About the New Lifetime ISA

SavingsThe new Lifetime ISA or LISA is going to be implemented soon, giving hefty rewards to those who are saving up either to buy a home or for their retirement. But with the launch of the LISA just a fortnight or so away, a lot of people are still unclear on the details and unsure about whether it is the right product for them.

About the LISA

The Lifetime ISA will be available for those aged between 18 and 40, though once you have opened one you can keep saving in it until the age if 50. They are aimed at those who are saving up either to buy their first home or for their retirement.

Savings of up to £4,000 per year placed in a LISA will receive a generous 25% bonus from the government, payable when the money is taken out either to put a deposit on a first home or to fund retirement at the end of the term. This far outstrips any interest rates on offer, giving up to £1,000 per year if the full £4,000 allowance is used. Any interest or investment growth will be applied over and above the government bonus on your deposits and, as with any ISA, will be tax-free.

Where can I Get a LISA?

While Lifetime ISAs have gotten a lot of attention and look set to be very much in demand, it seems they will be less widely available than other savings accounts. A lot of banks are declining to offer them, or at least have no current plans to do so. Santander, TSB, and Barclays all fall within this group. Others, such as HSBC and Lloyds, have indicated that they will make a decision on whether to offer LISAs once the final rules have been announced.

Of those who do offer LISAs, most of the offerings so far announced take the form of stocks and shares ISAs. The offerings from the Share Centre, Hargreaves Lansdown, and Nutmeg are all stocks and shares accounts. The only Cash ISA that has been announced as a LISA offering so far comes from Skipton Building Society, though more may follow as other providers announce their products.

Is a Lifetime ISA Right for Me?

That is a question only you can really answer, based on your own personal circumstances. Add the fact that the full and final details of LISA accounts have not yet been released, and any decision made at present should be somewhat provisional.

That said, Lifetime ISAs look very promising for those who are specifically saving up for their first property. The 25% bonus is a very attractive incentive to use these accounts, and outstrips any currently available interest rate several times over – and besides, it is added on top of interest. Whether using it as a pension alternative in order to save for retirement is similarly worthwhile is a much more uncertain question, requiring a much more individualised analysis of your alternative options.

Free Money With Reward Bank Accounts

It’s probably fair to say that most people don’t have any particular brand loyalty to their bank. Yet most people will stick with their bank for years without even thinking of switching. Often, this is because it can seem like there is no real incentive to change to another bank, but that just isn’t the case. Many banks offer solid incentives for new customers, often in the form of a simple, free cash sum.

How Much Could I Get?

The rewards that banks are offering change regularly, but generally most banks offer around £100 or so. The best rewards can be up to £200. You will have to meet certain conditions, such as a minimum level of monthly funding, in order to be eligible for the reward, and these conditions can be (but aren’t always) stricter for higher-paying rewards. While you can switch again for further cashback, you will usually have to wait around a year to be eligible to claim another reward. So in short, you are not going to get rich by switching to reward accounts but, when you consider a switch can be made quickly and easily online, you will certainly be well-paid for the time and effort it makes to simply change provider.

Is Switching Difficult?

Switching banks is not nearly as difficult as most people think. The Current Account Switch Service, launched in 2013, has made it much quicker and much simpler to change banks. Opening a new account can be done fairly quickly and simply either in-branch or with an online application, and during the course of doing this you should be asked whether you would like to close an old account and switch it over to the new one. Once you have given details of your old account, your old and new banks will handle the switch process between them with little or no effort on your part. They will transfer all of your direct debits and standing orders for you, along with your current balance and any regular incoming payments such as salary or benefits. If any payments do get accidentally sent to your old account, they will be automatically redirected to your new one for three years after your switch.

What Should I Know?

Make sure you check the terms of reward current accounts and ensure that you are eligible, both for the account and for the cash payment. Terms may include a minimum monthly income for the account, or a minimum amount of time you must keep your account for before you can receive the full payout. Check also that there are no fees or charges associated with the account and, if they are, weigh them up against the level of cash reward and any other benefits they give such as high interest.

A Week of Saving Tips

Saving is a daunting prospect for many. Saving is also characterised with cutting back on either essentials, or the more fun parts of lifestyle. As those numbers in a savings account or investment slowly increase, many would still agree that waiting is hardly exciting.

However, saving can be fun. Instead of seeing saving as a necessity, and a reason for enforced sacrifice, see saving as fun, or maybe even as a game of sorts. According to some finanacial experts and planners, here are seven ways to make saving money fun again – one for each day of the week:

Find a Savings Buddy 

Find a friend who is also saving. Maybe you for share a similar budget and lifestyle and financial aims – maybe not. Ideally, though, they are a thriftier ever than you are. Support and encourage each other to save more, and to accomplish bigger savings plans and efforts. Together, do challenges occasionally such as the “Ten Pound Week,” where only £10 covers everything from food, drink, personal spending, entertainment and other expenses for a whole week. Anothercsuggestion is to have “Frugal Fridays” together, where you spend Friday night (or another night of the week) in together, with Netflix or similar.

Use Cash 

This is a big one, suggested and cited by many financial planners. It is easy to (without realising) overspend whilst paying using a card. This is particularly so with credit cards, where massive bills can be racked up whilst the cardholder spends and spends, always thinking that they don’t have to pay until the bill arrives at the end of the month. Instead of always relying on card, try to withdraw a set, certain amount of cash each week instead. Stick to this budget for the whole week. Not only will this help to budget, but the discipline involved in sticking to that cash budget will useful. Further, paying with physical coins or banknotes will feel more “realistic” than using a card, which in turn can help in making sounder spending decisions. 

Save in One Denomination 

A rather unusual one, but decide on a denomination, either a coin or a banknote. Then deliberately do not spend that particular denomination of cash, but put it away in safe place. Every time you end up with that particular note or coin – do not spend it, but keep it safe. Do this every time you spend, and fairly quickly you will accumulate a lot in that particular denomination – all saved away. For example, if saving away all £1 coins, if on an average week you end up with £12 in £1 coins, then over a month that would add up to around nearly £50 saved away. It requires a bit of discipline – but can be fun, and you have the need to be creative when paying to avoid spending those coins or notes!

Buy Food Daily
The average UK household today wastes an astounding £470 per year in uneaten, rotting food. The best way to tackle this is to buy food and some groceries daily. Not only is the need to regularly throw and replace out of date food tackled – but significant savings can be made, especially when taking advantage of any discount deals. Shopping daily also gives plenty of opportunity to get creative in the kitchen as well.

365-Day Penny Challenge

Think small, to get big results. Start off by saving 1p on day one, then 2p on day two, 3p on day three and so on – until a year has elapsed, and Day 365 sees you stashing away £3.65. By the end of that year you will have stashed away £667.95. A small amount every day really will increase over time. In addition to being fun, this methods is a good kids’ introduction to saving as well.

Decorative Containers
Decorate your piggybanks, or the containers that you are putting your savings into. As such, you will be drawn to them to put coins and notes into them. An extension of this method is, if saving towards a particular goal, to conspicuously label, or even put images on, containers that you are using.

For example, if saving for a vacation to Berlin, label that jar with Berlin: 2017, and paste on images of the Brandenburg Gate, German food, the German flag and similar. That visual reminder will encourage you to save more toward that goal.

Competition Time! 
Use an incentive. Offer up a prize among friends or family for the person who can save the most at a set interval (month, quarter, etc). Ensure that they prize is something everyone can enjoy, so that all involved have a great incentive save.

With these and similar methods – saving need not be dull, and merely putting coins and notes into a drawer or a bank account. Saving can be a goal that is fun to work towards.

Mobile Money Saving Tips

smartphonesThe mobile phone is one of the wonders of modern life, especially since the age of the smartphone began. However, they can also seem like a bit of a drain on the purse. If you feel like you could be paying less for your phone, there are a few points you should consider to keep the cost down without losing out.

Take out a Contract

Contracts are almost always cheaper than paying as you go for all but the lightest phone users. For many, the cost of just paying for calls, texts and data usage alone will make a contract a money-saver, and this is before you even consider the fact that most contracts (excluding sim-only plans obviously) will include the whole cost of your phone and those that don’t will still reduce the up-front cost considerably. If you’re currently on a pay-as-you-go plan, work out how much you spend each month on topping up and see if you can get a contract that meets your needs (plus a shiny new handset) for less.

Loyalty Costs

Loyalty to a single provider can prove costly. Every time you take out a new contract – or just every so often if you are better off on pay-as-you-go – make a point of shopping around and seeing which network is giving the best deals. It’s relatively rare your network needs to do anything more than give you your allowance of minutes, texts and data (unless you live somewhere where coverage could be an issue), so the provider that can do that at the cheapest price is often the best one. Consider discount networks such as Talkmobile and GiffGaff (owned and operated by Vodafone and O2 respectively, but cheaper). Despite being a budget network, GiffGaff has managed to win the Which? Best Telecoms Provider Award for the past two years running.

It can also pay to avoid being too loyal to any on handset manufacturer. While attention must be paid to quality and reliability, these aren’t always tied to the most expensive phones and some manufacturers will charge less than others for the same quality and specs. Some discount manufacturers that are currently little-known in the UK but available online are starting to give big names a run for their money in both quality and power for substantially lower prices.

Use Apps

Apps for your smartphone can also help save you money. The likes of WhatsApp and Skype can allow you to use a (fairly small) portion of your data allowance as an alternative to making calls and texts if you are worried about going over your limit and hitting charges. Other apps can help you save money in other ways, such as the number of excellent apps that allow you to use a smartphone in place of buying a SatNav.

Three Simple Purchases to Save You Money

A lot of people end up losing money when it comes down to a choice between a single, bigger expense or a lot of small expenses. Spending a little bit of money over and over can look more attractive then a bigger one-off expense in the short term, but you will sometimes be surprised how quickly the small expenses can add up and leave you out of pocket.

In a few cases, this is especially true. Here are a few things which you should seriously consider buying up-front in order to save money over time:

rechargeable batteriesRechargeable Batteries

Rechargeable batteries might look expensive compared to single-use ones, and you may have tried them before and found they weren’t much good. However, they can quickly work out a lot cheaper, and if you’ve had a bad experience you probably chose the wrong batteries. Good rechargeable batteries are up there with the best single-use ones, and can pay for themselves in the first year (they are likely to last at least a few years altogether). They should be labelled with their capacity in mAh, so to avoid poor performance go for 2000mAh or higher for AA. However, buy from a reputable brand and retailer as there are plenty of cheap batteries that lie about their capacity out there, and even some fakes that are made to look like branded ones. Consider buying low self-discharge batteries (all pre-charged rechargeable batteries should be low self-discharge) as these do away with the biggest problem traditional rechargeable batteries have; losing their charge over a few months whether they are being used or not.

A Coffee Machine

This is for the hundreds of thousands of people – most of them commuters – that can’t get by without dropping into their favourite coffee shop each morning for a caffeine-filled wake-up call. Coffee shops are, frankly, expensive. Coffee of equal or better quality from a home coffee machine can cost pennies, and the difference will quickly pay for the cost of the machine itself. You can drink it before you go or take it with you in a thermal flask and it will probably take less time to make than it would take to queue in the shop. Of course, if you can get by with instant (consider trying premium instant coffees, which may be a lot better than you think) the savings can be even more significant.

A Refillable Water Bottle

This is one for the people who buy bottled water a lot. Despite popular belief (and well-funded marketing claims), bottled spring water is in no way healthier than tap water. It is, however, many times more expensive. Simply buying a refillable bottle, or refilling a used bottle from the tap, can save you a lot of money over time and won’t cost more than a couple of quid. If you live in a hard water area and don’t like the taste of your tap water, you can decant it through a filter jug or even buy a bottle with a water filter built in.

The Ingredients of a Well-Balanced Household Budget

Balanced BudgetIf your personal finances are tight – or you just want to ensure that they run as smoothly as possible and with minimal waste – then taking steps to balance your household budget is essential. For many families, this will be made all the more pertinent by recent figures which suggest that the cost of living is once again rising faster than wages.

If you want a well-balanced, streamlined and thoroughly effective household budget, there are a few things to bear in mind.


Paperwork isn’t a subject that people tend to get especially fired up about, but if you want to make your household budget as effective as it can be then well-organised and thoroughly-read paperwork can be a huge help. This includes bank statements and receipts, which can help you monitor exactly how much you have spend and on what, payslips, which obviously tell you how much you have coming in, and anything else such as handwritten notes you make in the process of balancing your budget.

The Big and Little Things

When working out a budget and estimating their spending, a lot of people just focus on the big picture and forget to include little things like pints of milk and loaves of bread. These might seem too small to make a difference, but all taken together they can definitely add up. Others, forget to include big but one-off expenses such as a yearly holiday, car tax or the cost of Christmas. If you want to budget properly and accurately and ensure you finances are properly organised to cover the things you need, it is important to make sure that neither the big or little things are left out.

The “Now-and-Again” Things

Another group of things that tends to get forgotten is made up of things that are not overlooked because they are particularly small or big but exceptional. Rather, they tend to get forgotten about because they are medium-sized things that you pay for “now and again” instead of regular, weekly or monthly outgoings or annual big outlays. These might be things that are still somewhat regular, such as haircuts. Alternatively, they might be things which are not regular per se but you tend to indulge in now and again, such as tickets to see your favourite band, a West End play, or simply the latest film in the cinema.

The Unexpected Things

By their very nature, unexpected things are not something you can actively plan and budget for in the same amount of detail as other types of spending. However, if at all possible you should make sure to allow for the possibility that some unexpected expense will come up when balancing your budget and planning your spending. If your car breaks down, your boiler needs fixing, or your computer goes wrong, you’ll thank yourself for allowing some space in your budget.

Where to Find Bargains Online

BargainsIt’s no secret that buying online tends to be cheaper than buying from traditional shops, but sometimes it can be hard to know where to look for that bargain price. Other times, we tend to default to buying from our usual go-to outlet without really looking anywhere else – a big mistake in the wide world of the internet.

While it’s obviously impossible to check every single, possible place you might be able to buy something, there are a few places online that tend to be especially useful for finding bargains. Checking these places will usually give you a good chance of finding the best price.

Auction Sites

Auction sites are often great places to pick up bargains on both second hand and brand new items. They are competitive marketplaces so even items which you purchase outright at a fixed cost can often be priced very attractively. By far the best known auction site is eBay, but other auction sites such as eBid can also offer bargain prices – sometimes even lower because most buyers head straight to eBay. Due to the smaller number of buyers, however, other auction sites tend to have a greater number of sellers with no feedback, making it harder to judge the reliability of the person you buy from.

Amazon Marketplace

Amazon is one of the biggest names there is when it comes to online shopping, but they don’t just sell their own products. New and second hand items sold by small businesses can also be listed for sale and purchased by buyers on Amazon, often at lower prices. When you are buying something from Amazon’s website, don’t just click straight on the main “buy” button to purchase it from Amazon. Look just below for a link to “used and new” prices to see if you can get a better deal. Remember, however, that these are often not eligible for free postage so remember to take any postage costs into account in deciding who to buy from.


This is not actually a shopping website, but rather an invaluable tool for shopping around with minimal effort. Provided by Google and also known as Google Shopping Search, it is pretty much a variant of Google’s search engine designed exclusively to look for things that are being sold on the internet. Type in what your looking for, and Froogle will show you an extensive selection of relevant products from a huge list of different sites including both big names and smaller outlets. This makes it much easier and more practical to shop around and compare different sellers.