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November 10, 2011

Online shopping – Are you ready for Christmas?

Filed under: Features — Tags: , — Martin @ 11:04 am

Are you one of those people that scours the internet for bargains? This type of shopping is becoming more and more popular with great deals to be found across the world. However, make sure you don’t get caught out with a sudden tax bill.

Online shoppers should be aware of a tax bill they may receive if they order Christmas gifts from outside the EU, the UK tax authority says. Many shoppers could be caught out if they think they have a bargain but fail to factor in VAT and customs duty, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned.

Any package valued at more than £15 bought over the internet from outside the EU faces a £15 VAT charge. Customs duty might also be due for goods valued at more than £135. Read the story here: Online shopping

October 27, 2011

Cash machine – Precious metal anyone?

Filed under: Features — Tags: , , , , , — Martin @ 2:54 pm

An Indian company has launched what it says is the world’s first cash machine to dispense diamonds as well as gold and silver coins. Backers say the automated teller machines (ATMs) will be a “one-stop shop for buying medallions, coins and jewellery”.

They hope to cash in on the insatiable demand of Indians for jewels and precious metals. In all, 75 ATMs are planned for retail centres, temples and airports.

The machine offers nearly 40 products, ranging from 10-gram gold coins etched with an image of the Hindu goddess of wealth to diamond-studded pendants. Prices range from $20 (£12) to $610 (£380). India is the world’s largest consumer of gold, according to the World Gold Council, with more than 900 tonnes of the metal changing hands last year.

Read the full story here: Gold and silver

7 billion people and you

Filed under: Features — Tags: , — Martin @ 2:50 pm

The world’s population expected to hit 7 billion people at some time early next week.

After growing very slowly for most of human history, the number of people on Earth has more than doubled in the last 50 years. Where do you fit into this story of human life? Fill in your date of birth at the link here to find out:

7 billion people

October 26, 2011

Energy bills – How to reduce your costs this winter

Filed under: Features — Tags: , , — Martin @ 12:18 pm

With winter on its way, there is probably no bigger financial headache for millions of Britons than keeping a lid on energy bills. 

 Recent double-digit rises in the price of gas and electricity announced by most suppliers is probably just the beginning in what is likely to be a winter of discontent for households.

 Against this backdrop, last week we had the Government’s energy summit between ministers and the big six suppliers, which most observers agree achieved little. So it seems, as consumers, we’re going to have to take matters into our own hands. But, with the first frosts already here, what are the easy wins for homeowners? And which energy-saving measures work best?

 Get the whole list of measures here: Energy saving

October 13, 2011

Private rents in England unaffordable, says Shelter

Filed under: Features — Tags: , — Martin @ 11:41 am

Private rents are now unaffordable in 55% of local authorities in England, the housing charity Shelter has said. Homes in these areas cost more than 35% of median average local take-home pay – the level considered unaffordable by Shelter’s Private Rent Watch report.

The charity said 38% of families with children who rent privately have cut back on buying food to help pay rent. Chief executive Campbell Robb said: “We have become depressingly familiar with first-time buyers being priced out of the housing market, but the impact of unaffordable rents is more dramatic.

“With no cheaper alternative, ordinary people are forced to cut their spending on essentials like food and heating, or uproot and move away from jobs, schools and families.” Are you affected by this huge disparity: Private rents unaffordable

October 6, 2011

Energy Bills – Cheapest deal rises above £1,000

Filed under: Features — Tags: , , — Martin @ 11:16 am

The cheapest household energy deal costs more than £1,000 a year for the first time ever, according to a leading price comparison site.

The deal is EDF’s Energy Discount Plan v5, costing £1,024 a year for a household with average annual energy usage (16,500kWh for gas and 3,300kWh electricity), according to

In recent weeks, energy providers have put their prices up, many applying double-digit increases to gas and electricity bills. Mark Todd, director of Energyhelpline, said: “The cheapest energy tariffs keep getting axed and now there are no tariffs costing under £1,000 a year for an average home.

“This is the first time that has been the case and emphasises in stark terms how bills are reaching historic levels.” . Read the story here: Energy bills

October 5, 2011

Debts – David Cameron to urge households to pay off debts

Filed under: Features — Tags: , — Martin @ 12:00 pm

David Cameron will urge the country not to become paralysed by gloom and fear even though he will admit the depth of the debt crisis means the good times will be a long time coming.

But despite the efforts to lift the mood of the country, Cameron will also provide a frank admission that the economy is not going to be fixed quickly. His aides openly admit that the country’s finances are in worse state than they had expected – a fact underlined by repeated downgrading of official growth forecasts.

At one point he will even urge households to clear their debts: “The only way out of a debt crisis is to deal with your debts. That means households – all of us – paying off the credit card and store card bills.” Read the full story here: Household debts

October 4, 2011

Energy bills and emissions still rising due to gadget addiction, says report

Filed under: Features — Tags: , — Martin @ 1:47 pm

Energy-conscious home owners may religiously switch appliances off at the plug, insulate their houses and turn off lights in empty rooms, but our obsession with gadgets means energy bills and emissions are still rising, according to a report on UK home energy use.

A desire for energy-guzzling products such as extra large fridges and flatscreen televisions is pushing up home electricity bills and making carbon targets increasingly unlikely to be achieved, she said.

“Human ingenuity knows no bounds and we will not stop finding you ways to entertain ourselves with new technology, and of course that is to be applauded,” said Owen. “But we are obsessed with gadgets and in these austere times people need to think about what they buy, if they need it and how they use it.” Read the full story here: Energy bills

September 15, 2011

Guinness World of Records – New record holders

Filed under: Features — Tags: , — Martin @ 1:59 pm

A woman with 10-foot fingernails and a student with a four-inch tongue are among entries in the 2012 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. Doncaster man Rob Hull, 49, is also in the book for having 571 Daleks – despite not being a Doctor Who fan.

The 2012 edition of the famous record book also sees a new face claiming the prestigious title of longest fingernails in the world. Christine Walton, 45, from Las Vegas, has 10ft 2in (3.1m) fingernails on her left hand and 9ft 7in (2.92m) talons on her right hand.

Meanwhile, 36-year-old Aevin Dugas from New Orleans also gets a mention in the new edition. Ms Dugas is the proud owner of the largest natural afro in the world – her massive head of hair has a circumference of 4ft 4in (1.32m). Read the story here: Guiness World of Records

September 14, 2011

Laughter really is the best medicine

Filed under: Features — Tags: , — Martin @ 9:21 am

People feel less pain after a good laugh, because it may cause the body to release chemicals that act as a natural painkiller, research has suggested. The researchers at the University of Oxford also think the ability to belly laugh was unique to early humans.

They were then split into two groups, with one being shown 15 minutes of comedy videos, while the other was shown material the researchers deemed boring – such as golfing programmes. The researchers found that those subjects that had recently experienced belly laughs were able to withstand up to 10% more pain than they had done before watching the videos.

To their surprise, the scientists also found that the other group was less able to bear pain after watching 15 minutes of the “boring” programmes. The type of laughter was also important. Tittering and giggling did not elicit any physiological effect; only a good guffaw did the job. Read the full story here: Laughter is the best medicine

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