Well frugality continues here in spite of me not having been blogging about it. The big news is that we won our battle with Virgin Money - the Financial Ombudsman ruled in our favour* and informed VM that no, it was not reasonable to try to change the T's and C's on a fixed rate deal. We were able to overpay the lump of money that we were stopped from paying thanks to their actions, and they were ordered to pay us a small amount in compensation and to return the account to the state it would have been in if we had been able to make all our planned overpayments as and when we wished to. The ruling had to be referred back once as VM had fibbed in the information that they had provided the Ombudsman with - not a good plan for a financial organisation, really! Finally though it was all resolved and we got precisely what we were wanting from it at the start of this year - it felt good to be proved right and to have confirmed that we were correct in what we were saying. Our contractual payment has now been adjusted back to the correct amount and we have overpaid our full 10% for this year already. There is now just over 33k outstanding on the mortgage, and the overall rate of descent has slowed considerably as we have hit our 10% overpayment limit. We always knew this would happen, and the balance of what we would otherwise be paying is being carefully stashed away into an ISA. Our plan is currently that if all continues to go to plan we will be in a position to clear the mortgage immediately once the fixed rate ends. The next "big goal" for the mortgage will be to get sub 30k on the balance - that will happen later this year - and then to build up sufficient in savings that we have more sitting there than we have outstanding on the mortgage - that will be the point when we really know we've got it beaten, I guess!
On the subject of ISA's - have you remembered to sort yours out for the new financial year? Our 2014/15 account was a 1 year "regular saver" one so that changed to a standard ISA early this month and the interest rate dropped. I've opened a new regular saver ISA for 2015/16 - handily enough the one from our current banking provider was one of Martin Lewis's recommended products, that suits me well as it means I can do everything through our normal online banking with no complicated Direct Debits to set up to move money about and no waiting for money to land when you transfer it - it all happens immediately. The two old ones are, at the moment, going to stay where they are I think. The interest rates they are on are in line with the best that we're going to get for a standard instant-access account, which at the moment is what we want, and we will revisit things in a few months if interest rates have changed in the mean time. I'll also keep my eyes open for any outstanding deals launching on instant access accounts that accept transfers in - again Martin's MoneySavingExpert site and weekly email will be my source of information for that. Oh, and if you're reading this and you have ANY sort of savings and no ISA - why not? You're presumably putting that money *somewhere* - so unless it's a bank account with a high interest rate (Nationwide offer an account with a 5% rate on up to 2,500 for a year, and Santander's 123 Account also pays interest - I think 3%) that actually pays a higher rate even after tax than you'd be getting from an ISA, you'd do better by far to open one of the tax-free beauties and throw your treasure in there instead.
Our "Virtual Sealed Pot" savings did indeed pay almost entirely for our New Year trip to the Hebrides - which was rather good! It did slightly astonish me just how much cash you can stash away like that in the space of just a couple of years, and it's started us thinking about what to do with the next lot - because yes, of course we're continuing with it! Current thinking is that we've always wanted to visit St Kilda so we may try to factor that in for our Hebrides visit next year, using the VSP money to pay for the trip. Once again last year we saved our loose change and any money we found on the street too and that has formed a good basis of our holiday spending money - nearly 50% of it, in fact! The balance will come from the money we've not spent from our dedicated food-budget account - £150 goes into there each month but usually there is a balance left over and that all adds up.
We're still meal-planning and shopping around. Circumstances have been such that we've not been able to get to the Farmer's market recently - I do so wish we had a good one locally! The farm shop still gets used fairly regularly though, and we try to pick up bits and bobs from local shops when we're out and about - a trip to Norfolk recently saw us heading back with local cheeses, Norfolk Pink potatoes and free range eggs from the campsite we were staying on, and we STILL haven't used the large building with the name starting with "T" in Sheringham, either!
All in all, things are still good. Financially, things are heading in the right direction and we seem to be on target to meet our goals. I've been putting some of my personal money aside as and where I can to help towards the costs of the Airshow season which will be starting again for me in June. My £2 coin savings from last year went to that cause too, as did some money I was given as a gift at Christmas. I'll still be working to a strict budget but it's nice to feel that I've got at least a bit of a starting cushion at least. I'm also trying to make the most of booking stuff early for that - firstly because then I know the money is there and secondly as often that works out cheaper than leaving things until the last minute. At some stage we're going to need a new washing machine as our current one is not at all healthy. As it's a cheap washer-dryer we have been advised that it won't be worth a repair - which is rather annoying. This time round we intend to spend a little more on a slightly better one as this one doesn't seem to have lasted long at all. We're nursing it
along for as long as we can though! Nothing gets an easy way out in our house!
*If you know of anyone who had a Northern Rock "Together" Mortgage which rolled over to Virgin Money when VM was split up then please point them at this post as they may well also be affected. So far as we are aware those customers with NRAM are not affected. If anyone reading this IS affected and wants to know how to go about challenging it please get in contact through comments and we'll be happy to help.