Browsing "Home and Living"
“What type of Christmas shopper are you?” asks the new ‘How We Shop’ report from Argos.
According to the popular retailer, the average British consumer plans to spend £365 on gifts this Christmas. Remarkably, the country’s less affluent regions are the most generous with their spending, according to the report. The North East proves the most generous region, where shoppers fork out almost £500 on average.
Argos has examined the changing face of shopping in the UK as we ready ourselves for the final countdown to Christmas. With consumers fusing high street and online shopping, it has come up with a number of categories that describe the new combined retail experience.
Where do you fit in?
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That most wonderful time of the year (♪) is also considered to be the most costly for the average household due to the overwhelming cost of gifts, decorations, and food that is purchased.
Most families struggle to afford the holiday season, and only manage to get by with credit cards, loans, and overdrafts. Although it can be an important time of year to spend with family members and friends, the financial ramifications in the coming year can still linger and be difficult to repay.
To prevent yourself going into the red this Christmas, there are a few steps to take so that you only spend what you can afford.
Budget Your Gifts
The first step to take when planning for the Christmas holiday season is to make a list of Christmas gifts that you want to give. Write down a specific amount that you want to spend on each person and total the final amount to determine how much you’ll need to set aside.
Cut Out Some Luxuries in the Run-Up
Cutting out luxuries during the month of December as you pay for the gifts – although slightly painful to you – will help you afford the extra expense that you are undertaking. You don’t need to be going to expensive bars and eating out when you need the extra funds for gifts for loved ones. A little bit of self-control with yourself each day will really add up over the next few weeks.
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We’ve not yet reached the winter, but the inquisition about energy bills has already started. According to Citizens Advice, more than 3 in 4 people are concerned about their winter fuel bills.
This year, for a little extra festive spice, the finger has been pointed not just at the energy companies but also towards price comparison sites.
The Big Deal, which uses mass-market forces to negotiate lower tariffs with suppliers, has become embroiled in an almighty row with the price comparison marketplace.
But while this rumbles on, something more important has happened that could prove to be the genuine catalyst for competition in the market.
Faster energy switching has finally arrived.
Switching energy suppliers has always been an incredibly cumbersome process. Believe it or not, it can be quicker to exchange contracts on a mortgage than to arrange an alternative energy supplier.
Bosses at smaller companies have always been frustrated by this. If far more complicated products such as current accounts and mortgages can be switched more quickly, they say, why on earth can’t the energy industry do something about it?
Well, the breakthrough has finally occurred, ahead of what promises to be a tough winter. Energy giant SSE has now halved the switching time to just 17 days, with smaller provider First Utility also joining ranks.
It’s a change that’s been in the air for a while. Energy watchdog Ofgem said it hoped that faster switching would be in place by the end of 2014. There is little chance that all major suppliers will be co-operating by then, and the regulator is not known for its strictness over the major players in the market.
But what this breakthrough is likely to do is spark up genuine competition.
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For months now, a number of house price indices have told us that the market in London is on a very different plain to the rest of the UK.
The average price of a London home recently went above £500,000 for the first time, according to the Office for National Statistics, thanks to a 19% leap from the previous year.
By contrast, the nationwide average lingers behind at £272,000. Despite impressive house price growth in other areas of the UK, London continues to power away in a league of its own.
A new (and detailed) infographic shows us more about how prices compare between London and the rest of the UK.
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40% of homeowners believe they could do a better job of selling their own home than agents and save up to £6,000 on the cost of moving at the same time, according to a new property website.
John Candia, of the iProperty company, believes that with the right knowledge and a bit of effort, it will become progressively easier to bypass estate agents and make a considerable saving by listing your home yourself.
To find out more about how this is done, check out the discussion below with John and personal finance expert Holly Thomas. (We’ve condensed it down into a straightforward Q&A to make it easier to follow.)
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If there wasn’t enough concern already about MPs’ property interests, there should be now. Yesterday, members with interests in property closed ranks by rejecting a motion to improve conditions for tenants.
The motion concerning the private rental sector was submitted by Emma Reynolds, MP for Wolverhampton North East.
It asked members to ban letting agent fees, demand longer standard tenancies, and prevent landlords from making excessive rent rise during tenancies.
This House recognises the private rented sector’s growing role in meeting housing need; notes that there are nine million people, including more than one million families with more than two million children, now renting privately; notes with concern the lack of stability and certainty that the sector provides to those who rent privately; further notes the increasing cost of renting and the unreasonable letting agent fees levied on tenants; calls on the Government to bring forward legislative proposals to reform the sector by banning letting agent fees being charged to tenants and making three year tenancies the standard for those who rent their homes in the private sector; and further calls on the Government to act on unpredictable rent rises by prohibiting excessive rent rises during longer-term tenancies.
Parliamentary Debates, Wednesday 25th June 2014 (p. 13).
The vote was rejected by 276 votes to 226. As you might expect, the devil – or the conflict of interest – is in the detail.
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