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Finance Friday: A look back at 2013

At the end of the year it’s a good idea to look back over the year and think about how your finances went. It can help you plan for the year to come. I had a lot of ups and downs in 2013, but came out of it quite well.

Zopa

I continued to invest by lending money through Zopa. The scheme changed and became less risky. There is a fund now to cover bad debts on the new loans. This is called Safeguard and is currently offering interest of around 4.2% on 3 year loans and 4.5% on 5 year loans. The important thing to remember is the interest rate on new loans will go up if the Bank of England puts up interest rates, which seems likely. Of course, there have been a couple of bad debts and I have lost a little money on those. I have late payments which might turn into bad debts too, but overall I made a good return. I have also made a little by introducing people to Zopa. A lot of people will be looking to borrow in January and so demand will increase and interest rates could go up a little.

Spending money

I spent more money than usual this year. I virtually gave up alcohol in April and promised myself a new DSLR camera as a reward. Then I needed a new freezer so had to pay out for that too. More recently I bought a new cell phone and a few other odd things. Then I needed a new vacuum cleaner! I’ve been thrifty and frugal through the year and so the extra spending didn’t bother me. I did resent the extra £60 that was added to my car insurance. That was the second year that they have added  a big increase. My energy bill has gone up too and I’m in credit far too much. I think all my energy is paid for through to next Spring, but they still keep taking the direct debit. I shall monitor that and maybe ask for a refund or even consider changing supplier when the price fix finishes.

GiffGaff

I popped a GiffGaff sim into my new phone and bought a £10 Goody bag to last me through the first month. I didn’t use all the calls and data, so I had a £7.50 Goody bag for the Christmas period. That runs out soon. I can  go on pay as you go now and use the credit I have left. It seems that will last a few months. I get free texts and calls to other GiffGaff users so that saves me money.

Youview

I had a Youview box from TalkTalk and pay 7.50 a month, plus line rental (15.40). I only get evening and weekend calls now though. My main concern is if I have to phone one of those horrible 0845 numbers in the daytime and they put me on hold for an hour, as they do. I saved a fiver on my line rental by paying it 12 months in advance so I can afford the odd 0845 number. I don’t make many phone calls and don’t watch much television. The BBC over Christmas was outrageous. The Two Ronnies? It’s time to scrap the TV licence. I’m paying for their new billion quid television centre and have to watch the Christmas Lottery draw on YouTube. Members of the government probably had Christmas movies on blu-ray video…

The stock market

The Royal Mail sell off was perhaps the financial highlight of the year. Small investors were allowed 227 shares at 330p. They are now 579.50, giving those lucky enough to invest a tidy profit of £566.37. It seems a little unfair when some people are taking out pay-day loans and queuing at food banks in an attempt to survive. I found out last week that a local church is running a soup kitchen. I don’t fancy joining those queues and so I bought Royal Mail and a few more shares. I am making a loss on Solo Oil, but a reasonable profit on my shares in Taylor Wimpey. The latter was hit when the government changed it’s help to buy scheme. We have a housing crisis and so investing in house building is still a good idea. People have to invest for the future, if the economy is to start growing again. The big companies with their monopoly positions and cosy cartels are considered ‘safe harbours’. They are not likely to grow much, but the companies that have struggled and coming out of the recession smarter and leaner might be worth investing in. I’ve been using London South East to monitor shares and watching the forums too. You can also have a ‘watch list’ to watch shares and a portfolio to keep track of what you own. There are a number of ways to buy shares. The easiest is with a service that allows you to buy them on-line. Halifax Share Dealing is OK. The fees aren’t cheap, but you can get emails when a price hits your target. There are also research tools you can use and you can deal for 3.95 occasionally. Your shares are held in a nominee account.

How did your finances go in 2013? Did you ignore the advertising and social pressures to spend money? Did you invest for the future? Can you afford to be comfortable in 2014 or will you be worrying about debt? Please comment with your views and you can also follow me on Twitter.

2014? I might invest in a hole in the ground. There might be gold, oil or even something else at the bottom of it…

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