To Save or to Pay Off Debt? Answering This Thorny Question

Written by Karen Bryan

Numbers And FinanceOn payday, do you struggle to decide between paying down consumer debt, mortgage and student loans and socking as much cash as possible into a high interest savings account? You’re not alone.

Millions of people across the UK are in this same confusing situation, and most are completely unsure about the best choice for their future. Unless you are a financial expert, the conflicting advice from family, friends and pseudo authoritative sources online can all seem baffling and overwhelming, but at the end of the month all can agree that both strategies have their positives and negatives.

Here are some important things to consider when deciding where to allocate your money.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share Button

25 Easy Ways to Save Money

Written by Karen Bryan

Here are the tips on 25 easy ways to save money. Follow most of them and you could potentially save thousands of pounds per year.

pink piggy bank

  1. Draw up a realistic budget. You need to know exactly how much money is coming in and your current spending.
  2. Stick to your budget. I don’t necessarily mean by accounting for every penny, just checking that total spending for the month falls within the monthly budget. Don’t be tempted to overspend, as it’s easy to get into debt.
  3. Get a cashback credit card. The Santander 123 Credit Card pays 3% cashback on petrol/diesel and Transport for London and national rail travel purchases (up to a £300 spend per month), 2% on department store purchases and 1% on supermarket shopping. There is an annual fee of £24, but this is refunded for the first year if you hold a Santander 123 Current Account. If you spend £300 a month on a mix of fuel and transport, you could cover the annual fee within three months.
  4. Think before you buy. Do you need this product or service, will you use it and/or will it add value to your life. Then search for the lowest possible price.
  5. If you opt for a 0% on balance transfers or new purchases credit card, make sure that you set aside money every month to pay off the full balance before the end of the promotional period. Put this cash into a high interest account.
  6. Use cashback sites for shopping for products and services. I use TopCashBack.co.uk but do take heed of my tips for using cashback sites. As examples, I’ve earned £42 for opening a Co-operative Bank Current Account and £47.50 for successfully applying for a Post Office 0% Balance Transfer Credit Card.
  7. Turn down your thermostat by one or two degrees and wear thicker clothes.
  8. Check out sites such as Approved Food and Food Bargains for low prices on food which is near or past its Best Before date.
  9. Put your savings into tax-free Cash ISA accounts instead of standard savings accounts. With the annual allowance now at £15,240, you can build up a sizeable tax-free pot over the years. As some current accounts pay a much higher rate of interest than Cash ISAs, you could keep your cash in one of these current accounts until the end of March, only putting the money into a Cash ISA before the end of the tax year on 5 April.
  10. Keep your old mobile for longer and buy a SIM card when your contract expires. Giffgaff have some good deals; a £12 goodybag gives you 500 UK minutes, unlimited texts and 3GB of data. Click here to order your free giffgaff SIM card and get an extra £5 credit when you activate and top-up your sim card.
  11. Open a current account which gives you some free perks, e.g. the Halifax Reward Current Account regularly offers a £125 switching incentive and £5 a month bonus if you pay into it at least £750 a month and pay out two direct debits a month.
  12. Keep a note of when bonuses on your savings accounts end. A couple of  weeks before the bonus expiry, search for the best interest rates so that you’re ready to move your money.
  13. Use price comparison sites to find the best deal for car and home insurance, mortgages, broadband, mobile phones and household fuel. However, do take into account factors such as the amount of the excess and level of cover.
  14. If you’re happy with your current supplier, contact them to ask them for a better deal before you switch. Direct Line matched the home insurance quote I got from Churchill, but the Direct Line cover was better, as it included free annual travel insurance.
  15. Change your driving style. Don’t accelerate too much, use the gears to drop speed as you approach a junction instead of braking hard and stick to speed limits.
  16. Keep your current car as long as possible. We decided to trade-in our 9-year-old Skoda Fabia when it needed some expensive work done on the brakes. At that time, Skoda were running a Zero VAT offer, reducing the price of a replacement.
  17. Don’t buy higher price trendy brand name items. I have a Samsung laptop, netbook and mobile phone. They may not have the cool image of Apple products, but they do the job well and cost a lot less.
  18. Check if there are any valid voucher codes when shopping, e.g. I got another 5% off the price of my camera with a voucher.
  19. Keep a £100 buffer in your current account, to avoid accidentally going overdrawn.
  20. Build up an emergency fund, so that you don’t have to borrow money or max out your credit card if you need to repair or replace something.
  21. Use loyalty cards when you’re shopping. Although the returns can be pretty low, e.g. the Tesco Clubcard gives you 1 point for every £1 spent in the store, it’s still something back on spending that you’d do anyway.
  22. Cut your own hair; this could save you hundreds of pounds a year at the hairdresser.
  23. Before you dial any numbers that start with numbers like 0844, 0845, 0870, see if you can find an alternative cheaper geographical number to dial on the SayNoto0870.com site.
  24. Don’t fall into the spend money to save money trap. It may seem like a no-brainer to snap up a bargain, but you’d save more money by not making the purchase.
  25. Try to focus on things that will save you the most money. For example, setting aside a few hours to find the best mortgage rate, which could save you thousands of pounds, versus spending time running around three different supermarkets to save a few pennies.
Share Button

Santander 123 Mini Accounts for Kids

Written by Karen Bryan

santanderletterheadThere are two Santander 123 Mini accounts aimed at kids. The Santander 123 Mini Current Account offers young people the opportunity to manage their own cash, plus spending with a cash or debit card. It doubles as a savings account, as it pays a variable rate of 3% on balances between £300 – £2,000.

For kids under the age of 11, the  Santander 123 Mini Account (In Trust) allows parents who hold a Santander current account, to earn a variable rate of 3% on balances between £300 – £2,000 set aside for their child. The parent must retain control of the account until the child is 11. Then the parent can visit a branch to transfer the account into a Santander 123 Mini Current Account, where the child will have control of the money.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share Button

My Money Podcast #117

Written by Karen Bryan

The My Money Podcast #117 summarises the recent Help Me To Save articles listed below.

Subscribe to the My Money Podcast from Help Me To Save in itunes

  • Why I’m Put Off Giving to Charity – I’m irked that most of the money I’ve given to charity seems to have been spent on letters sent to me asking for further donations.
  • Nationwide Loyalty Two Year Fixed Rate Bond – This product is another example of disloyalty pays. The Nationwide Two Year Fixed rate account pays a rate of 2%. Whereas, the open-to-all Chartered Savings Bank Two Year Fixed Rate Bond pays a higher rate of 2.16%.
  • Should You Pay More for a Centrally Located Hotel? – Although I’m always on the lookout for the lowest prices for hotels, I believe that it can be worth spending more on a centrally located hotel, than staying a in a cheap hotel miles from the city centre.
Share Button

What to Consider Before Choosing a Broadband Provider

Written by Karen Bryan

broadband lightsIf you’re looking to obtain the best value-for-money internet provider then undertaking a little research will prove beneficial. The good news is that you have plenty of choice available. There are a range of deals out there to suit your budget and needs, so whether you’re a first-time broadband customer or simply looking to switch providers start your search today.

There are quite a few reasons why you might be reconsidering your broadband requirements. If that point has arrived it’s time to start shopping around.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share Button

Should I Pay More for a Centrally Located Hotel?

Written by Karen Bryan

Every time I search for accommodation for a trip to a city, I ask myself if I should pay more for a centrally located hotel. When I’m going to London, the cheapest hotels with decent reviews are usually miles from the central zone.

Staying in a central location means that you are not so dependent on public transport. Plus, you have the option to pop back to your accommodation for a break during the day.

pestana bridge hotel london

It’s hard to get the right balance, you don’t want to pay through the nose to be in the city centre. However, paying say 15-20% more for centrally located accommodation could mean that you enjoy your trip more. Even if the public transport is relatively cheap, you have to factor in the time you’ll spend in transit and potential delays or service disruptions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share Button

Immediate Needs Annuities – What You Should Know

Written by Karen Bryan

care homeMany of us, as we approach later life will need to call on specialist care in order to get us through. While the NHS and local authorities can do wonders for those on low incomes, the service provided by funded care services can be unparalleled, and getting the best care for your money can be essential for your health and well-being.

An immediate needs annuity is one way of ensuring that you or a loved one gets the care they deserve, as opposed to just a basic service offered by a local authority. While plans can only be purchased for an individual, they can be purchased by a third-party, so should a loved not have the funds to afford care you are able to fund this for them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share Button

Nationwide Accounts for Kids

Written by Karen Bryan

nationwide logo blue cardThere are several Nationwide accounts for kids.

I think that it’s useful for young people to get accustomed to running their own banking from an early age.

The Nationwide FlexOne Current Account is available to 11-17 year olds. It offers a cash card or debit card, which can be handy for online shopping.The  FlexOne Current Account pays a variable rate of 1% on balances up to £1,000. Therefore, it’s not a good idea to leave too much cash sitting in this account.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share Button

Nationwide Loyalty Two Year Fixed Rate Bond

Written by Karen Bryan

natiowide signNationwide have got me ranting again. My anger erupted at the lowering of the rate of interest paid on the Nationwide Loyalty Saver at a time when the building society reported a 54% increase in annual profits.

Today, I received an email promoting the Nationwide Loyalty Two Year Fixed Rate Bond, which pays a rate of 2%. That is 0.2% higher than the 1.8% rate paid on the standard Nationwide Two Year Fixed Rate Bond. However, anyone can earn 2.16% interest with a Chartered Savings Bank Two Year Fixed Rate Bond.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share Button

Why I’m Put Off Giving to Charity

Written by Karen Bryan

donate nowI’m being put off giving to charity. This is due to the ensuing steady stream of letters asking for more money that follow making a donation.

Several years ago, instead of giving my Dad a Christmas gift, I made an online donation to his charity of choice, Help the Aged (now merged with Age Concern to become Age UK).  Since then, I’ve been receiving regular letters asking for further donations.

The same continuous follow-up happened when a couple of years ago, I made an online donation, equivalent to my hourly rate of pay, in an end of year fundraising campaign by Sightsavers.

Read the rest of this entry »

Share Button

The MON£Y SAV£R free monthly newsletter from Help Me To Save helps you -

  • Save more money
  • Spend less
  • Live well

Take control of your money now