Top money stories - 22nd - 28th November 2007

Top Tip:

The best things in life are free. But you can give ‘em to the birds an’ bees.”Barrett Strong, Money (That’s What I Want), 1959.

Money doesn’t make you happy, or at least that is what we are told.

A survey commission last week has raised support for this somewhat unlikely fact. Research published by, perhaps surprising, the lottery operator revealed that even winning the jackpot does not make you happy in and of itself. It’s the free things in life that make people happy. Long soaks in the bath, an afternoon nap, a pleasant stroll in the park, or spending time with your children are just some of the free things that bring the greatest joy.

While it is something that most of us already know, if we fail to take advantage of the free things in life – giving them to the birds and bees – then we may be missing out on some of the greatest things life has to offer.

The Financial week that was...

Monday 22nd October

Mortgage holders cut unsecured borrowing – While unsecured loans for all borrowers increased by about 3% on an annualised basis, homeowners reduced their unsecured borrowing by 3% between April and June this year according to Alliance and Leicester’s latest “borrowing monitor”.

The poll also showed that mortgage holders are 50% more likely than the average person to reduce credit card debt and personal loans over the next six months.The data also revealed that saving increased from 2.1% to 3.1%, from the previously three months. While it is fantastic that saving has increased, the saving rate is still well below the ten year average of 6%. It is important to save for many reasons. One important reason is that it allows you to cope if there is a change in circumstances, such as illness or the loss of your job. Do you have an Individual Savings Account (ISA)? Check out the Saving Section of the Moneybasics website to find out what it is and go the Money Savings Ideas page too.

Wednesday 24th October

Unsecured borrowing to fall – The news continues to be dominated by issues arising from the credit crunch. Datamonitor, an independent market analyst, expects consumer credit in the UK to fall in the coming months because lenders are raising their rates and rejecting more applicants. Even if you can gain access to credit, it is important to think seriously about whether you will be able to pay if off as credit is more expensive now than it has been in recent history.

Thursday 25th October

Shop online to save – Consumer group Which? has found that savings of more than £1000 could be made if a flat screen TV, camera, camcorder, hi-fi and DVD recorder were bought online instead of in a shop. Books were found to be 14% cheaper online, MP3 players - 11%, CDs - 7%. However, games consoles were found to be similarly priced. While savings can be made online, it is only a “saving” if you were already looking to buy the item. Think carefully if the item you want to buy is something you need, or just something that you want.

Mortgage approvals fall – British Bankers’ Association (BBA) said that mortgage approvals fell 27%, on an annualised basis, for September. It has been seven years since mortgage approvals for September were this low, supporting the findings released over the last couple months about the cooling housing market.

Restrictions on credit unions to be lifted – Credit unions will soon be able to communicate with stakeholders electronically and expand their membership to include tenants and employees of housing associations. Currently credit unions must conduct all transactions in paper and membership is restricted by law. If you are interested in setting up a Credit Union, click here.

Friday 26th October

More evidence for housing slowdown – Not that it’s surprising anymore, but there is even more evidence that house prices have reached a peak, if only temporarily. The Land Registry said that the annual inflation rate for residential properties dropped 0.7% from August to September.

Government house-building target inadequate – The National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, an independent body, said that the government’s plan to build 240,000 new homes per year is insufficient. They claim that an additional 30,000 homes per year need to be built in order to stabilise the housing market. Building more homes increases the supply of housing on the market, thus helping to reduce inflationary pressure brought about by the number of homes on the market being inadequate to meet demand.

Prepared for Moneybasics by Jason Taylor