Marriage Tax Allowance: Are You Eligible?

pablo 1

What is it?

Your tax free allowance is the amount you are allowed to earn without paying income tax. Everything above this threshold is normally taxed.

When someone has little or no earnings and relies on their partner’s income, marriage tax allowance allows them to transfer 10% of their tax free allowance to their partner. This means that the higher earning partner pays tax on a smaller amount of their income, leaving them with more in their pockets.

Only 10% of the non-taxpayer’s tax free allowance can be transferred. This means even if you have already used 95% of your tax free allowance, you must transfer 10%, and pay tax on the amount you exceed the threshold by. Provided you haven’t used all your allowance, you will still save.

The financial year goes from 6 April – 5 April. If you qualify for 2015/2016 you can claim £212 tax allowance. For 2016/2017 this will increase to £220. You can currently claim for both years.

Am I Eligible?

You can apply for Marriage Tax Allowance if:

  • You are legally married or in a civil partnership.
  • You and your partner were born later than 5 April 1935.
  • You or your partner are a non-taxpayer, which means you earned less than £10,600 in 2015/2016 or will earn less than £11,000 in 2016/2017, and therefore don’t pay income tax.
  • You or your partner are a basic rate taxpayer, which means you earned less than £42,385 in 2015/2016 or will earn less than £43,000 in 2016/2017, and therefore pay 20% income tax.

How Can I Apply?

The non-taxpayer can apply for Marriage Tax Allowance on the HMRC website. You will need ID and both you and your partner’s National Insurance numbers. If you are applying for last year and this year, you may have to do two applications, but once you are accepted the allowance will transfer each year automatically until it is cancelled or HMRC are informed of a change in circumstances that affects your eligibility.

If your circumstances change and you are no longer eligible, you will not be penalised. HMRC will learn of your change of income either from your employer of in your self-assessment tax return and they will update your tax code and tax free allowance as is appropriate. If you are not sure whether you will be eligible, it’s worth applying to see if you meet the requirements.

If you are accepted as eligible, the basic-rate taxpayer will be given a new tax code, or if self-employed will see a reduction in their self-assessment bill. If you are applying for last year, you will be posted a cheque for the tax refund.

 

4 months’ free TV and films

free tv uk

Netflix, Amazon Prime, NowTV… Sign up to them all to reap the unique benefits of each and you might not be able to pay for your mortgage!

Meet your freebie Sensei

Our miserly thrifty reporter ‘in the field,’ John Davidson, Product Manager at Money Dashboard, has been doing everything he can to avoid paying / pay as little as possible for the max return of quality streaming entertainment; and because he’s a magnanimous fellow too, he wants to share his pearls of wisdom with the discerning public. 

This blog post isn’t so much about choosing a product and sticking with it; it’s about paying the least possible for max. amount of viewing pleasure!

It is probably worth saying at this point that this is made up entirely of John’s opinions and suggestions and does not necessarily reflect those of Money Dashboard.

TV for £1 or less

Before you go on, or in case you can’t be bothered, it’s highly noteworthy that, for the next month, NowTV are offering you the chance to try out their Entertainment (Tv) service for just £1; their library includes stuff like Game of Thrones and True Detective. Think how much Game of Thrones you can eat in a month! <Homer>mmmmm, Game of thrones</Homer>

Free trials

This is key. 

Some providers require you to input your bank details even if they aren’t going to take payment in the first month – but they will take payment in subsequent months if you don’t cancel in time. If you’re trying anything on a free trial, make sure to set a highly visible alert or calendar reminder to yourself for a few days before it expires, so you can ensure you cancel it before you start getting charged (assuming you don’t want to continue using the service!)

The process for the top providers are detailed below. Let’s go.

Sign up to Blinkbox

That’s it. Don’t rent anything. They’ve got your email address now, and it’s in their interests to make you become a customer. There’s a good chance they’ll start sending you offers – movies for just a £1 on a certain day – 25% off your next purchase etc.

It’s a nice surprise when you receive it, and Blinkbox has a wealth of up to date movies that far surpasses any of the other streaming services I’m going to go into, so you’ll never not be in a position where you can’t find a movie to watch, if you want to take them up on their offer to do it on the cheap.

Obviously, if you do find something, and you’re signed up to another service as well, check that you can’t already see it via your existing provider as part of the subscription fee you’re already paying.

Sign up to Amazon Prime on a month’s free trial

Amazon Prime, in the writer’s opinion, has a comparatively poor selection of movies and shows, so much so that the month-long free trial was sufficient for me to see all the movies available (that I hadn’t already seen) that I wanted to see + one season of a decent show I knew I couldn’t get elsewhere (Bosch.)

After that, I was more than happy to pull the plug on my subscription and move on. Of course, it may be the perfect service for you, with the free shipping aspect, but it definitely wouldn’t be able to satisfy my viewing entertainment appetites every month!

When choosing what to watch in the month, try and choose movies and shows you won’t be able to get on your upcoming free trials with Netflix and NowTV (it’s easy enough to scan their libraries without actually signing up.

You’ve just seen a bunch of films (and premium TV shows) for free 🙂

Sign up to NowTV* Movies on a month’s free trial

*It’s important to note that NowTV is divided into two separate services; NowTV movies for films, and NowTV Entertainment for shows/’boxsets’.

At the time of blogging, I can get a month’s free trial with NowTV movies, but not with NowTV Entertainment. However, I was delighted recently when I received an offer to try out NowTV Entertainment for just a £1 for first month, (after which, crucially, I can cancel), in an email from Vouchercloud.

Top tip: Sign up to Vouchercloud and get alerted to such offers in their emails! We don’t have an affiliation with them, I just think they’re cool!

NowTV Movies has a far more extensive range than Amazon Prime – again, through the month, go for movies you know aren’t available on Netflix.

You’ve just seen a bunch of films for free, two months in a row 🙂

Sign up to Netflix on a month’s free trial

Ok, you’ve got the hang of it now, only you now might want to optimise what you want based on what isn’t available on Blinkbox.
Bongo. You’ve just had three months of entertainment for free!

What now?

Now it’s up to you to decide whether any of those services merit the subscription charge every month.

Bear in mind, those companies still having your email address is a plus. What they want more than anything, is to make you theirs, so look out for offers and incentives to sign up properly for any of these services.

1. Pause your accounts

When you’re going on holiday, the selection has got a bit stale etc. If you cancel your account with Netflix, you can pick it up again, with all the watching history, ratings etc. at any point up to 10 months later. NowTV Movies also make it easy for you to cancel, but come back at a later date.

Basically, you never want to be paying for more than one streaming service subscription at once, and these services make it easy for you to flit between them every couple of months, watching one service’s new additions, whilst the other service builds up a decent stock of new stuff in their library.

2. TV for the long haul

Having done all the free trials, I predominantly use Netflix, but then when I find the selection has got a bit stale, pause it for a month or so, whilst switching NowTV on for a couple. After a couple of months Netflix’s library has built up nicely again.

Blinkbox is a cherry on the top for the whole thing, providing the odd ‘treat’ film, ideally discounted with one of the special offers they’ll be sending you to desperately try to get you to use their service!

3. Set up a spend tracker

What kind of post would this be without a plug for Money Dashboard? To be fair, I feel like the Spend Tracker tool in our free personal finance manager and budget tool is the best way to keep track of spending on things like online TV and entertainment. Set up a spend tracker using our new Money Dashboard app to keep track of anything you spend on say downloading movies, committing to monthly subscriptions or going to the cinema to keep your TV watching in line with your budget. 

About the author

Your correspondent in penny-pinching getting value for money, John Davidson, is a keen money saver and long time Money Dashboard user. He recently attended a comedy stand-up at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was named Sexiest Guy at The Fringe 2015. Described by colleagues as short and sassy, he often tells the team about the latest deals he’s getting and money back on things. 

John Davidson

6 Post-summer budget saving tips

Money Stacks

In July the Summer Budget was announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and online investment management service Nutmeg have created the infographic below to highlight some of the key points. In response, we’ve put together six tips to show you how to save money in a post-Summer Budget Britain:

Inforgraphic

1. Fuel duty frozen

The freeze in fuel duty will stop petrol prices from rising too fast. However, there’s other ways to save money on fuel. If you’re parked and waiting, turn off your engine. If you’re driving in the city, under 30mph, roll down the windows to keep cool and turn the air conditioning off to save up to 8% fuel efficiency. When you’re on the motorway, however, or travelling faster, roll up the windows to prevent the drag effect.

2. Inheritance tax threshold rising

A family home left to your loved ones is often exempt from inheritance tax, but gifts given in the seven years before you pass away are considered part of your estate and taxed, usually at 40%. A good way to make sure your money stays in your family, and isn’t taxed, is to spend it on gifts and investments for those you care about while you are still in your early retirement.

3. Tax relief for pensions reduced

Large pensions will be taxed more heavily, but you can still save money by finding the right pension. Speaking to a specialist pension broker is worthwhile, as you can explain your requirements and they can find the best deal available for you. Often the most frugal option, however, is a group pension deal such as one arranged through an employer or other organisation.

4. Living wage raised

A raise if the living wage is good news, but those earning the living wage and no more will have to be careful with their spending. If you have a low income, personal finance management is extremely important. Using Money Dashboard, you can easily see in searchable tables and coloured graphics, where your income is being spent across all your bank accounts and credit cards, and you can easily monitor your spending to stick to a tight budget, and to identify areas where you are overspending.

5. Child tax credit restricted

Have you checked if you are eligible for tax credits? It only takes a few minutes, and you’ll need details of you and your partner’s income. Tax credits can be really useful in saving money towards the massive cost of raising children. You will need to renew your application each year.

6. TV License free for over 75s

If you are under 75 and you watch TV, you’ll still have to pay your TV license, but you could save money on your TV and broadband package. Use online search aggregators to find some of the best deals for new customers you are eligible for, then call up your existing provider and threaten to leave for a better deal. Likely you will be put through to a special department who are authorised to offer you great deals in order to keep you as their customer. There’s not much of a risk; if they call your bluff, and they cancel your package, just call back five minutes later and say you changed your mind.

About the author

Mike Hall is a media and marketing professional, specialising in video production and content marketing. From Edinburgh, Scotland, Mike now lives in Glasgow. He has experience is short film production, podacasting and Internet radio, as well as having worked with SMEs in the technology industry, and private clients as a web designer, and an IT and marketing consultant.

Mike Hall

7 reasons you didn’t stick to your budget

sticking to your budget

Battling the urge to spend and not able to stick to a budget? Identify why so that you can be good with money with the help of these tips and Money Dashboard…

7 tips to help…

Sticking to a budget is harder than you might think. Most people spend without thinking too much about how much it leaves them and what else they could do with the money. Being conscious of your personal finances is very helpful when it comes to saving money and avoiding overspend. If you have tried and failed to stick to a budget, these seven tips might be helpful.

1. You forgot your goal

Keep in mind the reason you are budgeting in the first place. Maybe you’re saving up for a holiday, or a new entertainment system. Find a way to remind yourself of that goal. Print a picture and put it somewhere you’ll notice it. Maybe you want to get out of debt, and you just need to be reminded of the words “debt free”. Find a way to keep your goal in mind.

2. Temptation got the better of you

It can be hard to break bad spending habits. Maybe your friends talked you into going out to the pub, when you couldn’t afford it. Maybe you just couldn’t resist that late night purchase on eBay. Whatever your weakness is, you’re probably already aware of it.

The trick is to replace these behaviours. Perhaps you can add those online purchases to a wish list, and give it at least a week to consider anything before purchasing. Keep a snack in your bag so you’re not tempted to buy convenience food. Bring your favourite coffee from home to drink at work, so you don’t have to pick one up at Costa. Make too much food at meal-times, so you have some leftovers and don’t have to get takeaway.

Whatever is tempting you, find replacement behaviour, or plan a way to overcome it.

3. You’re not tracking your spending

Keeping a budget is not about spending a particular amount of money and no more, it’s about making sure your income is being spent on what you want it to be. Money Dashboard is an excellent tool for personal finance management because it allows you to quickly and easily see how much is being spent on different aspects of your life. You can easily find particular transactions, and see where you have been overspending.

4. Your budget is too tight

If your budget is too strict, it becomes very difficult to stick to. You will feel an urge to break out of your own oppressive planning. A small unexpected purchase could put you over budget and it can seem impossible to stay within the lines. If you find you are always slightly over budget, do your calculations again and this time give yourself 10% more “padding” for overspending.

You’re not likely to get it right first time, but learn from your experience, adapt, and try again.

5. Your budget is not tight enough

You might find that you just don’t have enough income to cover all your expenses, making your budget impossible. If you have the option to earn more money, then work on this as a priority. If not, it’s time to either scale back your lifestyle, or speak to organisations like Citizens Advice Bureau to see if you are able to claim any benefits or tax credits.

6. You made it too difficult

It’s possible to make healthy spending easier on yourself. You can set up direct debits and standing orders with your bank to pay off bill, pay your creditors, or transfer a regular amount into your savings. Take out all your cash for the week, and split it into an amount for each day, then only have that amount in your wallet that day. This will give you a clear and tangible view of each days’ spending.

If you snack, buy your snacks in bulk and keep them to hand. If you order takeaway, buy some frozen pizzas or microwave meals instead. There are plenty of phone apps and websites to help with budgeting and personal accounts too, including Money Dashboard.

7. You didn’t adapt to problems

Unexpected expenses come up sometimes, and even if you’ve done your best to stay good, you might end up over budget. Maybe you thought you make a sacrifice for your budget but found it hard to cope going without.

Don’t give up so easily. Maybe you need more leeway in your budget for unplanned expenses, or save a little longer and push back your goal. Respond to this challenge and adapt; don’t just return to your old behaviour.

Don’t be too hard on yourself either. No one said you have to get your budget perfect on the first go. As long as you’re making an effort to save up and pay off your debts, you’re on the right track.

About the author

Mike Hall is a media and marketing professional, specialising in video production and content marketing. From Edinburgh, Scotland, Mike now lives in Glasgow. He has experience is short film production, podacasting and Internet radio, as well as having worked with SMEs in the technology industry, and private clients as a web designer, and an IT and marketing consultant.

mike hall glasgow

14 money saving tips for your holiday

holiday planning money saving tips

Whether you’re getting away this summer, or planning in advance for later in the year, these fourteen tips teach you how to save money on your holiday.

1. Pay with a credit card

Relaxing on the beach image

Payments made with credit cards are protected under the Consumer Credit Act. So if the holiday is mis-sold, or the airline or travel company goes bust, your payments can be refunded. However, don’t use it as an excuse to overspend. Although paying by credit card gives you the option of spreading out the payment over a longer period of time, the interest will add up and make your holiday more expensive overall. Only spend what you can afford to pay.

2. Budget your trip

Calculate

Know how much the whole trip will cost you before you go, and make sure you can afford it. In advance, you will want to buy:

  • Flights
  • Accommodation
  • Hire car
  • Travel insurance
  • Currency
  • Appropriate clothing (swimwear, skiwear, hiking gear, whatever you’ll need)
  • Sun cream, Insect repellent

And each day of your trip, you’ll need to budget for:

  • Food and drink
  • Local transport
  • Attractions and entertainment
  • Gifts or souvenirs to bring home

When you know how much you need, use Money Dashboard for personal finance management to make sure you’re saving up enough to meet your goal.

3. Currency exchange

Check your savings

Definitely get your money changed before you leave. Often the cheapest way is to buy currency online and have it delivered to you, or to pick it up from a nearby branch. Search online for the best deal. Withdrawing money while overseas often incurs charges, but if you have to do it, take out plenty cash so you aren’t charged for multiple withdrawals.

4. Multi-trip insurance

Happy driving

Often an annual travel insurance policy that covers multiple trips is cheaper than on-the-spot single trip insurance, odd as that seems.

5. Fly at the right time

Flying

The cost of flights fluctuates depending on when you travel. Usually weekends are more expensive, and unsociable hours are usually cheaper.

6. Stop over

Airport

It takes longer, but sometimes flights are cheaper when you have one or more stop-overs. Most travel comparison tools will give you the option of choosing direct flights, or allowing multiple one or more stop-overs.

7. Try different options

Dancing couple

Being flexible with your travel options is a good way to keep costs down. Don’t just check your nearest airport, or the nearest one to your destination. Sometimes nearby airports will offer better deals, even after you take into account the additional travel cost to and from these airports. Travelling on different airlines or can also reduce the cost, look for a holiday comparison tool online that lets you see multiple flight times, airlines, and airports.

8. Destination: anywhere

Dancing couple

For some people, the destination isn’t too important, it’s getting away that matters. If this is your view, then you can choose your destination based on costs. Skyscanner’s “search everywhere” feature allows you to see all flights on offer in price order. Many travel comparison websites also let you look for last minute or “late deals”, and these are often heavily discounted.

9. Book airport parking and car hire

Happy dog in a car

If you are leaving a car at the airport, or hiring a car at your destination, it’s usually cheaper to book in advance. Large airports often have long stay car parks nearby with free shuttle bus service to the terminal.

Thanks to the latest regulatory review by The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), car hire should less costly. Firm CMA rules are coming into place for car hire companies in the UK and Europe later in the year. These rules will relate to things like insurance products and fuel policies, meaning it will be easier not to be roped into cost insurance packages. The fact that you will be able to choose a full tank of fuel on your hired car to suit your trip will also ultimately save you money.

10. Pack light and wear pockets

Cat in a bag

Poor packing leads to extra baggage charges. Try to bring as little as you can. Sometimes it’s possible to do laundry at your destination, so you won’t have to bring as many clothes. Weigh your bags in advance to make sure they adhere to the regulations, and try to bring as much as you can in your carry-on luggage. Travel in clothes that have a lot of pocket space, and you can wear some of your luggage. You should be allowed to bring a large jacket onto the plane with you, even if you’re not physically wearing it at the airport.

11. Stay in someone’s home

Happy dog

The level of luxury and service in fancy hotels is hard to beat, but it comes with a price tag, and can be a bit soulless and impersonal. If you keep a nice home, you could try looking at home swaps. Temporarily trade homes with someone who lives at your destination. You could also try AirBnB, which allows you to rent a privately owned house or apartment at terrific rates.

12. Get the app

Mobile phone

Travel guides, maps, phrasebooks, it all adds up. Instead of buying books for your holiday, download apps instead. Travel apps and translators are often free.

13. Feeding yourself

Eating

If you’re staying in a hotel or B&B, make sure you get your money’s worth out of the breakfast. Eat heartily, and if they have a buffet, maybe you can make some sandwiches or take some fruit to eat later. If you have access to a kitchen, shop at a local grocer or supermarket and make your own meals. If you’d prefer to eat out, avoid chains or recognisable brands, and eat like a local. It’s more of an experience, and the ingredients are likely to be locally sourced and affordable.

14. Walking tours

Diving off a cliff

Explore your destination by taking part in a walking tour. Compared to bus tours, walking tours are often very cheap or even free (although you may be expected to tip the guide). You may even get to experience something new like doing the classic cliff jump!

What is the cost of love?

cost of being in a relationship

The love of your life may be costing you money. Mike Hall explains…

It’s all in the numbers

Are you a cheap date, or are you high maintenance? While most people seem to believe that being in a relationship saves money, statistics published by Confused.com and TotallyMoney.com seem to indicate that the reverse is true.

The Confused.com research reached the surprising conclusion that being single saves you £2,340 a year, even though only 16% of people in a relationship believe they spend less than they would if they were single.

Household costs

It’s obviously cheaper to split bills like rent, mortgage or energy between two. While two people may make twice as many calls, or spend twice as much time on the Internet, the line rental costs are halved and that makes it cheaper between two. However, a couple living together might choose to live in a nicer place, or may choose a more expensive media and entertainment package from their provider.

The research shows those in a relationship will spend £538 each on household costs, while a single person will only spend £421.
However, it’s not all about splitting costs. Those surveyed that are in a relationship do not necessarily live together, and those that are single do not necessarily live alone.

All kinds of costs

Really, there isn’t any aspect of your personal finances where people don’t spend more in a relationship. Per month, someone in a relationship spends on average £117 more on household costs, £52 more on food and household essentials, £21 more on travel, and £5 more on hobbies and socialising.

Giving gifts

The only time it pays off financially to be in a relationship is when it comes to giving gifts, with 43% saving money by giving gifts as a couple and splitting the cost. On the other hand, 19% of single people believe they are better off because they don’t have to buy gifts for a partner.

Savings being in a relationship

  1. Single room for holidays
  2. Bulk savings on food
  3. Couples living together can split the cost of rent and living costs
  4. Council tax discount
  5. Sharing a car
  6. Giving one gift from both people on special occasions

Costs of being in a relationship

  1. Date nights
  2. Birthday or anniversary gifts for your partner
  3. “Nesting” – new furnishings and home decoration
  4. The wedding
  5. Raising children (!)

Gender roles

According to TotallyMoney’s research, 52% of men think they spend more in a relationship, verses only 39% of women who feel that way. This disparity may be to do with traditional gender roles, as men expect or are expected to pay for drinks, meals and other costs on a romantic evening out. However, things do seem to be changing. While 68% of men aged 35-44 think they spend more in a relationship, only 49% of men aged 24-35 agree with them.

Track your budget

If you have recently gone from being single to in a relationship, or vice versa, you can see what changes it has on your spending habits with Money Dashboard.

Changes can easily be seen when all your transactions are categorised and compared in colourful graphs and charts. If you’ve been using Money Dashboard for personal finance management already, it stores your historic data, so you can go back to your last change in status. If you’re a new user, it can go back to the last three months of transactions for most financial providers.

About the author

Mike Hall is a media and marketing professional, specialising in video production and content marketing. From Edinburgh, Scotland, Mike now lives in Glasgow. He has experience is short film production, podacasting and Internet radio, as well as having worked with SMEs in the technology industry, and private clients as a web designer, and an IT and marketing consultant.

mike hall glasgow

Do I have the ‘Right to Buy’ a house?

right to buy

Mike Hall investigates ‘Right to Buy’ for Money Dashboard…

The Government’s ‘Right to Buy’ scheme is designed to make it easier for those living in homes provided by the local council or a housing association to buy the home they live in. Tenants in England, Wales or Northern Ireland who have stayed in their home over five years may qualify for large discounts on the purchase of their home.

However, this still leaves a large number of potential home owners without assistance. Those in private rented accommodation or living with their parents, for example, are not eligible. Do we all have a “right to buy” our homes?

Is it OK to just rent?

Not everyone who is able to buy a home ends up better off. Running a household can be expensive and there is no guarantee it will be profitable. The property market if difficult to predict, and if the value falls, you could end up owing more than your house is worth. So even if you sold it, you would still owe money to your lender.

However, if the value increases, you may be able to capitalise on this when you’re able to move into a larger home, or give yourself a lump sum pay out if your circumstances change and you have to move out.

Advantages of Renting

  1. Renting is a temporary commitment. Most rental agreements last for at least six months, but after that you are free to move if you have changed your mind or changed circumstances. Buying is much more permanent, and changing your mind after only a few months could incur heavy costs.
  2. A renter is not liable for upkeep and maintenance of the property. Plumbing, electrical and boiler fees, etc. are a home owner’s responsibility.
  3. While rent may increase periodically, as a tenant you are not at risk of losing out due to falling property values.

Advantages of Buying

  1. While mortgage payments tend to involve paying a lot of interest, each payment takes you closer to owning the property, so when you move out you will be able to sell it on.
  2. Rented properties often come with strict rules about what kind of decorating and renovating you are allowed to do. In some rented homes, you will be stuck with furniture and wall paint you did not choose. If you own a home, you have much more freedom to personalise your space, including major renovations as permissible by your planning regulations.
  3. Buying your first home is often described as getting on the “property ladder”. If your income increases, or you have paid of a significant amount of your mortgage already, you may be able to move into a bigger home and your new mortgage will pay off your old one.

Costs to Consider

As well as the deposit, and the monthly mortgage repayment, there are other costs to budget for when buying a home:

  • Solicitor’s fee and other legal costs
  • Cost of house survey (ignoring this could lead to large repair bills later on) 
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax (or in Scotland, Land and Buildings Transaction Tax)
  • Utility bills (gas, electric, broadband) if you’re not already paying them
  • Removal costs or van hire
  • Furniture and lighting

Help to Buy (in Scotland)

An alternative to Right to Buy available in Scotland is the Help to Buy scheme. The scheme is open to a larger pool of first time buyers. The Scottish Government will provide an interest-free loan of up to 20% of the purchase price from some newly built properties. Other similar schemes with slightly different qualifying criteria are known as the New Supply Shared Equity and Open Market Shared Equity.

Shared Ownership

Another option for those struggling to afford the cost of buying home is a Shared Ownership scheme. These schemes are available to first time buyers, and former property owners who can no longer manage the costs. It allows you to buy between 25% and 75% of a property, making the total purchase price more reachable. This option is especially suited to over 55s or people with long term disabilities. Those that participate in the scheme will be given the option to buy the rest of their home at a later date.

How to Save Money to Buy Your Home

Whether there are Government schemes available to help you buy your home or not, it’s important to save up enough to cover your deposit and additional fees. Money Dashboard is a personal finance management tool that allows you to monitor your bank accounts and transactions to make sure you regularly save an amount you can afford until you reach your savings goal.

About the author

Mike Hall is a media and marketing professional, specialising in video production and content marketing. From Edinburgh, Scotland, Mike now lives in Glasgow. He has experience is short film production, podacasting and Internet radio, as well as having worked with SMEs in the technology industry, and private clients as a web designer, and an IT and marketing consultant.

mike hall glasgow

ISAs are changing: Are they still worthwhile?

ISA Account Changes 2015

On 18 March 2015, George Osbourne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced the Government’s proposals for changes in the way ISAs operate as part of the annual UK Budget statement. While the changes are designed to support small businesses and first time house buyers, a reduction in ISA interest rates has left those considering their saving plan wondering if ISAs are still a worthwhile savings option.

This week Money Dashboard user and Digital maven, Mike Hall, breaks down the ISA and what the new changes could mean for you…

What is an ISA?

An Individual Savings Account is a type of bank account, often referred to as a “wrapper”, available to over 16s in the UK. The main advantage of an ISA is that up to a certain annual limit, known as an allowance, the Government will not charge any tax on interest received from your investment. There are two main types of ISA: cash ISAs, and stocks and shares ISAs.

Changes as of April 2015

From the 6th April, the ISA allowance will increase from £15,000 to £15,240. This means you’re able to invest up to £15,240 over the course of the financial year (up to 5th April 2016) and you won’t have to pay tax on the savings. Invest any more, and you’ll pay tax on the amount over the allowance. If you invest less than this amount, your allowance won’t be carried over to the next year, but you will get a new allowance for 2016.

Changes planned for Summer 2015

The new rules on ISAs allow you to invest in securities (not just shares) in small and medium sized enterprises, and listed bonds issued by co-operatives and community benefit societies, provided they are listed on a recognised stock exchange. This means you have more options when it comes to investing your money in stocks and shares ISAs. This is especially useful if you are picky about which organisations you finance for ethical reasons, or know a small business you’d like to support.

Changes planned for Autumn 2015

Later in the year we’ll see the introduction of the “fully flexible ISA”, explained more fully below. There is no date available yet for when this type of ISA will be launched, as the Government is planning to consult with representatives from the financial industry to plan the details.

Changes planned for April 2016

As of 6th April 2016, there will be no tax to pay on the first £1000 of interest earned from non-ISA savings accounts. This effectively defeats the benefit of ISA investment, as other savings accounts are likely to pay higher interest rates, and you won’t be paying tax either way.

Disappointing Interest Rates on cash ISAs

The interest rates offered on an instant access cash ISA are around 1.5% (variable), which is significantly lower than that a regular savings account, which is around 6% (fixed). Although with a regular savings account you will pay 20% tax on any interest, the net (after tax) rate is still 2.5%, which is higher that a cash ISA, meaning you’re likely to receive higher interest paying into a regular savings account than a cash ISA.

Fully Flexible ISAs

Currently, any investment into an ISA counts towards your annual allowance, regardless of withdrawals. So if you deposit £100, withdraw £100, then deposit £100 again, you will have used up £200 of your allowance, despite only having £100 in the account. With a fully flexible ISA, you can withdraw and deposit as much as you like, the allowance will apply to the balance deposited in your account over the end of the tax year. This will only apply to cash ISAs, however, not stocks and shares ISAs.

Stocks and Shares ISAs

Given the low interest rates on cash ISAs, stocks and shares ISAs may be a better investment for savers. Investing in stock markets is risky, there is a chance you will lose your money, but there is also a chance you will yield more profit than cash ISAs or other savings options. If you decide to buy stocks and shares to put in an ISA account, it’s sensible to make use of an investment management service to ensure you are investing wisely.

Help to Buy ISAs

With a Help to Buy ISA, the Government will add 25% to the amount you pay in, provided the money is used to buy your first property. You can pay in a maximum of £200 per month, meaning you will receive a maximum of £50 a month support from taxpayers. You can only have one Help to Buy ISA per person, but if you are saving with a partner you can have one each, doubling your total allowance and the bonus you receive. The Government bonus can’t be withdrawn from your account, and will only activate when your investment is used to buy a home (or a mortgage for a home) worth less than £450,000 in London or less than £250,000 anywhere else in the UK.

If you are saving towards buying a home, or have any other financial goals, Money Dashboard’s free personal finance software is a great way to track your saving progress, and identify ways to save money in your monthly spending.

About the author

Mike Hall is a media and marketing professional, specialising in video production and content marketing. From Edinburgh, Scotland, Mike now lives in Glasgow. He has experience is short film production, podacasting and Internet radio, as well as having worked with SMEs in the technology industry, and private clients as a web designer, and an IT and marketing consultant.

mike hall glasgow

Spotlight on: Crowdfunding

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Whether it’s finding investment for a budding business idea, the perfect wedding day or even a life-size monument to Robocop in Detroit (yes that actually happened), crowdfunding can be a great way to source extra money for a project. However, with so many websites available, picking the right one can feel like a bit of a minefield.

Fear not though, help is at hand. Although crowdfunding sites may seem similar, there are some key differences between them that we’ve listed here. Before you dive in, make sure you have a handle on your finances by signing up for our free budget planner. This will give you a clearer idea of your incomings and outgoings, which is vital information before you start investing in anything.

Kickstarter

One of the most well-known crowdfunding websites around, Kickstarter claims to have raised over $1 billion since it was founded in April 2009. The site can only be used to fund creative projects, i.e something that has a clear goal, will eventually be completed, and will end having produced something. So if you’re looking to write a book, or produce an album or art project, Kickstarter may be the way to make it happen. If you’re successful in raising your target amount, Kickstarter will take 5% of the total funds raised, 3% and 20p per pledge in payment processing fees, as well as VAT on the total of all the fees paid. With so many charges, it is definitely worth factoring these fees into your target amount from the beginning.

Crowdcube

Crowdcube funds all manner of businesses from a host of different industries. To sign up for funding, Crowdcube has a strict vetting process whereby users must submit a business plan, financial forecasts for the next three years, and a video pitch explaining their investment proposal. Each pitch will go live for 60 days before it expires. Like Kickstarter, the site has a complex pricing structure: if you are successful, Crowdcube will take 5% of the total funds raised, as well as a hefty £1,750 (+VAT) in execution fees.

Seedrs

Seedrs is a website designed for entrepreneurs to get seed funding. Pretty much anyone can start a campaign by answering some questions about their business plan, which will be assessed in line with the website’s criteria. But don’t be put off by this – one project on Seedrs recently raised £250,000 in investment towards a musical version of Happy Days, which toured the UK earlier this year.

Indiegogo

Indiegogo was designed with the aim of simplifying crowdfunding. There are no criteria for the projects you can start and it’s free to sign up, create, and contribute to a campaign. The site also offers two funding plans: flexible and fixed. Unlike most crowdfunding sites, flexible funding means that even if you don’t reach your goal, you get to keep what you’ve raised, and you simply pay a higher percentage of the total to Indiegogo.

Crowdfunder

Crowdfunder prides itself on supporting projects that can benefit communities and not just the project owner themselves. Projects must also have a clear goal and tangible rewards, and fit into one of the site’s nine categories. To apply to start a project, all Crowdfunder ask is that you have a good idea, five tangible rewards, a video explaining your project and of course, what any good investment plan needs: passion.

Posted by Money Dashboard

  

The best Easter egg hunts in the UK

Easter Egg hunt

 

As the weather improves, Easter offers the first big opportunity for a family outing. But where are the best places to hunt Easter eggs this year?

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

Chatsworth House is one of the jewels of the Peak District, boasting a historic house, an impressive art collection and 105 acres of sprawling gardens filled with treasures. And all of this is put to good use at Easter.

From the 12th – 27th of April, visitors can hunt decorated eggs in the extravagant interior, and golden eggs across the garden. On Easter Weekend, the Easter Bunny arrives, bringing face painting and an Easter egg trail to the farmyard and adventure playground.

Culzean Castle, Ayrshire

If it’s sunny this Easter, there will be no finer place to visit than this stunning 18th Century castle on the Scottish coast. As well as the castle, gardens, adventure playground and nearby beach, Culzean Castle is one of many National Trust and National Trust for Scotland properties partnered with Cadbury to provide a Cadbury Eggsplorer adventure. Kids follow tailored clues and answer questions to find their own personal (chocolaty) prize.

If you’re not near Culzean, you can find your nearest National Trust/Cadbury egg hunt here.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh

If you’re more Lindt than Cadbury, grab an Activity Pack at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh to follow clues, learn about the flora and fauna across the site, and win an indulgent chocolate bunny.

Brighton Chicken Run, East Sussex

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? You’ll find out if you visit Hove Park on the 13th of April. The Chicken Run is a 5km fun run for adults, and a 500m dash for children. Everyone must dress up in a chicken costume (provided) and everyone who finishes gets a chocolate egg to replenish their energy reserves.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

The ancestral home of the Dukes of Marlborough will play host to another esteemed guest over Easter: Peppa Pig. The porcine pal of many a youngster will be visiting on the 20th and 21st of April to celebrate ’10 years of muddy puddles’. If you have no idea what we’re talking about, you may prefer to visit on the 18th or 19th of April to participate in the Blenheim Palace Easter Egg Hunt, which invites children to solve clues around the Pleasure Garden to win prizes.

The Peter Rabbit Egg Hunt 2014, The Lake District

Few hunts match the scale, scope or wholesome fun of this county-wide search for Peter’s bounty, which promises exercise, fresh air, map reading and big prizes.

To participate, simply visit the Peter Rabbit Egg Hunt website and donate at least £2 to Water Aid. When the hunt begins on April 16th, participants can use the Google Map provided to try and find one of 50 limited edition ceramic eggs hidden around the Lake District. As soon as eggs are reported found, they disappear from the map.

Lucky egg-hunters can keep their loot, and also have the chance to win big prizes: including a trip to see the Peter Rabbit Garden at the Chelsea Flower show, and a luxury stay in the Lakes. If you’re not lucky enough to win, you can always plan your own luxury trips, using our free Money Dashboard budgeting software to help you map out the costs.

 

 

Posted by Marc Murphy, Marketing Manager at Money Dashboard.