Making the Most of Unexpected Windfalls

We’ve been saving for our first home’s deposit for a while now, and whether we use the personal loan we secured while we wait for my savings to pick up, or for the inheritance to come in, or by the time we are able to get a suitable property we can cover it on our own again, we’re finally ready to make the deposit and realise our dream.

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy, but it’s so worth it to build our family home together and create something really solid for the children. While we’ve put away a little from each pay packet and I’ve added varying amounts to the pot depending on what my month was like, Steve’s inheritance is also a major help, and we’ll use it to fund the deposit if my savings haven’t picked up.

If you get a windfall like this, I encourage you to also put it towards something worthwhile. You might not be looking to buy a home, but there are always good investments to be made when a large chunk of money that you weren’t expecting fortuitously lands in your lap. It could even be winning the lottery, and after you’ve dealt with the logistics of that actually happening, you’ll need to make decisions about what to do with your windfall.

Settle Your Debts and Decide Your Priorities First

Of course, the first thing to do is pay off any debts that you have. After that, there are some good tax planning decisions and investment options that can help you make the most of your money. The biggest things to look at when you’re deciding what to do is how long you have to leave your money untouched, and how much you’re investing in the first place. I’ve given you some ideas here, but anything higher (lucky you!) and you should consider consulting a professional financial advisor.

Christine Roy

Investing Windfalls

With smaller, but still sizable, sums of money the best thing to do is take medium-risks over a period of at least 10 years. In my research, the best experts I found suggested a portfolio with 40% in UK stocks and 20% and 15% in US and Europe stocks respectively. For emerging markets like Asia and Japan, invest 5% in stocks but before you do this, make sure you’ve put 10% of your windfall into absolute return funds. These are funds run by experts, who use different strategies to ensure profitable returns.

In terms of tax planning, if you can afford to leave your money alone until you’re at least 55 you should think about putting it into a pension fund that you get a 20% basic taxpayer relief and 40% higher tax payer relief, and are now allowed to spend on anything you’d like. You can also make use of your and your partner’s $15,240 ISA allowance. A low-cost FTSE Tracking Account is a good idea for £5,000, since they can average 5% growth per year after inflation.

I am excited to be prepared and know what I would do with a sudden financial blessing. What would you do?

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I’m Always Looking For A Good Bargain

If there is anything you should know about me it is that I love a good bargain. Whether that be by taking advantage of deals online or visiting charity shops and picking up as new pieces for pence, I can always be found looking for some sort of good deal.

As it comes up to Christmas, I am looking for bargains even more. We have just had Jack’s birthday, we’ve got Christmas in just over two weeks and then Olivia’s birthday is in early January. It can get very expensive so anything that helps keep the costs down is fine by me.

But there’s also another side to this – there is always some fantastic sales in the last few months of the year and the early months of the next – Black Friday sales, Boxing Day sales, January sales. In these, there is always such a wide variety of items that can be bought for a much lower price than normal.

Jonathan Brinkhorst

I’ve been utilising the LatestDeals website recently to help me to find bargains most suited to my needs. I’ve mentioned that we have been looking at new houses recently and are planning on moving. We’ve also got a number of appliances that could do with a refresh – we’ve had our washing machine, fridge and microwave for donkeys years now so to find some cheap microwaves would be very handy. Mine has started making a weird sound when microwaving stuff so I don’t think it is too long before it gives up the ghost. I’ve found a few models that I’m considering but ultimately it all depends on what property we end up moving to and kitchen space – after all, microwaves aren’t one size fits all!

I’ve also managed to pick some great deals on toys for Jack’s birthday and Christmas presents – he is very much into certain things at the moment like Paw Patrol, Scooby Doo and Ghostbusters but those toys and other paraphernalia don’t come cheap. However I have managed to get some fantastic deals on some of the items which has freed up my budget a little to buy some more stuff for stocking fillers.

I’ve also picked up some items for Olivia – although she is obviously not getting too much for Christmas or her birthday as she is only tiny and it is not like she will remember it! She has a walker, some books and some extra little bits but nothing too big.

Have you found any decent bargains recently? Did you pick up anything from the Black Friday sales and will you be logging on this Boxing Day to grab some good bargains?

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Life: An Update

Life has been a little strange recently. Work has picked up massively but it seems like just as soon as we are getting somewhere, something comes to bring us down again. I’ve had a few end of year bills come in and have paid them with the excess money I have been earning – however this means I haven’t been saving as much as I would usually do.

We finally found two properties in our area that suited our needs. I’ve mentioned before that the rental we are in right now is a little too small for our needs and we need to move but stay within this area due to Jack’s schooling.One property is perfect, the other almost perfect – but we encountered a problem. With my savings almost depleted, Steve’s inheritance still pending and our deposit in this place tied up until we move out, we couldn’t work out just how to get the deposit for one of these other places.

We finally hit on an idea and searched for online personal loans to see if we could find one that would help in this situation. The plan is to pay it back as soon as the inheritance comes through or my savings start rising again. We finally found one and now we are just waiting on hearing about the properties, to see if we can move out after all. Unfortunately we were in a Catch 22 situation – if we didn’t raise the funds, then we definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford the deposit. If we don’t get the property, we now have funds for no reason. But decisions have to be made and that’s what we decided. Hopefully it works in our favour!

pina messina

If we don’t actually move out just yet, we will keep it in savings until it is required – finding a property that suits our needs in this area isn’t that easy due to really high property prices, both to rent and buy. Of course, if the money comes in to pay off the loan before we need it for anything, then of course we will pay it off.

That’s not the only thing that has been going on recently. Steve’s searching for a part time job to go alongside his studies, work (as I mentioned before) seems to have perked up quite dramatically the past few weeks and life is very busy. However I sometimes find the life working from home a little lonely at times so with the prospect of a few new businesses in the village in the New Year, I might take on a few hours at one of those, just to get out of the house and have some time to myself. Sounds silly but I know plenty of mums who do actually go out to work, not for the money but the time to themselves!

Jack has just turned six and Olivia is about to turn one. With so much in the pipeline for 2018, I had better get preparing. Life has been a little bizarre recently – taking turns I am just not used to – but hopefully these twists and turns will all work out for the best. Fingers crossed we manage to get one of these properties – I’ll let you know.

What has been going on in your life lately?

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HOW TO REDUCE YOUR UTILITY BILLS THIS WINTER

Winter can be tough on our wallets, with Christmas presents to buy, parties to attend and of course the big day itself! Another expense that winter brings is increased utility bills. iCount spoke to families across the country and found out that 40% of us have had to borrow money to pay utility bills, and over a third have had to choose between cooking a meal or putting on the heating in winter.

If your utility bills are a challenge over winter, there are some simple steps you can follow to help reduce your bills and make your usage more efficient.

Switch your payment method

One of the easiest ways to cut down your bills is to switch your payment method. If you pay monthly, you may not be getting the best deal. Many utilities providers offer a discount if you opt to pay by direct debit, with the average saving being around £75 per year. It’s worth giving your utility providers a call to see what discounts you could be eligible for.

Keep an eye out for deals

Many of us avoid switching providers for fear of the amount of hassle or admin involved. Luckily, switching providers is easy, with most providers taking care of everything for you.

Use price comparison websites to have a look what deals are being offered, or call your existing provider to see if they are offering any new plans that you may be eligible for.

Get into good habits

Picking up a few good habits can also help to drive down your utility bills this winter. Make sure to switch off lights that aren’t needed, pop on a jumper instead of turning up the heating, and switch appliances off at the wall instead of leaving them on standby.

There are other simple changes you can make around the house too, such as moving bulky items like sofas away from the radiator, and blocking up gaps around doorways to help your heating be more efficient.

Hopefully these easy tips will help you to reduce your utility bills this winter, and ease the financial pressures that Christmas can bring!

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Protecting Your Family’s Financial Future

Protecting our family’s financial future is always something that has been important to us. This is why Steve and I have been working all the hours under the sun – him outside of the home, me working from home – to ensure our family have the best possible future we can.

Steve has recently left his security job and is currently in the interview process for multiple other jobs – he’s currently taking a career break whilst he searches for something part time to work alongside his studies and this is something we have budgeted for. Him studying for his new career is something that needs to be done to get him his dream job – and us a decent income on decent hours (no more night shifts!) so we’ve made sacrifices to ensure our financial future is as bright and rosy as it should be.

However this isn’t the only way we have protected our financial future and the future for our children. If either Steve or I were to pass away, the loss of income we would suffer would be vast –  however we have prepared for this.

Life insurance is a must, especially when you have children. We’ve both recently taken out new policies – mine is slightly cheaper for the same amount of coverage due to certain differences – and should anything happen to either of us, this would go to the other for the children. When my father passed away in January, his policy paid for the funeral and has also been so helpful to my mum in the months afterwards as she went through the grieving process. Our policies will also be for the same things – to make any arrangements for our funerals and then to ensure the quality of life of our children for as long as it possibly can.

Critical illness cover isn’t something we have yet added to our policy but it is something we are definitely considering. Critical illness add-ons usually cover a number of different conditions including different types of cancers, heart attacks and strokes. With my father suffering a heart attack not long before he passed away, Steve’s grandad having a stroke and friends and family passing away from other illnesses covered, we know just how common these illnesses can be and how important this cover is so we will definitely be sorting out some for both of us.

Another form of cover we are yet to add on to our policy but are considering is personal accident cover. Just knowing we are covered should an accident occur would be a great weight off our shoulders. I’ve also noticed that more and more places are doing children’s cover as an add on for no extra cost. Whilst we are yet to add Jack and Olivia to our policies, we do think it is always best to be prepared and whilst you never want to think that something could happen to them, nobody knows the future. That’s why you have to prepare for it.

When it comes to life insurance for my family, I always ask certain questions before purchasing a policy.

Can I hold multiple policies if I so wish? Yes you can. I don’t plan to always have more than one policy but I currently also have a free life insurance policy until Olivia is one which is running alongside my paid for policy. This pays out £10,000 which isn’t a lot, but for a free policy, is great. It is handy to know if you can hold multiple policies if required.

What do all these terms mean? There are so many different things to look out for – is life assurance the same as life insurance? Technically no. Insurance pays out when something happens to you. Assurance pays out when it does. I always make sure to know exactly what I am buying.

How much cover do I need? This is where I always struggle. I try to make sure that any funeral costs are covered and that my family are provided for, for the foreseeable future – whether that means paying rent or a mortgage, bills or just there in case they need it. I’m currently covered for just over £100,000 but this can be scaled up and down if I so wish – the monthly amount I pay would just vary slightly.

I’m taking other steps to provide protection for my family’s financial future too. I’m working hard to get out of debt, I’m putting money aside for a ‘rainy day’ and we also know of an inheritance coming to our family, the majority of which will be put away in a high interest savings or bond account as our fully funded emergency fund.

I’m taking steps to protect the financial future of my family – what are you doing?

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