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Finding out what you can borrow or afford

One of the benefits of shopping for loans on the internet is the loan calculator- instead of a raft of tables to wade through, you can get two quick answers immediately: "what will my monthly repayments be" for any permutation of loan, and "what can I afford" in monthly outgoings and repayments.

Don't sign up for a loan without playing with a loan calculator- almost all loan websites will offer you a loan calculator, because there are so many permutations of amounts and terms that otherwise a mass of tables is required to work a loan out.

There are two types of loan calculator. The first is broadly summarised as "What will my monthly repayments be?" Enter the amount you wish to borrow and the term over which you'd like to borrow it. The calculator will return a figure for the monthly repayment. Most will also offer a figure taking account of payment protection insurance (which will alter the repayments).

Oddly enough, you'll find the numbers vary from site to site, even with very similar APR's. That's because as well as payment protection costs, some products require an uneven first payment and some calculate any payment holiday differently. There are plenty of small issues which affect the results; but broadly, you'll get an idea (to within a few pence) of what you'll be liable to pay- certainly enough to make a good comparison.

The second type of loan calculator is "What can I afford". This allows you to enter you're an assessment of your monthly incomings and outgoings, and gives you an idea of what sorts of loan, across hat sorts of terms, are within your repayment range. This is a terribly depressing but essential process- you should always run through your expenses before signing up to new ones, no matter how miserable it seems to be. The better affordability calculators (HSBC is a good example) are very clever lifestyle managers, so give it a go.