Thursday, 28 April 2011

With $342,000 already shared, introducing the new dapShare!

by Rob d'Apice
Happy days, friends.  The new dapShare has now been fully rolled out!

Introducing the new dapShare

Tell me more, good sir

dapShare is a free tool to help friends share money with each other.  It keeps a record of shared expenses in your sharehouse, roadtrip, group holiday, or any situation where you are paying for things that should be split.  It'll remind people how much they owe, and give them your bank account details when they need to pay you.  Get more information or sign up now.

The new site is a zillion times better than what it used to be.  Why?
  • Belong to multiple groups. Have one group for your sharehouse, start another for a group holiday.  Easily move in and out of groups.
  • Facebook-style commenting and newsfeed. Easily discuss payments, expenses, house news, or anything through dapShare - and get all the latest news summarised in a dashboard newsfeed.
  • Bank details.  Give dapShare your bank account details, and your fellow sharers can easily access them when they need to pay you back.
  • Better notifications. More information in your email notifications that is relevant to you. 
  • Debt Alarm and Debt Reminders.  Automatic debt reminders sent out when debts exceed a set value (or login to send an automated debt reminder to your fellow sharers when it suits you).
  • Easier sharing. No more calculators.  dapShare now does all the ugly math for you.
  • More reliable.  dapShare has been completely reprogrammed from scratch.
  • Prettier. Yep.

Why should I use this?

1. It's quick, easy and painless to use
2. It'll make your sharehouse (or group holiday or roadtrip) simpler and happier
3. It's 100% FREE, and always will be 

Yeah... thanks, but no thanks

How do you currently split expenses in your group?

If the answer is "with difficulty": dapShare takes the pain away.  Just pay the bill yourself, enter it in dapShare, and all your housemates will be reminded to hit you back.  It will even give them your bank account details so they can easily pay you.

If the answer is "we use a cash kitty": let me introduce you to the 21st century (hint: less paper, more web).  Handling cash is clumsy and time-consuming; plus it's not transparent at all - how do you know who spent what on what?  dapShare is essentially an online kitty.  It's the Microsoft Word to your handwritten letter.  It's the Twitter to your SMS.  It's the YouTube to your... real life.  Get it?

If the answer is "we don't": you'll be surprised the kinds of tensions that can arise in a sharehouse when people feel others aren't contributing.  Why submit yourself to this? dapShare can provide a transparent ledger of your house's expenses, and keep track of who has paid for what, while you spend your time having fun (and occasionally cleaning the bathroom, dammit).

Still not convinced?  Leave a comment below to let us know why, and we'll see if we can do better.

$342,000 already shared: much more to come

Since inception, dapShare has faciliated $342,000 worth of expenses between friends. That's a lot of money to ignore and just hope it all breaks even in the end! We like to think this means we've helped the friendships of hundreds of Australians (and possibly a few of our British members too).

To show how far we've come, here's a snapshot of dapShare circa 2006:

dapShare.  So useful you'd even endure this.

What next?

Our goal is to get to 10,000 registered users. And when we get there, we plan on making a dapShare iPhone app to make it even easier to share money between friends.

So please, sign up and give it a try - and be sure to let your friends know if you think they'll find it useful (we reckon they will).

We'll keep our ears to the ground, and we are working to continue smoothing out the site over the coming weeks. So, most of all, we want to hear from you - if you have any feedback or suggestions, please don't even think twice about getting in touch with us.

Happy sharing!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The little-known 'First Home Savers Account'

by Rob d'Apice
Many prospective first-home buyers know the state government will give you a $7k grant toward your first home (the First Home Owner Grant).  Quite a few also know about the first home owner stamp duty relief, that can save up to $18k in avoided duty depending on the cost of the house (the elusively named First Home Plus Scheme).  But few people are aware of the First Home Savers Account - a recently introduced federal government scheme to help you save toward your first home.

What is the First Home Savers Account?

The First Home Savers Account was an election promise of the 2007 Labor platform - and became effective 1 October 2008.  The basic features of the account are:
  • Government contributions: Each year, the government will contribute an amount equal to 17% of the savings you have placed in the account - capped at $935.  This amount is indexed and will increase over the life of your account.
  • Reduced tax rate on interest: You will only pay 15% tax on the interest you earn in the saving account (if your taxable earnings are between $37k and $80k, this is a 50% discount on the tax you would otherwise pay).

There are a few things to keep in mind in deciding whether the account makes sense for you:
  • The four-year rule: You cannot withdraw your money until you have made at least a $1,000 deposit in four separate financial years (they don't have to be consecutive).
  • Changing your mind: If you purchase a house before you have satisfied the four-year rule, or if you decide to discontinue your contributions, you cannot withdraw the money for another purpose - the funds must be transferred into your superannuation and cannot be accessed (generally) until retirement. [EDIT (17/06/2010): These rules have now changed!  Check out our update post now.]

The account is perfect for you if you know:
  1. That you definitely want to buy a house sometime down the track; and
  2. That the purchase won't take place in the next 4 years [EDIT (17/06/2010): No longer true!  Check out our update post now.]

One other pointer worth noting: the accounts are linked to individuals, not couples - so you and your partner can both open an account.  Furthermore, only one of you needs to satisfy the four-year rule.  That means if Bob has been saving in his First Home Saver Account for four years, but Jane only opened her account two years ago, Janes can still withdraw her money to use with Bob on that new condominium.  So if your partner has already knocked off a bunch of the years in their four-year requirement, why not consider opening an account now?

How much is it worth, really? 

If you can save $400 per month for 4 years, the total gov't contributions (including interest) would amount to $3,560 PLUS $310 in avoided tax on your savings (if you are in the 30% tax bracket, ie earning > $36k pa).  A grand total of $3,870.

Where to get one?

The First Home Savers Accounts are managed through the banks - each have their own accounts offering the above features with their own interest rates, so it's worth having a look around at what's available.  

At time of writing, the Members Equity Bank (meBank) appear to have the best offering with a 5.50% variable interest rate, followed up by ANZ at 5.25% (if you want a big brand) [EDIT 15/2/2012: ANZ is no longer offerring FHSAs to new customers. To find the best deal, create a free account with Prosple and we'll help find the best plan for you!].  Be warned: some banks only credit the interest annually (eg Commonwealth bank), so you'll end up with less interest earned overall.

Choice magazine did a great comparison of the offers back in August 2009 - worth checking out if you're looking into one of these accounts.

The ATO website is also a good stop for any more information.