frown

Me: Hello, smile, is it possible to convert my regular bank account into a student account?
Smile: No probs. Send us your university acceptance letter and funding form and we’ll get right on it.
Me: Here you go.
Smile: Thanks! Here’s the thing: we can’t convert your account. You’ll need to set up a new one and run it alongside.
Me: Ok. How do I do that?
Smile: Just submit a normal account application, tell us your current account details and we’ll get it all linked up so you can see it in the same interface.
Me: Ok, I’ve submitted my application.
Smile: Thanks! We’ve rejected it. We won’t tell you why. Byeee!

Mortgage hunting

This morning I rang my bank to find out how my mortgage will change once the fixed-rate term expires. Turns out there’s an 80% increase. Holy crap. So, today rapidly became about finding a better deal.

moneysavingexpert.com is my first destination for anything financial, and turned out to have a downloadable remortgaging guide. It recommends that everybody but the most financially savvy use a broker, so I gave London & Country a call. They apparently make their money in referral fees from the banks/building societies involved, so it seems less risky than phoning a random person from the phone book. They’re also able to link into my current bank’s systems to view offers only available to existing customers etc.. Hopefully they’re ok. They’re currently off deal-hunting and have promised to get back to me today/tomorrow.

Obviously fees are going to go up – my fixed rate was 4.3% and the current BoE rate is 5.75% – but hopefully it won’t be too insane. Might have to try and speed up the job applications process, though…

Applying for jobs

Not to be too dramatic about it, but I have two financial crises on the horizon. Well, they used to be on the horizon, but have now climbed my neighbour’s fence and are currently drooling onto his dahlias. My fixed-rate mortgage is going to end in September, and it’s going to go up a lot. And come next February I’ll have a large tax bill to pay. I’ve been living fairly close to the edge for a while now and it’s been ok, but I haven’t a hope of coping if nothing changes, so it is therefore time for me to get a proper part-time job. Which is fine and will be a blessed relief. It’ll also give me a little extra capital, and it’ll be nice to buy books without feeling guilty.

I’ve applied for jobs at the local library before, and as it happens they recently announced two full-time vacancies. But, I can’t pull that off once my university course starts in whenever (I haven’t heard anything since the acceptance letter, which is getting worrying). Happily there are a couple of other options. Today I applied for insanely cool dream job. Really, it would be fantastic. I’ve no clue what my chances are, but if I have no luck I’ll apply for a part-time post at the local Jessops. I was going through all sorts of I’m-24-I-should-be-past-retail-work silliness for a while, but I now think it’d be a good job, particularly if I’m doing the photography degree at the same time. It’s within walking distance and I’d at least have some idea of what I’m talking about. And, you know, discounts 🙂

Microsoft Money 2005

Last weekend I decided I needed some kind of budgeting software. I could make a spreadsheet, but I know me and my laziness and can be pretty sure that wouldn’t work. I looked on the moneysavingexpert.com forums and the program that came out on top was Microsoft Money. They all seemed to like it, and even those with their own spreadsheets were often planning to move the data into the 2005 version. It definitely seemed to be the one to go for.

You can buy and download MS Money directly from the MS website, but only if you’re in the US. Also, there are different software releases for the US and the UK, so ordering from a US online store wouldn’t work. No UK sites allow downloads, and the 90-day trial expired back in October. On Tuesday I was about to drive to PC World and pick up a copy at £18.99, but then decided I’d avoid rush hour by waiting until Wednesday. By then the price had dropped to £12.49, which was nice 🙂 I installed it last night and have spent a good few hours inputting all my data and configuring the program.

A major advantage of MS Money is that it can import online statements. If the bank offers transaction data in QIF or OFX formats the software will automatically detect the download and insert the data into the appropriate account. My HSBC bank account supports this, although Egg does not. Still, it saved me a lot of time. I categorised each payment / deposit from the past two months, then set up a budget and with some trepidation calculated my financial forecast for the next few months.

Hmmm. With my computer-repair income I’m just afloat currently, providing I stick rigidly to the budget1, and that’s without any kind of saving for the future. At least I know that I can’t afford another 512mb of ram right now 🙂

The software is quite impressive, although I think it could do with a printed manual. Switching between a .pdf user guide and the main screen is a pain, and it’s easy to lose your place. I’ve got my savings and current accounts all set up, plus my two credit cards and a ‘cash’ account for tracking ATM withdrawals. Every scrap of money I have is accounted for, which is great for an overall picture. There certainly seems to be room for expansion, with panels for ‘investments’, ‘debt reduction plans’, ‘life events’ etc.

The only problem I’m having is getting it to forecast credit card payments in advance. I seem to have to insert them manually, which is weird considering it knows the current balance, plus statement and payment dates. I’m probably not understanding it correctly, though.

I think MS Money is an excellent investment for me, as I hate not having a grip on my finances.

  1. until I get a part-time job, anyway []