VAT rates on Amazon

I live in Ireland but often buy things from Amazon in the UK.

I sometimes use services like Parcel Motel or AddressPal to buy items that won’t deliver to Ireland. But it’s also worth considering using these services to make a saving on VAT as well.

Amazon applies the VAT rate at checkout on goods according to the delivery address you select:

  • If you use a UK delivery address, the price displayed in the checkout is the advertised price on the site, based on a VAT rate of 20%
  • If you use an Irish delivery address, the price displayed in the checkout will be recalculated based on a VAT rate of 23%

This is because Amazon are required by the EU to collect VAT based on the country the customer lives in.

So, for instance, if you want to buy a set of headphones for £299.99, and get them delivered to the UK, then you will pay £299.99. But if you get them delivered to an Irish address, then you will pay £306.48. That’s nothing to do with shipping costs – both addresses can get free shipping – that’s because of the extra 3% VAT charged to Irish consumers.

When you think that Parcel Motel charges €3.95 at the moment to redirect a parcel from the UK to Ireland, you can still save a couple of quid.

And if you’re buying something really expensive, such as a top of the line Microsoft Surface Pro 4 for £1,799.99 it could cost you an additional £45 if it gets delivered to Ireland. But it’s worth noting that if you do consider taking delivery through Parcel Motel, their standard insurance only covers parcels up to a value of €100. To increase the insurance cover you need to pay an additional €10.50 to get extended liability cover for €1,500.

Removing Meetings

On a busy project it’s common to have a full calendar of meeting; so much so, that it’s often hard to find time to get actual work done!

When something new crops up, people are quick to add another meeting to the calendar, but how often do people go out of their way to remove meetings?

Once a recurring meeting gets established it can be really hard to get rid of it, even if it’s not achieving its purpose. Some meetings often end up as a general talking-shop where everyone feels the need to voice their opinion. And meeting attendance just seems to grow week on week, with more and more people added to the invite list.

I know of so many people that complain about the number of meetings they have – and, ironically, they are often the ones that talk the most during those meetings! But how many people ever question the need for a meeting?

In my project we’ve been looking at the number and length of all our recurring meetings, and have tried to re-focus ones that have got off-track. Some meetings have been shortened, some made less frequent, and some have reduced the number of attendees. We also created a matrix to describe what job roles have mandatory or optional attendance at meeting, which helps people determine if they can legitimately skip something.

The up-shot is that one meeting, which used to last occur twice a week for an hour with around 20 attendees, is now just 30 minutes once a week with 8 attendees – freeing up a total of 36 hours of people’s time. Just think of the productivity! It’s like hiring an extra person, and that’s just from one of our meetings.

Foreign currency transfers

Changing money between different currencies can be expensive.

Traditional banks buy and sell foreign currencies from/to their customers at rates vastly different from the exchange rates you might see on the news. And while they may claim they don’t change fees, they do earn quite a bit of money by adding a mark-up to the exchange rate being offered.

There are, however, a number of disruptive financial companies emerging that can save you money. Companies like TransferWise, Revolut, and others.

For example:

  • a Bank of Ireland transfer of €1,000 to a UK bank will get you £887.80.
  • Using TransferWise to move the same €1,000 will get you £909.45. That’s a difference of £21.65 – or 2.5%!
  • Using Revolut to transfer the €1,000 will get you £914.00. That’s a difference of £26.20 – or 3%

And as the numbers get bigger, the difference will start to matter a lot more. Move €5,000 and the difference between Bank of Ireland and Revolut is £131, so it’s definitely worth shopping around.

And if you want some cash in a foreign currency, the one thing to remember is to never ever change money at the airport. That’s where you’ll get the very worst rates. The same €1,000 converted to pounds at ICE in Dublin airport would get you just £861.

The best thing is to wait until you arrive at your destination, and then use the Revolut card to withdraw cash from an ATM. The first €200 ATM withdrawal per month doesn’t incur any fees – after that there is a 2% fee – but it’s still better value.

 

Ten years, and then some

I just noticed that this blog is 10 years old!

The first post dates back to June 2007, only a couple of months after I moved from Edinburgh to Dublin.

This isn’t my first blog however. I started blogging back in September 2000, when very few people had even heard of the word ‘blog’. The whole personal publishing concept was very new in those days, and almost nobody had their own website. We felt like pioneers, and formed our own little communities. I used to read a handful of blogs every day, and felt like some of these people were my friends.

Scottish Bloggers

In Edinburgh I even used to go along to Scottish Blogger meetups, which mainly seemed to comprise of sitting in the pub all day drinking. Seeing the Blogger logo printed off and casually left on the pub table was the secret clue for meetup newbies about which group to approach. And contrary to expectations, we didn’t sit with our laptops out, but instead met and got to know like-minded people, and in some cases made new friends.

I even helped out with the running of a site that linked to all the Scottish blogs in existence at the time. There were so few of us, we could include them all in a manually-curated directory!

In the early I blogged anonymously, and was a lot more candid about what I wrote about. Then I decided to put my name to my words, and became more reserved, because exposure of my thoughts was then just a google-search away.

Social Media

When social media came along, blogging as we originally knew it changed. The ephemeral and frivolous posts moved from blogs onto social media, and many blogs – including my own – fell into disuse.

In the last six or seven years, I’ve not really dedicated myself to blogging that much – at least not on my personal site. I like to keep the blog there, as it does afford me an outlet for the occasional post when the mood takes me (like this post). Instead, like the rest of the world, I’ve mainly used social media for personal stuff. And for more specialist subjects, I’ve created subject-specific blogs for my writing – mostly on cycling and weight loss.

Domain Names

It’s interesting (to me, at least) to think back about all of the different domains I’ve used for my personal blog over the years. Since starting some 17 years ago, my blog has moved between all of these domains:

  • web-richard.net
  • rebuke.org
  • bloomfield.me.uk
  • richardbloomfield.ie
  • richardbloomfield.blog

I suppose that speaks more to my obsession with domain names rather than anything to do with blogging!

The Future

So what about the future? Well I realised recently that I quite miss writing blog posts. It’s something I’ve neglected of late, and want to get back into. Let’s hope that feeling lasts, and you should hopefully see a bit more content here!

My own personal Kanban board

I like lists. My memory isn’t what it was, and a good list helps reassure me that I haven’t forgotten something.

I’ve kept various to-do lists over the years, in many different formats. I’ve had scraps of paper in my pocket, I’ve had reminders written on the calendar (both paper and electronic), and I’ve used smartphone apps like Google Keep to keep track of tasks, but none of them were quite good enough for my needs.

And then it dawned on me… I work in agile software development all day, and use project tracking tools all day. And I figured that, if these tools work well to keep an agile team of 9 people aligned, then I could easily apply their use to my personal life.

The most obvious choice is a Kanban board. It’s great for tracking the progress of non-time-bound tasks, and helps focus the mind on getting tasks finished to completion due to the WIP limits on the “doing” column.

A simple Kanban board has three columns for To Do, Doing and Done, but I decided to expand mine a bit and add a fourth column for “Blocked”.

I also wanted my Kanban board to be electronic. They can be physical, and many agile teams use physical boards in an office with post-it notes or index cards stuck to the wall. But I wanted mine to be a bit more portable.

There are loads of online tools out there that do Kanban boards, but it seems that they’re mostly commercially focused and cost money to use. So I eventually settled on meistertask who have a free account option. And best of all, I can access my board on the web and via their mobile app. They don’t have WIP limits defined on their boards yet, but I guess I can enforce that myself for now.

Anyway, so I’ve been using my Kanban board for about 2-3 weeks now, and I’m finding it very useful to keep track of personal chores and tasks.

My only dilemma now is whether to invite my wife to share the view of my board. If I do then it might help us both track and share our domestic jobs. But it would also have the down-side of allowing my wife to allocate lots of jobs to me!