The Growing Your Money Guide

One of the things I’m always very conscious of as a parent is our family’s finances. These are challenging times for the UK, and there seems to be growing conjecture that times are about to get even tougher. Whilst I try not to worry too much about the wider economic issues that are largely beyond our control, it is important to me to try to keep our own finances under control.

finances, general life, investment, money, saving

If at all possible, there are two simple things you can do to help secure, and safeguard, your family’s financial future. The first is to put aside as much as you can each month. Then, as a second step, it makes sense to ensure that these savings are working as hard as they can. In terms of the latter, it’s easier said than done given that interest rates have absolutely plummeted over the last decade. Nevertheless, there are still some ways in which you can get a bit more bang for your buck.

Best interest deals on savings

The Santander 123 account used to be a real winner with an interest rate of 3%, coupled with some cashback offers on bills. Unfortunately, this rate was cut in half at the end of last year, although 1.5% is still one of the better deals out there. Bear in mind though that this has a £20,000 limit, and there is a monthly fee of £5.

Further afield, Bank of Scotland’s Vantage account offers 3% interest on accounts with £3,000-£5,000 in them, while Tesco offers 3% interest on the first £3,000 savings. Effectively you can take advantage of this for savings up to £6,000, since you can open two accounts per person with Tesco. However, perhaps the stand out option is the Nationwide Flex account, whereby you earn a more impressive 5%, but only on a fixed amount of £2,500 for 12 months (be warned; it then drops down to 1% thereafter).

Another smart way to earn good interest is to use a Help-to-Buy ISA. This is an account for which prospective first-time homebuyers are eligible, and has a built-in 25% bonus scheme on contributions. Aside from the bonus, interest rates are also more competitive than most, with Barclays paying 2.27% for example.

Switching bank accounts

It may seem like a pain, but switching bank accounts is actually easier than you think. Thanks to legislation passed in 2012, the onus falls on the new bank to make all the necessary arrangements like switching direct debits etc… All that’s left for you to do is follow a few easy steps, and it should all be done within seven working days. 

And the good news is that there are some very good deals on offer to those willing to switch account providers. For example, you can earn £100+ from the likes of Co-op or First Direct. Halifax’s £75 is nothing to be sneezed at either. TSB offer a package deal too, whereby you can earn £10 a month by switching to the Classic Plus account, with 3% interest on top of that on the first £1,500 you put in.

finances, general life, investment, money, saving

Peer-to-peer lending

There is another option to growing your money, which, it must be pointed out, is not quite the same as savings accounts. Peer-to-peer lending offers returns of up to 5% to those willing to lend their money directly to consumers in need of a loan, via an online platform. It sounds risky, and it must be kept in mind that there is no cover offered on these loans by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, as there is with ordinary bank accounts.

However, platforms do go a long way to safeguarding the funds of lenders. Borrowers are strictly vetted for creditworthiness, so you aren’t lending to just anyone. They also set aside provision funds to cover any arrears and defaults on repayments. And some have even gone the extra mile by setting up an insurance to supplement this; one which pays out for typical borrower default reasons like accident, illness, unemployment; along with darker forces like fraud and cybercrime. It therefore isn’t risk free, but historically returns have been stable from FCA-regulated platforms. So if you are willing to look slightly further up the risk spectrum, it could be a good solution for you.

However you decide to go about things though, what’s important is to be open to, and aware of, all of the various options available out there. That way you can make the most educated decision possible on the best choice for you, in order to make your family’s savings go that much further.

*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

June: Activities at Home

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A Typical Week in Home Education?

In reality there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ week for us, we are interest-led and we tend to go with the flow as we feel this suits our needs as a family. The freedom to do this is one of the many reasons we love home educating. I will share more of our personal educational philosophy sometime but that is really a separate subject so I will leave it for now. However, this post aims to give a flavour of the type of thing we might find ourselves doing and a rough gist of what our week might look like. So here is a brief summary of our week:

Saturday

In the morning Squiggle played outside in the garden with her dad. She also picked some blackberries then helped to clean and feed our rabbits. After this we decided to head to the seaside at Southend for the rest of the day.

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Playing on the beach
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Collecting seaweed
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Paddling in the sea

Sunday

We spent some the day at home then decided to pop to Milton Keynes shopping centre for a little while (where she particularly enjoyed the caravan show and studying the inside of a working clock)

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This is the model plane she made at home

Monday

We went to London Zoo for the day.

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We enjoyed seeing the star fishes and seahorses in the aquarium
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Iguana in the reptile house
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The gorilla striking a pose!
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Petting farm
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Squiggle spent a long time playing in the water fountains with an acorn. She had fun designing a science experiment to see which fountains could hold the acorn up in the water. She did lots of investigating how easily the acorn moved in the little stream as well.

Tuesday

We played at home for a while (self- directed learning) then we decided to go to Paradise Park for the rest of the day.

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She decided she wanted to play with some coins that had been left on the table so this led to learning to recognise and sort different coins. We also had a discussion on the value of things.
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Watching how the otters behave
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We enjoyed watching the white tiger take a bath

Wednesday

We had planned to go to a local park to meet up with some friends in the morning then we also went to Leighton Buzzard park in the afternoon.

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Fleetville park
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Counting the shapes then setting the dial to the correct number
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Developing her climbing skills and confidence
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These stepping stones wobble to make this more challenging.
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Balancing skills

Thursday

We stayed at home today so I produced a hidden parcel that had arrived recently, which she was very excited about. It was a zip wire for her hex bugs! This of course inspired her to play with these for sometime, including lots of exploration and discussion about how they work. Activities she later chose included playing Reading Eggs and Maths Seeds on the laptop.

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Hexbugs
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Maths seeds

Friday

Most of our day was spent at the scout hut for art group then ‘meet up and play’.

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Exploring clay at art group
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Doing scratch art