. Some charities, such as the Samaritans, require you to go through some training before you can volunteer. But once you’ve gone through training you can choose as little or as many hours as you want. It’s all about fitting volunteering around your life. It can give you invaluable life experience, you’ll meet new people, learn new skills and you could end up with a paid job! One of our favourite volunteering vacancies is Do-It – it has hundreds of volunteer positions to choose from.

If you’re working full time, it’s also worth asking your employer if you can condense your working week. For example, if you just want to volunteer for a couple of hours in the afternoon, most employers will be happy to negotiate (especially if you’re learning new skills relevant to your job).

Everything You Need to Know About Renting

 

In 2005 1 in 5 young adults lived with their parents, but now it’s risen to 1 in 4 thanks to low salaries that don’t line up with inflation and housing prices. But renting for the first time, whether it’s with a friend or two or your first place on your own can be your ticket out of living under your parents’ roof. Ideally, you’ll want somewhere to call home for the next three years (anything less and your credit rating could suffer). So it’s important that you do it right. Here’s some of our very best tips and tricks to renting for the first time.

Finding the right place

Actually finding the right place is one of the most stressful things to deal with when renting for the first time. Not only is it time-consuming but it’s frustrating if you can’t find your ideal home. Write down a list of must-haves for your new home. Visualise exactly what you want and need. Choose around 3 must-haves from your list and stick to them. Be strict with yourself and ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What kind of area are you looking for? Lively? Peaceful? Community-orientated?
  2. How would the council tax be?
  3. Is the property a commutable distance to work?
  4. If you’ve got a car, is there a space for parking?
  5. Where are the nearest shops and amenities?
  6. How much will utilities cost on average per month?
  7. Are the neighbours friendly / at least bearable?
  8. How much storage space is there?
  9. What are the unique features of the property?

Viewing Tips

Always try and view the house during the daylight so you can check out any wear and tear in the house or any external noise from traffic, public transport, people, etc. It’s a great idea to view the property at different times in the day/night so you can compare the contrasts in the neighbourhood. Bring a tape measure so you can determine whether your existing furniture will fit or if you’ll need to invest in some new furniture. When viewing a house make sure to document it by taking photos and videos to refer back to when you’re comparing all the houses. After all…your memory can play tricks on you. Most importantly, visualise yourself in the property. Your home should fit in with your lifestyle.

Letting agent fees

If you’ve found your new home, you’ll need to take into account all the extra costs. As well as a deposit, you may need to pay letting agent fees. You can be charged for a range of things including administration, reference checks, immigrations checks and credit checks. There are talks in parliament to ban letting agent fees – but it’s unfortunately just in the consultation phase at the moment. So it’s important to factor in these extra costs. By law, all letting agents must display additional fees on their website and in their offices, so you know how much you’re going to have to pay.

If you want to avoid letting agent fees you can go ‘direct to landlord.’ This means going the traditional route and looking in the paper or finding properties via websites such as Open Rent and the advanced settings of Spare Room (click on ‘Whole properties’ instead of houseshares).

Deposits and inventory

Make sure your landlord protects your deposit within 30 days of receipt. They should give you exact details on the scheme they’ve used to protect it and how you can get the full amount back. The deposit scheme ensures:

  • That your deposit will be returned within 10 days of the tenancy ending.
  • You’ll get the full amount back if you’ve followed the terms of your tenancy agreement
  • You get access to a free dispute resolution service if you and your landlord disagree with the amount of deposit you should get back

When it comes to the inventory make sure you take photos of everything including carpets, walls, curtains, appliances – especially if there is slight damage. This is because the landlord could try to charge you for damage that wasn’t made by you. So it’s way better to back yourself up with photographic evidence, should you need it. Confirm the landlord’s contact details so you know he or she is easily reachable if a problems happens.

What questions should I ask my landlord?

Just before moving day, it’s a great idea to ask your landlord a list of questions. Here’s a few really important ones!

  • Where’s the electricity / gas meter?
  • Where’s the fuse box?
  • Who is the energy supplier?
  • Who is the broadband supplier?
  • Where’s the TV aerial / phone sockets?
  • Is there a satellite dish already installed?
  • Where’s the thermostat?
  • When are the bin collection / recycling collection days?
  • Where do I put my rubbish?
  • Do I need a parking permit for this road? Where’s the best place to park?
  • What’s the best contact details to catch you on?

Good luck with renting for the first time – we hope you enjoy your new home and new-found freedom!

The Best Options For Your Savings

Almost 17 million Brits have less than £100 stashed away in savings, according to This is Money. For a lot of us, it’s getting started with saving up and sticking to it, as opposed to having no money to save. It does also depend on where you are in life – a huge 3.5 million of us have no assets and little to no savings. Even if you are one of the 3.5 million, you might experience an unexpected windfall in cash whether it’s from prize money or an inherited sum. No matter whether you’re just starting out on the road to saving or you have a significant amount of cash, here are some of the best options for your savings.

Bank and building society savings

Ideal for short-term savings and long-term savings, banks and building society savings accounts give easy access to your savings and are great for saving up for holidays, Christmas, birthdays and the deposit for a mortgage. Interest rates are usually pretty good, but vary bank to bank (from 2.5% to a huge 5% per annum). If you fancy a change from your regular bank, you can nip down to your local Post Office and open up a National Savings and Investment account.

Individual Savings Account (ISA)

You’ve most probably heard of an ISA – a tax-free place to keep your savings. At the moment, the tax-free allowance is £15,240 but it’s set to increase to £20,000 after April this year! Almost anyone can get an ISA – as long as you’re over 16 and a UK resident. Junior ISAs are also available for anyone under 18. An ISA is better for mid or long-term savings of a year or more to get the full advantage out of it. It’s not one for those of you who fancy a high-interest rate – ISAs have an interest rate varying anywhere between 0.8% and 1.65%.

Lifetime ISA

First-time buyer? You’ve probably heard of a regular Individual Savings Account (ISA), which is open to people from all walks of life. But the Lifetime ISA is a new initiative for savers aged under 40 looking to get onto the property ladder or build up retirement savings. The government will give you £1 for every £4 saved, up to £1000 per tax year. But there’s just one catch – if you withdraw the money before you turn 60 and you don’t use it for your first home, you’ll have to pay a 5% penalty and pay back the government bonus and interest earned on the bonus. This is a great opportunity for first-time buyers, but one to avoid for short-term savers.

Personal Savings Allowance

Those of you looking to save in the long-term should look for a high-interest rate for your savings. The Personal Savings Allowance (PSA) launched last year is perfect for regular taxpayers to start saving aside a small nest egg. You can earn up to £1,000 tax-free interest and it really does add up no matter whether you’re saving long-term or short-term.

Peer-to-peer lending

Did you know? You can invest your savings in peer-to-peer lending companies. It’s called an Innovative Finance ISA and can reap fantastic interest rates, but also comes with a risk of losing your money. It’s a novel way to keep your savings locked away, but it’s probably not one for the faint-hearted.

Credit Unions

Credit unions are one of the best options for your savings if you can only afford a small amount per month. It’s a fantastic first step for those of you who haven’t saved properly before. They’re run by cooperatives made up of local people, so there’s a real individual community spirit around saving. Find your local Credit Union here!

Stocks and shares

Stock markets are, of course, very risky but it can give you huge rewards if you’re feeling daring. Some people use it as a long-term savings tool. Your money isn’t as accessible so it isn’t great for people who want to use their savings as an emergency fund. But if you feel stocks and shares are the way to go for your savings, then you’ll want to take a look at the FTSE100 (a list of the UK’s top 100 companies) and buy shares. The company uses your share as an investment and, if it does well, you’ll get generous profits.

Hiding it under your mattress

Under the mattress, in the freezer, in fake baked beans can – some people really do stash their cash at home. But it’s highly prone to theft, fire, water damage and a lot more. So don’t literally sleep on your money – start taking advantage of savings accounts and investments!

5 Ways To Grow Your Personal Finance in 2017

We could all do with a brighter financial outlook but, in order to get that, we could probably all do more to make our money go further. With a little effort and some smart decision making, there are ways we can all grow our personal finances in 2017. Here are five ways to do just that:

Clear debt

The first stage of any financial plan should be to clear the decks. Borrowing is still relatively cheap at the moment and many of us have taken the opportunities that this has offered – for example, you might have snapped up short-term financial products such as loans and credit cards. In fact, the average household is now sitting on more than £13,000 of personal debt.

However, this low-cost borrowing won’t last forever and settling up any lingering debts that you have will ensure that you’re in the best place to take on finance for anything that you need to purchase as 2017 progresses. Not only will this grow your own capacity to borrow, but it should reduce the amount you’re spending on interest and free up more of your personal finance to go on the things you want.

Savings

Savings accounts have taken a bit of a battering as a result of the very same low-interest rates that have made borrowing so cheap. Yet that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to squirrel away your cash to get it to grow. Look harder and you’ll see things such as ‘innovative finance ISAs’ that take your cash to fund peer-to-peer business loans and deliver close to nine percent interest in return.

Investments

On top of your savings accounts, it’s time to look at types of investments that could grow your cash pot. A volley of measures – from rising Stamp Duty and the tax on profits – has made a buy-to-let property less desirable in 2017 than it would have been a few years ago. Instead, turn to the markets. The advent of technology makes this sort of investment far less daunting or indeed difficult. With spread betting you can invest tax-free without even needing to physically own stocks or shares for yourself, making this a quick and effective way to invest.

Top up your pension

You have to keep an eye on the long term when it comes to your personal finances. Don’t judge your success based on your bank balance, think beyond that to consider what your money will do for you in the medium to long term too. Nowhere is that more relevant than with your pension. If you do not have a full National Insurance record then, as The Telegraph notes, it pays to buy ‘extra years’ of state pension. This means that paying £733 can get you an extra £230 a year for life. The Telegraph also notes that every nine weeks you delay taking your state pension will deliver you an extra one per cent a week.

Pay rise

Looking after your money is one way to grow your personal finances, the other is to try to grow the amount you bring in in the first place. Wages in the UK have been largely stagnant since the financial crisis but they are, slowly but surely, growing again. The average pay rise in 2017 is set to be around 3%. Make this the year you stump up the confidence to ask for an increase in your pay packet. If your employer isn’t willing to give you that 3%, is it time to look around for something better.