Plevin and PPI Claims: Everything You Need to Know

I’m sure, by now, most people have heard about PPI – payment protection insurance and, that if you were mis-sold this and didn’t know you were paying for it, you may be able to reclaim a significant amount.  And, read on, because now you may be able to claim for the commission the people who sold you the policy made if you were unaware they were making a profit themselves.

Plevin & PPI Claims - claims form folder and glasses on desk

Payment protection insurance, you may recall is an insurance product which ensures you can pay off your loans or credit card bills in the event that you become ill, lose your job or die.

We have all seen so many advertisements for PPI claims handling now that it would be easy to assume we can lodge a claim from now until eternity but beware!

The deadline for making a PPI claim is getting closer. In case you haven’t heard, 29th August 2019 is the cut-off date for contacting your bank regarding mis-sold PPI.

64 million PPI policies were sold in the UK and it’s believed that a large percentage of these were mis-sold. Mis-selling tactics from the bank ranged from bank employees telling consumers it was compulsory to saying it would improve their credit score.

The insurance was commonly sold with mortgages, loans and credit cards. If you had any of these products during the 1990s or early 2000s, you could be due a refund. While many of us block out the endless adverts and ignore the cold calls, now is the time to make a final check, as you never know if you could be due a refund.

Over £31 billion has already been paid to consumers by the banks — far from a small sum of money! People have been surprised by just how much they’ve received from the bank, or even multiple banks, from which they bought financial products. If you find evidence of PPI on past paperwork, using a PPI claims calculator can provide an estimation of how much you could receive from a successful PPI claim.

Following are some common questions about making a PPI claim and an explanation of Plevin — the new rule which means even more people are eligible for a refund.

Why Is a PPI Deadline in Place?

The PPI deadline was set by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to encourage people to make a claim, rather than put it off. The PPI deadline will also finally close the curtains on what has been one of the biggest financial scandals in UK history. The deadline was announced in August 2017 with the launch of a two-year campaign to promote the date, fronted by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The deadline is welcomed by UK banks, which have been setting aside money to compensate customers for over a decade.

What Is Plevin?

The Plevin rule is a new form of mis-selling that has changed the landscape of PPI claims. It refers to the case of Mrs Susan Plevin, who made a PPI claim against Paragon Personal Finance. It was revealed that 71% of Mrs Plevin’s PPI sale was a commission. The case was taken to the Supreme Court, which resulted in Mrs Plevin receiving a refund.

The court ruled that undisclosed commission was also a form of mis-selling, paving the way for others to complain to their banks about high levels of commission. If over 50% of your PPI sale was a commission, you can make a claim under the Plevin ruling.

The Plevin rule is big news for two reasons:

  1. Those who previously made a PPI claim that was rejected by the bank can claim again based on the amount of commission on the sale.
  2. Even if you remember buying PPI, but the amount of commission was not disclosed, you can make a claim. You can do this even if you’ve previously attempted to claim for PPI and were rejected.

This rule effectively means that anyone who had PPI can make a claim unless you’ve already received a refund for a successful claim. The banks commonly made 67% commission on a PPI sale, meaning it’s likely you are entitled to a refund.  You can see details of the original court case here.

How to Make a PPI Claim

Making a claim is relatively simple. You can contact the various banks or lenders yourself and present evidence of your mis-sold PPI, along with an explanation of how you believe the policy was mis-sold.

Alternatively, you can contact a trustworthy PPI claims company. All claims companies should operate a no-win, no-fee service. This means that, if your claim isn’t successful, you won’t be expected to pay them. Thanks to new legislation, all PPI claims companies are capped at charging 20% + VAT (24% inclusive) on successful claims. However, many companies offer a lower fee than this while still offering exceptional customer service. If you can’t find any previous financial paperwork with evidence of PPI, a claims company will be able to uncover this for you and contact the relevant banks involved.

For busy mums and those of us who just don’t want the hassle of making a claim independently, using a claims company is a valid option. Act now and don’t miss the opportunity to get your refund before the deadline passes.

Review: TINCTURE Cleaning Products

If you hate cleaning as much as I do, you’re always on the lookout for products which are not only effective but actually make the chore a little more enjoyable.

I was recently sent three products from the TINCTURE cleaning products range, the brainchild of sisters Angelika and Anastasia who created the range after searching everywhere for high-performance, non-toxic cleaning and lifestyle products safe enough to use around children and pets.

They also wanted products that wouldn’t exacerbate common conditions such as eczema or asthma.

Tincture cleaning products

After international careers in business and the fragrance industry, the sisters created their own, all-natural cleaning product range, aiming to create home cleaning closer to a spa experience than the more mundane task it usually is.

All the products incorporate silver technology into the formulations as well as the bottle material to ensure that the packaging stays bacteria-free.  Silver technology has been used for quite a while in the medical sector but TINCTURE is the first to use it in household cleaning products.

Their formulations include herbs and plants renowned for their antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, detoxifying and soothing properties.

You’ll find no Bisphenol, Phthalates, Parabens, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Benzyl Alcohol. The products are made in the UK and are cruelty-free.

The range is quite comprehensive and includes everything from bathroom, glass and mirror, all-purpose and washing-up products to a hand wash and hand lotion.  Products are sold separately, in combinations or in starter sets. There are also cleaning and bathroom accessories and gift packs.  Prices range from £7.50 for individual cleaning products up to  £20.00 for the hand lotion.

The products I tried were:-

  • Iona Room TINCTURE
  • Furniture TINCTURE
  • Floor Concentrate TINCTURE

Iona Room TINCTURE

A room spray to instantly refresh your home.  Active oils include Clary Sage, Rosemary and Clove.  Removes odours and restores wellbeing.

This is a pump-action room fragrance spray which adds a subtle, fresh fragrance to a room.  In fact, it reminded me of walking into a stately home!

We loved the fragrance but I have reservations about the non-aerosol pump (which you would expect to find in an environmentally friendly product) because directing the spray and controlling the volume is tricky.

That aside, there is certainly none of the unpleasant chemical smell lots of room sprays leave behind.

Tincture cleaning products - Iona room Tincture bottle

Furniture TINCTURE

This nourishing spray adds shine to all wooden surfaces.  Enriched with Beeswax, Benzoin Resin and Cedar Wood.

This was my favourite of the three products I tried.  Again, it has a subtle, lingering fragrance and it sunk quickly into our wooden mantlepiece without leaving any staining or dampness.  I would have preferred a slightly richer formulation but this wouldn’t work as well in a spray bottle.

Tincture Cleaning Products - Furniture Tincture

Floor Concentrate TINCTURE

A concentrated formula to clean and nourish all floors.  Enriched with the active oils of Patchouli, Cedar and Fir Needles to protect and enhance vitality.

Supplied in a flip-top bottle, I found this a pleasantly scented and effective floor cleaner.  I think clearer instructions need to be included on the bottle as there were no directions as to how much to use.  I just squirted a decent amount into my floor bucket but it cut through grime quickly and easily.

Whilst I love the ethos behind TINCTURE cleaning products and the spa-like look of the product bottles, I’m not sure these work so well for cleaning products you use every day.

TINCTURE cleaning products would undoubtedly make a beautiful and thoughtful gift but their price point demands more robust packaging and clearer instructions.

Find out more about the full TINCTURE range and order online at tincturelondon.com.

Could Your Home Use More Metal Decor?

Look around the room you’re in right now, can you see any exposed metal? Is it reflecting the natural and or centre light well?

metal decor - industrial style living space

Exposed metal can be seen as a little too grungy, a bit industrial and bare. Yet just like we use mirrors to make our rooms like larger than they are, we can use metals to throw light all around the room. Exposed metals, polished, unpolished, stainless or not, are seen in so many interior design styles.

The obvious type of metal decor is the industrial style because it’s about taking the look and feel of an abandoned warehouse. Minimalist styles are also using exposed metals as part of their philosophy because when you believe in less is more, you don’t have time to use elaborate materials. But eclectic, Swedish and modern styles also use metals to manipulate light around the home.

Since metal is a sturdy material, we also feel comfortable with smaller items that are perhaps a little dainty to be made from steel, iron, copper, and platinum. Here are a few ideas to get you started if you love the look and feel of metal decor.

Smooth and straight

Is your home really modern? One way you can check is to see what kind of legs your current furniture has. The legs of the sofa, chairs, coffee and dining tables, stools, and even the legs of your bed can be made out of metal. You can’t just fit metal legs to these things you already have, so it means you will need to gradually start to replace some of the more easier items.

Start with the coffee or dining table. These metal legs are going to be smooth and straight, and long as the day is old. They may not be spindly and thin, they can be a modern framed or girder-style legs that are thick and square. Stainless steel is a good option, but you can also have metallic iron if you don’t want as much of a shine.

On the other hand, you can go all out and pick a table with platinum legs. This metal is called the ‘little chrome’ as it possesses excellent qualities of reflecting light.

Long and thin

The modern shower and bathroom are where you see the most amount of metal. It’s easy to produce, cheap for the builders to buy in bulk. It’s resistant to heat and stains, and that’s why you have more stainless steel in one room than anywhere else. But that’s boring no? We’re all used to the steel shower and toilet flush handle.

At Tap Warehouse, they have long and thin modern showers made from solid brass bodies but with a great polished chrome finish. Look out for the Butler & Rose Elizabeth thermostatic rigid riser shower. You’ll find traditional showers with polished chrome taps but also modern styles that have railed-adjustable taps, much like a dimmer switch.

Perhaps we should drop the notion that exposed metals are beyond rustic and perhaps just a too industrial. Modern homes are full of metal features but they often get hidden away. Splash the chrome and the platinum carefully and you can start a dance with the light that fills the whole room.

Do You Dream Of Buying Your First Home?

The UK is still a nation of home-buyers.  Whilst renting seems to be more popular abroad, here buying your first home is often regarded as a right of passage into true adulthood.  But times have changed, and not for the better.

help to buy - couple lying on the grass looking at the image of a house in the clouds

When I was looking for my first home in the late 1980’s you could buy a 2-bed terraced house in a decent state of repair for around £30,000.  Nowadays, many cars cost more than that.

Mortgages were easy to take out and savings rates were higher so it was easier to save a deposit. There was plenty of help to buy.

Fast forward 30 years or so and many young people are struggling to get on the property ladder.  In fact, it would be fair to say, many acknowledge that this is likely to remain an impossibility and are biting the bullet of high rents and wages which are not increasing with inflation.  For lots of young people, the bank of mum and dad is their best hope.  Mine certainly helped me with my first deposit, for which I am eternally grateful!

If you are in a position to put down a deposit on your first home, it is likely that you will have made some considerable financial sacrifices along the way.  You have probably cut your occasional spending to the bone, eschewing expensive nights out, designer gear and multiple over-priced daily coffees for the dream of collecting the keys to your new home from the estate agent.

Until I bought my first home, a 1-bed flat in Cardiff, I had no idea that there were numerous other costs involved in the buying process.  You need a good solicitor to handle the conveyancing (sale and purchase) of a property and to make important checks such as ensuring your home isn’t likely to flood or subside.

Your solicitor will also check planning permission granted near your property in case you suddenly find your des res in the middle of a new housing estate or slap bang next to a motorway junction.

So, not only do you need to budget for a deposit for your home, but you will need to pay your solicitors’ conveyancing fees and the removal people for transporting your property (or van hire).

In addition to all that, if the home you are buying is valued above a certain threshold, you will need to pay Stamp Duty (a form of tax) on top of the cost of the home. Currently, first-time buyers in England or Northern Ireland pay no Stamp Duty on properties worth up to £300,000. For properties costing up to £500,000, you will pay no Stamp Duty on the first £300,000 but you will pay Stamp Duty on the remaining amount, up to £200,000.

In an attempt to help people raise a deposit for their first home, the Government has created the Help To Buy Scheme which is explained in the infographic at the end of this post.

If you take out a Help To Buy ISA, (a form of tax free saving scheme) by depositing £1,200 to open it and by paying £200 a month thereafter the Government will boost your saving by 25% (with a maximum bonus of £3,000) when you come to apply for a mortgage.

You can take out a Help To Buy ISA up until 30 November 2019 and carry on saving for 10 years, until 30 November 2029.  An ISA is not a short-term savings scheme.

help to buy - toy house with mini tree and house keys

Whilst you may take the view that the potential bonus is unlikely to see you living in a country idyll, when it comes to buying your first property, doing whatever you can to amass that deposit is key.

If the property you have your eye on is reasonably priced – and if it’s attainable for first time buyers then the price is likely to be on the low side – there will be lots of competition.  Whoever makes the most attractive offer will win the property and the bigger the deposit the better.

A larger deposit ultimately means you will need to take out a lower mortgage, and therefore your monthly repayments will be correspondingly lower too.  That can make all the difference in how much you offer for the property.

Don’t forget you will need to take into account council tax rates, water rates and the cost to heat and light your property too – as well as home insurance on both the building and the contents.

You want to be in a position where your mortgage is quickly sorted out and you can make the most attractive offer for the estate agents to relay to the current owner.

If I had to advise prospective first-time buyers from my own experience, I’d say this:-

  • Save as much as you can.  Obvious I know but anything you can squirrel away will help.
  • Accept you may have to comprise.  The house you want might not be in the best location – that’s why it’s cheaper.
  • Don’t just visit the property during the day.  Take a couple of other trips, at night, in the rain, at weekends.  Do the neighbours like to have raves on Saturday nights?  Is parking outside working hours a nightmare?  Do your research.
  • Be flexible.  Consider buying with someone else.  Look at all the housing schemes available to you.
  • Get the best solicitor you can afford.  There are loads of cheap and cheerful conveyancing deals out there. I know, I used to be the marketing director of a conveyancing law firm.  But what you want is the best experience and the most affordable price – find a firm who you are confident will invest their best efforts into your individual transaction.
  • Ask all the questions.  Particularly when it comes to conveyancing and talking to your bank, building society or broker about taking out a mortgage.
  • Research as many help to buy schemes as you can.  Contact your local authority or housing association.
  • If you’re buying with someone else – get a will.  It’s not morbid, it’s common sense.
  • Don’t skimp on insurance and when it comes to getting your property surveyed, it’s worth investing in the most in-depth property survey you can afford.
  • Ask about planning permission.  That beautiful home that backs on to a field?  Who owns the field and are the diggers about to move in?

I know for lots of young people the idea of owning their own home seems like a romantic pipe dream but, like anything, if you set homeownership as a firm goal, with target dates and a list of action points, you may well surprise yourself.  Help to buy is available if you do your research.

Lastly,  there is, of course, no rule that says you have to own a property.  You may prefer to rent and spend your disposable income on travelling, nights out and a nice wardrobe.  Nothing wrong with that.

There is, though, nothing quite like the moment when you close the door on your new home and think “this is mine!”.

Help To Buy Scheme Explanation - infographic

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Five Awesome Things about Sailing as a Family

Embarking on the sailing trip of a lifetime is an item many people have on their bucket list. If you’re not a fan of being on the sea, like me, you might view it as not only dangerous but also expensive and complicated. If you yearn for a life on the ocean waves, though, why not learn how to sail and make your dream come true. In fact, learning to sail can be a great confidence booster and a family sailing holiday is a fantastic way of bringing you closer together.

family sailing holiday - yachts sailing on a blue sea

Image credit: Pixabay

Learning to sail is easy and fun. This is mainly because there is something new to learn every time you get on the boat. It is possible, however, to make the process even more exciting by learning to sail as a family or group instead of doing it on your own.

You could invite your friends, colleagues, or family members to join you in the sailing lessons. When you bring friends and family along, you get to learn lessons other than sailing: teamwork, patience, endurance, and leadership skills. There are plenty of family learn to sail holidays you could sign up for.

So, what are the awesome things about sailing as a family? They include:

Improves Overall Health

When you book a yacht charter in the Mediterranean, you could do it as a mere recreational activity. However, there is more to sailing than having fun and enjoying being in the water. For instance, when done in the right way, sailing improves the overall health of your body. Those who view sailing as a dangerous and risky activity may have a hard time believing this, but it has various health advantages such as:

  • Increases agility – some of the tasks involved in sailing such as hoisting sails and pulling lines can help improve agility and flexibility. This also enables you and your loved ones to develop better hand-eye coordination skills in other activities.
  • Adding strength and endurance to the muscles – some of the activities involved in boat sailing such as pulling and hoisting the sails to manoeuvre a yacht or boat are good exercises for your muscles. They help to strengthen the muscles of your shoulders and back.
  • Lowering levels of stress – when sailing with your family or friends, or on a family sailing holiday, you get to have more bonding time and fun together. During this time, each of you tends to forget most of the thoughts that weigh you down in daily life. Additionally, the rhythmic movement of the boat – the splashing, swooshing of water, and sounds in the sail – can affect the patterns of your brainwave. This helps to soothe and relax your brain, which could be stressed and worn out.
  • Improving concentration – with the busy schedules that most people have, concentration has become very important, especially for the multi-taskers. While the primary goal of sailing is staying safe, it helps everyone to remain focused on the sea even when involved in other activities.
  • Ensuring mental wellness – the water and salt of the sea will put you in a good mood. This is because the salt contains ions that help the body to absorb oxygen, thus balancing your serotonin levels. With balanced serotonin levels, you will be much happier and this will enhance your mental wellness.

Strengthens Bonds and Enhances Teamwork

Though teamwork and proper bonding are necessary for a happy family, it is unfortunate that most families fall short in these departments. This is mainly due to the current technology and digital platforms, which have made it easier to avoid face-to-face communication. As a result, the quality of family bonding has suffered.

A family sailing holiday is a great opportunity to recover the family bond. During this time, you get to interact with each other and share experiences and ideas. This can also be an excellent time to reconcile in case some people in the family had not been on good terms.

Moreover, you will get to know each other better while sailing as you share ideas, memories, and jokes. This moment will enable each one of you to forget any discouragements, failures, or misfortunes that you could have faced before. This will not only help to strengthen your bond but also the trust between the family members.

family sailing holiday - yacht on the water

Image credit: Pixabay

Gives Room for Adventure and Balance

Adventure is one of the best experiences that your family can have, especially for young children. Learning to sail and getting involved in boat sailing is a free ticket to a world of adventure and loads of fun. Adventure will help to increase the imagination and creativity of your kids.

Additionally, without physical activity, your kids will always be glued to their books and electronic devices such as phones, laptops, and computer games. However, sailing will make it possible to create a balance between the digital computer world and the natural world. For the grown-up who is always in the office, sailing will help you get a break from your usual daily routine.

This will help you to develop a great work-life balance. As a result, you and your family members will be more effective when it comes to your tasks because your brain will be fresher.

Improves Communication and Organization Skills

Communication and organizational skills are some of the necessary skills in life that most people lack. Sailing would be a perfect way for you to enhance these skills among your family and loved ones. While in the boat, everything needs to be in shipshape to ensure safety. This will help you to be more organized, which is a lesson you can take away from the sea.

Being more organized will boost your motivation in various parts of life and increase the desire to improve your quality of life. Additionally, communication is vital when sailing. Almost everyone on board has a role to play in keeping the boat afloat. Therefore, without proper communication, your lives will be in danger.

For this reason, sailing makes it necessary for you to communicate properly. This is especially true when it comes to non-verbal communication. At the end of the sailing excursion, you will all have acquired communication skills that will you in other areas of your daily lives.

family sailing holiday - yacht moored in a blue lagoon

Image credit: Pixabay

Helps to Discover Interests

While you are learning to sail for recreation, you should know that others sail to earn a living. In the same vein, when you are out with your family and friends sailing for fun, this may be an opportunity: people, especially kids, can discover their interest in marine bodies, boat technology, or other water-related careers. Furthermore, your kids might grow up to become professional sailors and earn a living through sailing.

Learning to sail for recreational purposes before you turn it into a career could make you more confident and competent in your work. Therefore, whenever you go sailing, always have other members of your family with you as this could help open their minds to doing something new with their lives.

Conclusion

Learning to sail could be one of the most exhilarating moments of your life. Sailing comes along with lessons such as ocean history, oceanography, and ecology all in one scope. For this reason, sailing is one of the activities that you should consider doing together as a family. Wondering whether to have your family with you when you go for sailing lessons? Consider the insightful points above to understand why you need to have your loved ones with you when sailing.

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family sailing holiday - a yacht on the sea

Inexpensive Ways To Make Your Student Accommodation Feel Like Home

The academic year might have finished but if you’re staying on over summer in somewhere less than desirable, or if you’re dreading going back to a hovel in September or October, there are inexpensive ways to make your student accommodation feel like home.

make your student accommodation feel like home - grey pendant lamp over white table

Image credit: lights.co.uk

Promotional feature

All it takes is a little inspiration and a canny use of your budget to create somewhere where you can relax, entertain your mates and also release your creativity when it comes to course assignments and revising.

Now is the ideal time to plan a room revamp because you can take advantage of the summer sales before that pricier Autumn stock starts hitting the shelves.

Make your student accommodation feel like home with these tips.

Loan from home

The obvious place to start is to ask your family if there are any pieces of furniture or houseware they would like to donate.  You don’t want enormous wardrobes or anything too hefty because you’ll end up hiring a van but if there’s a special picture, a mirror or bedside table, there’s no harm in asking is there?

Let there be lights

Any interior designer will tell you that the right lighting can vastly improve a space and may even present you with ideas you hadn’t previously considered.

First off, make sure you are allowing as much natural light as possible into the space – really important for your health and mood, especially in winter.

That said, there may also be days when you want to restrict the amount of light getting in and if this is the case then consider fitting a good quality blind.

Then it’s time to look at how effective the existing lighting is and see if you can make some changes to brighten things up.

Online lighting stores like Lights.co.uk are great sources of value for money lights and inspiration.  (There’s currently up to 70% off in their summer sale too).

Whether you choose stand-alone lamps to add atmosphere, task lights to help you work or a bit of country house chic with a rustic chandelier, improving your place’s lighting is an easy way to stamp your personality on the place and to define different areas (for eating, relaxing, working and so on) in even a relatively small space.

make your student accommodation feel like home - globe pendant light

Image credit: lights.co.uk

If you are making any big changes, however, it’s always best to check the terms and conditions of your rental agreement to keep your landlord happy.

You can get inexpensive fairy lights and hang them with some washi tape or 3M hooks, both of which are easily removable.  You’ll find loads of ideas on how to use them on Pinterest.  (Find me on Pinterest here).  A great tip is to hang photos on your fairy lights for a unique illuminated display!

Remember, too, that most university halls won’t allow candles, so you are better off choosing electric tea lights.

Get cosy with cushions and blankets

If you can’t swipe any from home, then you’ll find plenty of great choices online or in your local stores – even the bargain stores offer cushions and throws these days.  You’ll find some great ideas about where to look in this post.

Throws, in particular, are great for disguising less than sparkling upholstery, adding warmth on cold winter’s nights and providing spare bedding should anyone stay over.

Make your bed and lie in it.

If there’s another thing it’s worth buying better quality in, it’s bedding.  Invest in decent thread count cotton sheets and feather and down pillows (unless you’re an allergy sufferer). Synthetic fabrics tend to leave you hot and sweaty when it’s warm. If the mattress is worn and is unlikely to be replaced for you, then consider shopping around for a new one – I love this memory foam mattress.

Store your stuff

If you brought far too many clothes, books and shoes with you, you may quickly run out of storage space.  Storage boxes are the answer – especially the ones that slide under your bed.  You can even decorate them with fabric or paint them.

Create a photo gallery

Yes, you could cover the fridge with photos attached with your unique collection of fridge magnets, but why not create a statement wall or corner and display all your most treasured  photos of the people and pets who mean the most to you.

Why not visit your local charity shop or antique market and hunt out some really unusual frames or take a trip to IKEA where you’ll find all the frames you could possibly need (plus meatballs!).

make your student accommodation feel like home - window sill decorated with plants and fairy lights

Smell the flowers

Not advisable if you are a hayfever sufferer, but houseplants and flowers really lift a space, adding colour and, in some cases, helping to absorb radiation from computers. Cacti and Spider Plants are just two types of houseplant that help keep the atmosphere fresh.

Rather than just plonking a bunch of flowers in a vase, get creative too and display individual blooks in mini vases, painted bean tins or any quirky container you find on your travels.

Take time to cook

There’s nothing like home-cooking, is there?  I’m not sure my kids will miss mine, but if you miss your mum’s spag bol or your dad’s shepherds pie, then grab the recipe and give them a go if you have cooking facilities in your accommodation.  You can’t go too far wrong with pasta, or even a simple piece of chicken or fish with some roasted veggies.

You can pick up cookware and bakeware quite cheaply at your local supermarket and food shopping will give you a break, allow you to nourish your body properly and make you very popular with your roommates. You’ll also save a small fortune on ready meals and takeaways too.

Are you a student?  How do you make your student accommodation feel like home?  Share your tips in the comments below.

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Making ANY Money From Your Blog? Time To Talk Tax

For many of us, blogging started off as a hobby and then, as we discovered that it IS possible to make a decent income from a blog, we also discovered that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC ) is also very interested to know the in’s and out’s of our sponsored posts, affiliate payments and brand collaborations.  But tax advice for bloggers seems very thin on the ground, doesn’t it?

tax advice for bloggers - laptop, notebooks and pens set out on a blogger's desk

You may think that you don’t need to declare any income from your blog until you reach a certain financial threshold.  But, don’t labour under that misconception.  Whether blogging is your only source of income, or whether you are holding down paid employment as well, you are required to declare every penny of your blogging income as soon as you start earning.

Tax advice for bloggers

The simplest thing to do is to contact HMRC to register as Self Employed and report your earnings on a Self Assessment Tax Return. You can also register on the HMRC website.

If you already have a job and are not earning very much from your blog, you should still tell them as they may simply adjust your tax code.

Your application will generally take 10 days to process after which HMRC will send you a UTR number (Unique Taxpayers Reference) by post.  Make sure you hang on to this because you will need your UTR number to file your tax return.

I have also been asked to supply my UTR number before being accepted for some brand collaborations in order to reassure them that they are working with a properly organised business.

So, throughout the tax year (which runs from 6th April to 5th April), you will need to record all your blogging income and expenditure.  Make sure you keep any receipts too.  Note that you are paying tax a year behind, so in January 2019, I’ll be submitting a tax return for 6 April 2017 to 5 April 2018.

You will then have to complete a Self Assessment Tax Return by the deadline date of 31 January (if you are completing it online) or by 31 October (if you are completing a paper copy).

The Self Assessment Tax Return form summarises your blog income and expenses and on submission, you will then be billed for any tax you have accrued and National Insurance payments if you have earned over a certain threshold.

Your tax bill must be paid by 31 January each year or you will be fined.

You might think there’s no hurry to register and take the view that giving it a few months whilst your income is still negligible won’t hurt but HMRC is clear that you must register as self-employed as soon as your blog has become more than a hobby – and in any case by the 5th of October in your blog’s second tax year.

Which takes us to the question of what you can claim as expenses.  You’ll find the full list on the HMRC website here.

To give you some examples, though, you can claim for items such as:-

  • web hosting fees and domain name registration
  • ebooks or e-courses purchased to help grow your business
  • travel to events such as blogging conferences
  • equipment purchased to help run your business e.g. a laptop
  • Paypal fees

Check the HMRC website though to make doubly sure that you can claim your purchases as legitimate business expenses before you spend your hard-earned blogging income on them.

If you earn more than the Standard Personal Tax Allowance which is £11,500 for 2017/2018 and will be £11,850 for 2018/2019, then you are required to pay 20% of what you earn over that amount minus your allowable expenses, in tax.

In addition, if your annual profits are over £6205 you’ll need to pay Class 2 National Insurance Contributions of £2.80 per week (£2.95 for tax year 2018/19). Below this, you can opt not to pay or volunteer to make Class 2 contributions.

I think it’s important to note here that I am not an accountant and, like most self-employed people I am learning as I go – and making frequent phone calls to the behemoth that is HMRC in the process.  It’s just one of the additional chores involved in working from home.

This means often enduring incredibly long telephone queues and answering enough questions for an edition of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire (with the unfortunate result that you pay HMRC rather than the other way around).  But I’d rather be sure.  HMRC is still the best source for tax advice for bloggers – and it’s free.

If you find the whole rigmarole of finding the right telephone numbers for the various HMRC departments a chore, I’ve found a rather nifty website called Talk Tax which lists the main telephone numbers of HMRC departments such as pensions, tax, benefits and employment. Note that there is a charge of 7p per minute and a connection charge before you call.

Talk Tax also offers a range of helpful and easy to understand guides – for example, what to do if you lose your UTR number, want to cancel your road tax or need help with childcare.

Dealing with HMRC can be daunting but it is important to get your tax affairs in order and to start recording your income and expenditure as soon as you think your blog is going to be a business.

There are loads of software packages you could invest in to help you with your bookkeeping but I use Microsoft Excel spreadsheets and am judicious in starting every morning with a quick overview of what’s come in and gone out of my bank account.

I compare the monthly financial performance of my blog against the same period during the previous financial years which allows me to decide where my energies are best spent.

Should I mail my contact list to see if there are any sponsored post opportunities?  Do I need to ramp up my affiliate marketing?  Can I, in fact, take some time out for routine admin such as improving the SEO of my posts or creating new post pins for Pinterest?

When I was a marketing director, I always used to remind the lawyers that marketing is all about anticipating and satisfying customer needs whilst making a profit.

There is no point, is there, in blithely subscribing to an expensive social media automation platform (e.g. Edgar), signing up for every e-course going and buying yourself a top of the range Mac if you are not making any money.

Every blogger, I think, should have a healthy working knowledge of their blog’s finances to help make the best decision about how to use their time and where to invest their income to generate greater reader satisfaction, more engagement and hopefully more traffic.

Nobody WANTS to pay tax but by keeping an eye on your income and expenditure, you’ll be in a far stronger position to make sensible business decisions.  That’s almost worth hanging on the phone to HMRC for.

 

Sell Your Home Fast With These Interior Design Tips

When it comes to selling your home, unfortunately, it means undoing lots of the hard work that you’ve put into making the place your own. However, the good news is that with a few simple and easy tips and tricks, you can quickly get the space ready for your first viewing. If you’re wondering how to present your house for sale, here are some top interior design tips you can easily implement before the estate agent calls round.

how to present your house for sale - blue front door

How to present your house for sale

Paint the front door

Painting your front door is the simplest and quickest way of adding instant curb appeal and will make the best first impression.

Popular colours include grey, black and steel blue; however, you may wish to opt for a brighter shade to let your house really stand out on the street (there’s a reason we all remember the ‘blue front door’ from the film Notting Hill). An absolute favourite is Stiffkey Blue by Farrow and Ball – a real inky, petrol hue.

Tidying up the front garden and pathway is also an instant win. Ensure no rubbish has escaped from your bins and sweep up any fallen leaves; all of which will add to that all-important curb appeal.

Let there be light

Make sure you’ve replaced any burnt-out light bulbs in case anyone comes to view your house in the evening.

Place standing floor lamps in any extremely dark corners (if you have any) or areas that don’t have any natural light, to show that the space can still be used as a reading nook or as a place for storage.

Placing mirrors on solid walls opposite to windows will reflect any natural light around the space and make it feel much bigger and brighter.

how to present your house for sale - large wicker framed mirror

Create a feature with furniture

A luxury armchair that draws the eye into the room provides an area of interest and can be used to highlight a particularly great feature of the room, like a bay window or fireplace.

A bright colour can be off-putting to some, so instead opt for luxurious fabrics like leather or velvet, and an exceptionally comfortable style so that your buyers can envisage themselves sitting in that very spot.

Make the buyers feel welcome and offer for them to sit and try out the space, the more tactile and enthusiastic they are about your furniture and living room, the more chance you have of getting an offer.

how to present your house for sale - chocolate brown sofa in a brown living room

Declutter and store

Decluttering and removing any personal trinkets and knick-knacks is another excellent preliminary step to getting your house ready to be put on the market.

If you haven’t got enough storage, it’s probably a good idea to invest in some smart storage solutions to hide away clutter and help your potential buyers move about the space freely. Underbed storage is an excellent choice and packing things away now will only assist you with your imminent move.

Depersonalising your space is also a smart move. Pack away your family photos and children’s artwork pinned to the fridge and replace with some calming artwork and posters. This will help your viewers see your home as a blank canvas and a place they can put their personal stamp on.

Are you thinking of selling your home? Do you have any tips on how to present your house for sale?  Fresh flowers?  The smell of fresh-baked bread or coffee?  Let me know.

The Loneliness Of The Work From Home Blogger

During my 20+ years as an office worker, I always used to think working from home was cushy.  The life of a work from home blogger was surely all taking flat lay photographs, drinking coffee and meeting for lunch.  As I’ve written before, I saw self-employment as a chance to work in your PJs accompanied by the muted shouting of Jeremy Kyle or the incessant giggling of Phil and Holly.

work from home blogger - sign saying "I loved you before your instagram was pretty"

Photo by Sandrachile . on Unsplash

In truth, after dropping the kids off to school and waving the Husband off for another 3 or 4-day stint in London or somewhere abroad, it is, briefly, wonderful to have the house to myself.

The quiet is soothing  – I say quiet because when you have tinnitus you never really experience silence – just an absence of different types of noise.

But after a while, it dawns on me that I am quite alone and responsible for passing the school hours in a productive fashion.

There should be a book called the loneliness of the work from home blogger because, you see, without colleagues, team-mates, co-workers, call them what you will, those six hours can seem very long.

I am one of a faceless army of home workers carrying out chores such as data entry jobs, photo editing and social media management.

Ironic since, generally, I have always preferred to work on my own but it’s nice to have someone to bounce ideas off, isn’t it?  Or share a quick natter over a coffee.

I think there is a definite need for more co-working spaces.  Some ensconce themselves in coffee shops to benefit from the free WiFi.  Perfectly acceptable, I think if you are buying more than one coffee and are not sitting there nursing your solitary drink for hours hogging a table.

The only other option seems to be renting a serviced office but who has the funds for that?

Perhaps the answer is to form an online community and to communicate via Skype or Facebook Live but these always feel so forced and lots of us hate appearing on our own PC screens.

And whilst there is a certain amount of information sharing amongst bloggers, you rarely get to know really useful information – for example, statistics such as page views and users.

We are all just blogging in the wilderness relying on indexes such as Tots100 to give us an idea of how we are doing.

Some blog for themselves and don’t care about stats but for those of us whose blog is now our job, the guesswork is exhausting.  And probably unnecessary.

After all, the big retailers all know how each other is doing. Profits and losses are declared. There is a greater degree of openness (never total of course) about progress.

One of the biggest blogger bugbears is the apparent randomness of fees paid by brands and PR agencies. Some bloggers hold out for a decent fee, some will just take the cash, no matter how low (for example £10) and it is a personal choice.

But if we’re not sharing information, how can we ever create a level playing field for blogger fees?

You can’t have it both ways.

So I think that there is huge potential in local bloggers meeting up – not just to socialise but to work together and to discuss competitive strategy and ideas for collaboration.

That would be vastly more productive than listening to the chuntering of ITV Daytime, wouldn’t it?

The potential loneliness of being a work from home blogger aside, it isn’t all bad news.  Here are some pros and cons you might like to think about if you are about to take the leap into self-employment and make your blog your job.

The Pros

  • You can make your hobby a job and invest your time in something you feel truly passionate about.
  • You’re the boss – and if you have worked somewhere where office bullying is rife, that can literally be a lifesaver in terms of your sanity and happiness.
  • You finally have an opportunity to create the degree of work/life balance that works for you.
  • You can create a healthier working environment.  For some of us, the offices we work in can actually make us sick.
  • You get to spend more time with your children.
  • You are there when they are ill and able to pick them up from school if need be.
  • As a parent, self-employment can give you the flexibility to attend school events you would otherwise not have been granted time off to see.  Sports days, Christmas concerts, parents’ evenings – all of these can cause a scheduling conflict when you’re an employee.
  • If you want to take a last minute holiday or extend a break you can – workload permitting of course.
  • You can schedule hospital and dental appointments to suit and at least try to avoid times when the surgery is likely to be heaving.
  • No office politics – there’s nothing worse than working in an office where relationships have turned toxic and more time is spent bitching about management than actually doing the job.
  • If you have elderly parents, particularly if they are unwell, being on call can be very reassuring for them, if a little stressful for you!

The Cons

  • You will have to submit tax returns and budget for National Insurance contributions if your income reaches a certain threshold.
  • There’s no sick pay or holiday pay and no employer contributions to your pension.
  • Unless you can create a space for your home office, you might find it difficult to concentrate – particularly if you’re lounging on the sofa in front of the TV. On the other hand, you can choose the music you listen to, have as many tea breaks as you like and choose who you work with.
  • If you do have little ones at home, you will have to juggle childcare with work which can be quite tricky!  It can be difficult to explain to a little one why you are not available to play just now.
  • Setting boundaries can be hard.  It’s too easy to work all the hours God sends and never switch off.
  • There’s no office party – not always a bad thing in my experience though.
  • Friends and family might not take your working from home seriously.  Lots of people think working from home can be a cushy number and you’re playing at it – when in reality you may well be working harder than you ever have before!
  • If you work with your partner, it might be tricky to stop the office talk and concentrate on family life.  Spending all that time together might create a bit of friction too.
  • As a parent, even if you are a full-time blogger, you may still end up having to do all the housework and after-school activities – particularly if your partner works away a lot as mine does.
  • Sometimes you’ll miss having somebody to bounce ideas off and brainstorm with
  • Without structure, you’ll find it’s difficult to juggle everything and concentrate on your work.  At home, it’s easier to get distracted and you end up not finishing anything.
  • Another downside is finding work at the end of each contract. You have to up your marketing and sales game.

I often see excited and somewhat breathless Facebook statuses saying “I’ve done it.  I’ve left my job and I’m going to be a full-time blogger”.  Swiftly followed by “how do I actually make money at this”?

Working from home isn’t a bed of roses but if you are determined to make it work you will find a way.  Just make sure you know what you are letting yourself in for and do your research – before making life-changing decisions that might come back to bite you if you are not prepared to work very very hard.

Are you a work from home blogger? How do you find working at home?

 

The Best Game Genres For iPad

First released in 2010, the iPad popularised the tablet for millions of people around the world. It was praised as a potential competitor to the laptop, with its large screen and portability.

The iPad is also a great gaming device. In comparison to a smartphone, it has a longer battery life, a larger screen and better audio to allow you to play for longer, control the game better and be more immersed. Here are the best game genres that you can play on an iPad.

Shooters

Yes, you heard me right. The shooter genre has become playable on iPad. Pioneering experiences like PUBG Mobile and Fortnite have brought responsive controls and genuinely pretty-looking graphics to the iPad. They are very impressive experiences that are also fun to play, as well. There’s a certain novelty to having a fully-realised shooter experience on something as portable as an iPad.

Puzzle games

The portability of the iPad and its big screen makes it a perfect match for puzzle games. With a puzzle game, you can just pick up the iPad for a play while the kids are at school, you’re on a train or on your lunch break at work. There are plenty of great puzzle games available for busy mums, including Cut the Rope, a game where you have to solve puzzles by, you guessed it, cutting a rope.

It’s not just 2D puzzle games either, The Witness is a first-person puzzle game where you wander around an island solving various puzzles, some of which are obviously placed and others which are hard to find, let alone figure out. Hitman Go is a really clever take on the main series’ stealth-assassination gameplay in which everything is set out like a turn-based board game. It’s very nicely presented.

Casino and gambling games

The large screen of the iPad makes it perfect for playing online browser games. There are also plenty of high-quality online casino games available to play. Classics like poker, roulette and blackjack are all great options if you want to try and win some real money. Using the touchscreen to play cards, make bets and collect earnings but remember that you must be over 18 to play and remember to gamble responsibly.

Racing games

The high-octane thrills of racing can also be distilled down into an iPad game and there are plenty of brilliant examples of the genre. For full 3D racing simulation, try Real Racing 3. It’s a couple of years old now but it is still one of the best realistic racing experiences available on iPad. For something less realistic, try Asphalt 8: Airborne, and really catch some air while pulling off insane stunts. AG Drive drops you into the future with anti-gravity hover vehicles as you race against the galaxy’s best drivers. Finally, for a different perspective, try PAKO 2. This is a top-down racer where you play a getaway driver who must help a criminal gang evade the police so that they can steal more. The game only ends when the police finally catch you.

What is your favourite iPad game?

Debt Management Plans – What You Need To Know

It’s a sad fact that the cost of living is forever rising. The price of a two bedroomed flat in the UK averages at around £650 per month. Some people barely even earn that, so you can imagine how difficult things have become for people in all walks of life around the UK. The number of people in debt is at an all-time high, and being able to manage debt is becoming harder with each passing day. This is due to a vast array of companies offering easy routes out of debt when in fact, they’re only in it to make money out of you. Rather than falling for these false promises, check out how you can create your debt management plan and also who really can help you.

Debt management plan - man in a blue suit putting his wallet away

Photo by Andrea Natali on Unsplash

What you can do to get out of debt

It sounds pretty obvious, but the first thing you need to look at is what you’re spending each month. More often than not, you’ll find subscriptions that you’ve long forgotten about still being taken out of your bank. If you don’t have access to internet banking, head to your nearest branch and speak to an advisor who can help go through your direct debits and standing orders, and see what can be eliminated from your outgoings.

The next step for your debt management plan is to look at how you’re spending your money. While food from Waitrose might seem like it’s of better quality, groceries are all the same from each shop, and it’s up to the supermarket owners to decide how much they’re selling it for. Let’s face it, you’re going to be spending one hell of a lot more shopping at Waitrose than you are at Aldi or Lidl, so why not take into consideration how you could eliminate even more spending from your day to day lives; freeing up money to help get yourself out of debt.

Another thing, you should check your credit report as often as possible. Things can change in a matter of days and completely change the way that companies view you as a person. Something as simple as missing a payment can turn your credit score on its head. The great part about using credit report companies is that they can help you with useful information about what you’re doing wrong and why it’s a problem too. They will also focus on the good things you’re doing too, and give you advice on how you can continue growing your credit score.

What help you can obtain for your debt

The first thing that you need to do is speak to professionals who aren’t your money. Companies like National Debt Advice offer debt management plans for all kinds of situations. It doesn’t matter if you owe one company or twenty, they can create a solution that’s affordable for you to pay back. They will take your priorities in life into consideration, like children or even the commute to work and work around that to create the perfect debt management plan for you.

Take into account this information and apply the advice to your life and you’ll soon be well on your way to a debt free life!

Make Money Online With Matched Betting

Matched betting is one of, if not the best way to make money online.

For those of you who’ve never heard of it before, it’s a way of making a guaranteed profit from bookmakers’ free bets and promotions.

Now risk-matched betting is incredibly popular throughout the UK, with thousands of people already taking part.

Matched betting in 2018 is certainly at its most profitable and it’s a great time to get started.

Read on to find out more about matched betting and how you can benefit from this brilliant technique today.

What is matched betting?

As I mentioned above, matched betting is a method of making money online from the bookies’ promotions.

The betting industry is incredibly competitive and the bookies are continually offering promotions to incentivise new and existing customers.

It’s these offers and bonuses that matched bettors take advantage of.

At first, this may seem a little strange – you’re probably thinking ‘how can I make a guaranteed profit with betting?’

That’s exactly what I thought when I first got started, however, matched bettors follow a proven, legitimate method to ensure there’s no risk with any bets.

By using special tools and software, you can guarantee yourself a profit even before an event has started.

How awesome is that…

So how much money can you make?

How much can you make from matched betting?

Everyone’s interested in how much profit you can make.  Obviously, it will vary from person to person, depending on your level of expertise and how much time you are prepared to put into it.

What I can tell you is that matched betting is incredibly profitable and if you enjoy the thrill of making money from home, I know you’ll love it once you get started.

However, you’re probably after some numbers, so here goes…

With the sign up offers alone you can expect to make at least £1000 within your first month of matched betting.

In terms of the ongoing profit, most members at The Sure Bettor earn about £500 each month from what are called reload offers (promotions for existing customers).

However, as with anything, as I mentioned before, it depends on the amount of time you invest.

Speaking of time…

How much time do you need?

Once your skills are up to speed, you’ll be able to complete an offer in about 10 minutes.

Initially, it may take up to 45 minutes to complete one offer, but with the help of matched betting experts, you’ll soon be a pro.

On average, matched bettors spend about an hour each day completing the latest offers.

But as I mentioned earlier, the more time you invest, the more money you’ll make in the long run.

Let’s get started

I’m not going to lie, matched betting can seem a little challenging when you first start out.

Getting your head around the new methods and concepts can take a little while, particularly if it’s a long time since you have practised the maths you learned in school.

That’s why it’s a great idea to sign up for an assisted matched betting site (a website that helps you through the process).

At The Sure Bettor, you’ll have access to all the latest offers, updated on a daily basis, along with the tutorials and information required to maximise your profit from each offer.

Carve out some time each day to practise.  I find the early evening when the kids have gone to bed is a good time to learn the ropes but as you become more experienced, you may need to spend a little early morning time setting up your bets for the day, particularly on Saturdays when the horse racing is on.

It’s a fun hobby which, unlike lots of the things you can spend your time doing, actually makes you some cash.  Check out some other matched betting companies too, like Profit Accumulator and you can find out more about Matched Betting in this post.