Welcome to the first official The British Maple: Home Sweet Home series post!
Before we get to all the exciting progress pictures, paint charts and Mr. BM vs Mrs. BM arguments about countertops (I know that’s what you’re all interested in!) let’s talk about money.
This will be our third ‘home set up from scratch’ so I feel like I am now at the intermediate level of homemaker (quite literally!) Having said that, the majority of my financial wizardry (more Worst Witch than Hermione Granger) is relevant to any situation.
We need to buy pretty much EVERYTHING (we have two beds and a vacuum cleaner to our names!) so shopping wisely is essential. Martin Lewis is my go-to for all money matters (he’s an annoying tit-head on the TV but his advice is pretty comprehensive, if not a little patronising).
First things first. I want to make it clear that I am not recommending any products, services or websites; nor am I advocating spending beyond your means. Please pretend that what I am about to write is actually just a casual conversation over wine and a bag of crisps (and for those that know me, you know its true!)
Mortgages: To Broker or Not To Broker
When we bought our first house, we trawled the internet for the best mortgage deal, blindly nodded our way through meetings with the banks’ in-house mortgage advisors and somehow managed to buy a house.
This time round, our situation was a little more complicated. Five years abroad proved a little too much for a lot of lenders to cope with so we sought the advice of a mortgage broker.
The only downside of using a broker is they usually charge a fee. I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for so we quickly bypassed the ‘free’ advisors in favour of Kellie from the Mortgage Advice Bureau.
In my opinion (and certainly in our situation) the service we got was well worth the fee. For those of you who haven’t used a broker before, here are some reasons why I would use a broker in the future:
- Mortgages can be confusing so having someone explain them in impartial, simple terms is very useful
- They have access to preferential rates from a wide range of lenders
- They can quickly and easily calculate a variety of options for you AND they can recommend which is best for your situation
- Their knowledge of the ‘quirks’ of different lenders is invaluable. All lenders prioritise slightly different factors when accessing potential borrowers
- They do the paperwork (and legwork) for you. Very handy when you have two nippers and no sleep!
The Big Stuff: How To Pay
Setting up home is expensive! New flooring, appliances, furniture, decorating…the list goes on. Fortunately there are lots of options to help you finance the big stuff – as long as you are sensible.
Mr. British Maple and I are very cautious when it comes to money but many others are not (that’s why Wonga and the such annoying adverts flood out TV screens every day)
0% interest is a great way of spreading the costs of big expenses like furniture, carpets, kitchens, etc. Be careful not to take out too many at one time, though. Spreading the repayment of one or two big ticket items is fine but any more and you might find your combined monthly repayments leave you too close to the line.
Buy now, pay later deals are good if you need to buy something but don’t have the cash to do so. Unlike 0% finance, these deals give you a period of time (usually three to six months) to pay off your purchase without setting up a monthly repayment. I admit, these make me a little nervous because it’s yet another way to encourage the consumer to spend more than they should and sting them when they can’t repay. Always make sure you pay off what you owe within the timescales otherwise you will be hit with extortionate rates of interest.
Interest-free credit cards are another option to make big purchases and spread the costs. I prefer this option to buy now, pay later for a few reasons:
- The duration of the deal tends to be longer (Virgin currently offer 30 months 0% interest on purchases!)
- You can choose from lots of different providers and pick a deal that suits you
- Most people are more familiar with credit cards and therefore more likely to regularly keep check of their balance
0% balance transfer credit cards are a blessing and a curse. If you are sensible and comfortable moving your money around, then these cards are great for getting a better deal. On the other hand, they can allow people to accrue way more debt than is comfortable (or repayable). They usually come with a transfer charge so shop around and see which deals are best.
Cash Back Websites
I was always quite skeptical of these (money for nothing?! Bulls!t) but it turns out they can be quite lucrative! Effectively, the cash back site acts as a pimp for other sites, driving traffic and hence increasing the £££s spent on said site. Consider the cash back as a share of their commission.
There are lots of sites (visit Money Saving Expert for a rundown of the top ones) but I use topcashback.co.uk ( I also used ebates.ca in Canada, FYI). If you do a lot of shopping online then take an extra couple of minutes and shop via a cash back site and see the pennies build up. NB. Don’t be dazzled by a hefty cash back offer; make sure you are buying the item or service because it’s right for you.
A WORD OF WARNING: I said it at the beginning, and I’ll say it again now; please don’t spend more than you can afford. Spreading costs is one thing but stretching yourself too far is more costly in the long run. Spend sensibly, my friends!
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