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Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Quidco - save in a click

Recently, after a friend at work recommended I look into Nutmeg, I signed up to try the share ISA (a story for another day). After signing myself up, I saw the referral bonus potentially £300 (although three friends/ family have to sign up...). I therefore decided to look at my Quidco account to see if I could sign up my wife that way. Having been rushed to get my ISA all sorted, I suddenly realised that I would have earned £150 if I had just clicked the Quidco link instead...how annoying!

Not making the same mistake twice, today I earned or saved myself £40 when I switched over gas and electricity supplier. As my fixed term contract was due to end on 30 April with Flow Energy, and so I did a quick check on Uswitch to check the available rates for dual fuel. I found a recommended/ awarded supplier that seemed to be slightly cheaper than my existing deal with Flow, so I decided to start the switch process through the Quidco site which proved just as easy as going through Uswitch.

The moral of my story - always, ALWAYS, check Quidco or if you have a TopCashback account, then try there because in all likelihood when you get that far, are almost certainly going to buy/ sign up for whatever you are doing at the time. So even a few quid or perhaps many pounds in my case can help you put some extra cash away each month all with a couple of extra clicks....

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Funding Circle - a year in review

About 18 months a friend of mine put me onto Funding Circle (https://www.fundingcircle.com/uk/) as a way to generate some extra interest due to the forever lasting low interest rates available at banks.

Whilst Funding Circle (“or FC”) has been going for some time now, I decided to dip my toe in to see if the interest advertised was as good as they say it is. Starting with a smallish investment of around £3,000, I spread my investments mainly across asset-backed loans and or loans with director guarantees, where I was getting rates that seemed to average around 8% across the board for what was effectively A+ or A rated debt. Not bad, when compared to the paltry 1% you might get on average in your bank account (if you’re lucky!).

As things started to pick up and no debts turned bad, I gradually increased my investment over a year and half to around £20,000. According to FC, I was getting around 6.7% return (after fees and bad debt), but in reality, as I had picked relatively secure loans of A+/A, I was getting nearer 7.7% and generating around £130 a month in interest.

All was well, until I hit my first bad debt at the beginning of this month for £100 and then another shortly afterwards (unrelated to the first) for about £40. Now, whilst the debts themselves pale in comparison to the £1,800 I have made in interest, it made me re-think as to the model of FC and whether the risk was more real than the interest rates belied.


Whilst the bad debts did not deter me from continuing my investment in FC loans, it made me think twice about putting more of my capital in. That is for sure! The reason being is that almost all of the loans rated A+ and A were in some form or another connected to property. Which, whilst being asset backed has the risk associated with severe default if the UK property market were to turn further sour following Brexit and the previous Chancellor’s property tax changes or worse yet, a total crash as there was in the late 80s and early 90s. Most economists see these kind of situations as being something that won’t be repeated, but for me, I would think carefully before putting too much of your total capital into this kind of model, before fully understanding what you are really investing in – which is the UK property market….

Friday, 17 March 2017

Supermarket loyalty cards. Are they worth it?

So it seems I have finally fallen victim to the trap of signing up for endless supermarket loyalty cards in the vain hope of trying to save a few quid on my weekly shopping bills. So far, I have signed up to (past and present) - Sainsbury's Nectar, Tesco's Clubcard, Marks & Spencers SPARKS card, Waitrose card and more recently The Cooperative's Membership card. Now whilst the outlay is non-existent apart from maybe the new additional wallet you had to buy to carry all these cards is is basically zero - with the exception of the Cooperative's which is £1 fee per year, I thought I would share my experience on whether it is really worth it to have these cards or not?

In all the years I have been shopping, the only freebies I have managed to get back from Nectar is a new iron and 1 pair of cinema tickets - cheap date I know! Aside from that, and the endless free cappuccinos I have been drinking every time I visit Waitrose with their card, the rewards to me seem to be pretty pointless (urgh..) when you actually weigh up the cost-benefit of signing-up, checking, collecting and then using the various coupons you sometimes get through the post when you hit 500 clubcard points! yay!

To me, the critical point seems to be that you need to be focussing on they key large items that you simply have to purchase but don't want to waste any money such as washing machine tablets/powder, dishwasher powder, toilet roll and kitchen roll but to name a few. Let's take for example washing machine tablets and let's say you purchase Aerial. At normal price, a box of about 30 tablets is usually £10 when not discounted, whilst very often you see it at £5 a box. Now apart from the obvious fact that you will save £5 there and then, the price per tablet difference is 33.3p per tablet versus 16.7p per tablet. Now, sure, we have a child, so our washing machine seems to be on non-stop, but even if you ran your washing machine 3 times a week this works out at annual saving on just washing machine tablets alone of £26 (if you are careful enough to buy it at the right time). Just paying attention to this and two or three other key items like toilet paper, dishwasher tablets, kitchen roll and cleaning products will put your shopping savings at well over £100 and require no cards, memberships, coupons or anything.

Now whilst I certainly can't argue that having your local supermarket's card is not worth having, to me, the real saving is in simply paying attention to what an item's real cost should be - because these savings far outstrip anything you will get back in irons or cinema tickets....