Tuesday, 8 August 2017

New Free Childcare

A great news government policy for all parents for young children has finally arrived in the form of free (yes, that's right - free!) childcare! This applies to all parents with children aged 3 and 4 (with other options for those on lower incomes from the age of 2).

Recently, the UK government announced that there would be free childcare for all 3 and 4 year olds starting from this year (2017). The way it works it pretty simply.

1. Be part of a nursery or child care provider which is signed up to the government's scheme (this can be a private/ independent nursery)
2. Every parent irrespective of income is entitled to a minimum of 12 hours free childcare per week if they are in full time work
3. The free childcare kicks in from the first "semester" after the child turns 3. E.g. if your son or daughter were to turn 3 in November, the free child care would start in January of the following year
4. If your child has a minimum of 3 days full time childcare, then the parent is entitled to receive 15 hours free child care instead of the normal 12.

Usually your nursery or child care provider will take care of all the paper work for you, meaning that you would only need to sign the declaration stating that you meet all the requirements and send it back to them.

For more details, check out the government's dedicated website -

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 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 ( 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….