Research from Policy Expert reveals that almost half (47%) of parents are happy for their child to regularly take valuable items such as mobile phones, iPads and computer consoles  to school with them.  One in five (21%) trusting parents allow them to take more than £250 worth of gadgets, jewellery and other costly goods with them each day.

There are approximately 7.9 million children aged between six and 16 in the UK – this means there could be as much as much as £1.8 billion worth of valuables being carried in children’s school bags every day.  Parents across the UK admit that the average age at which children are considered old enough to take a mobile phone or tablet to school with them is 11 years old.

The most popular valuables in a British kid’s school bag are:

  • A mobile phone (37%)
  • An iPad or Tablet (11%)
  • A musical instrument (7%)
  • A hand held games console (4%)
  • A laptop (3%)

Despite parents’ willingness to let children take responsibility for valuables outside of the home, almost a third (27%) of adults surveyed don’t have away-from-home cover as part of their home insurance, with a further fifth (19%) unsure what their policy covers.

Adam Powell of Policy Expert commented:

“While some parents may not give a second thought to what their children take to school, they might be surprised at the actual cost of the valuables they are carrying. With the UK averaging 600,000 pickpocket incidents each year, and the high propensity for valuables to be lost or broken outside of the home in the care of children, it’s best to make sure you’re covered to avoid tears as well as financial loss.”

Research from Kwik Fit reveals that 3.6 million motorists wait until MOT failure before changing their tyres.

Kwik Fit warns that not only can illegal tyres leave motorists risking three penalty points and £2,500 in fines, but even more importantly, can seriously compromise their vehicle’s safety and handling. With the end of summer approaching and the weather turning colder and wetter, drivers should think carefully about their tyre health and not leave it until the MOT for them to be checked.

The legal limit for minimum depth of the tread on car tyres is 1.6 millimetres, across the central ¾ of the tread around the complete circumference of the tyre. However, tyre performance deteriorates well before reaching this limit – at 1.6 millimetres in wet weather it takes almost 40 per cent further to stop at 50 mph than it does at 7mm. This is equivalent to 8 car lengths of reduced stopping distance.

A spokesman for Kwik Fit said: “With vehicles being increasingly sophisticated in monitoring their own maintenance intervals, drivers are often leaving it to their cars to warn them of potential issues. Motorists should realise that responsibility for vehicle health and safety lies directly in their hands. Without proper care, motorists could land themselves either in legal trouble or in an incident on the road.

“Tyres should be the number one priority for drivers – after all, they are the only part of a car which keeps it on the road. Even though at 1.6 millimetres of tread a tyre is legal, it will not have much grip on the road and travelling in adverse weather conditions can be treacherous. That’s why leading tyre manufacturers recommend that drivers change their tyres at 3mm of tread depth to maintain optimum performance.  It’s very worrying that so many drivers let their tread depth drop so low and leave it to the MOT to check – after all that could be up to a year away.”

An offset mortgage is a smart and tax efficient way to cut your mortgage costs, yet reports suggest that only around one in ten borrowers are currently taking advantage of this type of home loan.

It can be a big money saver for mortgage borrowers and makes even more sense in times like these when interest rates on savings accounts are at rock bottom. By simply combining your savings and mortgage balances it’s possible to save thousands of pounds in mortgage interest costs and at the same time reduce the term of your home loan.

Another key benefit, even more so for higher rate tax payers, is that there’s no tax to pay on your savings interest and the equivalent return is the same as your mortgage rate.

With interest rates on even the very best instant access and 1 year savings accounts struggling to break 1.5 per cent, for many people there’s far more to be gained by offsetting your nest egg against your mortgage balance which in many cases is being charged at upwards of 3 per cent.

A further plus point is that offsetting gives you flexibility, in that you always retain access to your entire savings balance in case you need to dip into it at a later date.

Although many standard mortgages will allow you to make limited over payments, unlike an offset mortgage, once you’ve committed to the overpayment you can’t get that money back at a later date.

A major reason for the poor take up is that consumers assume it’s a complex product and only suitable for those with large savings balances, but both of these assumptions are wide of the mark.

A further issue is that not all lenders offer the offset facility, and therefore some customers are missing out because they aren’t even given the option to take advantage of this breed of mortgage.

Along with Barclays and First Direct, Yorkshire Building Society is one of the main players in the offset market and unlike some rivals it allows offset to be used on its entire range of standard mortgage products with just a 0.2% loading on the rate.

Offset is available across a wide range of loan to values (LTV) with some of the top deals as follows – First Direct 3 year fixed at 2.79% and £950 fee to 65% LTV, Yorkshire Building Society 5 year fixed at 2.84% and £845 fee to 75% LTV and Barclays Lifetime Offset Tracker at 2.49% and £999 fee up to 75% LTV.

To give you a taste of the savings you can achieve with an offset and to prove that it is a viable option for those with fairly modest savings or those who intend to save on a regular basis, the following numbers highlight the positive impact this strategy can have on your finances.

For someone with savings of £7,500, offsetting this balance against a £100,000 mortgage at 3.00% would save interest charges of £7,753 and takes 1 year and 4 months off the term of a 25 year mortgage.

You don’t have to have a huge lump sum to benefit from offsetting, regular savings will work too.

For example, if you are able to put aside £200 per month into your savings account each month, then you’ll save £17,159 in mortgage interest charges, cut 3 years off the length of your 25 year mortgage plus you’ll end up with a savings balance of £52,800 when the mortgage is repaid.

As financial companies increasingly look to use social media to assess an individual’s suitability for products such as mortgages, loans and credit cards, research from Equifax reveals that 75% of consumers are unlikely to allow them access to this data.

The online survey, conducted by YouGov, found that 76% of consumers are against financial companies using the information they post on sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn to assess their application for a financial product. Over half said it would make them angry.

Despite consumers’ objections to the use of this information, only 35% of respondents would go as far as changing what they post online if it was being used to verify their identity or spending habits. 

Paul Birks, from Equifax, says: “While we are fast becoming social media ‘addicts’, the survey results show that people are against financial companies using social media to assess their suitability for products. This raises challenges as using this data can be a huge benefit for both companies and consumers, for example in helping fight fraud, and evaluating what people can afford to borrow.

“With fraud on the rise, companies are turning to social media as a useful tool to verify an applicant’s identity. The number of contacts and length of time an online profile has been established is a useful way to help judge whether an application is genuine or from a fraudster. A well-established, active social media presence is very hard to fake.”

“If companies go down this route they have to be transparent and educate consumers on how social media information could be used; consumers also need reassurance that, as with any personal data, privacy will be respected. Using social media information to assess an application could be particularly useful for people who don’t have a traditional borrowing history and therefore may have a ‘thin file’, such as a young person applying for their first loan.”

New data unveiled today shows that Britons are spending an average of 66 per cent of their monthly income on essential bills and expenses. The research commissioned by Scottish Friendly also reveals that four in 10 people believe they are not able to save any money on their monthly expenditures.

Rent and mortgage repayments were found to be the biggest drain on budgets with an average across the UK of £438 spent per month. However, those in London shell out 32 per cent more than the national average spending £579 per month on accommodation. Nevertheless, only seven per cent of people surveyed believe they can save money on this expenditure.

Things are further compounded for people living in the capital, where they spend 27 per cent more on commuting to work, 40 per cent more on home insurance, 86 per cent more on car insurance and 13 per cent more on food than the national monthly averages.

However, despite so many thinking they may not be able to save on bills, it’s not for want of trying. Nearly three-quarters of people do regularly seek ways to save money on their essentials. Women are more likely than men to search out a better deal, with 77 per cent saying they do so, compared to 70 per cent of men.

The research also looked at how people would spend any extra savings made through shopping around on their bills. The findings revealed that 35 per cent of people would add any extra money into their savings, with this being a particularly strong sentiment in over 55s, where 40 per cent would put cash aside for a rainy day.

Calum Bennie, savings expert at Scottish Friendly, said: “Not surprisingly, most of our income is spent on essentials like the mortgage or rent, commuting, food and utility bills.  But it is concerning that even though people say they’d like to save money on their bills, so many feel they can’t.  By just taking a little bit of time out of the day, simple things like renegotiating with utility or media suppliers can save families’ considerable sums of money on household bills. ”

“Every penny counts. Both interest rates and inflation are expected to rise in the near future which will have a further impact on disposable incomes and our ability to save. Any extra money made through thrift and savvy shopping around now to help offset rising costs in future could really benefit families in the coming months.”