money cashA budget is an incredibly useful financial tool. In basic terms, it’s a plan that provides an in-depth overview of your spending habits and earnings, so that you can establish a good idea of where your money is going. Provided you stick to the plan you make, you should find that your budget helps you to stay on top of your spending, and avoid using more money than you earn.

The problem with a lot of modern budgets is that they aren’t designed to work. While many people look at their typical monthly spending, they forget about extra expenses like your weekly coffee, or the newspaper you pick up on the way to work. With that in mind, it’s worth starting 2018 with a closer look at your budget, so you can make sure it’s as accurate as possible.

Organise Your Information and Take Your Time

The first thing you need to do when you’re getting an in-depth look at your budget is set aside at least an hour where you can examine the information you have carefully. Rushing your way through the experience makes it more likely that you’ll make mistakes. It’s a good idea to gather all the paperwork you’re going to need before you get started, so make sure you get hold of a few months of bank statements, along with copies of household bills, credit card bills, and savings.

Some people also find it helpful to look at their pension contributions and regular savings accounts too, as this gives a more complete overview of your financial situation.

Evaluate your Income

Once you’ve got all the information you need handy for creating a budget, make a note of your typical earnings from your employment. You should take off any of the money you don’t get to see, such as the amounts used for tax, student loans, pension contributions, and so on. Then add your additional sources of income from investments, savings, self-employment or anything else.

Give yourself an average of what you’ve earned over the last three months, and use that to give yourself a rough idea of what you can expect to earn in the coming months.

Track Your Essential Spending

Now it’s time to start thinking about how much money you spend in a critical way. Categorise your payments so you have an idea of where your cash is going. For instance, you might have categories that include your mortgage payments, childcare, groceries, utility bills, and travel. Then gather your bank statements, credit card bills, and household bills to check you’ve got all the numbers right.

As you did with your income, calculate the total amount spent on essentials over the last three months, then subtract that from your monthly earnings. This will help you to see what your “disposable” income should look like.

It might also be worthwhile to consolidate some of your essential spending into one lower, affordable payment. Particularly if you have a lot of priority debt payments. Sites like Readies.co.uk can advise you on this and help you make an educated and informed decision.

Review Your Disposable Spending

An accurate insight into how you’ve spent your disposable income up until now will help to prevent you from over, or under-budgeting in certain places. Keep track of how much you’ve spent of your disposable income over the last three months so that you can calculate an average. If you put money into savings or an emergency fund, you should keep a note of that too.

This is the point where you might start to discover that you’re spending more than you earn. If this is the case, you need to start re-thinking the way you use your disposable income.

Choose a Budget You Can Stick to

Now that you have an accurate picture of your spending habits, you should be able to draw up a budget that feels more realistic for you to stick to. Use your spending figures for the last three months, and you could even calculate how much money you could potentially save if you can cut down on unnecessary spending.

Just remember that life is an ever-changing thing, and once you’ve drawn up your budget, you’ll need to keep an eye on how faithfully you’re sticking to it and adjust your expectations accordingly. Most experts recommend revisiting your budget every month, as this way, if you’re constantly overspending, you’ll be able to readjust your strategy before it has too much of an impact on your financial goals.

If you have trouble keeping track, you could always try downloading a budgeting application onto your phone or computer that will help you to assess your finances each month.

Child Savings and Investment Plans – it’s never too early to start saving or investing!

In an uncertain economic climate more and more parents are taking steps to ensure their children are given extra financial protection. As your children grow, your family will face expenses both expected and unexpected, from school and university fees to medical bills. Creating a savings or investment plan ahead of time could mean you’ll be able to see you and your children through these eventualities with a minimum of stress.

What do I need from my savings or investment plan?

Before you choose a savings or investment plan for your children, you should consider what your goals are. If you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve, you’ll be able to select the plan which works best for your family.  A savings or investment plan for your children can be used for a range of options, including:

  • School fee planning – If you’re planning to opt for private education for your children, typical fees are around £3,500 a term. Depending on what kind of private education your child receives, you’ll need to prepare for the financial burden. Unexpected costs, such as sports, field trips and uniforms can add to the cost.

  • University costs planning – University tuition is becoming more expensive every year – from September universities will be able to charge up to £9,000 a year in fees. On top of academic fees, your child may face the additional cost of living and maintenance – especially if they choose to move away from home. Investing before your child goes to university may prove to be a huge help when the costs eventually hit.

  • Reducing inheritance tax – If you want to reduce the sting of an inheritance tax on your estate and give your child or grandchild the best possible start, investing in a savings or investment plan, such as a junior ISA, may be right for you as the money will be passed on to your beneficiaries free from tax. Tax-free means free of income and capital gains tax (other than tax on dividends from UK shares). Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and tax law may change in future. Both cash and stocks and shares JISAs are available. Please remember that with stock market investments, your investment can fall as well as rise and you might not get back as much as you have paid in.

What are my options?

When it comes to finding the plan that’s going to work best for you and your children, make sure you’re aware of your options. Some of these are listed below but you should take time to research further options that are available to suit your needs. The internet is a good source of free information. You can also contact a financial adviser, although there may be a charge for providing such advice and they should confirm any cost beforehand.

  • Junior ISAs – If you have a long time to go before school or university begins, a JISA may appeal to you. The ‘JISA’ is for children under the age of 18. There are limits on how much you can deposit in a JISA – £3,600 each tax year. You can make regular monthly deposits or lump sum payments into the plan. The lump sum your child will receive when they turn 18 will be tax-free. Tax-free means free of income and capital gains tax (other than tax on dividends from UK shares). Tax treatment depends on individual circumstances and tax law may change in future. Both cash and stocks and shares JISAs are available. Please remember that with stock market investments, your investment can fall as well as rise and you might not get back as much as you have paid in.

  • National Savings Bonds – The Children’s Bonus Bond, offered by National Savings & Investments, is backed by the government and provides a way of saving securely for your child. The bonds offer a fixed rate of tax-free interest for five years and even deliver a bonus at the end if you hold onto them for the full term. Tax-free means the fund your plan invests in grows free of income and capital gains tax (other than tax on dividends from UK shares). Tax treatment depends on your individual circumstances and tax law may change in future.  They can be cashed in early, but no interest is earned if cashed in within first year. Since the interest and payment are guaranteed, this may be a good option if you have a precise idea of what you’re saving for.

  • Tax Exempt Savings Plans: you’re able to invest up to £25 per month in tax exempt savings plans for children. Tax-free means free of income and capital gains tax (other than tax on dividends from UK shares). Be aware – tax treatment is based on individual circumstances and the levels of taxation may change in the future. If the child accesses the plan before a certain time, usually 10 years, tax payments may be due. As with all stock market investments they might not get back as much as you have paid in.

Being aware of every approach to saving or investing for your child’s future is the first and best step to ensuring they have the head start you want for them.

Author: Jill Mackay, Scottish Friendly

Scottish Friendly has provided no advice in relation to these plans. If you are in any doubt as to whether a plan is suitable for you, you should contact a financial advisor for advice. If you do not have a financial adviser, you can get details of local financial advisers by visiting www.unbiased.co.uk Advisers may charge for providing such advice and should confirm any cost beforehand.

The Bailiffs at my door post a while back caught a lot of people’s attention and now today I am in a position to round off, close down and draw a  big thick line underneath what has been a frightening, experience which I NEVER wish to repeat and would like to make as many people aware of as possible.

Last November on the 12th to be exact, I drove up to London with the girls in tow as we were meeting my friend Enrica over from Italy for a week in London. I was excited as I hadn’t seen her for ages and phoned my brother who lives in Waterloo a couple of days beforehand to make sure he had Resident Visitors parking permits. He did and as I know they cost £10.00 each I offered as per usual to pay for it. I explained I wouldn’t be disturbing him as I was meeting friends but would literally knock on the door to get my ticket and shoot off towards the Festival Hall.

That’s what happened. The permit is like a scratch card, we scratched out the date added the car registration number (as I have previously omitted this and had to fork out £60 for my forgetfulness!) I placed the card in full view of the dashboard and checked after the car door was shut that it could be seen. Happy as Larry, I skipped off with my double buggy secure in the knowledge the car was safe and parked properly.

I returned to the car at around 7pm, there was no parking ticket on my windscreen, I didn’t think to look anyway as I had a paid permit, so off I went home which took ages to cross London in rainy rush hour traffic.

I didn’t think anymore of it till Mr Elliott the buyer of our last property knocked on my door around a month ago and handed over a Bailiff’s removal notice.

I thought it was a scam and laughed it off but he advised me to phone the number and as he’s a policeman I did.

It wasn’t a scam, ‘Pay £638.44 in 24 hours or I’m coming to take your car or possessions to that value!’ the bailiff said. He wasn’t a nice person, he was intimidating, and put the phone down on my partner three times in one conversation. These people aren’t paid to be nice and understanding and let’s be very clear they get paid by picking up your money so it is very obviously in their interest to retrieve your cash for their pockets.

I fortunately, with a few phone calls, managed to obtain an Out Of Time Witness Statement and block the whole process. Surely there would be a judge who would see I had nothing to do with all of this, there had been a huge mistake. I hadn’t received any correspondence and Mr Elliott, the policeman was willing to sign a statement to that effect to say he hadn’t either.

A letter came back saying our OOT had been refused and where to make an appeal.

So for £45.00 we paid another judge to have another look at our case explaining in bullet points all of the reasons why.

  1. We had a correctly filled in residents visitors parking permit in full view
  2. I never found a parking ticket on that day on the car
  3. I had moved from my old house on 28th June previous and never received any correspondence
  4. Mr Elliott, the policeman was willing to sign a statement saying he hadn’t received any letters to forward on either
  5. The first I became aware of this fine was when I was handed my bailiffs removal notice
  6. On speaking to Lambeth Council I discovered there wasn’t any photographic evidence and that the case should have never have got that far anyway
Deputy District Judge Rich from Northampton County Court refused our appeal. We got the letter yesterday
Cheers for that mate!
After another afternoon on the phone our options are three
  1. Pay Equita
  2. Ask for another hearing but this time be present in order to fight your case more coherently for the cost of £80.00 in a county court local to your residence
  3. Get independent legal advice (that could possibly run into thousands)
Paul is still adamant that we shouldn’t pay but as his dad pointed out the more you fight the more they dig and you hadn’t changed the log book over, their excuse the whole time will be ‘How were we to know you lived somewhere else?’
I phoned Equita, broken at this turn of events and discovered that the current outstanding charge is £407.00.
It’s been paid.
I didn’t consult Paul as I knew he would want to fight it. Which will mean a fight when we talk about it later but I can’t see anyway out other than throwing more money at who?
I am pleased that horrible wretched bailiff didn’t get any money out of us, he was asking for £638.44 – the extra (you do the maths) was obviously for his pocket for his ‘work’ but I can’t help but feel we’ve been done by a system that should be in place to protect us.
My crime was not changing the log book over of the car in time so I beg of any busy mother and father because if she doesn’t get round to doing it then YOU must. When you move house CHANGE THE CAR DETAILS OVER. I tried online and it can’t be done, you have to do it by post and it kept slipping my mind as I got wrapped up in daily life and charged from one day to the next.
Another mistake I made was not paying Royal Mail £40.00 per adult to forward on our post. I thought that price was ridiculously high and Mr Elliott had very kindly promised to drop any post through the front door as we hadn’t moved that far. He’s been throwing my mail out and it’s cost me £400.
My advice for any busy mum moving house? Learn by my mistakes and good luck with the move

An exciting time of year the summer – holidays, days out, barbecues with friends and families and of course, money, of which we all need tons to buy new summer clothes, sun creams, flip flops, ice creams and every other delight you cannot possibly do without.

‘No worries’ money box

One favourite of mine is the good old money box and here’s a picture of ours, a souvenir from the South West a few years back.

As the year progresses any small change I find around the house goes into the money box and isn’t opened until we’re due to go on holiday. Now there’s never massive amounts in there but all the same enough to buy a first class picnic for the journey or treat ourselves to a full English Breakfast on the journey.

I usually take the coins to a local supermarket where they have a coin counting machine that spits out any euros or other foreign currency that may have erroneously gone in. You are then given a receipt so you can collect your booty from a cashier.

Last time I think we drummed about just over £14.00. Not bad.

Do you still have a money box somewhere and what do you do with the money you collect?

footnote 08/06/2010 – I saved £17.49! yoohoo!