The Gift of Giving

These days I usually spend most of Saturday looking after the twins on my own, allowing the Mummy to catch up on jobs.

I’d got into a habit of buying a toy or gift each to commemorate ‘Daddy Day’. I soon realised it set a dangerous precedent!

It very quickly went from being a nice little treat to something they came to expect. Aside from the house piling up with toys it also was in danger of becoming an expensive habit!

I managed to gradually cut down so that it became an occasional thing & that – I thought – was that.

Then in the car last Saturday (why is it always in the car?)…

Sitting in the back of the car sometimes seems to give them the opportunity to have a little think, Jake especially. Ellie is probably more likely to give us a song! That’s if they’re not arguing, of course.

On this occasion Jake had been thinking back.

“Daddy?”

“Yes Jake?” I replied cautiously.

“Do you remember when you used to buy us presents every ‘Daddy Day’?”

“Yes Jake”

“You don’t do that now. Why have you stopped doing that?”

“Well it costs a lot of money to buy you each toys every week, & I’m not sure I can afford it”

“Oh Daddy: I can give you my money & you can buy toys every week for us again!”

“Oh, you mean your birthday money?”

They each received about £40 cash on their birthdays from their friends, on top of toys & other gifts. I’m pretty sure they have more money than me at the moment!

“No, that’s for me to buy toys with.  I mean the money that I found today. OK Daddy?”

He’s holding up a 10p coin I think he found on the back seat of the car…

Well, as they say, it’s the thought that counts!

 

For more Magic Moments just click the pic:

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A Parent’s Guide for Knowing Your Credit Score

Credit score (1)Accessing credit and loans, especially for big items such as a mortgage or a car, are of course a regular feature of family finances. Applying to lenders and hoping that they will agree to your request can be a stressful experience. However, it can be made a whole lot easier simply by better understanding how a potential lender might assess your application.

The key question for any lender is the chances that you will repay a loan in full and on time. By assessing the risk involved as best they can, lenders can make an informed decision. As a result, most lenders will refer to a credit score constructed by one of the UK’s three registered credit reference agencies. Your credit score is a snapshot of your credit status. It isn’t too difficult to understand your credit score – It is based on a 0-999 scale and the higher the number, the lower the risk.

So, how do the agencies assign your score? A major although not the only factor is your credit report. This is compiled by credit reference agencies from a whole range of available information to paint a picture of your financial reliability. Whether you know about it or not, there is a credit report on you and you can expect it to be the first port of call for any potential lender.

Credit report (1)Your credit report includes personal information such as date of birth and address. It also contains details of your credit accounts and money you have borrowed and your repayment record during the past six years. Although it may seem trivial, even if you have paid a mobile phone bill late or missed an electricity bill, it may appear on your credit report and have a detrimental impact. It is therefore important to make sure that you and your family pay bills in full and on time. If you haven’t listed yourself on the electoral roll, then do it. This is one of the resources used by credit reference agencies and gaps in your residency may seem suspicious. Another thing worth noting is that if you are making mortgage overpayments, make sure that you don’t miss out on an entire monthly payment. Even if you are overpaying in order to reduce outstanding debt or guard against interest rates, a missing mortgage payment could be a red flag on your credit report.

Thankfully, it is very straightforward to check your credit report and it is advisable to do so regularly. You can simply request it from any of the credit reference agencies who will likely post it to you within a week. Once you receive the report, make sure that you check it thoroughly for accuracy. If you spot any mistakes, then you should contact all three agencies to have the report rectified. If there is an error connected to family members with whom you have no financial link, then you can ask to be “disassociated” from them through the agencies. If there is an inaccuracy concerning your credit record, then your first port of call should be the creditor who can update their records and then inform the agencies. If the creditor does not agree to amend their records, then you are entitled to attach a 200 word “Notice of Correction” to your file, explaining the disagreement.

Hopefully though, your credit report will need no corrections, in which case you are well advised to simply check it regularly and make sure it remains up to date.

 Written in collaboration with David Taylor, finance writer from Leeds

6 Reasons Why You Should Get Started on Your Dream House Today!

It is good to have dreams, but at some point you have to take steps to make your dreams come true. Whether it is a big home on a large plot of land, a flat in the middle of London, or a modest cabin on the edge of a nature reserve, now is the time to find your dream home. If you have been dreaming about the home of your future, why not take steps to make your dream a reality?
dream house
1. If you don’t start now, you might never start.         

Sure, it’s easier to sit back and be content with what you have. Maybe you are renting and you are simply complacent, paying the mortgage off for your landlord. The time to start reaching for your dream home is now. You will never be any younger or more motivated than you are today to start the process of getting into your dream home. Start investing in your own future by finding a property you love and making it your own.

2. Mortgage rates are at an all time low.    

Mortgage rates are incredibly low throughout the world and in Australia, rates are as low as 2%. With the expectation that home prices will remain stable and economic growth will occur in 2014, Australia is a great place to find your dream home and make your dreams come true. With the help of 1300 Home Loan you can own the home of you have always wanted. The only place for mortgage rates to go is up and as rates go up, home affordability goes down.

3. It is still a strong buyer’s market.            

Prices are stable throughout the world and buyer’s still have an advantage just about anywhere over home sellers. The markets have enough supply unless you are looking in a city such as London, and with lower mortgage rates homebuyers can purchase homes that were once considered above their means.

4. Foreclosures are still going strong.

Homeowners are still trying to get out of bad mortgages and are unable to keep their large homes. You will be able to get a better home for your money, but not for long. The rate of foreclosures is expected to decrease as the market continues to stabilize and the economy remains in a pattern of growth.

5. Confidence in continued economic growth is high.

No matter how you look at it, economic growth is happening and is expected to continue. We’ve all been living in a period of economic decline for years and the economy is taking a turn for the better. Home prices are low and only expected to rise. Job security is strengthening for employed workers and most experts agree that now is the time to buy for the best return in your investment over the years.

6. DIY Home Restoration and Interior Design Is Easier Than Ever

Whether you are tuned into HGTV or regularly check websites like Fine Home Building, the knowledge is out there on how to do redesign projects and make the changes you want for your dream home. It will save you money, so if you’re holding back because of a few thousand dollars, you can make up the money when it comes to the design aspect of your home.

dream home 1

My personal circumstances have changed dramatically recently – more on this later! – so this is particularly relevant to me at the moment.

Written in collaboration with David Taylor, a finance writer from Leeds, England, who also spends time in Melbourne, Australia.

Music Monday: Money

It’s been Budget week this week, so the Music Monday theme is of course: Money!

‘Music Monday’ is where I pick a theme based on current events either in the news or in my life, or failing that by clicking on ‘Random article’ in Wikipedia. I then pick a few songs based around that theme, with varying degrees of relevance, & post them here. 

So to start: maybe… a song about Money? OK then:

Team9: The Money Song 

Next up, you could say that this great 2010 R&B track sums up the Western economy of recent years in 1 phrase; maybe that’s partly why it was such a big worldwide hit:

Aloe Blacc: I Need a Dollar

Also: I’m pretty sure I used to work with the guy playing bass in this clip! At the time he was playing bass in a Brighton band called Alaska. He was a cool guy (pun intended). But he really was.

Meanwhile back in the ’80s Donna Summer was highlighting the hard life of single Mums working in low-paying long-hours jobs, where life is just 1 big struggle, sadly still relevant today:

Donna Summer: She Works Hard for the Money

And her solution? Join a Flashmob? OK, right. Moving on…

I have to shoehorn this next clip in here, not just because it’s on theme but really because it’s just utterly brilliant, an excerpt from the TV series “Extras”, featuring ‘This Woman’s Work’ by Kate Bush

That never fails to move me: so sad & so hauntingly beautiful; not to mention really well acted.

So, solutions? Well here’s a possible solution to personal overspending, from USA rockers Les Savy Fav:

Les Savy Fav: Scotchguard the Credit Card

And finally, a slightly more radical economic measure from the ever-lively Steven Tyler & co.:

Aerosmith: Eat the Rich

You never know: that one may already be pencilled into Ed Balls’ proposed first Budget…