What’s Your Biggest Money Eater?

7 May

Hello, skint pals and sorry it’s been a while since my last post: last week was spent as far out of the city as I could get, on a  family holiday on a farm. It was camp fires and sausages most lunchtimes, but this farm had a rather unique selling point –  its own beauty salon. Rather random I know, but somehow it worked: it certainly made getting a manicure feel more justifiable when I could tell the beauty therapist that the reason my hands need TLC was that I’d just been hauling wood. (It was small sticks actually, but I fudged the truth a little, out of shame for my neglected nails).

Salon beauty treatments are something I never normally bother with. By and large I consider them a waste of money, but having allowed myself a couple down on the farm I might just become a convert. I didn’t realise what a difference a proper pedicure would make, but if I’m going to start splashing the cash on beauty treatments I’ll need to find a way to rein in some other expenses. We’ve all got money eaters – things we regularly shell out on without thinking about how much benefit we’re getting in return. And as my bank balance is feeling that post-holiday pinch right now, I’ve just been taking a look at my biggest cash-guzzlers to see where I might make some savings. This is something I talked about a while back, but I’ve still got way more work to do if I want to shave off some of my superfluous spending. Here are some of my spending habits whose days in power are numbered:

Newspapers – I don’t know if these should be culled or not, because I enjoy them so much, but I am a total newspaper junkie. A day without buying a newspaper is almost inconceivable to me and I will often buy four on a Sunday. Yes, four. I love them, you see – the main sections, the supplements, the lot. But still that’s more than £8 a go some Sundays and a quid or two most other days, so we’re looking at £15 a week, easy. That’s £60 a month!!!! Oh Lord, I had no idea. Clearly something must be done.

newsprint nails

Here’s a genius way to get a manicure and my newspaper fix in one. One of the quirkiest BOGOFs I’ve seen.

Office lunches – As I outlined here, this was a big money eater (literally) for me, but it’s one I’ve gone some way to curbing. Still more to be done though – as with so many expenses, lack of time is the enemy and at 7am I don’t always feel like making sarnies.  

Illness/injury insurance– I pay out £35 a month for this policy, which covers my mortgage payments should I be struck down with any of several scary illnesses. At the time of taking out the mortgage it seemed like a good idea. I’m relatively risk-averse and was suitably scared by the advisor’s imaginary scenario of juggling mortgage payments with a life-threatening illness. Seven years and £3000 later, I’m not sure I need it; after all, I get sick pay for a decent time period via my employer. I’ve often thought about cancelling it, then chickened out for fear that two days later I’d be diagnosed with something horrendous.

Random Acts of Idiocy – Easy to spot after the fact, but harder to eliminate, these are the money eaters that occur due to lack of attention. Last time I went to London I was rushing to catch the Stansted Express and bought my return ticket in a hurry. Next day I realised that I was returning via Luton, not Stansted and had just wasted a pricey return ticket. I ended up giving it away. Library fines would also need to go in this category – my mental block about returning books on time is longstanding and has cost me a fair bit over the years. 

On the other hand, I spend very little on stuff that others go a bundle on. Since I really don’t give a damn about motors I’ve had the same car for ten years. The jalopy still drives and that’s all I want. And because the idea of spending a weekend or longer looking round garages for a new car strikes me as about as pleasant as root canal treatment, I just keep putting it off, (yep, for ten years).

Maybe it’s all about choices – my newspaper habit gives me far more pleasure than a new car could, but still I got a shock when I totted up the monthly cost. When I came across this article on the best budgeting apps I thought it was pretty interesting – see what you think. I might try one to keep track of spending for a month or so.

 What are your biggest regular money eaters? Or don’t you regret any of your spending habits? C’mon, let me know! x

Photo courtesy of Passion Nail Art.

How to Save Money on Work Lunches – Skint Style

24 Apr

Without wanting to sound scrooge-like I’ve become increasingly resistant recently to paying more than I need to be at work. By that I mean shelling out for parking, posh lunches and all the other things that I wouldn’t be doing if I weren’t at the office. Things came to a head a few months ago when I got a parking ticket for £75 right outside myworkplace. Having parked there cos I didn’t want to be late , it was a lesson in how being conscientious doesn’t always pay off. (Oh, and a lesson to be on time in future too!) Anyway, that bill prompted me to start looking at my other work-related expenses, and it didn’t take long to see that a massive money eater for me was lunches and coffees.

Though I’m only in the office three days, my canteen bills were steep. So I seized the chance to get all nerd-like, logging what I spent at the café over the course of three days and the damage read like this: 

Wed – coffee £1.80; soup £2; yohgurt 80p

Thurs – coffee £1.80; banana 60p; baked potato with tuna £3

Fri – Tea £1; soup £2; chocolate 60p

Total = So, £13.60 for three days. On Mondays and Tuesdays when I’m at home I also go out for lunch to get a break, and probably spend about another £8 a week on that. Let’s round it right down to £20 a week (to make me feel better); that’s still £80 a month, and I’m not hugely enjoying any of these snacks or lunches. I could easily boil up some pasta in the evening for lunch the next day and I’d be happier taking in my own coffee actually, making it stronger and less milky than the work stuff. Or I’d rather make my own food four days a week and go out for a proper restaurant lunch with colleagues once a week – I still reckon that would come in cheaper than £80 a month.

retro lunchbox

And by taking your own lunch you get to dangle this from your arm every morning too!

After doing these sums I screwed on my sensible head and got to work coming up with ways to slash my weekly spend on work-related costs. After all, we’re meant to be at work to make money, not spend it, right? On some of those big lunch and parking ticket days I was coming home with less than I’d set out with that morning. Not smart.  

When I thought about why I was wasting money on something that I could so easily do at home, the answer came down, as it so often does, to time. At 7am it’s hard enough hauling myself out of bed, never mind thinking ahead to lunch. But with just a teensy bit of planning I could be saving enough money to buy something fabulous every month or, even better, putting the cash saved straight into my holiday fund.

The thing is, as well as taking time to organise, packed lunches can be a tad uninspiring, can’t they? I can still clearly picture lunchtime tomato sandwiches at school, how I’d lift them out of the Tupperware box and be confronted with a sodden mess of wet red bread. So I’ve turned to a couple of sites to help me out with some more creative lunch ideas and thought I share them. Firstly the magnificent lovefoodhatewaste, is a site worth checking out not just for its lunchtime ideas, but also its thoughts on how to cut down on the food waste that currently costs UK householders £12bn a year (£5.5 bn of that is lunch, my friends).

The BBC Good Food site is full of interesting lunchbox ideas too, so now instead of boring sandwiches I’m stocking up on pittas, wraps, oatcakes and ricecakes. And with fillings like hummus, guacamole and feta now stashed in my fridge I’m ditching Coronation chicken for good.

Skint in the City

Or this one! I might just splash some of my savings on a couple.

I’m trying to get into the habit of cooking extra pasta the night before too, then mixing it with whatever’s to hand: cherry tomatoes, sliced red peppers, pesto or tuna. And whilst I used to throw out leftover main meals I now box them and take them for lunch. Aside from the cost and health benefits I’ve found another unexpected bonus to taking my own food. By avoiding the queue for the sandwich shop I’ve discovered that my entire lunchtime is now my own to read a book, take a walk or go window shopping. And the difference to my bank balance at the end of the month is really noticeable.

How do you keep on top of your office lunchtime spending habits? Or don’t you? Are you happy to spend £100 a month on lunches? I’d love to hear your thoughts and tips – go on, share your smarts by leaving a comment below.

Skint Tip: If you’re a real rushbaby and already know you’ll never have time to make morning sandwiches, prepare sandwiches at the weekend and freeze them in clingfilm, then just take what you need out of the freezer before leaving the house each morning. By lunchtime they’ll be ready to eat.

If you want Skint updates straight to your inbox from now on just click the Follow Skint button or RSS at the top of the page and they’ll be with you quicker than Dorothy can click her heels.  

If It’s Friday it Must be Make-Up

20 Apr

Hey skint girls! This morning’s post comes with a warning to you to watch your pennies at the beauty counter today. See, Friday is traditionally the day where most cash is splashed spent on make-up. You know how it is: you’ve worked hard all week and want to treat yourself to a little something, but don’t have the time to schlep around clothes stores pulling stuff off and on. A new lipstick or nail varnish isn’t just the easiest way to brighten up your weekend look, it’s also cheaper than a new outfit and so relatively guilt-free.

Economists even refer to the Lipstick Index, which sees lipstick sales rocket every time the economy declines; the reason being that whilst women pull back on buying clothes and larger luxuries they still view lipstick as a permissible, not-too-expensive, treat. Perhaps soon the Lipstick Index will soon be renamed though, for it looks as if nail varnish has overtaken it for the first timeduring this current spell of financial gloom.

bundle of make-up

Remember girls, a bargain's not a bargain if we buy a billion of them . . .

So, before dashing out to bag yourself some face and nail candy today, take a look at Skint’s list of where to save and where to splurge when it comes to cosmetics. And here are a few more ways I’ve found to make make-up go further:

  • Put eye and lip pencils in the fridge before sharpening. It will stop them breaking, meaning they’ll last longer.
  • I don’t bother buying separate eyeliner: I just apply dark eyeshadow with a thin, damp brush.
  • Lipbrushes let you reach down to the bottom of near-empty tubes, giving you  dozens more applications than you’d get otherwise. Lipbrushes also reduce the need to blot – and therefore waste – lipstick. They give a great finish too.
  • Remove fake tanning mistakes fast by rubbing whitening toothpaste onto the offending orange area. Takes away the whiff too!
  • Got a little perfume left in a bottle? Add water and use as a light body spray.
  • Painting your nails in a hurry? Wait a few moments after applying the top coat then put your hands in a sinkful of cold water. It sets the polish faster.  
  • Turn lipstick into lipgloss by slicking Vaseline over the top
  • Consider going barefaced. Hey, I don’t mean to a night out, but do we really need to waste make-up on a trip to buy the Saturday morning newspaper? Your skin will thank you for the breather. In turn, with your skin looking better, you’ll need less make-up all in all. It’s a virtuous circle.

There’s a nice selection of cosmetics deals available this week too if you fancy bagging some Bourjois stuff on a bread-and-water budget. Martin Lewis – God bless him – has a good round up here. 

You’re looking great today, by the way! x

Why Having Guts is Key to Saving Money

14 Apr

It struck me today that in addition to the usual, more practical advice I write on this blog about saving money, there’s one other thing I think is crucial when it comes to living for less – and that’s having some guts.

I’ve been thinking about how so much money is spent and wasted because of a fear of what other people think – or from a desire to impress them, which is basically the same thing. Whether it’s buying the latest fashions, trading in car every couple of years or coveting our friends’ new kitchens, Keeping Up With The Joneses wastes a hell of a lot of our money, energy and headspace.

Years ago I worked in quite a swish PR company where, for some reason, it was frowned upon to bring your own lunch to work. The thinking – though it was never put quite as baldly as this – was that if you were bringing your own lunch you were struggling in some way. It meant that you couldn’t afford to go out and buy sandwiches, that you weren’t doing as well as you should be, and in that competitive culture where everyone wanted to look as if they were climbing the ladder, it wasn’t the done thing to be seen struggling. And so everyone went out and bought their lunch from expensive delis every day, even if they’d secretly have preferred to heat up the previous night’s leftovers in the office microwave.

In this workplace too, as in many streets all over the country, a LOT of money was spent on cars. They were a public display of wealth to colleagues and clients and I know that several people there were paying significantly more for their car every month than for their mortgage/rent, because they wanted to be seen as successful even if they were actually on a starter’s salary. It would have taken a lot of guts for someone to buck that trend and drive up in an old banger.

Keeping up appearances

One good thing that might have come out of this recession is that it’s more okay than it used to be to admit to being skint, to buy secondhand and to embrace thrift. And it’s somehow less embarrassing to be made redundant or be out of work or to admit that times are tight. The proliferation of  blogs and books embracing thrift, frugality and money-savviness is also a great thing in my view – signs that we’re becoming a bit less hung up on status, or at least allowing some other ideas in. But still it takes guts to ask for a discount in a posh shop, to pull up next to swanky cars in your old jalopy, to refuse to buy your lunch in the posh deli every day and instead bring your own sandwiches and coffee to work.

Saying no to the Joneses gets easier with practice though, till one day they’re just a couple of comical little flies buzzing round your head, trying to boast about how green their grass is, and you don’t care any more cos you’re out at a party with your real pals, drinking cheap, delicious cocktails and laughing about the bargains you just bagged.

If you’ve got any tips on how to avoid the fear of keeping up with the Joneses I’d love to hear them. Have a good weekend, x

Finally, an Easy Sleep

30 Mar

Hi folks,

Hope this finds you well. I’m happy, because after weeks under siege, the scaffolding finally came off of our house today, and boy is it a relief. Not just because it heralds an end to the building work that’s been going on for what feels like an age, but because I didn’t sleep so easy whilst the outside of the house was covered in metal. Whilst logically I know that if someone wants to break into my home they needn’t scale scaffolding to do it  – we’ve got ground floor windows after all – I did feel 

that the house was less secure whilst it was there. Many years ago, in a previous flat, I was broken into whilst on holiday by someone busting in through the roof, so that maybe explains why I don’t like the roof of the house being freely accessible to anyone who fancies doing a spot of climbing. 

And I’m clearly not the only one who thinks it’s a temptation – my insurance company were very interested, both in the work being carried out and particularly in the scaffolding and. Lots of questions about how high it was and whether the house would be alarmed whilst it was up. It was only because I’d recently switched home insurance that I even remembered to tell them, otherwise my hard-won and long overdue new policy could have been at risk. 

Here’s a sponsored guest link that tells you how to sort your house insurance without fuss. I’d back up the part about checking for exclusions – if I hadn’t recently renewed my home insurance I wouldn’t have thought to inform my insurer about the scaffolding, making any break-in whilst it was up ineligible for a claim.

So, whilst a weekend of clearing up after builders beckons, I’m just happy to have made it through the renovation work without any unwelcome visitors. Hope your weekend is a good one, whatever your plans.

And just for a spot of weekend fun, here’s a link to a post I did this week for Huffington Post UK. x

PS – In many Asian countries they use bamboo, not metal, for scaffolding. Who said Skint’s not instructive?


Introducing Skint in the City – the Ebook!

26 Mar

Well, Skint gals and guys, today I want to share a bit of exciting news with you. Introducing the cover of Skint in the City – the ebook!

You may recall me mentioning this before. It’s been a while in the making, and along the way I’ve learnt more about coding and other IT-related stuff than I ever thought I’d need, but finally the ebook is nearly ready for publication – after a few more IT bits and bobs. And today I want to share the lovely cover with you, designed by the very talented and helpful J T Lindroos. Ta-dah!

money saving ebooks

Whaddya think? Would love to know. Seriously. All suggestions for tweaks and improvements gladly listened to and taken on board. You know Skint better than anyone, except me. Would this cover tempt you to take a little look inside? Let me know . . .  

(and meantime, enjoy the sun!)

My Best-Ever, Most Bargainous Vintage Finds – And How Much They Cost

20 Mar

Hey folks!

Hope you’re all doing great.

Today I’m going to indulge myself a little by writing about one of the subjects closest to my heart. Not family, or home, but vintage – is there anything better? Though the last couple of years have seen a vintage explosion, I’ve been a fan of pre-loved clothes since I was a teenager skulking round Oxfam’s doorway, embarrassed to be caught there by my friends. Today’s teenagers need have no such fears – vintage is now as stylish as it gets, stocked everywhere from the high street to random sales that are popping up in bars and halls every weekend.

As far as living the stylish life on a shoestring budget goes, there really is no better way to make yourself stand out from the crowd than to wear vintage. You’re guaranteed not to bump into anyone wearing the same, and the cut and detailing of vintage garments is so superior to today’s high street clothes that it’s more on a par with the quality you’d expect from designers. Plus, it’s amazing value for what you get.

I’ve now been vintage shopping for so long that old clothes make up at least half of my wardrobe – the best half. And today I thought I’d share with you my favourite vintage pieces, along with what they cost (as far as I can remember!), to show just how bargainous vintage can be.

First up, this cape. I bought this is Glasgow retro store, Mr Ben, about three years ago. The label says it’s Welsh wool, and the  monochrome pattern looks Celtic to me. , Period-wise, I think it’s from the sixties. It’s white mohair, cosy and always draws compliments. And right now, when I’ve got a baby Skint cooking away, this swingy cape’s better than a coat for covering up and keeping the bump warm. It cost £35 – can you imagine buying something like this new? I reckon it’d be more like £300. Just look at the weaving on the tie collar and pockets – you don’t get craftmanship like that on the high street without paying through the nose for it. 

My next best buy is also my newest: these red cowboy boots. vintage ralph lauren bootsVintage Ralph Lauren, I got them on ebay. I’ve had a bit of a clothes buying moratorium lately – there’s little point when nothing fits. But hey, my feet haven’t changed, so boots are still on the hitlist and these were just what I needed to brighten up this winter and spring. They’re pretty in your face, so I tend to wear them with casual clothes or all black, but the detailing is gorgeous and I know right now that I’ll have them forever. Yep, I’ll be the granny in the red boots, forty years from now. These cost £60, which is more then I usually spend on vintage but they’re great quality leather, and you couldn’t buy a decent pairs of high street boots for that price. Ooh, how I love them.

Flapper dresses are having a moment right now, inspired, I’m guessing by the runaway success of Downton Abbey. But in my book, flappers have never fallen from grace. The twenties and thirties are my favourite fashion decades and when I saw this dress in a church hall jumble sale about fifteen years ago I knew it had to be mine. Swishing those tassels is addictive and I admit, I sometimes take it a little too far! The dress cost me about three pounds, yes siree, and I’ve worn it to some of my most glamorous evenings out. Honestly, it’s worth paying three pounds just to hear how it swishes and to feel the fringes in your fingers. Sometimes I just take it out of the wardrobe and touch it. Right, I’ll stop before I get carried away.  (Except to say I’ve posted a gratuitous snap of the fringes at the bottom of this post, because I love them so). 

This lush carpet bag was found in a vintage shop in Greenwich. It cost me forty pounds. You couldn’t buy a decent handbag new for that money, certainly not one of this quality. See that little Versace-looking clasp? It’s solidly-stitched and will last forever. I like it better too as it gets a bit battered. Plus, it’s roomy enough for all the stuff I carry around all day, which seems to multiply all the time.

And finally, drumroll please . . . my best-ever vintage buy!I bought this dress twelve years ago in Los Encantes market, Barcelona. I was living in Barca at the time, very skint, and used to visit Los Encantes regularly for clothing bargains, furniture for my flat or just a good snoop around. The place sells everything from rabbit’s ears to communion candles to first edition books, but when I saw this dress, on sale for just 200 pesetas (that’s £1!), I knew it had to be mine. Off the hanger isn’t the best way to show it. The cut is truly fabulous when it’s on, and if I didn’t have such a bump just now I’d demonstrate. Still, believe me, it hangs beautifully. I loved it from the minute I saw it: the drape, the sparkle, the colours. Then, about three years after I bought it I looked properly at the label for the first time and found out that it’s designed by Emilio Pucci. Well, I nearly fainted and promptly phoned my pal Clare to scream my excitement down the phone. Googling the value of vintage Pucci dresses just now I see they’re coming in at around £500. I’m not for selling, but it’s nice to know it’s in my wardrobe just in case hard times strike. Who needs life insurance when you’ve got vintage, eh?

So, those are my top five, costing in total the princely sum of £139, which is roughly what a poorly made high street coat would set you back. See why I love vintage so much? Really, I could wax lyrical all day long, but I shan’t. If the government is ever thinking of introducing the much-needed post of Vintage Tzar or Retro Ambassador, I’ll be there in a jiffy. It’s good for the environment, it’s perfect for these tough financial times and wearing vintage brightens up a trip to the supermarket way more than a tracksuit and a pair of  Uggs ever could.

With the return of Mad Men to TV screens this weekend, we can expect the vintage star to rise higher still as the quest to copy Betty and Don’s looks gains heat. For more vintage inspiration, check out Queens of Vintage, Oxfam Vintage and My Vintage, all great sites.

What your best-ever vintage find? Was it a bargain? Or doesn’t vintage float your boat at all? I’m dying to know. Till next time, x

To get every future Skint tip delivered straight to your inbox click the Follow Skint button at the top of the page. It’s a bit like having a whizzy personal assistant for Skint girls.

The fringing, in all its glory.

TotallyMoney Blog Carnival # 58 – The Joneses Edition

12 Mar

Hello Skint pals,

Today for something a bit different – a smorgasbord of some of the best money posts from the web right now. I’m hosting the 58th TotallyMoney Blog Carnival- and for those of you who haven’t come across a blog carnival before, there are no clowns or trapeze artists or even fire-eating tigers (boo!). It’s basically a round-up of lots of different linked articles that you can enjoy, all of which came across my radar via financial site, Totally Money . Maybe you’ll find a new blogger here that you like, maybe not – it’s like dipping your eyes and mind into a giant lucky bag really.

As editor of this carnival I got to pick a theme and I’ve gone for Keeping Up With The Joneses, because I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how this is at the root of so many financial woes. Whether it’s buying another car when your old one’s just fine, or scattering new cushions before the neighbours come round for tea, the fear of lagging behind our peers can cause us all to act a little crazy from time to time – and to spend way more than we can afford.

big house

Oh, this little thing? It's just our weekend pied a terre, sweetie . . .

Editor’s Picks…

Every week, about 250 bloggers submit to the money carnival. I swear that when I opened the inbox this morning I was hit by an overwhelming urge to go back to bed, pleading double pneumonia. But, though I might be skint I’m no shirker, so I dove on in (is dove even a word?? – that one’s always foxed me) and with a bit of sifting I’ve whittled the submitted posts down to a workable number, starting, in blog carnival tradition, with a few selected Editor’s Picks. Right now I’m loving:

This post from Invest It Wisely explores when – and whether – you should reveal how much money you make. It’s a big minefield, that one. Do the Joneses ever talk about how much they make or do they reveal it more subtly through their lifestyle? This post looks at the reasons for and against being open about your income – it certainly made me think twice.

Here’s another post that made me stop and think. Roshawn Watson makes some really interesting points in this discussion of the perils of focusing on job security instead of financial freedom. Mainly, she says, it comes down to fear. What do you think?

So often, our desire to keep up with the Joneses makes us keep our heads down, work hard, and never think about the alternatives to the day job. That’s why, as well as Roshawn’s post I really enjoyed this one from Barbara Friedberg about people who make money from their passions.

How do you behave in a financial boom? Though the last one may now be so distant that it’s getting harder and harder to remember, I’m surely not the only one who’s thought back to a decade ago and shaken my head at the amount of cash I wasted, thinking the good times wouldn’t end. That’s the theme of this interesting post from Mom’s Plans, who makes the point that your stock can fall just as fast as it can rise and asks the question, do you base your projected future on your past earnings? You might want to reconsider if you do.

And here’s the best of the rest. Hope something takes your fancy here:


Whilst most posts about frugality focus on how to save money, this post from Freedom 48 looks at some of the other benefits of living a frugal life – including expectations from others, increased safety, and not having to keep up with the Jones. Ah, those Joneses again – does anybody even like them? Why don’t we all just tell them to get lost?

Here, Saving Advice shares the scary statistic that 60% of Americans can’t come up with $1000 in an emergency. Luckily, they’ve got plenty of ideas on how to raise cash fast should you need it. while I wouldn’t go as far as selling a body part – one of the suggestions – the rest make good sense to me.

Of course, what makes better sense is to make sure you’ve got an emergency fund in the first place. But ooh, isn’t it easy to dip into it now and then? After all, it wouldn’t be the first time I saw a pair of Marc Jacobs heels and declared emergency. HereMagical Penny shares how he grew his emergency fund. Good tips, and the boy’s also announced he’s quit the day job to go it along as a blogger – best of luck to him.

This related post on how to best use the money gained in a tax refund from Money Sprinkles has some good ideas. I’ll be putting them into practice if I ever get out of this mess.

Minimising Debt

There are few things the Joneses love more than taking on a big mortgage. It makes them feel ambitious, like they’re going places. So it was good to get a different take on that from personalfinancejourney, who has decided to rent rather than buy a house, even though he could afford to buy. Read about his reasons here.

If you do decide to go ahead and mortgage yourself up, take a look at this post from Net Worth Journey first on the absolute worst way to buy a home.

Starting out right is important if you aspire to ever end up as a Ms or Mr Jones. That’s why I liked this clear post from Not Made of Money about why you should never transfer your student debt to a debit card.

Managing Your Money

As I’ve outlined before, here, I can be a bit of a financial ostrich. That’s why I’ve always felt that having a minimal number of bank accounts is the best route for me. Still, so many money experts advocate multiple accounts that I’m always interested to read more. Here, Money Spruce takes a look at why you might choose to go down the route of more, more, more.

This post by Broke Professionals looks at the old chestnut of whether to pay off debts before investing, but lays the whole thing out nice and simply. Plus, I love their strapline ‘Personal Finance for the Overeducated and Underpaid.’ Ring any bells with anyone?

Lastly in this category, this post from Master the Art of Saving outlines, very clearly, some baby steps you can take to start saving money. Now, I don’t know where they buy their coffee – $6 a pop? – but the rest is sound advice.

Pulling in the Cash

Of all the ways to earn money, passive income is surely the dream, and the rise of the web has made that seem more possible, with promises of get-rich-click schemes that will get your bank balance swelling as you snore. I can’t say the web’s doing that for me, but I was intrigued by this article from Passive Income to Retire, looking at the cash to be made from blogging. I think I’ll be getting in touch for a few tips.

Hate frugality? Then just earn more. That’s the message from Former Banker, who makes some very intelligent points here about how frugality is, by its nature, always limited (ie there’s only so low you can go), whilst earning has no such limit. I can see his point – no matter how many potato peelings you recycle into coleslaw, it’s never going to make you rich. Are you better spending that time earning a fortune? Ah, if only the choice were that simple.

If you’re firmly in the earn more camp you might be interested in this post from Money Reasons about working two jobs without anyone being any the wiser. Personally, just the thought of doing that made me want to lie down in a darkened room, but it takes all sorts.

Saving for the Future

Retirement’s a biggie, isn’t it? Whilst the Joneses may have it all worked out – winters in Aspen and summers by the sea – for the rest of us it’s a scary thought. That’s why I liked this post from Early Retirement Investments about how to save for your retirement when you’re living paycheck to paycheck.

Using divdends to finance your retirement is another smart idea and I learnt a little more about it by reading this from The Dividend Ninja. Oh, I’ll be running with the Joneses in no time at all.

Meanwhile, for all of us dreamers, this post from Free Money Wisdom about where to find beautiful retirement locations on the cheap from let me dream a little dream of where in the world I might see out my final days.

The Psychology of Spending

I’m really interested in all of our different attitudes to spending, and what drives us to do it. I don’t mean spending on things we all need, like milk and red wine (whaddya means that’s not a necessity?), but on why some people view shopping as a hobby or a stressbuster, whilst others would do anything to avoid it.

So I liked this post by mybrokencoin, looking at the different reasons why we spend money. And yep, those pesky Joneses get a namecheck again.

This post by Frugal Confessions looks at why we can be superstitious when it comes to money, and why our beliefs about it can be so deeply rooted.

Lastly, Afford Anything explores the link between money and happiness, here. Which is something those Jonseses have known about all along.

So that’s it folks. Hope you found something here that sparked your interest. And if you’re a fellow blogger and interested in hosting the Totally Money Blog Carnival, visit Totally Money Blog Carnival Hosting for details, or click here to find out how to submit an article.

Thanks for reading. Skint x

If you’d like to read more about how to live the high life on a shoestring budget just click the Follow Skint button at the top right of the page. 

Slashing Energy Costs – The Group-Buying Way

6 Mar

Hi Skint pals,

Hope you’re all doing great. Me, I’m just about to go and lie down with an eyemask and a herbal tea to try and recover from the shock of receiving a gigantic electricity bill. It was the winter what did it, and living in Scotland where you only get about 35 minutes of daylight in the whole of December, I should maybe have seen it coming, but I didn’t. See, I’m on a fixed tarrif, which I guess I read as ‘leave as many lights burning as you like and we’ll only ever charge you thirty quid a month.’ Anyway, it seems as if the leccy company got wise to my love-affair with the washing machine and decided it was time for me to pay the price.

Save money on electricity bills

Whaddya mean, this wasn't included in the fixed tarrif?

Luckily, there are other skint girls and boys out there who are fed up with the size of their bills too, and fed up with all that tedious hunting around for better deals. Step forward our caped crusader, Which – ta-dah! The stalwart consumer champion has gone all down-with-the-kids and decided to follow in the online footsteps of sites like Groupon and Wahanda by launching a new group-buying venture with a difference: offering not the usual romantic weekend getaways or blocks of ten pilates classes, but using crowd-power to lobby for lower energy bills.

Here’s the deal: Which is inviting people to sign up to its campaign, the Which Big Switch before March 31. All you need to do is leave your contact details and the names of your current gas and electricity suppliers. Then, Which will use the number of people interested in switching (currently standing at nearly 180,000) as a bargaining tool to get suppliers to offer better deals. Simples, huh? Kind of like a trade union for . . . well, for everyone really, unless you’re like the bloke at the bottom of the post who prefers to go it alone. 

Now, usually I have some reservations about crowd-buying. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been seduced into buying something on a group-buying site that I didn’t really need, then forgotten to use the voucher before it expired. But I figure that gas and electricity is a pretty safe bet.

Although Which is doing all this out of the goodness of its campaigning little heart, there are actually a couple of commercial firms that already offer group-buying discounts on energy – Incahoot and Utility Warehouse. Interestingly though, they don’t offer the best deals on the market – to grab those you’d be better going through a cashback site such as Quidco or Topcashback as bagging the money back that they give you for buying through them.

I’ve decided to stick with Which though. I trust them, and am interested to see what sort of deals they manage to lever if they get enough people behind them. Something about the campaign appeals to my inner protester too – I like the idea of joining with thousands of others to lobby for better deals. If the billpayers are united, they will never be divided . . . or something like that . . . (you get my drift).   

Got any tips on how to save money on gas and electricity? Do tell – we’d love to hear them.

save money on utility bills


Oh, and I got an exciting delivery yesterday. The final draft of my lovely ebook cover which I’ll share here just as soon as it’s formatted. It’s got bright lights on it too . . .

Sign up for all the Skint updates by clicking the Follow Skint button or RSS at the top of the page. x

Best Money-Saving Fashion Websites

27 Feb

Hey Skint pals,

Hope your weekend was good. Mine was one of those chore-filled ones, yawn, which involved trips to bathroom stores when really I’d rather have been out shopping for vintage. Still, I managed to snag a hefty discount on the bathroom suite after a lot of haggling – more on that another day. For now I’ve had enough talk of waste pipes and grout, so I’m escaping to a more glamorous place in my head and using today’s post to dream of all the clothes I didn’t get to see at the weekend.

Inspired by last night’s Oscars I’m dreaming of how to get red carpet style on a linoleum budget – and figure the only way is to turn to some of my favourite money-saving fashion websites. In a matter of a week or two the high street stores will be swamped with copies of last night’s Oscars hits, but if even the high street versions are still out of reach where do you go for a red carpet fashion fix on a teensy budget? Step forward these beauties, which tick the style-on-a-shoestring box for me: 

1. Buyosphere: Our Oscars actresses didn’t go out shopping for their dresses. They didn’t spend hours in sweaty changing rooms, listening to chart music. Instead they called no 2 on their speed dial and briefed their personal stylist. For us skint girls, Buyosphere is as close as we’ll get to ringing Rachel Zoe, allowing us to tap into a large network of fellow shoppers and ask their advice. Need to find some skinny red jeans, pronto? Buyosphere readers will tell you where to go. Looking for the perfect orange minidress for less than £40? Buyosphere to the rescue again. Really, it’s so heroic it should wear its pants on top of its trousers.

Is it just me, or are these pre-bagged Oscars really, really creepy?

2.My Celebrity Dress: Remember the scene in the first Sex And The City film, in which Carrie’s assistant rents a Louis Vuitton handbag from a company called Bag, Borrow Or Steal? Well, the same service is now available to us all! The trend of renting dresses, shoes, bags and jewellery that you can’t afford to buy has taken off over the last couple of years, and MyCelebrityDress has a great range to choose from. Costs vary depending on the popularity of the item with a Louis Vuitton Judy GM handbag, valued at £1570, for example, typically costing £45 for a seven-day rental. Items can usually be hired by the evening, the week or the month and prices get proportionally lower the longer you hire. For those super-special occasions, designer rental is an option worth knowing about, but don’t get carried away. It’s as far from investment shopping as you can get and normally you’ll need to give your credit card details for the full value of the item, just in case it gets stolen or spoilt in your care. See also www.kennedypurple.com

3.  Fashionvouchers.com: This is a new site but I’m liking it already. A one-stop shop for fashion vouchers and deals, from House of Fraser and Karen Millen to Oasis and New Look, don’t go shopping without checking in first. 

4. www.bigwardrobe.com: Billing themselves as ‘the world’s biggest online fashion swap party’, bigwardrobe offers designer brands and high street brands, as well as accessories and fragrance. Clothes swaps are a terrific way to make space in your wardrobe and bag some gorgeous freebies into the bargain. Invite some pals round with their cast-offs, organise snacks and get swapping, or ‘swishing’ as it’s called by those in-the-know. 

4. Poshmark: Like eBay, but for clothes only, Poshmark makes it easy to sell clothes by uploading pics straight from your phone and browse fellow sellers sites easily. If you’re having a wardrobe clearout before spring comes, Poshmark is a good place to connect and sell with like-minded fashion lovers. 

5. Brand Alley: One of the flash sale sites that I blogged about here, Brand Alley is perhaps the best known, though Achica has been snapping at its heels lately in terms of PR. Flash sale sites are basically websites that advertise massive sales at very short notice for a limited time only, typically just 24-36 hours. So, you’ve got to be speedy to get what you want, but the savings can be massive. You generally have to sign up first – often just your name and email address – then you’ll get notified before a sale starts.

My favourite dress from the red carpet last night? Gotta be Gwyneth Paltrow’s Oscar’s outfit. While

oscar's red carpet 2012

Batwoman cape + Wonder Woman cuff = Super Gwyneth

I was buying a new toilet she was wriggling into this dreamy number. Oh, but I wouldn’t trade places with her for anything. Ha.

Today’s Daily Record Woman section features some tips from yours truly about ways to deal with debt, including a couple of extra money-saving fashion tips. If the spirit moves you, you can check it out here.

What’s your favourite money-saving fashion tip? And your favourite Oscars dress from this year’s red carpet? I’d love to know.

Please hit the Follow Skint button at the top of the page to get every Skint post comin’ straight atcha. Right, that’s enough of that sort of talk.

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