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Westminster - London

Average private rents increased in 87% of England’s counties, however, 13% saw a decrease, according to analysis from Direct Line for Business. Westminster saw an increase of 28.4% for average rents versus Three Rivers in Hertfordshire, which saw a 19% drop last year.

The average rental increase in Westminster outstripped such affluent areas as Sevenoaks (where charges increased 10.5%), Richmond upon Thames (up 8.7%) and Guildford (down 5.6%).

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Market food
Many of us may dread Christmas; not because we’re not getting into the spirit of things, but because of the damage this one day can do to our bank accounts.

So, why not plan ahead this year? Who knows, with a little forward thinking, you might make some savings in unexpected areas, giving you more cash to spend on gifts, or save for the financial hangover many of us experience in January.

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Man with head in hands

Nearly four million Brits have been caught out by expired bonus rates on savings accounts over the past five years, according to new research from the not-for-profit charity, Fairbanking Foundation.

Those affected had deposited their money into accounts paying attractive short-term bonuses, but failed to transfer their cash to a different account, once the deal had expired. As a result, their cash remained in savings accounts paying paltry interest rates.

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Shiny car
If you’re thinking of buying a new car, have you given any thought as to how you’re going to pay for it?

Research suggests that the amount people are willing to splash out on a car is on the rise, with the average spend now sitting at £12,000, up by 17%, from just £10,290 just six months earlier.

If you’re looking for a brand-spanking new car, you can expect to pay around £17,841, up by 20% on six months ago. However, if you’re watching your bank balance, it might be better to opt for a used car, as expected spends have fallen by 7%, now averaging £6,785.

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Cold woman

It’s official, the summer of 2015 is now over. While the cold, dark winter months might seem a long way away, it won’t be long before your heating is on full blast and you’re wrapped up in your dressing gown by 6pm.

With winter comes increased energy usage and higher bills, so now is a good time to get both your consumption and finances under control.

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Black credit card
It’s no secret that we’re fast ditching cash and cheques in favour of more convenient payment methods, but which is better; contactless cards or mobile payments?

Brits used their debit and credit cards for 1.1 billion transactions in May 2015, a 10% increase compared to 12 months previous.

The UK Cards Association believes that this rise is largely driven by contactless card payments. In fact, Visa Europe states that total spending on contactless cards throughout the year comes to a whopping £9 billion.

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Woman using broadband
As the nights draw in, you may find yourself choosing to lounge in front of the TV or spend countless hours updating your Facebook account.

But have you ever switched broadband provider? If not, you could be missing out on hundreds of pounds of savings every year.

However, you’re not alone. A quarter of Brits admit that they’ve never switched, on the grounds that it is too much hassle or too complicated. As a result, collectively, Brits are missing out on potential savings of a whopping £83 million a year.

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Pumpkins
Halloween is now the third biggest holiday in the UK, after Christmas and Easter, as more and more of us get involved with trick-or-treating and jack-o’lanterns.

While this annual celebration of remembering the dead is supposed to be a bit of harmless fun, the crime statistics suggest it is anything but.

In fact, 10 years of data found that is the day of the year that you’re most likely to experience malicious damage to your home. There is a 26% rise in the number of reported burglaries in the week between Halloween and Bonfire Night, compared to the annual weekly average.

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Christmas tricks

December is an expensive time of the year for most of us. We’ve obviously got Christmas presents to budget for, but also food and drink, decorations, and even party outfits.

To give you an idea of just how much cash we splash throughout the festive season, the UK will spend a whopping £22.5 billion on Christmas. That’s an average of £821 per British household.

However, more than half of Brits admit that they’ll have to make cutbacks in January to pay off outstanding Christmas debts.

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Coloured balloons

Almost 4 million UK adults (16%) having experienced a child injure themselves on their property within the past year. However, three in five Brits are unaware that they could be sued by the child’s parent, should this happen.

New research from Direct Line Home Insurance has found that bouncy castles and trampolines are the most common cause of injuries amongst children (9%), but this is closely followed by slides and water slides (7%), and climbing frames and trees (6%).

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First time buyers

The Bank of England base rate has been at an all-time low since it was slashed to 0.5% in more than six years ago. For some it has been a blessing, with many of us enjoying cheap loans and mortgages, while others have been struggling to make their savings accounts work for them.

However, as the economy has continued to recover, there are warnings that the base rate could hit 2.5% very soon. The hike will come as a shock to the one million mortgage holders that have never had to deal with a fluctuating interest rate.

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Women saving on tax
Self-employment is an increasingly common way for people in the UK to earn an income. In fact, 4.6 million (15%) were self-employed last year – the highest percentage we’ve seen at any point in the last 40 years.

One of the main reasons that the number of self-employed has risen in recent years is that more people are staying in self-employment, which could be down to a lack of job opportunities following the economic downturn.

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Stressed woman stares out of a window

More than four in 10 UK adults (45%) claim to have suffered health conditions caused by having money problems over the past five years, according to new research from the Fairbanking Foundation.

One in three (33%) have said that personal finance issues caused stress, 22% said that they caused or contributed towards depression, 19% said that they have caused them to suffer insomnia, and 5% believe they resulted in sickness.

The findings from the not-for-profit charity also suggest that personal finance problems are also having an impact on other areas of people’s lives.

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Women on a cheap break

It appears as though a vast number of Brits are ready to take advantage of cheaper holidays, now that the summer break is over and most children are back to school.

According to research by Direct Line Travel Insurance, half (49%) of travel agents reported a surge in bookings in the first week of September, with the second week of the month being identified as the peak time to travel post-school holidays.

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Boy gazing out to sea
Mini adventures – as opposed to leisure holidays – have become increasingly popular in the past couple of years. ABTA, the UK’s largest travel association, calls it the ‘hard working holiday’ and finds in its ‘Key Trends 2015’ report that the modern holidaymaker wants to combine destination travel with activities and challenges, learning new skills, acquiring knowledge, and they want to do it in the shortest possible time.

Why? Because the modern traveller is successful and busy. Even if they can afford to take long periods off work, they prefer to pack in as much as possible.

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Credit card terminal

I could not help myself laughing out loud when I read the following piece of ‘advice’ on Trip Advisor about visiting Arizona:

“Hubby & I used travellers checks (sic) on our first visit to Arizona… We were in Snowflake, AZ at a Pizza Hut and the cashier did not have a clue what they were… granted, she was young.

The manager did not know if Pizza Hut accepted them, so they had to call corporate to see if they could accept…. they did, after a 20 minute conversation and wait on our end.”

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Worker driving a car

A new study from Direct Insurance has highlighted how reliant Brits are on their cars, with one in five (19%) admitting that they would be unable to get to work without their motor.

Those that do opt to commute by public transport face more time on the road than their driving counterparts, as on average, the journey takes 48% longer.

It’s not always a choice between driving and the bus or train though, as the research also found that around six million Brits are not able to rely on public transport as they live more than five miles from their nearest train station.

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woman with a cup of tea overlooking houses

One in four UK parents with children of a school age have bought or rented a new property, in order to secure an address within their desired school catchment area. Nearly a third of parents settled in an area they didn’t like for the sake of a good school.

Almost half of all families who move to be within a catchment area will leave as soon as the school place is secured. These parents are paying premiums of 18% for the privilege, which equates to £32,127 and almost a third of these parents have changed jobs in order to get their kids into the desired school.

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School boy eating dinner

The total cost of going ‘back to school’ for the new UK academic year is a staggering £2.9 billion, according to new analysis from Santander Credit Cards.

The research found that the average cost of buying everything in preparation for the new term is £236 per child. The biggest cost for parents is clothing, who on average, spend £40 on school uniform, £31 on school shoes, and £24 on jackets or coats.

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Pen pot

As our little ‘uns head into the big wide world of schooling, is your wallet prepared for the costs? UK families spend £316 a year on items for a child at a state secondary and £251 a year on average for a child at a state primary.

According to the report by The Children’s Society, the expense can leave some UK families in debt and some children without the right uniform at risk of bullying.

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