Everything you need to know about vehicle excise duty in 2017*

So much has changed since I first started learning to drive way back when I was 17 [which makes me feel horrendously old]. A lot of these changes pass me by until I get to the stage where I think I really ought to pick up my lessons again and this time around it seems there are more differences than ever. Not only is it more expensive than ever to run a car thanks to petrol prices- I remember the horror when it went past £1 per litre back in the day! There are also changes to the driving test itself and of course the upcoming changes to vehicle excise duty which I’ve been trying to get my head around and somewhat failing.

Guessing that I’m not alone in find it all very confusing I’m sharing this handy infographic from the brains at used car dealership Motorparks which helps explain things in pretty much the clearest way I’ve seen to date.

I hope that some of you, my lovely readers have found this helpful too. Hopefully this time around I will get myself driving by the end of the year, and at least when I finally do I’m armed with the most up to date knowledge I can find!

What’s changed since you first started driving- if anything? I suspect that most of you are too young for there to have been any changes!

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How to get the perfect sized ring*

Getting ring size right is a tricky one, I couldn’t tell you off hand what mine is which can pose a problem when shopping, especially online! You see the perfect ring, order it only to discover you were way off the mark with your estimations!

Thanks to retailer of antique jewellery, AC Silver I have an easy guide to how to measure your ring size (and I intend to do so and then save mine somewhere) so you don’t get caught out again. It should be noted that this can be a little bit tricky so it might be best to pop along to your local jeweller to make sure you get it spot on.

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Measuring Your Ring Size at Home

A common method is to cut a thin strip of paper, wrapping the paper around the finger and making a mark, then measuring with ruler. This way you can find out your size in millimetres then convert into the more recognisable size using a guide which you can find easily online. This method gives you a good starting point however consideration should be given to the design of the piece you are intending to buy.

You can also use an existing ring you have one already know fits and is of a similar design and width. You can have this measured on a jewellery ring stick (otherwise known as a mandrel sizing tool) at a jewellers to get an accurate idea of your size.

Things to Consider

Band / Shank Width – Wide bands such as wedding rings will always grip your finger tighter than a thinner ring style. The size of the shank does affect how the ring will feel whilst being worn and a jeweller will have ring gauges in narrow and broader types to emulate the chosen rings shank and determine the perfect fit. The greater the depth of the shank the greater the impact on the size and this may mean you need to go a ring size up.

Temperature – Your fingers are generally smaller in the morning so it is advisable to measure your ring size later in the day when you fingers are warmer (aiming for a normal body temperature). The difference may be surprising- a cold finger can sometimes be half a size smaller; if this smaller size was used as soon as you get hot the ring would become rather tight and may be uncomfortable.

Large Cocktail Rings – For rings which are ‘heavy on top‘ it is recommended going for a snugger fit to minimise that annoying spinning effect!
A sign of a good fit is when the ring sits neatly and needs a little wiggle over the knuckle to remove.

An Existing Ring – If you have a ring you already know fits and is of a similar design and width you can also have this measured on a jewellery ‘ring stick’ (otherwise known as a mandrel sizing tool), that way you can always surprise a loved one!

In short, whilst it is possible to measure your ring size at home, for an expensive or important purchase it’s recommended that you visit a professional jewellers to ensure the perfect fit. For costume jewellery however you might find the paper trick is just what you need.

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How to Successfully Launch Your Business*

Setting up your own business is both extremely challenging and hugely exciting- we understand the huge amount of time and effort that setting up a new business requires, it is all too tempting to get carried away and to want to launch and show the world our new business before it is quite ready.

Here is our simple list of things that you should be checking just before launching to make sure that you have everything under control and that you can head into your launch confidently and with everything in its proper place. Whether you’re a blogger, crafter or launching some other exciting venture make sure you read this post.

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It All Starts With Your Brand

Before you can launch you need to take one final step back and look at your brand to make sure that it is all good to go. You need to make sure that you have found the best way to ensure that your brand is going to connect with your customers and inform them what you’re all about. Take some time to make sure you are happy with how you have positioned your brand. Do you stand out and does your brand successfully tell a story? Do your products or service create customer desire? How does your brand make customers lives easier? Think about these questions and only move forward into launching your company once you’re happy with all the answers to these questions.

Look at the Areas You Can Save Money

When first setting up a company there really is no need to be too frivolous with money. Looking at the areas where you can keep expenses low is essential in order to focus on the more important areas that need investing in to ensure the growth of your company. You shouldn’t be worrying about impressing new clients with expensive gestures and gimmicks and slap up lunches. Generally clients are just looking for a service or product that delivers at a fair price. So all the money that you have at the beginning of your company should be put into proving that that’s what you offer.

Look at how you can also keep things tight with the new suppliers and providers that you are going to need to work with to move forwards. If you need to use the service of companies such as couriers then make sure you are putting the research into the cheapest and most cost effective options to avoid shelling out unnecessarily large amounts of money. Look for companies like https://www.shiply.com/ who offer a shared courier service which not only is so much more environmentally friendly- it also means you can pay anything up to 75% less than more traditional courier service provider.

Financial Advice

Before you really even think about launching your business you are going to need to receive some advice from a financial specialist who can help you plan for the first few months of your business. You must also protect your initial finances in order for them to grow with you as your company develops. There are are huge amount of companies that specialise in the set up, launch and initial phase of new companies so it is highly recommendable that you seek professional advice and put in some research on business advice sites like https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/250812, in this area to make sure that you feel confident that all your finances are in order so you can avoid any nasty surprises in the future.

If you’ve launched your own business and have any additional tips or advice then leave them in the comments below.

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Little Ways I Manage my Money*

I’ve always been pretty good at managing my money (thanks for that skill Dad!) so although I’ve been off from work for almost a year I’ve managed to cope without running up heaps of debt. Obviously this in part is due to moving back home to my parents following the end of my relationship- there’s no way I could have kept the flat on myself, or moved in to another no matter how much I loved it. I’ve always been very fortunate that financial help from my family has been available to me. But it would have been all too easy to bury my head in the sand and continue spending like I was on a full time wage. As it stands I’ve still managed to build up a modest amount of savings whilst still living a life so I thought that today I’d share some of the little ways in which I manage my money.

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1.: Alongside my main current account I have several other accounts that have all been given a specific role. One of these is for buying gifts, another is to fund a social life and another is my savings. Whenever I find myself with a bit of extra cash- any income generated from my blog for example the first thing I do is divide it up- a portion gets put away for end of year tax return (so I’m not left having to find a big chunk of money), and I also add a bit to each of these accounts so I’m constantly building up resources so I can accept a coffee invitation or pick up a birthday present without needing to dip in to my current account funds.
2.: For my day to day spending I use cash, my debit card rarely gets used in a shop. It’s far easier to face up to an empty purse than it is to keep a regular eye on your bank account and once my weekly “allowance” is gone it’s gone and I have to put serious thought in to whether I withdraw a bit extra to tide me over. If I don’t carry cash it because far too easy to fall in to the “oh I’ll just pay for that diet coke and magazine on my card” mindset- a quick swipe of the plastic doesn’t feel like spending money and it quickly adds up.
3.: Every pay day I put aside a certain amount of cash for shopping trips- usually £50 per month and this pays for my bi-monthly shopping trip with mum and funds a few purchases in Monki along the way. I find that by doing this I a) have something to look forward to and b) don’t tend to buy clothes outside of these trips because I know the next one isn’t too far away.
4.: If I do want something outside of these shopping trips I try and sell something on e-Bay first to fund it. This has the added bonus of a “one in, one out” effect on my wardrobe and makes me address my hoarding tendencies!
5.: I like to treat myself as much as the next person but before making a purchase I do force myself to think long and hard about whether I really want/need it or if I’m just caught up in an “ooh, shiny” moment. As I’m fortunate enough to make some money through my blog I tend to use what I haven’t filtered off in to my bank accounts to fund these purchases and often find that by the time I’ve amassed enough to make a purchase I’ve realised that it was more of a whim and stopped myself from making an impulse buy of something I’d later regret.
It might sound pretty boring and rigid but I’m convinced that this is what has helped me through the last year and being forced to be more mindful of my money means that when I am back earning my full wage through work (first day back today, woo!) I’m fairly confident that although I’ll be feeling flush I’ll make sensible decisions and focus on re-building my savings rather than splurging as soon as it hits my account. Of course I won’t deny myself and there will be treats along the way but with wanting to move out again as soon as my health and finances allow I have more reason to save than ever.

Although I’ve managed to keep myself afloat it’s good to know that had it have been needed a short term loan from a reputable company such as Cash Lady would have been a short-term solution. I’m not suggesting, or advocating this kind of loan as any kind of solution, but in an emergency it’s reassuring to know that there is a regulated website out there to bridge the gap.

I’d love to know the little ways in which you manage your money, or if any of my habits have helped…leave it all in the comments below!

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Driving Theory Test FAQ*

I’m currently getting myself geared up [pun only slightly un-intentional] to sit my driving theory test for the third time. Annoyingly it’s not because I’ve already failed twice- quite the opposite as I sailed through both previous tests with flying colours. I sat the first test when I was 17 but after five disastrous practical driving tests threw the towel in for 10 years and by the time I picked up my driving again my theory had long since expired. I sat it for the second time just over two years ago at the same time as booking more lessons. Two more failed practical tests later and a decline in my mental and physical health saw me take another break and now I’m ready to pick things up again I realised that rather than having five years before the theory expires it’s actually only two…so yep, time to get practising that hazard perception again! For anyone else looking to sit their theory test (be it for the first, or third time) here are some answers to frequently asked questions in association with Pass ‘N’ Go – if your question isn’t answered in this post then do feel free to drop them a line yourself.

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Booking your theory test

How much does a theory test cost?
A car theory test costs £23. If you have a Safe Road User Award you can sit an abridged version which costs £18.

Can I book multiple theory tests?
In a word, no. You must rebook your theory test if you fail it the first time and this must be booked at least three working days ahead of the resit date.
You also have the option to change your booking in the following ways:
You can find an earlier date for your theory test.
You can move your theory test to a later date.
You can change the test centre where you would like to sit your theory test.

Can a theory test be done online?
No, it must be taken at a theory test centre
There are free mock tests of the multiple choice portion of the theory test on the GOV.UK site. This consists of 50 questions — the same number that will be provided in the actual driving theory test.
There’s also The Official DVSA Guide to Hazard Perception DVD-ROM for learner drivers to get to grips with hazard perception skills on their PC or Mac- I can’t emphasise enough how beneficial this is in order to prepare for your test- hazard perception is where most people end up failing.

What age can I sit a theory test?
You can sit the test as soon as you turn 17 years old.
If you receive or have applied for the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) you can sit the theory test as soon as you turn 16 years old.

Theory test centres

Do theory test questions change?
The questions will change from one test to the next. However all of the questions are based on the following three books which make useful revision tools:
The Highway Code by the Department for Transport
Know Your Traffic Signs by the Department for Transport
The Official DVSA Guide to Driving — The Essential Skills by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency

How do theory tests work?
Each theory test consists of the following sections:
A set of 50 multiple-choice questions, some of which will be presented in a case study whereby a short story is shown and then five questions will be given based on this. A real-life situation that you could come across while driving will be detailed.
A hazard perception test consisting of 14 separate video clips.
At the end of the test you must score at least 43 out of 50 for the multiple-choice questions and 44 out of a possible 75 points for the hazard perception test and you must pass both sections of the test.

How long do theory tests take?
You have a maximum of 57 minutes to get through the 50 multiple-choice questions. Additional time can be requested if you have reading difficulties- see website for details.
Up to three minutes can be taken as a break between the multiple-choice portion of the test and the hazard perception test. There is no time limit as such for this part as this is based on how long it takes for all 14 video clips to be shown.

The hazard perception part of the theory test
This is probably the part most people have questions about!

What are hazard perception tests?
The hazard perception test is a video assessment which tests your effectiveness at spotting hazards on the road through a series of 14 video clips.

Each video clip consists of the following:
Everyday road scenes.
At least one ‘developing hazard’ — this is something that would cause a driver to take an action such as changing their speed or direction — though one clip will feature two developing hazards. Points are scored if you spot the developing hazards as soon as they begin to occur.

What is the hazard perception pass score?
You need to score at least 44 points out of a possible 75.

How does the hazard perception test scoring system work?
Each developing hazard within the hazard perception test earn up to five points. The sooner you click your computer mouse to indicate that you’ve seen the hazard is starting to develop the higher the score you will be.
Take note that you can’t lose points if you click your computer mouse and get the timing of the hazard developing wrong. However it’s important to note that no points will be scored for a developing hazard if you click your computer mouse continuously or in a manner that is seen as a pattern.

Once you’ve passed a theory test
Do theory tests expire?
As I found out, yes they do! When you pass your theory test you will receive a letter that contains your pass certificate number. This number is needed when you book and take your practical driving test but it only lasts for two years from the date you pass. Failing to pass your driving test within those two years and you will be required to pass your theory test again.

Where is the theory test pass certificate number?
The theory test pass certificate number will be recorded within a letter that you will receive at the test centre as soon as you pass your theory test. You must keep this number safe as it is required in order for you to both book and take your driving test.

I really hope you found this post helpful if you’re yet to sit your driving theory test. If you have any further questions, funny stories about driving tests or some hints and tips of your own then please do leave them in the comments!

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