Thanks to the advent of smartphones, managing your life on the move has never been easier. Apps are available for almost everything these days, from food to fitness and music to money management tools. If you’re looking to manage your budget, save money on your shopping, determine your disposable income or reduce the costs of your necessities, help is just a download away.
Stay on top of your salary
The first and possibly most vital aspect of successful money management is determining exactly how much money you have to manage. We may have a grasp of our basic salary details, but our disposable income after deductions such as tax, National Insurance and pension contributions may not be as clear. To help you get to grips with these significant sums, the UK Salary Calculator app is a must. This free app lets you calculate your true disposable income or the gross salary you would need to live a certain lifestyle offers a breakdown of your salary deductions and shows how much you earn per hour, week, month or year. It’s particularly useful if you’re offered a salary increase as you can easily calculate its true extra value.
It can be easy to lose sight of your bills and bank accounts if your finances get complicated. Apps such as Account Tracker, SpendingLog and Pocketmoney can be really helpful, alerting you of upcoming bills and potentially problematic issues with the income and outgoings being processed through your bank account. These apps also let you document your earnings, expenses and saving, and can produce excellent analysis if you want to look at your finances in depth. You will have to pay a small fee for these apps, but they could help you save money and time in the long run.
Save money on your shopping
If you’re not sure whether buying big is better value, or if the price you paid is the cheapest around, there’s a host of apps that can help. mySupermarket shows you which product or product volume is cheaper to buy. It’s especially useful for fruit and veg, as you can calculate the total cost per units or volume to compare different products and their value for money. Grocery IQ, Shopsavvy and Redlaser use Google Product Search feeds to help consumers, allowing you to scan barcodes then search for lower prices in your area.
If you discover that buying in bulk for something can be cost effective, but the higher expense means you struggle to afford it upfront, you could choose to use a line of credit to pay. This may include a short-term loan, overdraft or credit card. One option is to use a short-term loan company such as wonga.com. Wonga.com offer loans up to £400 for up to 30 days and, if accepted, can send the money to your bank account within 5 minutes. Once you’ve applied online you’ll receive an almost instant onscreen decision.
If you’re looking for the best discounts, apps such as Discount Calculator show you how much you could save as a percentage, while Local Sale Finder and MyVoucherCodes find great voucher discounts that can be used in shops or restaurants in your area, without the need to have a physical copy or communicate the deal with a retailer in advance. There are also a number of price comparison apps, such as Pricerunner, Kelkoo and idealo, which calculate the cheapest retailers for a product you want.
Reduce your bills
When it comes to utility bills, it’s important to only pay for what you use. Apps from British Gas and Npower let you submit your meter readings and make sure your utility bill estimate is accurate to what you actually consume. Meter Readings can help compare your energy consumption with that of other users, and will alert you if another user is paying less to a different provider.
Many people with sight impairments will recall the delight of the brave entrepreneur Richard Branson when, some years ago, he emerged from a laser eye clinic as one of the pioneer patients of the revolutionary eye repair surgery.
Since then, the technology involved in restoring 20/20 vision to short-sighted, far-sighted or astigmatic patients has advanced considerably. The initial technology, known as Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK), has been superseded by procedures including LASIK, LASEK, LASIK Wavefront and Intralase. Each individual procedure provides a much more personalised treatment to restore the eye deficiency and reduce the risk of complications and infection.
According to the Mayo Clinic, about 85% of people who have undergone refractive surgery no longer need to depend on their glasses or contact lenses. People with mild near-sightedness tend to have the most successful outcomes, while patients who have both severe far-sightedness, along with astigmatism, have the least predictable results.
For people keen to gather more info, read on for an overview of the benefits and risks of laser eye surgery;
- No need for glasses or contact lens ever again. If you are one of those people who are always looking for your glasses (they’re on your head!) or forgetting the saline solution for your contact lenses, laser eye surgery will change your life for the better. Being able to watch a movie at the cinema or browse the internet without your glasses is one of the best benefits of laser eye surgery.
- One-off investment. Over the long term, laser eye surgery patients save a considerable amount of money on eye examinations, contact lenses, eye solutions and glasses.
- Permanent relief from contact lenses irritations. The discomfort that some users experience from wearing contact lenses will become a thing of the past.
- More attractive. While some people make glasses a feature of their look, glasses don’t suit all face types and many people look more attractive without them.
RISKS AND DOWNSIDE
- Dry Eyes. This is one of the most common risks of laser eye surgery. Tears produced by the eyes help to keep the eyes moist and in some cases, laser eye surgery reduces the capacity of the eyes to produce tears due to damage of the corneal nerves.
- Infections are another common side effect of laser eye surgery. Patients should take care to keep the eye area clean after surgery and get treatment immediately if the eye becomes infected.
- Poor night vision can occur after surgery in some patients, making it difficult or hazardous for affected patients to drive without glasses in the dark.
- Temporary pain or discomfort in the days following surgery.
- More serious and long-term problems include a condition known as corneal ectasia which causes fluid build-up in the eye after surgery. In severe cases, a corneal transplant is necessary to rectify the complication.
- Blurred vision is a possible complication of laser eye surgery in some patients.
Overall, it’s estimated that less than 1 in 2,000 patients have a complication that will permanently damage the eyesight in the operated eye. A more common complication – which can affect up to 10% of all laser eye surgery patients – is of the surgery not working as well as expected, which requires the patient to undergo repeat surgery at additional cost.
Thankfully, advances in laser eye surgery technologies have significantly reduced the risk of complications. The quality and cost of laser eye surgery treatment available varies considerably, with expert hospitals and high-street chains both offering the same treatment, by consultants with widely divergent levels of expertise and skill. To ensure that you are receiving the best possible treatment, use a comparison website to research the best laser eye surgery clinics in the UK.
The UK is experiencing a foodie revolution. Popular TV cookery shows like Come Dine With Me and the many celebrity-chef fronted shows like Masterchef have helped to make cooking popular again.
The UK has been interested in design and interiors for a slightly longer time. The TV programmes that are helping to make cooking fashionable again did exactly the same thing for interior design back in the 1990s and early 2000s when the ‘home makeover‘ show began to appear in earnest. More recently and spectacularly, series like Grand Designs have upped the ante to impressive new heights.
Not everyone can afford a massive redesign on the scale of Grand Designs, in fact very few people can, but it’s possible to combine a flair for cuisine and interiors by redesigning the dining space within the home – an impressive dining area is surely the best place for a passion for food and design to coalesce.
Where should the changes be made? The dining table is very important but it can be expensive and difficult to replace such an established piece of furniture. In the meantime, it can be easier and more realistic to look at new dining chair to bring new life to the dining area.
Subtly matching the new and the old can be a difficult task; not everyone has natural design sense so it can help to bring a friend along with a natural flair for interiors when an existing table needs matching to new dining room furniture.
Clunky combinations are best avoided, but it’s also worth remembering that home redesigns can be expensive. People generally don’t have the money to burn like they perhaps did over the last decade or so.
Thankfully, many furniture retailers are offering great discounts and sales at the moment. The current Harveys furniture sale features up to 50% off some household furniture, with a great range of dining options being available in the mix. Some larger items have been discounted by over £500.
So stupendous has the UK’s culinary reawakening been that in 2010 a survey by French magazine Madame Le Figaro revealed that people in the UK are even better at cooking than the French; cooking more often, for longer, and with a greater variety of ingredients than their Gallic counterparts.
The findings were met with dismay and resignation across the English Channel. French television channel TF1 ignominiously claimed:
“They trounced us at Trafalgar. They whipped us at Waterloo. Now the English have scored their ultimate victory: they are better at cooking than us”.
Actually, some of the findings of the survey are sensational and difficult to swallow, but it’s almost certainly the case that more Britons are enjoying cooking than ever before. Many readers will be familiar with the casual experimentation and enthusiastic dabbling that routinely takes place in kitchens up and down the land. Some readers may have even attempted a soufflé!
Interior design and cookery are two increasingly popular pastimes in the UK, and bringing them together with a new dining room design is now more affordable than ever.
A leather sofa will fit into any home thanks to its versatility and timeless style. Nothing adds quite the same je ne se quoi that leather does. Leather’s simplicity marries perfectly with its inherent grandeur and will make for a talking point whatever company it’s in. However, the look and longevity of leather come at a price.
Take care of your leather sofa correctly and it will stand the test of time. Like a fine wine, your leather sofa will get better with age. If you don’t take care of it, it won’t be behind the cushions you’ll be losing your spare change but in the cracked leather, as leather can dry out. However, with a little TLC now and again, this should never happen.
So, you’ve cast your eye over the range of leather sofas from sofa.com and decided to invest in style. Here is what you should know about caring for a leather sofa long-term.
Leather is not just stylish but resilient too. However, as with any sofa in regular use, your leather sofa can take a battering. Vacuum weekly, making sure that you remove all crumbs and unwanted detritus from beneath your cushions and down the sides. Even biscuit crumbs contain unwanted oils which can play havoc with the natural material.
Inevitably, things are going to be spilled on a sofa. Leather is popular because you won’t get ugly stains. Wipe clean with cloths using the minimum amount of water possible. Even better, use baby wipes. Leather shares some common ground with skin, and the baby wipes’ non-chemical formula will go easy on the hide.
The most time-consuming cost of caring for your leather sofa is going to be the conditioning. Again, it’s that strange human quality that leather has. Like skin, leather dries out, so to keep it from doing so you’ll need to condition it with hide food every six months. Remember, a leather sofa is for life, not just for Christmas, so look after it!
When it comes to marks and scrapes, some people will want their leather sofa to remain pristine and some will welcome the results of human interaction.
Keep coins, sharp objects and children with their Tonka trucks away from your sofa if you value the unspoiled sheen of your leather. Yes, it’s for the family, but leather scratches. On the other hand, it’s often the imperfections that offer the most character, and gentle nicks and scrapes do add to the appeal of your leather sofa. It is all about personal preference.
Nothing will speed up the demise of a leather sofa like exposure to direct sunlight. Leather can burn so remain aware, even if it means closing the curtains while you’re out during the day.
It may sound strange, but don’t get too comfortable on your leather sofa. If you’re a person that has a specific spot on the sofa, then you may notice the leather discolouring as the body’s natural acids react with it. Swap seats regularly or throw down a blanket to keep it fresh.
So to recap: switch up your seat, condition regularly, clean with wipes and address the question, ‘to scratch, or not to scratch’. Then you will enjoy a leather sofa that lasts.
For British holidaymakers, the last few months have seen nothing but tales of doom and gloom about our struggling economy. Adults have been taught a new alphabet in light of this situation, with our new ABC standing for austerity, budgeting and all-round cost-cutting.
Never the types to let a bad situation rain on our parade, we Brits have refused to abandon our holiday plans in the name of frugality. With the Olympic Games being hosted in our capital, staycations were originally expected to soar in popularity – but why should we forget this option in favour of European breaks?
According to a recent report in The Guardian, more than 13 million Brits are expected to head abroad as an abysmal summer climate dampens our spirits. With little sun, sea or sand to be found at home, journeying to the European mainland is an unsurprisingly attractive prospect.
The whole point of a holiday is that it’s a chance to escape the mundane and boring nature of our everyday lives. It’s the one time of the year that we can forget all about the pressures and strains of ‘getting by’. Work goes out the window, worries about the mortgage are put to one side and our brains finally get an opportunity to relax.
To really get the most from your break you need to take yourself as far away from the ordinary as possible. You need to spoil yourself and allow yourself to live the dream, even if only for a week or two.
Look out for last minute villas for rent somewhere hot and exotic. Why stay at home when you can explore the magnificent and stunning continent that lies just across the Channel? With cheap villas in Spain, France and Italy all just a couple of hours away, does a wet and windswept day on a British beach really measure up?
Plenty of time for a staycation
Of course, this isn’t to suggest there aren’t plenty of home grown attractions for us to enjoy. In fact, the UK boasts an impressive history and cultural diversity that is virtually unrivalled around the world. The point we are emphasising is that exploring British attractions can be done at anytime of the year and doesn’t necessitate the use of your precious two week summer holiday.
Instead, opting for something a little different could be the way forward. If the island life really appeals to you, there are plenty of villas in Menorca, Majorca and the Canary Islands online that will blow even the best staycation straight out of the water. With pristine beaches and sangria to sip in the sun, a break here may only be a couple of hours away from reality, but it feels much further.
Our holidays are the one time when we can really get away from it all. By getting away physically you’ll find it much easier to escape mentally too – giving you the break which you most certainly deserve.
This week a British company became the first ever to offer Facebook users the chance to play games for real cash prizes on the social network. Gamesys, the company behind the Jackpotjoy bingo sites, is the only company to offer real money gaming on Facebook, though for now only UK players can sign up.
The games will be available through an app called Jackpotjoy Friendzy, which contains many different bingo and slots games. It’s no surprise that bingo is blazing a trail in terms of the games available on Facebook, as it’s now the second most popular game or pastime indulged in by people in the UK.
Though the game of bingo originated in Italy and became a craze in the United States, the British have branded the game with their unique stamp through the rhyming slang they invented to identity the ball numbers in the bingo name.
Most of us are familiar with the two fat ladies who denote the numbers 88, but what are some of the other strange and amusing phrases used to identity bingo numbers?
Many bingo rhymes are obvious – just like Cockney rhyming slang they sound like the numbers they represent. So for instance we have number ‘3 cup of tea’, ‘26 pick and mix’ and ‘32 buckle my shoe’. Other rhymes are less obvious, such as ‘65 old age pension’. We understand of course that 65 is the age at which Britons retire and start claiming their old age pension, but it still sounds a little odd, as the phrase doesn’t match the sound of the numbers.
Seasoned bingo players would, of course, say that it’s all in the tone of voice used by the bingo caller. Which leaves us wondering what tone of voice the bingo caller uses when 71 emerges from the hopper, the modern phrase for which is ’71, J-Lo’s bum’!
Safeguard your computer against malicious attacks
Computers are a huge part of our daily routines; we use them for work, study and for fun. They’re used so much that it’s easy to forget the dangers of going online, with a host of scammers, hackers, spammers and bot-nets trying to infect your computer, so it’s best to stay vigilant even when just casually browsing the internet.
You’ve probably heard the golden rules of internet security before: don’t visit or download anything from suspicious websites, don’t open any unrecognised emails, and don’t give out any personal or sensitive information.
A lot of the time common sense prevails, but online intruders are getting smarter in how they try to access to your computer.
First things first: a trusted virus protection system is essential for staying safe online. Free anti-virus software from Kaspersky is the best anti-virus software for your computer, and Kaspersky has other packages available that offer full protection from viruses, using a new combined system of advanced anti-virus protection and cloud based technology to detect and eliminate internet threats before they reach your computer.
In the past few years there has been a worrying increase in hoax security calls. Scammers have been known to pretend to be from online security providers and claim that if you open your computer to them they can disinfect “a plague of viruses on your computer” over the phone. In fact, this is just an excuse to get hold of your personal data, gain access to your computer and download malware onto your system. No security provider will ever contact you out of the blue to alert you to any kind of malicious attack, whether by email or phone, unless you have reported a problem to them first.
The same scepticism should also be applied to websites that ask you to download a suspicious .exe file. Even if it promises great things and looks professionally made, you could be putting your computer at risk.
Social media sites are also hot-spots for cyber criminals. Often users are lured into clicking dangerous links with promises of special offers, free games, or material from seemingly legitimate users, sometimes even posing as your friends and followers. The links will often be concealed with a bit.ly URL shortening program to hide its real destination, or the link will be unfamiliar.
If you notice any suspicious behaviour from a user, report it and alert the user immediately.
It’s important to be aware that even trusted major websites can contain “booby trapped” malicious pop-ups if they too have been hacked. Just last year the London Stock Exchange website was infiltrated with a malicious code that caused its visitors to be infected with a variety of malware and Trojans through fraudulent ads and fake virus scanners. These “malvertising” pop-ups can be very convincing, but you should never trust a pop-up offering virus protection. For added protection, make sure your internet browser blocks pop-ups effectively.
Although money is something few of us have to spare right now and holidays may seem like too much of a luxury, you’ve been working very hard for most of the year and you know what, cost or no cost, you deserve a vacation! However, if you want to avoid the inevitable debt of spending too much it’s a good idea to save money on your holiday where you can.
Just follow these simple tips to help ensure you can go on a summer holiday this year whilst keeping the costs down.
The early bird catches the cheap deals but the night owl catches the mouse
If you book your holiday several months early you’re more likely to be able to snap up some cheap deals before they all go. HoweverAlso, there are some decent discounts to be had by snapping up an unsold holiday just days before the departure date.
Be an early, midweek or late flier
Shop around when you’re booking flights to make sure you’re getting the best possible deal. You’re likely to find that the more flexible you are with timings, the better the deal. For example, you might have to fly late at night or very early in the morning. It might also work out cheaper to fly midweek, instead of at weekends.
Spend some time sorting your spending money
Exchange rates can vary considerably from place to place – each one hoping to offer much less competitive rates than those from currency specialists. So it’s really important to shop around and get the best currency deals rather than plumping for whatever you can get last minute at the airport. The best deals will be found online, with many offering currency commission-free and the offer of buying back any unused currency once your holiday is over. Keep your options open and do your research, especially if you’re hoping to get the best euro rates.
Private health insurance is often thought of as a luxury that only the wealthiest can afford.
Faced with the options of either the NHS or the ‘self-pay’ method, there can be no doubt that private cover wins out in terms of value for money and convenience. Moreover, it is simpler than ever to save and get the comfort of this cover, as long as you know the steps to take and the questions to ask.
If at all possible, try and get your private health insurance through your employer. Although this is not viable in all cases, big corporations often offer this as an additional benefit to the work package, meaning that the cost is heavily reduced (although still taxed).
Indeed, an increasing number of employers are paying for employees’ healthcare in a bid to reduce ‘sick days,’ which in 2010 cost the economy £17bn. That same year, over a quarter of employers paid for their employees’ private healthcare costs.
For everyone else who has to pay independently, also known as the ‘self-funders,’ shopping around is essential to getting a competitive price that covers all further options that might be needed.
A medical insurance quote will typically allow you to add on various extras, as well as reduce the cost of the final figure through means of an excess; the best part is that all of this can be done online.
Thinking simply will often save you the most when it comes to health insurance. Why pay more for extras that you don’t necessarily need? Being strict about your policy and requirements will significantly reduce your premium.
In a similar vein, consider the type of plans available that should correspond to what you want to be covered for. Those wishing to reduce their waiting time can choose a suitable policy, which would be different from someone wanting coverage for long-term, more expensive treatments (that may or may not be covered by the insurer).
It’s all a question of knowing your plan and making the right choice to keep costs to a minimum.
If you’ve decided on your cover and are clear about your policy, then there are also additional ways to save some pennies. Paying a higher excess or using the ‘six week option’ that many insurers offer (which only covers you if you have to wait for over 6 weeks on the NHS) are both viable ways to go, and can save a lot of money on the final figure of your insurance.
Health insurance needn’t cost the world, and can be a convenient way of accessing medical care and attention at a moment’s notice, guaranteeing a personalised service suited to your needs and conditions. Knowing how to cut the costs of your cover will be a significant added bonus.
After the downward spiral of 2008 and 2009, the UK’s national output has remained flat, with a 0.2% decline in GDP during the first quarter of this year. Inevitably, the recession has affected most businesses’ recruitment plans.
However, while the initial reaction in a downturn is often a blanket freeze on hiring new staff, it can be a good idea to resist this temptation. After all, if your competitors are laying people off, it could create a pool of readily available talent your business could benefit from.
You will also be better placed to handle the recovery when it happens – staffing levels will be strong and you’ll have the best possible people working for you.
Now is a good time to look carefully at your cost per hire, how long it takes to hire, and your retention rates, so you can show you are garnering positive results despite the recession.
Equally, if you re-focus your priorities, and concentrate on hiring for high-level roles, you may find you get the most from your budget. After all, a downturn is no time for poor returns on investment, or taking big risks.
Expect to see more applicants for each vacancy you advertise. You may need to reassure candidates that, if successful, they won’t lose their jobs before they’ve completed their probation period.
Given the likely increase in applicants and the need to be as cost-effective as possible, you must be sure that your processes are as efficient as they can be. Realistically, that means making the most of web recruitment opportunities, to save your business time and money.
Employers also need to be very sure they are working with recruitment agencies which are the perfect “fit” for their organisation, which understand their needs, and provide best value for money.
In terms of budgeting, it almost invariably pays to go for an agency operating a fixed fee recruitment pricing structure, where there is just one flat charge. This is cost-effective, as is the policy that many agencies have of not billing until someone is successfully in post.
Using an agency can be a very flexible option if you are looking to cover short-term staffing demands.
During a downturn especially, there are plenty of things employers can do to get the most from their working relationship with their hiring agency.
First of all, do your homework and find the agency that best suits your recruitment needs – not all of them cover all geographical areas or industries, for example.
Be precise about your requirements and you’ll get a better targeted shortlist of candidates. Be clear about things like start dates and job descriptions, and when you are available for interviews.
Since many agencies understand salary expectations well, use this information to ensure you are paying the going rate for each role.
Agencies have access to candidates that you wouldn’t otherwise hear about, and save time by pre-screening applicants before you meet them yourself. By giving honest feedback about what you felt about a candidate once you’ve interviewed them helps everyone involved.
Finally, recession or not, the cheapest agency isn’t necessarily the best one. Consider the overall package you are being offered, and go for best value rather than just settling for lowest price.