Friday, 30 December 2016

Annual Spending Review - 2016

With just one day to go until the end of the year, and no plans to venture beyond the garden gate until 2017, here's the annual look back at where all the money went ...

click on it for a larger image

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Making a Planter from an old gas stove ...

Yes, it's yet another garden planter ...

This is a one-off, made from an old cast-iron gas stove I picked up a couple of weeks ago.  It had been standing out in someone's garden for the past three years but was in great condition, with no cracks or other damage - even the glass in the front was unmarked.  The previous owner had originally bought it to convert to a woodburning stove, but soon lost interest in the project and now just wanted rid of it, so I snapped it up for a tenner.

We already have an open fire in the house and so I don't have any use for a woodburner, but it's a beautifully-made stove and I thought it would make a great feature in the garden if it was turned into a shrub planter.

It stands around 560 mm (22") high including the legs, with a width of 360 mm (14") and front-to-back depth of 300 mm (12").  Although it's quite compact, the carcass is all cast iron and it's very heavy, weighing in at around 50 kg.  The internal volume is just over 40 litres, big enough for the roots of quite a large shrub.

as bought...

Friday, 2 December 2016

Premium Bonds Review - Good or Bad Investment ?

To the uninitiated, Premium Bonds are a form of lending to the UK government but without any guarantee of an investment return (although your original capital is always safe, in nominal terms at least).  Instead of paying a regular bond coupon, there is a prize draw on the first day of each month in which it's possible to 'win' from £25 to £1m.

The bonds are denominated in £1 units, although these days there's a minimum purchase amount of £100 each time you invest, and every £1 bond has an equal chance of winning at the prevailing odds each month, which are set by the responsible treasury department, i.e. National Savings & Investments (NS&I).  

At the time of writing, the odds of winning are 30,000 to 1 and the prize fund is configured to return 1.25%.  All prizes are tax free and do not need to be declared in your annual tax return, so there's no administrative burden.   There's an upper limit on the number of bonds you can hold, currently set at £50,000, and no lower limit except for the minimum purchase requirement.

You can opt to have any prize wins automatically reinvested into buying more bonds, up to the maximum holding limit, or just take the cash each time.

Because the lowest prize value is £25, the real chance of winning anything at all is quite complex - if you don't hold very many bonds in total, then the odds are actually heavily stacked against you.  This is better explained on this site, where there's also an odds calculator based on your own particular holding value and time horizon.