Christmas Day on a Budget: How to Pull it Off

With families in the UK spending on average between £1,000 to £2,700 at Christmas, it’s unsurprising that many of us are feeling the pressure to spend more than we can afford in preparation for the big day. While we feel that we’re expected to give as much as we get, this can leave a burning hole in our bank accounts, making paying off the Christmas debt a mammoth task.

That’s why today, we’re discussing our favourite tips to help you pull off Christmas day on a budget, ensuring that your Christmas shopping doesn’t break the bank this year. From decoding how to make a realistic budget that you can stick to to cheaper gift ideas and some savvy discount tricks, we’ve got you covered.

Make a realistic budget

While one of the best parts about getting in the festive spirit is shopping for presents, if you’re working to a tight and unrealistic budget it can become incredibly stressful. Despite what your friends and family are budgeting, it’s best to focus on what you can afford, based on your income and savings.

From there, create a list of everyone you need to buy presents for and what you’d like to buy them. One of our favourite budgeting tips is to assign a spending limit to each person with your allowance in mind, as this is a great way to keep your spending habits under control. After you’ve assigned your personal spending boundaries, calculate the total amount that you’re expecting to spend and compare this with your income and savings. If the two numbers correspond, you’re good to go!

Keep an eye out for discounts

While you may have the perfect gift in mind for your special someone, it’s easy to set your standards high, which often comes with an equally high price tag. With Black Friday coming up, now is an ideal time to start looking early at deals online and instore. After all, the sooner you start prepping, the less stressful December will be and the more time you’ll have to seek out the best deal – making this one of the best budgeting tools.

If the product you had in mind doesn’t look like it’s in the firing line for some price slashes this year, fear not – signing up to a store’s email list is a great way to make extra savings, with many stores offering an extra 10-20% off to new customers. On a similar note, on the lead up to Christmas, many stores offer savings with a gift card – so purchasing a gift card and using this to buy your presents or food is a great budgeting tool to make some small but meaningful savings.

While everyone loves wrapping their presents to make them look the best they can, accessories such as bells and bows can soon rack up the cost of Christmas – particularly if you have many small gifts to wrap! Consider recycling old wrapping accessories from previous years, or even recycling old jars or using brown mailing paper for a rustic but festive look.

Think cheaper gifts

While young children may ask for some new toys that they’ve seen on various Christmas adverts, additional items such a stocking fillers can easily rack up the costs of presents. If slashing your gift list seems easier said than done, buying second hand is a savvy way to budget money. Younger children aren’t likely to notice if it comes in the original packaging, and second hand toys are often sold for a fraction of the price. So before heading to the high street, give sites such as eBay, Preloved and Gumtree a search to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.

On a similar note, before you purchase anything, go online to check if another retailer has a better deal or discount. If you start your Christmas shopping early, you’ll have time to leave your items in your online shopping cart for a few days – often, when you begin to close a browser or return to your bag, a last minute discount can appear on the screen. Alternatively, online shopping sites often allow you to sign up for alerts when the price drops, which could leave you with big savings in the long run.

Christmas presents
Photo by Mel Poole on Unsplash

We hope that with our tips, you agree with us that there’s no need to spend a fortune on the festivities when you’re equipped with the knowledge of how to budget money. It’s all about planning ahead and doing your research to make sure that you’re getting the best deal before you buy. So what are you waiting for? Start your Christmas shopping early to avoid the January bank-balance blues.

3 Ways To Shop Smarter On Black Friday

Christmas shopping bags

With the holiday season fast approaching, the Black Friday deals and savings are now just around the corner. While we’re all geared up for endless savings and bargains, impulse buying during the Black Friday sales could leave you with a burning hole in your monthly budget, and more importantly, your Christmas savings.

That’s why in today’s post, we’re offering up our top tips so that you can avoid being blinded by the Black Friday frenzy, which has the power to twist the arms of even the most ruthless of budgeters. From setting a realistic budget to identifying the good deals from the bad, we’ll cover it all so that you enter the stores with the know-how on saving money at the forefront of your mind.

Defining a realistic budget

Retailers are capitalising on the popularity of Black Friday by extending their deals over the course of the weekend, which means it’s easier to overspend in the face of appealing discounts and bargains.

So, to avoid being tempted by bright banners and price reductions which endeavour to encourage wild spending, plan a sensible budget to help you stay on the right track. Firstly, we recommend making a list of exactly who you need to buy for, and what you’re planning to spend on each person. This way, you’ll avoid buying that unnecessary small gift which you didn’t originally plan for, solely justified by a 75% price reduction. Add up the exact total of what you’re expecting to spend, and stick to this final amount as a solid budget.

Most importantly, your budget should align with your income and outgoing expenses for the month. After all, if your budget is more than you can afford, you’ll be setting yourself up for a financial fail. Ideally, your Black Friday budget should fit within the surplus that you’ll have left at the end of the month. An efficient way to ensure that your Black Friday budget goes the distance is to start setting a small sum aside to create a monthly budget over the year. If you haven’t set funds aside this year, forward-planning this into next year is an effective budgeting technique that will pay off.

Set up price alerts

If you have presents in mind for those you need to buy for, then start by saving the items which you’ve had your eye on. Sites such as Amazon and Asos are equipped with tools which allow users to bookmark items on their account and return to them later – such as when they might be reduced in the Black Friday deals. This is a powerful way to deter yourself from impulse buying items and is a great way to put more thought into the gift that you’ll be giving.

Some sites also allow you to set up price drop alerts so that you’ll be notified when a discount is given to a specific item. If you’re shopping in-store, this is an effective way to shop efficiently by knowing exactly what you require and how much money you’re going to spend before even entering the door.

Bookmarking items ahead of the big day means that you’ll also have the opportunity to ask yourself if you need the item, as well as giving you the chance to check prices elsewhere – making this shopping hack one of the best ways to save money. After all, there’s no point investing your hard-earned cash in an item which is likely to sit gathering dust on a shelf hidden away.

Identify the good deals from the bad

In the frenzy of discounts accompanied by eye-catching marketing campaigns, it’s easy to lose track of where offers are coming from and how good the reduction actually is.

Recent research by Which? found that deals aren’t always as special as they first appear, with many products being able to be purchased for a lower cost at different times of the year. So, it’s best to carry out a small-scale investigation into the items that you’re expecting to buy according to your budget list and their price points at other times of the year. This way, you’ll save time browsing in shops and will be more likely to feel confident in the mindset that you’re getting a truly great deal.

It’s also efficient to check cashback apps and websites for the items that you’ll be purchasing this Black Friday. If you shop through these sites, you could earn points and even money on purchases that you may have already been making. However, to shop effectively, it’s essential that you stick to your budget list by only shopping for the items which you intended – this way, you’ll likely avoid those pesky unnecessary purchases.

With just a few weeks to go, now is the perfect time to start thinking about your Black Friday savings to avoid unnecessary stress and overspending. Planning with our money saving tips in mind will help you get the most from your Christmas savings and help you get a bargain that you can be proud of this year.

How to Beat The Bills Before They Start to Rise

man holding lightbulb in hands

With summer becoming an ever fading memory, autumn is finally in sight! And while the prospect of crisp, beautifully coloured leaves and magical fireworks painting pictures in the evening skies makes us eagerly await this stunning time of year, it also signifies the start of a season of hot radiators and well-lit households – undoubtedly, therefore, increasing electricity costs considerably.

So, in today’s blog post, we’re banishing the breeze and beating the bills, providing you with a variety of money saving tips to help you out for winters to come. Covering everything from the importance of reviewing your energy supplier and installing a smart technology system in your home, to considering how a home renovation project may help you save money in the long-term, we’re ensuring you’re as prepared as possible for the hat and scarf season.

Review your energy supplier

First things first, one of the best ways to save money is to check your current electricity and heating plan with your energy supplier. If you can’t remember the last time you questioned your energy tariff, or have recently moved into a new property (rental or otherwise) and haven’t thought to change supplier, then there’s a good chance you may be able to pay a lot less for the same usage with someone else. As standard, once your initial contract with the supplier is over, they’ll likely move you on to a default tariff, which is unlikely to be the cheapest deal you could have.

There are significant savings that could be made by spending a little bit of time looking into a variety of tariffs and suppliers to check if there are cheaper ones on the market – so make sure you research your options to avoid any spending hikes.

Invest in a smart technology system

If you think back to the number of times you’ve likely left your house only to realise that you’ve left the heating on, we’re sure it’ll make you wince.

As such, installing a smart home technology system will allow you to control your energy on the go, via your mobile device. Not only will you be able to control the thermostat, but most devices of this type will enable you to control smart plug adaptors, allowing you to turn your heating and other electrical components on and off as needed. Investing and making the most of smart technology can put a stop to the waste of energy and, in return, reduce your bills when those forgetful moments occur.

Consider a home renovation project

A longer term solution to consider once you’ve thought about and actioned short-term methods is to improve your home’s insulation. Whether these are minor jobs such as insulating an unused fireplace or filling in gaps in your floorboards and walls, or you require a bigger project like updating the foundations or roof of your property, you need to work out whether the cost to carry out projects of this nature would be worthwhile in terms of how much you’d save by doing so.

For example, to fit double glazed windows into your property, it typically costs around £400 to £600 per window – but research suggests that, on average, double glazed windows have the potential to reduce your energy bills by up to £110 a year. A job such as this doesn’t come cheaply, however. As such, it may be that you think about taking out a home improvement loan to help front the initial costs. To find out more about whether this could be the right option for you, check out our page where we explain all the pros and cons of this type of secured loan, here.

If you’re tactical and think about it early enough, there should be no need for your energy bills to skyrocket this coming season. Whether you use all three aforementioned money saving tips or simply concentrate your efforts on implementing just one well, we’re confident that you won’t wake up in fear of opening up your energy bill when it inevitably drops through your letterbox.

Christmas Saving: Not Started? Don’t Worry!

Coins next to a piggy bank

While it may be a little too early to begin decorating your tree and sending off your stack of Christmas greetings in the post, when it comes to budgeting ahead of the festive period, it’s never early enough! In May 2019, the Statista Research Department published statistics which suggested that the UK citizen, on average, spent £748 during the Christmas period in 2016. With the average UK salary noted as £29,009 in 2019, this would mean that nearly half of a person’s monthly earnings were spent on this time of year – making the upcoming festivities an increasingly daunting prospect for many.

In this blog post, therefore, we’re offering some actionable advice on how to ensure you’re as prepared as possible for this year’s festivities, demonstrating the importance of saving for Christmas and proving that it’s never too late to drop those coins into your piggy bank.

Why should I save ahead of the Christmas period?

As with any seasonal occasion, treating this time of year as you would a summer holiday will remove a load of stress and guilt from your shoulders – allowing you to relax, content in the knowledge that you’ve earned this spending-spree and can reasonably afford to do so.

With 57% of the UK public overspending at Christmas and 10% of households paying for festivities entirely on a credit card, it’s crucial that you start to think about budgeting properly now in order to eliminate the worry of paying for Christmas months after your tree came down through a personal loan.

By strategically working out what you need to budget for and starting to save ahead of the wintery festivities, you’ll protect yourself from entering into credit card debt that you may not be able to repay (and that could incur additional charges, as well as interest fees, as a result).

How has Christmas spending changed?

In recent years, it has become increasingly apparent that November has evolved into the new December. Since the introduction of the popular Black Friday sales in the US back in the 1940s, the tradition of slashed prices being available for one day only was integrated into UK culture back in 2013 – leading the way for a new generation of shoppers saving up their cash for this spectacular, limited-time event.

However, in recent years, this ‘one day’ event has turned into a week-long occasion – possibly to relieve pressure on staff, but more likely to increase sales margins by driving more customers through the door, enticing them with ‘final day’ offers.

What do you need to save for?

Generally understood to be a season of giving and hearty celebrations amongst friends and family, Christmas is no longer just about how scrumptious your spread is and the little gifts you share with one another and, instead, encompasses a range of expenses that you may not have initially accounted for.

From decorations (and the accompanying costs of lighting up your home) and gifts to travel costs visiting family around the country or abroad – as well as keeping the pantry filled with food for the big day and guests who drop by – there’s plenty to consider. So when it comes to going out for a meal in October, turn your attention to the invites for evenings-out and celebratory events that might land on your doorstep come December, thinking about where you’d rather spend your money.

How can I save for Christmas?

Throughout the festive season, it’s highly likely that you’ll be tempted to stray away from your budget and overspend on last-minute deals and offers. As such it’s important to consider the below pointers to help you budget effectively for the Christmas season:

  • Forget the extras – Things like crackers and posh liqueurs may seem like a tradition, but they’re commonly an expensive extra that you don’t need. So, to save some money, ditch the fancy chutneys and expensive drinks in favour of spending your money on something that matters more to you
  • Resist temptation to to upshift – Premium ranges of ‘normal’ items are all the rage at Christmas. We suggest ditching the temptation to fall at the feet of fancy, branded packaging and opt for things you eat all year round and save a couple of quid in the process
  • Think second hand shopping – Particularly where children are concerned, they won’t care if the same toy you can find in a leading retailer is given to them without the original packaging – so long as they can play with it, they’ll enjoy it and it will likely save you half the price!
  • Stretch out Christmas – Don’t commit to seeing every single friend before the big day itself – not only will this tire you out, but it will rack up the cost you’ve saved for social occasions considerably. Instead, agree to meet up with friends in the New Year, giving you time to both relax and recover some of your funds
  • Set up a Christmas savings account – Setting up a dedicated account for your Christmas spends will eliminate the temptation to overspend and will act as a constant reminder of how much you can comfortably afford to spend – acting as an efficient budgeting tool as a result

With 3 months to go, now’s the perfect time to get your budget in order and think ahead to the festivities in order to save you both money and stress! No matter how much you know you can afford to spend, using the above money saving tips and planning ahead will benefit you greatly and make sure you’re not paying off Christmas until the following festive period.

Student Loans: What You Need to Know

students celebrating graduation

With the new university year on the horizon, a brand new set of students are set to embark on the next chapter of their academic studies. But amidst all the excitement, there’s one admittedly less-exciting necessity that must be sorted first – finance. 

That’s why today, we’re taking a closer look at student loans, comprehensively breaking down everything both parent and student need to know by bypassing the jargon to ensure you’re financially prepared for the term ahead. 

How much are current fees?

The maximum amount of tuition fees a university, college or educational institute can currently charge full-time students is £9,250 per year, but only if that institution has a gold, silver or bronze rating from the Teaching Excellence Framework. Without this rating, fees are capped at £9000 a year.

What does a student loan cover?

The total amount of your student loan is broken into two separate amounts:

Tuition fee loan

The tuition fee loan is designed to cover your tuition costs, ensuring you don’t have to pay any fees upfront. This money goes directly from the Students Loan Company to your educational institute, so you’ll never actually see any of this money. 

Maintenance loan 

The maintenance loan is designed to cover accommodation expenses, utility bills, course materials and other associated living costs. The total amount you’ll receive varies based on an array of contextual factors. 

How is the amount I’m eligible for decided?

While your tuition fee loan will pay the amount charged for your chosen course, the total amount you receive for your maintenance loan will depend on a few different factors: 

Where you’ll study

To compensate for higher living costs, you’ll receive a higher maintenance loan if you’re studying in London, for example.

Where you’ll live

If you’re living at home rather than in student or private let accommodation, you’ll receive less for your maintenance loan as your living expenses are assumed to be significantly lower than that of students paying rent costs. 

Your household income 

The total amount you’ll receive for your maintenance loan will be primarily decided by your household (and by that we most likely mean your parents’) income. The lower your household income, the higher the total amount of maintenance loan you’ll be paid – the theory being that the higher your household income, the more able your parents are to financially support you through university.   

Is other funding available? 

In an effort to ensure less financially prosperous students are still able to receive a higher-education, there are sources of extra funding available in the form of external grants and bursaries. Application and eligibility will vary depending on the provider, so it’s best to do a bit of research before you fly the nest – and better still, this money doesn’t have to be paid back. 

How does the application process work?

Applying for student finance is actually pretty simple – all you need to do is fill out the relevant application forms through the student finance portal. Assuming you meet the eligibility criteria, the Student Finance Company will guide you through the application process, which will include you and your parents having to fill out a variety of forms and declarations. 

You can apply for funding up to nine months after the start date of your course, however, it’s recommended to apply as soon as possible to ensure you receive funding by your desired date. 

What if I’m a mature student?

Mature student finance doesn’t differ that greatly from the aforementioned financing. Your tuition fees will still be entirely covered by mature student loans and, assuming you’re 25 or over and independent of your parents, you’ll receive a full maintenance loan to subsidise your living costs.

This can vary depending on contextual factors, however. If you’ve received student finance before, you may be entitled to less funding, whereas factors such as having children could mean you’re entitled to more. 

How am I payed?

Your maintenance loan will be paid directly into your chosen bank account in three installments at the start of each term. Typically, the third installment will be the largest amount to compensate for the longest period between payments (April-September). 

When do I start repaying?

You won’t start repaying any of your debt until after you’ve graduated from university, and even then you won’t start making any repayments until you’re earning above the annual threshold of £25,725. If you begin repayments but then your salary drops below this threshold, payments will be halted. 

How do repayments work?

Repayments come directly from your payroll (like national insurance) – subsequently, you’ll never actually see any of the money you repay. Repayments are calculated at 9% of your income above the threshold. For clarity, let’s take a look at an example…

Eric earns £30,000 a year – this means he is earning £4,275 above the threshold. With his repayments charged at 9% of this difference, Eric will repay a total amount of £385 across the year. 

How much will I repay?

Student loan interest rates are dictated by the current Retail Price Index (RPI), meaning these rates can often vary. As a rule of thumb, however, you’ll be charged the current RPI in interest while earning below the repayment threshold, with this interest steadily rising in correlation with an increased salary. This is capped at earnings over £46,305, at which point your loan will be subject to RPI + 3%. 

After 30 years, any outstanding debt will be wiped, regardless of how much you have paid back.

Now that you understand the fundamentals of student loans, you can begin this exciting new chapter with all the necessary financial know-how. 

All information correct as of August 2019

Tackling Your Summer Holiday Debt: What You Need to Know

Man with empty pockets

With the nights slowly (but surely) getting darker and the new school year dawning, like it or not, your summer holiday is about to become a distant memory – and worse still, rather than the sun shining above and a cocktail in hand, all you’ll have left to show for it is a depleted bank account. 

If you applied for financial assistance to help fund your summer getaway in any way shape or form, it’s important to begin managing your debt straight away, rebuilding your credit and, subsequently, ensuring your finances are back on track as soon as possible. But fear not – it’s not all doom and gloom! Luckily, today we’re here to help, showing you how to manage debt accumulated during the summer to ensure you’re financially secure by the time the snow starts to fall. 

What to do first 

The first step towards successfully managing debt is evaluating your financial situation. The best place to start is by looking at how much you owe, cross-referencing this against your budget and factoring in any repayment terms you’re subjected to. This way, you’ll be able to obtain an accurate idea of how much you can afford to repay each month and, subsequently, how long it’s going to take. Remember to factor in other financial obligations such as direct debits and monthly overheads to ensure you have as accurate of an idea as possible in regards to your repayment ability. 

Of course, your repayment strategy very much depends on how you funded your holiday…

Credit cards

Perhaps the most popular form of financing a summer holiday is through credit cards, especially considering unique perks such as protection from section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act

Nonetheless, it’s still very important to pay off any outstanding debt on your credit card as soon as possible to ensure there’s no long-term damage to your credit score (or, if this is already the case, as a way of rebuilding your credit). As a first step, ensure you know how much interest you’re subject to and enquire into whether this can be lowered by calling your credit company and trying to negotiate a lower rate of interest – this will be far easier if you have good credit as your credit card provider will be more inclined to try and keep you as a customer. 

If you’re being subject to high APR and your credit company is refusing to budge, the next best step is to shop around for a better deal. Consider moving your debt to a 0% balance transfer credit card – many of these cards offer introductory interest-free deals, some for substantial time periods, that will help give you a bit of initial breathing room. 

Overdraft 

If you opted to use an overdraft to fund your summer escape, again, the best place to start is by ensuring you understand whether you’re being charged interest on it and, if so, how much you’re subject to paying. This will very much vary depending on your account type and bank, so if you find that you’re being charged unmanageable interest rates, enquire into whether you can switch accounts to one that offers a 0% overdraft (although it’s worth noting that switching accounts may mean losing other associated perks you currently benefit from).

Alternatively, you could also tackle your overdraft by using a 0% money transfer card. By moving funds from your 0% credit card to your current account, you can use the interest-free money to immediately pay off your outstanding overdraft debt.  

Holiday loans 

If you applied for holiday finance as a means of affording your summer holiday, the likelihood is that you’ve already negotiated a strict repayment plan with your personal loan provider. As you’re able to make fixed-rate payments within a pre-decided term, you should already have a pretty clear idea of your repayment ability. 

Since holiday loans are typically viewed as an impulsive borrowing decision, it’s likely that your loan came with an above-average interest rate attached. As such, it can be tempting to try to pay this off as soon as possible, rather than sticking to the agreed monthly payment plan. However, while this may help avoid constant monthly interest costs, it’s more than likely that you’ll be subject to an early repayment charge, which may cause more financial turmoil in the short-term. As such, it’s often best to simply ensure you have an appropriate budget in place to regular meet your agreed upon repayment plan. 

With these tips, we hope you have a better idea of how to effectively manage debt accumulated from funding your summer holiday. Now all that’s left to worry about is how to maintain that tan…

4 Expenses That You Always Forget To Budget For

Setting a strict monthly budget to adhere to is no easy feat and often involves having to factor in every small element of your monthly spend. However, regardless of what budgeting tools you’re utilising and the budget tips you’re following, there are always those pesky extra expenses that you forget to include – and often, these can add up to blow your budget each month. 

That’s why today, we’re taking a closer look at 4 of the most common expenses you always forget to budget for, showing you how to budget money more effectively in future to ensure you’re never caught out by any unwelcome surprises. 

MOT 

An MOT is an annual requirement on any vehicle over three years old, however this doesn’t stop it from being a total (and often bitter) surprise each year if your vehicle requires repairing! With the average cost of MOT repairs totalling £143 in 2018, this expense can wreak havoc on your budget if not originally accommodated within your budget for.

As such, when working out your total monthly expenditure at the beginning of the year, take out a sum from your total gross income and leave it to one side, basing your budget off the new income amount. This way, you’ll most likely forget about the extra cash left over from your initial budget calculations, meaning you can afford to fork out on any necessary vehicle maintenance without exceeding and subsequently readjusting your budget.   

Haircuts 

No matter if you spend £200 on the full salon treatment or you’re a simple £10 ‘short, back and sides’ kind of guy, there’s one avoidable fact – hair grows. 

There can be a fine line between a good hair day and wondering where your eyes went, but we can usually predict the timescale between haircuts based on our desired look. As a result, be sure to factor this cost in at the beginning of each relevant month. As a means of remembering, why not look to utilise budgeting tools like Vault, a smartphone application that enables you to track future spending on a user-friendly calendar.  

Gifts 

When calculating a monthly budget based on income, expenses and overheads, gifts can easily be an afterthought. But with everything from birthdays to graduations, mandatory gifts can often be costly enough to constitute a significant proportion of your monthly budget. What’s more, with events such as engagement parties, baby showers and promotion celebrations being generally unpredictable, knowing how much to set aside each month can be difficult. 

As a result, the best way to approach how to budget for gifts is to set aside a set amount each month. If you don’t spend the full amount, roll it into the next – this will ensure typically more expensive months, such as December, are still financially manageable. If you’re struggling to keep track, look for assistance from budgeting tools such as Monzo that enable you to organise your funds into different ‘saving pots’. 

Emergencies  

Undoubtedly the most significant expense that isn’t factored into your monthly budget is emergency costs – whether that be fixing an unexpected plumbing problem, paying emergency veterinary costs, covering essential vehicle maintenance or anything else of the sort. 

In situations like these, it’s common for people to reach into their savings to cover the costs. However, with enough foresight, you can ensure your budget remains flexible to accommodate emergency situations. The best way to do this is through keeping an emergency (or ‘rainy day’) pot that is separate to both your savings and monthly disposable funds – aim to have £1000 in this pot at any one time. This way, you’re able to cover any unexpected costs that come your way without having to exceed your monthly restrictions or sacrifice saving towards your long-term goal. 

Sticking to a budget each month is much easier said than done, especially when there are forgotten expenses popping up left, right and centre. With that in mind, we hope this article has helped you understand how to budget more effectively, making those pesky extra costs more manageable in future.

3 Family Mini-Break Ideas That Won’t Break The Bank

With flight costs rising and the GBP weakening, it’s little surprise that 59% of parents in 2018 said they couldn’t afford to take their children on holiday at the end of the summer term. However, not being able to afford these often extortionate fees shouldn’t mean you and your family aren’t able to enjoy a well-earned break. 

That’s why today, we’re taking a look at 3 creative ways you and your family can have a summer mini-break without having to worry about the costs, offering up some money saving ideas that will leave you free to focus on what really matters – making those precious family memories that will last a lifetime. 

Camping 

An age-old British holiday tradition, why not look to pitch up the old tent and escape to the country for a few days? Of course, there are overheads to pay when looking to camp at an official campsite, however pitching costs typically range between £20-40 a night – as a result, this is still a substantially cheaper option than other standard accommodation, especially for big groups or families. 

What’s more, minimal overall expenses can mean camping is one of the best money saving tips out there for families looking to get away without having to fork out more than they can afford. To minimise costs further still, ensure you cook meals yourself and stock up on cheap forms of entertainment that are sure to keep the whole family busy (dig out the pack of cards and board games from the loft, for example).

If you don’t have all the necessary equipment, look to borrow rather than buy from new, as a couple of these additional costs will quickly add up. As a recognised common British hobby, it’s likely you’ll have some family or friends that are willing to lend you the right gear – just make sure you don’t forget your wellies! 

Road trips 

If connecting with nature isn’t your forte, consider packing up the car and taking to the open road instead! 

There’s a whole range of beautiful routes to explore by car across the UK that can be broken up by stopping off at cheap attractions ranging from national parks to beaches and coastlines. To keep costs down further still, if you’re lucky enough to know people far and wide, consider asking them for a place to rest your head each night, planning your route accordingly. The most expensive part of this trip is sure to be the fuel costs, but if you ensure you practise smart ways to save money, such as utilising free accommodation offers, the overall cost is sure to be well worth the unforgettable family experience. 

Staycation

If your budget just isn’t stretching far enough to justify a mini-break this year, why not get creative and ‘go’ on a staycation in the comfort of your own home instead?

Play tourist in your own town or city, sightseeing spots you far too often overlook. Visit free spots, such as parks, equipped with a picnic and games for a fun-filled family day out then get innovative upon returning home to ensure it feels different to a normal day out. Our recommendations include allowing the kids to camp out in the garden or create an indoor den to showcase a late-night movie! As an easy way to save money, you may even find yourself with some money left over after your staycation – if this is the case, why not invest in a babysitter for the night to ensure you’re able to properly unwind, even if it’s just for a few hours? 

By following these money saving tips, you’re sure to be able to enjoy a mini-break with the family, regardless of how far your budget stretches – after all, you deserve it!

The Best Summer Jobs for Teens

Whether your children aspire to go to university in the next few years or are looking forward to turning over a new leaf of independence by moving out and following a career path, knowing how to budget effectively is an important aspect of growing up that is likely to hit them sooner rather than later.

In this blog post, therefore, we’re covering the topic of part-time summer jobs and offering up our top reasons why we believe them to be a crucial part of your child’s development into adulthood, as well as detailing prime examples of the summer jobs your teens can get stuck into.

Why should teens have a summer job?

With the recent news that 55% fewer 24 to 34-year-olds are homeowners in 2019 than a decade ago, the difficulty young people face when looking to get onto the housing ladder is becoming increasingly apparent. As such, knowing how to budget money properly and efficiently at a young age could be the difference between putting down a deposit on a home within the 24 to 34 year old age bracket and struggling to buy a property until later on in life.

As a result, making sure you play an active part in teaching your children the importance of budgeting and independent financial responsibility is crucial in their personal development and future endeavours. Ultimately, we understand the difficulty that presents itself when trying to talk to teenagers about money and financial priorities – particularly when the bank of mum and dad has funded them their whole life thus far.

Therefore, by encouraging an open and honest conversation about money, starting with the exciting prospect of getting a part-time summer job, this tricky topic can be transformed into a fun and exciting new venture. Not only will this open their eyes a little more to the working world, but it will teach them new skills and how to manage their time with the added pressure of handling their own responsibilities.

Helping them manage their money

Arguably the most important way you can help your children manage their finances is helping them to understand the value of money. As such, when it comes to them receiving their first paycheck, be sure to give them the freedom to manage it how they see fit – this way, they’ll understand how much things cost, how quickly money can be spent and the pitfalls of unexpected expenses.

Additionally, consider helping them open up their own bank account. Many banks offer youth accounts – specifically for those aged between 11 and 17 – created with certain withdrawal limits, no arranged overdraft (with limits to penalty charges) and even interest rates to help them identify and better understand how interest works. What’s more, many banks will offer savings accounts within their youth account – helping put your kids in good stead for future financial endeavours and prompting them into beginning to think with a savings mentality.

Ideas to get you started:

  • Babysitting
  • Refereeing
  • Lifeguard at a local pool
  • Dog walking
  • Outdoor concert/venue assistant
  • Garden care
  • House sitting
  • Paid internship
  • Local tourism

Getting your teenagers stuck into the world of work and financial responsibility is a daunting task. However, it’s one they’ll have to face at some point in their life, so what better time to learn than when you’re around and able to give them a guiding hand, support and an array of experienced budgeting tools and advice? After all, when it comes to understanding money, it’s never too early to start.

Travel Financing: Avoiding the Hidden Costs

Woman walking with suitcase

With the summer holiday season finally in full swing, after a year of planning there’s arguably no greater disappointment than arriving at the airport equipped with your luggage and ready to fly, only to be hit with unforeseen travel expenses that threaten to dampen your trip from the offset. With the average cost of a family holiday now averaging £2,417 and lasting nine days, it seems there’s little financial flexibility for unexpected additional costs.

That’s why in today’s blog post, we’re offering up our top budgeting tips, so you’ll be aware of where added costs could be hidden away and how you can avoid them to help you effectively manage your holiday finances.

Why are there hidden costs?

Although budget airlines may initially seem like the best option when booking flights online, their hidden charges could rank them alongside some of the more expensive airlines by the time you’ve checked in. While it may seem obvious, low budget airlines don’t offer higher-cost features such as built in TV sets or complimentary food and drinks and, as such, are less expensive to run day-to-day.

As a result, budget airlines make their money in different ways by offering customers additional features to build profits. As lower-cost airlines are likely to attract those who are already travelling on a small budget, this suggests that they’ll be less likely to pander to inflight purchases or luxury upgrades. One of the most efficient ways for airlines and airports to ensure they’re reaching their profit margins, therefore, is to attach costs to travel necessities such as seats, hand luggage and food which, in turn, ramps up the costs of a family holiday.

To promote add-on sales, airlines will often create the illusion during the checkout process that customers need to buy in-flight meals. To avoid this, we suggest bringing any snacks or sandwiches in your hand luggage – this will eradicate any temptation to purchase food from the catering trolley onboard. Airlines may also try to encourage purchasing their own travel insurance or buying seats while you’re booking. By researching using comparison sites, you could find a better insurance coverage which also saves you money. Additionally, if you ensure you check in early enough online before you fly, there’s a higher chance of you and being able to sit next to your loved ones on the flight – avoiding those pesky unnecessary costs altogether.

The low-down on luggage fees

While it may seem obvious, the best way to avoid additional baggage fees is to choose an airline that doesn’t charge for hand luggage. However, this is easier said than done when baggage costs are often hidden. So, taking your time to investigate and research unforeseen charges could prove very worthwhile when it comes to keeping travel expenses down in the long-run.

If your chosen airline charges a hand luggage fee but is the most convenient flight for you on the day, ensure you book your baggage when booking your flight ticket as this may save you money by avoiding over-paying at the airport as you check in. If your baggage is a little over the weight allowance, if you pay in advance, agents are much more likely to let you off with a lower payment at the desk.

To cut costs associated with your hold luggage, move clothes from your large suitcase into your carry-on luggage. So long as your hand luggage still fits within the required measurements and doesn’t go over the maximum weight allowance, agents are likely to let you board the plane at no extra cost. With this in mind, make sure you carefully read the terms and conditions, plan exactly what you’ll need on your summer getaway and weigh your luggage before you fly to help you avoid unexpected charges altogether.

Money saving hacks

Ultimately, researching before your flight is the most effective way to avoid hidden costs to ensure you’ll be prepared to meet airline guidelines and stick to your holiday budget. So, before you jet off on your summer break this year, don’t forget to check the small print.

Sometimes, finding cheap flights which fit within your budget means compromising on added extras such as in-flight entertainment systems, which could have made your journey a little bit more comfortable. It can often be difficult to keep children relaxed on a plane, particularly during stressful take-offs and landings. So, to avoid irritable little ones, save on travel expenses by downloading podcasts or movies on online platforms such as Netflix to keep them entertained. Not only will this cut costs of buying entertainment such as magazines or puzzle books at duty free, but it also means you’ll have the freedom to watch your favourite film together, unrestricted.

If you’re a particularly nervous flyer, downloading music or streaming your favourite Netflix series is an effective way to put your mind at ease. This way, you won’t need to fork out extra cash for internet connection that might have added costs onto both your flights there and back.

Ultimately, doing your research before your summer getaway is the best way to avoid unnecessary travel expenses. By reading the small print and thinking ahead, you’ll be on your way to cutting travel expenses like a pro, while also making sticking to your holiday budget much easier.

Budget-Friendly Ways To Cut Back On Plastic

floating plastic in sea

With David Attenborough spearheading the public shift towards a greater environmental consciousness, we’re becoming more and more aware of our daily plastic consumption and the drastic implications that accompany irresponsible usage. However, the fact of the matter is, there’s still a whole lot more to be done. 

As a notoriously cheap solution, avoiding plastic can often come at an added consumer expense, making it significantly more difficult to convince people to practice what they preach. As such, today we’re offering up some wallet-friendly and sustainable budgeting tips on how to cut back on plastic without all the added expense, helping you go green regardless of your financial situation. 

Why is it important?

Single-use plastic is a cheap, versatile and practical material choice for many manufacturers, making it incredibly popular for a vast array of uses. However, its popularity is precisely the problem. Though it can be one of the most effective ways to save money for large-scale corporations, as global citizens, we’re consuming plastic at an incredibly staggering rate as a result – it’s currently estimated that at least 8 million pieces of plastic are disposed into the ocean each and every day.

And it is the disposal of this plastic that causes the most harm. Two thirds of the ocean’s plastic pollution comes directly from land-based sources – whether that be from litter that’s been washed down rivers and drains or poorly managed landfill sites. As a result, there is currently 500 times (yep, 500 times!) more plastic in the ocean than stars in the galaxy, causing catastrophic damage to wildlife and ecosystems around the globe.  

But there are cheap alternatives…

It’s a common misconception that making eco-friendly changes to your daily habits comes at an increased expense. Although plastic is typically the cheapest solution for manufacturers (with costs of other materials being passed on to the consumer), there are a number of money saving tips you can utilise to cut back both on your expenses and your plastic use: 

Opt for unpackaged fruit and veg

Fruit and veg sold in large-scale supermarkets is a great example of the unnecessary use of plastic packaging from major corporations. Naturally, fruit and veg stays fresh without the need for packaging, and in many cases, the unpackaged alternatives will total-up cheaper.

Moreover, this is soon to become a whole lot easier with supermarkets taking on new plastic-free initiatives. Leading the way right now is Morrisons, who are introducing plastic-free fruit and veg areas to help customers buy bagless. 

Take advantage of reusable cup discounts 

From Pret A Manger to Costa Coffee, Starbucks to M&S Coffee, most leading high-street coffee shops now offer discounts on your hot drink if you use a reusable cup as opposed to their paper or plastic alternatives. 

Take advantage of this great eco-friendly money saving idea on your next commute or lunch break – you’ll soon notice the savings adding up if you’re a daily visitor to any of the main coffee chains. For a full list of chains involved (and the discounts they offer) click here

Buy refills 

Buying refills for products such as handwashes and air fresheners is a great way of cutting back on plastic by not having to buy the original packaging again. What’s more, these refills are often significantly cheaper than the original product, and can usually be found in the same shops (and even on the same shelves!). 

With leading industry brands such as Dettol offering more and more refill options for their existing products as a way of promoting better environmental practice, this green money saving tip looks set to become a more common way of shopping in years to come, to the benefit of both the planet and your wallet. 

Simple little changes to your daily habits can go a long way in saving you money and doing your bit for the environment, so look to implement them today for a greener and cheaper tomorrow!

3 Ways To Say Motivated While Saving

financing papers

Finding the motivation to reach your savings goals can be a struggle, particularly during the summer season when beer gardens, holidays and festivals are likely to be calling your name. As such, it’s easy to lose focus and start spending small amounts of money on things in the present, instead of considering how those spends could impact your future. 

So, in today’s blog post, we’re detailing 3 ways you can help yourself stay motivated when looking after your personal budget this summer – exploring how you can resist temptation no matter how many months or years your goals will take to complete.

 

  • Define your “why?”

 

Crucial to your saving journey is defining and re-emphasising why you Googled ‘money saving tips’ all those months ago, and why it is that this is so important to you. Whether it’s a deposit for a house, a car or a holiday, each goal is unique and, as such, will take varying amounts of time depending on how much you’re able to put away each month. Therefore, you may start to feel a little uninspired the longer you save and lose sight of the importance of achieving your financial target. 

As a result, it’s imperative that you regularly revisit your reasons for starting your savings journey, to remind yourself just how much it really means to you – this will help you decide if the spontaneous one-a-week-takeaways are really worth the £80 monthly setback

 

  • Create a financial vision board

 

Following on from the above, given how easy it is to lose sight of the bigger picture, we suggest creating a daily reminder for yourself of how achievable your goals are through the likes of a financial vision board. Placed in high-traffic areas of your home, not only is this an excellent way to motivate yourself day-to-day, but it will act as an effective budgeting tool as your targets and successes are visible to you, reducing the risk of temptation later on in the day. 

Research shows that those who write their goals down are up to 1.4 times more likely to achieve them. As such, go about creating a financial vision board in the form of a bulletin board that allows you to present your goals, ideas, outlines and spends in a fun and digestible way, including interactable sections that will encourage you to engage with your targets regularly. 

 

  • Engage in saving challenges – reward yourself once you’ve hit benchmarks 

 

Another smart way to integrate budgeting into your daily activities (and to ensure it doesn’t become a chore) is to engage in saving challenges throughout the year. From the envelope challenge to more creative monthly tests, there are plenty of ideas out there to help make saving a fun initiative, despite the initial struggle. 

Additionally, don’t forget to reward yourself too! Set small milestones along the way and budget in a little treat once your mini target’s been hit, such as a good film, an item of clothing or a nice meal – basically, whatever you want so long as you’re sure to enjoy it. By setting small milestones along the way, you’ll have something other than the feeling of success to look forward to at the end of the saving tunnel.

Consoling your bank of budgeting tips is, of course, the first step towards reaping the long-term benefits of your sometimes-gruelling saving journey (and you can find a whole range of them by visiting the Jolly Good Loans blog right here!). However, ensuring you stay motivated during this period is equally as important to help you stay on track and meet your targets on time. So, by following the above advice we hope you’re able to give yourself the little nudge you need to achieve your targets and have fun whilst doing so!

5 Ways to Survive Festivals on a Budget

festival scene

The idea of going to a festival often comes hand in hand with the preconception that it’s an expensive affair. From the costly initial ticket to the tents, supplies and money that you’ll need for the event itself, it’s no surprise that festivals have a reputation for being overpriced. 

So, in today’s post, we’re offering a number of tips on surviving festivals on a budget, proving that cheap festivals do exist by exploring how to save money (and even earn money!) while you’re there. 

Save on the essentials

When it comes to the gear, planning ahead and buying in advance could save a lot of money on the essentials. If you’re planning on heading to a festival this summer, look out for sales or cheap deals in sporting or outdoor shops and invest early on. 

If rain is forecast but you can’t afford a good quality tent, consider borrowing one from a friend, or renting from a shop for a cheaper alternative which won’t leave you soaked in a muddy field. If you think the initial investment would be worth it, purchase lightly used gear from a retail shop, or from a  second-hand website which sells second-hand sleeping bags, tents and other camping accessories. Not only will this give old items a new lease of life, but it also ensures that you’re doing your bit for the environment, while also being a great budgeting tool

Consider your food and drinks

After a couple of drinks, the stand which sells a cone of chips for an extravagant sum of £5 is going to seem very appealing. If you repeat this habit every day that you’re at the festival, the costs will soon start to rack up – and this is only for one meal. Alternatively, you could split the cost of a camping stove with a few friends to have something a little heartier (and cheaper) when you’re hungover. Depending on how much you can carry, you’ll never have too much stuff – this is one way to save yourself a shuttle bus to the nearest shop when you could be partying at the main stage. 

The smart ones will bring their own booze (within the festival regulations, of course), as prices at the arena are likely to be little short of extortionate. On the same note, ditch bottled water and other disposables. While it’s tempting to bring a case of bottled water into the festival, to save money and protect the environment, bring a reusable water bottle. 

Plan travelling ahead

If you’re in a large group, travelling by car is an efficient way to cut train ticket costs. However, if you’re going on your own, the earlier you book, the cheaper that your travel will be. By putting off booking that train, you’re most likely going to incur greater costs later on, as everyone often has the same idea that prices will fall as you get closer to the event. 

Booking your travel early will also mean one less thing to think about later on, and is a great budgeting tool to help you see exactly what you have leftover to spend at the festival itself.

Think about your ticket

Volunteering at a festival could mean as much as a free ticket to the event – or even earning while you’re there. Festivals may require you to work a certain number of hours each day, however when this is complete, you’ll have the freedom to party with your friends, all at a significantly lower cost! 

The benefits don’t stop there – with access to staff facilities such as showers and often even electricity, you’re likely to have a cleaner and easier festival experience. You may even get the chance to see how backstage works, and gain valuable on-site experience. Giving out a few wristbands at the entrance or selling programmes is a small price to pay for the potential of free access to a festival. So sign up early to make that budget more manageable than ever!

Make your money back

If you want to stretch your budget even further, try your hand at some cup recycling or litter collection schemes so you can go the extra mile for the environment, while taking a few steps towards maintaining your budget. As more festivals are striving to protect the environment during and after the event itself, this is one of the easiest ways to earn yourself a few extra drinks or some cash towards your budget. 

We hope that with our budgeting tools, tips and tricks, you’ll be able to enjoy your festival guilt free and within your budget, so that you can have an amazing experience without breaking the bank.

Summer Spending: The Best Way to Pay on Holiday

Globe with money and iPhone

Whether you booked your trip months ago and are eagerly awaiting your sun-filled week away, or you’re considering packing-up but aren’t sure whether or not you can comfortably afford it, ensuring you’re aware of how much you’ll spend on purchases and making cash withdrawals abroad will make a sizeable difference to your holiday finances.

As such, in today’s post, we’ll explore the additional payment charges you could face abroad, and offer a number of budgeting tips to help ensure you spend your hard-earned and well-saved money on the things that matter, instead of on avoidable transaction charges.

What are the charges?

  • Foreign transaction fee – When making a purchase on a credit card – whether that’s in a restaurant, bar or shop – you will pay a foreign transaction fee (also known as an exchange rate fee). This is typically 3% and is the same amount charged to debit cards, otherwise known as a ‘load fee’
  • Debit card fees – Where debit and credit cards differ is the additional fee (on top of the standard 3% load fee) that you incur if using a debit card. With each purchase made on a debit card, the bank will add an additional fee (usually 50p – £1.50). As such, it’s important to check whether your debit card charges – if so, avoid using where possible
  • Cash withdrawal charges – These types of charges apply to both debit and credit cards. Typically, when you chose to withdraw cash in a foreign country, you can expect to pay an additional 2.5% of the amount you withdraw or a standard minimum charge of £3 per withdrawal transaction. This means that if you’re going on a big family holiday for 2 weeks and choose to withdraw £2,000 in one go, you’ll be spending at least £50 on fees, and even more if you opt for a few, smaller withdrawals
  • Unexpected interest rates – This one only applies to the use of credit cards. Usually, after you fully pay back a credit card balance each month, you won’t pay interest – however, in the instance that you choose to withdraw cash, you do. Remember that even if you pay the balance back in full the following month, you will still be charged daily interest fees. Generally speaking, in the UK we don’t withdraw money from ATMs with a credit card, but on holiday we’re a lot more likely to do. As such, ensuring you’re using your credit card correctly if you decide to take it away with you on holiday

What’s the best way to pay?

As the golden rule, spending directly on specialist overseas travel cards is the cheapest and most cost-effective way to pay when on holiday. However, if your flight happens to be in an hour and you don’t have time to sort this method of payment out, there are a number of other ways you can pay when abroad. Below, we’re detailing four ways to pay, including the benefits and drawbacks of each.

  • Cash – As the number one rule, you should never withdraw cash using a credit card. If avoidable, you should try not to use your debit card for ATM withdrawals abroad or buy currency at the airport before you fly in order to avoid poor exchange rates. Either way, ensure you compare online rates to discover the best deals.
  • Credit card – Credit card withdrawals will charge you both the non-sterling transaction fee and an additional bank fee, plus interest on the amount you borrow even if you pay the amount back in full immediately. What’s more, even with specialist travel credit cards that don’t charge cash withdrawal fees, they will usually still charge interest on the amount you withdraw. There are special travel credit cards intended to be used overseas and these types of cards will often waive the 3% non-sterling exchange fee so long as the amount you pay is made through the local currency.
  • Debit card – Not only are you more likely to be approved for a debit card, but one of their biggest advantages is that some types of debit cards will allow free foreign cash withdrawals abroad. However, it’s important to remember that the majority of debit cards charge a 3% load fee per transaction, plus an additional charge when you withdraw money from an ATM. In short, try not to use debit cards while you’re away unless you have a special type of product that guarantees to avoid such charges.
  • Specialist overseas travel cards – By far the best option of the four, prepaid currency travel cards are the most sustainable option and will help you with your financial planning both before you go away and while you’re soaking up the sun. With these types of cards, you simply load it with your holiday spends before you go away and use it exactly how you would a debit card, but without incurring additional ATM or bank fees. However, be aware that some retailers won’t accept them, as well as insurance car hire firms, so be sure there’s a cash machine available close by should you need to pay for an item that can’t be paid for using a card reader.

How to beat the fees?

Before you jet off, consult a holiday spending money calculator to work out exactly how much you think you’ll need while you’re away – not forgetting to check the average price of food and drink in your chosen destination to help you more-accurately figure out the cost of your stay while you’re away.

Using a combination of prepaid travel cards, specialist credit cards and cash (that you’ve brought with you from the UK) is certainly the most favourable option to ensure you beat the fees on holiday. Additionally, if you choose to use a specialist credit card on your travels, you can rest assured that any purchases you make between £100 and £30,00 will be protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

Taking care of your holiday finance before you fly may seem like a burden, however proper planning will ensure the budget you’ve saved towards the holiday of a lifetime isn’t wasted and put to good use for the things that matter – having fun with your loved ones!

8 Tips to Renovate Your Home on a Budget

Expenses are a huge restriction you’ll face when renovating a property. If you’re updating on a tight budget, it will make your home improvement project significantly more difficult – but there are tricks that can help you keep your spending on track and even save money during the process.

If you’re looking to renovate your home without breaking the bank, check out our eight tips to help you stick to your budget below!

Set Your Budget

Before you do anything, you need to establish the maximum you’re willing to spend on your renovation. Note down both your ideal cost and the maximum amount you can spend – your target should be the ideal figure, with the maximum cost allowing a little leeway for the inevitable overspends.

Once you have your overall figure, try a more comprehensive breakdown of the costs by splitting up the total by each room or job. Consider each of the bigger areas and how you can keep the cost down, planning out the overheads for each.

For a full oversight of what you spend, track every penny in a spreadsheet, noting down exactly how and where it was spent. There are going to be a lot of payments to different places and it’s nearly impossible to keep on top without a log, so keeping a log or tracking app to hand is always a good idea!

Once you have your budget in place, you must stick to it. If you overspend in one area, look into how you can cut back in another to avoid exceeding your budget.

Research & Compare

To get the most for your money, do your research into every aspect of your renovations. Compare prices on everything – you can look online, in outlets and shops, as well as buying ex-display and end of line items.

The majority of shops have sales at least once a year, so try to catch these for the best deals. Big sales to look out for are Black Friday, Boxing Day, Amazon’s Prime day and the end of summer sales.

When looking to hire in professionals, request quotes from local and national firms. Prices vary a great deal by area, so you may find it cheaper to pay for someone to travel rather than using a local provider. Get a few different quotes, then compare the prices and the reviews to get the best results for your money.

Instead of buying the tools you’ll need for jobs, see if any friends, family or neighbours will let you borrow them. If not, there are plenty of services where you can rent things by the day – perfect if you only need a tool for a short time. Websites like Fat Llama have pretty much everything you’ll need for a renovation, just search online for what you need.

When buying or hiring, never accept the first price you’re offered for anything. Instead, go back and haggle with a counter offer. After all, the worst case scenario is they’ll say “no” and you’re in the same position you started in.

Do it Yourself

Rather than outsourcing the work to a contractor, get your own hands dirty with some DIY. Even if you don’t have the skills to take on the bulk of the work, there will be small jobs you can do to help cut down the costs. Demolition, painting, tiling and more can be taken on with very little experience.

You could also enlist the help of friends and family for support. Utilise their DIY skills in exchange for a home-cooked meal or a bottle of their favourite tipple.

Unless you have adequate training, leave the likes of the electrics, plumbing and other major jobs to the professionals. You can end up causing damage to yourself and your home, so it’s just not worth the risk.

Start with a Deep Clean

If you’ve just moved into a home that’s a bit of a fixer-upper, start off by giving the property a deep clean. Tidy away all the clutter and go room to room cleaning everything in sight, even if you think you’ll be getting rid of it.

Once everything is clean, you can assess whether it really needs to be replaced. You may think you need a new set of bathroom tiles as the grout is disgusting, but with a thorough clean, they could look as good as new.

Get the Basics Right

There are two ways you can instantly transform a room; the paint and the flooring. A new coat of paint in the right colour can completely refresh a home, changing the feel and atmosphere. Furthermore, sticking to one colour throughout, like a classic white, means you can save money by buying one paint type.

For the flooring, tired carpets and vinyl can drastically affect the appearance of a home. If you happen to have wood floors, a simple sand and polish can quickly improve their look. With carpets, you’ll likely have to change them or switch for a more fitting flooring type. A great tip for buying cheap carpets is to look for big industrial suppliers who cater to business like hotels and buy their offcuts – they’re amazing quality and significantly cheaper.

Make Smart Improvements

When renovating your home, you can make some small yet impactful changes to help save you money. Check out just a few of our suggestions for cheap changes you can make below:

  • Replace Cabinet Doors – If your kitchen cupboards are looking tired and outdated but structurally sound, just replace the doors rather than the whole unit
  • Replace Countertops – Similar to replacing the cupboard doors, you can also update the kitchen countertop whilst keeping your existing units
  • Use Tile Paint – If you want to change the colour of your tiles but they’re still good quality, use tile paint to update them
  • Change Covers – Replace the light switches and plug sockets for as little as one pound per outlet
  • Fake It – If you want a feature but don’t want to pay, fake it. A great example is a beautiful exposed wall without the cost and hassle using an exposed brick texture wall mural.
  • Change Door Knobs – Switching the door handles, along with a fresh coat of paint, will make a door look brand new.
  • Replace Blinds & Curtains – Window dressings have come a long way over the last few years. Add a more stylish design to brighten up your window for a minimal cost.
  • Replace the Taps & Shower – If your bath and shower basin still look good, replacing the taps and shower head is an easy way to rejuvenate your bathroom.
  • Change the Seat – Changing the toilet seat is cheap, easy and will help to revive a toilet.

Embrace Minimalism

Minimalism is a popular design trend that’s based around a ‘less is more’ mentality. Further still, it’s also the perfect style to choose for a budget remodel!

Limit what you have and only include the essentials in terms of features and furniture. Minimalism generally utilises a neutral colour palette with white as the common choice, once more helping you save money on paint.

Stick to Your Plan & Budget

Throughout the entire remodel, you need to keep your original plan and budget at the forefront of your mind. It’s easy to get carried away in your project, but this will likely lead to excess spending. Keep checking back to your budget and what you initially laid out for each job.

If you’re getting close to your maximum spend, see if you have any opportunities to cut-back. Once you’ve been working on your renovation for a little while, you may find you’ve picked up some DIY skills and feel more confident in doing the work yourself. Put this newfound confidence to use to save money on your contractors.

 

9 Summertime Family Activities That Won’t Break the Bank

Whether you have an annual savings plan in place for the summer holidays or you just make it up as you go along, one thing’s for sure: summer plus children equals a lot of money! That’s why, today, we’re providing you with some money saving tips – so you can have a summer to remember without breaking the bank.

1. Take a walk

You can do this one without needing to spend any money at all. Whether you’re country, coast or city-based, you shouldn’t need to look too far to find an appealing walking route. Choose your distance based on the age of your children and pack a picnic so there’s no need to shell out for food. Make sure you’re all wearing sensible shoes, have plenty of drinks to hand and know where the nearest toilets are along all aspects of your route.

2. Library trips

A quick search of your local libraries will tell you what sorts of events are on when, and you’ll find that these are most often free. From play groups to book readings and singalongs, generally speaking, there’s always something happening in a local library – and it’s a great chance to check out some books for summer bedtime reading with the kids.

3. Visiting the swimming baths

If your local leisure centre has a swimming pool, you might find that, during the school holidays, they offer discounts on swimming sessions for youngsters – although it’s worth checking this out in advance so you’re not surprised by the cost when you arrive! Sessions generally last an hour, so don’t expect this to be an all-day event.

4. Cinema trips

Granted, this one can be pricey – especially if you have more than one child – but there are ways to save money here. Look out for discount codes and offers, and buy your tickets in advance when possible. For snacks, avoid costly cinema popcorn and fizzy drinks and stop off at a budget-friendly supermarket first. Give each child a spending limit and allow them to use their money to purchase their favourite snack and a drink. They’ll love the chance to get involved and your pocket will love the savings!

5. Museum days

If you’re keen to turn a family day out into an educational adventure, museums are a great place to start. Look out for exhibitions, as these will often be free – and for those that aren’t, discount sites like Wowcher and Groupon may have family deals that you can make use of. Put simply, it’s well worth having a browse ahead of your visit.

6. Playing in the park

Another freebie, the UK has parks in abundance – so if you don’t have one within walking distance, it should only be a short car or bus journey away. From feeding the ducks to enjoying the jungle gym, the park can provide hours of fun. Be sure to pack a picnic to avoid pricey onsite cafés, but maybe keep enough change to one side for the ice cream van!

7. Visiting a farm

Regardless of their age, your young ones are guaranteed to enjoy a trip out to a farm. Depending on where is local to you, your little ones might be able to enjoy a tractor ride and feeding the animals. This is a great opportunity to snap some family pics and get your children involved with nature for little to no cost.

8. Camping in the garden

The summer provides the perfect opportunity for a camping trip – but this can be expensive and challenging with children. Camping out in the garden is the perfect alternative to this, allowing you to enjoy a night under the stars without forking out for site fees and petrol to get to your destination. The best thing about this is that, if the kids become unsettled, you can all just head inside!

9. Playing board games

As long as you already have these tucked away in a cupboard somewhere, this activity doesn’t have to cost a thing. If you do need to add to your games collection, scour local charity shops for some bargains – then you can lay them all out on a rainy day, pass out snacks and enjoy hours of fun.

Beyond the activities themselves, it’s worth considering some budgeting tips for transport and eating out. You’ll find plenty of discount codes and offers online, so have a look around and choose somewhere you know you can grab a bargain!

For more tips on budgeting, saving money and more, keep an eye on our blog – where we regularly post helpful tips and advice for aspiring money savers.

Fashion & Finances: How to Save Money & the Planet

With fast fashion giant Boohoo – among others – hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently, it’s clear that the world’s environmental consciousness is starting to branch out beyond concerns over plastic bottles and straws.

With this in mind, today, we’re bringing you some money saving tips – so that you can enjoy sustainable fashion on a budget and do your bit for the planet.

Scour charity shops

A great place to start your foray into the world of sustainable fashion, charity shops can be clothing goldmines – if you have the patience to put in the groundwork. Here you’ll find pre-worn items that still have plenty of wear left in them, and sometimes items even still have the labels on!

By turning your Saturday shopping trip to your favourite fashion retailers into a visit to your local charity shops, you can enjoy hours of browsing and trying on clothes – all while knowing you won’t be faced with a hefty price tag when you fall in love with something. By adding to your wardrobe with charity shop items, you can bag yourself some vintage clothing bargains, top up your savings pot, help the planet and support a local charity – what’s not to love about that?

Swap garments with friends

If you’re serious about finding out how to budget for your clothing but also want to do your bit for the planet, one of the best things you can do is stop buying from corporate retailers who mass-produce their clothing. So, rather than buying brand new clothes every time you want or need to, why not start by considering clothes swaps with friends?

You could turn this into an occasion every couple of months or even once a year, when your group of friends get together and showcase their pre-loved items. If everyone brings a handful of garments that they’re no longer interested in keeping, you should find that each person can leave with at least the makings of a new outfit – and it won’t have cost you or the environment a single thing!

Learn to repair your clothes

An age-old, tried and tested method of making your clothes last longer is simply to repair them yourself – and while you might think handmade alterations are a lost art, stats show that almost 1 million people have taken up sewing in recent years. If you’re tired of spending money on garments that don’t last as long as you think they should, this could be a great way to tighten the purse strings.

By learning to patch up your jeans, mend your jumper or turn your dresses into t-shirts, you can not only ensure your clothing lasts longer, but also adapt it to the style of the season without spending a penny. This also means fewer trips to the high street – meaning your bank balance will be benefiting from your new skills, and you can rest assured you’re having a welcome effect on Mother Nature, too.

If you want to take steps to reduce your fashion footprint, these tips are a great place to start – and the more people you can get on board with your savvy and sustainable way of living, the greater the impact you can have.

For more handy hints, budgeting tips and money saving advice, check out the Jolly Good Loans blog – where you’ll find regular posts that are designed to help you build a more stable financial future.

Stuck in the Red: What to Do When Your Debt Gets Too Much

Two people holding a pink piggy bank

From unforeseen emergencies to unemployment, racking up debt is easy to do – but accumulating too much can lead to other financial issues such as not being able to save money, missing bill payments and having to borrow more money to stay afloat. So, if you don’t know how much money you owe, your bills are often late or your finances are causing you to lose sleep, it’s likely you have more debt than you can handle – that’s why we’re here to help.

Today, we’re going to address how to manage debt when it all gets too much, helping you feel in control of your finances and helping you on your way to rebuilding your credit. No debt problems are unsolvable – although it might not be simple, the earlier you address these problems, the easier it is to tackle them.

Get free debt advice

Getting help with debt is the first step to finding out how to effectively manage debt. From online to telephone and face-to-face advice services, there is a free platform for everyone to confide in.

Finding ways to manage debts is always possible, even if you think you have no money. A debt adviser, for example, will never judge you or make you feel bad about your situation, and will always be happy to talk to you, no matter how big or small your problem may be. Furthermore, a debt adviser is likely to suggest ways to deal with your debts that you might not know about – so speaking to one will make you feel less stressed and anxious and more in control of your life again.

Keep a budget

By keeping a budget, you’ll know exactly how much money you have coming in and how those funds are being spent. This is an important step in managing debt and building a successful financial future, as you’ll be able to get the most out of your money. A budget will give you a sense of control over your funds and is beneficial regardless of your economic standing.
From a notebook and pen to using a spreadsheet or financial software, analysing your spending can be tailored in whichever way you see fit.

Setting immediate goals to focus on today and long range goals which could span from weeks to decades means you can prioritise your financial goals accordingly. After determining your aims, calculate your income and expenses to obtain a clearer picture of how to achieve them. Then, it’s all about making sure you’re on track. Your expenses should never exceed your income, and if they do, adjustments need to be made accordingly.

Pay your bills on time each month

Late payments will make it harder to pay off your debt, as late fees will quickly add up. If you miss two payments in a row, your interest rate and finance charges will increase – subsequently, paying your bills on time is an effective way to stop the debt increasing.

Setting alerts and reminders on your smartphone a few days before your payment is due is a great way to stay ahead. Alternatively, create a monthly bill payment calendar to help you figure out which bills to pay with which paycheck.

If you miss a payment, don’t wait until the next due date to send it, as it could have already been reported to a credit bureau. Making the minimum payment will keep your debt from growing and keep your account in good standing, so ensure you prioritise these payments every month.

Check your options

Deciding on a debt solution is dependent on the type of debts you have, the amount of debt you have and how much money you can pay towards them. You could arrange a debt management plan by talking to your creditors.

Alternatively, consider taking out a debt consolidation loan to create a more manageable situation. The most obvious benefit is making one single payment, combining it into one monthly deadline. Debt consolidation loans also often come with low interest rates which prevents constant additional fees accumulating. By paying off debt payments efficiently, you’ll be in a position to achieve financial stability sooner – as getting your debt under control will mean you can start working on rebuilding your credit score, putting yourself in a better financial position by managing your debt.

Ultimately, a debt consolidation loan will reduce stress by focusing one payment in a manageable way, giving you extended time to pay the loan back so you can regain control over your finances.

For more tips on managing debt, budgeting and exploring your options, head over to the Jolly Good Loans blog to find out more.

New Year, New Rules: Changes to Expect This Tax Year

Last month saw the renewal of the UK tax year, and with that comes an array of new rates, thresholds and allowances. That’s why today, we’re here to help by breaking down any changes, both big and small, that might affect your personal and business finances this tax year.

Personal tax

Income tax thresholds have risen, with the amount you can earn per annum before paying income tax now capped at £12,500 (up from £11,850 in 2018). This means most people can look forward to a minor reduction of £130 in tax across the year, while high-earners with an annual income of over £50,000 will face the 40% higher rate tax (up from £46,350 in the previous year).

In Scotland, a whole range of changes to personal tax rates were announced following the Scottish Budget announcement back in December 2018. Primarily, this entailed the introduction of new tax bands and subsequent thresholds:

  • Starter rate (19%): £12,500 – £14,549 PA (up from £11,850 – £13,850)
  • Basic rate (20%): £14,550 – £24,944 PA (up from £13,851 – £24,000)
  • Intermediate (21%): £24,945 – £43,430 PA (up from £24,001 – £44,273)
  • Higher rate (41%): £43,431 – £150,000 PA (up from £44,274 – £150,000)
  • Additional rate (46%): Over £150,000 (Same as previous year)

Commercial perks

Benefits in kind (BIK) tax rates have increased as of 6th April, with taxable rates on company cars now being based on the levels of CO2 emissions emitted from the vehicle. HMRC has released this handy guide to help you work out what tax threshold your company vehicle falls under.

Elsewhere, taxation fees now apply to any personal fuel allowances on company vans at an increased rate as of April, with BIK on fuel for a van with personal use allowance rising to £3,430 (up from £3,350 in the previous tax year).

Student loans

The new tax year brings good news for students, with The Department for Education confirming a rise in the repayment thresholds for all student loans:

  • Plan 1 loan repayments will now commence once the loanee is earning £18,935 PA (up from £18,330)
  • Plan 2 loan repayments will commence following a salary of £25,725 PA (up from £25,000 the previous year)

Workplace & personal pensions

The tax-free total you can pay into a personal pension remains at £40,000 each tax year, although the lifetime allowance for pension savings has now increased to £1,055,000 (up from £1,030,000).

In auto-enrolment workplace pension schemes, the minimum pay-in amount required has also increased. As of April, employer and employee contributions must be at least 8% of the employee’s qualifying salary.

Corporation tax

Corporation tax (the payable rates on a business’s total profits) remains at 19% this year, however the UK government has announced plans to reduce this to 17% for the following 2020/21 tax year.

This comprehensive guide to financial changes this UK tax year will ensure you can stay on top of your outgoings and taxes, enabling you to sufficiently budget for all aspects of the year ahead. For additional budgeting tips and tricks, why not check out the rest of our blog?

Self-Employment: What Does It Mean For My Personal Loan Eligibility?

Filling out a form

Amidst a cautious national economy, banks and lenders are becoming increasingly apprehensive surrounding personal loans, often tightening their criteria in favour of those with a strong financial history. This means that loans for self employed workers are, in theory, harder to come by, with applicants often lacking evidence of a secure stream of income.

Self-employment is, however, becoming an increasingly popular professional venture, with the most recent governmental statistics (at the time of publication) recording 15% of all UK workers as self-employed. Subsequently, there is an expanding self-employment market that requires financial support – so, although it may be harder to secure a self-employed personal loan, it’s by no means impossible.

First thing’s first…what is a personal loan?

A personal loan is an amount borrowed from a lender to cover any personal expenses life may throw your way. They are typically borrowed from a bank, credit union or private lender and don’t need to be secured against any asset. Because of this, however, lenders are typically more apprehensive about offering these loans – particularly to the self-employed – so interest rates are usually higher.

Where do I start?

Amongst a saturated financial market that offers options ranging from banks to payday loan providers, it’s difficult to know where to start when applying for a personal loan – especially if you’re self-employed.

Eligibility criteria can at first appear daunting and will vary depending on your provider, however there are a set of objective terms you can expect to see across the board:

Common Criteria

  • Age 21+
  • UK resident of 3 or more years with a UK bank or building society account
  • A minimum annual income of usually around £12,000
  • Employment history of at least 2 years
  • A visible credit history with a steady track record

Though this may already sound extensive, the likelihood is that you’ll already have most of the required information to hand in the form of tax returns and bank statements. Providing you meet the criteria, several mainstream lenders will be willing to supply loans for self-employed workers.

Alternatively, there are various specialist lenders who focus on more niche aspects of the lending market – giving you more options than you may have originally thought available. As such, it’s very important you start by shopping around, comparing loans to find the best possible option for you.

What documentation will I need?

Once you’ve decided on your lender, ensure you have all the relevant documentation to hand to help you speed up the process. As a rule of thumb, lenders will usually want to see the following before offering any form of personal loan:

  • Bank statements – A lender will typically request to see a collection of your previous bank statements in order to gauge a better understanding of your overall financial status (proven in any ingoing and outgoing patterns), as well as to calculate your total earnings as declared in your SA302 (Self-assessment tax return)
  • Tax returns – Lenders will request copies of your SA302 calculation from the past 2 years as a minimum as a means of proving income. These can easily be found online by logging into your online HMRC account
  • Business information – Your lender is going to want to know about your business or trade, including the business status (ie. sole trader, partnership etc.) and whether anyone else has financial investment in the company
  • Proof of residency – Proof of UK residency will be required, usually for the past 3 years at a minimum. This can usually be done by providing bank statements or mortgage documentation, although proof of tenancy agreements may sometimes be required

How much can I borrow?

Generally, personal loan amounts can vary between £1000 and £25,000, however there are many external factors that influence this decision. Lenders will assess loan applications by context, meaning everything from your lender’s assessment of affordability to your reasonings for borrowing can, and most likely will, play a role in the overall amount you’re granted.

Ensure you’ve done some thorough calculations before applying for a personal loan to avoid falling into the trap of taking on too much debt. Only apply for the amount you need, as failing to meet your repayments can have significant consequences on your credit score and subsequent future borrowing eligibility.

How much will my repayments be?

Again, this generally depends on a number of external factors. Though it’s commonly perceived that loans for self-employed workers come with higher interest rates, this isn’t necessarily the case – as competition continues to grow between lenders, you may find some providers offer the same APR rates as traditionally ‘safer’ personal loan lenders. This once more highlights how important it is for a borrower to compare loans to find the best rates for their individual situation.

How are my repayments calculated?

Just like with any type of loan, your repayments are calculated based on the amount you borrow, the APR and the length of your repayment window. To paint a clearer picture of how it all breaks down, let’s take a look at an example…

“John is a self-employed tradesmen. He applies for a personal loan of £15,000 to cover some of the expense of his upcoming wedding. He’s offered an annual fixed rate of 3.9% and a repayment window of 36 months (3 years), after providing all the relevant paperwork and meeting any eligibility criteria. This means John will have to repay £444.74 each month, with the overall cost of the loan equating to £15,902.64 – £902.64 in total interest charges over the £15,000 borrowed.”

Is this the best option for me?

Well, that very much depends. Alternative means of external funding are available to the self-employed, however working out which option is best for you would depend on your own situation.

Self-employed professionals may find lenders are more likely to provide them with a guarantor loan than a personal loan – especially if they don’t have the best of credit scores. This is because lenders have the added security of a third party (your guarantor), who is committed to paying off the loan if a payment defaults. Interest rates tend to be less competitive for these kinds of loan, however. You can find out more about whether a guarantor loan is the best option for you right here.

Alternatively, you could look at secured loans. If you’re looking to borrow to fund business equipment or materials (not stock), asset financing is a viable option – a lender will loan you an amount secured against the value of goods used for your business (buildings, vehicles, machinery etc.). Once more, these tend to be more expensive than regular personal loans.

Secured loans for the self employed don’t have to be for means of business, however. If you’re looking to borrow to fund a personal expense, standard secured loans are a viable option. Once more, lenders will be more inclined to grant the self-employed this kind of loan because of the added guarantee of securing the loan against an asset. If you think a secured loan is the best option for you, read more by visiting our dedicated page right here.

Though it’s harder to secure a personal loan while self-employed, it’s by no means impossible. Whichever avenue you eventually decide to take, ensure you’ve thoroughly researched your decision and are comfortable with your repayment ability. For further information about personal loans, check out our detailed guide right here.