Is it Worth Buying Premium Bonds

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Premium BondsPremium bonds have been around for several decades, and are one of the most well-known ways to invest in government-issued securities. Last year, the limit for investment in premium bonds was quadrupled from £10,000 to £40,000. But what exactly do premium bonds entail, and are they really a good place to put some of your savings?

About Premium Bonds

Premium bonds are a very safe place to put some savings. You can sell the bonds and reclaim your money at any time, and the risk to your funds while they are being held is low. However, unlike bank accounts or investments, there is no interest paid on your money. Instead, a random draw assigns monthly prizes to bond holders. Each individual bond is entered into the draw, so the more money you place into premium bonds the greater your chances of winning. Around 21 million individuals in the UK – which equates to roughly one in three of the population – currently hold 100 or more bonds. The top prize is a tempting £1 million, but of course the vast majority of prizes are much more modest.

Premium Bonds vs Savings Accounts

People purchase premium bonds in the hope of making money on their savings. It is therefore worth comparing the amount you can expect to receive with the most popular way to save; bank accounts.

The returns you can expect to receive from premium bonds average out at 1.35%. This is not a particularly attractive rate. It is no better than many easy access savings accounts, and these offer more flexibility and more instant access to your funds should you find that you need them. If you are willing to tie up your money for a certain term, you could receive significantly better returns from simply sticking with your bank.

Of course, the allure of premium bonds is that you might be lucky and win much more; perhaps even the million pound jackpot. However, this is pure gambling and the odds are not all that special. Equally, you might be unlucky and win nothing at all. It is, quite literally, just down to luck of the draw.

Are Premium Bonds Worthwhile?

This sounds like a very bleak picture of premium bonds, and indeed many people overestimate their value as a saving strategy. However, this does not mean they don’t have their uses.

Interest rates are so low that it can be tempting to invest some of your savings in premium bonds for the added excitement. Your invested capital is subject to extremely low risk, and you only stand to miss out on interest. When that interest doesn’t amount to much, it can be tempting to forego it on the offchance of a big win.

Premium bonds can also be useful for wealthier investors with a diverse portfolio who are not necessarily relying on every penny they can get from their investments. Premium bonds provide a very safe place to keep up to £40,000, and there is still that chance that they might win a prize.


Three Steps to Reduce Food Waste

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The average household wastes a surprising amount of food every year, and this leaves its impact on a family budget. If less food were wasted, less would have to be bought and the money spent on food would fall. The average household loses £470 a year on wasted food, according to Love Food Hate Waste, and for families with children that annual figure rises to £700.

There are several things you can do to reduce the amount of food that you waste and save that money for something else. These include:

Don’t be a Slave to Expiration Dates

It is estimated that over half of the food thrown away in the UK by households could still have been eaten. This is largely down to people adhering strictly to the dates printed on food. These dates are an important guideline, but that’s what they are a guideline. If in doubt, throw food away but use your common sense first. Dates should have a few days “safety net” built in, and many foods will make it obvious when they have really gone off. For example, milk will smell bad long before it becomes harmful.

It is also good to know the difference between “Use By” and “Best Before” dates. “Use By” is used for foods that become harmful when they go off. “Best Before” means the food may decline in quality but should be okay to eat unless there are issues such as mould.

Take Stock Regularly

Most food ends up expiring and getting thrown away because it has been forgotten about for a while. A great way to reduce waste is to regularly look through your fridge and cupboards and make sure you keep aware of the situation surrounding any perishable or opened foods you have. This could be as simple as asking yourself the question “do I have anything that needs to be used up” before deciding what to have for each meal.

If you need help keeping track there are several tactics you can use. For instance, you could assign a particular shelf in your fridge or cupboard exclusively to things that have been opened and need to be used, or which you have noticed have short dates. Alternatively, keep gods organised by how long they will last. It might take some time to get them in order in the first place, but after that it will be relatively simple to keep things that way.

Don’t Buy Excessively

Another way to cut food waste is to avoid buying too much of anything that will spoil in one go. People tend to be naturally drawn to larger value packs or multibuy discount offers because these usually represent the best value. However, if the extra is just going to get wasted, you are losing money instead of saving it.

If the savings from buying in bulk still look tempting, you might want to try splitting large packs of perishable goods with a friend. If you each pay half of the price and take half of the food, you will both get a better price than you would from a smaller pack and it will be easier to avoid waste.


Pointless Purchases: Things to Avoid Buying

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Bottled WaterSometimes, the best way to cut your spending is to identify things you can stop buying altogether. There are some things that are simply not necessary, or at least that there’s no point spending very much money on. Here are a few purchases that should be avoided, because you’re not really getting anything for your money.

Bottled Water

There is no evidence at all that mineral water is any healthier than tap water, so by buying bottled water you are paying money for something you have, quite literally, on tap at home. In fact, some studies have suggested there is a slightly higher risk to drinking bottled water because of looser safety regulations.

There are two situations in which you might have very good reasons to buy bottled water; when you need a drink while out and about or when you want a bottle that you can refill. Other than that, you (and your purse) will be better off with the tap variety. If you live in a hard water area and don’t like the taste, consider a water filter as a cheaper alternative to buying bottles.

Expensive Video Cables

Currently, HDMI leads are the dominant form of video cable and they come in a ridiculous array of prices. They are not unheard of in the pound shop, or they can easily cost £50-60. In fact, even major high street retailer Currys is currently selling a “Hyper Speed” HDMI cable for £149.99.

However, the biggest practical difference between this and a £1 cable is the fact that the “Hyper Speed” cable costs an extra £148.99. In the days when everything was analogue, your choice of cable may have made a very small difference to picture quality but digital signals are not subject to the same interference. As long as the signal reaches your TV set, the picture will be identical no matter how much you spend on a cable and phrases like “Hyper Speed” are virtually meaningless. Save your money and buy the cheapest cable you can find.

Disposable Batteries

Batteries are a necessity, but they can always be quite irritating. We need them to power so many of the things we own, but no matter how many we buy there never seem to be enough. They can also be expensive, and trying to economise with cheaper products soon turns out to be a false economy as they run out in no time.

Rechargeable batteries work out far cheaper than disposable ones. They also have the added advantage that, if you stock up fairly well, you will always have batteries to hand or, at worst, a quick charge away. High-capacity rechargeable batteries provide a life on each charge that rivals all but the most expensive of disposables. Their capacity is measured in mAh (milliamp hours), so the higher the number the better the batteries. However, if buying online always choose trusted brands. The web is full of weak, no-name batteries claiming absurdly high capacities, often higher than any real battery on the market.


Save as you Shop

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Receipt PrinterWhether buying online or doing your weekly food shop in the supermarket, there are a number of tactics you can use to save money. Some of these are as simple as looking for offers or not buying more than you need, but others don’t actually, directly have anything to do with the items you buy. Instead, they give you a small saving on every bit of money you spend, and over time this can build up into a nice sum you’ve managed to save.

Reward Cards

A lot of people wonder whether it is really worth bothering with loyalty cards and reward programmes. In fact, they are definitely worthwhile – at least for places where you shop often. All you do is hand your card over to the checkout assistant or swipe it at the self-service checkout – almost no effort at all. In return, you get a small amount of what you spent “reimbursed” in the form of loyalty points, and you will also usually receive vouchers for money saving or extra points. With regular shops you will be surprised how many points you can rack up.

Different schemes work in different ways. Tesco Clubcard points can be spent as a substitute for money in Tesco stores. Nectar Points are a bit more flexible. They can be earned and used in Sainsbury’s and in some other places, including some online retailers. Co-Operative Member Points, meanwhile, pay out annually in cash, with the value of each point depending on the year’s profits.

Cashback Websites

Cashback websites give you money back when you shop online. You can shop at the same sites you normally do, but instead of heading directly there you go via a link on the cashback site. The site then gets paid a commission for bringing your business to the retailer, and they pay a percentage back to you.

Top Cashback and Quidco are the two highest-paying cashback sites. They give you 100% of the commission, and rely on advertising revenue to make profits for themselves. Not all retailers can be accessed through cashback sites but a lot of them can, including most major names. Probably the biggest exception is eBay.

Cashback Cards

Some credit cards offer a percentage of cashback on purchases. Even if you would not normally use a credit card for day-to-day shopping, doing so with a cashback card and then paying the bill off promptly each month can give you small but noticeable savings through the cashback scheme.

Usually, cashback offers on credit cards will be limited. Either they will only be valid until your purchases have reached a certain combined value, they will only be offered for an initial period, or they will be limited by a combination of the above. For this reason, getting a credit card exclusively for a cashback offer may not be worthwhile unless you have a big purchase coming up.


How to save money on Mondays

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Do not fall into Monday blues by making the most of your money on the first day of the working week. No matter how big or small are your funds, here are some amazing discount deals that are available for every pocket.

Mondays at Yo Sushi

The deal at Yo Sushi is called ‘Blue Plate’ day when fifty of its best dishes are reduced to £2.50 a plate which saves you up to 40% on their usual prices. Some of these discounted dishes include things like spicy pepper squid, tuna maki and duck and moromi miso hand roll. However, keep in mind that freshly cooked hot dishes will be still available at their standard price. The Yo Sushi outlets are open until late, around 10pm, on Mondays.

Half price meals at The Slug and Lettuce

The ‘Happy Monday’ deal at Slug and Lettuce will really make your Monday happy. You automatically get 50% off your food bill at whatever time your turn up there. You can choose anything from their standard menu from chilli con carne to sausages, burgers and chicken dishes. If this is not a great deal, I don’t know what is.

25% off at Frankie & Benny’s

Frankie & Benny’s deal is called ‘Monday Madness’. With that offer you get 25% off your food bill every Monday evening. Frankie & Benny’s claim to be a New York Italian restaurant and bar whose menu includes things such as burgers, pastas, meatballs, salads and steaks.

The only thing you need to do in order to enjoy this deal is to turn up anytime from 5pm to 10pm in one of their 200 locations. And you can even make the most of their free Wi-Fi, in case you have some unfinished work for the day.

A Mojito on the house

Until 30th of November 2014, there is a ‘buy one, get one free on cocktails on Mondays at Drake & Morgan’s bars and restaurants. There are three locations in the city from which you can choose from. It is worth £7.50 a time, so when you go with a friend, it will be £3.75 for one cocktail each.

Movie Mondays

Anyone who is a Sky TV customer can buy up to two tickets for £3  each to watch any movie, including 3D, in O2 Cineworld in London. You just have to sign in online with your Sky ID details and you can either print your voucher to get your tickets or pre-book online for the upcoming Monday. This can save you nearly £8 per ticket.


How to Save Money on Insurance

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Here are a few simple tips for how to save money when you buy insurance for your house, car or any other item that you need to insure.

  1. Look around for different insurance companies every year: this will save you thousands of pounds. Looking for the best deals will always end up with finding something useful. This tip does not apply just for home and car insurance, but also for things like internet, cable and phone.
  2. Do not fall for the high deductible options- at the end of the day they won’t really do you a favor, unless you have an incredible luck. Therefore, the risk is not worthy.
  3. Make sure your home insurance is the right amount: often it may happen that owners insure their properties for less. The coverage cost should be based on the cost to rebuild new, not the mortgage price or market value of the house. When calculating the amount to rebuild the whole house again, it should always include the debris removal. Do not be influenced by the value of a similar house on the market.
  4. It is always worth getting a few different quotes: 4to 5 would be a good number and would give you a good basis for comparison.1
  5. Try to insure your car and house with the same company: if this option is possible, it will always save you more money that insuring them with two different companies.
  6. Where possible, try to pay 6 months at a time for car insurance, instead of monthly payments: this will save you a great deal of money.
  7. You might be interested to try the new Snapshot device- when you plug it into your car’s diagnostic port in the steering wheel, it is able to measure the miles/kilometers you drive; the time of the day and how many times you slam the brakes. It will help you see when it is a good time to reduce your premium.
  8. Let your home insurance know of any major repairs that you have done recently: if you have replaced your roof, home wiring and a security system and you let your insurance company, you might have the chance to receive a good premium reduction.
  9. Be aware that nowadays most insurance companies use aspects of your credit to determine your rate: if you have a good credit, this might be in your advantage. You have the right to ask for a re-check on your credit score once per year.

If you follow these simple tips, you might save a good deal money on insurance. It is always worth trying!


Avoid unnecessary spending during the holidays

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Often for many of us Christmas can be a very costly and commercialised holiday with no way to avoid the festive spending. More innovative branding, advertising and new products on the market may see you part with even more of your money than the years before.  Here are some of the top ways you can be made to part with your money so take note to avoid them.

Mobile apps

During the festive season we often let loose and go app crazy with many smart phone applications which are designed to look the part luring us into spending away our money. What many of us don’t know is that there are hundreds of fake applications on the market which are designed to defraud its buyers. According to the firm McAfee such apps obtain personal information stored on our handset and make purchases to the user’s personal account. The best way to avoid this swindle is by checking the app comment section as well as checking up on the authenticity of the creator.

First Class Postal Service

Royal Mail data shows that hundreds of millions festive cards are posted every year to our close friends and relatives. Many of us leave it until late and try to compensate with first class post. Downgrading to second class will save you £10 per 100 cards sent. Surprisingly only 55% of the first class post actually arrived the next day with 90% of second class items on the other hand arriving within their promised three day period.

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Charity cards

Millions of Brits every year aim to do at least one good deed around the festive season with the easiest and most tempting way to do this is by sending charity Christmas cards. Some high street shops however, take advantage of the festive good will spirit by charging higher than normal prices and only giving a little away to charity organisations. The Charities Advisory Trust has stated that retailers on average tend to agree that a 10% donation is sufficient from the profit made on charity items. However, findings showed that a card in Asda gave as little as 6.6% away to charity, pocketing the rest!

Extended warranties

The extended warranty offered by most high street electronic and goods stores has been a quick and easy way for companies to increase their profit margins. The holidays can mean purchasing expensive gifts which we wold like our loved ones to use for a long time. However, most electronic items as well as goods in general already come with a 12 month warranty. This is usually extended free of charge by the stores themselves as well as the fact that in England, by law, a store is required to exchange your good for a period of up to six years should you prove it to be faulty.


Frugal top-tips on saving on your energy bill

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With energy companies once again putting their prices up with the latest hike coming from top six provider EDF, many households across the UK will have to take matters into their own hands by maximising their household energy efficiency or simply cutting down their energy consumption. A report suggests that the estimate annual household bill is £1315 although for many households this figure will be a target since the reality is that household energy consumption can easily exceed this estimate.

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Here are some top-tips which could save you money on your next energy bill.

Switch to energy efficient lights

Using ordinary halogen lights or old fashioned light bulbs can be a discrete and easy way to use up a large amount of electricity. The trick is to replace your existing bulbs with energy efficient lights which provide the same quality of light but at a drastically less rate of energy consumption. On average the switch could save you up to £75 a year of your electricity bill.

Insulate your walls, loft and floors

Poor house insulation which is more common amongst older buildings and architectures is one of the main factors why many of our houses are so cold in the winter. The heat loss which occurs from unsatisfactory insulation has to be compensate leaving the heating on for longer and possibly at a higher temperature. By ensuring your household is adequately insulated you will prevent large amounts of heat from escaping thus you no longer having to compensate for the loss of heating by spending money on leaving the heating on and warming the streets!

The loft, walls and between the floor gaps are said to be the three principal places where heat is lost the most and so they should be a priority when thinking about securing the insulation in your home. The cost of loft insulation can come as cheap as £100 but may range up to £500 with the yearly saving being £200 which makes this a worthy investment.

Invest in a new boiler

Old boilers which many households have installed may be slow to heat up the water and use high levels of energy when they eventually do so. New boilers are built to be energy efficient and are often great at producing value for money. The new condensing technology allows then to recover a greater amount of energy after usage. This way of saving on energy bills is definitely one for the long run as a good new boiler will cost you some serious money. However, it will pay off in the long run with savings said to be in the £250 region per year.


Five Quick and Easy Ways of Saving Money

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1. Change your energy power provider

This winter will be tough for most middle to low income families due to the bump up in energy prices companies such as nPower and British Gas have introduced, with other suppliers also quite likely to do the same. Changing your supplier can be quick and easy from start to finish taking less than an hour.

2. Plant food in your garden

It only takes a few minutes to throw a few seeds around the garden and arrange some pots of tomatoes in the empty corners. This could save you both time and money in the long run with salad bags costing in the region of £1.50 in comparison to a bag of seeds which comes in at just 99p or less. Growing your own will save you having to make trips to the shops thus reducing your petrol or ticket costs as well as reducing the amount of rubbish that is thrown away by your household. Great and tasty gardening ideas can be found at numerous online resources.

13. Return unused items to the shops

We all have things lying around the house which we have bought but have either lost interest in or just didn’t bother with the moment we walked out of the shop with it. It is worth considering returning such recently bought and unused items as they can both unclog the house and get you back some cash! Find the receipt and see what the return policy is on the item which may also be found online. Most shops should either give you your money back or offer you store credit which you can then use to purchase something you really need. For further information regarding your rights as a consumer, visit the Citizens Advice website which offers great guidance.

4. Ensure you are on the right tax code

Using the PAYE format informs your employer how much tax exactly he needs to pay on your behalf before you even see the money. Often a wrong code can mean that you lose out on thousands of pounds. Visiting the HMRC’s website will provide you with all the information you need to check on what tax code is the right one for you. Often people find out that they have overpaid tax and are due a lump sum back which is always a bonus.

5. Cancel unwanted direct debits

How many of us still have that gym membership we no longer use but are still shelling out the monthly rate, which of course depending on the gym, can amount to staggering sums. Other things we may also overlook are meaningless insurance covers or magazine subscriptions which we don’t need or simply can do without. Go and check your online bank statement and cancel all unnecessary subscriptions. You might find yourself to be in a much more stable position the following month.


Mis-Sold PPI Payments top £10billion

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The sheer scale of the payment protection insurance (PPI) claims scandal is illustrated by the recent report that the total payout to consumers has now surpassed the £10billion mark across all the associated lenders. The figure was reached in April, 2013, when – in that month alone – over £420million was paid out to consumers claiming back mis-sold PPI fees. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued the figures with a proviso stating that the final amount will be far in excess of the amount reached so far.

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24 Firms Involved

Although there are more than 20 firms involved in the PPI mis-selling scandal the majority of complaints refer to three of the biggest names in the consumer finance world: Lloyds Banking Group, RBS and Barclays are the major players in the saga, and have so far set aside billions of pounds in order to pay back the fees on mis-sold accounts. The move followed an instruction by the High Court that the lenders must pay back all such fees, and the resulting rush to claim has led to banks and lenders needing to take on outside help to process the claims.

Deadline Discussion

Earlier this year the FCA held talks with industry leaders about the possibility of imposing a deadline for mis sold PPI claims; while many were in favour, others were against the idea, as they believed it would simply lead to a further rush of claims that would place a heavy burden on the already over-stretched claims procedure. Some banks, including Lloyds, have already been fined for delaying PPI compensation claims, and the Financial Ombudsman is dealing with record numbers of complaints pertaining to PPI claims and other financial gripes.

Using a Claims Company

The widespread publicity regarding the scandal has led to many consumers choosing to use a PPI claims company such as the PPI Claims Advice Line to pursue their claim, and this can be an efficient method of getting compensation. With many more claims to come and no sign of things slowing down, the lenders are bracing themselves for many more months of dealing with PPI claims and trying to restore consumer faith in the financial industry.