With the right financial know-how you could soon be swapping Easter eggs for golden ones, says Alison Brace
It has been a tradition since the 13th century for the Monarch to give money to the poor at Easter time. Nowadays, the Queen hands out little bags of specially-minted Maundy Money to deserving pensioners - one man and one woman for each year of her grand old age of 82. In another little bag is real money, which no doubt is an unexpected and welcome windfall for those lucky enough to be chosen.
If you're reading this, then no doubt Maundy Money didn't come your way this week: you were probably working and trying to earn money while the Queen dispensed her coins.
But you don't have to be a deserving pensioner to find a helping hand with the finances. Sometimes you just have to look further than your nose. So, before you unwrap your first chocolate egg, think about where you might find your windfall this Easter.
If you are considering a course to further your professional development, don't dip into your own savings before checking out what grants and awards are available.
"Teachers should first of all speak to their school or college to see if they are prepared to fund something like this," says a spokesman for the union NASUWT. "Secondly, they should talk to the centres that run the courses and ask for advice on help with funding."
Some University of Cambridge colleges still offer Schoolmaster Fellowships that cover accommodation and board, and sometimes other expenses, for up to a year. See www.cam.ac.uk for details.
The Training and Development Agency's postgraduate professional development programme has more than 35,000 places on subsidised courses. Have a look at www.tda.gov.uk to see if there is one that fits - and pays - your bill.
The Educational Grants Advisory Service, part of the Family Welfare Association, has a searchable database of about 1,200 educational trust funds that make awards at www.egas-online.org. And Support 4 Learning (www.support4learning.org.uk) has an A-Z list of charitable trusts as well as advice on how best to make an application. Student Money - www.studentmoney.org - also has an easy-to-use search tool for awards available in your area.
If you're less worried about training than putting a roof over your head, then it's worth finding out if you are eligible for the Government's HomeBuy scheme for keyworkers such as teachers and nurses.
If you are in an area where house prices affect staff recruitment and retention then it's worth seeing if you are eligible for this scheme. You can get a loan of up to 32.5 per cent of your property's value from the Government andor an approved lender. See www.communities.gov.uk.
It's worth bearing in mind that there is a downside. You will have to share any rise in your property's value with your lender. Also, you may be liable to pay rent on your loan after a set period of time, in addition to your mortgage costs. As always, it is important to consider the state of the housing market in your area before jumping into any big decisions.
Finally, it is always worth checking the perks of your job - and whether you are using them fully. Check with your local authority to see if there are any discounts for local facilities that you are entitled to as a teacher.
For instance, if you are a teacher in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London, you are entitled to a yearly underground season ticket, private health care, an interest-free loan of pound;1,000 in the first year of teaching and free access to the area's swimming pools. The perks aren't bad, if you know where to get them.