Thinking of renting out your spare room?

Spare room renting“Having a lodger” or “taking lodgings” are phrases that bring to mind the Victorian era, when widowed ladies rented out rooms in their city homes to single men and women. Though private homes and apartments have since become the norm, the idea of renting a single room in a private home has been steadily increasing, due in part to the difficult economy. For homeowners, the idea of renting out a room has become more and more appealing, so much so that the number of private homeowners renting out a spare room in their home has more than tripled in the past year.

Financial advantages of renting out a spare room

The extra income generated on a monthly basis is one of, if not the, main reasons that people choose to open their homes to a stranger. The amount of rent being charged for a room will vary depending not only on the size of the room and its amenities, but also on where the home is located. A bedroom with bathroom and kitchen privileges may run around $200 per month while a room with a private bathroom en-suite or possibly an efficiency layout with a small refrigerator and microwave could run as much as $500 per month. The type and amount of furnishings, as well as the utilities included will also affect pricing.

Renting out a spare room also allows the homeowner to receive a break on their income taxes by deducting part of their home ownership expenses. Real estate taxes and home mortgage interest are two areas where dividing the property into effectively two homes can save when it comes to tax time. Deductions may also be taken for general maintenance, expenses and repairs to the home, including utility bills and repairs to appliances, as long as these are available to the entire home. Installing utility services directly to the room being let may also be deducted, for example the installation of a cable or phone line.

Financial costs of renting out a spare room

Choosing to rent out a room in the home means the homeowner may have to invest before the profits roll in. The room needs to be properly and simply decorated with a sleeping area the primary focus and a seating area a close second. This may mean carefully selecting furnishings and investing in pieces such as a sleeper sofa or a built-in Murphy bed that are both functional and attractive. Room design and décor may need to be quite different in a rented room than it would be in the rest of the home, with furniture choices and layouts more like those in a studio or efficiency apartment than in a traditional bedroom. The homeowner can save on the furniture by watching for sales and taking advantage of free delivery if available. Neutral color palettes and wood furniture pieces are universally appreciated and allow the tenant some leeway to express themselves and their style by adding accessories and personal items.

Other financial considerations include legal expenses, such as credit checks on prospective tenants and extra home insurance reflecting the new rental status of the property.

How you can save money around the home

Save money at homeThrough necessity, saving money is a preoccupation for many householders. With energy price hikes, rising inflation and wages that never increase, something’s got to give somewhere.

For those looking to shave expenses off their budgets, the home is a good place to start. It is important to save money where we can and when we look more closely at our homes it is often the case that we could be doing things more efficiently. Here are some ideas for making savings across all areas of the home.

Heating and insulation

Keeping warm in winter is certainly not getting any cheaper. Produce savings in modern homes by being flexible with the central heating thermostat. Reducing the temperature by a couple of degrees saves money, but will not be noticeable. Oil heating can be expensive and increasingly householders are opting for wood burning stoves, which offer cheaper fuel alternatives.

Check for draughts and seal around doors, wooden floorboards and around windows to minimise cold air blasting in. Double-glazing helps keep a house warm but if this is too costly, for a fraction of the price plastic film can be applied to windows to make rooms warmer. Simply apply with special tape and shrink with the heat from a hair dryer, the reduction in draughts and condensation will be immediate. Other effective ways of restricting heat loss at windows include solid shutters, heavy curtains and thick blinds.

Other cost saving areas

Half the battle with saving money on energy in the home is down to changing people’s habits. Getting them to switch off lights when they aren’t in use, not leaving gadgets on standby, switching to LED light bulbs, fitting aerating shower heads, using the oven to cook more than one dish or investing in a pressure or slow cooker for cheap delicious meals at low cost – all these small changes can add up to substantial cost reductions.

High-cost appliances

The cost of heating water with electricity is high. Do not overfill the kettle, only boil the water that is required – this is one of the biggest wastes of money and energy in most homes. Only turn on the washing machine when there is a full load. Most clothes can be washed at 30 instead of 40 degrees – lowering the water temperature will scrub money off the laundry bill. Tumble dryers eat energy so if hanging out laundry to line dry is an option, do it for free.

To calculate where money could be saved look at the gadgets or appliances that get used for long periods. LED TVs and game consoles are often in use for hours at a time – research which models are the most efficient before buying, as over a year these savings could mount up. There is a lot of information out there about the most cost effective, energy efficient household appliances. Get into the habit of selecting new big-ticket items such as cookers, fridges and dishwashers based on their energy ratings – the most efficient models are usually pricier, but going for the cheap option is a false economy.

Saving money around the home is all about looking harder at how we do things. Acting upon what we learn will benefit not only our wallets, but mother earth as well.

Expand your knowledge on tax planning

Money tax planning“Nothing is certain but death and taxes” – a quote, from Benjamin Franklin, that we will all have heard at one time. Neither is something we look forward to, but while we can’t do anything much about the former, there is plenty we can do about the latter.

Tax planning can be broadly defined as minimising one’s exposure to tax through ordering one’s financial affairs in such a way that only the right amount of tax due under the law, and no more than that, is paid. Tax planning is completely legal and is actually welcomed by the UK tax authority, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)

However, while HMRC wants everyone to pay the right amount of tax it hasn’t got the time or the resources to be able to provide all taxpayers with a comprehensive service to explore each individual’s financial / personal and business circumstances. So, unless your tax affairs are very simple – eg, an employee coming under the PAYE system – there is a very strong chance that you may not be paying exactly the right amount of tax to HMRC. That is not the fault of HMRC or indeed the result of anything you might have done, or not done. There are an awful lot of tax rules out there and the knowledge of what you are entitled to claim in the way of expenses, or what you can legally do to minimise tax, is not common knowledge amongst small business owners.

A quick look around the Internet can thoroughly confuse you about tax as this term is used to cover all sorts of charges and levies that are imposed by local councils as well as HMRC – eg, council tax and business rates.

The main areas of taxation that anyone studying tax planning needs to think about are those run by HMRC – income tax, capital gains tax, National Insurance contributions, VAT and corporation tax, and finally, when we get back to the subject of death, inheritance tax. That seems a reasonably small number to deal with, right? But beware, as within each one of these taxes there are vast numbers of complications, allowances, exemptions, concessions, thresholds, practices, etc. that you probably don’t know about. Do you know for example, if you are running a small business, whether you would be better off forming a company than working as a sole trader or partner?

If HMRC doesn’t have the resources, and the Internet information baffles you, where can you go in order to get good quality tax planning advice? The two areas of expertise to help you are accountants (indeed you may already have one) or if you want a more comprehensive review of all of your financial / taxation circumstances an Independent Financial Advisor, who is likely to be better informed about a whole range of taxation issues. Such a company will probably offer you a free consultation to assess your needs, and will provide a tailor-made service if required.

German Inflation Data Fuels Concerns

Inflation Data Fuels ConcernsConsumer inflation in Germany has fallen to levels last seen in April 2013, and reaction from the forex markets has been mixed. The federal statistics office confirmed what many analysts had previously indicated in their forecasts: German consumers got a slight break at the cash register during October.

Reaction by the forex markets to the economic update from Germany was mostly mixed. As reported on, the euro essentially disregarded the inflation news and advanced against the U.S. dollar and the British pound. The harmonized October reports from Germany show that inflation stood at 1.2 percent versus 1.4 percent in the previous month.

Reasons for Concern

Economists and European Union finance ministers are concerned that the latest figures from Germany point to a larger deflationary trend. Inflation in the Eurozone has been slowing gradually to the lowest levels in four years, which recently motivated the European Central Bank (ECB) to adjust the key interest rate downward to 0.25 percent.

In light of the global financial crisis and the European debt crisis, the ECB is keeping a close eye on inflation. The goal is to keep inflation a little under 2 percent for the purpose of stimulating the economy, but the 1.2 percent reports from Germany hint at the possibility of deflation.

News From the United Kingdom

Germany is not the only European nation to experience lower inflation rates. In the UK, the year-over-year inflation report for October came in at 2.2 percent. Analysts expected an increase to 2.5 percent, particularly after seeing inflation jump to 2.7 percent in October. This slowdown was not seen in the housing sector as home values in the UK are now at historically high levels. As a result, the British pound has been sluggish in the forex markets.

Positive News from the United States

The battered American economy saw signs of improvement thanks to a positive report from the Financial Conditions Index, which is an amalgam of the money lending rates and the yields on U.S. sovereign debt. This index climbed 0.4 percent to stand at 1,825. This macroeconomic indicator put the U.S. dollar on an uptick trend.

Gold Reacts to U.S. News

Now that the Federal Reserve Bank of the U.S. is hinting at a possible reduction of its stimulus program before 2013 comes to an end, gold prices reacted downward. As more positive economic news come out of the U.S., gold traders seem to be pulling back on their market positions, which are placing December futures as low as $1,280.40 an ounce.

Source: iFOREX