Living Wage: Good For Employees – Not So Bad For Business As Predicted

June 3, 2016 by Jacob | No Comments | Filed in Uncategorized

The recent introduction of the National Living Wage was warmly welcomed. Many, from religious leaders to equality campaigners to charities to politicians saw the National Living Wage (LW) as a fairer way to pay workers. It was described by Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne memorably as a pay rise that British workers deserved. Many saw the LW as a step to tackle poverty and low pay.

Many businesses, however, were not so enthusiastic. For many businesses, it was predicted that, with rising wage bills, staff numbers would have to fall. Job losses were predicted, up to 60,000 by 2020, according to the Office of Budget Responsibility.

A recent survey conducted by the Resolution Foundation (an independent not for profit organisation which analyses and takes action on matters concerning society and social justice) was the first snapshot of information on the impact of of the LW on British businesses.

Five hundred companies, across different sectors, were questioned just before the EU Referendum. Of those 500 companies, 215 said that the new LW had impacted upon their wage bill. ‎Some 36% of those businesses affected by the new LW said that they had put up their prices to compensate for a higher wage bill. 29% said they had seen reduced profits. Despite indications of some employers having to cut back on staff terms and conditions, and staff perks, the survey found that only 8% of companies had cut paid breaks, overtime, Bank Holiday pay or similar. ‎

The LW policy was announced in last year’s Budget by then Chancellor George Osborne; in his statement at the time, he said it was a move to create a higher-wage, lower-welfare British economy. Realising the opposition and likely reaction of many businesses, he had also warned businesses not to cut staff perks and benefits to compensate for an increased wage bill.

With the new LW requiring workers aged 25 or over to be paid at least £7.20 an hour, workers aged 21 to 24 still continue to be paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW) of £6.70 an hour. The rules for pay whilst in apprenticeships are different. Several big name firms across various sectors, such as DIY chain B&Q, supermarket Tesco, the Caffe Nero coffee chain and John Lewis Partnership have all deduced some staff payments or perks over the last year. Most of those, and other companies, have stated that the loss of some staff perks and pay were unrelated to the 50p per hour wage increase they faced from April with the LW. ‎

Responding to the Resolution Foundation survey, a spokesman for the Department for Business stated that the government “wants to move to a higher wage, lower tax and lower welfare society and the National Living Wage is a crucial part of achieving this. It is encouraging to hear that employers are investing in training and technology which will help to improve productivity… ‎We recognise that employers are responding to the [LW] in a variety of ways depending on their circumstances. The Low Pay Commission will recommend the level of the [LW] going forward to make sure that wages rise to reward workers while considering the impact on the economy.”

Whilst many welcomed the National Living Wage – overall business was not so keen. The survey from the Resolution ‎Foundation shows that the impact of the wage rise was not so dire as many in business predicted. Although there has been some negative impact upon businesses facing a larger wage bill – overall National Living Wage had proved to be of benefit to hard pressed workers.

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Simple Steps to Avoid Mobile Data Charges

September 30, 2015 by Jacob | No Comments | Filed in Spending, Tips

smartphonesSurfing the internet anywhere are blistering 4G speeds is great. Being hit with unexpected data charges and not being quite sure how you managed to exceed your allowance is not so fun. There are a few simple steps you can take to prevent yourself from going over your limits and incurring potentially hefty extra charges.

Set up an Alert

It should be possible to set up an alert when you are nearing your data limit so that you know to reign things in and not go over. It may be possible to set up an alert with your provider – the most accurate and reliable way – who will send you a text when you are getting close. Alternatively it should be possible to set up an alert in your phone’s settings or using a third party app, depending on your operating system. However, bear in mind that these measurements of your data usage may differ from your provider’s, so this method can be less accurate.

Use WiFi When Possible

Only internet usage conducted over your mobile network counts against your data allowance, not any kind of internet usage at all. If you are connected to a WiFi network, this will not drain your allowance. When using your phone at home, and if possible at friends’ and family’s house too, always connect to WiFi to save on data usage. Unless you have no choice, make sure any big things like app downloads, streaming videos and installing updates are always carried out while connected to a WiFi network instead of using mobile data, as these things will use a much bigger chunk of your allowance than simple browsing. WiFi can be battery hungry, though, so you might want to turn it off when you are done.

Turn Off Facebook Video Autoplay

Facebook has become one of the most popular ways to connect with friends, and the social network’s smartphone app has become one of the most popular ways to use Facebook. However, the Facebook app is also guilty of causing many people to exceed their data limits thanks to one unhelpful feature that can, thankfully, be disabled. When you are scrolling through your timeline, the app may well be automatically playing any videos people have shared. It will play them silently by default and, having scrolled on before it started, you may not even realise they are playing. Nonetheless, they are and this can be a real drain on your mobile data allowance – essentially without your permission. Thankfully, it is quite easy to turn this feature off in the app’s settings menu.

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Saving Money with Rechargeable Batteries

July 29, 2015 by Jacob | No Comments | Filed in Saving, Tips

rechargeable batteriesRechargeable batteries are a great way to save money. They work out much cheaper than buying single-use batteries over time, and while they are more expensive to buy in the first place it doesn’t take them especially long to pay for themselves compared to their overall lifespan. However, there’s a lot of choice and even quite a few duds on the market, so if you really want to be better off you need to exercise a bit of care when purchasing.

Choosing a Charger

The battery charger accounts for a large part of the initial expense of switching to rechargeable batteries, so it’s important to make the right choice. Avoid small, low-powered chargers such as USB chargers, as these may be incapable of fully charging high-capacity batteries. While not essential, it can be worth investing a little more money in a smart charger. These vary the rate of charge throughout the charge cycle in order to provide fast charging while maximising battery life. Specialist fast chargers will charge even more quickly, but will shorten the life of your batteries noticeably (though they will still represent a significant cost saving over disposables).

Battery Capacity

Not all disposable batteries are equal; different models hold different amounts of charge, and there are a wide range of capacities available. The best ones rival the best disposable batteries, while the worst are frankly pathetic. If you want batteries that will deliver a decent lifespan – the equivalent of buying a good, branded disposable – go for at least 2000mAh (milliamp hours, the measure of how much charge they hold). The most AA powerful batteries on the market are around 2700-2900mAh. If any battery claims to hold more of a charge than that (and plenty of unscrupulous no-name brands do) be very suspicious. Larger battery sizes, such as C or D, will have higher capacities.

Brand and Where to Buy

There are a lot of dodgy batteries on the market if you buy from no-name brands. Many sell very low-powered batteries with labels boasting huge capacities that no product on the market really offers. For this reason, you should always buy from a brand you recognise, even if it’s just a retailer’s own brand, or from a brand that has good user reviews on sites like Amazon. There are also counterfeits out there made to look like the big brands’ products, which will be low-capacity and potentially even dangerous, so it is best to also buy from a trusted retailer and ignore anyone who is so cheap it starts to look suspicious.

Low Self-Discharge

One last thing it might be worth spending a little more for is low self-discharge. Traditionally, rechargeable batteries have had one flaw; their charge leaks out slowly even if they aren’t being used. This means they run down quicker and are less than ideal for slow-drain devices like remote controls. If you charge them in advance then put them away for a few months you might find they’ve gone flat by the time you want to use them. Low self-discharge batteries virtually eliminate this problem, losing very little charge when not in use. All batteries sold pre-charged should have this feature even if it’s not clearly labelled. Otherwise, they would almost certainly lose their charge between manufacture and purchase.

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Strange “Life Hacks” to Save you Money

May 31, 2015 by Jacob | No Comments | Filed in Spending, Tips

There’s all kinds of money-saving advice out there. Some seems painfully obvious, some obscure and interesting. And then there are the tips that seem strange or downright bizarre.

However, there are times when some seemingly weird tricks actually do help you to save money. Here are a few “life hacks” that can help you to reduce your spending and aid your financial health.

Chewing Gum and Music

You might be surprised to hear that you can genuinely save money with a stick of chewing gum and some of your favourite songs. Admittedly, those songs need to be on an MP3 player or your phone so that you can take them out and about with you and listen through a set of headphones.

The trick is to chew the gum and listen to the music while you are doing your weekly shop. The average person spends a lot more than they need to or intend to at the supermarket for two reasons. Firstly, they get easily distracted and don’t focus on the things they actually went out to buy. Secondly, they are enticed by delicious treats they don’t really need – especially if they are hungry – and end up adding them to the trolley. If you listen to music, you will be less likely to get distracted and won’t hear all the promotional announcements on the loudspeaker. The chewing gum will make you feel less hungry, and will fill your mouth with a minty flavour which makes chocolates and cakes less likely to set it watering. The combined result is that you will most likely spend less.

Make Things Harder

This tip may not be strange per se, but it certainly seems counterintuitive. We always naturally like to make things easier for ourselves. It seems like the kind of thing which is always beneficial. But sometimes, deliberately complicating things you do every day and making them harder can be beneficial. In particular, it can be easier to save money and cut your spending if you make certain other things harder.

To be a bit more specific, it becomes easier for you to save money when it becomes harder for you to spend it. If you deliberately complicate the spending process, it becomes harder for you to splash out on a whim without really thinking it over. Avoid saving your payment information with online retailers so that the process of checking out becomes slower and more laborious. Avoid taking your debit card out with you if you have the cash to buy what you need. In short, create barriers to unnecessary spending wherever you can.

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Keeping Your Phone Bill Down

March 25, 2015 by Jacob | No Comments | Filed in Spending, Tips

TelephonePhone bills are among the smaller expenses your house will face – or at least they can be. It is surprising how many people are overpaying for their phone service, and how much they could be saving.

There are a number of tips you can use to keep your phone bill down, from making sure you have the lowest prices to bypassing premium rates.

Choosing Providers

You should be choosing a new provider every time your contract expires if you want to benefit from the best rate. Use comparison sites to identify the best rates, but do make sure to include line rental. Many people don’t look at line rental costs, either unthinkingly or because they believe this will be the same with all companies, but in fact some providers charge significantly less than others.

Once you’ve chosen a provider, paying for your line rental up-front will work out noticeably cheaper than paying monthly. If you can’t afford to pay the full cost up-front but have a fairly strong credit rating, you may be able to spread the cost with a 0% credit card – effectively paying monthly and still getting the discounted rate.

Choosing a Package

Once you have chosen a provider, you will likely be presented with multiple package options. The main two choices are usually one offering free calls any time and others offering them only at weekends and sometimes also in the evenings. Look at bills with your current provider to help you assess how many daytime or weekday calls you actually make in a typical month to see if the anytime package will actually leave you better off.

Most packages are combined with broadband, and this is usually cheaper than separate phone and broadband packages anyway.  Many providers will also offer you other bundled services such as TV packages. These can be useful, but only if you really want that add-on or are already paying more for a similar product elsewhere. Otherwise, don’t let a sales professional talk you into it.

Monthly Bills

Apart from avoiding unnecessary calls, it may seem like there is little or nothing you can do to keep your monthly bill down once you have chosen a provider and package. However, there are a few things you can do to keep costs down. For instance, even on a package with anytime calls, you will still have to pay for premium rate numbers. However, you can usually find a local rate alternative to a premium rate number using specialist websites. This will either be much cheaper or entirely free, depending on your package.

Even Freephone numbers require one word of caution. Make sure you always call them from your landline. They are usually not free when called from mobiles, and on the contrary can be quite expensive. Making sure that you use your home phone for all Freephone calls can prevent unexpected charges.

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Economic stimulus for Eurozone- amidst political instability

January 17, 2015 by Jacob | No Comments | Filed in The Economy

Amidst speeches and statements from politicians, central banks, and politicians, the facts, as released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), show good economic tidings to start 2015.

The ONS figures show that the UK economy grew by 0.5% in the last quarter of 2014. Although a slowdown from the previous quarter’s growth of 0.7%, overall the UJK economy grew by 2.6% in 2014. This is up from 1.7% in 2013, and was the fastest pace of growth since 2007.

There is still uncertainty as to whether that last quarter slowdown is temporary or whether it will persist Joe Grice, ONS Chief Economist stated that it was “too early to say” either way. Speaking on the ONS figures, Mr Grice went on to comment that “the dominant services sector remains buoyant while the contraction has taken place in industries like construction, mining and energy supply, which can be erratic.”

The growing and buoyant UK economy was challenged and overshadowed by a move from the ECB. In January, the ECB (following the US Federal Reserve’s similar attempts in previous years) unveiled a €1.1 trillion series of quantitative easing measures (QE). Essentially, QU prints money for the financial markets and institutions to buy as bonds. As such, the major banks have (in financial theory) more money to invest, spend and save according to the markets. QE serves a stimulus to financial trading, and has knock on effects in stimulating an economy. At least, that is the economy theory.

There is no doubt that the Eurozone is still troubled- and that is without the election of anti-austerity, far-left Syriza party under Alexis Tsipras. Once again, fears of Greek debt and a possible ‘Grexit’ abound in European circles. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has firmly put down any such fears, and discussions are on going.

Aside from the banks, the Eurozone will also benefit from quantative easing. In the currency markets, recent weeks has seen a fall in the value of the Euro. This is good news for exporters; such exports account for a nearly a quarter of the Eurozone’s output, higher than in other areas of the world.

As such, QE will be welcomed by the Eurozone- but cautiously. After all, when done in the US, the three rounds of QE did show results- but not dramatic result. Indeed, QE is often a threat to banks’ profit margins. Further, QE can often see low savings returns and interest rates- and money easier and cheaper to borrow.

The threat to banks’ margins will also be compounded by debts and loans to Russia (which is seeing economic difficulties of its own, amidst international political pressure and actions), and the uncertainty of matters relating to Greece. Such uncertainty will not helped by the upcoming election in the UK.

In that regard, the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) actually called for an end to uncertainty as regards the UK and the EU. At a conference in February, John Longworth, head of the BCC, called for a referendum as soon as possible, ideally in 2016 as opposed to Prime Minister David Cameron’s promise of a 2017 referendum.

According to Mr. Longworth, the earlier referendum would avoid “years of uncertainty…The next government must set out what it will do to protect the United Kingdom against the prospect of being in a club where all the decisions are made by, and for, the Eurozone…More than any repatriation of powers, businesses want to know that the UK has safeguards against being drawn closer to the Eurozone – especially as history tells us that currency unions inevitably fall apart unless there is real political, economic and social integration.”

The Prime Minister responded by reaffirming his intentions to renegotiate the UK’s membership of the EU. If that did not work, then a referendum would be called in 2017 – or earlier if possible.

At the BCC conference, the Prime Minister also announced plans to boost access to finance and funding for 500 fast-growing firms- if the Conservative win the upcoming General Election. The scheme, Help to Grow, will be piloted at the next Budget.

As such, the uncertainty continues. What is certain is that interest rates are likely to remain low across the Eurozone- of mixed blessing to household and homeowners. Similarly, the cost of borrowing is likely to remain low. With more money for the banks to borrow and invest in, the Eurozone might see some financial markets stimulated. With such a boost to the economy, prices might start to fall, in line with cheaper oil and energy costs, and increased profits for many sectors of the UK economy.

Overall, it is not QE that will bring economic change to the EU. It is the other economic factors on the Continent that will effect such change. What QE does is to inject a sense of stability and uncertainty into unstable and uncertain economic times. That would have a calming effect on the markets- which could be seen by hard pressed UK households reflected in lowered prices.

However, all that remains to be seen.

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Become a Do-It-Yourselfer and Save

October 14, 2014 by admin | No Comments | Filed in Saving

We live in a convenience society and we have gotten in the habit of paying other people to do the things that we would rather not do ourselves. But sometimes that can work against us. When we find ourselves wondering where our money went by the end of the month, it’s because we forget about all those dinners out that add up after a while.

If you play your cards right, you can take back some of the chores you have been paying others to do on your behalf without greatly cutting into your own time. You just have to plan wisely. Here are a few ways you can save money by doing for yourself.

Cook at home

1This is probably the biggest item on most people’s delegation list. We are busy and we think we don’t have time to cook every day. But the beauty of cooking for yourself is that you don’t have to cook every day. Choose one day a week to spend a one or two hours cooking, and you can have meals prepared for your entire week.

When you eat out, most of what you are paying for is the service, not the food itself. For the cost of about two meals, you can buy enough groceries to eat for more than a week, and your meals will be healthier. Just cook on your designated day, divide the food up into plastic containers for each day’s meal, and store it all in your refrigerator.

Iron your own clothes

Another way to save money is to stop bringing those shirts or blouses to the cleaners every week to be pressed. The one secret that so many people do not realize is that if you learn how to properly iron your shirts, you can do them in about five minutes each. We think we don’t have time, but we really just need to learn how to iron clothes efficiently for ourselves and then we can save both time and money. A quick YouTube search will turn up numerous videos on how to properly iron clothes in minutes.

Do your own car maintenance

This is another area of life that scares a lot of people even though the basic tasks of automobile maintenance are very easy for any man or woman to perform. Everyday car maintenance such as changing the oil, checking and filling the air in the tires and even changing spark plugs are easy enough to be done by anyone, and they are quick after you have done them once. Auto shops are expensive because they know people are unwilling to touch their cars themselves. But you do not have give over all that money for something so easy to do yourself.

 

These are just a few suggestions for how you can save money as a do-it-yourselfer, but once you get into the habit of trying to do your own chores, you will come up with many more. Don’t give all your money away if you don’t have to. Learn to do for yourself and be a saver.

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Looking After the Pennies

August 17, 2014 by Jacob | No Comments | Filed in Saving, Spending, Tips

penny-pinchingIt’s often said that all the little expenses can soon mount up, but often people don’t realise exactly how true this is. If you were to save all your receipts for a month and then look through them, you may be surprised how much money went on lots of little things.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should stop treating yourself in small ways. Often it’s the little pleasures that can brighten up your day. But there are times when it is surprisingly easy to cut small spending in big ways, often without even losing out too much.

Coffee

A lot of people feel they can’t properly wake up without their morning coffee. Often, this means a stop in the coffee shop on the way to work. But coffee shops are very expensive compared to the true cost of coffee. In most major coffee chains, a large portion of the menu hovers around the £2 mark. Bought daily Monday-Friday on your way to work, this will cost you £520 a year.

Instant coffee can make for serious savings, but for many coffee-lovers it’s just not the same. If you aren’t a fan of instant, it may be worth buying a coffee machine. Basic models can be picked up cheaply, and even a more upmarket machine will quickly pay for itself compared to coffee shop prices. This will allow you to make coffee at home, probably in less time than it would take you to queue up in the shop, then take it with you in a flask or even your own supply of cardboard cups.

Basics

When you do your weekly shop, often you get what you pay for. Supermarkets often offer a three-tiered price structure for their own brands – value, standard, and premium. Branded goods tend to roughly correspond to the two upper tiers.

Often, it is worth paying a bit more for a better, more effective, or tastier product – whether that means buying the branded goods or just avoiding the lower-tier own brands. However, there are times when this is simply not the case. Kitchen towel is a prime example. You have probably never picked up a piece of kitchen towel and thought that it just wasn’t good enough. For some things, it really doesn’t make much difference which product you buy as long as it does the job, so you might as well buy the cheapest.

Standby

Leaving devices on standby is not expensive in itself, but if you do it all the time it can cost a surprising amount. The slow, steady energy usage, across several devices and over the course of a year, can really push up your bills.

Tackling this problem is just about good habits. Try to get well-practiced in turning off devices at the socket when they are not in use, before you go out, or when you go to bed at night. This may be an easy thing to forget, but if you get used to remembering you will see a difference in your bills.

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Money-Saving Apps for Your Smartphone

June 30, 2014 by Jacob | No Comments | Filed in Saving, Spending, Tips

Smartphones are fast becoming the standard option for mobile owners. They are basically miniature, portable computers and that makes them useful for so many things besides calls and texts. One underappreciated thing they are often useful for is saving money. There are a number of apps available that can help you reduce the bill that comes with your mobile and save money in other areas.

WhatsApp

If you are on a pay-as-you-go plan or just find yourself frequently exceeding the limits of your contract WhatsApp can significantly cut your bills. It is an increasingly popular app which was recently acquired by Facebook in a high-value deal. WhatsApp was specifically designed to replace text messaging. You can exchange text-style messages with other Whatsapp users, but as far as your network is concerned these aren’t text messages. Instead, they use a tiny piece of your data allowance and are sent via the web. It has also been announced that voice messaging will be added to the app, allowing it to do the same for standard phone calls to your friends.

0870

Dialling premium-rate numbers such as 0870 can be expensive, especially from a mobile. Even Freephone 0800 numbers are often not free from mobile phones, but rather can be almost as expensive as premium rates. The 0870 app is available for iPhone and Android, and can help you to conquer this problem. Type in an 08 number, and it will put you through via a cheaper 01, 02 or 03 number. These standard landlines are much cheaper for Pay&Go tariffs and will count as standard minutes on a contract. The result will be a dramatic reduction in the bill you get from calling these numbers and, in the case of 0870 premium rate numbers, the potential to save money even compared to using a landline.

mySuperList

mySuperList is an app from popular website mySupermarket, which allows you to compare the prices of everyday groceries across major supermarkets. Using mySuperList will get you similar functionality in easy-access portable form, along with various tools for putting together and managing shopping lists. Compile the list of items you want to buy, then use the app to compare prices on the whole list. You can also set price alerts, and use a barcode scanner to find products and compare their prices quickly and easily. This app is a big help in planning your shopping and knowing where to get the best deals, as well as on-the-spot checks on whether you could get your impulse buys cheaper elsewhere.

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What will Really cut Your Car Insurance?

April 9, 2014 by Jacob | No Comments | Filed in Saving, Tips

Car InsuranceWhen the time comes to renew car insurance, you will have a long form to fill out giving your circumstances in detail. You would think that every one of these questions will have some bearing on your premium. However, this is not the case. Some are there for reasons completely unrelated to the cost.

It is important not to lie on your insurance application. In the event of a claim, this will almost certainly be found out and could void your entire premium. However, there are times when you can choose between multiple options and all are equally valid, so it is useful to know which ones will actually reduce the costs associated with your car.

Job Title

Once again, it should be emphasised that you must never lie when applying for car insurance. However, most job titles are approximate, and there may be multiple options you can choose which would be equally valid and not constitute fraud. As this is a factor that will likely have some bearing on the cost you are offered, it can be worth tweaking your job title to see if you can make a small saving.

Named Drivers

If you are a young and inexperienced driver, then adding a more experienced family member as a named driver can cut your premium. Even if they will only occasionally use your car, their presence on the form can significantly reduce your premium by cutting the perceived risk in the eyes of the insurance company.

Where you Keep Your Car

It is rarely possible to change this without outright lying. However, it can still be useful to understand how things work. Keeping your car in a locked garage can result in a noticeable saving, so if you currently keep your car on the street it might be worth seeing if you can free up some garage space. On the other hand, there is rarely a difference between prices for a car kept on the street or on a driveway. This shows how important it is not to lie, as you would stand to gain nothing and could potentially void your policy.

Excess

You may be reluctant to increase your excess and voluntarily pay more  in the event of a claim. However, it can work out more cost-effective to ensure you have at least £500 worth of excess. You may only save a little on your premium initially, but surprisingly you will save more if you do make a claim. Claiming for under £500 worth of damage can invalidate a no claims bonus and push up future premiums, so while you may pay more initially you will be better off in the long run.

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