Summer’s Coming & So Are The Bills!

As the weather warms up, we start to think about holidays.  Or rather the cost of having a holiday. Taking the kids out of school during term time to go on holiday is a highly contentious issue and it’s something, personally, I would not do without a very good reason.

I’m not sure a fortnight in a theme park counts as a valuable life experience, which is often the justification put forward, although walking around Alton Towers wearing one of their transparent rain ponchos in a summer deluge probably does. I’ve not recovered from the last time.

So we parents have to grit our teeth and pay premium prices for holidays whilst trying to cut our cloth accordingly and hoping that nothing else comes along to add to the expense.

We’re very fond of a staycation.  The UK is a beautiful country and, hands up, I haven’t quite summoned up the courage to travel abroad with our two yet.  That day is fast approaching though as soon as I sort their passports out.


We try to budget carefully and make endless lists, not only of things to pack but potential expenses. We prefer self-catering where possible because it’s great to have a base to relax in plus you don’t have the cost of eating out every single night. There’s a limit to the number of chicken nuggets and chips I can face in 7 days, although Ieuan can be prevailed upon to eat something green now and again.

Readers of this blog will know I’m a big fan of Skint Dad‘s Penny Challenge which helps you build a pot for Christmas by saving a little each day (1p on day 1, £1.30 on day 130 and so on).  By following this system you can save around £677 per year but that’s for the festive season and it still leaves the challenge of budgeting for July and August.

Added to which the MOT on my beloved Skoda Roomster is due, along with an annual service and possibly new tyres.  If you’re going to be doing a lot of driving this summer you may need to get your car checked over to see if it’s safe for all those summer trips.

Our garden wall is about to cave in thanks to rain and subsidence and we have a list of DIY projects as long as your arm since the house was built in 1929 and is beginning to show its age.

The Husband has been promising (or is it threatening) to convert the garage into a gym to put in a treadmill or a rowing machine.  And Ieuan is very enthused by the idea of having a punch bag and space to practise his Tae Kwon-Do.

None of this would be possible without knocking the existing garage down and starting from scratch which not be an inexpensive construction project!

Our approach to spending on the house is to squirrel away whatever cash we can in an ISA, use these funds to pay for the construction project (or whatever) and then start saving again.

A sensible approach is to talk to your bank, of course, or your credit card providers to see if existing credit card debt can be amalgamated or transferred with a balance transfer deal and hopefully a lower interest rate.

Most of us know, by now, the way to cut expenditure and raise a bit of cash.  You know the kind of thing:-

* having a declutter and selling items on eBay, Craigslist, Gumtree or your local car boot sale

* reducing unnecessary daily expenditure (yes you know you shouldn’t be buying expensive coffees and should be taking your own lunch but it’s so difficult to get into the groove, isn’t it?)

* menu planning and budgeting for your food

* using comparison websites to check you are getting the best deals on your utilities, mobile and insurance deals

But how many of us actually do these things, even though we know we should. When the bills stack up we seem to be struck down by a kind of financial inertia!

Incidentally, you can find plenty more ideas in my half-yearly budget post.

Sometimes though, money is needed urgently and a payday loan from a provider such as Cash Lady may fill the gap.  Prioritising the repayment of the loan is key however.

And once over the financial hump, so to speak, the best approach is to start saving for next year’s major expenses now.

Easier said than done, but well worth the effort in terms of the stress control!

How do you budget for your summer holidays?

Ways To Save Money For Your Next Trip

One of the main reasons people put off their dream trip is because they think they can’t afford it. Sometimes the list of your daily expenses just seems too high, doesn’t it? Most of us have monthly bills and items of expenditure that we just can’t cut from our budget, but if we can cut them, reduce our costs, and find new ways to save we’re able to grow our travel fund more quickly than we once thought.

Regardless of whether you would happily travel on a budget, you’ll still need a bit of money. There’s no way around it. So to save for your trips, you need to cut your expenses.

Here are some creative and easy ways to just that, get more money, and hit the road sooner.

Get an Advance

If you need to travel quickly for some sort of an emergency and don’t have time to save up for it, you might want to think about looking into cash advance loans. This is a quick and easy way to get the money you need for the trip. Nearly anyone with a job, National Insurance Number, and bank account can get one.

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Cut Out the Coffee

If you love Starbucks as much as just about everyone else does, you should know that they love your money. If you want to be able to afford that boating trip in London or whitewater rafting in Colorado, you need to take a look at what you’re spending for your java.

Coffee is a daily expense for most of us and it’ll quietly drain your bank account and you might not even notice. Consider that if you’re spending £5 each day for coffee, that adds up to £150 each month and a whopping £1800 for the year. What’s more important to you: your daily coffee or heading out on that river cruise? Give the coffee up, make the switch to standard brew from cappuccino, take up drinking tea, or make it at home.

Photo by Diego PH on Unsplash

Replace Your Lightbulbs

This is serious! It costs money for electricity and since we need to watch every penny, using more energy efficient light bulbs can help you cut down on the utility bills. You can get a two pack of fluorescent light bulbs for about £2.50 and replacing just five of your old-fashioned ones with them can shave £75 each year off your utility bills.

Additionally, because of energy efficiency initiatives, some electric companies may offer you a reduced tariff if you consider switching over to green or renewable energy. You need to check with your local electric company to find out what deals may be on offer.

Buy Used

Why would you pay full price when you don’t have to? You can use websites like Wholesale and Amazon (discounted electronics and books), and even clearance sales to buy what you need at discounted prices. There’s no end to the money you can save by doing this.

If you just take the time to follow these few easy tips, you’ll be able to save thousands of pounds that can suddenly make that dream trip become less dreamlike and more like reality.

13 Christmas Money Saving Tips To Get Ahead

We are halfway through the year already – and I suspect many of us are very glad about that, given the year it’s been so far.  If you’re like me though, your mind will be turning to Christmas money saving tips.  Much though I enjoy the sunny days and longer evenings, my heart belongs firmly to autumn – and, of course to Christmas.


Back in January, we resolved as a family that this would be the year we made sure we budgeted properly for Christmas and Caitlin’s birthday.  I also have nieces and a nephew with birthdays in November, December and January.  It’s quite an expensive time for us.

Lots of you started the 365 Day 1p Savings Challenge. This is a great way to save over £650 by the end of the year by saving the number of pennies which matches the number of the day out of 365 / 366 days in the year.

But have you kept it up?  I must admit I tend to fall a bit behind then make one large payment to cover what we owe!

On day one, 1st January you save 1p.  by 1st June, the 153rd day in the year, you’re saving £1.53 and so on right up to the 31st December where, this year, you’ll be putting away £3.66 as it’s a Leap Year.

We found our template at Skint Dad.

It’s easy when you start off but as you get later into the year, you’re paying over £2 – £3 per day into your savings jar – but this is still about the price of a coffee each day.

By the 31st December, we will have saved £667.95 if we can stick to the plan.

You could still start the plan from 1st July and have around £500 by 31st December.

Otherwise, now is a very good time to sit down with your budget sheets and check that your outgoings are not exceeding your income.

I like to list any big-ticket items coming up in addition to birthdays and Christmas and check we can cover them.  Both my car insurance and our house insurance fall in this second half of the year and we need to allocate enough time to get a number of quotes.

Unless it’s a very good deal we never accept the automatic renewal premium quoted by our insurers as we know that the best deals often go to new customers with loyalty rarely being rewarded.

You can find an excellent guide to budgeting, including a template from Martin Lewis on the Money Saving Expert site here.

Here are some useful tips you may find handy to save some cash or get your finances in shape for Christmas – all road-tested by the Hobbis family.

Lots of them you will already have heard of but it never hurts to have a reminder, does it?

Christmas money saving tips to try

1. Use Direct Debits

Arrange to pay your bills by direct debit – including your credit card bills. It is too easy to forget to pay your monthly credit card bill which means you accrue interest and your credit rating may be affected – even by missing one payment.

2. Check out Guarantor Loans

If you need a loan but your credit history is poor, or you haven’t yet built up a credit history, take a look at guarantor loans where you can borrow up to £10,000 if you can get someone else to guarantee your loan for you. This means that if you have trouble paying, they will step in and make the repayments for you. Make sure you understand all the terms and conditions you are signing up to though.

3. Do your comparison shopping

Don’t buy anything online without checking whether there is a voucher discount code or cash back available from sites like topcashback.co.uk or myvouchercodes.co.uk.

4. Invest in a restaurant discount card

You can save significant amounts off eating out and taking kids to the cinema with a subscription card like Tastecard which can quickly pay for itself as it has loads of 2 for 1 deals or 50% at restaurants around the UK.  We use ours at Pizza Express for example.

5. Take a thermos 

Invest in a thermos.  When you out and about you can save a fortune on coffee shop lattes or just fill it with water to keep it cool and carry a mini squash pod to give the kids a drink.

6. Get off and walk

Walk some of the way – get off the bus a stop or two earlier.  It’s a great way to build in some extra exercise.  In general, we try to leave the car at home as much as possible to save on fuel costs.

7. Create a kids’ party stash

Buy kids’ birthday cards, wrapping paper and party presents when you see them and in the sale. Create a mini stash so that you won’t be caught out when that kids’ party invite card appears and you have 2 days to find a present.

8. Use your loyalty cards

If for no other reason than that you might accrue enough points to give yourself a mini treat to perk you up when money is tight. I find that the Boots Advantage Card is quite generous, although Boots is not the cheapest chemist by far.  It does mean that I can have yet another red lippie to cheer myself up completely free.

9. Check out eBay and learn how to snipe 

I saved a fortune buying kids’ clothing bundles for my two when they were younger and I learned how to use a bid sniper which automatically bids for you up to an amount you specify to hopefully win the item during the final stages of bidding.

You know when a bid appears from nowhere topping yours and snatching your coveted item from under your nose, or when the price starts to rocket?  That’s bid sniping in action. You never know when they’re there but you can do the same.  Try Goofbid.com where you can set up your own sniper using your current eBay login details.

You could also sell lots of toys, books and kids’ clothes you no longer want on eBay too. Be aware though that there may be sellers fees and listing fees, plus an extra charge for using Paypal.  You need to do the maths to ensure that you are actually making a profit.

10. Create a savings jar

At the end of each day, just chuck your loose change into it – perhaps 20ps and 50ps.  You’ll be amazed at how the total will rise or try the 365-day 1p savings challenge I mentioned earlier.

11. Check out Aldi and Lidl

Since we swopped to Aldi about 9 months ago we have saved a small fortune.  I would say our weekly shopping basket (including the odd treat like a bunch of flowers or sweets) is about 30% less than the big four supermarkets without sacrificing the quality.  In fact, the quality of some of the produce is better.

I have also found that items such as Easter eggs and particularly their Christmas produce are excellent and much cheaper.  If you prefer to have everything branded, Aldi and Lidl may not be for you but I think once you see how much you save, like me, you’ll probably wish you had started shopping there earlier.

12. Buy Own Brand rather than Premium Brand

If you don’t have an Aldi or Lidl near buy, you can also save quite a bit by choosing the supermarkets’ own brands.  Very often foodstuffs are produced in the same factory and then packaged into the different brand packaging with the accompanying variation in price.

We have tried this with various success, the only notable failure being coffee.  Pricier though it is, we still love our Gold Blend.

13. Write your Christmas present list now

Lastly, I know it is ridiculously early but write your Christmas list now – particularly what you plan to put in the kids’ stockings if you have them.  I always find it’s relatively easy to budget for their main presents but I end up spending way too much on bits and pieces to go in their stocking. The stocking fillers can cost almost as much as the presents!

Why not assign a financial limit for things like Christmas stockings and start to buy small items as you see them to avoid that mad panic in the last week of December. It’s also a good time to buy teachers’ presents or the general gifts you might give to people like your milkman or the window cleaner.

Hide them all in a drawer somewhere out of the way of prying eyes and little fingers.

The trick with all these tips is to work out ways to save money without compromising on your quality of life.  It can be done.

If you adopt some of these Christmas money-saving tips then you may be able to create a festive fund to relieve some of the pressure on your finances at the most expensive time of year.

Do you have any Christmas money-saving tips to share?

When might you need a personal loan?

As summer looms, the household bills seem to increase, don’t they?  The spring sunlight has a way of showing up gaps in your roof tiles and the desperate state of your home’s exterior paint.

Once there’s a chance of less rainfall, garden projects are renewed.  Further down our street, someone is having a large shed installed surrounded by an extensive patio.  To the rear of our house, the groaning of a hedge cutter has been heard for several hours.

If it’s not sprucing up the old homestead with something like a kitchen renovation, it’s repairing equipment that has gone on the fritz like the boiler (a decent new one costs in the thousands), or things which no longer work in the car.  The air conditioning in my beloved Skoda has gone kaput and now blows hot, instead of cold air.

I wrote last week about the additional costs of education – whether that be replacing school shoes or shelling out for school trips.

And, not forgetting upcoming holidays.  If like us, you’re a fan of self-catering, it’s easy to pay the deposit at the point of booking and less easy to remember exactly when you have to pay the balance.  It is, to be fair, usually around 6 weeks before your holiday but boy, does it come around quick.

Other reasons you might need funds quickly include:

  • Consolidating or refinancing high-interest debt
  • Making a large purchase like a washing machine or laptop
  • Financing a small business purchase or expansion
  • Paying for a medical procedure or expense
  • Paying for a wedding or engagement ring

If you’re not much of a budgeter, you may occasionally find yourself strapped for cash and, whilst dipping into your savings is the most sensible way to avoid getting into debt, that is not always possible.

Many of us do not save or if we do have funds tied up in ISAs or pension pots which we would be loathed to touch.

A personal loan, then, is often a practical solution to getting your hands on much-needed cash, as long as you are sensible about it.

In addition, this may make more sense than loading any extra expense on your credit cards which are likely to have a higher interest rate which will quickly rack up your debt, even if you are meeting the minimum monthly repayment.

Make sure you research loans online to make sure that you are getting the best deal in terms of the interest rate you will have to pay on the loan sum and the time you’ll have to pay it back.

The longer the term of the loan, the greater the overall amount you’ll have to pay back will be.

Other ways to raise the cash include lending from the “Bank of Mum & Dad” or a relative but be sure to write down all the terms of your agreement and how much you will pay back and when.  Relationships can quickly sour when it comes to money!

You could also see if there is any treasure in your trash and finally clear out the garage.  You can list items to sell on eBay and Gumtree but be aware of sellers’ fees and other transactional costs, for example, the fee to receive money from Paypal.

The Husband and I have a ‘slush fund ISA’ where we put windfalls and bonuses to fund our household bills but that wouldn’t cover, say putting in a wetroom should one of our elderly parents come to stay.

Since we are both in our 50s I’d prefer to take out a personal loan rather than add any more to our mortgage.

And if we finally get around to having a honeymoon (8 years and counting), I’m hoping it will be to a destination a little further afield than our beloved Devon – which wouldn’t be covered by our existing savings.

Whatever the reason you need to get your hands on some extra cash, make sure you look at all the options, write everything down and make sure you file away any emails and documentation in one place.

With some sensible management and plenty of research, a personal loan may stack up as the best option for lower to middle-range expenses.

The only other option is the one often quoted by my mum.  “Well you’ll just have to do without, won’t you”?  Bless.

Our Tips For Making Your Family’s Budget Last Longer

Regardless of how well off you are, it’s always worthwhile to look for ways to save on your outgoings so that your family budget stretches further. A common way people can bring an unexpected lump sum into the household is to reclaim PPI. Many don’t even realise they are entitled to a refund, and it can bring you thousands of pounds that you weren’t expecting.

Here are our top 5 tips for making your family budget stretch a little further.

1. Order your shopping online

When you do your grocery shopping online, it’s much easier to track your spending and items as you go, and you can easily check your cupboards for what you need.

Standing in the supermarket wishing you hadn’t forgotten your list can lead to you needlessly buying things ‘just in case’.

By shopping online, you can also avoid impulse buys like picking up chocolate while you’re at the checkout.

2. Use natural products to clean your home

Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar are a low-cost cleaning solution and can really go a long way. And, as a bonus to saving you money, by cleaning this way you will actually have a healthier environment than if you bring lots of nasty chemicals into your house.

3. If you do get extra, unexpected income, pay off debts first

If you do manage to score a windfall when you seek to reclaim PPI, you might think of building a savings account. Before you do, think about paying off any debts you have outstanding – this will actually save you more money and free up your income flow quicker.

When you lock money away in a savings account, any income it earns won’t match the savings you make by clearing your debts.

4. Set a little aside each week from your grocery budget

By having a little extra set aside from your weekly grocery budget, you’ll build up a little fund to use on more expensive items like toiletries and dishwasher tablets when they go on sale.

This way, you can stock up on the cut-price goods and make greater savings in the long term.

For example, if you buy 6 months-worth of dishwasher tablets when they’re on half-price sale, you’ll be all set right up until the next time they go on sale, saving you a significant amount in the long term.

5. Introduce Meatless Mondays to your house routine

Meat is one of the more expensive food items out there. If you have one day a week where no meat is needed, you will be surprised at how much money is saved over time. And you can enjoy the added benefits of helping your family’s health and reducing the strain on the environment.

If you have a good family budget in place, you’ve already taken a big step in managing your finances. But there is always more you can do to save money, and by following the tips in this article you’ll stretch that family budget a little further and enjoy greater savings in the long term.

Will You End 2019 Richer Or Poorer? Time To Plan Your Financial Year

Getting to grips with family finance is really important now that the UK economy is so unsettled by the ongoing BREXIT negotiations.  Some mums are even stockpiling tinned foods and medication because they fear lots of their staples will vanish if no deal is reached. Has there ever been a more uncertain time in recent memory for family finance?

Readers of this blog will know that I am a big fan of budgeting and putting a bit aside for a rainy day. This is something that the Husband and I drill into the kids on a daily basis.

Financial Planning - pile of pens and coins

There’s nothing like teaching them the power of anticipation and the value of saving up for the things they really want.

But now, more than ever, it’s time to get to grips with our cash and to plan for as stable a 2019 as possible by setting solid financial goals.

I think I inherited my financial caution from my parents.  I can still hear dad’s voice behind me when about to squander my pocket money on a copy of Jackie or some Black Jack chews (4 for a penny!). “You don’t really need that, do you?” he used to say.

Mum and Dad were both born in 1939 just in time for World War II and having experienced rationing their attitude to saving is a lot more stringent than that of most Millennials.

When you’re young you always think you’ll live forever and you really can’t envisage the day when you’ll need your pension – or what desperate circumstance might arise when you’ll need to get your hands on some cash quickly.

Financial planning - Ieuan adding Minecraft to the family weekly shopping list
Minecraft is Ieuan’s number one shopping item

When you become a homeowner (which is increasingly looking a rather remote possibility for Caitlin and Ieuan), it is often a bit of a shock to be landed with bills for replacing a boiler, rewiring the electrics or fixing a leaky roof!

Equally, though, you don’t want to spend your life always worrying about whether you should be enjoying yourself.  We are only here once (depending on your personal beliefs of course).

Life is too short to wallow in guilt about treating yourself occasionally.

Planning your financial year is the answer.

It’s time to pick up our pens and planners (some of us still haven’t got to grips with Google spreadsheets) and create a budget which will cushion us against financial shocks whilst still adding a frisson of excitement to 2019.

And I’m sure we are all looking forward to a more exciting and happier year than 2018 which seemed to chiefly feature BREXIT and the looming nightmare of Donald Trump.

I am 55 this year and those of us over 50 are aware that retirement is, if not exactly looming on the horizon, something that needs thinking about.  Saving is pretty critical in these years and you really don’t want to be dipping into your savings pot to fund large items of expenditure.

I’m sure most of us don’t want to start taking out large, and often expensive, loans either.

One way to release funds for things such as home improvements like a conservatory or adapting a property to meet mobility needs, or that long-promised cruise, is by equity release.

Now obviously you will want to make sure that you take independent financial advice to look at your finances as a whole and to plug any gaps which might need urgent attention – especially your pension and possibly funeral planning.

But equity release may well work for you. This is where you obtain funds derived from the value of your property whilst still being allowed to live there.

Saga helps those over 55 with its equity release service and, used sensibly, this can help you gain greater control over your finances.  Make sure you do your research first before signing on the dotted line.

So, what action points are on the Hobbis Family’s planner?

Financial planning - Caitlin writes out the family financial plan
Caitlin plans to raise money by selling the family’s endless supply of coat hangers

Our Family Finance Goals For 2019

Here’s our top 5.

Plan for Christmas

Still far and away our biggest expense.  This year we’re trying to save £3 a day up to the first of December which should give us £996.

Pay Off Our Holidays

We have two weeks in Devon booked with Toad Hall Cottages and need to pay off the balance around March.

If our funds will stretch I’d like to take an extra week towards the end of the summer holidays (when everyone is in dire need of something to remove the boredom and boost the spirits!).

I’d also look to have a few shorter breaks and take a lot more day trips.

Budget for carpet

Just the word tends to make my soul sink but it has to be done.  We took all the carpet up hoping that wood floors would help with allergies and reduce dust.

They do, but the house creaks in the night like an old galleon and it’s impossible to creep about without risking waking the kids.

Plus we’re hoping to dampen the sound of our next door neighbour’s occasional belief that he lives in a night club in Ibiza and ramps up the volume of his stereo accordingly.

We’ll make sure we time our purchase around bank holidays and general sale periods when there are often great deals to be had.

Reduce our food bills

The key to this is menu planning and shopping list writing. It’s something I’m still trying to discipline myself to do.

Otherwise, it’s too easy to wander around Tesco throwing ‘things you fancy for tea’ in a trolley which, 9 times out of 10, wouldn’t make a nutritionist very happy.

Then there’s Ieuan’s “Mr Kipling” habit but since Mr Kipling’s cakes are rapidly reducing to the size of microdots, it might be time to get baking again.

Save more by using vouchers and discount codes

If you avoid impulse buying and plan your purchases sensibly you can often save by buying through cash-back sites like Topcashback which is free to use.

So that’s our top 5. I think it’s a good idea to sit down with the family (and the kids!) and discuss financial objectives for the year.

It’s never too soon for little ones to grasp that their parents have to work for their money and that there are some things which have to be paid for before Roblox, Minecraft and anything with a puppy printed on it.

Have you planned your financial year yet?  What difference do you think BREXIT has made to your decisions surrounding family finance?

*Collaborative Post

Are Gen Z Are More Interested In Saving Than Spending?

Each generation seems to take it upon itself to berate the one that comes after it for being irresponsible and having the wrong values and priorities. It’s been the case since the baby boomers, and if you believe everything you hear, each successive generation, through Generation X, the millennials and Generation Z has simply represented a further unravelling of society.

It sounds like harmless enough rhetoric from the perspective of the angry old man or woman in a rocking chair that we can all aspire to be one day. But the latest research from economists suggests that it also happens to be completely untrue.

From Hedonism to the Credit Crunch Kids

Millennials or those born between the late 70s and the mid-90s were brought up in a world of plenty. What had, to previous generations, been seen as luxuries, such as a modern car, a home with central heating and regular overseas holidays, were now perceived as everyday essentials. It will be looked back on as a somewhat hedonistic generation, exemplified by entitlement and materialism.

Generation Z is the term applied to those born after around 1995. Even the oldest of this cohort was only 12 when the first smartphone came out, which was, coincidentally enough, the same time as the global economy went into something of a meltdown.

Saving, not spending

Hiral Patel is an analyst with Barclays Bank and he feels that each generation is predominantly influenced by its teenage experiences – but where finances are concerned, it might not necessarily act on those influences till it is in its prime spending years, in its 30s, 40s and 50s.

Millennials growing up in the late 80s and early 90s were surrounded by easy credit where anyone could have almost everything as long as they flashed the plastic. Gen Zers were raised in a period where their parents were paying the price for this excess. Credit had collapsed, interest rates had disappeared through the floor and money itself was now the commodity that everyone wanted, as opposed to the trappings it could purchase.

How are businesses reacting?

If the analysts and economists are right, we might well be entering the age of the responsible investor. But while Gen Z is conceptually far more risk-averse and has a savings mindset, bear in mind this cohort is also young and inexperienced. This website gives a good example of a company that is looking to provide what this new generation of consumers is looking for, offering no-nonsense financial service advice in terms that will be easily understood. And all delivered via a smartphone app.

Other industries are being a little slower to react, but the time to reach out to Gen Z is now. Those who see Gen Zers as simply being younger millennials are missing the point. And given that this new generation will represent 40 percent of the consumer market by 2020, businesses and society, in general, all need to wake up and smell the coffee.

Posting Gifts Abroad This Christmas – Here’s How You Can Save Money

It’s that time of year again when we flock to the high street in droves to buy presents for our friends and loved ones.

However, Christmas can prove a logistical nightmare if you have to buy and ship gifts to relatives dotted all over the world. If, say, you have family members who live in France and other parts of continental Europe, the cost of shipping gifts can really mount up in a short space of time.

Photo by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can save money when posting gifts abroad, and I thought I’d share these with you below.

Choose your gifts wisely

In an ideal world, there’d be no restrictions on the gifts that we buy for our loved ones, in terms of size, shape or budget.

In reality, however, presents that are to be shipped abroad need to be selected wisely, and there are a number of things that you need to keep in mind.

Aside from the added postage costs, it may be difficult to ship larger gifts to Europe or further afield.

Your gifts should ideally be light and unbreakable too, otherwise, you run the risk of them being damaged while in transit.

Get a competitive quote 

The postage to France can be deceptively expensive, which is hardly ideal at a time of year when we already spend large amounts of money.

However, there are services that allow you to seek out quotes for shipping goods overseas, and this ensures that you identify the best real-time deals and get real value for your hard-earned money.

All you need to do is enter your location and the shipping address, before listing the weight and dimensions of your parcel.

Then simply check out the listed quotes and book your courier, before completing your cut-price payment online!

Buy a micro-scale for weighing parcels at home

Of course, if you’re going to weigh your parcels accurately, you need the right tools to do this effectively from home.

So, why not invest in a micro-scale that lets you weigh your parcels and provide accurate information when seeking shipment quotes? This can help to reduce costs, as estimating the weight of a parcel could cause you to pay more to the courier that you select.

This means that the cost of the micro-scale will quickly be repaid, while you’ll get continued use out of it through the years.

I mean, your micro-scale can also be used for measuring out ingredients while cooking, so it’s a multi-purpose tool that offers real value.

How to Keep on Top of Your Finances This Christmas

Christmas is expensive. Not only that, but with New Year on the horizon too, many people have costly plans inspired by the arrival of the new year; new cars, home renovations, extravagant family holidays etc. The end of one year and the dawn of another makes millions collectively think ‘what the hell’, and then they spend more than they perhaps should.

Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash

Of course, not everyone can afford to spend extortionate amounts on their loved ones. At this time of year, that ‘one last big spend’ outlook with your money is more tempting than ever, but not always wise to satisfy.

Consequently, here’s how to keep on top your finances this Christmas.

Who You Buy For

Christmas comes with a great deal of pressure. It can feel like you owe everybody in your life something; a gesture of appreciation, hours upon hours of your time in costly train or car journeys for visits, or expensive presents. Well, it’s time to debunk these myths.

You know who you value most in your life, and frankly, these are the only people who need your love and money this Christmas!

Sometimes, a cheap card is enough for most people. Don’t buy gifts for anyone but your immediate family or undertake expensive journeys to people who you can probably do without.

Moreover, if a secret Santa happens at work and your finances are thin, don’t be afraid to back out. Sure, rejecting these situations might make you be viewed as a bit of a Grinch, but your bank balance will be stronger for it. Priorities first!

Energy Bills

People put a lot of festive lights up at Christmas time. Some houses can be littered with elaborate decorations outside that wind their way across the rooftops in blazing glory night after night.

Of course, then comes the indoor Christmas trees, fairy lights, lit up garlands, fireplaces and more. As it’s winter, the heating can be left on all day too, and as the nights grow darker faster, the lights come on earlier, and for longer, too.

Obviously, this will all tally up in terms of expense. There’s a lot to pay for here, and for many people, it’s nothing short of excessive.

If this is you, consider prioritising what you actually need; this will be your heating and your main lights, used occasionally and not all the time. Therefore, consider leaving your Christmas lights and fireplaces off every once in a while, and use everything else only when necessary to save money.

Cars and Financing

Granted, purchasing a new car doesn’t quite seem like the true definition of saving money. That said, it can help you cut costs if you’re looking to downsize. Perhaps your children have moved out, so now there’s less need for a big vehicle to accommodate a family.

Alternatively, perhaps you just want a smaller car for any number of reasons; comfort, style or for ease of driving.

Moreover, you may just want to go without a car, whether that’s indefinitely or just temporarily. No matter your reasons, you can secure a car valuation online from AA, and can even sell your car through their services.

After all, cars are an enormous expense both at the point of purchase and as an ongoing asset needing maintenance and repairs. If money is wearing thin and you’re considering moving on from your vehicle, go for it!

4 Tips To Secure Your Financial Future

Everybody wants to be financially independent, but most people, especially young people make the mistake of rushing into a lavish lifestyle without considering their future.

Photo by Melissa Walker Horn on Unsplash

To secure your future and that of your family, you need to carefully plan what you want and need. How you spend your finances now determine how your future will be.

Here are four tips to secure your financial future.

Set a budget

Have a plan of what you want, how much you earn and how much it will cost. There are things that are essential that must be included in your budget. Make a list and set an estimate. If you want to buy anything new such as a new television or house, determine how much you have and then research. There are many people who rush into buying the first thing they come across without looking for other options.

Have a list of short term and long term goals depending on your income. As you accomplish one, tick it out of your list and move to the next. By setting a budget you can track your monthly expenses and always try to stick to your list. At no point should you spend more than you earn.

Start saving early

It’s never late to start saving and when you have savings goals, there is a lot that you can achieve. Nobody wants to go into retirement with nothing to show or have to rely on their kids in their old age.

Start saving early by opening a savings account. If you want a certain amount of money by the time you retire, plan on how much you will be saving. Have a fixed amount of your income which you save every month, at least 10 to 20 per cent. Insurance is another way to save. Have insurance for the place you live.

Pay off any pending debts

In case you have any pending debts, try as much as possible to clear them. Some debts accrue interest and in time you might end up paying more than you owe. Make a list of all your debts and start clearing the highest debts first.

Debts involving credit cards and loans that have interest should be the first in your list. Once you have cleared the most urgent ones, plan on how you will gradually pay for the rest. If possible, set a time frame for paying up your debts. Having successfully paid all the debts, avoid any more debts.

Take your time when deciding on finances and financial opportunities

Wrong financial decisions can get you into trouble if not well researched and calculated. To avoid this, you need to carefully research on any type of expenditure that you want to include in your budget or financial investment that you are considering.

Don’t hear of a financial opportunity and rush into making a deal, especially when the deal is too good to be true. Carry out a proper research. Opportunities will always arise and with careful planning, you will land on a good deal.

In order to live the life of your dreams, you need to learn how to be disciplined when it comes to money matters. If you have to, reduce your current expenses as you focus on your future goals. Get more information on how to save from the Money Trumpet.

 

Why Diamonds Have Lost Their Sparkle For Millennials

Spending £5,000 on a piece of jewellery is a concept almost unimaginable to your average Millennial, but if you go back just two decades it was quite common for that amount to be spent on a beautiful piece which would be regarded as an investment. Today you are likely to find fewer Millennials investing in jewellery.

 

Insure4Retirement, a Home and Travel Insurance provider for the over 50s found that 73% of people who completed a quote and listed jewellery listed jewellery such as diamond engagement rings as part of the cover required, owned over £5,000 worth of gems and precious metals.

Data from the Wealth and Assets Survey 2016 (WAS) shows that households with, what the insurance industry refers to as the largest ‘physical wealth’ were people who had reached retirement age, having accumulated more than £66,900 in household assets.

Not surprisingly, however, the WAS survey shows that those in the 16-24 age group, have the lowest ‘physical wealth’. You could argue that the younger generation’s lack of physical wealth is simply because they haven’t had enough time to accumulate physical assets.

This is partly true, as the average age people are now getting on the property ladder is over 30 years old, seven years older than the average in 1960.

A quick look at my friend and family bears this out.  I have nieces and a nephew in their 20’s for whom owning their own home seems a pipe-dream.  The Husband and I joke that Caitlin and Ieuan are likely to be living with us until their 30’s.

I, on the other hand, was lucky enough to buy my first flat in the 1990s, partially funded by a deposit from the ‘Bank of Mum & Dad’ but paid for and maintained by my lowly secretarial job.  How times have changed.

Simply put, Millennials don’t have homes filled with stuff, because they don’t yet own homes to fill with stuff. Material things seem to hold less attraction than the opportunity to explore the world.

Despite this being a contributing factor to the huge gap in physical wealth between the younger and older generations, industry analysts say that it’s largely down to the fact that Millennials simply don’t see value in spending their cash on valuables.

“Millennials gravitate toward spending money on experiences, and not things” according to Sarah Berger of TheCashlorette.com Today’s younger generation are far more inclined to spend a significant amount of money travelling to locations such as Bali and Thailand – both popular destinations for under-30 Brits – than on fine jewellery.

The move toward spending a higher percentage of income on experiences isn’t isolated to the younger generation according to the Office for National Statistics.

The ONS highlighted that households aged between 65 and 74 are now spending nearly a fifth (18%) of their income on recreational and cultural activities.

Perhaps fuelled by the recent availability of reasonable travel insurance for older people with medical conditions. Over 65s are spending the highest percentage of their income on package holidays than they have in a long time.

This really isn’t surprising since we are an ageing society and, according to Age UK, nearly one in four people in the UK (24.2%) will be aged 65 or over by 2040. The landscape is changing rapidly when it comes to our perception of ageing and how we should be spending our time.

As the rising cost of living eats into the wallets of UK households, the jewellery and retail industry are competing unsuccessfully for the attention of our young generation.

The generation currently aged 18-36 typically spend around 30% of their income on rent, in comparison to the 10% their grandparents would have spent in the 1960s. Leaving them with less to splash out on luxury possessions as they opt for Instagram-worthy brunch spots in lieu.

In addition, the number one trigger for buying diamonds – marriage – seems to be on the wane.

The Independent recently reported that, according to official figures, marriages between men and women in England and Wales have fallen a record low.

There were 239,020 marriages between opposite-sex couples in 2015, the latest year that figures are available for, a drop by more than 8,300 or a decrease of 3.4 per cent from the previous year. Full data is not yet available for same-sex marriages.

The diamond industry has reportedly slowed as our Millennial consumers are far-less enamoured by traditional diamond jewellery than their parents. “Diamond jewellery appears to be low on the buying lists” of today’s youth according to Des Kilalea, an analyst from RBD Capital Market.

A worrying situation for the jewellery industry, as the Millennial generation edge towards becoming the most active consumer group.

According to Insure4Retirement, whose customer base is predominantly made up of baby-boomers, 50% of all specified items of jewellery are diamond.

If the jewellery industry can’t find a way to grip the hearts of our youth, we can expect to see these figures decrease with each decade, until the once much-coveted diamond becomes yet another icon of a bygone era. Without Millennials investing in jewellery, the industry will definitely lose its sparkle and the retirement portfolios will continue to change.

The opinions and views expressed above are those of the author only and are for guidance purposes only. 

5 Top Tips To Save On Your Energy Bills This Autumn

My social media accounts are awash with people getting excited about autumn – the colours, scents and the opportunity to legitimately cover all your chairs with throws and cushions (not in the Husband’s opinion though).

save on your energy bills - autumn woodland scene

Autumn, of course, sees not only the approaching expense of Christmas but those other fun events, Halloween and Bonfire Night.  Then Caitlin, my mum and my nieces and nephew all have birthdays in the autumn/winter months.

This is without factoring the cost of switching the heating back on and cooking all those warming winter meals after months of salad. Yes, after the mortgage, our utility bills are one of the biggest chunks of our monthly expenditure.

So how can we make sure that we keep as much of our hard-earned cash in our pockets this autumn?  What’s the best way to save on your energy bills?

Budget now for Christmas

If you haven’t already been saving for Christmas, now is the time to start squirrelling away whatever you can – whether that’s into a dedicated savings account or even a big glass jar.  Assign a basic budget per person and work towards that.

If you have a big family with lots of people to buy for, why not agree with your relatives what the maximum spend should be or even at what point you’ll stop buying gifts for each other and just send a card.

If you have a rough idea of what you’re spending on everyone, you can take better advantage of the late summer sales but if you are thinking of gift cards, I’d offer a note of caution.

In one of the larger department stores recently I used a gift card that had languished in my purse for well over a year.  I was told it was a good job I’d used it up as gift cards were only valid for two years  – despite the fact that it was surely my own money – so beware!

There have also been cases where retailers have gone bust and refused to honour gift cards and vouchers so these, with the possible exception of Amazon, might be best avoided if you think the recipient is unlikely to spend them any time soon.

Christmas lights wrapped around a tree in the garden

Plan your festive travel 

Decide now where you will be spending Christmas and if you’re travelling investigate travel fare and hotel offers now – before prices rise as everything gets booked up.  Take a look at Trivago or Expedia.  A Family & Friends Railcard will save you loads on family travel if you’re taking the kids for an outlay of £27. There’s 30% off adult fares and 60% off kids’ fares depending on when you travel.

Ditch any unnecessary expenditure

Add to your Christmas funds by cutting down on unnecessary expenditure – those huge frothy coffees and muffins, magazine subscriptions you never read and, yes, dull as it sounds, make your own sarnies for lunch.  Lord knows if your sandwiches are like mine you need something to motivate you – and having a January with money left in your bank account should do it, surely?

Hands around a coffee

Use The Cash Back Sites

I’m sure you have heard about the shopping cashback sites such as Topcashback and Quidco but there’s also Swagbucks (where you earn vouchers for completing online activities like watching videos or completing surveys) and Valued Opinions (surveys) and of course Groupon and Wowcher for saving cash not only on things you’d buy for yourself but gifts too.

Save on your energy bills 

You can find lots of ideas on saving money on your energy bills for autumn in this post but as a quick reminder, these are my top three tips:

Check your boiler

Ours is so old and clunky it is definitely on the ‘replace’ list soon.  If more than two of us have a shower in quick succession it throws a strop and has to be reset. If yours is as temperamental as ours you might be surprised to find how much money you could potentially be saving each year by replacing your boiler.

HomeServe energy saving tool

HomeServe Heating has a helpful Energy Saving Tool to help you work out just that by showing you how much you could save by comparing it with your incidental spending (see ‘Ditch Any Unnecessary Expenditure’ above!).  I could save £215.

Turn down your thermostat

The Energy Saving Trust says you can save around £90 just by turning your thermostat down 1 degree. Sweaters and hot water bottles can be your new best friends.

Draught proof windows and doors

You can buy draught-proofing strips to stick around the window frames which are cheap, and easy to install, although they may not be a long-term solution. You can get metal or plastic strips with brushes or wipers attached which are long-lasting but cost a little more. For windows that don’t open, use a silicone sealant.

Similarly, check your doors for draughts too.  Keep doors closed to stop cold air from moving into the rest of the house and if there is a gap at the bottom of the door, use a draught excluder.  You can make your own with some spare material or even a stuffed pair of tights.

Once you’ve got your budgeting sorted and kept the cold, wet weather at bay, you can settle down and plan some delicious festive fare or make yourself a nice gin cocktail to toast your great organisational skills!

What tips do you have to save on your energy bills?

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