Housing benefit and LHA

Fortunately in this country you can never be homeless, if you ask for help you will surely get it. Councils all over the UK have been housing people for decades at the cost of the tax payer. Unfortunately the days where it was for hard up people are gone, as too many people have abused the system local housing from your council is on a long waiting list, you could be waiting years for a place to live. Don’t worry if you really need help there are other ways.

Did you know you can claim LHA a local housing allowance now instead of council housing or both even. As council housing has a severe shortage of housing applicants are being advised to apply for LHA instead. It means you can find a house or flat that you like in an area that you like and if you are a low earner or on certain benefits you will also qualify. You can get help with a deposit for the flat and grants to buy things like furniture and decorating the home. You can also be placed on the council’s waiting list for council housing in the meantime but if you qualify for LHA and your circumstances never change then it could be paid for indefinitely.

All councils have different limits you can apply for to pay for your rent, you also need to check how many rooms you are entitled to as well. If you are single and under 35 you may only qualify for the flat share amount, in this case you may need to pay the difference if you want a one bedroom flat instead of a house share. If you are a couple some councils allow you to rent a one bedroom property, if you are a single mum then children can also qualify for a room of their own.

LHA is changing so you need to check with your local council and keep and eye on things. If you are entitled to LHA or housing benefit you may also qualify for council tax benefit too, some or all of it may be paid in full. With many young people on low incomes or unemployed it is easy to lose independence so by claiming LHA they can live independently and out of their parents hair!

Haart conveyancing

When you buy or sell a house you will want to save as much money as you can in every way, one of the places where you can either save or lose is finding the right solicitor or conveyance for your property. We recently sold our house through Haart and were ‘sold’ on their conveyance package but before we did decide we got around 5 quotes to see what other firms were offering.

It’s always important to shop around as you may save hundreds just by taking the time to do so, to sell my 3 bedroom house the quotes ranged from £700 to £1,200 including VAT. Obviously it is tempting to go with the cheapest but that isn’t necessarily the wisest choice. As we were leaving to live abroad we needed a reliable conveyance and also one that wasn’t too expensive. Also if the sale was to not go through you still need to pay.

Haart solicitors operate a ‘no sale, no fee’ guarantee and as we already lost some money on the sale of the house we decided to go ahead just in case we lose more money. You have to pay a £60 admin fee and if the sale doesn’t go through that is all you will lose, you won’t have to pay a penny more. Unfortunately it is very misleading and this is how it really works.

Haart solicitors / conveyances
When you ‘go’ with Haarts’ solicitors you are actually paying Haart a £60 admin fee to find a solicitor / conveyance for you and none of that £60 goes to the conveyance. Also as our quotes was £750 only £300 of that actually goes to the conveyancing team, the remainder £450 goes to Haart. So on top of paying Haart £4000 when the house sells they actually get more money if you go with ‘their’ conveyancing team.

It is also misleading as there are other charges to pay, it is supposed to be all inclusive for money transferring, title deeds name transfer, land registry checks etc but it not and these charges will be added on to the supposedly ‘all inclusive’ fee.

They are very slow to start the process too as we had to fax the starter pack twice and then post it, in all we have lost around a month because of lack of organisation and poor estate agents who haven’t a clue what they are doing.

So if you do decide to go with them be aware that there are ‘hidden’ charges and also you may find that the whole process is up to 2 months longer than most other places.

Avon poor delivery service

For years I have been a loyal customer to Avon, some products that they offer are cheaper and better than other brands. They also continuously come up with new ideas and products that appeal to everyone. Whether you are a teenager, middle aged or older you will surely find products to suit both your skin type and budget.

The one thing I don’t like about Avon is no matter how much you spend you still need to pay delivery, most places nowadays offer free delivery if you spend over a certain amount but Avon doesn’t no matter how much you spend. Free delivery is always an incentive for buying but with Avon their standard delivery charge is £3.50 no matter how much you spend. I know it doesn’t seem like a lot but if you only need a few items and it comes up to a mere £20 then adding £3.50 to that doesn’t really seem worth it.

Avon free delivery
Of course you can always contact your local representative and have them deliver it for you free of charge but I find that they are not always reliable and delivery can take weeks in some cases. Also I have had problems with free gifts that are also supposed to come with certain products, they are not always guaranteed through your local Avon representative. Ordering online is easier and also stock is guaranteed.

Avon poor delivery service

On the last few occasions that I have ordered Avon products I have found that the box that it all arrives in is damaged completely, not a squashed box but ripped open. When I called them and complained they said that there was nothing they can do! The call centre is in India so beware, then customer service said to check the box and if anything was missing they would replace it free of charge. I had ordered £200 worth of Avon products, I was very tempted to call and say half of the items were missing but then I was afraid that Karma would come and bite me in the bum so I didn’t. Looking back if I had the time I would have tried my luck but I am very disappointed in Avon for not taking action.

Also Avon does not let you order more than £200 worth of goods at a time if you go over you need to call customer service. I know it seems like a lot of money but I order for my mum and other family members so we don’t all have to pay the delivery charge, plus I am A-List member and get many products cheaper than those who are not. One of the Avon moisturisers that my mum uses is £25 so buying a day cream plus a night cream already costs £50 it’s very easy to spend £100 without realising especially when you are tempted with so many offers.

Cheap nappies

Raising a family can be expensive as we know but with a little organisation and careful planning you can have a family on a small budget. One thing that all families cannot go without are of course nappies. Most young children are in nappies until the age of around 2 years old but you may be lucky enough to be able to potty train by 18 months, nonetheless nappies are expensive and an essential necessity that all families will need plenty of.

How to buy nappies cheap?
Many expectant mothers make the mistake of ‘stocking’ up on nappies but this is unnecessary and can be expensive. It’s expensive because you may stock up on one brand and your child may be allergic, also babies grow very quick so they may also out grow them quicker than you think so you’ll just be wasting your money by buying too much. ‘Stocking’ up is also unnecessary as you will find that there is always a supermarket or store that has them on ‘special offer’ unless you are running there is no need to buy some ‘just in case ‘or because you ‘might need them’. Buy nappies only when you are on your last box and remember to buy one size up if your child is approaching the maximum weight of the size nappy that he or she is wearing.

Re-useable cloth nappies
One way to save money on nappies are to buy re-useable cloth nappies, they can save money on the long run but many are put off with washing and the general car of having cloth nappies. Here in England you can get money towards using cloth nappies and this is usually a big incentive for most parents to give it a go but there are many people that prefer the convenience of disposable nappies as it is the easier choice. Also as England has unpredictable weather washing and drying clothes and nappies on a regular basis can get expensive if you need to switch on the heating just so they can dry. Some people still prefer to hang out their clothes to dry as it is cheaper than having a tumble dryer as they consume a lot of electricity and can also ruin clothes if the setting is wrong.

Whichever you decide, cloth nappies or disposable remember that you can always save money if you really want to!

Over the counter medicines costing more than NHS prescription

Each item on an NHS prescription costs £7.40 irrespective of their actual prices. This means that if you were to get something which costs £10, you would only pay £7.40 if it was on a prescription but the same applies if the medicine you were after costs less.

After a visit to my GP, I was prescribed an anti fungal shampoo called Nizoral and the GP said that it is available off the shelf and it would be better if I get it over the counter than her putting it on an NHS prescription. However when I went to boots, I had to pay £9.60 for the Nizoral shampoo and because I had already asked the guy to bring it over and already tendered my money, I thought it had to be same price everywhere and the GP was obviously mistaken. I was not very happy about it and decided to enquire about it later.

Onc e home, I thought I had 2 options; one was to go back to the GP and asked her to put the shampoo on a prescription and the other was to return the item to Boots and get it somewhere else cheaper. I saw that other supermarkets were selling it for £6.80 and obviously Boots was ripping me off. The problem was that on the day that I purchased the shampoo from Boots, their payment system was down and I had to pay cash and didn’t ask for any receipt because it would have taken much longer, waiting for their system to get up and running again. So I couldn’t just go back and ask for a refund without any receipts and decided to just count my losses but learn from my mistakes.

To sell this item £3 more than other places is a rip off to me because it’s nearly 33% more than what it should be. I think Boots knows that some medicines which are available over the counter will not be put on NHS prescriptions by GPs and they put up their prices to make a profit on innocent people because not many people will go back to their doctor and ask them for a new prescription or will go other places to check prices for convenience purposes and to get their medication faster.

Price matching

You may have noticed that many retailers now offer a price matching guarantee to many products they have to offer.

What is price matching?
Price matching is when you see a product cheaper elsewhere and the retailer you purchased the product from at the higher price gives you a refund for the difference. For example you buy a lawnmower at Homebase for £80 but find the same thing at B&Q for £70.

Some places have strict requirements so you may not always be able to guarantee a price match elsewhere. Some places will state clearly that if a store is currently having a sale then they cannot price match the product.

You can always try your luck and search online as many online retailers also offer good value for money by choosing them over high street chains. Print out the webpage and take it along to a retailer where you can get the cheaper price rather than the store price.

I have also found that some stores are charging online customers less than what is advertised in store. For example a little while ago I wanted to purchase windows 7 but in store it was selling for £30 more than online. When I queried this I was told that I should have ordered it online and picked it up free in store, but they do not offer this option to do this online for this particular product. Luckily the manager in store accepted to price match the online price and I got it £30 cheaper.

Price matching is a good way of saving money before and after purchase as you usually have up to 30 days claim back. You can use price matching before you buy as a precautionary measure, for example I wanted to purchase a car seat from Mothercare but found it cheaper elsewhere. The cheaper deal was with a company I was not familiar with but Mothercare agreed to price match and I saved £50 on my new car seat.

You can use online comparison sites to price match too, so if you go to Asda but find that Tesco is offering the same product for less you can go to customer services who will be more than happy to give you the difference back or deduct it from their current sale price.

Apple charging customers to play free games

Since the launch of the iPhone it looks like most people have converted and started using Apple instead. Then with the launch of the iPad many decided to fall into this trend too using it for various reasons but what happens when you let your children play ‘free’ games on your iPhone or iPad? Apple created many apps that are free to download and use the most popular ones being free games that can be enjoyed by both children and adults. I have noticed how people with children happily hand over their mobile phone to their kids to keep them from having a tantrum but what happens is in time they realise that there is so much they can do on mobile phones nowadays that parents simply give in to their children.

Apple ‘free games apps’
There have been a few reports that were released last year as many parents who own an iPhone or iPad were shocked to see that their bill was up to £200 more than it should be. After calling their bill provider it was found that the so called ‘free games’ were racking up huge bills unbeknown to the mobile phone owner and bill payer. Games such as Smurfs, Tap Zoo and Zombie Farm are the worst offenders when it comes to charging and as children don’t understand they unknowingly purchase items that they think is just a game.

You may wonder how it’s possible for children to make such a mistake but the problem was because if you had previously entered your password then it gets saved and you don’t need to enter it again so children are free to purchase things in their gaming session. Apple has now changed the security settings so that you need to enter a password each time you need to make an in-app purchase.

I for one do not understand why children need to have access to such expensive gadgets when they have toys and other consoles to keep them entertained. All Apple products are expensive costing hundreds of pounds and if parents are stupid enough to let their children play with them then it’s their own fault!

Online shopping scam websites

With more and more people turning to the internet to make purchases there are many things you need to look out for to make sure it is safe. I have been shopping online to make the majority of my purchases for the last 8 years but internet security has improved a lot in the last three alone.

How to stay safe with online shopping?
Most people shop online for convenience, now you can order and have items sent to your workplace, a long time ago you couldn’t set up an address book with different addresses so you could choose someone who would be home to sign for your delivery. You also needed to pay additional charges if you were not home when a courier came to deliver your goods, now most places try to re-deliver up to 3 more times for free, then they charge you if they are unsuccessful.

Some people shop because they find a reputable website that sells goods for a competitive price so instead of driving to a store to buy what you need without any guarantee its in stock you can order it online for home delivery or check stock and reserve it for in-store collection. Those who have commitments such as childcare or are carers also find it useful to be able to order anything they want online and have it delivered.

  • When you find what you want and think it’s a good price just do a quick search to see what other retailers are charging for the same item, it gives you an idea of how much is reasonable to pay
  • If you are happy with the price on our chosen website then do a quick search to make sure that they have good customer service, delivery and are recommended by other satisfied customers
  • If you find that reviews are satisfactory then proceed but if the total is more than £50 or £100 pay by credit card for added protection

PayPal is also a safe way to pay with many online retailers signing up to use this as a method of payment. If you were to have any problems with a company you can get your money back quicker than if you used a debit card.

There are so many personal blogs on the web with people writing firsthand what they experienced, there are also other websites that are for reviews only and are unbiased and written by those who are happy or unhappy and want to share their view with other potential customers.

How to save money on prescriptions – pre-payment certifcate

As April approaches prescription charges are bound to increase again as they have done every year. As the rest of England are penalised and have to continue to pay for life saving prescriptions Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish residents do not need to pay a penny. Scotland has just announced that they plan to scrap the prescription charges so that all their residents will be entitled to free NHS drugs regardless of age, status and employment.

The rest of England will have to continue paying for prescriptions that cost £7.20 for each item dispensed. There are some people who are not usually ill and don’t have to worry about the cost of medicines as they rarely visit the doctor. In some cases if the doctor finds that it will cost too much money for the patient they advise buying over the counter instead as most items are usually available both on and off prescription.

Save money with a pre-payment certificate?
If you find that you need NHS drugs on a regular basis and cannot buy them over the counter where it is sometimes cheaper you may have heard of a pre-payment certificate. Available for 3 or 12 months you are covered for the duration the certificate is valid for, no matter how many times you need a prescription.

A 3 month certificate costs £28.25 and will only benefit you if you need four or more items within three months. A 12 month certificate costs £104.00 and will only benefit you if you need more than 14 items in 12 months. I personally need 4 inhalers a month at a cost of £28.80 by purchasing a PPC I will save as much as £58.15 for a 3 month PPC alone or £241.60 for a 12 month PPC.

If you find that you become ill all of a sudden and require medicines on a regular basis you can pay for your medicines but ask for a receipt and refund form FP57 you must do this at the time the medicines are being dispensed and not a later date. You then have up to 3 months to claim the money back if you go on to purchase a PPC,  just be sure to back date it to the date you had to pay for prescriptions so you can obtain a refund.

There are exemptions such as if you are under 18 and in full time education, over 60, have a low income, are pregnant and certain other medical conditions. If you fall into these categories then you do not need to pay, you can get help if you think you need it by contacting the NHS or asking your GP for advice.

Free prescriptions in Scotland

The Scottish have been battling to get free prescriptions since 2007, well before the credit crunch but now as many of us down south have to tighten our belts the Scottish Parliament have agreed to allow all patients North of the border free prescriptions. Currently for the rest of us in the UK, excluding Northern Ireland and Wales, people under the age of 18, over 60, have long term conditions, are unemployed or claim benefits are entitled to free prescriptions. Everyone else who does not fall into any of the above categories have to pay £7.20 for each item.

When Labour were in power they promised to offer patients of long term conditions free prescriptions even if it was for a short period of time but when the Coalition took over they scrapped it with. Currently the charge for NHS prescriptions in Scotland is £3 compared to £7.20 for the English.

Free services is Scotland

There are many differences to living in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK, in some ways you are better off there, here is what you can benefit from if you live far up North:

  • Free prescriptions (from April 1st 2011)
  • Free eye tests, otherwise an average cost of £19
  • Free care in old age, you have to cover it yourself if you have assets of more than £23,000
  • Free university education, it’s still free if you go anywhere else in England but up to £9,000 for everyone else

When Wales abolished the charge for prescriptions many people flocked there to claim free medicine known as ‘prescription tourism’. When the change goes through with Scotland English patients will try their luck there too. You need to be registered with a Scottish GP to qualify but if you live close enough to the border then there’s nothing to stop you.

Many people who live outside of Scotland and Wales are outraged that they Scottish have different rules for themselves when they are still part of the United Kingdom, again it’s a postcode lottery and those who have illnesses that require medication on a regular basis and masses of it are the ones that are suffering. It’s also unfair that the unemployed can claim free prescriptions, reduced transport costs and free dental treatment when most of them are fit and able to work.

Currently there is nothing we can do but if you need prescriptions on a regular basis you will save a lot if you purchase a pre-payment certificate. They are valid for three or twelve months and during this time you can have unlimited prescriptions. Currently a 3 month PPC costs £28.25 and a 6 month PPC costs £104.00.