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Budget Building Made Easy

Why should you budget?

How do you manage your money? It’s no small feat to generate wealth from your earnings, but it can feel empowering when you finally make your money grow (again). You can manage this task manually, or take a shortcut with a simple, free and basic tool – our Budget Builder. Nowadays, the task of budgeting can feel dizzying, especially when your outgoings outpace your incomings. Use LifeMarket’s smart guide, tips and tools to regain control of your cash and see a newer, improved and financially-rewarding year ahead in 2020.

At a glance the benefits of budgeting are both rewarding and satisfying:

  • Manage more freely your cash flow.
  • Generate wealth now & into the future.
  • Shape the power of your finances.
  • Learn how to see it grow, and access more from the marketplace around you (i.e. buying a house, or securing a new car).

How to plan for an effective budget?

It runs under many titles: this is a household budget. All budgets serve the goal, but can achieve different outcomes. In essence, not all budgets were created equals. That’s because a budget, when effective, is a smart, though accurate, summation of your earnings and spending stored and recorded in one place. Usually, though not always, this requires some tech-savviness to navigate an Excel workbook – simply, a spreadsheet with an inbuilt logic capable of handling your requests. There are other tools out there, but we’ve designed one that clears away the dizzying asks of a clumsy spreadsheet and created a smooth, simpler one that automates the numbers for you.

What should I plan for in a budget?

Every budget will ask basic assumptions about your current financial wellbeing. You’ll need to know the nuances of your earnings and your total spending habits for a month – everything from household bills, to entertainment, to the stuff in-between.

A clever budget will tease out all sorts of costs, including:

  • mortgage or rent 
  • electricity
  • gas 
  • water 
  • any insurances 
  • any loans; personal, student or otherwise 
  • taxes 
  • any pet pay-outs 
  • or legal bills 

Setting goals in a budget

Next up, your budget will ask for goals.

A goal is both a target and an anchor to your budget-building. It’s the reward at the end of your hard work, but simultaneously can empower your savings with an incentive. Often this goal outlines a financial desire – whether you want to escape debt, or simply free up more cash.

What kinds of goals are popular with budgets? 

  1. Clear away debts.
  2. Pay-off the mortgage.
  3. Free up room to buy more.
  4. Improve your lifestyle.
  5. Reach general happiness and eliminate financial worry.

It’s important to approach goal-setting sensibly and to allow room for mistakes. Every personal budget tells a similar story of highs and lows. Sometimes your cash might grow, rewardingly; or, other times, it may stumble over the everyday costs of running a house, or having a family. Negotiating space for failure in your budget is a way to reap more rewards, because finances sometimes have to answer to a world outside of your control.

What is an ’emergency’ fund?

When you’re mapping out money, a contingency plan helps to circumvent the kinds of surprise upsets that can frustrate the development of your wealth. When preparing a budget, allowing room for unforeseen costs is almost always a must-have. It’s a common error in budget-planning, mapping out money for only the things you can see, or predict, but not for the things we cannot reasonably forecast.

Planning ahead in a way that accommodates to the unforeseen costs is referred to as setting aside cash earmarked for emergency funds. This is usually one of the early tasks of budgeting, ensuring a kind of buffer amount, that can answer to anything like faulty boiler repairs, unforeseen car damage, or general household upkeep.

Seasonality

Sounding out like a theory, seasonality is simply about how things change in time according to patterns. This means you may want to hold tightly onto your budget for longer than a few months, because statistically spends go through highs and lows depending to the time of the year. In December, for example, the disposability of your income might soar, where other, quieter months might secure you more in savings.

What are the ‘rules’?

Many people find online advice as an easy way to motivate their personal savings. A budget, or advice on one, is kind of like dieting. The web is a forum with sprawling advice that often competes with itself. That means that wisdom from one person won’t always apply to the next. Some ‘rules’ get more truck with the folks who can, in return, find the correct motivation from a style of budgeting that generates happy successes.

The 50/30/20 Rule… explained

In budgeting lingo, the 50/30/20 rule is a sought-after hack to enhance your money quickly and simply. This is a big-picture approach, seeing your financial projections at large, with details sacrificed as a sort of low-resolution image of your money. It’s a slick, easy categorisation of your finances under three sharply divided areas:

  • needs
  • wants
  • saving

It’s a rule that trains the focus of your budget. Rather than fritter away time on detailing a budget, this rule maintains that you should instead focus on these three areas. With your after-tax earnings calculated, you place 50% of your money into funding your monthly ‘needs’; 30% is dedicated to your ‘wants’, or extra spends; leaving, 20% to either tie up debts, or save.

This system may sew success for some, but its inclination to skimp on details and over-flatter ‘spends’ has caused it ill-criticism. Budgeting, learned from this rule, can work to reveal quick insights, or longer, detailed ones. It’s a matter of balancing and personal preferences.

Apps & Mechanical Thinking

If hands-on is less your style, then apps can handle the harder thinking around your budget. The app store is dense with free apps, where some are payable, that can manage your money.

How to create a budget plan

Whilst we talk you through the expectations of building a working, sophisticated and rewarding budget, LifeMarket’s very own budget builder pro will also guide you through the process in a simple, slick automated fashion to help focus your time, goals and money.

Our effective budget-builder has one simple motivation: to help you make the most of your money.

But, where do I start?

1. Organise the numbers

If you want an accurate takeaway, you’ll need equal parts time and patience to build a budget. Slowness, in measure, is a good thing. It can help clip mistakes and boost the accuracy and legitimacy of your numbers.

Next, gather essential paperwork. This is useful in the early mapping of your actual earnings and outgoings. If you base your research on official documentation, over educated guesswork, you’ll firm up more clearly the foundations of your budget.

Get copies of the following (to size up your outgoings):

  • at least three bank statements, or in that ballpark. Access at your bank electronically to find these, if the paperwork isn’t there.
  • household bills
  • credit bills, such as loans or other cards
  • pension contributions
  • any current savings
  • insurances
  • any other subscriptions

You’ll firm up your earnings quite fast by looking at:

  • your payslip/s.
  • any other avenues of income.
  • any benefits, or pension.

If you’re following along with our budget builder, it helps to use these figures to populate the fields in your ‘dashboard’. This phase is more conceptual than the rest, because you’re firming up numbers, rather than actioning anything.

2. Tally Earnings

Record your income, after-tax, and add-in any other earnings, too. This will shore up the starting point of your budget, telling you how your monthly cash looks and feels. Start with the cash that’s coming into your accounts, the money you earn or gain, before looking at your losses. This is a quick calculation on anything earned after-tax.

On the budget-builder, this step appears in the ‘dashboard’ under “What are my earnings?”. Simply populate both your actual income and pair it was what you predict it to be. This colours in more detail for you budget. Your totals will be automatically filled out as our builder does the math for you.

3. Understanding my Outgoings

This means getting a handle on your losses, or the things that eat at your monthly finances.

Your outgoings refer to the routine or extra spends that are deducted from your owned or borrowed money. Jot these numbers down, ideally in as much detail and accuracy as you can – the closer you can get to actual numbers, the better prepared your budget is to handle your cash. Pitfalls, commonly, allude to inaccuracies in your budget. These hurt your planning, precisely because you could under-or-over budget your money.

You can also use this time, and space, to figure out if you’re paying the correct sums (and not being overcharged for anything).

With our budget builder, you get detailed ‘zones’ to populate so you can trace accurately where your money goes. Record your figures, tightly. Go down to the closest penny. Because priority spends will vary between people, our budget builder doesn’t indicate areas that are more disposable than others. Instead, it helps you lay the spread of your outgoings, in order to decide later on the essential stuff. Consult your bills and statements from your earlier research and double-check your math (a total will be auto-populated for you as you fill out the zones in your budget).

4. Get to know your ‘Totals’

Once the sum of your income is firmed up, and your deductibles such as bills have been eliminated, you’ll see a final ‘total’. This is the cash you have left to carry you through the month.

Reaching a total in one fast equation: actual cost of deductibles – actual income = difference in £ value

The total represents the difference between outgoings and incomings, which is what you’re left with. The difference is an important figure and drives your budget’s success: if you’re in the negative, or losing money, you’ll need to revisit the previous stages. Adjust numbers, see areas of ‘fat’ in your budget, the kinds of hurtful excesses that can be lost or, at least, trimmed. Work toward a positive difference, or score. This is equivalent in being financially ‘green’, or set to earn a growth with your money.

On your budget builder, you’ll have keyed out the totals that have attributed meanings. This will tell you, essentially, if you’re going to win money, or lose it. The better you can nudge yourself toward the ‘green’, the happier your finances will look and feel.

You should keep a record of your budget as you try and achieve different financial goals. This can help you spin a desirables into an actual financial reality and one that wins you more cash for your future wealth.

Tip: the more detail you write into your budget, the more variables you open up. A variable is a value that can be tweaked. With this in mind, you can adjust your budget to play around with differences that score you even more savings potentials.

Need help with your budget?

When talking money, it’s a common criticism that saving up enough of it seems like such an ordeal. Yet, budgeting efficiently can sometimes answer to that desire to better manage your money. Taking the time to master your money is at the heart of LifeMarket, which is why we’re offering up our smarts and expertise to those wanting to get ahead. Here you’ll find our budget builder pro, along with tips to winning over more cash. It’s a quick downloadable, easy to edit, and free to save and travel with you. Using tools like our builder, can improve your money:

  • grow out more savings.
  • reduce fretful waste in your monthly plan.
  • reach for higher financial goals.
  • train your brain for money and learn how to master your own finance.

Clever Financing with LifeMarket

Become your own accountant with our free budget-building tool and see the truths that your money tells.

Within our builder tool, you’ll see a master ‘dashboard’ that controls all of your spending and earning, helping you discover how money talks.

 

Download our Budget Builder 

 

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Couples Dads Mums Renters Self Employed

Inheritance Tax, the full guide

A heavy, sinking sigh often introduces the issue of taxation. Civilian commentators, and their press counterparts alike, seem to unify in their frustrations about, in particular, the sensitive matter of inheritance tax. We all want to leave behind a legacy. It’s a bit of a slippery term – its definition almost fluid to the whims of modern politics. What can we learn about inheritance gifts? And how can we actually leave behind something valuable without losing out?

What is Inheritance Tax?

The current measures on inheritance can be crushing to loved ones receiving a gift. Whether the gift is moneyed in value, a property, or possessions, your family could pay 40% tax against their inheritance within 7 years from a loved one passing.

Meanwhile the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS), after challenging the complexities of tax talk, are eager to create change. In their consultation with the UK government, the OTS aspire to drive coherency in the design of tax. A cleaner, softer language in our tax structures would mean that those, in their older age, who wish to leave behind gifts can more easily understand the benefits of inheritance. It’s important that financial planning be an accurate exercise.

Despite the immediate reality of those who will have to pay Inheritance Tax each year, which is only small in number, the worry about it is far greater in the public imagination. This is confirmed by a spokesperson for the OTS and represents a growing stress for taxpayers who struggle with mismanaged expectations that can frustrate their financial plans.

There is a human story here. The common motif, caught in a sort of repeat, is a feeling of frustration, if not something worse. The drive to protect yourself financially, in the sense of inheritance, has become something of an incurable itch.

How does Inheritance Tax work now?

Inheritance Tax will only affect your gift (property, money and possessions ) if the estate meets the value threshold of above £325,000. And the circumstance of the beneficiary, the recipient of the gift, can change the outcome of their inheritance, especially if they meet the criteria for tax relief.

According to a BBC report, the estimated estates to become liable for this tax each year is fewer than 25,000, otherwise about 5% of the population. There is an obvious communication error between the immediate, and actual, expectations for a taxpayer and what the perceptions of their annual taxes might be.

“Reform”, the modern cry for change, is close by when we talk about death tax in the UK. It’s outgrown its whisperings, with more experts wanting to see meaningful, if thoughtful, change.

Tax exemptions

It’s not that easy navigating the exemptions of inheritance tax.

If an inherited gift is “written in trust”, such as the funds held in a life policy, then the value is removed from the estate of the deceased. In short, it frees up your policy’s benefit to be pay-out as a tax-free lump sum. You won’t pay anything below this value of £325,000.

Yet, anything above this sum, the minimum threshold, and you add a 40% tax after the value (so your first £325,000 isn’t taxable). Let’s write that into an equation (assuming your property is over the threshold).

                (Property value £ – £325,000) x 40%

If your home is valued at £450,000, where the tax threshold is £325,000, then you would pay tax on the value carried over the limit. In this case, you’d pay a 40% tax on £125,000 (worked out as £425,000 – £325,000). Your tax bill will equal £50,000 (figured out as 40% against £125,00).

In other scenarios, you can extend your threshold and change the allowance. This is normally the case if you nominate your spouse (or civil partner) as the party to access your benefit. If you choose another exempt beneficiary, such as a charity, you could also clip the tax outright.

Putting life insurance in trust can also skip probate, which would equal to a faster release of your policy’s funds to your loved ones. It can also help to ensure that your funds go more directly to your beneficiaries, as per your instructions, to limit funds lost to tax.

There is, generally, a 7-year rule on qualifying tax-free gifts. Parts of an estate can be gifted within this time and will be viewed as a “gift”, meaning that it avoids inheritance tax. Yet, this is subject to evidence, which is tricky to surface for 7-year intervals of time (where, for example, the likes of bank statements will only travel back 6 years.)

How could things improve?

Though rumours initially, now the forums are charged with hard protest-like arguments to shake things up.

The OTS have suggested a reform against the current design that tapers relief over time and, instead, suggests we move toward a higher annual gift allowance. This comes as a timely response to the rising apprehension amongst the British public over inheritance gifts.

To further intrigue, YouGov polled a sampling of the British public on what they call ‘tax fairness’ – an otherwise clever metric to gauge national opinion on the matter of tax. The tax type that, according to this poll, is least fair is inheritance tax. Interestingly, this is a uniform opinion that travels across political boundaries amongst civilian voters, from labour to conservative advocates. There is little dispute, where public opinions matter, that inheritance tax attracts negative perception.

Reactions

There’s always a face behind the story.

When we trade stories about inheritance tax, either in scenarios that cause financial upset, or moments of relief, it would appear to be an anecdote, or someone’s real experience. These connect well with us; emotions become excited with the good and disenchanted, or boiled, with the bad. The Telegraph, for example, published a four-part series on “loop-holes” that all vie into the personal life of Britons tackling inheritance tax.

These human stories always find a way in – to our feeds, our opinions, our emotions. Central to them is a message for practical change, whether offering up alternatives, design fixes, or by asking for the simplification of inheritance tax.

Tax by numbers

Indeed, these human stories speak, voluminously, to the shared upset and grief of tax. But what are the numbers saying?

In the FT Advisor, there’s a nod to the total inheritance tax bill bringing home £5bn in the UK. The 2018/19 financial year hauled in record highs, too (with receipts tallying at $5.4bn). Yet, its’ worth contextualising that against a relatively low number of people who actually pay inheritance tax.

Top Takeaways

  1. Estates valued at less than £325,000 are exempt from inheritance tax.
  2. Alternatively, tax relief applies to a gift left behind to a husband or wife, partner, charity or community club.
  3. As a general rule, a gift is exempt from tax if it is primarily funded from income rather than savings.
  4. You can figure out the value of your estate by adding up the financial assets (insurance pay-outs, cash in the bank, property/ land and other valuables the likes of cars) and deduct any debts or loans at the time of death.

Glossary

  • IHT is shorthand for inheritance tax (you won’t read it here, because we’ve kept the language clean, but elsewhere you may come across this abbreviated form).
  • Nil rate band (NRB) is a handle for a gift on inheritance tax that falls below the minimum threshold for taxing. This has been frozen for over a decade (or since 2009).
  • The Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB), or home allowance, is where you pass your home, or share of it, to your children.
  • Tax exemptions (or avoidance) is where your assets do not qualify for tax, meaning you won’t pay inheritance tax against your wealth.
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Couples Dads Mums Renters Self Employed

How to Climb the Property Ladder for the First Time

So, you’ve made it to the figurative ladder that climbs to new heights: your first home. It’s a symbol of success, or frustration, or some in-between common ground that negotiates between your hard work and anxieties. First time buying is an adult exercise tense with agony and, yet, filled with delight in equal measure.

First time homes

The stories we trade over our first home – what brought us here – are often troubled by the economic pains of getting there in the first place. Professionals often turn to labour, both a mental and physical effort, to try and match the pace of the housing market. Budgetarily, the luxuries of a lifestyle can be leaned by trimming the routine monthly costs and by building up savings. For millennials aspiring for their first property, however, there are seemingly few routes to owning a home.

If not the largest purchase, a house, or a home, has become a kind of discipline in financial planning. Saving towards that ideal property comes with a couple of caveats, or hidden truths, that first time buyers should be aware of.

Setting up expectations

We openly discuss the pain of house-ownership, of actually getting there, because it quickly becomes a causal part of the process. Let-downs, upsets and frustrations are inventible in the journey of searching for a property. We suggest setting up fair expectations, a kind of mental preparedness, so that you can steer away from disappointment, and visualise a property as an actual financial reality. The property search, as a process, will also delight you, especially when a house becomes a home.

Think Life aspires to help you achieve certain revelations, mostly financial, about getting home. The hurdles in the market, or the ones unique to first time buyers, include set-backs in finances, such as lacklustre planning, weak savings to meet the minimum threshold (for a deposit the average save is between 5% to 20%), or pre-existing debt (outstanding loans, for example). These issues all relate to a question of ‘affordability’. Your budgets should focus on comfortably answering to the kind of prudence required to enter the market.

According the annual English Housing Survey young people are buying into new homes – a new optimism is growing from economic activity – yet the average age of the first-time homeowner is gradually, if casually, on the rise.

The common pains

The common hurdles are roughly universal, with income being exhausted on rented accommodation, or redirected into passions like travel. Other costs, often invisible to the naked eye, can quickly build up, such as the solicitors free, valuation fees, removal costs, any surveying required, furnishings (and decorating) and the near-essential insurance to cover the mortgage.

It is crucial to save early on, and as often as possible, in order to build up a heavy deposit to place against your dream home. In this journey to buying a home – because saving up is a patient discipline – you should clean up your credit history, which essentially means working on a healthy record for borrowing money. Limit applications against your credit, ensure debts are tied up and tidy away your monthly outgoings so that your income is spent against justified pursuits. Knowing your monthly budget intimately is just one of the ways you can close the gap between yourself and a new home – this means being smart with your mobile phone contract, any TV portal subscriptions, or other spends that impact your reputation with money lenders.

Feel at home, not just symbolically

Closing in on home is not only about saving patiently over time, but also gaming economic initiatives to improve your odds. One way to conquer the housing market is to develop your knowhow on the schemes you’re eligible for. Saving, for example, isn’t merely a matter of aging your income well, but embracing Help-To-Buy ISA’s, or other helpful schemes, that can build up your money over time tied to handsome interest rates.

The government can become your ally with new incentives now springing up to motivate homebuyers into the market. Help To Buy, your new buzzword, is a hotly growing trend for first time homebuyers seeking out that added financial boost. There are two types:

  1. Shared Ownership, as the label infers, means buying into a share against your property (usually between 25% and 75% of the total value). The rest is paid via rent until you can afford a larger share.
  2. An Equity Loan is a kind of borrowable sum that means you pay a 5% cash deposit against your home along with mortgaging 75% of its value. The other 20% is gifted as a loaned value from the government.

Whether you’re researching your mortgage, or a more active buyer, there are useful wisdoms to take with you on your journey to buying a house and making it a home. In an optimistic forecast, the upheaval of buying a property is no longer a lonely undertaking. There are ways to inspire slow, if wanting, saving accounts to meet a basic deposit, just as there are new initiatives to embrace that can help nudge you that step closer to home.

Top Takeaways:

  1. Amidst the trading of advice online for savvy savings, the conventional truths remain salient to this day. The best, if worthiest advice, is to empower yourself with patience. The journey to finding your right property can likely be tough, so having appropriate expectations can be a useful guide.
  2. Research your options thoroughly. Not only are generous initiatives available to help you buy a house, but in certain scenarios you could be exempt from Stamp Duty. First time buyers can receive relief when searching for a property to call home.