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Amazon set to dominate the small business loan market

Amazon has always taken an aggressive approach to business, transforming the face of retail and the way we consume books in the 22 years the company has been in operation. Utilizing aggressive growth tactics is Amazon’s M.O., and it uses it to great effect, disrupting entire industries in the process.

This is not necessarily a bad thing as it has enabled even the smallest of companies to access markets that may have been well beyond their reach otherwise. Amazon Marketplace was a game changer, there’s no questioning that.

Consumers with little time on their hands suddenly found themselves faced with a trusted marketplace, filled with trusted retailers that they could place orders with from the comfort of their own homes – no more traipsing around shopping malls looking for something that may not even be in stock. The fact that they could shop from their smartphone too was just icing on the cake. There was a worry, at one point, that the emerging generation would forget what a physical store looked like and this would herald the decline of the bricks and mortar retailer.

Obviously, worrying about this proved to be time wasted. The acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion was just the latest move in the Amazon drive to sink its fingers into as many pies as it can, wasn’t it? Apparently not, no.

Amazon and the case of the small business loan

Amazon, very quietly, has been making some very strong inroads into the small business loans market over the past 12 months (at the time of announcement). How strong have these incursions been? They recently trumpeted that during the 12 month period, they had made $1 billion in small business loans. These loans were not restricted to the USA, either. In fact, over 20,000 small businesses in the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan had been in receipt of business loans from Amazon.

If Amazon pursues the small business loans market in the same way that it aggressively went after online retailing and eBooks, then it could potentially change the banking industry forever. Business loan providers could also suffer, although they have less to worry about being able to move in slightly different ways than banks – and faster than Amazon can right now. The Best Egg review sheds some light on how they work.

Starting life selling books and Compact Discs, way back in 1995, Amazon has amassed total sales of over $400 billion and making Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) the richest man in the world, with a personal fortune of $90 billion, into the bargain. Being bold, aggressive and not afraid of charging headlong into the fray is what allowed Amazon to rank among the top 10 U.S. employers.

The fact that they branched out into non retail areas is a little surprising, giving their past track record, but the business loan market is not unknown to them either. Many people don’t realise this, but Amazon actually started this several years ago. Amazon Lending was born in 2011, and to date has topped $3 billion in loans.

Why are we only really hearing about this now? The fact that a third of their total came in 12 months, while the rest was accrued over a 6 year period, shows just how rapidly they expanding in the small business lending space. It also emerged that over 50% of companies that take a loan with Amazon come back for at least one more.

Amazon small business lending: A license to print money?

Entering the loans arena was actually a rather smart move by Jeff Bezos. Amazon will, naturally, earn interest on all approved loans. With money continuing to be earned via retailers on the main Amazon site, the company is suddenly more cash rich than ever before. With money being raised, almost passively, there is more available to lend, earn interest on, to lend, interest on… You get the idea. Amazon are making superb progress in an exceptionally lucrative market.

While Amazon lending is invitation only, those that are approached are able to apply for loans between $k and $750k. It should also be noted that companies Amazon approach are already selling on the site. This in of itself is a genius move, with Amazon collecting cash on both ends of the retailer – interest on repayments, and increased fees on retailer sales.

Seemingly not content with the U.S., UK and Japan, the company has been dropping hints that it is looking at expanding to other countries where there is an Amazon TLD (top level domain). Strong marketplaces that they could be looking at include India, Canada, France, and China.

The Vice President of Amazon Marketplace, Peeyush Nahar, is quoted as saying “We created Amazon Lending to make it simple for up-and-coming small businesses to efficiently get a business loan, because we know that an infusion of capital at the right moment can put a small business on the path to even greater success.”. Obviously, he has to say that.

There’s no doubt that smaller business will benefit enormously, but let’s not pretend that Amazon got into the loans business for altruistic reasons. There’s nothing wrong with making money, the nation was built on the principle of capitalism, but nobody should be any illusion about the fact that Amazon has done this with their coffers in mind, not the retailer.

Should banks really be that concerned?

In a word, yes. In many ways, banks are still stuck in the pre-internet days where loans have to be discussed in person, in front of somebody whose sole purpose is to judge whether or not you can make them money. Loans provided over the internet work in a similar way, of course, but there is no sense of being weighed and measured and the fact that you don’t have to set aside an entire day to do it is even better.

Given the choice between a 30 minute process, at the very most, and a drive to the bank after spending precious, copious amounts of time preparing beforehand, getting statements and forecasts prepared and printed, the vast majority of small business owners are going to choose the digital option.

The small business operator simply does not have the time for traditional banking and the longer it takes traditional banks to realise that, the closer to the edge they become. Services like Amazon Lending are slowly but surely taking over the space traditionally occupied by the big bank so yes, banks should be worried.

How To Get Your Life Back On Track After A Personal Injury

Millions of people all around the world have experienced a personal injury of one form or another, it could be a relatively minor injury or a more serious long-term one that has a more dramatic effect on your health.

But either way getting your life back on track after a personal injury can be a long and tiring process and it’s something that everyone is going to be affected by differently. So, there’s no one easy way to just get back to your old routine after you suffer a personal injury in fact in some cases going back to your old routine might be impossible.

It all really depends on the severity of your injury and your finances are going to play an important part of your journey after your injury as well. No one really wants to think about finances after suffering a personal injury, but they are a very important factor and one that will play a huge part in your journey towards getting your life back on track.

While there is no one great fix that’s a guaranteed way to get you back to your old routine after an injury we can share some helpful pointers that will be sure to help in the majority of cases. The seriousness and nature of your injury will have a big effect on this but in the majority of cases, our advice below should be helpful to anyone looking to get their life back on track.

Seek Medical Attention Immediately

Of course, if your injury is so severe that you’re knocked unconscious or break a bone you’ll have no option but to get medical attention right away. But in many personal injury cases, people can brush off seemingly minor injuries and accidents for a long time before they notice that they have had a long-term impact on their health.

For example, you might have tripped on a wet floor and sprained your ankle and just thought that it was you being clumsy, and it actually isn’t anything serious. But you could later have trouble walking or putting pressure on your foot and find that you’ve broken a bone.

So, whatever your injury seek medical attention immediately don’t blame yourself and act fast. This is especially true in the case of head injuries because many times head injuries can have more serious after effects that people don’t realise for a long time. So, get attention quickly and don’t blame yourself or just put it off for later.

Make A Claim For Compensation

No one really likes to think about it about but one of the biggest worries a person will have after they’ve suffered a personal injury will be the impact the injury as on their finances. If you can’t work how are you going to pay your bills?

You might have savings, but they can go fast when you don’t have any other income coming in and is it really fair for you to exhaust your savings because you suffered a personal injury that wasn’t your fault? We don’t think so and the law agrees that’s why anyone who has suffered a personal injury that wasn’t their fault should claim compensation.

Many law offices specialise in personal injury claims so as soon as you feel ready you should make your claim for compensation. As an added bonus many personal injury lawyers will work on a no win no fee basis, so even if you do lose which is unlikely in many cases you won’t be out of pocket.

Even if the injury is minor if it’s impacted your health then you should still consider making a claim for compensation. Some lawyers, such as Warriors For Justice who are personal injury lawyers in Fort Worth, Texas will even offer a free estimation service, so you’ll have a better idea of whether you will win or lose a case. Being injured is stressful enough but the added financial impact can cause even more problems and is sure to affect your mental health.

So, make a claim for compensation when you can, by making a claim for compensation you are also more likely to find some justice in what happened to you. When you’re injured by no fault of your own it’s easy and understandable to feel lost and angry but by seeking compensation you’ll also be getting justice.

Get Some Rest 

After you have suffered a personal injury of any kind make sure you take some time off to rest and recover. Don’t whatever you do rush back into work or your old routine, for more serious injuries you might not be able to ever do this, unfortunately.

Once you’ve made your claim for compensation take some time off to rest and recover, this won’t just do wonders for your physical health but will also help your mental health as well. After suffering an injury, you can feel like your whole life has been thrown out of balance but by taking some time to relax and recover you’ll be able to more easily get your life back on track.

Yes, you could have a lot of free time but make the best of it! Binge some TV shows on Netflix or indulge in a hobby or even try something that you’ve never done before but also wanted to do. Basically, use your time off to treat yourself there are many ways you can go about doing this and it will differ for everyone, but make sure you take time out after suffering an injury to give yourself some me time.

Look To The Future

Finally, start looking towards the future this won’t be easy in the early days of your recovery and will probably be the furthest thing from your mind after you suffer an injury but once you made your claim for compensation and left the hospital start looking towards your future.

Try not to dwell on the past. This is, of course, easier said than done especially in the case of more serious injuries but by looking towards to the future you can be sure to get your life back on track again.

Reasons to Hire a Mortgage Advisor

Taking out a mortgage is an exciting – but demanding – time. Whether you are set to become a first-time homeowner or are moving a further rung along the property ladder, there will be a great deal of work to be done, including research and paperwork.

If you are considering the use of a mortgage advisor such as Dumfries Mortgage Advisors but have concerns about the expense that may be incurred, take a look at these reasons why you should bring our team of qualified professionals into your mortgage application.

A Mortgage Advisor Will Save You Time

Finding a mortgage deal can be fun and exciting at first, but it soon becomes wearing. There are so many different vendors out there, especially with the rise of online lending, and it can be difficult to keep track of all the different rates and options.

If you bring in the services of a professional mortgage advisor, you can focus all your energies on your new home – let us do the legwork of searching and comparing different rates and cost implications. A mortgage advisor will only bring you suggestions that stand a strong chance of acceptance too, so you will remove the risk of damaging your credit score with an unrealistic application.

Of course, the work does not end with finding an agreeable mortgage rate to apply for. There is a great deal of paperwork to be completed before any mortgage can be rubber-stamped, and the forms in question are filled with enough financial lingo to leave a layperson scratching their head. If you bring in the services of a mortgage advisor there will be no need for you to spend your time on such logistics – that’s what a professional mortgage advisor is for.

You have to keep a lot of plates spinning while you’re applying for a mortgage and buying a new home, and it can quickly become too much work for anyone to deal with by himself or herself. Bringing in outside assistance from a mortgage advisor will allow you to keep on top of your mortgage application without sacrificing everything else that’s important in your life.

An Advisor Works for You, Not Your Bank

A bank or building society will be duty-bound to perform certain affordability checks to ensure that you can continue to make repayments on your mortgage, but that is largely where their commitment to you as a buyer begins and ends. Ultimately it is a transaction between customer and vendor, and there is very little opportunity for legal recourse if something goes wrong later in the process.

Bringing in a professional mortgage advisor, however, is a different story. Your advisor will be committed to you, and will ensure that the offer that reaches you is designed to work entirely on meeting your unique needs and circumstances.

The law will also protect you if you follow the advice of a mortgage advisor; in the hugely unlikely event that the information you are furnished with is inaccurate or untrue, you will be able to seek compensation to rectify any financial shortcomings. This is not something that is open to anybody that approaches a lender directly and acts in their own interests. 

They Will Find You a Better Deal

While it’s true that a professional mortgage advisor may not be able to gain access to direct-only deals offered by high street or online lenders, this is countered by the fact that our team can find offers that you would not.

As professional mortgage advisors, the team at will have direct contact with the key decision makers of a great many vendors. Particular deals and arrangements are frequently held back from the general public and reserved for access to professionals that work within the mortgage industry, and more often than not, these will be preferable to the customer.

The savings that are available through bringing in the services of a professional mortgage advisor often greatly outweigh the costs of utilising the services of one of our professional team members, so you have nothing to lose by picking up the phone to Dumfries today.

They Provide Future Security for your Home

Once you have your mortgage in place, everything should be smooth sailing. At least, that’s the theory. Unfortunately the world continues to turn after you have signed the contract on your property, and you will need to be certain that can continue making mortgage payments if your circumstances change unexpectedly.

The mortgage advisors on the team are qualified financial experts which means that their experience is not limited to mortgages. As part of the service, our team will also be able to make suggestions for a number of different insurance packages that will help you sleep easier once you are situated in your new home.

First and foremost, our advisors will find you the best possible home insurance policy – once again, potentially finding you a package that may not be available by browsing online or simply asking your mortgage lender for a package deal.

Perhaps more importantly, however, our team will be able to recommend a policy that protects you and your partner against death, critical illness or redundancy from your job.

Sometimes unfortunate circumstances can arise, and worrying about whether you will lose your home will only make a bad situation worse. By utilising the skills and experience of our team of advisors, you can breathe easier knowing that your home is protected no matter what happens.

These are just some of the reasons why you should consider the use of a professional mortgage advisor. 

Financial hacks for small businesses

Own a small business? Stuck with how to deal with the financial side of the company? Don’t let ongoing spreadsheets and multiple pages of numbers put you off. Get your financial brain into place. We have some financial hacks that can help you so you’re not left in the dark. Running your stainless steel banding company is the easy part.

Invoice regularly

Invoices. Basically a document to prove that a customer has bought something from you and your company, a record of the transaction that has just been placed. They are very important. They essentially hold how much money is coming into your company via sales. Invoicing correctly ensures that you will get paid, your staff will get paid, and more importantly, your bills will be paid on time. So it is essential to keep up with them.

As daunting as it may sound to deal with them, don’t let all your invoices build up till the end of the month. Watching that pile get higher and higher is more likely going to put you off in comparison to doing them. Why not keep your workload to a minimum? Continuously do you invoices throughout the month, possibly even weekly will save yourself a chunk of time, and trust me, you will thank yourself for it. When you have one million and one other things on your mind to do at the end of the month, this is one thing crossed off. Don’t keep putting it off, as they won’t magically disappear into thin air as much as you wish they would.

Create a financial plan

Having a plan allows you to stay organised. Jot down a list. Where will your money be going? What expenses will need covered on either a daily or monthly basis? This will then give you a better indication of where your money will be going and what you will be doing with it, so you don’t get too much of a shock when you see £25 coming off for Adobe Photoshop every month. Having this will then take you forward into planning a budget. All your money will be planned out accordingly. It also prepares you for unseen circumstances for other resources and inventory in the future.

Plan your business around the seasons

Stay alert through all the seasons. If your business is one that performs well in summer, but when it comes to winter it tends to quieten down, you, as a business owner, need to prepare for that by planning your finances accordingly. Say you have a machine that has been playing up for a few weeks and is close to breaking down, don’t wait until the last minute to do something about it. Plan in advance. Do something about it while you have the money. If you leave it too late, you could be one machine down with hundreds of work to do, and no ability to match up to it.

Separate business from personal

And by separate, I mean have separate bank accounts. Don’t mix your business and personal together, this can only make matters worse and leave you in a wide state of confusion. When was my business trip? Wait was that personal? Where did all my receipts go? No. Keeping everything separate will make it easy for everyone, especially your accountant! (She won’t be pulling her hair out demanding for the multiple receipts that you have lost.) By having a separate business account, this allows you to keep an accurate record of all spending coming in and out of your business. This will also save time when it comes to the end of the tax year. Instead of running around crazy wondering if the meal you had that one time was business or personal, everything will be dealt with separately. Plus, your accountant will love you forever for not mixing up your accounts when it comes to dealing with taxes and book keeping.

Pay the bills

Obvious, but true. Always pay your bills, and pay them on time. Putting off bills creates late fees, which will only cause you more hassle as it builds up over time. Just as you would your personal bills, it is important to pay your business bills on time too. Paying your bills on time, as silly as it sounds, allows your business to keep running smoothly, and prevents things from piling up. Simple things like setting a reminder on your computer or writing a note in your diary for the date that everything comes off will allow you to keep up to date with everything and less likely cause you any fines or get you into any unwanted trouble.

Sales & Marketing

It may be near the bottom of the list, but it is still equally as important. Now that you have your financial side of things under control, you can look at branching out and getting your company name out there for new customers. Implementing a marketing strategy is the best way to do this. Here you can invest some of the profits you have gained, or money you have saved to reach out to new people. Whether it be online, in a paper or even just a regular advertisement, putting some money into this side of things will probably earn you more back in the long run. This way you can introduce more people to your business and what it is all about.  The budget is up to you, the more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. But by starting off small, then gradually increasing, this could see your business branch out into some new opportunities.

No matter if you are a small business selling steel strapping or a large business selling clothes, money needs to stay stable in order for the business to run smoothly. Getting on board with some financial hacks will help keep your company on track! Keeping yourself updated on all aspects of your business is a great indicator that you care enough to have your business succeed.

Top Five Ways to Save Money when buying a Home

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.

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 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?

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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!

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.