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Top Five Ways to Save Money when buying a Home

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Buying a home is one of the most important – and nerve-racking – financial decisions a person will make in their lifetime. It is easy to feel intimidated, especially if you are buying your first home. Establishing a place for yourself on the property ladder may even seem out of reach for many, but with careful saving and plenty of research, your new home might cost you less than you think. Below are our top five tips for saving money when buying a home.

Consider your Mortgage carefully

It may sound obvious, but taking the time to shop around for a mortgage can bring you huge long-term savings. The interest rate you are eligible for will depend on the size of your deposit and financial history, so getting your finances organised as early as possible is key. Paying down a larger deposit means you are eligible for lower rates, so although it is initially a more sizeable investment, the money saved over the years as you repay the mortgage will be significant.

The minimum deposit amount you can make is 5% of the property’s value, but contributing a 10% deposit will broaden your choices, whilst depositing 25% will let you access the most competitive rates. For this reason, it could be worthwhile spending more time saving, and hold off buying until you can gather a larger deposit. However, in some cases, making mortgage payments is actually cheaper than paying rent, so whether to buy a home sooner or later will depend on your individual circumstances.

Save for your Deposit

Since larger deposits add up to lower mortgage rates, saving for your deposit is a vital for reducing the cost of buying a home. There is no single recipe for successful saving, but there are plenty of small steps you could take to maximise the amount of money you are able to put aside.

You might consider using a Regular Savings Account. A certain, pre-arranged amount must be paid into these accounts each month, usually over a year. With Regular Savings Accounts, your money is locked in for the duration of the year, and you cannot access it, but, because of this, these accounts tend to offer the highest interest returns. You might also consider an ISA (Individual Saving Account), which allows you to save money without paying tax on the interest you earn, up to a certain amount. Again, though, ISAs do not allow you full flexibility when it comes to making deposits and withdrawals.

You might be able to top up your savings with a number of small lifestyle changes, which can quickly accumulate. For example, if you tend to buy a weekly takeaway, this could be costing you around £900 every year – a significant amount, especially when it could be collecting interest! Packing your own lunch for work and foregoing a daily high-street coffee fix are other examples of small actions which can add up to a hefty deposit, and a better mortgage deal.

Look into Government Schemes which could help you

If you are buying your first home, there are also a number of government schemes which can be hugely helpful. The UK government’s ‘help to buy’ scheme assists those with sufficient income to keep up with mortgage payments, but not enough savings to manage a deposit. The ‘help to buy’ equity loan offers first-time buyers who have managed to save a 5% deposit, a loan worth 20% of the value of the property they are buying. This loan is interest-free for its first five years.

A ‘help to buy’ ISA could also be a great option if you are struggling to save enough to buy a home, by boosting the money you have available for a deposit. First-time buyers can earn 2.27% tax-free interest on their savings, to which the government will contribute 25% of the savings’ value up to a certain amount. Many banks offer this scheme, so it is definitely worth checking whether you are eligible.

Remember to take other Fees into Account

Buying a property is a complex process, and additional costs, besides the deposit and mortgage payments you also need to consider home reports from companies such as Your Property Wizard, should be taken into account. Most mortgages incur arrangement fees, which can be up to £2,000, you will have to pay Stamp Duty (a tax paid to the government when houses are bought), and solicitor’s fees must also be covered. On top of this, you may wish to pay for the property to be surveyed before you make your final decision to purchase it.

Factoring in all these expenses is key to ensuring that you have saved enough money. If you are met with unexpected expenses, you are more likely to be forced to dip into other savings, or even run into problems with debt, so it is vital that you take your time saving, and do your research to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Don’t Rush into Decisions

This might be the most effective way to save money when buying a house – not rushing ensures you have ample savings, and know your mortgage options, but it can also reduce the overall price you pay for the property.

Remember that it is the estate agent’s job to present a property to its best advantage, meaning any negative features are likely to be played down. Ensure that you ask plenty of questions, and try to underplay your interest. Doing some research online can also help you gain leverage when negotiating price. For example, the average property is on the market for 8.5 weeks, so if you discover that the property you are interested in has been on the market for 10 weeks or more, the seller might be more likely to accept an offer below the asking price.

Good luck using these tools to find your new home.

The Best Finance Tools For Start-Ups

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The Best Finance Tools For Start-Ups

Start-up businesses in any industry are always going to be a volatile position finance wise once they are set-up. Even with careful planning, your finances are going to difficult to manage, in fact, one of the most common issues your IT support team will have is dealing with financial problems.

Whether it’s over spending, tracking sales or dealing with expenses claims (to name just a few) you can soon be overwhelmed trying to deal with an array of finance problems. And if your start-up doesn’t have an support team in place that means it’s up to you to deal with all the problems.

There’s got to be an easier way right? Well, thankfully there is a number of finance tools available that will make dealing with everyday business finances much easier. Let’s take a look at some of the tools you and your team can use to make dealing with your finance a faster more efficient process.

Bode Tree

When you hear the term “financial tools” you probably think they’re going to be complicated don’t you? But the truth of the matter is financial tools come in all different kinds and some are very easy to learn and use. Bode Tree is a great example of this, it’s designed to be a complete financial solution for small businesses but is easy to learn and get to grips with.

Bode Tree can be used for a wide array of different things, you can use it deliver in-app messages, produce custom reports, monitor brand awareness and much more. But the main reason Bode Tree is such a useful financial tool is because it gives you real-time access to all your accounts in one place.

This will save you a lot of time and will make things like tracking costs, expenditure and cash flow much more simple. Whether you use it solely for monitoring purposes or for its more advanced features Bode Tree is a useful financial tool any start-up business will benefit from.

GNUCash

Many start-up business owners may understandably not be keen on the idea of buying financial software, which makes sense. If your start-up doesn’t have a big budget then spending money on extra software may seem wasteful.

But one of the great things about GNUCash is that it’s completely free! And free doesn’t always mean bad, while there are certainly some poor quality free financial software programs out there GNUCash isn’t one of them. GNUCash is an open-sourced program designed to help small businesses and accountants.

You can generate a number of common forms with its built-in templates and it also has basic tracking and planning features as well. As your business grows GNUCash is likely going to be a bit too simplistic to use but for start-ups, it’s a very useful tool and designed to be flexible and easy to use. Plus there’s also an app version available for Android devices so you can use it on the go.

Shoeboxed

We might be living in the digital age these days but one thing small businesses are going to see a lot of is paper. Whether it’s reports or receipts there’s a lot of paper involved in the financial department of a start-up business and it’s something you need to keep on top of. This may sound easy but trust me it’s much harder than it sounds.

Shoeboxed is the perfect financial tool for dealing with receipts and reports and it will ensure you always have a backup copy. With Shoeboxed you can scan reports and receipts to keep digital copies but it doesn’t just stop there. It can take the data from the reports/ receipts and then generate expenses reports.

You can also use Shoeboxed to store business cards and have it set-up to automatically import any emailed receipts. With Shoeboxed you’ll be able to build a faster more organized financial department which will be a huge benefit to your start-up business.

Xpenditure

Business expenses can mount up quickly especially for start-up businesses who often will be operating on a strict budget. The other problem with business expenses is that they can be difficult to track even if you get your team involved finding out who spend what can be very difficult.

That’s why an expenses tracker like Xpenditure can be a real benefit to your business. With Xpenditure you can easily track receipts and generate reports, Xpenditure also lets employees scan receipts and expenses from their phones and send them directly to you for clearance.

With Xpenditure you can easily and quickly see all the expense information you need at a glance and you will also be able to approve or refuse any claims. Failing to keep track of your expenses is a real risk for small businesses so a financial tool like Xpenditure is sure to prove incredibly useful.

PlanGuru

Budgeting is essential for any business but it’s especially important for start-ups, the number one reason behind the failure of many start-ups is their lack of proper budgeting. PlanGuru is designed for smaller businesses and will help you build and stick to a budget.

With PlanGuru you’ll be able to develop a financial forecasting and review process that can be used to help your business grow. It also has a number of forecasting tools which you can use to get a better idea of the risks and rewards of investments.

With a variety of analysis tools included and compatibility with Excel, QuickBooks, and Xero PlanGuru is a great budgeting platform for start-ups. Budgeting is hugely important to the success of a start-up business and with PlanGuru you’ll be able to build an accurate budget that plans for any eventuality.

The Tools For Success

So that’s five fantastic financial tools that will give any start-up business an extra boost in its early days. Working alongside your internal teams these tools will be sure to benefit your business in a variety of ways. While it’s true some start-up businesses do fail, by using these financial tools you’ll be able to increase the chances of your business growing and finding success.

Should Gold Be Part of My Retirement Savings

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Should Gold Be Part of My Retirement Savings

There are many ways of saving for the future and many will have differing portfolios when it comes to maximizing their savings and assets. For example, some people may have bonds and shares that they rely on, whereas others could have a portfolio of properties. While precious metals such as gold are renowned for their high value, many may not consider the prospect of using gold to secure their future, but is it a worthwhile planning retirement savings with gold?

Like any investment, there is no certainty that the value is as we would like it to be, as there can be many can be many differing factors that dictate the overall value. However, it is worth pointing out that gold has always been high-value and sought after. What’s more, gold is also a rare precious metal, so it’s often the case that gold can be a good investment.  However, this doesn’t mean that you should simply go out and purchase a series of precious metals. It’s about reviewing your current status, and deterring as to whether the investment in gold would be a worthwhile venture for yourself.

Why Even Consider Gold?

While it’s evident that gold if high-value and much sought-after, there are also times when it’s dipped in popularity. Many may ask themselves why they would include gold as part of their retirement savings, when they already have a solid retirement plan in place.

As well as gold being valuable, it also operates in a different way, and is generally a good way to combat inflation. Many people will have a portfolio that consists of property or simply savings. The US dollar is a currency that has taken a fair few hits when it comes to value, and as such assets can take a dip, meaning that many have seen the value of their portfolio decrease in value.

However, as inflation grows, so does the value of gold, which means that you effectively have a contingency plan in place should another aspect of your portfolio lose value.

How Do I Add Gold to My Retirement Plan?

Investing in gold can be a slow process unless you have the capital to hit the ground running. It is often the case that many will already be in receipt of a 401(k) Retirement Plan. Those who invest in a Gold IRA are often required to carry out a rollover, which means transferring assets from one plan to another. How this is operated on your behalf can depend on a few factors, but it makes sense to seek the assistance of a professional before altering any aspect of your current portfolio. A great resource for any information regarding the process is mineweb.net. You need a reputable company that will make sure the transfer is done according to the IRS rules.

What Are the Requirements of a Gold IRA?

Like many investments, a Gold IRA must be carried out in a manner that satisfies the rules and regulations of the IRS. As such, it is often the case that precious metals must be stored with a custodian.

Although the custodian is effectively responsible for storing the gold, it’s normal for them to offer other services, such as settlements and account administration.

How Does Gold Differ to Currency?

Many would ask the question of why they should invest in gold if they already have an Individual Retirement Account that appears to be strong. While there is no requirement to invest in gold, it can be seen as a savvy way of diversifying your portfolio to fight back against devaluing of the US dollar.

But why is gold so different? The US Dollar only has value when economic times are at their peak. Many countries have seen much success when its currency is used during healthy economic times, only to feel the pinch when times become a little harder. In effect, more money must be printed which in turn means that the value overall is much less.

Gold on the other hand has always been a valuable commodity. While it’s true there have been highs and lows when it comes to its value, it has always been a consistent repellent against inflation. The reason that gold is so desirable is due to a few factors. Gold is used in a lot of technology, due to its resilient form.

Gold is also yearned after within the jewelry and fashion industry, who use it to carve high-end aesthetically pleasing pieces. To summarize, gold a precious metal that is sought after by many, meaning that its value rarely offer devalues as much as paper-based currency.

Should I Plan All My Retirement Savings with Gold?

Unfortunately, there is no generic answer for this question. You simply must go with what works for you. Some people choose to convert all their paper-based assets into that of gold, and see a great reward for doing so, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that this the right path for you.

Your first port-of-call should be to speak to potential custodians, and then read their feedback and reviews. From here, you will be able to determine as to who the best provider is.

Tax refunds – who provides the best rebate services?

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Tax refunds – who provides the best rebate services?

If you think you might be due a tax rebate a quick search will offer you no end of tax refunds and rebate services – but do they do anything you couldn’t do yourself? We’ll explain a little about how tax refunds occur and the kind of companies that can pursue any claim on your behalf. 

Why might you be due a refund?

There are a variety of reasons you might be due a refund of overpaid tax – have a think about whether any of the most common ones might apply to you:

  • You’ve stopped work

The amount of tax you pay is based to some degree on your projected earnings for the year – so, most people can earn £11,500 before they pay tax – but rather than apply tax to just the part of the year beyond that tax-free amount, that tax that you’re expected to pay on your overall year’s earnings is applied right across the year. For example:

Your salary is £20,000 – meaning your monthly wage before deductions is around £1,667. If you paid tax only when you passed the £11,500 threshold, you would go nearly 7 months before you paid a penny in tax – at which point your income would drop dramatically. For consistency, HMRC spread the tax that will be paid on £8,500 of your income over the full 12 months of your employment.

What this does mean is that if your employment ends and you’re left without work, you’ve probably paid too much tax. How much depends on where in the tax year you are – but HMRC can usually do the calculation for you. 

  • You’ve sent an incorrect tax return

There are occasions where it becomes apparent that your self-assessment return is incorrect – and since HMRC use this to calculate your tax then subsequent calculations could now be wrong. Your tax return might inadvertently be wrong if you’ve sent it then stopped being self-employed too – especially if you have forward payments on your account with HMRC.

Issues that relate to self-assessment tax returns are often rectified without any prompting of HMRC, but if you’re not certain it’s being processed, calling and prompting them doesn’t hurt.

  • Your tax code is wrong

If you’re employed but you’re being taxed an incorrect amount it could be that your tax code is incorrect. Your tax code depends on your unique circumstances – although it will most often be a common one – like 1150L for example.

If you think you’re being taxed an incorrect amount, talking to your company payroll team is a good first step, if you’re not 100% happy with the answer, talk to HMRC – they’ll check some of your details and help you work out if you’re paying the correct amount of tax. Errors can happen for any number of reasons – it’s your responsibility to make sure everything’s correct.

  • You’ve used any of your own money for your job

There are instances when employed people might be required or expected to pay towards their training costs, fuel and in-work travel expenses, uniforms, tools and other such costs. If this is the case you’ve used some of your own money toward work expenses – and if your workplace doesn’t allow you to reclaim those directly, you might be able to reclaim these costs against your tax. Making sure you keep a record of costs is important in this instance.

Doing it yourself

When you call the HMRC you’ll be put through to someone who’ll check your security details and answer questions based on the enquiry that’s taken you to them. This might be that you believe your tax code is incorrect – so the person on the end of the phone will support you through working out whether this is correct – and dealing with any refund that might apply.

As you’d expect from any courteous call-centre – the call will usually wrap up after you’ve politely said “no thank you” when they’ve asked if there’s anything else they can help you with. You might be saying “no thank you” – but do you know for certain that there’s no other area in which your tax could be wrong?

Generally speaking, when an individual handles any tax rebate claim themselves they’ll be focused on just one aspect of the claim – now, don’t misunderstand – any rebate is great news, but unless you’re certain that you’ve covered all the possible bases – you might be missing out.

Working with a tax rebate company

“They won’t do anything you can’t do yourself” – is often the message when you’re considering dealing with a company who’ll pursue a claim on your behalf – and while that might be true, the real question is this:

Do you have the depth of tax knowledge to know you’re 100% asking every question of HMRC to ensure you’re getting back everything you’re entitled to?

If you’re an accountant the answer is probably ‘yes’ – but few of us are, so when the cost is so little – and generally only claimed as a small percentage of any rebate that you actually get, then it might make sense to turn to someone who’s definitely going to ask all the right questions – after all, it’s better to have 90% of £2,500 than it is to have 100% of £1000!

Who to choose

While there are a lot of generic services that will support you if you’re employed, self-employed or the director of a limited company, there are also companies who specialise in people who work in specific areas. For example, there are specialist tax rules for those who work as a subcontractor in construction – and others for people who are serving in the armed forces.

If you think your area of work might be subject to special tax rules – you might want to work with a company who knows your industry well. If you’re happy with the service a more generic company offers – then that’s fine too. You’ll be able to talk with them and they’ll leave no stone unturned in your enquiry about overpayment of tax.

Be careful

While getting a rebate can be great news – it’s important that you’re careful. Whether or not you’re dealing with a rebate company – there are instances when online scammers and fraudsters use HMRC logos, names and addresses to communicate with you over the telephone or via email. As a rule of thumb, HMRC will never get in touch with you by any means other than sending a letter – so be cautious if they appear to.

Good luck!

There’s no better feeling than having some tax repaid – especially if you didn’t know you were overpaying in the first place!

Working from home jobs – how to stay motivated

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Working from home jobs – how to stay motivated

Working from home jobs give you some great freedoms, no boss looking over your shoulder, no frantic commute and if you’re lucky, extra time in bed. However, if your home is your workspace it can be difficult to stay motivated when there are so many distractions – try these tips if you’re finding it difficult to keep your motivation levels high…

  1. Define your day

It’s temptingly easy to get up, brush your teeth, have a cup of coffee and get on with your work – even before you’ve got out of your pyjamas. However, countless studies say this is the worst way to start your day if you’re a home worker.

Without defining solid working times you’re letting home and work blend together into one big mess. When your day blends into one you’ll find home jobs that need doing throughout the day – taking you away from work tasks. These distractions are motivation and focus killers.

If you want to get the most out of your time working it pays to be disciplined with your schedule. Set a solid starting time and make sure the household tasks that would otherwise distract you are done and out of your mind.

Creating a habit like this one means your evening is more clearly defined too. If you’re the kind of person who ends up eating their evening meal while they work, being more disciplined with your time through the day means you’ll get more done – and work will stop spilling over. A healthy work life balance is crucial when you work at home, nothing kills motivation like knowing you’re going to be flitting between doing your washing and work tasks for the next 14 hours.

  1. List, prioritise, execute

To do lists are either extremely helpful – or extremely painful, depending on whether you’re the kind of person who can focus on one task at a time. If you’re on of the millions of ‘task butterflies’ that flutter between one thing and another – never really achieving anything until the pressure is on – then a solid plan of how to tackle your to do list is crucial.

As you begin your day take a few minutes with a blank piece of paper and think about what you need to achieve. Write it all down, the order doesn’t matter, in fact, it’s better to just get all your thought down instead of trying to figure an order out just yet.

When you’ve got your tasks written down think about what’s the most pressing job to be done – and write the number 1 next to it. When you’re done, think about the second most important task – write a number 2 next to it. Now stop. You’ve got your two most pressing jobs of the day prioritised, there’s no need to create a 15-point list that is likely to go out the window when the phone rings. When you’ve done these tasks – you can reassess your list (along with any additions that have popped onto your phone, email or schedule) and put the next 2 priorities in place.

Getting stuff done is like a huge shot of motivation to people who are used to ending the day with a to do list longer than it was at 9am. Prioritise, execute, keep moving – you’ll be pleased with the results.

  1. Go through the pain barrier ASAP

Look at your to-do list, there’s something on there you’re dreading isn’t there? It might even be the reason you’re reading about ways of bolstering your motivation… Essentially now you have two choices, put it off for as long as is possible, hoping that some turn of events will mean it doesn’t need to be done – in the meantime letting it affect your mood and general will to even cast eyes over it or – get it done now.

If you’re willing to take it on now two things are going to happen – firstly, it’s probably not going to be as bad as you thought it would be so it’ll take you less time than you anticipated. Secondly, when you draw a line through it the clouds will miraculously part and warm rays of sun will hit you and recharge those waning motivation levels…

If you develop this as a habit and tackle your most feared job as a priority every day, your work output and generally mood will be through the roof.

  1. Use the right equipment

There’s likely to be nothing that zaps your motivation away quicker than trying to use the wrong tools for the job. As a home worker you discredit your professionalism by thinking you can take short-cuts with the stuff you rely on to get your job done. You wouldn’t expect a brain surgeon to wield a blunt scalpel – so why should you be any different?

You’re likely to have the some of the kit you need already, perhaps a computer and a mobile phone – but what about the other stuff? Having a diary, whether you choose an online or paper version, means you’re able to keep track of deadlines and organise your time accordingly. What about a notepad? Don’t rely on keeping scraps of paper organised, keeping a physical notepad means you can jot notes while you’re on the phone or in the middle of other tasks without having to break off.

And then there’s the role specific kit – if there’s anything that you need to do your job in the most productive manner then either requesting it from your employer or buying it yourself is going to be a big step toward staying motivated. Even if it feels like unnecessary expense now, your long-term role satisfaction is going to thank you for it.

  1. Finally, take some breaks!

This one’s for you – the self-employed people fighting with a never-ending workload! It’s easy to think that the key to success is spending 18 hours at your computer – but it’s often not. Even if your job means putting in huge hours, it’s better to have 8 motivated and productive hours in front of your screen that it is 12 hours of feeling like you can’t get started.

Get some fresh air, stretch your legs, give your back a rest from that computer chair. No one said the path to success would be a short one – taking regular breaks keeps you moving toward your goal with a full tank of motivation.

6 Life Hacks for Students to Make Money

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6 Life Hacks for Students to Make Money

Finding yourself constantly asking for money? We understand what a student budget can be like. Living in Birmingham University Accommodation, bills and the like can become quite expensive, which is why we want to show you 5 different and tremendously easy ways for you to make money.

1.      Sell Old University Books

That’s right, you can make your money back from those previous academic and university books that you don’t want anymore! Believe it or not, you can get yourself a quite a bit of money fetching upwards of about £50.

Both Amazon and eBay are a fantastic option for selling your books (and any other unwanted items). Sadly, you do have to pay for the fees and postage that comes along with selling on these websites.

Another brilliant way you can sell your University books is with this site called The Book Pond, where you can become connected with other students who are in need of these books. Attracted buyers will get in talks with you after they’ve seen your post about the books are how much you want from them. Lastly, another great advantage is the fact that there is no fees or postage to pay!

Another handy app is called Shpock, a ‘boot sale’ app where you can advertise and sell for free to people in your area. People also use this app to sell clothes and other items, so if you want to have a bit of a clear out, you can sell more than just your old books!

However, the easiest way to flog your fiction of course is to simply sell your books to friends or family: perhaps you have a family member who just started University and who could use some books, or know some students in the year below who will need your books next year. Give them a discount and it’s a win-win!

2.      Make and sell your own custom T-shirts

Zazzle is a super simple site to use, it allows you to create your own custom T-shirt designs for other people to buy. As long as you come up with the idea, Zazzle will do all the hard tasks for you from shipping to printing and collecting money.

3.      Sell photos

Got a good camera? Into photography and have some neat holiday pictures? Got some worthy snaps that could make it into a news headline? All you need to do is upload your photos to image stock sites – then sit back, relax and wait for the money to come flying on in. Anyone that uses your photos will have to pay you a fee.

Some examples of stock imaging websites including Shutterstock and Fotolia. For a news site where you can send in your news stories or photos, try Cavendish Press.

4.      FREE Lottery!

The Free Postcode Lottery is exactly what it says on the tin. How can you not resist a FREE lottery! A winner is selected everyday – yes, the prize may be ‘only’ £100, however if it is not claimed it rolls on over to the next day. Enter for free now and test your luck over at Free Postcode Lottery’s site.

5.      Make money from your parking space

You heard that right – you can get your parking space at home rented out by other people on websites such as Your Parking Space and Just Park. You can make the amount you want to charge the exact amount you want; the best parking places can make up to £100 a day! However, the location of your parking space is what will give it value – a few examples might be living in a large city or near major attractions, such as stadiums, tourist landmarks, arenas or train/tube stations.

Even if you don’t have a free parking space to sell, these sites are also great for if you just want to see the cheapest options available to park when visiting built up areas.

6.      Teach your subject

All that knowledge you’ve accumulated over your GCSE’s and A Levels is worth more than just your ticket to your dream degree – it’s worth money! Working a private tutor is both flexible and well-paid, and you can use simple sites like First Tutors to register and get local applicants for free.

Alternatively, if you’re already doing great on your degree, you can tutor others on the same degree (either in your year, or most likely a year or two below) and give them guidance on how to study and pass the exams you did with flying colours. Most tutors charge around £15 per hour but if your subject is more difficult you could charge up to £20 or £25.

7.      Manage social media for local businesses

Most students tend to be pretty savvy with social media, and believe it or not, companies will pay you to post on their behalf! Small, local businesses often don’t have the time to invest heavily in social media, so pop into some of your local high street businesses with a pitch and CV, or get in touch with some businesses from home.

You can charge anything from £100-£500 per month for the full service or charge per post, and plan all the posts in advance with social media scheduling websites such as Hootsuite, Retortal, Buffer and more. A few hours work that you can do in your jammies too! What more could you ask for?

We do hope you try out at least one of these life hacks, and that they help you earn a little bit of spare cash! If you know anyone who could benefit from trying out some of these ideas, do share it and tag them, and if you liked what you saw here, you’ll love our cheap rates on our Student Accommodation if you’re a Birmingham student.

If you found these life hacks useful then please do let us know via our Twitter or Facebook on what you’d like to learn more about, or what you found most interesting!

 

6 ways to get your hands on cash – quickly!

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6 ways to get your hands on cash – quickly!

Almost everybody has moments when they need to get some cash quickly. If you’re in this position, it can be frustrating or even scary to not have money that you need.

Whether it’s looking at effective ways of selling things, how to get a fast loan or finding other inventive ways to make money, we’ve got you covered:

  1. Working? Ask for an advance

You may or may not feel comfortable doing this, but if your lack of money is hindering your ability to get to work it can often be in everybody’s best interest to talk to your employer first. Payroll departments often have the ability to pay an employee an advance and it can sometimes be repaid over more than one payday, giving you time to get back on top of your finances.

  1. Get a fast loan

Be warned, not all loans are created equal, so be careful to ensure you’re going to a reputable lender whose product is not going to damage your credit rating. There are online comparison tools you can use that will compare loan providers before you’re credit checked, so you don’t have to worry about doing a lot of legwork or lots of applications impacting your chances.

Ensuring you can repay any loan is absolutely vital – meaning this is a good option if you’ve been impacted by a one-off cost. On the other hand, borrowing repeatedly to get you to the end of the month can start a dangerous cycle that’s very hard to escape. Use with caution.

  1. Sell some stuff

If you’ve got items in house that you’re not using they can be turned into cash pretty quickly, especially if the price is attractive. Using online selling resources is a great way to advertise – look for local selling groups on Facebook and list your items on classified sites like Gumtree. There are no selling fees so everything you make goes into your pocket.

You can always offer to sell things for other people too. It can be off-putting dealing with messages, people coming to your house to pick things up or arranging delivery – so if you’re willing to put the time in, then people will happily give you a cut of the profit. Agree it up front, if things don’t sell, you haven’t lost anything.

  1. Call in some debts

If you’ve previously let people borrow money it can be extremely frustrating not to have it back when you’re in desperate need. Pick up the phone to people who owe you and ask for it back, you can appeal to people better nature by explaining your difficult position – or alternatively you can offer them a reduction if they pay you soon. It’s sometimes better to get half when you really need it instead of all money owning when you’re comfortable.

  1. Sell your skills

Selling items on online marketplaces isn’t the only option, if you have a skill you can sell that too. Think broadly, you don’t have to be a qualified professional offering labour, perhaps you could do odd-jobs? Help an elderly or disabled person with a one-off task they can’t manage alone? Could you offer someone a dog-walking or pet-sitting service? Or could you offer to iron clothes?

People are often short on time or people to turn to when jobs need doing, so making yourself available can see you bringing some money in quickly.

Got space?

If you’ve got space, you’ve potentially got money. A spare room can be turned into cash pretty quickly if you’re willing to take in a lodger or someone travelling. Look for resources online that match landlords with tenants and people looking for short term rooms.

Your valuable space isn’t limited to indoors either! If you’re in a good location renting your parking space or driveway can be lucrative too – and people will be willing to pay as soon as tomorrow if you can advertise in the right places. Got a shed or garage? People will happily pay you to store their items.

Act now to avoid repeats

It’s not a great feeling to be in need of money with an empty bank account. If you find yourself in this position frequently, it’s worth looking at putting together a weekly or monthly budget that will help you to stretch your funds long enough to avoid difficult patches.

10 Clever Tips to Help You Save Money While Travelling

10 Clever Tips to Help You Save Money While Travelling

Traveling is the kind of thing that pays dividends at all stages of life. It helps us get out of ourselves and brings our life and our world into clearer focus. If there’s a downside to traveling though it’s the cost.

With many people spending so much when the travel it often leads to debt problems with many people becoming ill with stress. This article is a really good example and shares 7 ways debt can make you sick. 

If you’re like most people every expense on your trip is either coming out of your savings or will have to be paid for at a later date when the credit card bills come in. Because of this enterprising travellers are always looking for ways to cut costs and below we’ve compiled a list of 10 clever ways to do just that and bring the cost of traveling back down to earth.

Traveling Doesn’t Have to be a Financial Ball and Chain

While there’s virtually no way to completely eliminate the cost of traveling there are ways the average traveller can reduce the cost by thinking outside the box and keeping their eyes and ears peeled for opportunities. Here are 10 travel hacks you can use to cut your costs while on the road or in the air.

Choose Affordable Destinations – If you’re determined to go to the world’s most expensive cities, good luck. You might find a deal here and there but you’re going to pay a premium on most things. Instead, take some time to investigate those corners of the map you normally pass over. Thailand is a favourite destination of budget travellers and so is India. What about Peru? Machu Picchu has to be seen to be believed.

Travel During Off Months – Every country has a high season for travellers. During this time of year prices on everything from hotels to restaurants to museums and more will be as much as 50% higher than the rest of the year. Arranging your holiday for times just outside the parameters of the high season can wind up saving you bunches of money and chances are the weather won’t be significantly different than it is during the peak tourist times.

Also Read: 10 Ways To Save Money While On Holiday

Explore Alternatives to Hotels – The internet has created an entire subgenre of the hospitality industry that simply didn’t exist 20 years ago. People the world over are opening their homes to travellers through services like HomeAway, Airbnb and Roomorama. If you’re truly the adventurous type you can use a hospitality exchange which sets you up with someone willing to let you stay on their couch for free with the expectation that one day you’ll return the favour. If none of that appeals to you the world is still fairly crawling with hostels.

Use Budget Airlines – The best known airlines can charge more because they have an established reputation for getting you from here to there safely and in relative comfort. People like predictability so they’re willing to pay more to fly these airlines. Low cost start-up carriers have no such reputation however. They just want to put butts in seats and are willing to offer deep discounts to do that. You can save hundreds of dollars on your flights by eschewing the big boys and flying with the unknowns.

Eat In – If you arranged your accommodations through Airbnb or some such service or you’re staying in a hostel there’s a good chance there will be a kitchen. Use it. You can save significant amounts of money by cooking your own meals whenever possible while on the road. Even if you’re in a hotel somewhere you can still save big by hitting up the local supermarket for salads and sandwich making materials and keeping them in the fridge in your room.

Eat Local – If you must eat out avoid tourist areas like the plague. Prices will be on average 25 to 50 percent more in these areas. Instead go off the beaten track and find where the locals eat. Even in the most popular tourist destinations like Paris you can find affordable meals if you veer from the Montmartre/Notre Dame/Eiffel Tower axis and explore the back streets. You’re also liable to discover hidden cultural gems on your way that you would never have seen if you’d stayed with the herd.

Take the Bus – Or the songtaew or the subway or just walk. Sure, it’s not glamorous but there’s typically no better way to get a feel for a location then by traveling the way the locals do. You’ll also save a ton of money as opposed to taking taxis or private coaches. Like seeking out local eateries this will challenge your communication skills and may be a bit nerve wracking at first, you’ll wind up with a much more comprehensive understanding of your locale and save a bundle in the process.

Free Museum Days! – The standard admission price to the Louvre is €15. However if you are under 26 you can get in free every Friday after 6 pm. On other days they offer free admission to a variety of visitors ranging from art students and teachers to those under 18. Most major museums in other cities offer similar perks so it just doesn’t make sense to show up during peak hours and pay the entrance fee without first investigating whether you actually have to.

Call Home with Skype – Are you still paying to call home while you travel? Why, when you can call anywhere for free using Skype? Sound too good to be true? Well it’s not. As long as both you and the person you call have Skype installed on their mobile phone/PC/laptop/iPad or whatever you’ll be able to talk to your heart’s content for nothing. Nada. Zippo. What could be better?

Use Credit Cards That Don’t Charge Foreign Transaction Fees – Not every card slaps you with big fees when you use them overseas. Do some homework and find a financial institution that offers cards with free foreign transactions and secure one before traveling.

Traveling doesn’t have to be as expensive as you might think. Put these handy tips to use while traveling and you’ll see more for less and have a more fulfilling experience to boot.

Bailiffs & Debt Collectors: What are Your Rights?

Bailiffs & Debt Collectors: What are Your Rights?

If you have built up debt over the years then you are likely to feel anxious about making payments on time. The main reason for this is that you will know if you fall behind on your payments then the bailiffs or debt collection companies may become involved.

These companies are organised by a creditor in order to recover debt from you. They seem to have a negative reputation, and seeing as they are often involved as a money recovery tool, this is understandable.

If you are struggling to make repayments the you may also want to consider an IVA or a Trust Deed if you live in Scotland. This article provides some great advice “How To Help Yourself If You Cant Afford To Pay The Bills. 

Worried that a bailiff or debt collector may become involved in your debt? Want to know more about your rights and the process to expect? Here is our helpful guide to understand more about what they may mean for you.

When may a bailiff come to your home?

There is a big difference between debt collectors and bailiffs. Debt collectors are sent to your home in order to enquire about your payment plans for a source of debt, however you do not have to let them into the property, and they are unable to take anything from your home.

A bailiff on the other hand is employed by the court as a form of debt collection. They are often involved in cases such as county court judgments, child maintenance arrears, unpaid tax or parking fines. A bailiff will visit your home only when you have received a final demand from the creditor in question, and you have been given a 7 day notice that they will be coming.

Do you have to let them in?

This is a common question that is asked regarding bailiffs. The answer is that you don’t have to let them into your property, however, you should be prepared for them to use forceful entry in some circumstances.

Forceful entry does not mean that they can push past you, or break your windows in order to get into your home. But they can break a door lock or remove a gate lock if they have been given the right of entry.

A bailiff is restricted on the time that they can gain access to your property, and they are only allowed to use regular entrances, which means that they cannot get in through open windows.

There is a bailiff on my doorstep, what can I do?

The first thing that you should make sure you do is ascertain whether they are indeed bailiffs or if they are debt collectors. This can be done by asking for their ID and proof of authorisation. You will also need to have had notice that they would be coming to the property.

It may be advisable not to open the door to them until you are definitely sure of their identity. If you need to open the door in order to speak to them or see their ID, then you should try to block their entrance as much as you can. Although, this may cause some tension in the situation, so always be respectful in what you are saying and the way that you are presenting yourself.

Bailiffs want to recover the money that is owed, and removal or property is always a last resort, therefore if you can work out a payment plan with them, then this is always going to be the preferred choice. Often, they will require a payment there and then. If you can do this then you should always make sure that they give you a receipt to prove that you made the payment, the rest of the money will then be paid directly to the creditor, and you will need to cover any charges made by the bailiff for their services.

If you cannot make a payment or agree on a payment plan, then the bailiffs are able to take your belongings. They can only take belongings that are owned by you and you need to be able to prove that they don’t belong to you rather than the other way round. They are not allowed to take items that you will need such as your white goods, clothes or any equipment that is related to your work.

Is there any way I can stop them from coming to my house?

As we have said, when a bailiff is coming to your property you will receive 7 days notice. It is important that you do not ignore this notice. The majority of creditors will want to resolve the issue as easily as quickly as possible, which means that you should speak to them about arranging a payment plan.

Explain your situation and come to an agreement on what you will be able to pay on a regular basis, this is the simplest way to prevent a visit from any bailiffs. However, you should remember that if you fall behind with any payments then you may find yourself expecting a visit from them again.

Finding out that the bailiffs are coming to your property can be worrying, but you need to remember that there are still things you can do in order to stop the process and ensure that you don’t have to lose your property. You won’t be able to bury your head in the sand and ignore the issue, but you can work with the creditor to come up with a solution that not only works for them, but is something that you can maintain for however long you need to keep up the payments.

 

What is an IVA? – All you need to know!

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What is an IVA? – All you need to know!

You may have heard the term ‘IVA’ used when people and companies talk about debt – but what is it? How would you go about getting one? And would it be the right solution for you?

What is it exactly?

IVA stands for ‘Individual Voluntary Agreement’ – it’s a legally binding agreement put into place by between an individual and companies they owe money to.

What does it do?

Essentially an IVA (Individual Voluntary Agreement) takes into consideration all the unsecured debt that a person owes and packages it together into one large sum. The person is supported to calculate exactly how much they can afford to pay toward that sum each month and an agreement is put into place to ensure this payment is made. Payments will normally be made for 5 years and when the final payment is made, any outstanding money is written off and you are debt free.

Who can get one?

If you think an IVA might be the right solution the first step is to talk to a professional company experienced in supporting people through the process. You will work with that company to assess your current financial situation and an affordable monthly repayment amount will be decided upon. When that’s been done, your creditors will be contacted and this monthly amount will be proposed – they can either be in favour of the agreement or against it.

What happens if they say no?

Often it doesn’t matter, the company or companies to which you owe the largest proportion of the money get the final say, so if most agree, the others are bound by the agreement anyway. Creditors often welcome an IVA, for them it means a repayment of at least some of the debt, which is often preferable to chasing an individual over a large period of time with no certainty that they will be able to recover their money.

So I just pay a set amount?

To begin with an amount is agreed upon based on your current financial position – but this can change. Part of the reason creditors agree to an IVA relates to the fact it’s based on affordability, so if you can afford a little more, the payment might increase – although it’s not just creditors that are protected, if your financial circumstances change and you can no longer afford the payment then it can be reduced.

Who puts an IVA in place?

An Insolvency Practitioner (often referred to as an IP) assesses your finances and draws up the legal agreement between yourself and the companies you owe money to. As professionals, IPs are trusted to do this fairly and impartially. When in place they oversee the agreement, making sure an affordable amount of money is being repaid and ensuring that creditors stick to the terms – which includes not adding any additional charges or interest.

Why do people choose an IVA?

No more calls: The IP deals with the creditors so you don’t have to.

Your house is safe: Court action is stopped, if you’re a homeowner this means your house is no longer at risk.

No more charges: When an amount is agreed by a creditor that’s it, they cannot add further charges or interest.

Agreed amount: You make the payment you can afford, not more.

Agreed timescales: Your agreement runs for the time agreed (normally 5 years) – after that your debt is gone.

Continuing to struggle with out-of-control debts might feel like it’s the only option or the right thing to do – but it could be leading you toward a far worse situation; including bankruptcy or repossession of your home. If you think an IVA could be the right path for you speaking to a professional could lift an enormous weight from your shoulders and protect.

 

How to Save Up

All of us dream of saving enough money to accomplish something we have always wanted. Some of us dream of going on a holiday cruise abroad. Some want to get that dream house they have always wanted. Some dream of living a life comfort in their twilight years.

Whatever your goal is, saving money is often easier said than done. This article seeks to give you some concrete advice to help you save money.

Also Read: 10 Budgeting Tips For Low Income Families 

Set a Goal 

First things first, you need to have a concrete number in mind. This will serve as your target, your goal. This is actually a crucial step as it will give you something to strive for. Otherwise, your dream vacation will only remain in your dreams.

Check Your Finances

You need to rein in all financial documents in your possession. This is vital so that you can have a concrete idea on the state of your finances. It will also give you a timeframe for your financial goals.

Make a Budget

Now that you know where you stand, it is now a matter of planning how to get to your goals. Making a budget is simple enough – juxtapose your income flow.

Making A Personal Budget

In order to properly manage one’s finances, it is crucial that each individual crafts his or her own personal budget. It is probably one of the most useful financial tools out there. Luckily, making a budget is easy enough that anyone can do it.

Budgeting is also one of the best ways to keep yourself our of debt, we all like to spend our money and buy nice things, however sometimes this does lead us to spending more than we make. This is covered is a recent article called The Psychology of Debt which is also worth a read.

This article presents the simple steps you need to do to make a personalized budget.

Getting the Full Financial Picture

Before making the budget itself, you will first need to have a grasp on your financial situation. After all, your budget will serve as your financial blueprint. So, like with any plan, you will want your financial blueprint to be as accurate as possible.

Making the Budget

In order to make the budget itself, you will need to make a two-column table. One for your income flow, and one for all your expenses. Make sure that you deduct taxes from your income so that you get the actual amount.

This should be as detailed as possible. List down all your expenses, including food, rent, and utilities. By determining the amount of money coming in and going out, you will be able to determine expenditures you can trim or cut out altogether.

Do the budget regularly and make the necessary adjustments for every cycle. More importantly, follow it!