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It can be really refreshing to find out about some things that could make a difference to your life, especially when it comes to finance – but a lot of the time the publicity sits around ways to reduce gas and electric bills and which suppliers offer the best value. Yet what does not get talked about too frequently is ways to reduce already existing debt. This may strike you as a bit strange, as most people have some form of credit agreement whether it is a credit card or a store card.

That is why you might want to learn a bit more about debt consolidation – a term you might have heard of before but not fully understood. This blog post will introduce a few key points on debt consolidation which you might find helpful either now or in the future.

What is debt consolidation?

First it is best to understand the concept itself. Debt consolidation is a way of paying back the money you owe, but by making payments to one creditor instead of a whole host of them. Many people have a number of debts such as those from credit cards or store cards; these could be paid off via a low rate loan which could cost less than continuing to make payments each month, especially when there is a high level of interest.

How long has it been around?

Debt consolidation is not a brand new idea, but as credit cards become more common and personal debt accumulates, debt consolidation loans have become more popular in the last few years.. It is worth having a look online to find out who is currently offering a form of debt consolidation loan. This is because the options available might change over time.

Who is a debt consolidation loan suitable for?

You may or may not be suitable for one of these loans, so it is always sensible to speak to a financial adviser if you are unsure. However in general, a debt consolidation loan is an option considered by people with a number of credit agreements who want to reduce the total amount paid overall. This is also true of those who pay over 16 percent in credit card interest and want to lower payments through a lower rate loan.

How can you apply for a loan?

In order to apply for a loan of this type, you can either look online at websites such as Zopa who deal with debt consolidation, or you can speak to a high street bank or building society. However it first makes sense to work out the average interest rate and total monthly payment costs of your current debt. You will then be able to compare this to the payment amounts for a new loan.

Where can you find out more about it?

If you would like to find out more about debt consolidation, you can speak to someone at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Alternatively you could look at the Money Advice Service, or book an appointment with an independent financial adviser.

Collaborative post on how to maximize your income…

There are many reasons why people choose to leave the relatively secure world of full-time employment and move into a career as a contractor. For some it may be about time. Working as a contractor can free up time that can be spent with their family or concentrating on another, entirely unrelated, project or business. For others it can be that they enjoy the fresh challenge that each contract brings as opposed to the monotony of a full-time job.

However, the main reason for most people to start working as a contractor is the money. The prospect of a greater income is an attractive lure, especially in today’s job market, but there are one or two hurdles to overcome once you do decide to go it alone. The most important consideration is the way that you intend to operate as a contractor. Let’s have a look at the four main ways of doing so:

  • PAYE – While it may be difficult to find a recruiter that is willing to run a payroll system it is worth a mention just in case you run into one that does. PAYE is what you would pay as a full-time employee so you will be liable to full tax and employee’s national insurance. You will not be able to claim back any business expenses on PAYE.

  • Self-employment – As the name suggests, self-employment is when you are in business completely on your own account and not working through a limited company. For this reason it is unlikely to be the right solution for most contractors as recruitment agencies are not deemed applicable by HMRC.

  • Limited Company – Over the years the vast majority of contractors have created their own Limited Companies to work through. The reason for doing so is mainly because the advantages, when it comes to taxation, were usually much better than above methods. With the introduction of IR35 in 2000 contracts falling within IR35 have been affected. IR35 roughly states that if without your company you would have been deemed an employee of the organisation issuing the contract you will be treated as such for reason of taxation. However, if your contracts are likely to genuinely be outside of IR35 you will still be better off with a Limited Company.

  • Umbrella Company –Umbrella services can offer the same structure legally as a Limited Company, but without the hassle of the admin. The umbrella company will issue all invoices, with the contractor being made an employee of the umbrella company. This is by far the best option for contractors whose work will fall within IR35, or just those who are after an easy life that is free from most of the paperwork associated with running a business.

In summary it all really depends on if you fall within IR35 or not. If you do then an umbrella company will most likely be your best option. If you don’t then a limited company should still be your first choice for maximising your income.

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I try and be thrifty with my family, but as regular readers will know, I often fail.  Many things are worth paying for, and sometimes when I have gone thrifty it has cost me double.

For example, last year, when I replaced my flat tyre with a cheaper version than the original.  Four weeks later I found myself in the tyre shop, again, spending more of my hard earned cash.

I bought the cheap tyre because I had bought cheap car insurance.  When the tyre went flat I suddenly discovered that my insurance didn’t cover me for flat tyres. I found out that most car insurance policies don’t cover you for flat tyres, so don’t expect them to! Next time I won’t go so cheap on my tyres…

Knowing when and what to insure is hard work.  I have never insured my phones but have a reputation for breaking them regularly. I have a friend who insures everything, including taking out e-cig insurance when she recently stopped smoking.

Many time I wish I was more like her!

So, over the last year I have learnt a few lessons and have a better idea of what to scrimp on and what to pay for.

Thrifty Things

Food – can be bought cheap and still taste delicious, Aldi has served us well for a while now and I reckon our shopping bill is half what it used to be.

Kids Clothes – Sales, charity shops, hand me downs.  I can’t remember the last time I paid full price for an item for the child.  Children grow so fast that it is easy to find second hand bits that look as good as new.

Toys – As above, eBay, local Facebook groups, second hand thrift sales are all great places for picking up next year’s Christmas stocking gifts.

When to splash the cash.

These are things I would recommend investing in.  Where buying the cheapest on the market doesn’t always pay off.

Car Insurance – it costs a lot when things go wrong with the car, so go for quality comprehensive cover if you care about your car. My biggest fear is being hit by an uninsured driver, but with comprehensive cover I don’t have to worry about it. The AA’s comprehensive option will also replace damaged or stolen child seats, and cover accidental damage – which is a huge sigh of relief.

Home cover – When my twins were tiny we knew the chaps in our home insurance team by name.  My son had chronic reflux and changed the colour of our carpets daily.  As he grew older he managed to burn the new carpets with a hair-dryer, re decorate the walls with a biro and lose my diamond earrings down the plug hole.

I (non surprisingly) have always been extremely grateful to our insurance providers.

Shampoo –  Really! Cheap shampoo leaves your hair looking like string.  If anyone knows of a cheap brand that doesn’t achieve this unfashionable look please let me know!

Carpets – Trust me, once you have replaced them twice because of one small boy, you will appreciate the importance of having decent carpets underfoot!

 

I love Mexican food, ever since I tasted my first burrito as a student in New York, I have been a super fan.  However it is not a food that I find easy to recreate in the kitchen from scratch which is why I am also a massive fan of the Old El Paso range.

We were recently set a selection of products to review, including Enchiladas, two rice one pan meals, a couple of easy to make casserole sauces and some relishes for us to dip our tortilla chips in.

The whole range has been scrumptious.  We took the One Pan Rice meals on our recent holiday to Cornwall, and they were the perfect easy option for the end of the day.  The One Pan Rice Meals come together in moments and can be made veggie or with meat and the whole family wolved them down (before I even snapped a shot!).

The One Pan Rice Meals take twenty minutes to prepare  – you can see the recipe here.  I definitely recommend adding a red pepper for a bit of colour and extra zing.

I have used the casserole sachets in the slow cooker, last night we enjoyed quorn mince, mixed with tomato, sweetcorn, red pepper, onion and a Chilli and Roasted Casserole mix.  The end result was utterly scrumptious, it was a chilli meets casserole sensation.

So delicious that I had it as leftovers for lunch!

The Old El Paso website has lots of ideas for meals and ideas for Mexican themed parties, it is a great resource to check out if you are planning a Mexican night in either for the girls, the boys or the children!

Tomorrow night we are having enchiladas – I can hardly wait!

Thrifty wise – the Old El Paso range is really well priced, with deals being found in many well known supermarkets.  So you get great food at a great price!