plonkee money an english-er's thoughts on personal finance

March 31, 2008

don’t forget to use your ISA allowances

Filed under: investment,savings — Tags: , , — plonkee @ 6:43 pm

If you have more money to put in your ISAs for the 2007-08 financial year, you have until 5th April to do so.

The allowed amounts are up to £3000 in a mini cash ISA, up to £4000 in a mini stocks and shares ISA, and up to £7000 in a maxi ISA (basically stocks and shares).

March 26, 2008

my top 5 excuses for paying too much for clothes

Filed under: shopping — Tags: , , — plonkee @ 12:00 pm

window shoppingI often feel that as a personal finance blogger, I should be more frugal in my purchasing. Although I don’t throw money away exactly, I’m also not a follower of some of the most basic “being frugal” advice that there is. This is particularly true of clothes.

I usually pay full price for my clothes from regular high street shops.

A real frugal person would buy there clothes second-hand, or at massive discount in the sales. Whilst I don’t spend much money compared to many of my peers, compared to the rest of the personal finance crowd, I’m afraid I’d be considered a spend thrift. Here are my top 5 excuses.

excuse 1: a deprived childhood

When I was a kid, up until about the age of 16, apart from my (revolting brown, beige and gold) school uniform nearly all the clothes I had were hand me downs. When it was dress down day at school I was always very careful to be wearing the nicest of the clothes that I had.

Although I don’t resent this, I did always want new *shop-bought* clothes. I still do. I know that this isn’t really a deprived childhood, but this is one of my biggest excuses for not buying from second-hand clothes shops. I feel that I deserve better.

excuse 2: I’m a funny shape

People that have met me will confirm that I am not an average shape person. I’m 5 foot nothing, and a UK size 14 (US size 10?). This means that I am too short for regular women’s clothes. In fact, I’m actually too short for regular short people’s clothes (more commonly known as the petite section).

I am the perfect height for age 12 children’s clothes. Sadly (since kid’s clothes are cheaper) I’m far from the perfect build for that. In practice this means that it’s quite hard for me to find clothes that fit reasonably well – I’m usually in petite clothes that I’ve hemmed myself for work. When it’s hard to find clothes that fit, you are basically stuck buying them even if they aren’t that frugal.

excuse 3: I’m picky

I don’t wear brown. (See above mention of school uniform for reasons why.) I also don’t wear double breasted coats, or pencil skirts, or shirts. Basically, I’m a fussy dresser and I’m not willing to think too far outside the box. I know what suits me and I stick to it. This does mean that I don’t actually buy that many clothes, but on the other hand, it’s another reason why I end up paying full price for everything. When you’re picky, there’s less choice.

excuse 4: I don’t like busy shops

A great time to get the same clothing for less, is in the sales. Unfortunately, I hate shopping in the sales. I hate it being busy, everything takes twice as long, and the queues for the changing rooms are enormous. It gives me so little pleasure, that I’ve almost stopped going to the sales completely. When I do go, it’s generally at the tail end. It’s quieter, but not much is left.

excuse 5: I can afford to

I don’t need to pay tiny amounts for clothes. I have no kids and a reasonably well paying job. Unlike when I was a student – and it didn’t matter – I can actually afford to pay full price for clothes, as long as I don’t buy too much. They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and with no necessity, and not a great deal of innate fashion sense, my frugal invention skills are under developed.

What do you think of my excuses? Should I try harder? Do you have any (justified or otherwise) excuses yourself for your own non-frugality? Let me know in the comments.

Image by mell242 

March 25, 2008

basic guide to Stocks and Shares ISA: conclusions

Filed under: investment — Tags: , — plonkee @ 12:38 pm

the guide to Stocks and Shares ISAsFor a while now, I’ve had a trickle of requests for a basic guide to investing in UK Stocks and Shares ISAs. As I want to go through things carefully, I’ve split all the details into several different parts, starting with thinking about yourself and what you want with the money, and moving into what there is available, and the nuts and bolts of products and investments.

Previously on the basic guide to Stocks and Shares ISAs:

what have we done?

If you’ve been following the series, you should be able to work out how best to invest your Stocks and Shares ISA allowances for 2007-08 and 2008-09.

We’ve covered your goals and timescales for your money, and the amount of money you have available. We’ve then talked about risk and the things we need to consider when relating risk to investments – especially asset allocation. We’ve also covered funds and providers that you might be interested in using to create your asset allocation.

If you use the ideas and tools in the guide, you will be able to make a reasonable attempt at defining your investment plan for your stocks and shares ISA, and a reasonable attempt is probably good enough for now. You should know what you want to invest in, and a pretty inexpensive way of doing so.

what next?

Open a Stocks and Shares ISA account with your chosen provider. If you know what you want to invest in (and I’d suggest that you don’t open one until you do) then it’s no more difficult than opening a bank account. Just remember to have the names of the funds and the percentages you want allocated to each written down correctly.

You can usually set up a direct debit or standing order if you want to invest monthly, or you can generally do a bank transfer or send a cheque if you’ve got a lump sum to invest.

Investing doesn’t have to be hard, and to a certain extent you can “set and forget” but just as regular shopping around for the best savings accounts will earn you more interest, keeping an eye on your investments intermittently will allow you to manage them better.

The most important thing to keep your eye on is your asset allocation. Different funds will grow at different rates so your investments will veer away from the percentages that you initially set up. This is ok, all you need to do is rebalance selling what you have to much of, and buying what you don’t have enough of. Rebalancing is one of the easiest ways to make yourself buy low and sell high – the surefire way to investing success. 

The final thing is don’t forget that if your investment goal has a specific timeframe associated with it (like school or university fees) then you probably want to start “lifestyling” it, and changing the asset allocation about 5 years out.

If you’ve got any more questions about Stocks and Shares ISAs, please let me know in the comments below.

PS The tax year 2007-08 ends on 5th April 2008, so if you haven’t used your Stocks and Shares ISA allowance yet, you need to get cracking on with it.

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