Finance

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cottage uk

There’s been a lot going on in the last few months, and 2016 wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either. So where has this left things for property?

Well, some experts are saying that the house prices are going to be flat for a couple of years. However, when you look into what flat means it’s just not rising quite so astronomically as they have been but still on the incline.

The other negative news to have but a dampener on things is the changes to stamp duty taxes that have had a huge impact on the number of transactions in the housing market. From April 1st 2016, Stamp Duty increased by an additional 3% on properties going up the scale, increasing the top band to 15%. The rates only affect people who are buying an additional property, such as buy-to-let properties and landlords.

However, amid the negativity, property developers and investors are still in a prosperous position. No matter what happens with Brexit or how cautious buyers are being, the fact remains the same: Britain needs more homes and where there is a demand, there is a market.

The area that has been most heavily impacted with a drop in prices and far less transactions is London. Since Brexit, it is reported that the capital has been the hardest hit with some places showing negative growth overall and being dragged lower by the most expensive boroughs.

Although London isn’t looking like the best opportunity at the moment, there are other areas in the UK that are thriving. The houses that are vanishing off the market the fastest can be found in Northampton, Milton Keynes, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol and Southampton, to name a few.

According to Prime Location, Northampton is attracting people who have been forced out of London’s price hike and in 2014, Northampton was voted the best place in the UK to start and run a business by credit reference agency Experian. Prime Location also suggests that development is thriving in Northampton with plenty of opportunities for investment in rental properties as well as buying off plan plots.

If you’re looking for property investment solutions outside of London, it may be best to organise your thoughts and speak to a professional. Daniel Goldberg, First Urban’s director and shareholder, would be able to provide plentiful advice on the current housing market, where works best for you as an investment and how you can still make a profitable business out of property investment.

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save money on great clothes

We shouldn’t feel guilty about wanting to look good in nice clothes. However, take a walk through your local shopping centre and you could be excused for thinking that you need to spend a great deal in order to look sharp. Consider that expensive fashion brands can “buy” more publicity, says The Guardian‘s Hadley Freeman; there are plenty of inexpensive clothing options out there which would have simply slipped past your radar. Here is how you can take advantage of them.

Shop at charity outlets in upmarket parts of the country

Freeman acknowledges that coming across “good cheap stuff requires some nosing out on your part” – and some of the places where you could nose around include charity shops. You shouldn’t just pick any, however; stick to those in posh areas. Hadley enthuses: “This was one of the best fashion tips I got as a teenager and it has honestly never let me down.”

Presumably the reason why this tip works so well is that, in these affluent areas, people can afford high-quality fabrics – but, once they no longer want them, a charity shop is one of the first places that they consider handing those surplus-to-requirements clothes to.

Continue your shopping trip in… your own cupboards

Sometimes, it seems, you don’t know just how much you already have until you’ve had a good rummage. By having this in your home’s cupboards, you could come across various items that you had bought long ago but since forgotten about.

Maybe, on a trip to Paris five years ago, you purchased a souvenir t-shirt that, you could now realise, still fits. Alternatively, you might have accidentally wedged a jumper between a couple of drawers when hurriedly looking through them during a moment of urgency a while ago; now could be the time to pull out those drawers and retrieve that still-perfectly-usable garment!

Avoid trends… or, at least, ones that will be short-lived

Keeping up with fashion trends can undoubtedly be expensive, considering how often they change. Therefore, if you are in the habit of following them, you could, as MoneyAware advises, save money by dropping that habit… or tweaking it. You could, for example, stick to trends that should last a few more years at the least. Alternatively, you could opt for classic styles – think 1950s style – that typically take a while to go out of fashion. Marilyn Monroe has been a style icon in many decades!

When you buy new, buy quality

Sometimes we just can’t avoid buying new clothes – we might need them for work or an important event. A good rule of thumb for buying new clothes is to buy something that will last, something that will stay in good shape after washing and something you can where for a variety of occasions.

For example, if you are looking for a pair of shorts for the summer – think about whether you can get a quality pair that you could also wear to work and even in the garden. Dickies Life stocks a pleasing range of work shorts – including slim, multi-pocket and industrial varieties. Buying quality often means only buying once every few years rather than every few months!

How have you saved money clothes in the past? Any tips for catching a bargain?

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events affecting stocks

There are many things that can have an influence on the global stock market, from a controversial change in political leader to a natural disaster. One thing can start a wave of change and before you know it, the stock market can have changed in the blink of an eye.

When something happens on the international stage, good or bad, there is never a doubt that it will have an effect on the stock market. In this piece, I have looked back at some of the top world events that shook up the stock market in 2016…

1. THE TRUMP ELECTION

Yes, I thought we ought to get the most controversial out of the way first! While stock markets were expected to tumble on election night, surprisingly Wall Street reacted quite positively to the shock election of President Trump. In fact, in currency markets the US dollar hit a high against the Japanese Yen for the first time in several months!

2. THE BREXIT VOTE

Brexit shook up the UK stock markets something rotten in June last year and we saw the British pound drop to its lowest value in more than 30 years, a significant depreciation against other major currencies. Unsurprisingly stock markets across Europe declined significantly in the initial aftermath of the referendum.

3. HURRICANE MATTHEW

Natural disasters can have a crippling effect on a country’s economy; Hurricane Matthew in September 2016 was no different and has been recorded as the costliest hurricane since Sandy in 2012. Before Matthew hit, stocks for Florida based insurance companies fell by up to 15%. Investors began to retreat from companies deemed most at risk and shares suffered steep declines.

4. CHINESE MARKET CRASH

In January 2016 the Chinese market plummeted into unforeseen chaos and saw investors fight to sell off their assets – ultimately they saw a sharp decline in the Shanghai Composite Index by 6.9%. This rippled across the global stock markets and around the world stock markets lost more than $4 trillion.

5. OPEC OIL CUT

Oil prices have remained low as a result of over production and producers have been receiving low sales revenue over the recent years. In November 2016 Organisation of the Pertroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announced that its 14 member countries would work to reduce their oil production for the first time since the financial crisis in 2008. After this announcement Brent crude prices rose by approximately 8% and trade prices began to increase.

What We Can Learn…

Where possible, we should be on the lookout for key events and dates that are likely shake our investments. However, not all of these will be highlighted in the mainstream media; we can take a more structured approach to monitoring such dates by utilising an economic calendar. The new Economic Calendar from CMC Markets certainly deserves a mention here and a tool such as this can increase your awareness of major changes to the market that may affect your investment decisions.

The CMC tool is an easy to understand live market calendar which gives you access to key economic announcements that will affect price swings in major index, currency and commodity markets. A really helpful tool to help you to identify stock market fluctuations and influencers.

Do you take world events into consideration when planning your investment choices? and how do you keep track of them?

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owning your home

If you are currently renting your home, you may have thought about how your financial situation would look if you were to get out a mortgage and buy a property for yourself…

There are a number of interesting debates on this topic, here we will delve into some of the key reasons for taking out a mortgage to buy your own home.

Of course every rose has it’s thorn and it’s important to analyse mortgage rates and inflation against your own situation before making a commitment.

1. More Affordable Monthly Payments

By getting a mortgage on your home, you take away the landlord’s cut of your monthly payments. So depending on the term of your mortgage, you’ll often find it works out more affordable than paying rent on a similar property and thus decreases your household bills.

2. You Gain An Asset

What’s more, by taking out a mortgage on your home, you’ll find yourself with a financial asset that you haven’t had before. The truth is, we all need somewhere to live and that means committing our finances towards accommodation, whether we rent or have bought our home, with this in mind it makes sense that we can work towards owning a substantial financial asset while we’re at it.

3. Freedom To Make a House A Home

Owning rather than renting a home, can give you more freedom in how you make your property into a home. When renting a property, there is often structures around what you as a tenant can do to the property, even down to the colour of paint on the walls!

You will need the permission of the landlord to make changes which understandably they will be reluctant to approve. Take out a mortgage on your home, and you’ll have a great deal more autonomy over what you can do, from the wallpaper to the structure, giving you the opportunity to make it work for you.

4. Make Your Property Work for You

Though it’s not always the case, owning your home can give you the opportunity to make money in a way renting a property does not. It might be you could take in lodgers through AirBnb or even though longer term lets – you also have the potential to rent out your property in the future.

Just remember, if you are looking to buy a property through a shared ownership scheme such as the help-to-buy or first-time buyers scheme, there are often restrictions on subletting your property or making structural changes to the property. If this is something you are interested in, make sure you understand the small print before you sign up, talk to an experienced mortgage adviser to find the right mortgage for you and to guide you through the process.

So there you have our 4 top reasons why you should get a mortgage on your home, from reducing your household bills when compared to renting, to providing you with a substantial financial asset that you could potentially make work for you.

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reducing car insurance

While tax might often seem one of life’s few certainties, there remain ways in which you can reduce how much of it you need to pay.

This certainly applies with car tax; however, there are numerous changes that have recently been enacted and, in the process, muddied the waters concerning how you can trim the amount you need to pay in tax on your car.

These are changes that have been made to Vehicle Excise Duty or VED, as it is officially called. There’s a rather complex picture painted by these changes, which came into effect on April 1, but one thing is clear above all: if you buy a new car now, you could end up having to pay much more in VED than you would have been responsible for under the old system.

In this article, we will detail how you can still take advantage of parts of the new system to save yourself significant amounts on car tax. We will also explain how even your car insurance policy could play a large part in minimising your car-related obligations to the Exchequer.

1. Use or buy a car that was registered before April 1 2017

One great piece of news is that, if your current car was registered ahead of April 1, you won’t be financially hit at all by the new rules, as Daily Post explains. Instead, you will continue paying VED under the previous system; the rate which you were paying, or soon due to start paying, won’t change from what was the case pre-April. The changes apply strictly to cars registered from April 1.

Also, these changes don’t apply to second-hand cars. Therefore, if you are in the market for a replacement for your current car, you could avoid paying tax under the new system by purchasing a used vehicle. Nonetheless, we emphasise that, before you buy this vehicle, you must check that it was registered before 1 April 2017; if it wasn’t, you would be paying under the new system.

If you are planning to go down this route, it might be better to buy sooner rather than later. Otherwise, if you go browsing for a used vehicle in the more distant future, you could find that the only used vehicles on offer meeting your needs fall under the same VED system as a new car.

2. Buy a zero-emissions car costing less than £40,000

The two main factors influencing how much VED is payable are the car’s list price and the carbon emissions that the vehicle will produce when it is driven. For deciding the extent to which emissions should affect VED in the first year that the car has an owner, the government has specified 13 different tax bands.

In the initial year, you would pay no VED whatsoever if your car falls into the lowest of these bands. However, the car would only fall into that band if it is a zero-emissions one, like an electric car. Furthermore, to stay exempt from VED after this first year, the vehicle would need to have a list price under £40,000. If the list price was above that threshold, a ‘Premium’ charge of £310 would need to be annually paid from the second year of ownership to the sixth.

3. Be careful when adding options to a zero-emissions car under £40,000

We’ve repeatedly used the phrase “list price”, but what actually is this price? It is defined as the car’s price before the addition of “on-the-road” charges like a new vehicle registration fee and delivery charge, plus fuel and number plates. Furthermore, it’s worth emphasising that it is the final list price that determines whether your vehicle crosses that crucial £40,000 threshold.

So, if you do seal the deal on a zero-emissions car priced beneath this figure, be wary of adding options that could lift the overall price higher than £40,000. What Car? warns that “an option costing a few hundred pounds could end up costing you more than £1,500 over five years in extra car tax costs.” This would remain the case even if the dealer provided a discount bringing the car’s price back down below £40,000, as this price would not be the list price.

4. Utilise clever tactics to cut your car insurance premiums

In November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, announced that, from June, insurance premium tax would be increased from 10% to 12%. IPT, as this tax is otherwise known, is levied on roughly 50 million insurance policies, including those for car insurance. As a result, car insurance premiums will soon rise beyond £600, as The Guardian has reported.

However, as this tax is charged as a percentage of this premium before the tax, you can lower the payable amount of this tax by, quite simply, lowering your premiums. You can do this in a variety of ways – such as by adding a parent or spouse as a named driver or, peculiarly, fitting a tow bar to your vehicle. That practice could trim up to 20% off your premium.

When the time comes to renew your car insurance policy, you should shop around. Call Wiser can help you in this task – as, taking account of policies from more than 30 leading insurance providers in the UK, this Hampshire-based company can give you an attractive quote in a mere 10 minutes. It can significantly reduce the hassle of looking for a great policy.

Looking for more tips on saving on your car? Check out this article from This Is Money about reducing your car insurance premium.

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