Browsing "Guest Post"
Which4U is delighted to bring you the remarkable story of Anna Francombe, a former BRIT School star who was offered a place at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles. Despite being offered an academy scholarship, she still had to find $25,000 dollars for college fees on top of living expenses. What follows is a remarkable story of perseverance, learning, and discovery, for a talented young performer to fulfil her dream.
At the age of 20, I was offered a place at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles following a successful audition. I received a performance-based scholarship of $5,000 towards my tuition fees, which totalled $30,000 for the year. I was determined to go. It was my dream.
Firstly, I contacted the BRIT School for advice, and they referred me to the Obie Bursary. I presented my situation to the Obie Board, who kindly donated £2,000 towards my cause.
Next, I applied for a Career Development Loan from Barclays. At first they refused me based on my credit score. But when I checked my credit score and found it to be ‘Excellent’, I queried Barclays’ judgement and sent them a screen-cap of my credit score along with a letter of appeal. My appeal was accepted, and I was given a £10,000 loan – to be sent directly to the school each term.
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Money is pretty tight for the majority of people these days, but that doesn’t stop us wanting the newest bit of cool technology as soon as it hits the shelves. However, we all know that living beyond our means can land us in sticky financial situations, and no-one wants to be in debt just because they splashed out on a mobile phone.
So if you’ve been eyeing up the hot new Windows Phone 8-powered Nokia Lumia 920 but are a bit strapped for cash, you may want to consider investing in a slightly older and more affordable Windows Phone 7 model, such as the Lumia 900. So just what are the differences between the two?
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An ISA is a financial tool that allows you to legally avoid tax that would usually be paid on your savings and investments. In effect, a proportion of your money can be placed within an ISA each year, allowing you to opt out of paying tax on that element of your finances.
As you accrue interest, or make gains from your investments, you’ll find that you can keep all of the profits. There’s no need to make any sort of declaration referring to this income.
If you’re thinking about getting an ISA, then it’s worth knowing that they are provided in a couple of different formats. There are clear limits on how much you are able to legally invest within an individual tax year and these limits are known as your allowances.
The first type is what is known as a cash ISA. This is a type of financial product that is available to all UK residents, as long as they are aged 16 and over. Your maximum individual allowance for the current tax year (up to 5 April 2013) is £5,640.
Although you are only able to invest into one cash ISA each year, it is possible to carry your previous savings over on an annual basis. What this means is that you’ll be able to keep adding to the ISA. As a result, it’s actually possible to build up a substantial level of investment over time.
It is also possible to transfer your ISA savings, old and new, from provider to provider. This allows you to maintain the best rates, which rarely last longer than a year for variable rate ISAs. See more in our guide
You may prefer the idea of investing in a Stocks and Shares ISA, which is available to UK residents over the age of 18.
Investing money in a Stocks and Shares ISA means that you are effectively investing in the stock market. Any gains that you make as a result of this investment will not be liable for tax. Hence, this can represent a highly cost-effective approach to investing.
The total ISA allowance in 2012/2013 is £11,280 and though only half of this allowance can be invested in cash, you are able to invest that entire sum in a Stocks and Shares ISA. You’ll also find that there is plenty of flexibility within the system.
You might choose, as a result, to save some money into a cash ISA, with the remaining element of your allowance being invested in a Stocks and Shares ISA. You don’t have to use your full allowance.
It’s important to remember, however, that unused allowances do not roll over into the following tax year. In effect, they are lost for good.
Many cash ISAs, in particular, will allow you to get access to your money without the need to give much notice. This means that you can treat them in a similar way to a savings account, with the added benefit of tax-efficiency.
Despite the age limits that are in place getting an ISA, it is possible for parents or guardians to open a Junior ISA for children aged 17 or under. The current annual allowance for a Junior ISA is £3,600, although no money can be withdrawn until the child reaches the age of 18.
In order to ensure that you have the most tax-efficient approach to savings and investments, it makes sense to understand ISAs and the allowances that apply to you.
This is a guest post for Which4U provided in association with iCrossing Ltd.
Given the current economic climate, it’s more important than ever for small businesses to find ways to save money and stay competitive. Keeping costs down, maximising opportunities and monitoring expenditure are all essential to survival.
One route to achieving these aims is in establishing cheaper lines of communication with clients, customers and suppliers. Our money-saving communication tips feature below.
Some people still shy away from building their own website in fear of the cost and the technical demands. However, a website is now a vital tool for a small business and it’s not too challenging to build a site that is easy to manage.
Websites are a business card and business pitch in one: they allow you to promote, market, and sell a company’s features and benefits to a worldwide audience and establish an easy line of communication with potential contacts.
Keeping the content fresh shows that a site is current, relevant, and part of a dynamic business. Adding content also boosts search-engine rankings, which, in turn, drives more traffic and more custom.
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The decision of five major energy providers to increase prices before the close of the year is drawing attention to the energy and cost efficiency of UK businesses. The Business Energy Barometer commissioned by Business Juice collates statistics from 500 people responsible for energy in the workplace to find out their approach to energy.
The latest barometer discovered the following:
- That the majority of businesses switched their energy supplier in the last 12 months (61%).
- Over half are planning to switch again within 12 months.
- Businesses citing lack of time or motivation to switch could be costing a collective £867 million.
Knowledge (and the Lack)
Those who have switched within the last 12 months have certainly recognised the difference (the average saving for switching electricity suppliers is £868 in 2012). Almost two thirds of them (62%) plan to switch again in the next year.
But the barometer also revealed a surprising lack of knowledge. Stunningly, 4% aren’t sure about who their business energy supplier is – despite being responsible for this in the business. And a quarter (26%) aren’t entirely sure how much energy their business uses.
So, what have firms been doing to improve their energy efficiency?
- Using energy efficient lighting (65%)
- Energy-saving policies (57%)
- Considering energy-saving resources (52%)
- Improved insulation (49%)
- Attempting to make heating/air-con more efficient (46%)
What are they not currently prepared or able to do?
- Operate an energy management system (89%)
- Move IT to the cloud (61%)
- Generate their own renewable energy (48%)
- Designate a staff member to energy efficiency (42%)
Select the infographics to view the full-size images. The full barometer is available at Business Juice.
A guest post of behalf of Business Juice, in association with iCrossing Ltd.
A home is the most expensive purchase most people will ever make, making it vital that they obtain the best possible advice on house hunting. This means considering a range of factors, some of which will vary according to whether the buyer is a single person, a couple or a family. However, there are a few things which every purchaser needs to bear in mind if the ideal outcome – a home to cherish – is to be achieved.
Money, money, money
It’s vital that purchasers have a clear understanding of how much they can realistically afford; a mortgage broker will be able to help with this calculation and investing in the services of one is an extremely worthwhile action. As a general rule, most banks and building societies will lend around four times a buyer’s annual income, but that is unlikely to cover the entire cost of the house. That means considering, well in advance, how to raise a deposit. It’s also important to bear in mind that a mortgage is a long-term commitment, with repayments continuing for many years to come.
All houses great and small
Although it’s pleasant to dream of a country mansion with extensive grounds, the reality for most buyers is different, so inevitably there will be some compromises to be made here. Many urban terraces and suburban semis can feel somewhat cramped, especially for families, but even a small garden can make quite a difference. Since it’s likely that all the occupants together will spend considerable time in the living room, it’s important that this is not too small. Bedrooms can be shared by young children, but this may cause trouble as they get older, so two small rooms may be better than a single large one.
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