Wednesday, 7 November 2012

20 Ways to Cut the Cost of Christmas


Although the shops were gradually reminding us that Christmas was on it’s way back in August, if you’re anything like me, you’ll only really be starting to think about it now that Halloween and Bonfire Night are over. 



Christmas can be such an expensive time but there are lots of ways you can cut the cost:

  1. Write a list of the people you need to buy presents for, set a budget and jot down some ideas.  If your list involves children, make a few calls to see what they are into at the moment.  Buy a few things each week to spread the cost.  The earlier you start the better!

  1. Extended families could organise a secret Santa type present buying rule.  Every family member buys a present for one another (drawn from a hat or by using an online generator such as www.secretsantaelf.co.uk).  Set a limit per person and stick to it. 

  1. Agree to only buy presents for the children in your extended family.

  1. Consider making some homemade gifts.  I love pinterest.com for this kind of thing – it’s full of inspiration.  Festive jars of jam or chutneys.  Some home baked biscuits wrapped in Christmas colours.  Home made bath salts.  There are so many easy to follow “how to” guides out there, you don’t have to be a craft expert.

  1. Offer vouchers for your time instead of presents (these are great for the kids to do too!).  Here are some examples:
An evening baby sitting
A day tidying the garden
An evening meal (cooking and serving)
Dog walking
Car Washing

  1. How about creating some word art?  Sites such as www.wordle.net will gather meaningful (or just plain random!) words together and create a picture for you for free.  Print it out, stick it in a frame and viola - a lovely and unique present.

  1. Make decorations with the kids.  Old favourites like paper chains, paper snowflakes and stain glass windows (black card with shapes cut out and tissue paper stuck over) are simple and fun.  Again, check out pinterest.com for some more adventurous ideas!

  1. Look out for the sales leading up to Christmas.  Sign up to the Money Saving Expert’s weekly email and you’ll often get advance notice of these.  

  1. Use loyalty points towards the costs of gifts. 
Tesco Clubcard have their Clubcard voucher exchange on at the moment where £5 in vouchers is worth £10 in some departments both in store and online. 

Nectar Card points can be used at a variety of different places.

Boots’ Advantage card is great for treating others (or yourself!)


  1. Compare prices before you buy any presents and find the best deals.    Use sites such as www.kelkoo.co.uk and www.megashopbot.com

  1. Search for discount codes when shopping online.  www.vouchercodes.co.uk and www.myvouchercodes.co.uk are popular.

  1. Sign up to cash back sites such as www.topcashback.co.uk and www.quidco.com and buy through them for all your online shopping.


  1. Ebay is always a great place for a spot of Christmas shopping and finding some bargains. 

  1. Local Christmas Fayres are brilliant for finding local handmade and unique gifts and you’ll be helping the local economy too!

  1. Make a list of all the Christmas food essential and start stocking up on the non-perishables now to spread the cost over the coming weeks.

  1. Consider donating to charity rather than sending Christmas cards.  I’ve done this for several years now.  I don’t send cards to my friends who are on Facebook.  Instead I set up a private group and invite them to it to wish them a merry Christmas.  I add a fun video (see below) and festive photos.

  1. Have a toy clear out to make room for the new things Santa will bring!  Sell your unwanted items on local Facebook selling pages or in the local paper for free and make a few extra pennies to go in the Christmas pot.

  1. Enter competitions to try and win some Christmas presents!  Money Saving Expert has a great guide to comping. 

  1. Write your Christmas cards before the last second post date of 18th December and use second class stamps to post them.  This year’s Christmas stamps are by Axel Scheffler (who illustrated many of Julia Donaldson’s books).

  1. Some free Christmas fun:
Personalised video from Santa: www.portablenorthpole.com/home

Elf Yourself – fun personalised Christmas greetings: www.jibjab.com/holidays


There are some ideas for you.  
What are your top tips for cutting the cost of Christmas? 


Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Do You Look After Your Pennies?


I stumbled upon this useful blog post on the Lifestyle Management Blog.  A huge thank you to Julie McMahon who wrote it and Margot Bloom for letting me borrow it!





Do you have a jar or pot that you keep all of your loose change, particular 1p and 2p coins in? If so, you are not alone! Thousands of Brits have some sort of container in their house where all loose change is deposited. What’s amazing is that research suggests that Brits are hoarding around £65 million worth of pennies in their homes! Personally, we have an old celebrations sweet tub with coins in. Whilst there isn’t much in it at the moment, when we emptied it out a few months ago, there was well over £50 worth of change in there which goes to show how quickly it can add up! You may also be surprised by the amount of money that you will have lying around the house; in handbags, old purses / wallets, coat pockets and down the back of the settee!

If you are one of culprits of storing loose change and never doing anything with it, why not start now? Christmas is coming up and I’m guessing any extra cash will come in handy for most!

There are a couple of different ways you can ‘cash’ in on your pennies. One of the most popular methods is using the coin machines usually found in supermarket lobbies. Although the machine will do all the hard work for you in counting your change, they do charge you for the service, anything from around 9-20%. If you are short on spare time or have a large amount of change building up, this may be your best way forward.

For the money savvy of you out there, the best option is to count the change yourself. Whilst this is likely to take some time, you will get to keep all of the money yourself! The first stage is to go to the bank or post office and get some assorted money bags. These are bags that the money must be put into and in set quantities. They are as follows:
  • £20 bags of £1 coins
  • £20 bags of £2 coins
  • £10 bags of 50ps
  • £10 bags of 20ps
  • £5 bags of 10ps
  • £5 bags of 5ps
  • £1 bags of 2ps
  • £1 bags of pennies
Make sure that you count them into the bags accurately to avoid being rejected by the bank! They will weigh them to check they are accurate when you cash them in!!

Cashing in on your pennies is a great way to turn a tub of ‘useless’ change into a useable form. After all, nobody can walk into a shop and pay with a bag of pennies!!

Why not count up your old change jar today and see how much you can cash in.


Written by Julie McMahon, PA to Margot Bloom of www.mrsbloom.org 
Twitter  



 *THE PENNIES 4 PARENTS PENNY CHALLENGE! **

After I read this post I went and emptied our "penny pot" (and raided my Husband's coin tray but don't tell him that part!).  There's now £17 extra in the bank!  
Do you save your coins?  What do you keep them in?  

My challenge to you, should you choose to accept it, is to go and find out just how many pennies you have stashed away in your home and get them into your bank accounts, just in time for some Christmas shopping!

Let me know how you get on.       :o)         






Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Registering your Nanny with Ofsted - Emma Dewey, Babyem


Why should nannies register on the voluntary part of the Ofsted Childcare register?

• Parents will be eligible for financial assistance with their childcare costs

• Parents will be able to redeem employer-supported vouchers against childcare costs

• Increases the nanny’s professional status through having a recognised childcare qualification

Who can register?

• Nannies who have a recognised childcare qualification(level 2/3) – this includes training such as the Common Core Skills & Knowledge course and a suitable PaediatricFirst Aid qualification.

• Any nanny who is caring for children aged 0-17 years in the home of the family for an ongoing period of at least 2 hours a day or less than two hours where the childcare provided is part of arrangements that start or end before or after normal school hours.

Who applies for registration?

The nanny must apply as a “Home Childcarer” . The process can take up to 12 weeks for approval.

Is there a charge for applying?

All applicants pay a non-refundable application fee. The application fee is £103 and includes the cost of the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) disclosure. Each year an annual fee will also be charged to remain on the register. The annual fee is £103.

Choosing a recommended training agency

Babyem deliver a range of accredited First Aid, Childcare and Maternity courses and are widely recognised as leaders in the field. Babyem specialise in delivering courses for childcarers wanting to register with Ofsted, including the Common Core Skills and Knowledge Course and Paediatric First Aid.

Courses take place in Central London on a monthly basis.
The Common Core Skills Course can also be completed as a distance learning course.

For more information on Ofsted Registration and Childcare Training Courses please contact info@babyem.co.uk or visit: www.babyem.co.uk 


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Saving for your Child's Future - Dave Penny, Invest Southwest


What is the greatest gift a parent can give their child?  "The gift of life" I hear you say or teaching them to read and write or eat well or even support Manchester United. Okay I'll give you that, especially the last one.
But one of the greatest gifts a parent can give their child is a financial head start in life.

Think about what today's youngsters will have to deal with in early adulthood: tens of thousands of pounds of higher education cost, a 10% deposit on their first home, many thousands of pounds on a wedding, or even simply buying their first car. And as for the mobile phone bills…

Stakeholder Pension
So how best to save for my child? Surprisingly the most tax efficient home for savings is a stakeholder pension.  £100 contributed becomes £125 overnight and then grows in a very tax efficient environment.  If child benefit is invested for even only the first 10 years of a child's life, then by the time they reach age 55 they will have £256,000 to spend.  But most parents consider this a little too innovative and the money is totally tied up until age 55.

Junior ISA
Next in order of tax efficiency is a Junior ISA. Any UK resident under 18 who does not have a Child Trust Fund (broadly, children between ages 2 and 10 have CTFs) can have one and they can have both cash and stocks and shares versions. Total annual contribution per child is £3,600.  Withdrawals are only permitted after age 18.

And there lies the danger: firstly if money is needed before age 18, they can’t have it, unless terminally ill.  So it’s tied up and that life changing school trip to New Zealand, simply can’t be paid from a JISA.  Likewise if parents need it...it’s a no no.

The second problem is that the money is available to the child at age 18. Now I am a responsible member of society now. At age 18 I was not. At age 18 with a few thousand pounds available to me from my junior ISA I would have been camped out in Ibiza until the money runs out. The child has an absolute right to the money and no parent can stop it other than hiding the evidence.

Child Trust Fund
The situation is even worse with Child Trust Funds because every eligible child has one and knows it becomes theirs to do with what they will at age 18. There will be some partying in the UK in 8 years time!  It was a great idea from Gordon Brown very poorly executed.

So if you feel confident that your child will be a responsible member of society at age 18, or that you can deceive them into not knowing about the existence of the ISA, then this is the right choice for you.

Each person is different but for my children I will be investing in the stocks and shares version of the Junior ISA, with a balanced approach to risk, spread across UK equities, global equities, property, and even some corporate bonds. The likelihood over 18 years of this kind of portfolio performing better than simple cash, is very strong. But, and I repeat but, it is not guaranteed and you need to have your eyes open when making this kind of decision.

If, like me, you believe your children may be normal at age 18 and keen to party, then it may be wise to stay away from the junior ISA and plump for a collective investment such as a unit trust in your name but with the child noted as a beneficiary. You will not get quite the same tax efficiency but you will have total control.

And so you can ask yourself “what is best for my child”? A tax efficient £5,000 to squander in the Balearics aged 18 or a slightly less tax efficient £4,800 that I can control and give to them when they will really benefit from it? 
Either way, if you do give your child a financial head start in young adulthood, they will thank you for life.


Invest Southwest are holistic financial planners from Whole of Market incorporating a Will Management business, as Regional Chair of the Society of Will Writers. The business was established in 2006 and is enjoying rare success, bucking the advisory trend with a wide spectrum of advice offered including, for example, mortgages. Managing Director David Penny has headed up Money May, a weekly slot on BBC Radio Somerset as well as regular ad hoc appearances. Comment published in 2011 in the Daily Express, Independent On Sunday, FT and many others. He delivers seminars on behalf of the FSA (CFEB) into large employers as a part of their Making the Most of Your Money campaign, to educate workforces. Authorised and regulated by: Financial Services Authority.


Invest Southwest, 49/50 East Street, Taunton TA1 3NA
Tel: 01823 353970  Fax:  01823 339726
Mob: 07813 835181


www.investsouthwest.co.uk

Follow Invest Southwest on Twitter

Find Invest Southwest on Facebook





Wednesday, 20 June 2012

If You Have Children You Need a Will...

This week I'm delighted to feature the first of a series of guest blog posts about the importance of making a will when you have children from Linda Fisher of Will Management Services

                                              

If you have children but do not have a Will, and if either one or both parents die, any children under the age of 18 may become wards of the court until guardians are appointed.

Let’s assume both parents die at the same time without Wills in which guardians have been nominated and both sets of grandparents feel they have equal right to become the children’s guardians.  The state then becomes involved and until the situation isresolved, the children may become a ward of court.
Imagine how much more upsetting this would be for a child at a time when the death of a parent would already be causing an enormous amount of distress and anguish.

The solution is easy – write your Will – nominate guardians for all your children who are under 18 years of age and YOU decide who will look after your children in the event that you are not there to do so yourself.



WMS is a member of The Society of Will Writers, professionally trained and regulated by them. 
Our offices are in the centre of Taunton, and we offer a low cost will writing and storage service.

For further information or to make an appointment please contact us at 49/50 East Street, Taunton or by telephoning 01823 336265.





Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Childcare Vouchers - kidsunlimited

Childcare Vouchers, family friendly savings that benefit both employee and employer from kidsunlimited.

Childcare vouchers are a tax efficient scheme to provide working parents with tax free help towards paying for childcare.  Every working parent earning above minimum wage is entitled to use between £97 and £243* per month tax free from gross salary towards their childcare costs in the form of Childcare Vouchers.

The employer saves on average £200 per employee per year who joins the scheme in Employers National Insurance contributions. The funds are collected by the employer from the working parent's gross salary and passed on to kidsunlimited by bank transfer to process and seamlessly transfer to the parent’s on line flexible account on pay day (For parents to manage) or direct to nominated childcare provider/s on agreed dates.

See how much you could save:


Employee Savings:
* Savings dependent on employee tax rate.


Employer Savings:
* Illustrative employers NI savings based on an average voucher value of £200 per employee per month and   
  Employers NI contributions at 13.8% (contracted in NI rate).


kidsunlimited has nearly 30 years experience in providing parents and employers with high quality corporate childcare solutions. kidsunlimited operates Childcare Voucher schemes for several hundred businesses across the UK, ranging from SME to FTSE100 companies.


To find out more about starting a new scheme, or transferring an existing scheme please call 01625 417684 ext 4003 or 07973 838832 e-mail paul.snotra@kidsunlimited.co.uk 
For more information visit www.kuvouchers.co.uk
In all communication please quote Zest Payroll Solutions.


kidsunlimited Childcare Vouchers Ltd,
Summerfield’s Village Centre, Dean Row Road, Wilmslow, Cheshire SK9 2TA
Registered in England No. 2102771



Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Check Your Tax Code - You May be due a Refund!

Many of you will be receiving your payslips today, but just how many of you actually pay attention to them?  You probably know roughly how much you take home each month, but when was the last time you checked your tax code?

747L 
The current “normal” tax code is 747L (which gives you a tax free annual allowance of £7,475).  Your tax code may differ from this for a number of reasons:

  • You have more than one job.
  • You receive employee benefits from your employer (or had done so from a previous employer) such as a company car or healthcare insurance for example.
  • You have outstanding tax from previous tax years.
  • You have started a new job and haven’t handed in a P45 or completed a P46 form.
  • Your P45 from your previous job had the wrong code.
  • You receive a pension along with your salary.
If you tax code does differ to the “normal” code but you don’t know why, get in touch with HMRC and tell them that you think your tax code may be wrong.  You can phone the Employee Helpline on 0845 300 0627.  They will be able to explain what has affected your code or be able to investigate.



Another thing to look out for is if your tax code has an "X" , “Month 1” or “Week 1” suffix after it.  This means that your previous earnings and tax paid in this tax year are not being taken into account.  This could be for a number of reasons.
Often, the suffix arises after you start a new job and you’ve completed a P46 form.  747L X is most commonly used in this situation as it’s the “emergency tax code”.  If it’s still on your payslip phone HMRC as ask them if a cumulative code can be issued as soon as possible. 

It is possible there is an error with your code and you have over paid tax.
If this is the case, ask HMRC to issue a P6 notice with the correct coding immediately to your Employer.  If they receive it before your payroll is run in March, you could have a nice tax refund in you March payslip!


Alternatively, if you think there is a problem with your tax code you can send a copy of your P60  when you receive it in April or May (or P45 if you leave your job before April 6th) to HMRC along with a covering letter to ask them to check your tax code and amount you have paid this year.  


Send it to the address on your most recent correspondence for HMRC or to:

HM Revenue & Customs
Pay As You Earn
PO Box 1970
Liverpool
L75 1WX




For more 
information about checking your tax code and a handy tax code checker, visit the Money Saving Expert site. 

You can also find useful info on the HMRC website.








Wednesday, 8 February 2012

FREE Things to do over Half Term!

Half term arrives next week for many schools (arrgghhh!) so this week I thought it would be good to get together a load of ideas for fun FREE things to do with the kids.
A huge thank you to everyone who has contributed!        


    
  
●        “Go on a winter 'treasure hunt' & make a collage/winter display when you get home (after a warming hot chocolate!)” 
Lorraine @beindemand

●        “Donkey Sanctuary at Sidmouth is free and fabulous.” 
Julia @mrandmrswalder

●          Visit your local museum.  Taunton and Exeter’s have both recently been re-opened and are well worth a visit!

●          Visit your local library – check for half term activities too.

●          Grab your wellies and go on a muddy puddle walk/sludge adventure!

●         @NEDayCrafts are running free craft workshops in Durham Market 14th -16th February inc. puppet and card making.  www.nedaycrafts.com

          If it’s too cold for it at the park, dig out your picnic rug, make some sandwiches and have a picnic in the living room!




●         Do you have a railway bridge close to you?  My young sons love to go and wave at the trains as they pass underneath! 

●         Some National Trust Estates, such as Wallington and Cragside in the North East are holding a free entry week.  Check www.nationaltrust.org.uk for details for your local area.

●         Arrange a “play over swap” with your children’s friends.  It should give you a bit of a break too!

●         Taunton Mums and Dads: “YMCA in Lisieux Way, Taunton, have a free family day on Monday 10-2, fire engine, face painting etc”

●        "Feed the ducks, do some painting / colouring / other craft stuff, read books, do puzzles, go for a walk and splash in puddles...”

●         “Have a themed day around a fave story. EG The Gingerbread Man - start off reading it, make Gingerbread men, arts & crafts, treasure hunt to follow the gingerbread man's journey etc. Could link with any story."
            Georgina @GemWriting

●         "For those near London The Southbank have a Family festival on with lots of free events. Check out Waterstones too. Ours has lots of free storytelling and book based activities on next week."
            Joanne @Actoneparties


            You may be able to do a bit of this too!


There are some other great blogs full of ideas too:

           


Please feel free to leave a comment below with your ideas or information on a free event in your area.  

Have fun! 





Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Social Media Outsourcing - Angeline Coupland

One for you business parents this week - more on a saving time theme!  I'm handing over to Angeline Coupland of @networkerplus who tells us all about their Social Media Outsourcing service.  
One of the most popular services @networkerplus Social Media offers is outsourcing.          
As we always discuss strategy with our customers, we can share the top reasons why you decide to do this and why you choose us.
3 key reasons for outsourcing social media
Time – You have come to the realisation that, to get real and measurable results, time is one of the biggest enemies when it comes to social media. You know you need to do it effectively and want a trusted partner to execute effective social networking.


Focus – You want to focus on what you are best at and outsource the marketing activities you know true specialists can carry out more effectively than you can through strategising. (Remember the saying "on" rather than "in" your business?)
Results – You have tried social media with no or little success, however, you appreciate others have the experience, achievements and the right mindset to achieve what you require on your behalf.
Why businesses outsource to @networkerplus
Having asked our customers, here are just five key reasons
Reputation - You either know us already or have heard we deliver and practice what we preach.
Transparency - Social Media is transparent and we love that! You have checked us out and like what we do for our business on social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Wordpress, etc. You’re assured we have the experience and proof that we can build networks and engage.  So many self-declared ‘experts’ out there, talk but don’t walk social media, let alone strategically. (For example, how many Web Designers say they ‘do’ social media however, when you check your LinkedIn, and Twitter activity, you find another story!...and what about blogging? – Active or passive?! What are they saying across the various social networks?      
Value Add - You also like that we do what we do best - social media and only social media. We don’t bolt on social media to our core services. Social media is our core business. Additionally, with over 25 years commercial & award-winning experience, (16 years in e-business), you know you are getting real expertise when it comes to planning and strategising with us.
Contacts & Intellectual Property - We have trusted contacts overseas who help us keep ahead on what’s going on strategically in this fast paced industry. We have also invested in the business and are able to demonstrate how and what when you plan with us. When you hear what we can do for you, you realise it's time to invest and stop continuing to spend copious amounts on time and money on expensive (or even cheap!) training sessions and simply dabbling.
Guarantees - @networkerplus we guarantee everything we do. Yes, that’s correct – everything!  We know there’s a lot of hype and many who have jumped on the social media bandwagon. When you outsource through us, and in the very unlikely event that we don’t achieve what we agreed to do, you get your money back. (Terms apply. Details available on request). That’s how committed and passionate we are about your business. You simply love the assurance that we’re not only a trusted partner, we also have a proven and award winning mindset.


For more information about us, have a browse at our website www.networkerplus.net  However, more importantly, see our active activity across our social networks. We know it speaks for itself because that’s what you tell us.
Feel free to contact us for a free 30 minute, no obligation telephone consultation, to hear how we can help you gain more time, more focus and more results for your business!
Check out www.networkerplus.net and click on testimonials!
Contact Angeline or John on 0800 988 6181 or 0766 414 0383 or register online for our complimentary FREE Strategy session worth £147!
©  @networkerplus Social Media



Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Children’s Parties on a Budget! Nikki Gomez, Boy Wonder Gifts

Children’s parties can end up costing a small fortune but there are lots of ways that you can save money and still give your child a fantastic party. My children are now 12 and 14 so I have arranged quite a few birthday parties over the years! Here are some of my money saving tips. Most of these tips and ideas can be adapted for use with parties for both younger and older children. 

Having the party at home instantly saves you money on hiring a venue. It also means you can restrict the amount of guests due to how much space you have, both space saving and money saving!

Have you got a family member or friend who has a skill that they would be willing to bring to your party for a small fee or better still free! Talents such as face painting for youngsters, nail painting/make up tips for girls or football skills for boys.




If you are doing the catering, instead of laying out lots of food that may either get thrown away or end up on the floor, you could fill party food boxes with food and a drink. 
Personalise boxes with each child’s name. You could also tie a balloon to each one.


If the weather permits, an inexpensive party for younger children is to have a ‘Park Party’, especially easy if your local park is close by. Lay a few old sheets & blankets on the ground and hang some balloons/decorations from the trees. To keep costs down even further, guests could bring a food that starts with the first letter of their name or their favourite food. 




Party bags can end up being very costly by the time you’ve filled them with lots of little things. For one party I bought lots of little ‘inexpensive’ gifts & sweets (or so I thought!) but when I worked out how much each bag had cost, it was £2.70! As I had done 10 I’d spent £27.00 just on party bags alone! So, some alternatives to party bags…
Give one quality gift. Spending one or two pounds on one quality gift will probably work out cheaper than filling party bags with lots of little gifts & sweets.


Consider having a ‘making’ party and they can take home all the things they have made during the party. For her 7th my daughter had an ‘Arty Crafty’ party. I bought some very cheap white t shirts, plain canvas bags & a few fabric pens. I folded A4 paper and stapled together to make note books and supplied colouring pens, pencils, paper, glue and magazines to cut pictures out of. They loved taking their own designed t shirts, note books & pictures home in their very own designed bag along with a balloon and a sparkly cupcake!




Finally, for older children, it’s a good idea to write down agreed party plans to make sure costs don’t spiral out of control when the party plans are in full swing! 

Good luck with your future party plans!




Nikki Gomez runs www.boywondergifts.co.uk  
Gifts, keepsakes, partyware and baby shower partyware just for boys, baby gifts to gifts for teenagers.

There is currently 20% off all partyware through January.