SMM blog

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Cash Isas – where is the best rate?

Virgin Money emailed me last week to tell me my cash Isa was maturing. They’ve paid me a not-that-exciting 1.3% on my £5,000 over the past year. I decided it was time to look around for something better. One option was to stay with Virgin and transfer into a follow-on cash Isa. The suggested product...
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False economies: when it’s better to replace than repair

Few things annoy me more than malfunctioning appliances. A computer which refuses to boot up or a dishwasher that breaks down mid-cycle can have me in floods of tears. I can’t fix them: I wouldn’t even try. But actually my reluctance to go through the hassle of repairing bust items might be sensible...
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Where should you invest this year?

If you’re brave enough to overcome fears of Brexit and a global slowdown, where should you invest this year? You can squirrel away up to £20,000 this year in the tax perk Isa account but you must do it by the end of the tax year (5 April) or lose the allowance entirely. Of course you can have the mo...
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Why you need an emergency fund

The past decade has not been much fun for savers. While low interest rates are great for borrowers they are not much good for savers – who after all massively outnumber borrowers. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that Britons are saving less. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that i...
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Car rental rip-offs abroad and how to dodge-em

Hiring a car abroad this Easter? One of the easiest pitfalls to avoid – and there are many – is being forced into buying overpriced insurance at the rental desk when you pick up the car. Basic cover is included in the rental price but usually it doesn’t include damage to tyres, windows, the interior...
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Where can you get cash when there’s no ATM in your town?

I was in the local mini-supermarket a couple of Sundays ago. In front of me was a man who bought a single bag of crisps with his debit card – and got £50 cashback. The lady behind the till told me there had been plenty of others that morning doing the same thing. There isn’t a single cash machine in...
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Start your journey as an investment wonder woman here

Having your own money is a crucial step on the way to empowerment for a woman, or in fact as an individual of any gender. Making sure your nest-egg is growing at its optimum rate is key, yet many women shun investing in favour of ‘safer’ cash savings. Being cautious is one thing, but depriving yours...
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Should you switch your kids’ Junior Isas?

I have been neglecting my son’s Junior Isa. Not having the spare cash to put anything in at the moment is one reason. The other is that half of it is invested in the Neil Woodford fund Jane wrote about last month – see here - so it’s not performing well. Anyway, there isn’t much money in it – less t...
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Are you being fleeced for paper phone bills?

I was horrified to find out last week that I am paying £3 extra every time BT sends me a paper bill in the post for my second landline. As they do it every month, that’s a whole £36 a year on top of the iniquitous rental charge of £19.99 a month. It’s not often you have the Daily Mail to thank for a...
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Should I invest ahead of Brexit?

Avoiding the stock market because of the looming spectre of Brexit is a pretty decent excuse for not investing your Isa allowance this year. But is it valid in reality? This tax year, you can put away up to £20,000 in an Isa and shelter it from further income or capital gains tax. It’s a really quit...
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Cheap prom dresses: how to be a budget belle of the ball

Shopping for prom dresses, not skiing, was how I spent the half-term holiday. I was hoping for a lovely bonding experience with Dear Daughter of trying on wonderful creations. Instead it was a horrible slog of ghastly backless bling and, in one specialist shop, the most barefaced, hard-sell tactics ...
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How you can help teenagers remember their bank passwords

Another half-term, another banking crisis. This time Darling Son has managed to screw up his login details for his mobile Lloyds app. Don’t ask me how, something to do with the fingerprint opening of the smart phone.  The solution apparently is to delete the app and start again. But guess what,...
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Five last-minute half-term fun ideas

We’re only at the start of half-term and the mini-Minteds are already driving each other crazy. As usual, it’s up to Mother to find entertainment. I’ve been too busy to book anything in advance so I’ve been having a look around to see what’s on now. I suspect all the big London museums and attractio...
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Are the new banks any good for savings accounts?

Here’s some good news. Inflation fell last month to 1.8%, which is its lowest level for two years. While that’s obviously good news when you go shopping you may not realise that it also has an effect on your savings. If inflation is at 1.8%, then you need to earn at least that in interest otherwise ...
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Should you ditch the Woodford Equity Income investment fund?

Is it time to sell my investment in the Woodford Equity Income fund? Breaking up is hard to do – especially on Valentine’s Day. I’ve had a particularly long relationship with the manager of this fund, Neil Woodford. Back in the early years of his career at Invesco Perpetual, our partnership was bene...
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Should I fix my mortgage?

Thanks to Brexit, these are uncertain times. If you’ve got a mortgage then uncertainty is the last thing you want. After all, if your monthly repayments skyrocket you might not be able to afford your mortgage and could lose your home. So why not fix your mortgage? At the moment there are more fixed ...
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Cheapest and quickest way to renew your passport

If your passport needs renewing this year, it might be best to sort it sooner rather than later because of – you guessed it – Brexit. If we leave without a deal, the UK could end up as a so-called third country within the EU’s free-roaming Schengen zone. This could mean you’ll need six months left t...
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Price cap is going up – so fix your energy bills NOW

Warning: unless you get your act together and fix your home gas and electricity bills soon, you’ll be paying more come April. It was announced this week that the government’s energy price cap is going up by more than 10% from 1 April. That means if you are on a variable rate tariff, your bills will ...
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Where can you get a 40% return on your money, guaranteed?

It’s investment time! Traditionally the period before the end of the tax year at the beginning of April is the season for everyone to top up their annual tax-free allowances. But with the stock market in the doldrums (guess why, begins with B) the prospect of shares isn’t very enticing. Wouldn’t it ...
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Are Premium Bonds worth it?

From this month, you can invest in Premium Bonds for just £25. And in another rule relaxation, you can now buy Premium Bonds for any under 16 year old – not just a child or grandchild – and you can also set up a regular monthly savings plan. But should you bother with Premium Bonds? Here are our tho...
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