Tag Archives: saving money

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.

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

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:

Frugality

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

New Year, New Book – And Getting Smart with the Cash

10 Jan

Happy New Year, Skint pals! This first post of the new year also kicks off with an apology for being so lax in my posts this past six weeks or so. Now, you may imagine too many mince pies and parties to be the reason and while that could have had something to do with it, the main reason is that I’ve had my head down finishing Skint in the City, the book. Yep, Skint in the City is now to become a book as well as a blog – and I FINISHED IT YESTERDAY!!! Cue much dancing round the living room, followed by a very long sleep (oh yes, I sure know how to celebrate, wild-style).

I'm sure mine is in here somewhere

Now all I need is to get it out there into the big wide world and let it do its thing. So, thanks for your patience while I finished it – I promise not to disappear for so long again.

And suddenly I’ve come out of my coma and it’s 2012. How did that happen? Will you be sorry to see the back of 2011? I won’t. Just got this feeling that 2012 is going to be a better one. Even with all of the gloomy forecasts about the economy, I’m just feeling something good going down.

And now that the Skint book is out of the way I’m turning my attentions to the usual resolutions. There’s one this year that tops them all for me – getting my finances into better shape. You see, even though I blog here, I’ve tended till now to look upon saving money as a means to spending more. you know, stop buying daily takeaway cappucino, buy a new pair of shoes a month instead. All very true, and I’d rather have new shoes than coffee, but lately I’ve been feeling that I’m missing the bigger picture.

Remember that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie finds herself flat broke, then realises than over her lifetime she has spent $40,000 on shoes? I will be, she concludes, literally be the Old Woman Who Lived in Her Shoe. That episode resonated with women across the world but it was also, I thought, terribly sad. I felt Carrie’s pain and I know I wasn’t alone.  

She got them shoe bankruptcy blues . . .

Why does properly sorting out our money drive us to tears? Why would we rather spend hours on the web tracking down a discount designer bag than take half-an-hour applying for an ISA that could easily earn us a couple of hundred quid for that thirty minutes work? I don’t know, but if you find out please tell me because I am as ostrich-like about money as they come – or at least I used to be. Till recently (even the thought of all those years now fills me with regret) I was stunningly, ridiculously anti-money. Not that I was against spending it – that was a cinch – but I was against saving it or even knowing about it. Just the mention of an ISA would make my eyes glaze over. The merest whiff of a percentage sign would get me yawning – unless it was to direct my attention to a discount in the sales. I NEVER checked my balance. Money flowed in and out as furiously as a river in a flood and I can’t really explain why. I even hesitate to write about this because I don’t want to add to the impression that women can’t get their heads round finances. I don’t think that’s true anyway. I know a lot of smart women who handle their money really well, and a lot of smart women who don’t.

I also know a lot of guys who could use a few lessons in money management but who prefer to spend their time and cash on the high street, so I don’t think it’s got much to do with gender. I think the reason is simpler: the desire to avoid pain. There’s no doubt that minding your money, tracking interest rates and so on isn’t the pinnacle of fun. Much easier to go online and check out some fashion blogs. And because there’s no real deadline, sorting finances is one of those things that you always thinking you’ll get around to next week, and often never do. It’s a bit like going to the gym: you frequently can’t be bothered and yet because the consequences of not going to the gym show faster than the consequences of not saving, it’s saving that gets put off.

So, I’ve decided that even if the thought of sitting down and working out my income and expenditure sounds about as much fun as sticking pins in my eyes, it’s time to face up to it. Like it or not, the only way to have an even more fabulous life in the future is by getting real about saving money now.

That’s what I’ve come to realise anyway, and that’s why this year I’m sorting my finances out good and proper starting with these six simple steps:

Checking my Statements – Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Like, who doesn’t do this already? Umm, that would be me, sticking my guilty little hand up. So, in a spirit of repentance, I’ve now started the task of going through my bank statements for the last six months and noting how much money is coming in and flowing out. Which figure is largest? Which figure ought to be? I’m looking at where my biggest spends occur, particularly my habit of going to the cash machine every couple of days and withdrawing more than I should?

Identify the Money Eaters – Working from my statements, (oh, that sounds organised), I’ve made a quick list of the top six moneyeaters every month, things that I either don’t need or simply aren’t worth the money. I was staggered to see how much I pay for home insurance and it’s first on the hit list, followed by cancelling a subscription for a magazine I now longer care about. I’ve resolved to sort these money eaters, one a week, over the next six weeks. Baby steps, but this way I’ll still find that six weeks from now I should be far better off. I’m looking forward to totting up how much I’ll save each month from doing this – think I might be getting addicted.

Become Money-Aware – Already, just a few days in to starting this process I’ve become more aware of money eaters and how to weed them out. Whereas before I might have overlooked a few quid here or there rolling out of my account, from now on thinking about how purchases will  look on my monthly bank statement will provide a great incentive to more frugal living. Before I spend I’m resolving to stop and think if the purchase will really enhance my quality of life. If not, maybe the money’s better off staying snugly in my account.

The 10% Rule – If I stick to the three above rules like a good little squirrel I should find that I’ve got a few extra quid in my account each month. Now, my usual impulse would be to withdraw that and buy an extra blouse, but in 2012 I’m going to save it instead, trying to   put away 10% of my income every month. It’ll be a stretch, but I’m going to start at 10% and scale lower if needs be. I don’t mean keeping it under lock and key till I’m 60 – just saving it for a holiday or a really big purchase. To make sure I don’t renege I’m going to set up a direct debit each month into one of those high interest saving accounts; that way it leaves my account (relatively) painlessly, without any interference from me.

Use my ISA Allowance – Boring? Not if it nets me a couple of hundred extra a year. 

Be a Financial Floozy: Sometimes it pays to be a little bit of a floozy. The financial crisis has proven, once and for all surely, that the big financial institutions don’t value customer loyalty, so why give it to them? My exorbitant home insurance bill grew so big because I’ve never bothered to switch, so HBOS keeps piling the pounds onto me. From now on I’m keeping an eye on where the best deals are and will be prepared to jump ship accordingly. 

That’s it. Six steps that will hopefully make a sizeable difference in my bank balance. There’s plenty of other stuff I want to do, like getting to grips with cashback sites, but for now those six will do me fine. What about you? Have you made any financial resolutions this year? I’d love to hear them.  

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