Authors Posts by Fi

Fi

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I'm a self-confessed dreamer who will one day live in a big country house, drive a Range Rover and cuddle up each night with my adorable Maltipoo puppy..... But until then, its a life of budgeting.

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ClearScore

Last week Joe posted about 10 Ways To Boost Your Credit Rating, which really made me think how bad it is that I actually have no idea what my credit score is! I assumed it couldn’t be too negative, as I don’t have the obvious signs such as an overdrawn bank account or maxed out credit cards but I thought it was important to find out!

So I decided to check my credit score online and it turns out I’m actually not doing too bad! I used the ClearScore credit checker which was really simple (and free!) to use. I thought I would need a lot of information and paperwork to complete it, but it was completely haste free. Once I’d filled out some basic questions about my address history and income it gave me my credit score rating and clearly told me what was good and what was bad about it. It also told me where I stand in comparison to the average score of people in my local area and the average UK score – I was pleasantly surprised to find I’m above average!

ClearScore Coaching

One of the best things about ClearScore was the coaching platform it offers after you’ve completed your credit check. They have an automated instant message system that acts as a personal credit score trainer, that gives you advice on how to Build, Repair or Shape Up your credit score and the advice it gives is specific to you and your thoughts about you finances. As you go along it adds the tips to your own personal to-do list which you can tick off as you complete later on. The IM chat was really entertaining and combined valuable advice with a conversational tone and threw in some cat videos too!

As my credit score was looking good I went for the Shape Up plan. My IM chat had already added and bunch of things to my to-do list and it handily split them up by quick wins and tasks that would require a little bit more effort. Best of all, they offer some refuel advice to motivate you to carry on, mine included pug puppy videos – always a winner!!

ClearScore smashed it

ClearScore identified that not having a credit card was negatively affecting my credit score and my ClearScore coach directed me to some comparison offers of credit cards that were appropriate to me, with links to check my eligibility really quickly! This is particularly helpful as there’s nothing more frustrating than filling out all the fields on a huge credit application only to be declined after clicking submit.

I hadn’t realised how simple it was to check my credit score before and just how many things can affect it. Having the personal credit score trainer has really helped me to understand my next steps to not just improving my credit score, but my finances also! Have you tried out ClearScore, if so what are your thoughts?

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Like many other decisions in personal finance there is no one way to handle your finances as a couple. We’ve come across many approaches in the PF scene from the ‘let’s split everything‘ to the ‘good luck, you’re on your own!‘. As far as it goes, I think we’re in the middle; I don’t want to pay for Joe’s weights just as much as he doesn’t want to pay for my love of craft bits! Despite this, we are more than happy to split any costs that we both share and of course indulge in the occasional treat.

For the past eight months we have been in constant debt to one-another! Owing each other money for ‘that food shop I did last week‘ or ‘those drinks I bought last night‘ has had its toll on us so we have decided to take the plunge and open a Joint Account – very grown up! Keeping track of who owes what and re-paying each other is one thing we are looking forward to getting rid of when we receive our shiny new debit cards next week!

We can’t wait to stop our running total of ‘who bought what’ and having to ask for bank transfers all the time!

Choosing the Right Joint Account

Believe it or not, there isn’t much out there in terms of rewards for those looking for a joint account. Joint accounts (excluding joint savings) are simply current accounts where both parties have access and visibility over the funds. The only real difference is that unless you are closing your personal account, you won’t gain any switching benefits that the account is offering.

With this mind, we decided to stick with the Halifax Reward scheme and open yet another account!. This provides £5 cashback at the end of each month providing you have 2 active direct debits and that you pay in over £700 per month. At the moment, we are going to be putting in £150 each into the account monthly to pay for food shopping, bills and joint leisure activities; we will therefore not gain the £5 cashback yet. However come June when we move out of shared accommodation (YAY!) we will be combining our rental costs and further bills which will then meet the criteria for the £5 reward.

Opening a Joint Bank Account

So here they are; my five simple steps to set up your first joint account:

1. Find a handsome man to split your costs withHandy and kind of essential for this one!

2. Decide on what the joint account will be used for Groceries? Rent? Bills? Clothes? You make the rules.

3. Decide on how much you will both deposit Use your budget to work out how much you will need. 

4. Do your research and find your bank accountLook for good reward scheme/interest rate.

5. Go to the bank and set up your account You will both need to be present at this occasion – don’t forget your ID!

How do you split your finances with your other half?

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Deciding when to get our first mortgage is a big decision for us. We have the potential to build a large deposit but it may be better for us to invest our savings to make larger gains while our costs are low. This guest post gives some great tips on what to look out for in making this important purchase.

Finding inexpensive mortgages, or remortgages, can play a huge part in the type of home you can afford. A home’s asking price is a critical aspect of whether or not you can buy it, but your mortgage terms are the issue that will seal or cancel the deal. Here are a few tips that will help you find an inexpensive mortgage with a reliable and trustworthy lending institution.

Bigger Deposits

Borrowers who have the lowest loan to value ratios on the market will find themselves being offered the best deals. If you are only borrowing 60% or 50% of the amount that your chosen home is valued at, lenders will have a wide range of mortgages offers to present to you. If you are only able to afford 10% or 20% of the home’s value as a down payment, the range of mortgage terms you can agree to are very limited.

Agreement in Principle

Too many home buyers make the mistake of thinking that an agreement in principle with a lender is binding. The best way to find an inexpensive mortgage deal is to shop around. You are not going to get a great deal from the first lender you speak to, unless you are very lucky. Even if you go as far as an agreement in principle with a lender, it is still within your rights to shop around for better deals. Mortgages are volatile, which means the terms you are offered can vary drastically from week to week. Spend time, talk to a lot of lenders, and only accept terms on a mortgage that you are 100% comfortable with.

Watch Out for Hidden Fees

Mortgage lenders have become very clever in the way they package fees into your deal. They will present the deal in the most favourable terms possible, and it is only when you are sent your first bill that you will realise the kinds of fees that are involved. Always ask the person you are dealing with about all their fees, and try to pay as many of them up front as you possibly can.

Fixed Rates Are a Must

The biggest mistake that borrowers make is getting involved in a variable interest rate mortgage. These discounted mortgages are presented as very appealing, because they have low interest rates. However, the lender has the right to change the interest rate whenever they want. That means you could be paying 6% interest rate in two years on a loan that you initially took out at 3% interest rate. Avoid this at all costs! Only get a mortgage that has a fixed rate, even if that rate is slightly higher than some discounted offers you are getting.

Interest-only vs. Repayment Mortgages

You must be aware when you are signing up for an interest only mortgage. This mortgage will allow you to pay the cost of borrowing each month, but it will leave the borrowed amount untouched. Only a repayment mortgage takes care of both sections of the loan.

If you could go back in time make and make a different decision on your mortgage, what would you do? When do you think is the best time to get your first mortgage?

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bristol castle

Our anniversary was getting closer so Joe & I wanted to treat ourselves to a long weekend exploring somewhere neither of us had been together before. We started searching last minute holiday deals for the perfect romantic destination, but such holidays are only so affordable if you are willing to go mid-week – not an option! After some careful calculations we estimated it was probably going to cost us around £600 for two nights in Rome, this wasn’t feasible if we were going to stick to our new-found budget plans.

So England it was!

We spent 4 nights before departure planning a road trip around South-West England and managed to draw up a schedule jam packed with three exciting new cities to explore and fun things to do.

Bristol – Just £26.60!
First stop on the road trip was Bristol, where we explored Blaise Castle and its beautiful grounds. The best thing about visiting Bristol is that there’s plenty of things for us to do on a budget! We had researched Blaise castle before we left home and found that it was totally FREE to visit, our only cost was lunch! We could of easily spent longer here exploring the grounds but the heavens opened and we decided it was best to move on. The afternoon took us into Bristol’s busy city centre. A friend had told us about an indoor crazy golf course called Jungle Rumble which was the perfect treat for a wet afternoon. As we’d saved money in the morning we decided to play a few holes!

Bath – £107.60 (inc our anniversary dinner and accommodation)

Bath photoWe arrived in a rather drizzly Bath in very much need of dinner! So after checking into our Travelodge and feeding the ever hungry parking meter we came across a Thai Tapas restaurant. I’d never really tried Thai food so I was intrigued and tapas is a great way to try new food as you can pick a selection and what you don’t like you can leave for your partner! – Who wraps bacon around mussels anyway!? The next morning we made the most of the morning sun and went to see the Abbey and Roman Baths. I was really keen to see the Roman Baths but was rather let down when we saw it was £11 each to walk around them – peeking over the walls would have to do! It did seem that everything in Bath came at a price, we were put off the magnificent Abbey and the garden grounds due to costs. But we were still able to enjoy the beautiful views of Bath just walking through the streets. I would definitely recommend visiting Bath, but perhaps not for the budget traveler.

Bournemouth – £95.91 (inc accommodation and three meals out!)

BournemouthBournemouth was our final stop and we had plenty of time to enjoy the sights. We checked into an impressive Spa Hotel that was actually cheaper than our Travelodge in Bath! The sun broke through the clouds just in time for lunch, so we set out along the beach front to find some classic seaside grub – fish and chips of course! We spent most of our time in Bournemouth walking along the beach, playing on the penny machines at the arcade and drinking tea at various cafe stops along the promenade!

So how much did it cost?

Our last minute budget road trip came to a grand total of £337.06!! Almost half the price of a city break in Rome!

The Budget Breakdown.

  • Food – £154.51
  • Accommodation – £88.00
  • Travel – £60.50
  • Attractions – £19.20
  • Parking – £13.10

Our Tips for Budget Travels

  • Pre-Planning – the best thing you can do before setting out to explore a new city is to Google it! Its amazing what you’ll find – we definitely wouldn’t have found Blaise castle if we hadn’t of done our research.
  • Set a budget – When you set aside a budget for a trip its much easier to stick to low costs when planning which attractions to visit. Its always nice when you have money in the pot left over from a trip too!!
  • Keep a money log – We found it very useful to note down what we were spending as we went along that way we were sure about how much we had left to spend to enjoy the rest of our trip.

Experienced travellers, do you have any tips for travelling on a budget? We’d love to hear your suggestions!

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