Tag Archives: top UK personal finance blogs

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

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!)

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. 

Top Money-Saving Websites

20 Feb

Hiya skint pals,

Today Skint wrote a round-up of top money saving websites and apps for the Daily Record’s Record Women section and I thought I’d share them with you, since they’ve really saved me a bundle. Some of these I’ve mentioned before on this sites, others are making their debut. With salaries squeezed and prices climbing, these are some of the sites that I think can help us all to survive and thrive in the tough times. 

mysupermarket.com – Next time you shop online for food, check out this site, which lets you enter your shopping list, selecting from five main supermarket chains, then keeps a running total of what your items cost in each store. When you’ve finished, this clever site tots up where you can get the whole lot cheapest and redirects you to the supermarket that will give you the best deal. It takes the same amount of time as doing a normal online shop and can typically save you 5-10%. Genius! 

Homelink  –  House-swapping has really taken off in the recession and there are now plenty of websites where you can meet people happy to hand over their keys for a fortnight – in return for you doing the same. With house-swapping you can go pretty much anywhere in the world, staying in places you’d normally only dream of. From villas in Florida with an outdoor Jacuzzi and pool, to city pads in Berlin, all it costs is a small fee to the house-swap agency, then your plane fares. Many holidaymakers car swap too, meaning no car hire costs. A reputable agency like www.homelink.org.uk will keep you right. Membership costs £115 – not bad for potentially three or four free holidays a year. 

myus.com With the weak dollar, there’s many a skint UK woman who wishes she could grab herself some Carrie Bradshaw style by shopping direct from the USA. The problem? Many US sellers’ won’t post goods to Britain, either because they only deal in dollars or just consider if too much faff. That’s where package forwarding services come in. For a one-off fee of around $10, services such as myus.com set you up with your own US address, then forward items to you faster than you can say I’ll-take-that-in-red.

top money saving websites

'Um, our broadband seems to be rather slow this morning.''

theappliancedepot Loads of people are put off by a scratch on their furniture. Me? Ooh, I’ve learned to love ’em. Whether it’s appliances or dining room tables, shopping at outlets that specialise in slightly imperfect items can save you a ton. Last summer I saved hundreds on a fridge freezer because it had a tiny scratch on the side – and I mean tiny. For slightly imperfect fridges, washing machines and so on, scratch n dent sites are the way to go if you want to save a ton.

 surveycompare.net  If you’ve got an opinion on everything, why not get paid for giving it? Companies across the country want to hear what you think of their products – and they’re willing to pay. Doing online surveys is never going to make you rich, but it could be a nice sideline whilst watching telly. Typically you’re paid £5 per completed survey. 

quidco.com: An internet phenomenon, retailers pay these sites for sending them shoppers, then the sites pass some of that cash back to you! The percentage paid back can be as much as 20% of the price of the goods you’re buying, making for huge savings. http://www.quidco.com

Red Laser – This simple app lets you scan the barcodes in shops and tells you if the item is cheaper anywhere else. Just swipe your phone camera over the barcode and let it get to work. Happy shopping!

Skint hasn’t been paid or perked by any of these sites mentioned – just sharing the love . . .

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Skint Picks Six – And Makes the Top 25 Too (Just!)

2 Feb

Hiya Skint pals,

A nice bit of news just in. Skint in the City has been named as one of the UK’s top 25 personal finance blogs here. Just managed to squeeze in at number 25 but I’m not jealous of all my fellow bloggers further up the list, am I? Am I? Nah, just happy (and a bit bamboozled) to be included, frankly. 

Anything higher would just be vulgar.

Anyway, in the spirit of lists I’m kicking off a new feature here today, the first in an ongoing series – Skint Picks Six.

See, I read blogs all the time and I frequently come across some amazing stuff. When I do, I bookmark it or I start to follow the blog, but I’m not very good at sharing it. Now I’ve decided to spread the love. Skint Picks Six will take the six best blog posts I’ve read that week and share them with you, in the hope that you might love them too.

A new find this week is (1) Grand Per Month, a rich, generous blog about ways to make an extra grand every month. Nice, huh? As I’ve been mulling over ways to make my this site better I really enjoyed reading this post about how to make money from blogging – something I’ve never really tried to do: You can check it out here

In at (2) my favourite personal finance blogger, Budgets are Sexy. I love $J Money’s blog and the way he finds quirky yet incredibly useful things to write about every single day, the sort of stuff you never thought you wanted to read till it’s up there and you suddenly find yourself intrigued. For me that’s what blogs are all about – fresh ideas and a take on things which is quite different from my own yet gets me thinking.

(3) This post from Debt Consolidation Care really struck a  chord with me, as I take on the Skint 2012 money saving challenge (Hmm, I’ve a feeling that title makes it sounds a bit grander than it is!) I particularly like the idea of considering how you can rent rather than buy large purchases like cars. It sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it – isn’t buying always the best option? But for those who live in the city and tend to bget around on public transport or by foot, owning a car is often an unneccessary expense. Cheaper often to rent one via a car club when needed and to shell out for occasional taxis. I tread the middle ground by owning a car that’s fast approaching pensionable age – hardly ever using a car for anything other than titchy journeys means spending on it just isn’t a priority. 

(4) This post from helpmetosave.com got me thinking about what motivates us all to spend and, especially, to splurge. I’ve read before about fear being at the root of most people’s spending decisions – fear of not keeping up with the Joneses, fear of looking unfashionable, fear of some disaster  as yet unknown. So, why do you spend? Do you agree with this post’s assertion that it’s down to either greed or fear?

(5) Meanwhile, over at Curb your Consumerism, there’s a debate on whether we’re more dishonest as a nation now than we were us 2000. Whaddya think?

(6) And lastly, news just in from another planet. I was fascinated by this blog post, showing that America’s top 1% of earners are really concerned they can’t make ends meet. From struggling to maintain two or three houses, to feeling inferior to their wealthier pals, turns out keeping up with the Joneses never, ever ends. Ah, you’ve got to feel sorry for them, don’t you??

Hope you find something good from reading these. What are your favourite blogs? Just hit the Comments box below to share them, Skint pals.

To get Skint emails or updates every time I post just hit the Follow button or the RSS button  at the top of the page. That’s all you need to do – it’s like magic. 

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