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Guy Anker

The ball has hit our arm, we've not committed a bad foul

The ball has hit our arm, we've not committed a bad foul

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has today ruled that a TalkTalk broadband and line rental deal we wrote about earlier this year was not clear enough – something we disagree with.

Naturally, we are deeply frustrated by the ruling, particularly as it claimed – wrongly in our opinion – our write-up was "misleading".

The ASA upheld two complaints about us, but also rejected two.

See the full ASA ruling and immediately below is our write-up of the deal (minus links to other pages as the deal has now expired), followed by my summary of the ASA’s ruling.

IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS DEAL DOES NOT EXIST ANYMORE, IT IS PURELY FOR REFERENCE.

B’band & phone equiv £15.25/mth + £75 Love2Shop (if line rent paid upfront)
New hot deal that can save some £100s a year. Check what you pay now – many on c.£16/mth for line rent ONLY

Add up what you pay for phone & broadband now. Many people typically pay £300+ a year before calls. Yet if you pounce on short-lived hot promo deals you can nearly halve that. Full info in Cheap Broadband, here are the headlines:

  • cheap broadbandEnds Thurs. £75 high street shops voucher on hot deal. MSE Blagged. Until Thurs, TalkTalk newbies (ie, not had it for 12+ mths) can get this Simply Broadband deal on a 1yr contract:

    – Compulsory line rent: You pay £15.95/mth. But we suggest, if you can afford it, you opt to pay £141 upfront for the year (equiv to £11.75/mth), during the online sign-up.
    - Unlimited broadband: Currently £3.50/mth, so £42 for the year (avail to 85% of UK).
    - Included calls: None, but you can add ‘boosts’ for anytime to landlines.
    – £75 Love2Shop voucher, spendable at Boots, Argos & over 80 other stores.
    Once your broadband connection is live, log into TalkTalk My Account, and the voucher will be posted within 28 days.

    Analysis: Excluding calls, if you pay line rent upfront + broadband, the year’s cost’s £183, equiv to £15.25/mth (pay line rent monthly, it’s £233 – £19.42/mth), plus you get the £75 Love2Shop voucher. If you’d spend that at, say, Boots anyway, factor it in too & it’s effectively £108 over the year, equiv just £9/mth (£158 a year or equiv £13/mth).

    Need a new line? If you don’t have a line (or only have a cable one or, in a few circumstances, Sky customers) installation’s £50. You’ll get that back on your first bill but WON’T get the voucher.

Issue 1: The ASA claims our write-up implied calls were included when they weren’t

You’ll see our headline states the deal is for "broadband and phone". The phone element came with just line rental and no inclusive calls.

The ASA thinks we "misled" because it interpreted such a headline would have people think calls were included.

If you look at our full write-up, we did mention calls are NOT included, so we DID include the key info.

Headlines often can’t tell you the whole story, they give an overview. In this case, if you read the full piece you will see we included the relevant info.

Yes, we could have written ‘line rental’ instead of ‘phone’ in the headline to make it even clearer (something we do now) but we don’t agree that many people will read our write-up thinking calls are included. And don’t just take our word for it…

Martin Lewis asked people on Facebook the following question when we became aware the ASA was investigating.

If I headlined "phone & broadband deal £12/mth" would you think:

  • A. You got line rental, broadband and all calls for £12.
  • B. You got line rental broadband and no calls for £12.
  • C. You got line rental, broadband for £12 and not sure about calls so you’d look more to find what calls you got.
  • D. Something else.

Out of 1,567 people who answered the question, here is how they responded.

  • A: 9%
  • B: 21%
  • C: 53%
  • D: 17%

So only 9% of people thought you definitely got calls.

Therefore, 21% don’t think calls are included, and more than half would have looked for more information, which the rest of the write-up provided.

Issue 2: The ASA thinks we omitted a key piece of info

The ASA also thinks we failed to disclose that anyone who took the deal who racked up £20 worth of calls could be barred from making a chargeable call until they made a payment to bring it below £20.

We saw this as very much minor detail, and we linked to TalkTalk’s terms and conditions which stated this. This is because calls were not even included in the deal, plus the term did not cost anyone any cash. In fact, it can be viewed as a positive term and therefore not something to warn about given it stops people building up a big debt.

We also reviewed how similar deals are written up by other websites and we did not find any that mentioned an unbilled call limit, leading us to assume it is industry practice not to do so.

No complaints from users

What’s more, we have not seen any complaints to us that relate to the points raised – the one person who complained to the ASA about this write-up is a journalist, though we don’t know who he or she is.

Our suspicion is that person went fishing for something to try to catch us out with on a technicality as the complaints are so specific.

In case you’re wondering, the ASA is allowed to investigate based on just one complaint.

So that means we have not seen anyone who thought they were getting inclusive calls included but was upset when they realised they wouldn’t. And we have not seen anyone who feels let down by us not disclosing upfront that they would not be allowed to make a chargeable call when their bill reached £20.

Other issues rejected by the ASA

The person who made the complaint about this write-up didn’t just complain about the points above.

He or she also challenged the accuracy of our write-up where we stated calls weren’t included, but that you could pay extra to get an inclusive allowance bundle. This was accurate so the ASA threw the complaint out.

The person who complained also thought we had misled people as we subtracted the value of a voucher that came with the deal to give users an equivalent monthly price.

The deal was advertised by TalkTalk as £15.25/month but it also came with a £75 Love2Shop voucher. We stated that if you would have spent that voucher anyway, it is the equivalent of £9/month. The ASA had no problem with that analysis so threw that complaint out.

We are journalists, not advertisers

I must admit to much frustration at this saga, as unlike newspapers, our journalistic writing is caught by the ASA’s rules.

The key word in that is “journalists”. We are not advertisers.

Newspaper journalists are not caught in the same way, as they have a different model as they take paid advertising. We are caught because you can click a link from our content and go direct to the product provider to get the deal. We do not have any advertising banners.

I used to work in national newspapers and we worked in exactly the same way as we do here, only that at MSE we explain products in even more detail to help users make as informed a decision as possible.

With our model, we write about the best deals, and we may or may not get paid if people click through to a product from our site. But when we write, we write as independent journalists, regardless of whether we are paid or not.

We’ve a good relationship with the ASA

MSE has a good working relationship with the ASA, which has been very helpful in trying to make us understand its viewpoint and how it works.

But we believe the ASA is too blunt an instrument. Even if we had done wrong, it has grouped us in with companies that genuinely mislead.

An analogy we’ve talked about internally is in football where a referee can award a penalty for a nasty two-footed tackle, but also for handball where the player unintentionally uses his or her arm.

In this case – even if you think we’ve done wrong – the ball has hit our arm, we’ve not committed a bad foul.

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Amy Ellis

I found it hard to let go of such a consistent part of my financial life

I found it hard to let go of such a consistent part of my financial life

We’ve all been there. We’re going out with a girl/guy (delete as appropriate) we know is no good for us, we know we could do better and yet we stay with them because… well because, often it’s just easier. Usually it’s not until you break up with that person and find a real winner that you realise how bad the situation really was.

I opened an account with what was then Lloyds TSB over two decades ago. I distinctly remember going into the branch and my nana giving me my first money to deposit into the account. And then I became one of those people – until I started to work for MoneySavingExpert – that just stayed loyal.

And like with the slightly dodgy boyfriends I’ve had in the past, it wasn’t because I was completely happy, but I think it was just because it was habit and it was familiar.

But it was the splitting of the bank into two separate entities, Lloyds and TSB back in 2013 and the terrible service I received as a result, coupled with working at a company that advocates "ditching and switching" if you’re not happy, that convinced me to switch my current account.

So after Christmas I came back into the office and opened an account with First Direct with a view to switching my TSB account to it when it was all set up.

So far so simple. I received the card, pin number and all the usual reams of paperwork you’d expect in the post. I called and spoke to a very cheery woman at First Direct that I informed I wanted to switch my current account. I then reached the final step where I had to read one last lot of paperwork First Direct had sent before I agreed to switch. And then, nothing.

That must have all been back in late January and it wasn’t until my colleague reminded me First Direct is a fee paying account unless I deposited enough money into it – aka my salary – that I realised I was going to start to get stung if I didn’t actually switch.

Why did it take me so long to switch?

But why had it taken me so long to switch? I had a half-hearted attempt at AS psychology back in school, and by no means am I an expert, but something makes me think there is something psychological going on here!

Everything was there to encourage me to switch, bad service with my existing bank, a lure of £100 to switch to the new bank and yet I dragged my heels.

I kept telling my colleagues the reason I was being so slow was that I was busy with the new flat I’d just bought, or planning for my wedding, but I think these were just excuses.

A part of me didn’t seem to want to let go of something that had been such a consistent part of my financial life. Even though I wasn’t happy, I knew what to expect, I knew how everything worked and for the familiarity, I was just willing to put up with the bad service.

But you’ll be happy to know I have finally switched. And when I went onto my TSB internet banking and saw that my old current account had finally been deleted, instead of feeling a bit sad as I expected, I actually felt a sense of relief.

I still hold some accounts with TSB and it’s my plan to slowly get rid of all ties, but I have a feeling that after taking this first step it won’t be as bad the next time round, especially if First Direct turns out to be a winner.

Do you keep meaning to switch banks but feel like something is holding you back? Maybe like me you have some strange emotional connection to your provider. Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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MSE Sam McFaul

Life's too short for regrets, so I cancelled my EE contract

Life's too short for regrets, so I cancelled my EE contract

My budget Android smartphone has been on the blink recently, and as my Sim-only contract comes to an end soon, I decided to look around for a new phone.

Still after a relatively cheap mobile, I was torn between the Nokia Lumia 635 (Windows Phone) and the Motorola Moto G 4G (Android). I tried them out in-store and liked both, but I decided change is good and decided to go for the Nokia.

Before buying it, I rang Orange – my existing provider – to see if it could match a good deal I’d found with Tesco Mobile. It couldn’t, so while on the phone I ‘upgraded’ to EE and took out a price plan that cost more, and had fewer inclusive allowances than the deal I’d found with Tesco Mobile.

Not very MoneySaving I know, but I was wary of moving away from the mobile network I’d been with since I was 18.

The phone arrived quickly, but it didn’t take long for me to realise I hated the Windows mobile operating system and began pining for my old phone. Regret piled on when I calculated I’d be spending £80 more over the 24 month contract period for this phone with EE than I would have with Tesco Mobile’s deal, and getting less to show for it.

I remembered reading about cooling off periods

Luckily I remembered reading about cooling off periods on MoneySavingExpert.com and how under new consumer rights regulations, which came into force in June, contracts and goods bought online, over the phone or on the doorstep can be cancelled and returned within 14 calendar days – up from the previous seven working days.

And indeed the letter that came with the phone mentioned the 14 day cooling off period in its small print.

Life’s too short for regrets, so I rung EE and to its credit, it was a very easy process to cancel the contract I’d just taken out. It informed me it would send me an envelope to return the phone to it, and that my contract would be downgraded back to my old Orange Sim-only one.

The envelope soon arrived and I got prematurely excited thinking the postage had been paid for. Unfortunately not, although £7.15 special delivery was a small price to pay to erase my mistaken purchase.

I’m back to my old phone now and slightly worse off financially, but I have just taken out a cheaper contract with Tesco Mobile for the Motorola Moto G 4G. The phone hasn’t arrived yet, but hopefully I won’t need to test the cooling off period again!

Have you bought something over the phone, online or on the doorstep and then cancelled the contract during the cooling off period? Did you have any problems doing it? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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Amy Ellis

How much would you pay for travel vaccinations?

How much would you pay for travel vaccinations?

I can’t move either of my arms. "Oh that must be all that gym work you’ve been doing in a pre-wedding panic", I hear you cry. Sadly not (I have been going, but I never work so hard that I can’t move my arms the next day, that’s just silly). I have been injected with vaccines in both of my upper arms.

Yes, after the wedding comes the honeymoon. And with that comes the recommendation that both my fiancé and I should be injected with seemingly every vaccination under the sun.

Ok, so that’s an exaggeration. But the question still remains, when faced with so many possible vaccinations that you could have before travelling to some far flung place and most coming with a hefty price tag, which ones do you go for? And can you ever be moneysaving when it comes to this sort of thing?

Luckily, under the NHS I was able to go to the doctors and have a lot of the vaccines that I needed before our travels for free, leaving a slight dent in my arm, but not my wallet.

But the NHS only covers a certain number of vaccinations for the places we’re visiting, so we went to a private travel clinic to have a consultation on the other recommended vaccines that we might need. It was then that I started to feel faint from the prices being bandied around.

Here’s what the private clinic recommended to us for the different places we’re travelling to and the price tag attached to them:

  • Japanese B Encephalitis – course of two, £100 per injection = £200.
  • Hepatitis B – course of three, £35 per injection = £105.
  • Rabies – course of three, £55 per injection = £165.
  • Malaria – £2.30 per tablet + £10 prescription fee, we would need 10 = £33.
  • Total cost: £503 – that’s over £1,000 for the two of us.

I’ve spoken to some people who have been to where we’re going and have just risked it, not having any of the vaccines – but one who as a result ran scared from a cave after they realised it had bats in it! And others who say you can’t put a price on your health and have gone for the whole kit and caboodle.

After all, maybe it’s better to spend a couple of hundred pounds now, rather than thousands of pounds if something goes wrong when you’re out there? Though hopefully a good insurance policy would kick in then!

As for me, I have decided to go with the rabies injections and the malaria tablets, the two things I feel are most important. But I am still very much in two minds about whether I should be trying to be moneysaving in this type of situation.

I don’t know the answer to this and would love to hear your opinions on it and what decision you’ve made in a similar situation. Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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Amy Ellis

My invitations with 2nd class stamps arrived the next day

My invitations with 2nd class stamps arrived the next day

We’ve been conditioned into thinking that first class is, well, classier. Whether it’s flying or getting the train, first class is what everyone aspires to. But with that added class comes added cost.

It’s no different when it comes to sending a lowly letter. Here the class comes from the speed of delivery, and that speed of delivery by Royal Mail will cost you an extra 9p on a stamp for a normal-sized letter.

"Only 9p?" I hear you cry. "That’s small change." And that’s what I used to think. That’s before I sent 70 wedding invitations in the post this week.

As the control freak that I am, I decided a self-addressed, stamped envelope for people to send their RSVPs back, was entirely necessary. After all, what’s the point of going to all the effort with the invites if people don’t even bother to reply?

As if that wasn’t bad enough, our invitations were rather chunky (in a classy way), and didn’t fit Royal Mail’s required size for a normal-sized letter, so I was now faced with the dreaded ‘large letter’ cost.

There was only one thing for it. I had to bump the invitations down to second class delivery. We’d put an RSVP response date on the invitation, but I decided second class, which states it will get there within three working days (as opposed to first class next working day) would just have to suffice.

I tried not to feel too embarrassed as the couple next to me, who were sending out their invites as well, decided they would take the extra cost on the chin and stumped for first class.

Second class, but next day delivery

Turns out it’s the best postage-related decision I ever made. I posted the invitations on Tuesday morning before work, and by Wednesday morning (the next day) I was getting texts off friends and family saying they had already received them. I now felt sorry for the couple that paid the extra for first class.

Working at MoneySavingExpert.com, I couldn’t help myself but do the maths and work out how much I had saved by sending second class and receiving the same service as if I had sent them first class. Here’s how much I saved…

  • Second class stamps for RSVP envelope – 70 x 53p = £37.10
  • Main envelope large letter second class stamps – 70 x 73p = £51.10
  • Total = £88.20 (don’t judge me!)

What it would have cost me to send first class:

  • First class stamps for RSVP envelope – 70 x 62p = £43.40
  • Main envelope large letter first class stamps – 70 x 93p = £65.10
  • Total = £108.50

That’s a total saving of £20.30. Not a life-changing amount, but when you’re forking out money left, right and centre for a wedding, every penny counts.

Now obviously I could have avoided any such costs in the first place by sending an e-invite, but I like the tradition of sending an invitation by post. In fact I still enjoy sending letters despite the fact we now live in the digital age (the most recent one I sent I had actually written on a typewriter).

But when I send letters and cards in the future, I will no longer be wasting my hard-earned cash on first class stamps. It’s second class all the way for me.

Do you use first or second class stamps? Do you notice a difference in when letters arrive? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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MSE Rebecca

My friend came to me about baking her wedding cake

My friend came to me about baking her wedding cake

As long as I can remember I’ve been into baking, be it cakes, scones, biscuits or flapjacks. It’s a well-known fact among my friends and family, who frequently request baked goods when we meet up (chocolate Guinness cake being the most requested).

So when one of my best friends got engaged at Christmas and rapidly sped into planning mode, it was me she came to about the wedding cake.

Why not buy it from a professional you ask, and risk any potential disasters? But with prices starting at £500 for a personalised wedding cake, and even £100 for a ‘budget’ M&S version, this wasn’t an area they could splurge on.

While I might be good at baking and enjoy pottering around in the kitchen, I’m no Mary Berry and have no real clue when it comes to intricate decorations. Despite this, I agreed (after some gentle persuasion) to make it and started planning the big bake.

After much research and Pinterest scanning I went for a ‘naked’ wedding cake. This is a plain sponge cake covered in icing sugar and flowers – a bit of a cheat’s option as it avoids any icing dilemmas.

I made several practice cakes, with varying success, in the months leading up to the big day – these went down very well with the MSE team. I made the real thing the day before and it all went pretty much to plan.

All the ingredients for the humongous cake (feeding 100 guests, plus extras) came in at £40 for the day, plus about £30 for the practice versions – a saving of £430 compared to buying a professional personalised cake.

All the ingredidents came in at £70

All the ingredidents came in at £70

A continual shower of praise from impressed guests, combined with being able to really get involved with her big day, made the hours spent staring into my oven praying for the cake to rise and not poison all the guests worth it.

But while it’s significantly cheaper to go for a DIY wedding cake, it’s definitely not stress-free.

So if you’re going down this route for your wedding, unless your baking (and organising) skills could see you through to The Great British Bake Off final, pick a friend to do it for you.

The wedding cake I baked

The wedding cake I baked

Have you made a wedding cake before? How much did you save? Do you have any tips you could share? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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MSE Rebecca

Swap Shops: How to get something  new for nothing

Swap Shops: How to get something new for nothing

As a natural-born hoarder, the thought of a Swap Shop fills me with both joy and fear. The fear that I’ll actually be forced into clearing through my worldly goods, and the joy of picking up some new bits to add to the collection.

For those who don’t know what a Swap Shop is, it’s basically a chance to bring in anything you’ve got lying at home that you’ve been meaning to clear out, but haven’t got around to, and swap it for something else. After all, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

So aside from my love of collecting things, the reason we held a Swap Shop at MSE Towers was to coincide with Recycle Week 2014, as MSE Wendy helpfully pointed out.

Recycle Week is a nationwide event, held this year between 16-22 June, but individuals and groups (like ours) can get involved throughout the year. The theme of this year’s was "Recycling at Home and Away", so a Swap Shop fitted perfectly.

Despite most of the team at MSE being super-efficient with extra clutter and making as much money as they can from it on websites such as eBay, we had a pretty good turnout.

The rules were simple – bring along anything you no longer need, excluding clothes. Officially you’re meant to hand out tokens to ensure people only get something back when they’ve dropped something off, but as we’re newbies to it all we waived this rule.

Most items were books or DVDs, with a few curveballs such as a kic=- boxing helmet, Ryan Gosling colouring book, hi-vis jacket and an animal-themed top trumps game.

I’d put myself under strict instruction NOT to take anything home but still ended up with three new books to get stuck into. First on the list is The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-Time, which has been on my reading list for a while.

The idea’s simple but it works. Instead of throwing your old stuff away, it’s an easy way to swap it around. You save money by getting something for free and not forking out for another brand new item, and everything left over was taken to a charity shop.

As it worked so well, we’re planning to make it a semi-regular event at MSE Towers.

Have you held or been to a Swap Shop? Do you have any tips you could share? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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Paloma Kubiak

We've finally done it – we've bought our first home!

We've finally done it – we've bought our first home!

At Christmas, my fiancé and I realised we’d saved enough of a deposit to buy our first home. As New Year’s Eve rolled on, one of my resolutions was to make this dream a reality for us in 2014.

It’s been just over six months, but we finally got the keys to our new place last week.

When we first entered our mortgage and home-owning journey, it seemed a minefield until we read MoneySavingExpert.com’s First Time Buyers’ guide from top to bottom.

But now we’ve got some tips of our own to share, and hopefully our experience will give you an insight into buying your own home too.

What was lurking in our credit files?

Checking your credit file is one of the most important things you should do. It’ll give you an idea of exactly how lenders view you and your finances before you make a mortgage application. If you have any arrears, these will show on your file for up to six years.

We signed up to Check My File, Experian and Equifax to see ours.

Annoyingly, while my credit score was good, I had a debt with O2 from four years ago when I had ended my mobile phone contract, cancelling a direct debit before the final payment had been taken.

I contacted O2 to explain the situation and luckily, it agreed to remove this default which also improved my credit score. So now both our credit files were fit for the next stage!

See MSE’s Credit Scores guide for ways to boost your rating and to check yours for free.

We talked it through with a broker

After speaking to MSE Lesley (our in-house broker), she recommended we speak to a broker to discuss our deposit, how much we could realistically borrow and the value of the home we could afford. We had to give details of salaries, any debts and outgoings such as pension or student loans. We also had to give an indication of what kind of mortgage we wanted, such as a fixed, interest-only or tracker loan.

Our broker then talked us through the various lenders and which mortgage would suit our needs. At this point, it was time to get what’s called a "decision in principle" – the bank’s preliminary nod to lend to us.

We had to supply countless bank statements, payslips and proof of identity. Lenders typically want to see three months’ worth of statements, but it can be more. I can’t stress the importance of having all your papers in order before doing this and having a proper filing system. A photocopier/scanner were also a must.

But once we had this sorted, it was onto the fun part…

We became ‘hot buyers’

Once we knew our budget, we visited all the local estate agents to tell them exactly what we were looking for. We were strict on location, the fact that we wanted three bedrooms, didn’t mind taking on a project house and that we wanted a garden with side access.

I kept all their business cards to give them regular calls to see if anything new had come to the market, or if they had anything coming up.

Estate agents also told us they’d add us to their ‘hot buyer’ list, where we could get a heads-up of properties just about to come on the market. (A ‘hot buyer’ is someone in a good position to move quickly, so a sale’s guaranteed within a short space of time.)

And we also created email alerts at Zoopla and Rightmove so we’d find out about their latest houses coming to the market.

At first I’d email to arrange viewings, but it’s best to pick up the phone – the longer we looked, the harder it became to even get a look-in on the open day for viewings.

I’d also recommend keeping a spreadsheet of every property you visit, listing all the pros and cons. This showed us exactly what we wanted in a property and what we wouldn’t compromise on, eg, a small kitchen. We visited more than 60 properties in total and only five stood out for us.

We fell in love… but were then outbid

Within a month, we fell in love with a house. It ticked all our boxes. But just as much as we loved it, everyone else did too.

We submitted our offer and contacted our solicitor. Unfortunately, our offer was declined. Someone had offered £7,000 above the asking price.

We then had the same experience with three other properties – cash buyers were offering £10,000-£20,000 more than the asking price. It was frustrating, but at least we’d made contact with our solicitor and knew exactly who we could contact if we made an offer that was accepted.

Before getting a solicitor, be careful to read the whole contract of employment. It seems tedious, but you need to know exactly what the solicitor’s fees cover and what they don’t cover.

Then we found a repossession property – not for the faint-hearted

We then found a repossession that we loved. It had an attractive price tag because of its status and also had a homely feel. We spent 20 minutes inside, talking about what we’d change if the house was ours. We only stayed five minutes in all the other houses we’d seen – not much when you consider this is one of the largest financial transactions you’ll probably ever make in your life.

But getting involved with a repossession was probably the most stressful thing we’ve ever gone through. There are some important things you should know:

  • The offer you make for the property goes on public notice until an exchange of contracts – so anyone can make a higher offer right up until you exchange, often forcing you to match or up your offer.
  • There’s usually a cut-off point where the highest offer wins, but we didn’t experience this.
  • Any offer you submit above the lender’s valuation, you have to cover – say a house is valued by your lender at £250,000 and you offer £255,000, you have to find the additional £5,000 – the bank won’t add this to your mortgage.
  • We couldn’t negotiate a lower price as you can with a normal house sale.
  • Most are ‘sold as seen’. So anything that’s in the house stays as it is. So we ended up with furniture, garden junk and personal possessions.

It’s also important you do thorough checks on the property, as you can’t simply go and ask the previous owner as with a normal sale. We downloaded crime stats and its energy performance certificate. We also knocked on neighbours’ doors to find out about the area and the previous owner.

We also checked the Environment Agency website to see if it was on a flood plain and the local council website to see planning applications.

Often with repossession properties, the gas, electric and water are disconnected as the previous owner may have struggled to pay the bills. So we found out who supplied what and how to get it reconnected.

A £450 survey saved us from a £40,000 bill

Once you’ve made an offer, and it’s accepted, you should get a survey carried out. This was a saving grace for us with one house we very nearly bought.

We booked a homebuyers’ survey that rates different aspects of your home on a scale of one to three. It came back as nearly all threes, indicating £40,000 of urgent work, including replacement windows, new roof and heavy damp penetration to the brickwork.

We paid around £450 for the valuation and survey, but we had to swallow our pride and walk away at that stage.

Finally… we bought our house

In the end, we bought the repossessed house. It needs a lot of work to get it habitable, but it’s got everything we need and want. We’re now going to spend every moment we can doing it up.

It’s been a six-month journey, with ups and downs and finally a high. We got the keys last Friday and we couldn’t contain our excitement.

Even sitting on garden chairs in the front room, we didn’t care. The house is ours and we no longer have to service someone else’s mortgage through paying rent.

Have you recently bought your own home? Do you have any tips you could share? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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Paloma Kubiak

Up to 7 million people were mis-sold credit and ID theft cover

Up to 7 million people were mis-sold credit and ID theft cover

I’m one of millions of people mis-sold worthless credit card theft cover, and I’ve just successfully reclaimed £150!

Up to seven million people were mis-sold credit and identity theft cover from banks and CPP. At the end of last year, all those affected were asked to vote on a redress scheme to get their money back.

As it needed a majority to vote ‘yes’ for people to get their money back, that’s exactly what I did (see my previous blog Why I’m voting ‘yes’ to the CPP card protection redress scheme).

And earlier this year, the vote worked in my favour as I received my reclaim form.

While I knew I was mis-sold the protection policy – I was 20 and had just taken out my first credit card and I didn’t feel I was given the full information about the insurance – I was still a little sceptical about filling in the form.

What if they didn’t believe me or I didn’t coherently explain how I was mis-sold the policy?

I read MoneySavingExpert.com’s Reclaim CPP Card Protection guide for the full information, especially the section offering help on filling in the claim form.

After five minutes of putting my case forward on paper, I popped it in the post about a month ago. I forgot about it until yesterday evening when I came home to a nice surprise.

You were mis-sold a worthless policy – so claim

I received a letter with the outcome of my CPP claim, and the first thing that grabbed my attention was the cheque for £150.44 enclosed.

My claim form had been reviewed and it was successful. It said I was being repaid for the £105 I’d paid for the cover on or after 14 January 2005, plus gross interest of 8% per year – £56.80 in total – had also been applied.

Minus tax, the total came to just over £150. I thought I had paid about £80 for the policy all those years ago, but this cheque was a lot more than I was expecting.

My fiancé and I have just bought our first home, so the money will definitely help us out with removal costs.

It took a few minutes to complete and I’d urge anyone else sitting on the form to just fill it in. The money is rightfully yours – you were mis-sold a worthless policy. Now’s the time to get it back before the August deadline.

Have you successfully reclaimed yet? Tell us below or in the forum.

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Andrea Hirai

Three years on and my daughter's clothes are still going strong

Three years on and my daughter's uniform is still going strong

I’m sure we all remember our mums saying "you’ll grow into it" when we were kids. I never thought I’d end up the same. Yet here I am, three years after my eldest daughter started school, hoping she doesn’t have a growth spurt in the next three months.

In my eldest daughter’s first year at school – reception class for the uninitiated – I bought her a jumper and a cardigan with the school logo on. It was in a size that was quite a bit bigger than she needed as I’d hoped it would last for a while and I wouldn’t have to shell out on buying a new set.

At her school it isn’t compulsory to buy school uniform with the logo on, although it’s nice to have two smart ones for special occasions like school trips and school photos, so she also has cardigans from Aldi and M&S too.

But I definitely over-estimated the sizes. I thought I’d be buying new uniform after a year or so. Yet almost three years later she’s coming to the end of Year 2 and her clothes are still going strong.

Granted, they’re a little faded and the cuffs are a bit frayed. But while I should get the sewing kit out, for now I’m just turning the cuffs back.

She moves up to junior school in September where the uniform is blue – at infant school it’s red – so I need to order a new uniform now so it arrives in time for the start of the new school year in September.

Someone asked me if I’d sew up the old red uniform and pass it onto my younger daughter who starts school for the first time in September. It’s tempting, and I’m going to reuse the plain cardigans for her, but I’ve decided it’s only fair she gets a couple of new items with the school logo on just as her older sister did.

Now I just need to guesstimate what sizes to order for both of them that’ll last at least another year or two! If you’re a parent, grandparent or guardian, what do you do to make your kid’s uniform and clothes go further? Tell us below or in the forum.

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