how to choose broadband

I’ve recently learnt a new skill. I’ve learnt how to cast things from my phone to the TV via AppleTV.

#firstworldskills

I was pretty pleased with myself because I’ve noticed in the last couple of years that something weird has started to happen to me. Perfectly simple things like remote controls have started to scare me. I’ve essentially lost the ability to switch on the television in someone else’s house. I see all the buttons, but I can’t figure out which one to press. I can see why older people end up staying with the insurance company for 40 years even though it costs twice as much – the prospect of having to figure out exactly what cover you need and what forms you have to fill in is sometimes just a bit much.

If this sounds like you then I’m here to help you. I’m focusing on broadband today, and if you find it useful then let me know and I can always write some other guides for things like utilities, insurance, how to make a sandwich etc. This post has been written in partnership with the wireless broadband provider called Relish, whose model I think is ace. That’s why I mention them a lot. Even if Relish isn’t in your area yet though, I’ve made the information useful regardless. I’m looking forward to them rolling out their service across London and then nationwide soon. You can also compare broadband deals at https://usave.co.uk/broadband/.

This post was actually really useful for me to write, as I’ve never been quite sure about what things like ‘download speed’ mean. Belle is always complaining about the broadband strength in her bedroom, and occasionally I bandy the words ‘signal booster’ around to try and appease her, but I don’t actually know what they mean. Luke from Caelum Communications says “setting up or changing your broadband shouldn’t be a long and tiresome process.”

If you’re worried that you’re paying too much for your broadband, or want a new provider but aren’t sure what to look for, then read on Macduff*… View Post

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I’ve got a guest post today from the master of all things money saving and making – Jon from The Money Shed. It sounds like a very cool app so well worth a look I’d say.

Pouch voucher app

Shopping online can be a hell of a drag sometimes. You find the item you want and usually the first thing that pops into your head is ‘Can I find this cheaper elsewhere?’ or ‘Can I find a discount code for this retailer anywhere?’

LUCKILY FOR YOU THE LATTER IS NOW A THING OF THE PAST.

YOU NO LONGER NEED TO GO SEARCH FOR VOUCHER OR PROMO CODES!

Pouch is an amazing new browser plugin that brings the voucher codes LIVE AND DIRECT to your web browser while you are shopping. So if there is an active voucher code out there then you will get presented with it straight away without a need to endlessly Google for an active one. View Post

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I like to think that as a parent I have passed on a wealth of knowledge and experience, setting my children up to thrive as adults, make sound choices etc etc.

In reality it’s likely that the only thing they will remember is my rule of ‘second crappest’.

(Probably because of the catchy title.)

The rule of second crappest is a simple yet effective one. Whenever you are looking to make a purchase or choice of some kind you simply go for the second crappest. In Tesco looking for baked beans? You don’t want to buy the super cheap ones where they can’t even be bothered to use coloured labels, but there’s no need to splash out on Heinz unless it’s your birthday or something, so instead you plump for the Tesco own brand. Second crappest.

Although I’ve always done it, it became a proper thing when Bee started shopping on her own. She would text me from the shops:

‘Which pasta should I buy?’ she’d ask.

‘I don’t know, whichever you want!’ I’d reply. (Patiently.)

‘But there are so many!’

‘Just get the second crappest.’

‘Okay.’

And there it is. View Post

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Today I’m reviewing Leetchi, an online money collection website. It’s dead handy – well worth a read.

On more than one occasion during my working life I’ve found myself in that awkward situation known as the ‘present collection’.

It goes something like this:

An envelope and a card are working their way around the office. It’s a collection for someone in accounts that you’ve only met a couple of times. You want to contribute but when you look in your purse you realise you only have seven pence or a ten pound note. Obviously you’re not putting the note in – you barely know the woman and besides, no one hears the note go in, so you won’t get the kudos.

So, do you:

A) Just pretend to put cash in and rattle the envelope a bit to make a noise

B) Put in the seven pence to be seen to be adding something and hope that no one sees the actual coins

C) Just casually sign the card and pass it on

Of course there is the option to say that you don’t have any cash on you and add some later, but how feasible is that? Normally in this sort of situation the envelope has just appeared on your desk and no one really knows where it came from or where it’s going to end up. It just sorts of travels mysteriously from desk to desk until suddenly Janice has a new baby bouncer to take on maternity leave. No one really understands how.

A new online tool – Leetchi.com – just made this awkward money collection thing a whole lot easier.  View Post

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Remember Jon from The Money Shed? He wrote me that piece about matched betting and about earning money from home? Well, he’s here again today. (He keeps pestering me, so what can I do?) One of his forum veterans is running a 30 money making bootcamp, teaching you how to make money online from home – ideal if you’ve overspent at Christmas and want to recoup a little cash. It’s all legit. He’s a good chap. If you do take part, do let me know how you get on!

how to make money online

Do you like money? Of course you do! Who doesn’t?! With Christmas right around the corner most people have money at the forefront of their minds. Now that I have got your attention I am going to tell you how you can make £1,000 extra online EVERY SINGLE MONTH. There are 1000s of people out there who are already bringing home a huge side income from online moneymaking websites. 

Just to point out for anyone that doesn’t know The Money Shed has been going for 3+ years and is a HUGE resource for people on the UK as we help people gain financial freedom and get themselves out of debt in ways they never thought possible! 

Over on my forum, The Money Shed, there is going to be a 30 DAY MONEY MAKING BOOTCAMP STARTING ON JANUARY 3RD 2017!! One of our moderators veteran moneymakers, Katykicker, is going to be hosting the MONEYMAKING BOOTCAMP. Katy regularly earns £1000s online EVERY SINGLE MONTH AND IS GOING TO SHOW YOU HOW TO DO EXACTLY THAT!! Being full-time self-employed since 2013 has allowed Katy to explore a number of ways to make and save money online – and she wants to share her knowledge with you. Best of all this 30 day moneymaking bootcamp is going to be COMPLETELY FREE!  View Post

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Sponsored by American Express and Nectar

How many loyalty cards do you have in your purse?

Go on, I’ll wait a minute while you have a count.

2,317?

Yes, I thought it might be about that.

Now have another look and tell me how many of them you use in a way that really maximises their value. Do you know all the best ways to collect points and how to get the most benefit from them?

Well no, me neither really.

Although I have a purse full of plastic, my relationship with loyalty programmes has generally been quite passive – just collecting points without thinking about how I could be using them most effectively. It reminds me a bit of a game I used to play with my friend Nicky when we must have been around 19 years old. We’d go to the pub, and we’d get all the cards from our wallets and compare them in a big square. I know, we were crazy. I think there was something about having lots of important looking cards that made us feel grown up.

I have been challenged by American Express® and Nectar to think about loyalty programmes differently. Your wallet full of cards could actually be working much harder for you, helping you to earn rewards through your everyday spending. If your next supermarket shop could help you to get a family meal out, well, that has to be a good thing doesn’t it? View Post

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You may remember that a week or so ago I had a play with the Aviva Shape my Future tool to get a prediction of my income on retirement, given my current situation and pension contributions. Have a look now if you don’t remember. (Or if you enjoyed it so much you want to read it again.)

The conclusion was pretty straightforward – save more now, or spend less as a pensioner. Not exactly a win win situation is it? In a bid to encourage me that the first of the two options would probably be the most sensible, Aviva challenged me to live for seven days on my predicted pension of £318 a week. Easy peasy you might think, that’s not a bad income really. Consider though the fact that I don’t actually own my own house, and you can see that it is going to disappear very quickly indeed.

Have a quick go now on the Shape my Future tool to work out what your predicted pension is and let me know whether or not you think you could live on it!

yep-just-did-some-financial-planning-i-can-retire-at-65-and-live-comfortably-for-around-nine-days View Post

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Until about four hours ago, I thought I had my pension situation relatively sorted.

I’ve always signed up for work pension schemes, and when I went on maternity leave with Belle, aged 24, (me not Belle), I also set up a personal stakeholder pension plan, which I’ve been paying into ever since. I’ve recently had a bit of a pension spring clean, put everything into one big nice pot, and upped my personal contributions dramatically to £300 a month. My pension fund at the moment is worth about £60,000, which in my head is a massive amount of money.

So when Aviva challenged me to live on my predicted pension for a week, I thought it would be easy peasy.

Turns out that in the world of pensions, £60,000 is not a terribly large amount of money at all, as I discovered after doing a few sums on the Aviva Shape my Future tool.

Doing some realistic calculations about the sort of lifestyle I’d currently be able to afford on retirement has been a massive eye-opener. I’d always imagined that retirement would be a bit like having a day off work, but every single day. You know how sometimes you get a day off in the week with your partner, while the children are at school, so you go out somewhere nice for lunch, maybe have a mooch around some shops, or go for a stroll and a piece of cake at a local National Trust property? That’s what I imagine retirement will be like every day. Plus maybe a spot of light gardening, because obviously by the time I retire I will know all the Latin names for plants. (I don’t know how this happens, but older people always seem to know them, so I’m assuming it will just pop into my head at some point?)

Oh, and the odd cruise around the Norwegian fjords.

To give you an idea, I created a little mood board for my retirement. View Post

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Jon from The Money Shed has written quite a few posts for me. He’s written this one about matched betting, and another about different ways to make money online, working from home. I let him because, quite frankly, they get me a lot of traffic, plus they are actually useful if you want to earn some extra cash. Plus he hassles me until I do.

This is Jon:

The Money Shed

I tried to get him to take a picture with his dog – ‘people trust people with dogs’ – but you’ve just got his face. Still, he looks fairly normal doesn’t he? View Post

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July has been a stressful month for me.

My car is due for its MOT in July, and yet for the first 20 days of the month I did absolutely nothing about it. That’s a lie. About nine times a day I thought to myself ‘I really must check when the car is due for its MOT.’

Turns out you can just look it up on the DVLA website, but in my mind it was a gargantuan task that would involve sorting through masses of paperwork and trying to find last year’s certificate. Or, horror of horror, actually having to use the phone to call the garage and speak to a human being.

(I don’t like using the phone.)

Fortunately for me, on July 2oth I went to an event with Compare the Market, that involved me finding out when my car was due for its MOT!

I know right?! What are the chances? It’s true though. I was testing out a brand new product from Compare the Market, called Simples. It’s currently in beta, but I’m going to tell you a bit about it, and how you can sign up now and be one of the first to try it while it’s still in its testing stage. It’s genuinely a fantastic tool, so do read on. Plus, later in the post I’ll reveal whether or not my MOT turned out to be overdue.

DUM DUM DUM DUM!! View Post

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This week I’ve been undertaking a challenge. You know I love anything with a competitive element, so this was right up my street. Not that there really even was a competitive element – not against anyone other than myself anyway, but that’s enough for me!

The idea behind the challenge, which was set for me by NoteMachine, was to see how spending habits have changed, and to what extent we now use card rather than cash, or vice versa. I must say that I’ve never really given much thought to how I spend money, unless I really want a sausage and onion bap from the little sandwich bar around the corner, who only take cash, and so I was interested to see how I got on.

Here’s a diary of my challenge…

Day one – cash

My challenge is to spend three days using only cash and three using only card, but it’s the first day and I’m still not sure which to do first. As I do with most of my serious life choices, I ask Twitter. Consensus seems to be that I should start with cash, as this will be the hardest, and I’m very pleased with this idea indeed, as it’s a Thursday – farmers’ market day in Taunton. The farmers’ market is about a two minute walk from my office, and I do quite like to treat myself to a teeny tiny Japanese chicken curry on a Thursday, and possibly a chocolate brownie. (If they are home made they are wholesome, and therefore terribly good for you.)

I have a momentary panic when I realise I had gone to work without card or cash, but Bee comes to meet me for lunch and saves the day:

So far so good, although there are a couple of things I notice just after one day of cash only; firstly, I took a lot of cash out, because I was afraid of not having it when I needed it. I don’t always carry a bag, and have a tendency to stuff money, old tissues and scraps of paper into my pockets, and then forget about them. I feel immediately like the potential for me to end up out of pocket is greater with cash, as it seems quite lucky that money might literally fall out of my pockets.  View Post

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It’s been quite a while since I did a free credit check on myself. In fact, it was about four or five years ago. My partner at the time was applying for a job that had very extensive checks involved and they were going to do a ten year financial check on me, and so I did one too, just to make sure they weren’t going to find anything incriminating.

At the time, I scored 999, which is the very top score you can get. I have to admit that I was pretty pleased with it at the time, as I’ve worked hard over the years to keep my finances squeaky clean.

But that was a while ago, and so when I saw a TV ad for Noddle, the credit check service that offers you free credit checks forever, (rather than one of those where you sign up for a trial and then forget to cancel), I felt like I should give it a go. I was also about to buy a new Mac on credit, and thought it would be useful to make sure I was good to go for that – I didn’t want that horrible embarrassment of a teenage PC World sales assistant telling me I’d been turned down. Nobody wants that. If you do run a credit check on yourself and it’s not good, there are things you can do to improve it – see my tips below – so don’t panic.

Even if you have a good credit history, running a free credit check from time to time is a really good way to help protect yourself from fraudsters. We share so much information about ourselves nowadays, that we do leave ourselves at risk. Think about it for a minute and I bet you can think of someone you know personally who has been the victim of identity theft, even if you’ve been lucky enough to escape it yourself.

You’d think that we’d be more careful as a result, but apparently not. According to Noddle’s research, more than half of us admit to throwing away letters with personal information on them without shredding them first; nearly a quarter of us have loaned their credit card to someone else, and 16% admit to keeping their PIN written down in the same place as their card.

Oops.

Checking your credit report helps then by flagging up any unusual or unexpected behaviour. It gives you information on current and previous creditors, so you can check that they match your expectations, and shows you other people or addresses that you might be financially linked to. If any of these ring alarm bells, you can then take action.

 

Free credit check from Noddle

The Noddle set up process was really easy, and it took less than two minutes to enter all of my information. The confirmation process was really simple too – a series of specific questions about my finances that only I would know the answer to. Once the set up was complete, I was emailed an activation link, and it was time for the big reveal…

free credit check service Noddle

free credit check service Noddle

free credit check service Noddle

 

Now, I have to say, given my previous 999, that I was a little taken aback by this. 580?! I felt a bit like I’d got back a maths test from school and only got a C+, which, quite frankly, has never happened.

I ran through all the basics in the credit check report, and could see that nothing was amiss, so that was reassuring, as I had worried initially that perhaps there had been activity in my name that I didn’t know about. All of my payments were up to date, (clearly shown by lots of green dots rather than red ones), so I dug a little deeper to find out what might be the cause of the lower than expected score.

free credit check service Noddle

 

Tips to help improve your credit score

From my research, I could see that there might be a few factors bringing my credit score down. If you’re looking to improve your own score, do take these things into consideration:

  • I’ve moved house twice since I got my 999. Frequent house moves can sometimes raise flags for lenders, and this can be reflected in your score.
  • I have a couple of credit cards that I don’t use. You might not think that this is a bad thing, but apparently lenders look at the total amount of credit available to you, rather than just outstanding credit, and so if you have cards with high limits that you don’t use, consider closing these or asking or the limits to be reduced.
  • I’ve had a lot of checks done on my account in the last couple of years. Weirdly, this too can impact your score, and it can happen without you really being fully aware of it, like when you get quotes for insurance. I also had a brief flirtation with matched betting last year, and so had checks from all the bookmakers I opened accounts with. Do keep this in mind as a factor if you’re looking for quotes or doing anything that involves applying for credit. One thing that might help with this is Noddle’s cards and loans matcher tools. Pop in some basic information about yourself, and it tells you which credit cards and loans it thinks you’d be likely to accepting for, before you apply. This doesn’t show on your credit record, so means you minimise the risk of being turned down and clocking up too many unnecessary checks.
  • Repaying loans on time is another way you can improve your credit score. You will become more attractive to lenders because they can see that you can be trusted to pay your debts back on time. Taking out a bank loan can be a great way to improve an already good credit score. But not everyone is eligible for a bank loan. For those of you with a (cough!) ‘less than perfect credit score’, there are bad credit loans available for you, such as those offered by Flexy Finance. Used correctly, they can be an effective step on the way to a better credit score! What’s important is that you make sure you can afford to pay back what you owe on time before taking out the loan. Only borrow what you can afford and make sure you have a borrowing plan in place so you keep up with those repayments.

These are definitely areas of weakness for me, but there are other contributory factors to keep in mind too:

  • How much credit to you have altogether? Higher balances can make potential lenders nervous.
  • Are you on the electoral register? Get on it if not!
  • Are you linked to anyone financially? A joint bank account, loan or credit card with someone with a poor credit record will impact your score too.
  • Have you missed any payments on anything? This is obviously a significant factor, as are any CCJs against you.
The importance of online safety

The research from Noddle has shown that nearly four in 10 people (38%) in the UK have been a victim of fraud themselves. That’s more than 20 million people. That’s a scary figure isn’t it? This is not one of those ‘it happens to other people’ things, this is a very real problem. It’s a problem however that you can take measures to prevent:

  • Don’t just throw away personal documents like bank statements and gas bills – shred them before disposing of them.
  • Don’t keep your PIN number written down somewhere obvious, and especially not in the same place that you keep your card!
  • Regularly check your credit report to help you identify unusual or fraudulent activity.
  • Double check your social media settings and security – how much personal information are you displaying? How strict are you with friend requests? If you’ve a relaxed attitude to security and are sharing your full name, email, date of birth and home town, you could be setting yourself up for disaster…

I’d be really interested to hear about your experiences of using this sort of service and how it has helped you improve your credit score or protect yourself against fraud. If you’re not sure what your credit score is, sign-up to Noddle now and find out!

free credit check noddle

Sponsored post. Image of coins – Singkham/shutterstock.

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