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  1. The month of festivities is upon us and most of us will soon be taking some precious time off work to enjoy the holiday season with loved ones and to overindulge in good food and gifts.  Unfortunately for others, this is a desperately sad time of year as they struggle to make ends meet and be able to afford clothes and foods for themselves and their families.  Christmas is a time of giving, not just for ourselves and our families, but also a time to remember those less fortunate than ourselves who need our help.  Of course, we should support those in need all year round, but whilst we are busily splashing our cash on gifts and food shopping, it’s a great time to also splash some of our cash on worthwhile causes too.

    Here are three ways you can help those in need this Christmas:

    1.     Support the homeless with a sock subscription

    3 ways to help those in need this Christmas

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    Society Socks is helping put an end to the homeless crisis by offering a handy sock subscription service with a social cause.  With every pair of socks sold, they will donate a pair to charity.  Why socks?  Because socks are the least donated item at homeless shelters, yet the most needed.  Shelters are only able to accept new socks and so they rarely receive donations, yet for obvious reasons they are very much needed by the homeless.  Society Socks aim to change this by donating a brand new pairs of socks every time they sell a pair.

    There’s nothing better than a fresh pair of socks, so if you’re looking for a unique subscription that saves you the hassle of buying new socks each month and that also supports a great cause, you’ve found it right here.  It’s also the perfect unique Christmas gift with a difference – the socks that keep on giving!

    2.     Support the food banks with a reverse advent calendar

    3 ways to help those in need this Christmas - reverse advent calendar - uk

    My little helper!

    We have just handed in our reverse advent calendar donations to the food bank at the weekend.  You can still help others this Christmas with your own reverse advent calendar – it’s never too late to start.  It’s organised by the UK money bloggers and aims to bring awareness to the food banks who so desperately need donations of suitable food and hygiene products all year round, but particularly in the weeks leading up to Christmas when they see a 40% rise in their services. 

    Help local people who desperately need food donations by donating an item of food each day for 24 days.  Instead of receiving something from an advent calendar each day for 24 days, the idea is you give each day instead.  We started ours in November and handed it in at the weekend so as the food banks have time to sort and distribute the items, but they are always in need so don’t feel like it’s too late to start.  Donate as much as you can and there’s no need to do one item a day if you want to just give a lot in one go.  We saved ours up each day in November and took it all in to our local Tesco drop off point when we had filled two carrier bags full.  Even if you don’t want to take part in the reverse advent calendar idea, please do pick up an extra item with your supermarket shopping when you can and donate it in the food bank collection area.

    3.     Support those in poverty with unwrapped charity gifts

    3 ways to help those in need this Christmas

    These are a great gift idea for anyone, but especially for those who say they want nothing or older family members that you simply don’t know what to buy.  They are also the perfect gift to ask for yourself if you don’t want a gift and instead want to help someone less fortunate than yourself.  The Oxfam unwrapped charity gifts start at only £5 and you choose which cause to give your donation to.  You’ll be sent a card explaining where the donation has gone which you can write out to your recipient so they know you have donated on their behalf.  It’s the perfect way of giving at this time of year.

     

    There are lots of ways to give to those in need this Christmas.  Hopefully this blog post has inspired you to think about ways you can give back this Christmas, even when doing your Christmas gift shopping.

    Related - Lylia Rose supports The Grand Appeal, Bristol Children's Hospital Charity

    3 ways to help those in need this Christmas

  2. Enter this giveaway to win a £10 Amazon UK eGift voucher!  I am running lots of giveaways to win a £10 voucher before Christmas, so you have lots of chances to win!  Check out my Giveaways section for more chances!

    win amazon voucher

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    Great blog posts to read for the entry options:

    Get 100% renewable energy with Bulb, £50 off your first energy bill and a cheaper tarriff than the Big Six

    5 tried and tested ways to make money as a UK stay at home mum

    Get paid to test websites from home (£5 per 20 minutes)

    Get paid doing simple tasks from your phone with Streetbees

    I’ve made £300 tax free cash from home in 2 weeks and you can too

    The top 3 ways I made money from home in 2017

    Make money from your blog with Awin affiliate marketing

    Enter here:

    The full terms and conditions are below, but simply enter using one or more of the entry methods in the Rafflecopter widget below and remember, if you win your delivery address must be in the UK.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Fab free trials and offers:

    Terms and conditions:

    • There will be one winner
    • The prize is a £10 Amazon eGift card
    • The prize must be claimed within 28 days of the first winner's notification email being sent.
    • There is no cash alternative
    • There is no limit on the number of entries per person, follow the instructions to enable multiple entries
    • Winners will be notified within 28 days
    • The winner must claim their prize within 28 days or it will be forfeited
    • All entries must be received by the date and time specified
    • The winner will be picked at random by Rafflecopter & notified by email
    • Giveaways are open to the UK only
  3. I’d like to think of myself as a pretty seasoned home renter.  I moved out of home at the age of 17 into a shared house and then moved no less than ten times to various properties whilst renting.  I lived in a mix of shared houses, a bedsit, a flat with a boyfriend or a flat with a friend.  The shortest I stayed in one of these properties was three months and the longest was three years.  I’ve been through the process of viewing rental properties, filling out forms and references, paying all the fees and moving so many times!  I am now a homeowner and have stayed in one spot for 4.5 years which is the longest time ever!

    Today I want to give you some insight into the costs to consider when renting a property.  Perhaps you’re thinking of moving out of home for the first time and need to know the costs involved.

    Here are six things to budget for when looking to rent a property for the first time as a tenant:

    Things to save for when renting your first home

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    Deposit

    This is usually the largest upfront expense when renting a property.  I usually had to pay between a 1-1.5 month’s rent as a deposit.  This is usually paid on the day you move in.  Providing you leave the house clean and tidy without damage to anything then it will be returned at the end of your tenancy.  Be warned though, it can take a while for the deposit to be returned so you can’t always rely on this as your deposit for your next rental property and may have to save a deposit again when  you decide to move on.

    Holding deposit

    Some agencies ask for a holding deposit which is payable as soon as you decide you want the property.  It ensures they take it off the market and don’t let anyone view it whilst they are checking your references and paperwork is sorted.  Only pay this if you are absolutely certain you want the property as it may not be returned if you simply change your mind.  If you do have to pay a holding deposit then it should be deducted from your first month’s rent and deposit bill.

    Agency and referencing fees

    Agency fees and referencing fees are fees payable to the letting agent, unless you rent privately, that won’t be returned.  These are to cover their admin costs and any costs involved in getting references from your bank and place of employment, for example.  These fees vary and are not set, so check with the letting agent for their fees before agreeing to a property to make sure you are happy with them.

    First month’s rent

    Rent is paid upfront for the month ahead, so you’ll need to pay your first month’s rent on the day you move in.  Then you’ll need to pay this every month from then on.  Some letting agents always take this payment on the first of the month, but others will take it monthly on the date that you moved in.  If rent is due on the first and you move in half way through the month then you may only have to pay half the month’s rent upfront and the first full month’s payment on the first of the following month.

    End of tenancy clean

    When you move out of the property at the end of your tenancy then you’ll want to have saved some money to cover the costs of any end of tenancy cleaning.  Some landlords and letting agencies let you clean the property yourself so long as it’s left in good condition, but some will require a professional clean or at least the carpets professionally cleaned at the end of your tenancy.  Make sure you ask what is required before choosing to rent a property to ensure you are happy with any costs involved.  If a professional clean of any sort is required then this will be a part of your contract and if you do not comply then they will deduct the cost of a professional clean from your deposit.  It’s always best to read your contract thoroughly before signing so you are aware of your obligations as a tenant and not surprised by anything at the end of your tenancy.

    Furniture

    Sometimes you will be able to rent a furnished property which can be great news if you are moving out of home for the first time and don’t have any of your own furniture, or if you want to save on the cost of furnishing an entire property yourself.  If a place is furnished then you’ll need to look after the furniture as if it were your own as any damages will have to come out of your deposit at the end of your tenancy or be paid for by you.  If the property is unfurnished then you’ll need to consider the cost of everything you need to buy.  You will at least need a bed and mattress, sofa and perhaps table and chairs to start.  Bargains can be found at second hand shops if you can’t afford new or want to recycle furniture and sometimes you can find free items on local marketplaces.  It’s likely you’ll need to buy some things yourself though, so factor this into your costs when saving to move out of home.

    Bills

    Sometimes rental properties list the rental price with ‘bills included’.  I had this at two of my properties and it made things so much easier.  I simply paid my month’s rent to the landlord each month and they covered all the utility bills and council tax.  Job done!  I think it’s fairly rare to find such a deal though and rental payments are usually just rent only with bills to be sorted by yourself.  You’ll need to factor in the cost of energy (electricity and/or gas), council tax and water rates.  These have to be paid each month and are usually based on how much you use each month.  Then you’ll probably want a TV licence if you plan on watching live TV or using BBC iPlayer and of course an internet connection.  You might want to consider contents insurance to cover your contents in case of theft or damage.  It’s a good idea to work out all these costs before you decide to rent a property to see if they are affordable and to make sure you budget for them every month.

    Moving costs

    You might have a friend or two with cars and vans who can move you and your belongings to the property.  If not, then you may need to hire a van to move your belongings on moving in day. Costs can vary greatly depending on whether you can hire a van that you drive yourself to if you need to hire a van with a driver.

    There are lots of costs to consider when moving out of home for the first time into a rented property.  Work out how much you can afford for rent and bills each month and search for a property that suits your budget.  If money is tight then you may wish to consider a furnished property that includes bills to make things easier to budget and to have less upfront costs.  Simply register with letting agents and let them know your requirements and they’ll contact you whenever they have a suitable property.  Good luck!

     

    Related blog posts

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    Should I stay or should I go. Moving house decisions.

     Things to save for when renting your first home

  4. Wondering what block chain technology is?  Read on as I let the experts explain it to both you and me!

    Unless you have been living under a rock these past few years, you have probably heard at least a little something about blockchain technology and how it might be useful for businesses and personal use. Blockchain is the technology underpinning cryptocurrency, but there are many more potential uses for it than that, and actually the chances are that you have used blockchain-like technology at some point in your life. If you have ever used Google Docs, you have used blockchain technology. So what is it, and how can it benefit your business? As it happens, blockchain can provide you with a number of distinct advantages, which we are going to discuss here.

    What can blockchain do for your business

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    Security

    The biggest advantage of using blockchain technology is that it affords a much greater security for your data than anything you are likely to be used to. It’s hard to understand why this might be without grasping the technology itself, so it’s worth looking into if you are keen to get to grips with it as best as you can. A blockchain is a chain of blocks of data, each of which contains a special kind of cryptographic code which contains information on the data of the previous block, as well as the key for the succeeding block. Because of this, the only way to replicate any of the blocks of data is to alter all of the blocks of data - and because to do so means solving all of those cryptographics hashes, it takes enough time that you can never catch up with the current, real chain of blocks. Any blockchain fork needs to be resolved as it occurs, which takes the consent of the entire network. So a hacker attempting to copy your data would simply not be able to do it.

    Speed

    That’s clearly a huge advantage for anyone, but it’s not just an increased sense of security that is drawing more and more businesses to blockchain technology. It is also an incredibly fast way of storing and accessing data, and it’s likely that it will soon become the next best way to do this very soon. Because the data is not stored anywhere centrally, it is much faster to access and to load, which voer time can make a huge difference to your business and how you do things. You might find that it makes everything much easier and quicker to do, and it’s definitely worth thinking about for that reason too.

    Convenience

    Blockchain is the best way that we currently know of to be able to share data with whoever you want in a secure manner which is also fast. It is this convenience which makes it so powerful. With blockchain you can effectively have everyone in your business working on one document at the same time (think of the Google Docs analogy again) and this is clearly a great boon to anyone wanting to run their business more effectively. This kind of convenience doesn’t come around very often, and it's worth making use of when it does.

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    Collab

  5. It’s coming up to that time of year again… no, not Christmas, but the other time of year that all self-employed people start freaking out about… tax return time!  OK, not everyone freaks out as some of us do our tax returns as soon as we can, like in April!  I’ve always wondered why people put it off until the very last minute. 

    The only thing I’m freaking out about is remembering to pay my bill!  I have several alarms at the ready near the end of January.  I have the money sat waiting to pay it and just need to log in to make my payment.  I did actually pay it right away, but it just sat there in my tax account doing nothing, so I thought it better to earn interest on it until the due date if they’re not going to actually deduct it from my tax bill until 31st January.  I had it refunded and it’s been sat patiently waiting until the end of Jan whilst nicely earning a bit of interest (which of course I will declare on my next tax bill!)

    Many bloggers find the whole tax thing really scary and intimidating.  I’m here to tell you it’s not at all.  I am by no means an expert, but I want to share with you a few tips and some handy links to get you started.  I should probably mention at this stage I do love spreadsheets and form filling doesn’t faze me, so maybe that’s why I find it OK.  I get not everyone is like this though, but hopefully you won’t find it scary and if you do then seek professional advice.

    6 handy tax tips for bloggers

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    Things to note – I am not an expert, so please do your own research.  I’ll share some links here.  Also, tax rules change all the time and I am writing this in November 2018 so do check the links and investigate for yourself as allowances and rules can change each new tax year.

    Keep records of everything

    Firstly, if you are planning on running your blog as a business then you need to keep records of everything.  Even if you are only going to make £10 from your blog this year, that’s a profit and an income and it makes your blog a business.  You might not have to register for self-assessment with such a small income from your blog (see next point), but you still need to keep records.  There’s a chance your blog will make enough over the next few months to have to register as self-employed, so it’s best to keep on top of record keeping.

    Keep all invoices, receipts, bank statements and email correspondence with customers.  I keep a spreadsheet with all my incomings and outgoings which I update every day as and when I have an incoming or expense.  I then cross reference this with my bank account and PayPal every week and ensure the balances match up.  I have a separate spreadsheet for each tax year.  I rarely have paper receipts, but when I do I keep these in an envelope for each tax year.  Many of my invoices and receipts are electronic so I keep them in my email account all sorted into ‘incomings’ and ‘outgoings’ for each tax year.  I can easily print everything and find records of everything for each tax year.

    You really need to come up with an organised system to keep records of everything and stay on top of it so it doesn’t overwhelm you.

    The HMRC website says “examples of the records you may need to keep are:

    • copies of your invoices, paper or electronic
    • a spreadsheet of your income receipts
    • emails confirming income received
    • statements from the company who paid you which show the amount you received
    • bank statements
    • bank deposit pay-in records
    • a diary or appointments book showing your income from each customer

    HMRC can charge you a penalty if the records you keep aren’t accurate, complete and readable or if you don’t retain them for the required period of time.”

    Go digital

    I must admit, I love spreadsheets.  I love adding formulas that work out all my tax payments and national insurance contributions and automatically update as I add new figures every day.  Some people loathe spreadsheets though or they simply don’t get them and get into a muddle.  Just because I use a spreadsheet, it doesn’t mean you have to, but you have to have some way of recording every incoming and outgoing each month.  If you’re making enough money or as your blogging business grows then you may wish to consider hiring an accountant to manage your tax returns or using some digital software to make everything easier.  I’ve heard many bloggers talk about using Quickbooks before to make accounting and invoicing simplified and of course, digital.  Digital tax accounting company Tax Kings also offer digital bookkeeping services for sole traders including ‘preparing, recording and completing your annual return’.

    If your gross income is £1000 or less, you don’t have to register with HMRC

    If your gross trading income from one or more self-employment trades is £1000 or less then you don’t have to tell HMRC or register as self-employed.  That means your total income before any expenses.  It’s known as a trading allowance.  If you don’t make much money from blogging (under £1000) and you have no other trades then it can save the hassle of doing a self-assessment. 

    However, there are some reasons why you may wish to complete a self-assessment, even if you earn under £1000 from blogging and any other trades.  These include if you’ll want to claim Maternity Allowance based on your self-employed income, if you want to claim Tax Free Childcare based on your self-employed income and if you want to voluntarily pay Class 2 National Insurance contributions to help towards some benefits.

    You can find out more information here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tax-free-allowances-on-property-and-trading-income

    Register for self-assessment if your income is over £1000

    If your gross (before expenses) income from blogging and any other trades is over £1000 then you’ll have to register for self-assessment with HMRC.  Even if your income from blogging is under £1000 then are some circumstances mentioned above where it could benefit you to register anyway.

    You can register for self-assessment here: https://www.gov.uk/log-in-file-self-assessment-tax-return

    Use ‘simplified expenses’ to claim for utilities

    If you work from home then a proportion of the energy bills will be during the hours you are working.  Instead of trying to break down exactly how much gas, electric and water you used during working hours to claim as an expense, you simply use the ‘simplified expenses’ flat rate  which tells you exactly how much you can claim as an expense each month:

    Hours of business use per month

    Flat rate per month

    25 to 50

    £10

    51 to 100

    £18

    101 and more

    £26

    Click this link to find out more: https://www.gov.uk/simpler-income-tax-simplified-expenses/working-from-home

    I work anywhere from 30-50 hours per week on my at-home business so I can add £26 per month as an expense towards our utility bills. 

    Note – this doesn’t include telephone or internet bills, so these need to be worked out and claimed as a separate expense.

    Save as you go

    This is probably one of the most important things to do!  Save your tax as you go!  As mentioned, on my spreadsheet I have formulas that are linked to my profits each tax year that work out my total costs for the following:

    • Tax (20% of income over my £11850 personal allowance)
    • Class 2 NIC (set amount £153.40)
    • Class 4 NIC (9% of profits between £8424 and £46350)
    • Student Loan Plan 1 (9% of income over my £18330 personal allowance)

    So by the end of the tax year I already know exactly how much I owe thanks to my spreadsheet.  I save throughout the year though by putting £500 a month to one side – a savings account – so I have the money ready to pay the tax bill at the end of the year.  Anything left over, £2000ish, will go in my pension pot.

    I know roughly what I’ll earn now as I’ve been full-time blogging for a while, but if you’ve no clue how much all your outgoings are then search Google for a ‘self-employed tax calculator UK’ where you can enter your monthly income and it will tell you how much tax and expenditure for student loans, etc, you’ll have to pay on that.  Then you can put this amount to one side and do the same the next month.  This might be a handy way of doing things if your income really fluctuates each month.  If you save too much then just see it as savings!  Better to save too much rather than too little or nothing at all!  You want to be prepared and all saved up for your tax bill at the end of the year.

    I’ve no idea of the accuracy, but this looks like quite a good calculator: https://www.employedandselfemployed.co.uk/tax-calculator

     

    Hopefully these 6 tips have been useful.  By no means is this a definitive guide!  There is so much more I could say, but this is a good starting point.  You’ll also need proof and amounts of any interest earned on savings for the year, dividends earned and other income such as from an employed job.  Basically, just keep records of all monetary income or make sure you have digital access to them as proof and for filling out your tax return when the time comes.  The HMRC website really is so helpful and full of so many guides to help you or you can always choose to seek professional advice or hire an accountant to make the whole process as easy as possible.

     

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    How to improve your domain authority (DA)

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    6 handy tax tips for bloggers