Bitcoin may have crashed back down to Earth a little bit in early 2018, but it’s still one of the most buzzworthy investment assets on the planet. An incredible surge late in 2017 reset the bitcoin conversation, causing some people to compare it to gold, and others to the dot-com bubble. At any rate, a lot of people are considering buying in for the first time. That isn’t necessarily a good or a bad idea – but it’s definitely an idea that requires you to ask a few key questions.

What Is Bitcoin?

We may as well start with the basics, right? The question of what bitcoin is is one we’ve addressed before, but it bears revisiting now that more people tend to look at the cryptocurrency as a commodity than a currency. Bitcoin, technically speaking, is a new form of online currency, created, held, and transferred entirely digitally. As an investment asset, however, you can truly think of it as a digital commodity. The comparisons to gold can be overdone, but in terms of how it’s traded, you can think of it similarly. You basically buy and sell quantities online through secure platforms and based on the latest trends and price movements.

How Is It Stored?

This is a hard thing to explain to people who haven’t held bitcoin before, or at least read about it extensively. A Canadian gaming news platform might have actually done the best job of explaining the process, in the interest of educating people on bitcoin’s utility in gaming. As they put it, you need to get a bitcoin wallet, which is the loose equivalent of a bank account. You can learn about the underlying processes by which bitcoins are electronically stored and transferred, but it’s the bank account idea that’s most helpful. Your electronic wallet protects access that you and you alone have to your bitcoin. Alternatively you can use a hardware or “paper” wallet that stores access codes offline.

How Much Do You Need?

With bitcoin being essentially brand new to many of us, it’s hard to know how exactly to value it. That is to say, it’s difficult to know how much you need to make an investment worthwhile – and the price of bitcoin itself is changing dramatically day by day. The best tip in this regard is to think of bitcoin in dollar amounts (or whatever currency you use). With the best wallet apps, you can input a dollar amount of bitcoin you’d like to buy, and actually buy tiny fractions of a single bitcoin, given that one bitcoin can be well over $10,000. No one can tell you how much you specifically need to make the investment worthwhile – but with the asset so volatile, it’s helpful to think of it in monetary terms.

Where Is Bitcoin Going?

No one can say for sure where bitcoin is going. It’s one of the hottest topics in investments, but also one of the hardest questions to answer. One way to look at it might be to anticipate either extreme. For instance, one analysis said bitcoin could hit $60,000 in 2018, but that another crash is coming. This represents both common interpretations in a single prediction: that bitcoin is in a bubble, and that it still has lucrative potential. Unfortunately, again – no one can tell you for sure.

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How Much Does Christmas Cost?

by Adam on December 21, 2017

Christmas can be an eye wateringly expensive time of year, and you may need to take a swig of your chosen Christmas tipple before you read the results of this survey.

The team at 247Moneybox decided to take a look at the true cost of Christmas in the UK by conducting a survey and creating an infographic with the results.

The infographic reveals that on average UK families that took part in the survey spent a not insignificant £1554 over the Xmas period.

The infographic also showed that one third of people surveyed had to use credit to cover their spending.

View the full infographic below.

Infographic Source

Have you been saving all year for Christmas? 

Do you have any penny-saving tips for other readers? Leave a comment below.

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If you are getting started in the world of investing, it may all seem confusing, but if you take the time to learn the basics, you can build your own investment portfolio easily.

Your first portfolio doesn’t have to perfect, you can always tweak it later, but getting started is important and once you’ve got a portfolio up and running, it can incredibly empowering – it certainly was for me when I first built a portfolio almost exactly 10 years ago. Better still, technology has come on leaps and bounds since then, and it’s now easier than ever using modern online investment platforms.

ImportantStep 0 – Are You Ready?

Make sure you have some savings tucked away before you start investing. The aim for your investments is for the value of them to go up but this is not guaranteed and you don’t want to feel forced to sell an investment that has fallen in value because you need your money back for whatever life has thrown at you.

A good rule of thumb is not to invest any money that you think you might need for at least the next 5 years.

But if you have worked out you can put money away for the future – for retirement, a dream house, or your children’s education – then I’m excited to walk you through the steps to building your investment portfolio to grow your pennies and save them from the threat of inflation– helping people start investing was the original reason why I set up this site, Magical Penny.

Step 1 – Choose an Account

A Stocks and Shares ISA is often the best place to start, growth is tax-free and you can save up to £20,000 in a standard ISA each year. If you’ve used your annual allowance, a general investment account is fine for now, although you will need to pay capital gains tax if you take money out again that has grown more than the allowance each year (£11,300 for 2017/18 tax year). risk

There are many providers of ISAs and investment accounts, but it’s important to pick one that will allow you to put good quality and inexpensively managed-investments in them, which is why Vanguard, one of the biggest investment fund managers in the world, is a popular choice.

Step 2 – Working out your asset mix

Investing in equities, the name for stocks and shares in companies, is a good place to start because unlike other investments like direct ownership of property, you can invest in much smaller amounts, it’s much cheaper, and the investments are very liquid which means you can buy and sell them quickly, should you need or want to.

For novice investors, investing in individual stocks and shares might be the only thing that comes to mind –we’ve all heard the stories of someone’s uncle who invested in a stock and it either made them rich, or they lost everything!

But investing in individual company shares is only one kind of investing, and is one of the most risky too.

world for saleDiversifying, putting your eggs in more than one basket, is therefore a much less risky way of investing. For easy diversification investors use investment funds.

There are many different types of investment fund– some buy fractions of every company on a certain list, or ‘index’, like the FTSE 100, the top 100 companies in the UK, whereas other investment funds have managers who look for companies in a specific industry or region. Other funds move beyond equities and invest in commercial property or government bonds which pay interest known as a ‘coupon’.

By owning some equity funds and some bond funds, an investment portfolio can be designed to be more or less volatile. Investors can choose to accept a bumpier ride of up and down prices with the hope that the investments grow faster, or they may be more comfortable with a little more certainty in the fluctuating values, but might have to accept a smaller investment return.

Working out the right mix is a personal decision but a higher bond allocation might be more appropriate for those with less time before the investments are needed to pay for something – a child’s education or a retirement age goal for example, because in those instances investors cannot afford the time to wait for any equity investments to recover after a stock market decline.

Step 3 – Selecting the investments

It’s time to pick the funds.

A diversified portfolio typically includes a bit of everything, with UK equities the most popular choice for UK investors (to avoid currency risk). As the funds themselves are diversified, for most investors it is not worth investing in more than a 10 funds (my own portfolio is a mix of global equities, commercial property and natural resources for example), but there are some investors who achieve their goals with just two funds, an equity fund and a bond fund.

Click here for an Asset Allocation Master class from Vanguard

As with any shopping exercise, looking at the prices, or rather the expenses that the funds charge is important. Anything over 1% a year is expensive, but some funds, such as those offered by Vanguard, charge only 0.22% or even less. Not only is Vanguard the cheapest fund provider BuyingI’ve found, but they also have ‘Life Strategy’ funds that offer 5 different combinations of equities and bonds, depending on your goals and time horizon. This makes investing so easy and the ongoing charge is only 0.22% a year, leaving more of your own money to grow.

Step 4 – Press the purchase button – the easiest and hardest step

If you’ve chosen to open an investment account online you can invest at the click of a button! But it can be scary parting with your hard earned money and sending it into the markets. Investment returns are not guaranteed and you may see the value fall over time. But over the long term investments tend to go up and protect your savings from the ever-present threat of inflation.

It can be entertaining to watch the values fluctuate each day by logging onto your investment account, especially when the numbers are going up,  but if seeing the numbers change makes you nervous then it can be best to try to forget about the value and only check your investments once a year.

Setting up a Standing Order from your bank account into your investment accounts to consistently invest over time is also powerful as it removes the emotion out of the investing process. Investing automatically on a consistant basis means you are buying at lots of different prices. This allows you to ‘pound cost average’ which helps further to reduce the risk of investing at any one particular time (if prices are particularly high for example).

To get started investing with Vanguard, read their ‘How to Build a Portfolio’ article series and take the first step in growing your savings  through investing.

**This post is in collaboration with Vanguard**

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drivingRecent statistics show that motorists are beginning to make the switch from petrol and diesel to Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles, but this has only recently started to occur and electric vehicles have been somewhat of a rarity on roads up until this point. The Government’s clean air plans certainly play a role in this, but it is also because electric vehicles are just beginning to overcome a number of hurdles that have stopped people from switching before.

Infrastructure

According to OVO, the main reason why people have been hesitant to make the switch is the lack of charging points. Whilst it is true that previously this has been an issue, the survey from OVO revealed that people underestimated just how many charging points there are. On average, it was thought that there were only 2,812 charging points but there are actually well over 13,000. Additionally, the number is rapidly rising each month and it is thought that they will outnumber petrol stations by 2020.

Battery Life

Battery life has been another issue that manufacturers have overcome. The technology has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, and now these vehicles can travel much further on a single charge. The range is around 90 miles for a smaller battery, and all the way up to 335 on a large one. Additionally, the increasing number of charging points makes this less of an issue.

keysCost

Cost is the final issue that has stood in the way. These vehicles can be very expensive to buy, but there are many new models on the market which are more affordable. The most affordable is around £14,000, but it is worth keeping in mind that motorists can benefit from a grant of up to £4,000 for making the switch.

Value

Electric automobiles will prove to be good value for money in the near future too. You will pay around quarter of the price per mile, which will see motorists make huge savings on running costs. In addition to this, motorists will benefit from having no road tax and no congestion charges if you drive in the capital. This means you can quickly recoup the costs spent on the vehicle and save a vast amount over the years.

Electric vehicles have had to overcome a number of hurdles in recent years, but it seems that they are now beginning to do so and motorists are starting to make the switch. This electric car revolution will help motorists to save money, but it will also help to save the planet.

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What Influences the Value of the U.S. Dollar?

by Adam on December 11, 2017

Saving moneyTo take advantage of upward and downward movements on currencies, it’s crucial to use foreign exchange brokers such as the well-known online platform, UFX. It enables you to trade on major pairs such as the EUR/USD, minor pairs like the GBP/CAD, and ‘exotics’ such as the USD/SEK, whose availability depends on current levels of liquidity.

The U.S. Dollar (USD) is the most used and traded currency in the world, as confirmed in the last “Triennial Central Bank Survey” from the Bank of Settlement (BIS): “The US Dollar remained the world’s dominant vehicle currency. It was on one side of 88% of all trades in April 2016, up slightly from 87% in April 2013”.

To make sure you are fully prepared to trade the USD, you first need to know what factors influence its value.

#1 Fed Decisions

 Central Banks are the most influential actors in the FOREX market, as they are the ones determining the cost and availability of money in national economies. The US Federal Reserve, known as the Fed, is the U.S. Central Bank, which decides on monetary policy that is applied across the country.

When the Fed tightens its monetary policy by increasing interest rates, reducing quantitative easing programs, etc., it means that the value of the U.S. Dollar is likely to increase. This means that more foreign investors will be attracted to the greenback, as it will provide higher interest rates than those offered in most other developed countries.

 sell buy small#2 Important Economic Statistics

 Key economic and financial statistics also affect the USD in relation to future Fed decisions. The Fed has a dual mandate of price stability (a PCE index of about 2%) and full employment, meaning a median unemployment rate of about 4.6%, both of which are crucial factors in the country’s growth.

Consequently, figures which demonstrate how close the Fed is to achieving its objectives are seen as vital for investors, as they provide clues about its future decisions. Among the most important to follow are the GDP, the ICP and PCE, the monthly employment report, and the JOLTS.

 #3 Market Sentiment

 Finally, market sentiment and psychology play huge roles in how a currency evolves. If a majority of traders believe that the U.S. President or the Fed Chair is struggling to deliver on their objectives, this often affects growth outlook, making traders more likely to sell the USD and buy other currencies with more potential to generate profit.

When trading the USD, keep these 3 points in mind, stay on top of news announcements, and choose a broker that gives you great market opportunities to take advantage of in order to trade successfully.

Note: Trading requires a very different skill-set to simply investing over the long term, and is much more risky. If you’re interested in learning about investing more generally, you can read other investing articles here on the site)

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investing for the futureAre you thinking of investing some money in a small business?

It can be a good way to get started as an investor and eventually see your money multiply but it won’t be plain sailing. It could even turn out to be a complete disaster for your business if you make the wrong moves; that’s what you should be looking to avoid. Before you decide whether or not to take up an investment opportunity, there are a few things you should be considering and looking into.

Find Out Whether the Market for the Idea Truly Exists

There needs to be a market for the products or services that a business is offering to the world. This is the most fundamental aspect of assessing a business so make sure you consider it carefully. Without a clearly defined market and target demographic, the business clearly won’t go far at all. Don’t just listen to what the company itself is saying about this; take it upon yourself to asses the market too.

Consider the People

When all’s said and done, it’s the people who make a company what it is so you shouldn’t invest in a company if you don’t believe in the people who are currently in charge of running it. Meet them and speak to them about what their aims are for the business and assess how competent they are at what they’re doing. The human touch always matters so don’t underestimate it.

Look at Their Production and Distribution Processes

You can tell a lot about a company by how it produces and distributes the products it sells. You want to see strong and efficient processes already in place because these kinds of things are the foundations on which successful businesses are built. Look for lean manufacturing processes and up to date distribution methods. The business needs to be able to cope with the demands of the modern world.

What Are the Requirements?

What will you be expected to contribute when you invest? Or more accurately, what will the company need in order to succeed? There is no sense in getting involved with a company if it needs the kind of vast sums of money and expertise that you aren’t able to offer. It would be best to leave that kind of investment to someone who is better suited to it. Know what your limits are and stay within them.

Stay Away From Novelties

If something seems like it’s nothing more than a nice novelty that could be popular now but maybe not in six months time, you should think twice about investing. Novelty products are inherently short-term and your investment strategy should always be long-term. It’s easy to get caught up in the popularity of a certain idea or type of product but always ask yourself whether it has a future before investing.

Every business is different and whether or not you should invest in a given business will depend upon many different things. You can’t expect your investments to turn out well if you don’t assess them properly.

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sumup3If you’re running a business, whether small or big scale, it’s important to make it easy for your customers to pay you.

For online transactions Paypal has made it easy, but for in-person transactions, many businesses, particularly if they are small, still only accept cash, and it’s hurting their bottom line.

How many times have you wanted to buy something from a small stall or shop only to be told they don’t accept card but you don’t have any cash on you?

It’s happened to me a number of times and those businesses have lost out on a transaction. Sometimes I run to a cash machine and come back, but often I don’t.

And I’m sure I’m not alone.

No Excuses

These days there is no excuse for a business not to offer alternative ways of paying for something, including taking card payments using increasingly accessible point of sale payment technologies like card readers.

Card readers used to be expensive, with retailers having to pay high fees for startup costs, and high fees on every transaction. Even a low cost swipe machine could cost between 3% and 4% per transaction. But technology and provider offerings such as mobile card readers are getting better all the time.

The Future Is Here

Modern chip-reading machines that can recognise Europay, Mastercard, and Visa cards are becoming more accessible, and cheaper too.

My friend has a drum shop and his whole business is run from his tablet and a mobile card reader. It’s so simple and easy for him and he’s not chained to his desk with a bulky till.

sumup2 Introducing SumUp

One of the most innovative card reader companies I’ve come across is called SumUp. They offer mobile card readers for businesses and make it really easy to get started.

There’s no paperwork to fill in and no termination fees either.

They simply take 2.75% of every transaction, which is a lot cheaper than other solutions.

It is so easy to set up that I can imagine even a child’s lemonade stand could use a mobile card reader to take payment from customers!

Not only does using a mobile card reader speed up the transaction time (no more counting out coins), but it makes the accounting and security side of handling money so much simpler.

SumUp even has a free app and reporting tools to make analysing your transactions and recording revenue much easier compared with having to handle cash.

It’s also good for the customer too.

With the increase of contactless enabled cards, transactions are more frictionless, your customers can easily pay for what they need in the blink of an eye and be on their way. They might even spend more than they might otherwise have done as they are not limited by the cash they have on hand.

sumup 1Card readers aren’t exactly new, but having a mobile card payment option like those offered by Sumup is allowing business owners of all sizes to do business anywhere.

Just think of the possibilities.

  • You could sell smoothies in the park and accept card payments straight away
  • You could sell your coaching services at a conference booth and get clients to commit to your offering right there and then
  • You could even ask your friend to pay you that money they owe you straight away and they won’t have any excuse

Take your business to the next level by allowing customers to pay with their card or their contactless enabled phone from anywhere with a mobile card reader.

With the payment side sorted, you will be able to focus on what really matters in business – serving your customers and clients – and doing that will take your business to the next level.

 

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small questionHow many different pension pots have you got?

Do you know how much is in each of them?

And are you saving enough for the kind of retirement you want?

If you have ever worked for an employer, it’s likely you have a pension fund of some kind. In the UK it is now the law for an employer to provide a workplace pension as part of ‘auto-enrolment’.  But it’s been a long time since the days when a worker was likely to stay with their employer for their whole career and receive a gold watch and a generous pension to keep them fed and warm in their retirement years.

The younger generation are much more likely to job-hop as the rate of change in the world accelerates and new opportunities are searched out.

In many ways this is a positive thing but it can lead to people finding they have lots of tiny pension policies, one from every employer they’ve ever had, so it’s no surprise that many of us haven’t been able to keep track of our pension plans over the years, and this could be a very costly mistake.

Looking through the details

I work in financial planning and spend a considerable amount of my working life digging through pension policy statements and valuations, making sense of what pensions and investments our clients have, and whether or not it’s worth consolidating the pensions into a single arrangement. I’ve seen first-hand what a mess a lot of people’s pensions are in, and not everyone can either afford a financial planner, or needs a financial planner to sort out their pensions.

Thankfully there’s now an easy solution, but first let me share my own my own pension consolidation experience.

How I brought my pensions together

I didn’t even have to move employers to end up with two pensions. After university I got a job and began making regular pension contributions. After about two years the company changed the pension provider they used and asked us all to sign new paperwork. I agreed to the change but in my naivety I assumed the pension scheme I had been paying into for the past two years would be transferred to the new pension scheme. But this did not happen. My new contributions along with those from my employer went into the new scheme from that point onwards, but my old scheme was left in place. I continued to receive yearly statements through the post, but no more money was going into that first pension. Half a year later I moved companies and another pension scheme three-fingerswas opened for me.

If you’re keeping count, that’s three pensions already, each with only a few thousand pounds in. You can imagine how this could get increasingly complicated over a few decades of work.

After I made my career change into financial planning and became experienced with pensions and investments I decided to take what I had learned in my day job and switch my own pensions into one scheme. Not only would I single-handedly save a tree or two in the rainforest by reducing the amount of paperwork coming through my letterbox about my pensions, but it would be easier to keep track of the value and assess the investment mix.

The process wasn’t particularly difficult in my case, especially as my pensions were simple ‘defined contribution’ pension schemes with no guaranteed benefits, but even as someone who does this type of analysis in my day job, it was still a bit of a hassle getting it all worked out. That’s why many clients in my financial planning day-job pay me to do pension reviews. But you don’t always need a financial planner to consolidate your pensions into one place for better clarity and easier administration.

pension bee reviewEnter Pension Bee

Pension Bee provides an easy way to consolidate your existing pensions into one easy to manage pot. You provide your pension information and PensionBee sorts out the transfers bringing all your pension pots together under one roof with the same consistent charges and investment choices. You can then keep up to date with the value of your pension and add to it when you’re able to.

ImportantWhat to do before you consolidate your pensions:

Before you consider consolidating your pensions it’s important to check if there are any valuable benefits attached to your plan. Phone up the pension companies and ask them what type of pension you have. Ask them if it is a standard ‘Defined Contribution’ pension – if so then great as they are the simplest and most worthwhile to switch. It’s likely you won’t be able to switch the work place pension you’re currently paying into but as soon as you leave your job and the pension becomes ‘paid-up’ you can move that pension at that time.

Whilst you are on the phone with your pension provider, ask them for a summary of the charges. (If your total charges are over 2%, then that’s expensive. Also ask if there are any guaranteed benefits attached to your pension. Examples of benefits are “guaranteed annuity rates”, and “guaranteed minimum pension”. You also should ask for both the current value and the transfer value. If the two figures are different there might be a penalty for moving your pension, in which case it would be wise to speak with a financial adviser. Similarly, if you have a “with profits” policy you also need to understand if you are eligible for any bonuses that may be lost if you transfer away.

Once you have the information about your pension and you’re satisfied your pension does not have any valuable guarantees, it is likely to be appropriate to consolidate into one easy to manage plan, such as the one provided by PensionBee.

PensionBee does all the hard work of consolidating your pensions

They also tell you about any guarantees they find (but I still think you should do this yourself too with a quick phonecall).

PensionBee also allow you to easily view the value of your new pension using their online dashboard – this is actually impressive and lots of pension providers don’t have online functionality even in this day and age!  PensionBee also allows you to easily add to your pension and watch it grow.

fee cost pension beeWhat does it cost?

The charges are reasonable:

  • The ‘Tracker’ plan is 0.5%,
  • Tailored is ‘0.70%’
  • ‘Future World’, an ethical focused plan is 0.95%

And customers with pensions  larger than £100,000 will pay half the fee on the portion of their savings above this amount (0.25% for Tracker, 0.35% for Tailored, and 0.48% on Future World)
For example, and in contrast to competitors, PensionBee only charges one annual fee, so a customer with a £250,000 pot could only pay 0.35% per year.

Most of the pensions I come across in my day job are more expensive than this.

I admit there are slightly cheaper options around if you want to spend more time managing your pension yourself, but if you’re not inclined that way, PensionBee is an excellent way to get re-engaged with your pensions and simplify your arrangements. This is beneficial because it will allow you to know how prepared you are for retirement and if you’re not on track you can make the necessary steps to improve your financial life.

To this end their handy pension calculator can also help you discover how much you should be saving.

One thing to remember: PensionBee does not provide financial advice so using the service means taking things into your own hands. If you transfer a pension with a valuable benefit and then believe it was a bad idea, you can’t complain to anyone, as you would be able to if you had received regulated financial advice.

dashboard-combinedI’m happy to share my thoughts about PensionBee because it fits a gap in the market.

For those with big pensions and who can afford financial advice, financial advisers can add a lot of value, but for those with only a few more modest pensions, paying for advice is not always worth it.

For those who want to be really hands-on with their pensions and do their own management, there are cheaper options than PensionBee but it means lots of research and phone-calls, and that can be intimidating or just plain boring for people who don’t have the desire or experience to navigate the world of pensions and investments.

So if you have a few lower value pensions and want to simplify your life then a service like PensionBee is brilliant at cutting out the hassle-factor and helping you get engaged with your pensions in an easy and transparent way.

This post has been written in collaboration with PensionBee who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. With pensions, your capital is at risk. The value of your pension with PensionBee can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you started with.

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Eye-ing Up Savings On Contact Lenses

by Adam on November 10, 2017

AdamWhen was the last time you shopped around for contact lenses?

I’ve been wearing contacts for 10 years now.

When I first had the courage to try contact lenses I felt my life had been transformed. I had never felt comfortable wearing glasses, which I started needing in my early teens. In the space of six months I needed glasses and braces and my face broke out in hundreds of spots. I felt like I was falling apart, and my childhood was over.

I continued to feel self-conscious throughout my teens and even going into my 20s.

Life Changer

When I decided to try contacts it was a total life-changer for me. I was in my early 20s and finally I felt my confidence grow. The monthly cost was noticeable in my budget but worth every penny. But that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to shop around.

At first I opted for monthly contacts because they were cheaper than dailies but given my clumsiness, I damaged quite a few lenses mid-month, or even at the start of the month, so after a few months I switched to dailies – more expensive than monthlies but less hassle and, for my clumsy self, actually saved me money after factoring in the accidents!

shopping tips for supermarketsSearch for Savings

As I was looking to save money on every-day expenses I searched for ways to reduce my outgoings, including my contact lens and I tried a few different online stores for my contact lenses. I was quite pleased with myself for saving money – you can save £100s by from buying contact lenses online – I found the cost of a pack of daily disposable contact lenses from the high street is significantly higher than online brands.

Top Tip: There’s a great chart here to find out what the high street brands really use to help you find a cheaper version.

But I still had to go to an optician for an eye-health check (particularly important for contact lens wearers), and a sight test. When this was factored in, I found the monthly schemes offered on the high street can be competitive – my ‘all-in’ cost of contacts, health checks and eye tests were cheaper each year compared with what I could find buying cheap contact lenses online and then having to pay for the sight-tests on top – at least when I was first looking…

Keep Shopping Around

However, this isn’t always the case so shopping around still has merit, especially if you can find a discount code online. One that I’ve found recently is from Vision Direct, where you get 10% off your first order with the code SURPRISE (plus free postage when you spend over £49). You can find more information here.

ImportantIt’s definitely worth crunching the numbers yourself to see if you can save money.

There’s other things to consider in your own calculations – I live in England so have to pay for my sight tests, although I have friends in Scotland who tell me their tests are free for them so their total costs are different to mine.

Also some employers pay for sight-tests for their workers or allow you to claim for contact lenses and sight-tests using a health insurance benefit, so if you wear contacts, make sure you run your own numbers to work out the true cost.

Contact lenses have changed my life and the confidence they give me is priceless…but that doesn’t mean I should ignore the costs and what is available.

And neither should you.

And regardless of where your contact lenses are sourced, make sure you keep up with the health checks and eye tests – professional opticians provide a valuable service and can even save your life – for example, the onset of diabetes is often first spotted by an optician as the evidence of high blood sugar can be seen in your eyes.

When it comes to contact lenses, do your research with your eyes wide open, and see what you can find!

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bitcoinI bought my first Bitcoin in 2013 (and I blogged about Bitcoin here)

In fact I bought two coins, for £50 each. At the time of writing those two coins would be worth over £10,000. Unfortunately I was going through a career change at the time and sold them to pay for a financial exam. But I reinvested in June and already the value of a Bitcoin has doubled since I bought back in.

And now there’s speculation that Amazon will be accepting Bitcoin for transactions soon – adoption by Amazon and futures traders would push Bitcoin’s value to five digits argues David Jinks, Head of Consumer Research at e-commerce fulfilment experts ParcelHero

There’s no getting round the fact that many cryptocurrencies originally grew in value because of their use buying on the dark web.  Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, has called bitcoin an “index of money laundering.” But increasingly major digital currencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are turning away from the Silk Road on to the path of respectability.

There’s a good reason for this.

Few Bitcoin owners are actually spending their digital currency today, whether on drugs or household appliances! The majority see it as an investment. And the more mainstream a digital currency becomes; the more it will gain in value. With the value of a Bitcoin soaring to over $7,000 at the beginning of November it’s not hard to see why.

In October rumours that Amazon would finally relent and accept Bitcoin, perhaps making an announcement in their October 26 Q3 results meeting, helped drive up the value of a Bitcoin to a then record $5,800. The speculation was fueled by a global petition on Change.org, urging ‘Amazon.com should accept Bitcoin and Litecoin cryptocurrency as payment methods ASAP’. Investors such as James Altucher, the American hedge fund manager and venture capitalist, stated: “I’m certain that Amazon will accept Bitcoin. They have no choice. And this will be the tipping point that will create massive generational wealth unlike we’ve ever seen before.”

Pundits are now holding their breath for Amazon’s annual results meeting, due early February 2018, to see if Amazon finally does decide to take the plunge. And as the respected website The Next Web speculates: ‘If the mere rumor of Amazon accepting cryptocurrency can cause value to rise by thousands of dollars in mere weeks, imagine what the outlook would be if it turned out to be true.’

 The basic truth is Bitcoin investors are yearning for respectability and for more retailers to accept the currency. Why? Not to splurge their hard-earned satoshis on Kindles and Wii Switches, that’s for sure. No, the reason is that, with a bigger user base, the price of Bitcoin will both rise and become more resilient.

And if we accept the fact that digital currencies such as Bitcoins are more investment than coinage, then the latest rise in value to $7,000 is only to be expected. The U.S.-based exchange CME has said it would introduce bitcoin futures contracts this quarter, subject to regulatory approval.

 “We’ve been working with the regulator. They understand our application. And they understand our model very, very well,” Terry Duffy, CME Group chairman and CEO, told CNBC.

And the reason that announcement has so boosted Bitcoin’s value is that the introduction of such a product could bring more institutional investors into the market. And that will certainly boost the price yet further.

 Why? Because, just like gold, the amount of Bitcoins is finite. Only 21 million of them will ever be issued—and we are already at 16.3 million. Respectable institutional investors are becoming attracted to a currency that is outside any national regulation or interference: and the value of the existing Bitcoins will rise as its respectability rises.

You can read about why Forbes fintech expert Roger Aitken believes its time for investors to join the cryptocurrency party here.

As for me, I’ll share more of my Bitcoin adventures in future posts. For now, I urge you to only invest what you can afford to lose, and do lots of reading so you understand the space before you put your money in.

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