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The Harrington Brooks Blog

News, comment and views from the team at Harrington Brooks.

Get the best out of…your car

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

You probably spend more time in it than you think. But what’s the best advice on getting more out of your car? We’ve got some common, and not so common, tips on getting the best out of your car.

car

Tyres

An easy one to do. Keep your tyres inflated to the correct levels because if you don’t then your car needs more power and petrol to move. You can normally find the correct tyre pressure for your car either in the petrol cap or on the side of the passenger door frame.

If you can afford to, it’s also worth investing in premium energy saving tyres as the savings over time will pay for the extra cost with a better miles per gallon (MPG) range.

And make sure the tread on the tyres is legal using the 20p test. If the inner rim of the coin is visible when putting the coin in the tread then you may need to change your tyres.

Change your oil and spark plugs

Your engine is the heartbeat of your car. And its two most important consumable components are the oil and spark plugs. If you have the tools, changing your spark plugs is quite easy, though changing the oil is a little more labour intensive – and messy. Our advice is to make sure you change them at regular intervals. Oil you should change at least every year and spark plugs, unless you’re fitting the manufacturer plugs should be changed every 20,000 miles. Ask around at your local garage as they should be able to help.

Half fuel strategy

If it’s good enough for Formula One  drivers then it’s good enough for you. In order to get quicker times around a track some F1 cars will only fill up the tank halfway – because it makes the car lighter. The average fuel tank will hold around 50 litres of fuel. If you’ve ever weighed 25 litres of liquid you’ll know it’s not exactly light. So a lighter car can be better for your pocket. On a further note it’s always worth de-cluttering your car of any excess baggage,just so you’re not driving around with more weight and less efficiently.

Easy braking

What’s the first thing you should do to stop your car? It’s not hitting the brake, it’s taking your foot off the accelerator.  If you can anticipate the flow of traffic, read the road ahead and use your brakes less you’ll put less strain on the car and your brakes. Of course we’re not suggesting you anticipate last minute braking decisions, just those where it’s safe to do so.

Change gear at the right time

In case you didn’t know what that big dial on your dashboard is, that isn’t your speedometer, it’s probably your rev counter. It will have numbers from 1-8 with ‘x 1000 rpm’ displayed on it.   Why should you bother with it though? When you’re changing gear, assuming you’re on an even surface, you should change gear between 2000 and 2500 revs depending on the car. Or higher when going uphill. Changing gear outside of this range isn’t good for the car and also uses more petrol as you’re either over-revving or the gearbox needs more time to run in the most responsive gear.

Don’t drive when you’re angry

It’s like the other saying ‘don’t go shopping when you’re hungry’ as you’re likely to buy more based on your current desire for food. If you’re angry behind the wheel you’re likely to drive aggressively, speed and therefore use more petrol. If you have to, take a minute to relax before you turn on the engine. You, and your pocket, may feel better for it.

Monitor your drive

Some insurance companies offer lower premiums for those people that are willing to sign up to a ‘Telematics Box’, or commonly known as having black box insurance, for their car. It essentially monitors how you drive and feeds it back to your insurer. If they deem you to be a ‘safer’ driver then they will reflect this in your insurance premiums.  Some more details are on confused.com.

Always shop around and negotiate your insurance

Each year, when getting a renewal for car insurance it will normally have gone up. Shop for your insurance, rather than renew as more than likely you’ll be able to save cash, unless you’ve had an accident or points added to your licence.

Look to put high ticket purchases like this through a cashback account – you could get up to 10% back against some purchases. If your annual insurance is say £500, you can get back £50 to spend elsewhere.

Keep cool, but not under 40mph

Having the air-con turned on will use fuel. If you’re driving at speeds under 40mph it’s probably worth just opening your windows unless you’re driving through a tropical storm.

Having your windows open whilst driving over 40mph will increase drag and use more fuel. So it’s better in this situation to turn the air conditioning on.

April Fools’ Day Jokes You Can Enjoy For Free

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

It’s that one time of year when everyone can be just a little bit silly. Yes it’s April Fools’ day. But just in case you need something up your sleeve in order to play a prank then read on.

April fools

 

 

The upside down computer screen

One of the easiest yet little known functions on a windows PC or laptop is that you can turn the screen upside down with just 3 buttons. Pressing the control, alt and arrow down keys together flips the screen upside down. Depending on your network settings it may or may not work and you’ll need to make sure that the user is also logged on (i.e. they’ve not not locked their machine) for it to work.

 

Change the O and P keys on the keyboard

This needs a little more effort but nothing too hard. Simply prize either key out of the keyboard (by using a knife or something similar) and then swap them over. This is not recommended for laptop keyboards as the keys are much harder to replace! Then see how long it takes for the unsuspecting person to notice. This joke is even more effective if the person’s password includes the letters ‘o’ and ‘p’.

 

Cover the mouse sensor on an optical mouse

Again another simple yet effective prank which needs nothing more than a mouse and a post-it note. Assuming the mouse you’re about to prank is an optical mouse (those with a red light when you turn them over) then this will work. Simply tear off a strip of a post-it note and stick this over the red light sensor. The result is a functioning mouse which no longer moves.

 

Leave a note or other items in the boot of someone’s car

This one is a little more stealth but it has maximum impact. If you have a colleague or friend whose car keys can remotely open the boot of their car then you’re in. All you need to do is open the boot from afar and then leave a note in the car – such as “I know what you did last summer”. Alternatively you could leave other items in there which could cause maximum embarrassment too.

 

The iphone prank

We’ve saved the best till last. Anyone who has an iphone with Siri can be the victim here, depending on if they have bothered to change their security settings. As you know Siri on the iphone lets you tell it what to do. However what a lot of people don’t know is that the feature also works when the phone is locked. Assuming they’ve left their phone out, even if it’s locked, simply hold down the centre button and see if the phone lets you ask it something. If you hear the 2 beeps then you’re in. So you can either text someone a message or if you’re really naughty, you can set an alarm for 3am tomorrow morning.

 

By the way, if you need to flip the screen back up hold down control, alt and arrow up.

Register to Vote – And Improve Your Credit Rating.

Posted by Peter Kelly on

The 2015 General Election is on 7th of May, but 7 million people who could vote are not registered to do so – and that will be harming their credit rating.

Even if you have no interest in politics and have no intention of voting, not being on the Electoral Register can prejudice not only any credit applications you make; but also applications for insurance and mobile phone contracts; and it can extend to any application or vetting where proof and stability of circumstances is a factor.

Also, you may be one of approximately 3 million adult non-UK passport holders currently living in the UK. You won’t be able to vote at the General Election, but you can still register to vote for local and (if your passport is from the EU)  elections for the European Parliament. In fact, there are also local elections in some areas on 7th May.

Being On The Electoral Register Matters

Contrary to popular belief, there is no universal credit rating for which we all have a score. When you apply for credit, lenders request a copy of a credit report normally from one of the major providers and from the information held within, it helps the lender (or other service provider) decide if they are to offer credit or service at all, and/or at what rate or cost.

Among things listed on a credit report is whether you’re are on the Electoral Register at the address given in the application and for how long. Why does this matter? Well, it’s all about considering risk and someone whom has a more stable address to the extent they registered themselves at that address is a positive factor.

How Do I Know If I’m Registered To Vote?

You can contact your Local Electoral Registration Office (see below how to find this) or get a copy of your credit report; we recommend Noddle, which is free.

What’s The Deadline For The May 2015 Elections?

The deadline to register to vote in the 7th May elections is Monday 20th April 2015.

 

register-to-vote

How Do I Register To Vote?

You can do it by post, in person at your local Electoral Registration Office or online at gov.uk/register-to-vote or if you live in Northern Ireland at eoni.org.uk.

So also AboutMyVote.co.uk which publishes useful information such as registering if you’re away from home or moving home and details of upcoming elections. You can find out where your local Electoral Registration Officer is by using a post code search.

Harrington Brooks launches new Indebtedness Index

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

Leading debt management firm Harrington Brooks has today called for the next Government to implement a national action plan on personal debt, as it revealed the results of its first indebtedness index, a new barometer mapping the cause of personal debt across the UK.

  • Over commitment as a reason for indebtedness rises from 43 per cent to 57 per cent.
  • Lack of income as a cause for indebtedness falls from 27 per cent to 18 per cent.
  • Increased expenditure has decreased in significance as a cause from 17 per cent to 13 per cent.

man counting coins

Of those that provided reasons, over commitment was by far the biggest cause for people falling into financial difficulty in Q4 2014, with 57 per cent of Harrington Brooks’ customers citing this as the reason that they got into debt. This represents a 14 per cent rise from the Q3 2014 figure of 43 per cent – suggesting that the problem is only getting worse.

The index also shows a number of other interesting trends. The number of people falling into debt as a result of income reduction has fallen from 27 per cent to 18 per cent, a sign that the recent rise in wage growth, as announced by the Office of National Statistics, is starting to pay dividends in people’s back pockets.

Moreover, increased expenditure as a reason for indebtedness has also fallen from 17 per cent to 13 per cent, supporting the argument that the recent fall in inflation to 0.3 per cent means that the cost of living has become more manageable.

Matthew Cheetham, Chief Executive of Harrington Brooks, commented on the new figures:

“The trends revealed by the indebtedness index raise a number of interesting points. Over commitment is a rising problem across society, but incremental increases in lending and spending often go and noticed until it becomes too late with individuals suddenly unable to make the minimum interest repayments on purchases or loans. It is important that, as a society, we are not judgemental but instead recognise how incredibly easy it can be to lose track of one’s money.

Clearly, to continue to borrow when under financial stress is not the answer and therefore it is important that the individuals are able to identify the problem and seek advice in the early stages, before the problem gets out of control.”

What was keeping you awake on World Sleep Day?

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

 

woman not sleeping

A recent survey has shown that worries about your finances are most likely to keep you awake at night.  Among a list of things keeping us awake; financial/economic issues (28%) and work (25%) are the most common complaints.

The figures also revealed that sleep (87%) and financial security (84%) was a bigger influence on a person’s health and well-being than exercise, diet and an emotional relationship with a significant other.

The value of sleep was certainly high with 96% of those surveyed saying that sleep was important to them. Alarmingly though, 22% said they woke up between 5-7 times before their expected wake-up time. 21% woke up between 3-4 times and 40% woke up between 1-2 times. Only 17% of respondents got a full night’s sleep.

The survey was developed by a team of sleep experts at Philips. This was conducted in the US, Brazil, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and the UK on just under 8,000 people between January and February.

“Our report indicates how psychological factors can impact sleep, and how those factors can change depending on the times in which we live. Combating stress is critical to a good night’s sleep, but the toughest part for people is often just getting motivated to make changes.”

Dr. Mark Aloia, Senior Director of Global Clinical Research, Philips

You can read some of the survey data on the  Sleep Apnea site.

 

If you’re currently worried about your finances, have unsecured debts from personal borrowing and would like to speak confidentially to an advisor who can talk to you about the benefits and considerations of a range of debt solutions and personal insolvency solutions, then please get in touch by calling 0800 048 1764. You can also visit harringtonbrooks.co.uk to request a call back at a time to suit you. By requesting a call, you are under no obligation to use our services. Harrington Brooks provide solutions to customers living in England, Scotland and Wales.

Should you choose to undertake a plan or arrangement, there may be consequences to consider, including restrictions on future expenditure, lending and on your ability to obtain further or future credit. Fees, terms and conditions apply. For further information and advice please visit www.harringtonbrooks.co.uk.

The services that we provide may be available at no cost from other government and charity based providers. Further information can be obtained from the Money Advice Service at https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/articles/where-to-go-to-get-free-debt-advice

Budget 2015, will I be better off?

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

It seems that the each year we all wait to see what the Chancellor has to say about the state of the economy and whether or not his budget will affect our own pockets.

budget 2015

Some of the key points in case you missed them are:

  • Personal Tax Allowance, to go up to £10,800 from April next year. This means that you can now earn more, before your earnings are taxed.
  • The price of a pint cut by 1p.
  • Whisky and cider taxes cut by 2p.
  • No change to tax on cigarettes – meaning prices stay the same.
  • The scheduled increase on petrol duty planned for September has been scrapped which indicates that tax on petrol prices should not be increasing
  • Annual paper tax returns, for people who are self employed for instance, will be no more as the Government will look to introduce an online tax return and payments system within the next five years. Meaning you can pay tax at any point in the year and at various intervals.

Although not part of this budget the tax threshold (which is how much you can earn in a year before having to pay tax) is being increased in April from £10,000 to £10,600. And as of October the minimum wage is increasing to £6.70 per hour. So from a tax perspective, we’ll all be slightly better off and those on the minimum wage will be even more better off.

Whilst the Chancellor may have some time to plan for his budget speech, our advice for your budget is simple.

  • When you can do it, save what you can. It’s a good idea to have a buffer to help you manage should you incur any unexpected costs like a burst tyre or broken window.
  • If this budget can help some of you keep those few extra pounds in your pocket, make sure they stay there.
  • As the budget also included a new personal savings allowance, meaning the first £1000 of interest on savings will be tax free from April next year, there’s even more reason to save.

As this budget announcement is under eight weeks away from a general election some critics are arguing that ‘crowd pleasing’ policies will be featured to help swing voters.

Although he mentioned that there would be no gimmicks the Chancellor did, as you may expect, pull a few headline grabbing changes out of the hat. If they help the current Government stay in power then it may have proved to be valuable for the government and voters alike.

If you’re currently worried about your finances, have unsecured debts from personal borrowing and would like to speak confidentially to an advisor who can talk to you about the benefits and considerations of a range of debt resolutions and personal insolvency solutions, then please get in touch by calling 0800 048 1764. You can also visit www.harringtonbrooks.co.uk to request a call back at a time to suit you. By requesting a call, you are under no obligation to use our services. Harrington Brooks provide solutions to customers living in England, Scotland and Wales.

Should you choose to undertake a plan or arrangement, there may be consequences to consider, including restrictions on future expenditure, lending and on your ability to obtain further or future credit. Fees, terms and conditions apply. The services that we provide may be available at no cost from other government and charity based providers.  For further information and advice please visit www.harringtonbrooks.co.uk.

Council tax debts predicted to overtake credit card debt in 2015

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

citizens advice

Analysis by the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) estimates it will receive a growing number of requests to deal with people facing council tax debts.

The charity expects to advise on over 190,000 problems involving council tax arrears in 2014/15. This would be 20% more than in 2013/14. To put this in to perspective, in total Citizens Advice Bureau (England and Wales) advised 2.3 million clients on 5.4 million problems from October 2013 to September 2014. Changes to council tax benefits from April 2013 required some households to pay council tax – when previously they would have been exempt.

CAB’s predicted trend is something which some of our customers are already experiencing.

Castle Keep Law, our in house legal service for existing customers, confirms that high levels of customers are experiencing issues relating to council tax. The legal helpline are currently dealing with an average of 20 queries per day, from a customer base of over 70,000.

In January 2015 they received 543* council tax enquiries by post and indications are this will almost double in February. In October 2014 Castle Keep also experienced a spike, with 945 letters received. *This excludes email and text communications from customers.

Over 90% of Harrington Brooks’ customers currently require Castle Keep Law to handle issues relating to council tax arrears covering bills that date back to 2006 and around 80% of these issues are at bailiff stage. It’s clear to see that the predicted trend is already starting to take shape.

For customers on a debt management plan or IVA, council tax debts, for previous tax years, can be included on a debt management plan. However any council tax arrears for the current financial year, or that are in an arrangement with bailiff, cannot be included. Council tax arrears, for anyone entering in to an IVA, can be included for current and previous financial periods.

In comparison the CAB expect enquiries around credit cards, mortgages and unsecured personal loans to fall with credit card debt enquiries set to decrease by 12%. The report also reveals how debt problems reported to Citizens Advice reached a peak of 600,000 in 2010/11 which correlates with a spike in unemployment, a fall in real wages and the previous relaxed lending practices that lead up to the financial crash.

The predictions come in stark contrast against falling utility and petrol prices. Whilst signs that the economy is making small steps to recovery, the outlook from CAB points to people facing difficulty paying priority bills such as gas, water, electric and council tax. The CAB point out that in some cases the reductions are marginal compared to how prices have soared.  Energy bills are now 210% higher than ten years ago.

“There is a concerning shift in the kind of debt problems people are getting into. The mainstream debt problems of the credit crunch, from credit cards to loans, are morphing into even more troubling problems.  We’re helping people who are struggling to afford a warm home, keep a roof over their heads or put food on the table.” –  Gillian Guy, Citizens Advice Chief Executive.

It’s also worth noting that some utility providers, such as Severn Trent Water, also offer help to those who are facing problems with their bills depending on their circumstances.

If you’re looking to speak to someone about managing your finances, then please get in touch. We’re specialists in providing debt resolution and personal insolvency solutions and can provide a range of different advice, support and services suitable to your circumstances and preferences.

If you need legal advice in dealing with council tax issues, bailiffs or eviction then please contact Castle Keep Law or call 0330 102 0110. If you’re an existing customer of Harrington Brooks then you’ll get this for free as part of our service to you.

As with any change in your financial circumstances there may be consequences including restrictions on future expenditure or obtaining further credit so please consider this before committing to such an arrangement.

Forever Manchester’s 25th Birthday #FM25th

Posted by Kevin O'Donnell on

Forever Manchester turns 25 today celebrating in style with an event at the historic Midland Hotel in Manchester. All guests will be there supporting the charity while being entertained with Mancunian acts and fine dining.

Over the previous three weeks, we have dedicated our time fundraising in the run up to the event.  After hosting our own bake off and having numerous raffles, we’re proud to announce that we have raised £469.50 – A lovely birthday present for them!

In addition Harrington Brooks has also been nominated in “The Corporate Supporter of the Year” award category, which we’re all delighted about. Since September 2014 we have nearly raised £3,000 for the charity from a number of events such as abseiling, dress down days, caketober and bike rides.

Read more about our charity activity »

New Image 7

Insolvency Service to name and shame rogue practitioners

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

A move by the Insolvency Service will now see details of rogue Insolvency Practitioners (IP) posted online.

If an Insolvency Practitioner has fallen foul of industry guidelines then details of this will be made publicly available on the gov.uk website. Any reports that are published will remain on the site for a minimum of 12 months.

For details on current practitioner reports click here.

Anyone looking to complain about an Insolvency Practitioner can do so via the gov.uk site.

If you’re looking at reviewing your current financial arrangements with a Debt Management Plan (DMP), an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) or managing your debts then please get in touch.

As with any change in your financial circumstances there may be consequences including restrictions on future expenditure or obtaining further credit so please consider this before committing to such an arrangement.

Pancake Day and Lent, don’t be overspent – try a 40 day plan to save cash

Posted by Kalpesh Bhandari on

Pancake day, or Shrove Tuesday, was typically a day where people would clear all the food they had before 40 days of Lent. In modern times people usually give something up such as chocolate or alcohol. Basically anything that’s good or classed as indulgent.

Although you may not practice Lent, having an opportunity to reduce or give up a luxury item can add pounds to your pocket. Giving up an indulgence for any period of time is never easy. But if you try you might be surprised. See how much you could save in 40 days .

Chocolate biscuits – £6

wine and beer

Cutting back on beer and wine for 40 days could save nearly £50.

Two packs a week, based on the basic range costs, will save £6.

Lottery – £24

Assuming you play twice a week, over 40 days, that’s around £24 you could save.

Bingo – £50

Based on playing once a week, on average spending £10, this would be over £50.

Wine – £20

On one £3.50 bottle of wine each week you could save £20.

Beer – £25

A multipack of 20 cans of beer costing £10, assuming this would last 2 weeks, you’d be £25 better off.

Smoking – £40

Based on 3 cigarettes a day, which is roughly a pack of 19 per week, this would cost £7.45. By cutting back you could save £40 of extra cash. If you buy in packs of 10 this will be even more as the cost per cigarette is higher.

The savings add up
Assuming you gave up playing the lottery, alcohol and chocolate biscuits you’d have at least £50 extra in those 40 days. This would easily pay for some Christmas shopping later on in the year. Cutting back on bingo and smoking in the same period would save at least £90. This might cover the cost of an MOT and any minor repairs. The costs shown above may not reflect your own consumption but should give a basic idea of what you could save.

Saving a little each day can be useful

If you don’t happen to indulge in any of the above you can still look at saving some cash over the next 40 days. 50p a day will get you £20, £1 a day will get you £40 and £1.50 a day will get you £60.

Having savings or some form of financial safety net helps in the event of dealing with a cash crisis. This could be an unexpected repair bill on a car for instance. Having savings to fall back on can help you continue with everyday life whilst potentially avoiding any financial worries later on.

Whatever you try to give up, make sure that you save the extra cash. If you’re feeling really brave, go longer than the 40 days. In the meantime enjoy your pancakes. Good luck.