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Beautiful sunset

A last-minute work assignment practically forced me to make an unexpected trip to Bucharest in the last week of March. Bucharest has never been on my ‘bucket list’, so to speak, and maybe this is why I was so impressed with Romania’s capital. It also made me realise that I should widen my horizons and open up to alternative value holiday hot spots.

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Bank of England

Chancellor George Osborne might not be everybody’s cup of tea, but I think we can all agree on one thing: he’s pretty good at surprises. The last thing anyone expected at the budget was another new ISA, but that’s exactly what we got.

This Lifetime ISA, which we’ll talk in more detail about, is one of many recent changes, and means that Brits have more ways to save than ever before. But is it making a difference? Apparently not.

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Row of modern houses

New research from Direct Line Home Insurance suggests that the UK is a nation of property obsessives, with almost two-thirds of Brits admitting to browsing for property websites despite having absolutely no intention of buying.

This rise in property porn habit means that 2.6 million people go ‘window shopping’ at least once a day.

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Piggy bank saver

British banking customers are not doing enough research before applying for financial products, such as saving accounts and loans, meaning they could be missing out on better deals, according to a recent poll by Trustpilot.

The research, commissioned by the online review platform to find out UK adults’ attitudes towards savings financial products, found that more than four in 10 (43%) people believe they should spend more time shopping around before setting up a new ISA or savings account, 39%.

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Puppy asleep

From 6 April 2016, a new law will require all dogs in England, Scotland, and Wales will be required to be micro chipped. Under the new law, the details of the dog to be registered on an authorised database, such as Petlog.

Northern Ireland became the first devolved administration to introduce compulsory micro chipping in 2012, followed by Wales in 2015, but from April 2016 all dogs over the age of eight weeks will need to be fitted with microchips.

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Scammed man

Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK) has just published its figures for 2015 – and they don’t make for pleasant reading. In fact, they indicate that fraudsters are getting even better at stealing your money, putting your financial welfare at risk.

The figures show that financial fraud losses soared by a staggering 26% on the previous year, topping £755 million. And the reason for this spike? New bank scams, including impersonation and deception, and sophisticated online attacks.

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Woman with umbrella in the rain

A new scheme offering homeowners affordable flood insurance cover is due to come into force on 4 April 2016.

The Environment Agency estimates that one in six homes in England is at risk of flooding, but the cost of insurance in high flood risk areas has been a growing concern. The government and the Association of British Insurance have been working to create a flood reinsurance scheme.

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Shakespeare

The Royal Mint will mark the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death on 23 April with three commemorative £2 coins.

Designed by sculptor John Bergdahl, each of the coins carry an inscription of the Bard’s name around the main design, of which there are three as homage to works. A skull and thorny rose to represent the tragedies; a crown and sword denote the histories, and the comedies are signified by a jester’s outfit.

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Rusty padlock

Millions of Brits are failing to protect their valuables, as they struggle to estimate the value of their personal possessions, according to new research from Direct Line Home Insurance.

The survey found that almost half (44%) of those questioned find it difficult to know how much their home contents are worth. Despite that, many people are failing the most basic of protection measures, such as taking photos of their belongings and keeping receipts for expensive purchases.

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Laptop

Spring has sprung and the clocks have gone forward. It can only mean one thing: the end of the tax year.

It’s easy to get distracted by Easter eggs, the lighter evenings, and the warmer weather at this time of year, but it’s important not to forget that 6 April marks the start of the 2016-17 tax year.

The new financial year isn’t as fun as a new calendar year, or even a new Chinese year, but it is a date to keep in your diary, as there’s lots of financial planning to consider before the calendar ticks over to 6 April.

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Blackpool girl - St. George's Day

The April 23 is a day to celebrate St. George, the patron saint of England.

In the legend that made him so famous, George slayed a dragon that was about to eat a beautiful princess and survived by the sign of the cross. As a mark of their gratitude, the locals sought to imitate George’s chivalrous behaviour and converted to Christianity.

While the myth was known prior to the battle of Hasting’s in 1066, it was none other than William Shakespeare that boosted his popularity, and in 1348 he became the Patron Saint of England.

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People at a UK airport

Children under 16 will now join the under 12s in being exempt from having to pay Airline Passenger Tax (APD) in economy class. This change was announced by Chancellor George Osbourne in 2014 and came into effect on 1 March 2016.

A UK family of four with two children under 16, who are planning a trip abroad at Easter will save £26 on a break to Europe and £142 on a holiday to Florida, USA. Each child will now receive a £71 reduction in duty now.

Damian Hinds, exchequer secretary to the Treasury, said:

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Estate agent window

You’ve probably heard of ISAs before. You may even know that they let you save cash without paying any tax on the interest, and that they also let you invest in stocks and shares. But there’s a new kid on the block – the Help to Buy ISA.

The government launched the Help to Buy ISA to help first-time buyers get on the property ladder. As well as being able to up interest tax-free, the government also adds a 25% cash bonus, which could give you £3,000 extra towards your deposit.

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lady on phone looking in estate agent window

Since the end of 2014, the UK government has announced a number of stamp duty reforms.

One of the first changes, which put an end to the ‘slab tax system’ that meant huge increases in liability when passing the threshold by just £1, was warmly welcomed by homebuyers as everyone buying a property for less than £937,000 would save money.

It meant that the higher rate of stamp duty was only charged on the portion of the purchase price over and above the threshold, rather than the whole purchase price.

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 St. Patrick’s day events

If anyone knows how to party, it’s the Irish. And with St. Patrick’s Day on the horizon, that party will soon be in full swing.

St. Patrick’s Day was originally a religious holiday to honour the patron saint who introduced Christianity to Ireland back in the fifth century. He was thought to have been born in Britain, but was taken to Ireland at the age of 14 as a slave, and returning again in his 30s as a missionary.

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Woman with a cup of tea overlooking London houses

The number of properties in the UK worth at least £1 million is expected to more than triple to 1.6 million over the next 15 years, according to Santander Mortgages.

Santander worked in partnership with LSE Professor of Economic Geography, Paul Cheshire, to publish the report, “Property Millionaires: The Growing House Divide”. It also estimates that one in four London homes will cost in excess of £1 million by 2030, but this will rise to seven in 10 in two boroughs.

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Man behind wheel of a car

British motorists are collectively travelling an additional 3.8 billion miles a year, compared to two years ago, due to a 20% drop in fuel prices, according to new research from Kwik Fit.

The research found that the fall in fuel price has had a significant impact on drivers’ mileage, with motorists travelling an average of 79 more miles each month – equivalent to 950 miles a year.

While the average increase is 79 miles, 280,000 of the four million motorists surveyed by Kwik Fit, said that their monthly mileage has risen by 200 miles.

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Coffee shop finance

There’s one thing that almost everyone wants, but can’t buy – more time! Well, this year is a leap year, so you’ll have one whole extra day on 29th February.

The bonus day that you’ll get at the end of the month, gives you the opportunity to carry out a complete financial spring clean. You’ll be able to wake up on the first official day of spring – 1March – feeling refreshed and stable.

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Tennis racket and ball

Last year, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) announced that it was hoping to raise £60,000 for various good causes, as part of its official partnership with Sport Relief 2016.

One of the ways the LTA intends to raise money is by donating £1 of every ticket sold for the Davis Cup home tie against Japan to Sport Relief. The Aegon GB Davis Cup Team will start the defence of their title on 4March at the 9,000 capacity Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham.

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