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Personal finance expert, Holly Thomas answers your questions

(30 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 01-Mar-11 14:13:41

Are you looking for ways to get more for your money? Travel rewards scheme Airmiles has teamed up with award winning personal finance journalist Holly Thomas from the Daily Express to answer your questions. With over ten years experience providing top tips on personal finance issues, Holly is happy to answer questions on all areas of money saving and will be offering tips on shopping wisely.

Send your questions to Holly before end of day on Sunday and we'll link to her answers from this page next week.

LemonDifficult Tue 01-Mar-11 22:10:34

Hello Holly

My question:

How can I get fuel cheaper? Kerosene, Gas Oil, Diesel - they're killing our family spending.

I can cope with the electrics, I know how to turn off lights and so on, but what can we do about cooking/heating/getting to work? We're rural so really have no choice about getting a bus.

I'd love to get a more efficient boiler (though ours is really not bad) but we can't afford it.


nowit Wed 02-Mar-11 13:05:26

Hi Holly,
We are about to come to the end of a fixed rate mortgage 5 year plan. Our % rate will drop along with our payments, but in this climate, do you think we should try and get another fixed rate or cross our fingers and stay with our current lender?


southlundon Wed 02-Mar-11 13:56:17


I buy my 2-year-old son's clothes for nursery from Primark because they are so cheap but I feel horribly guilty when I do because I don't trust their ethics record.

Trouble is, my husband's just been made redundant and charity shops are few and far between where I live and often don't stock my son's size.
How else can I buy cheap clothes but also keep my conscience clear? blush

Thanks very much in advance.

fruitstick Wed 02-Mar-11 14:49:58

I am self-employed (Freelance) and haven't made any pension contributions since June 09 (when I left permanent job). I have been in my previous company pension for 13 years.

How much should I be saving theoretically every month into a pension so I don't retire penniless. I really don't feel I can afford it at the moment but know I should probably just bite the bullet and find a way.

BoSho Wed 02-Mar-11 15:04:09

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ethelina Wed 02-Mar-11 16:22:41

We will shortly be going down to one wage as I will not be returning to work from Maternity Leave.

Can you suggest a good budget planner to allow us to plan for day-to-day outgoings?

missusp Wed 02-Mar-11 17:11:28

Not a question but a tip.
Do your grocery shopping online. Save £££ because I plan the weeks menu, only buy what I need so little or no waste and save fuel (how much shock). I sometimes have to pay for delivery but this is easily offset by what I have previously wasted or bought on impulse!

sobloodystupid Wed 02-Mar-11 20:20:22

dh works part time (not thru choice - and will soon be let go about 4 months time. he will do all childcare if he can't find work ,as I work full time and am relatively well paid. How do we work out if it is better financially that he doesn't work(am sneakily hoping that it is as he is better childminder, cook, cleaner etc than me!)

Lauri22 Wed 02-Mar-11 21:10:41

Another grocery tip: do your weekly shop in a smallish store instead of the local jumbo Tesco. Its the same effect as the above poster mentions - the total spend will be less because you are not tempted to buy dozens of unnecessary items

NonnoMum Wed 02-Mar-11 21:38:22

Maybe a bit unethical but needs must when it comes to faaamlee.

When the CB changes come in, we will just be around the cut off point.

DH is only a teacher so we aren't exactly rolling in it and the CB goes a long way with our 3 kids (4 if you include the teenage DSS but we won't go there as no bearing on CB).

I heard something about making extra pension payments or something to keep under the cut off point?

Any advice?

thank you

DinosaurRumpus Thu 03-Mar-11 11:43:08

I second LemonDifficult's question about heating oil. The cost is crippling us at the moment. We too are rural so no gas supply to village.

My husband's company have gone down to a 3 day working week due to lack of work so I'm watching with interest the questions / replies here....

goldenticket Thu 03-Mar-11 12:00:21

Is there anywhere on the web that has an impartial "Dummies Guide" to pensions? I've got my head firmly in the sand about mine because I just do not understand them. Any advice very gratefully received smile

Also, if I;ve got an offset mortgage, is there any point in me having separate savings e.g. an ISA or does that totally defeat the reason for having the offset??

vickibee Thu 03-Mar-11 14:34:17

Can you please explain the cahnges to child and WTC from april. Will we all be much worse off than last year all other circumstances remaing unchanged? (income childcare costs etc)There is no info available on HMRC website. it just lists changes to the elements which means nothing to most people

raiseaneyebrow Thu 03-Mar-11 14:36:53

Hi Holly

I want to get a pension (I'm self-employed) but genuinely have no idea how to get one. I don't really trust pensions advisers not just to sell me the one that nets them the highest commission.

So how should I go ahout choosing a pension - or would I be better off with ISAs for example? Can I cash in ISAs when the time comes and buy an annuity?


cornerstone75 Thu 03-Mar-11 15:56:44

Dear Holly,

Not sure if this comes under the remit, it is personal finance!

We are currently renting and letting our previous home which we had outgrown. We want to sell up and buy a permanent place in the next few months.
We are about £15k in debt for various reasons (studies,childcare costs etc) and we are thinking of selling our property and using some of the proceeds to clear the debt. This would obvs then affect our deposit for a new home.
Would you agree this is a sensible option or would it be better to attempt to get a bigger mortgage when we buy and cling on to every penny of the deposit?

Thanks in advance,

Guacamole Thu 03-Mar-11 19:30:15

I also have a pension question...
I have worked for the NHS since 2000 and have been contributing to their pension from the beginning. I'm currently on the 1995 section, but I have to decide whether to move on to the 2008 section by May of this year. I've read the leaflet provided and cannot see any benefit to moving on to the 2008 section at all, it's very give with one
hand and take with the other. I'm tempted to just ignore this is happening and therefore remain on the 1995 section (which is a final year salary scheme). Do you know anything at all about this, don't worry if you don't, I realise it's very specific?
Thank you.

DailyDaisy Fri 04-Mar-11 05:12:16

I haven't made any National Insurance contribution for about 6 years (went freelance and then stay at home mum). I've read that this will effect any state pension entitlement in the future. Can I make up the contributions / is it worth it?

Poxykids Fri 04-Mar-11 08:49:25

Daisy, I'm pretty sure that if you claim child benefit then your NI payments are protected.

I think that is one of the objections to means testing it.

Could be wrong though.

Guacamole Fri 04-Mar-11 18:11:29

Poxy I phoned HMRC last week and they said this was not the case. Our CB goes into DHs account, but I'm on maternity leave and thought if I changed it to me it would keep my NI protected, they said no.

makemineapinot Sat 05-Mar-11 08:41:36

Daisy i was told last week at the Job centre that I didn't need ot sign on as my NI contributions would be protected as I was claiming CB.

I would like to ask a wee question about pensions.

I ahve a frozen private pension, a company pension from my last job (PT)with a local council, now I ahve moved I am working 8 hours and am paying into the new local government pension - should I keep my other 2 pensions frozen or transfer them into the new scheme (I really don't earn much in this job at the moment that's why i thought it was best to keep them frozen.).
Thank you.

amidaiwish Sat 05-Mar-11 11:20:00

Where do I start with ISAs? What are the different ones, pros and cons?
If i invest in a fund - is it better to go for a simple FTSE tracker with low fees rather than a managed fund. This is all a mystery and meanwhile we have the money sitting in a savings account doing nothing.

amidaiwish Sat 05-Mar-11 11:21:27

Also re pensions

dh is a HRT
i am not earning

i have been led to believe there is NO benefit to investing in a pension rather than other investments anymore. infact as we will be forced to buy an annuity then pensions are the least attractive/flexible option. is this correct? (dh is 39, i am 37)

Maiakins Sat 05-Mar-11 16:58:08

Hi. I'm another person worried, as I have no pension. I work freelance and am in my mid-30s. My husband has a small pension, which his employer contributes a bit into too.

What would be the benefit of me having a pension? I put any extra money into the savings bit of our offset mortage instead, into my personal ISA, and into the kids' Child Trust Funds.

Is this wise? Or should I have a pension of my own as well (not that I could afford to put much into it!)?


CradleCrap Sun 06-Mar-11 15:19:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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