Tag Archives: top personal finance blogs

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


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 . . .

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