Friday, 1 October 2010
Mr Mitchell, who told his story eloquently and in places humorously, identified one of the reasons for his situation as being a dislike for personal finance generally, and another, a belief that life would be 'all boom and no bust'. Therefore, he never saved money from his high salary and so when he lost his job, was forced to depend on frighteningly accessible and expensive credit to survive.
He has now recovered from his alcohol addiction, and has a flat, thanks in part to a documentary - 'Saving Ed Mitchell' and also to sales of his book 'From Headlines to Hard Times', which describe his experience. (I will now read the book!)
It seemed to me that this story is an answer to those who think that earning a high income - especially life as a television celebrity or sports person - is in itself the route to financial security.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Leo Babauta, in 'The Power of Less'says that when acquiring a new habit, you should focus on it for 30 days, and not try and make any other changes during that period. I had never counted calories before I started this plan - 17 days' ago - so consider this a habit I need to acquire. So far, I am making quite good progress with the plan, and have lost over 4lb without feeling overly deprived. I noticed, though, that after a fortnight or so this initial success made me feel quite euphoric, and I instantly started thinking about all the other things I could do - start exercising, start learning Korean, and so on.
However, I'm convinced that Leo Babauta is right; as soon as I start thinking about those other new habits or projects I might start, I can feel I am losing interest in my weight loss goal. So I am telling myself repeatedly that 'after 30 days' I will start thinking about those other things, one at a time. In the meantime, I won't distract myself with any new projects until the 30 days is up. Though my weight loss plan may still be ongoing after this time, it should by then be sufficiently automatic that I don't need to think about it too much.
After all, this is the weight gain of a dozen years - so really, concentrating on losing it for 30 days does not seem unreasonable!
Friday, 27 August 2010
Do you know someone whose spending is way out of control?
Or are you living with someone whose penny-pinching is making life a misery?
Or perhaps you yourself just can’t get a grip on your finances ….
Well, a new series is being developed for Channel 4 that aims to sort out unhealthy relationships with money whatever the problem.
So, if you’re fed up with scrimpers, or frightened of dire debt,
and are over 18, this is the show to teach you about smart spending, healthy saving, how to manage your money and still have a life - despite the credit crunch!
To apply to take part, email email@example.com and you’ll automatically receive an application form which you can return either by email or to
MONEY, ENDEMOL UK, SHEPHERDS BUILDING CENTRAL, CHARECROFT WAY, LONDON W14 0EE
Take control of your money, don’t let it control you!
Remarkable will use any information provided by you for the purposes of selecting participants for the programme and will only share information with Channel 4 and any independent contractors involved in the programme.
Thursday, 26 August 2010
This evening we went out for a mid-week supper, again for the first time in a while. It wasn't very satisfying; we visited an Italian chain we used to frequent quite regularly in the bad old days of being much more stressed and in need of treats than we generally are now. I felt slightly annoyed afterwards that we had spent money on a rather average meal, and that we could have made something nicer at home.
Apart from the weather, and darkening evenings, which do bother me, I'm not entirely sure why I feel inclined to spend money at the moment. Partly, I think it may be a back-to-school feeling; I have to keep reminding myself that I am not about to return to a corporate job I don't enjoy, but for which I feel I should have a new Autumn wardrobe as a small compensation. In fact, J. and I are about to have a week off, after which life should revert to its current varied pattern, just with worse weather. And for which the clothes I have will, for the moment at least, do perfectly well....
Sunday, 22 August 2010
So, as my birthday treat, I invited my family to a 'gardening day'. Between us, we dug up all the mint. (I'm afraid that I lacked the bodily strength to do much of the actual digging, which was largely done by the male members of the party.) We also cleared some large shrubs, my father pruned many bushes and trees, and we stuffed bags full of the resulting rubbish.
In between our labours, as it was a gorgeous day, we dragged the dining table out into the garden - we have no substantial garden furniture - and had lunch there; my mother and sister had made goats cheese and tomato tart, roast chicken and salad, with meringues and chocolate ganache to follow. Heavenly. The table was decorated with a bunch of flowers J. picked from our garden, and some my parents had brought from theirs.
I had asked for no presents this year, partly as I was asking for help in the garden instead. I did get some lovely presents, though: some books, a pair of fuschia gloves and a purple 'moc croc' wallet that I had bought on holiday and given to J to wrap up, and managed to forget about quite successfully in the meantime, some perfume.
My favourite present, though, was one my father made for me. Following the gardening theme of the day, it was a set of seed markers, made of wood and painted in delicate greens, greys and blue. The paints were testers left over from when my parents painted their house. I cannot think when I was last given a home-made present, and I absolutely loved it.
By the end of the day, we had sowed rows of lettuce, radishes, Swiss chard, and a pot full of rocket. The rocket and chard at least are looking promising at the time of writing, although the other seedlings seem to have suffered after a bout of torrential rain earlier in the week. I am definitely inspired to keep going, though.
Tuesday, 10 August 2010
I've read this tip often, and made some use of it, but found it of limited use when I had a full-time job. It was an intellectual rather than emotional understanding. I had to go to work exactly as much anyway, regardless of how much I spent, I had some spare money, and buying the treat made me feel - albeit very temporarily - better about life and about my job.
Now, though, partly because I have just read 'Your Money or Your Life', which I will write about more later, and partly because I'm now dependent primarily on my husband's self-employed income, this suddenly makes a lot more sense. It has really come home to me that for each say £100 spent, this equates to a unit of his time that could either be saved, or used to buy time off for him at some later date.
If I spent say £10 a week on sweets, coffees and the like, which would not be at all difficult, it would take him more than a day a year of hard work to earn the money to pay for my treats. That really horrified me, as it feels like a terrible use of J's time and energy - I think I have now 'got' this concept. I'm not saying I'll never buy a coffee or packet of sweets again, but I hope I will only do so where I really want to, and as a treat, rather than as a habit.
Correction: it would actually take well over 2 days for J to earn the money for my treats, at this rate. (I knew this really, but somehow could not compute!)
Friday, 30 July 2010
- My engagement ring.
- The blue coat I had made last winter.
- A silver christening spoon.
- The armchair which belonged to my great-grandfather.
- The portable writing-desk my grandfather gave me, which belonged to his aunt.
- My Tod's handbag (a 30th birthday present)
- My bed, with the headboard a friend made for it.
- (Maybe) my apple laptop.
Tuesday, 27 July 2010
Wednesday, 21 July 2010
Following on from her kitchen equipment list, here are my chef sister's suggestions on how to eat well, where to economise, and where not to, when food shopping:
It is obvious and much repeated but if you only shop in season you’ll get better value for money. Buy English strawberries only in mid-season and you can eat them every day. Asparagus just coming in is expensive, but hold on a bit for the price to go down.
Investigate the end of line baskets at supermarkets, they often have interesting random vinegars etc in their fancy foreign muck sections which don’t sell, so end up going cheap. The same goes for bin-ends for wine - you can find some interesting things.
Do what peasants around the world have been doing forever – just use a little meat in a hotpot/stew/whatever as a flavouring. One of the loveliest things I ate on a very greedy holiday in Andalucia was a stew of mostly potato, onion and pepper, with just a little pork, all cooked in delicious stock. The potatoes took on all the meaty flavour as they cooked.
Do not scrimp on:
Bread – it is such a major part of our diet but most people make do with the dullest, cheapest stuff. Don’t put up with it! Buy the nicest you can, and then ‘something on toast’ is transformed.
Pasta – don’t ask me why, but supermarket value brand stuff is just not as good as more expensive versions.
Baked beans and tomato ketchup – only Heinz will do in my opinion.
Potatoes – have realized why the value bags are cheap – they sometimes seem to be a random selection of diff varieties and all cook at different speeds, so you end up with a pan of falling-apart and rock hard. Disaster.
Thursday, 15 July 2010
As mentioned in an earlier post, I asked my sister, a Leiths' trained chef, for her suggestions on where to spend money on kitchen equipment. Here is her, surprisingly short, list.
Kitchen Equipment List
Knives! One big chef’s knife, one small paring/office for veg cutting, and one steel for sharpening – serrated is also useful for tomatoes and fruit, but not vital.
1 big saucepan, one small, both stainless steel, not non-stick, the best quality you can afford – they will last. A handle that isn’t screwed on, is part of the pan, or it will start wobbling and fall off.
A good big chopping board, wood is good as long as you don’t worry about hygiene! Just don’t use it for raw meat, get a plastic one and keep it only for that.
A frying pan – opinion is divided on this one. I like a good, solid non-stick one which, I admit, won’t last forever unless you’re militant about no metal utensils and watch other people like a hawk if they use it…Or some serious types get e.g cast iron and just season it very carefully. Never seem to manage it myself.
A good large mixing bowl; lightweight metal is good for most things.
A nice big balloon whisk, electric hand whisk also v useful., or see below if you have the funds…
[Digital scales: I recently had to reprimand Penny for using old-fashioned scales for baking. They just aren't accurate enough for cake-making...]
More extravagant items include
A lovely, solid, and supposedly lifetime-lasting Le Creuset. A casserole for 6-8 people is probably your best bet, in whichever colour you won't get bored of.
A Kitchenaid or Kenwood mixer. Kitchenaid is my preference, but Kenwoods are known to be v reliable and long-lasting, though just don’t have the glamour factor.
Monday, 12 July 2010
Monday, 5 July 2010
- Getting a water butt for the garden several years ago. I like this because it is environmentally friendly, while also providing free water, enough for all our gardening needs. (Though my mother would say that I don't water the garden enough, so that may be why....)
- Working out the cheapest way to pay regular bills - for most bills this is by monthly direct debit- and setting up payment accordingly. I first did this many years ago, and do now review the situation every so often.
- Putting dryer balls (mentioned in an earlier post) in my tumble dryer.
- Fitting water-reducing devices into our lavatories years ago, which saves a considerable amount of water.
- Using second-class stamps for all non-urgent post
- Putting the end of a loaf of bread in the freezer for later use as toast, before it goes stale
- Using plastic carrier bags as kitchen bin liners
- Putting vegetable matter, tea leaves, and coffee grounds onto the compost heap
- Contributing a proportion of our income to our pensions, whenever we are paid, at the same time we save money for tax. (This doesn't happen automatically, now that we are both self-employed.)
Thursday, 1 July 2010
Wednesday, 30 June 2010
Sunday, 27 June 2010
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
Thursday, 17 June 2010
Monday, 14 June 2010
Tuesday, 8 June 2010
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
My main personal financial preoccupation at this moment revolves around the cost of drinking water. Here, the tap water is supposedly not drinkable - at home I always drink tap rather than bottled - and the hotel water from bar, restaurant or minibar costs a huge amount, say EUR$4.50 for a large bottle. So we are taking every opportunity to stockpile bottles of water wherever they can be bought cheaply, at shops away from the resort, or in the nearby supermarket.
That is about as deep as it gets at the moment...... Back soon.
Wednesday, 12 May 2010
- Buy-one-get-one-frees: only buy if you have cash, space to store, and the items won't go off before they can be used.
- If you haven't much space to store bulk-bought items, consider clubbing together with friends or family to buy them between you, and share the benefit of the discounts.
- Consider own brands vs branded items: compare the price per 100g, but generally own brands will be cheaper, and taste just as good.
- Plan meals, even roughly, before you go shopping, bearing in mind how many meals you need to cater over the week, and buy only what you need for those.
- If you eat a lot of ready meals, consider cutting those down and cooking more; this will be cheaper as well as healthier. Something on toast, e.g beans and poached egg, will cost less and be quick to prepare, as an alternative to a ready meal.
- Keep a running shopping list on the fridge and add to it as you run out of things, so you don't forget anything when you go shopping.
- Don't go shopping when you are tired, hungry, or in a hurry.
- Set a cash budget for food per week; take cash out at the beginning of the week, and use this to pay for groceries until it runs out. (This will help with budgeting, and also it is psychologically harder to spend cash than use cards.)
- Try to last one day longer than you think you can manage without going food shopping, and make that last meal with what you have left in the cupboard.
- Try and make enough food for two or three meals, in one go: e.g make enough spaghetti bolognaise to turn this into chilli the following day, or freeze half of what you make for another day.
- Pick-your-own fruit and vegetables when it is cheapest, and store in the freezer or use to make jams or chutney.
- Even if you don't do PYO, then still buy fruit and vegetables that are in season.
- Keep cleaning products to the basics: supermarket own-brands will generally be much cheaper and no less effective than branded products.
- Buy Christmas paper, cards, and birthday cards when you see them on special offer, if you can store them. (Or make your own.)
- Check washing instructions before you buy new clothes, and avoid those which need dry-cleaning.
- Buy shoes with soles which can be repaired or replaced.
- Sign up to receive nectar or clubcard points, don't buy things in order to get extra points, however.
- Processed cereals are expensive and not very nutritious; porrige or homemade muesli are filling, cheap and healthy.
- Avoid, or minimise, fizzy drinks. Squash, or one nice idea I read, lemon juice and sugar, make an alternative soft drink.
- Compare prices online before you go shopping, e.g at http://www.mysupermarket.co.uk/
- Watch the cash register and look at your receipt before you leave the shop, to avoid mistakes.
- If you are going to the shop to buy a pint of milk, don't pick up a basket; if you are planning to buy a few items, take a basket rather than a trolley.
- Toiletries will likely be more expensive in a supermarket than chemist.
- Check whether loose or packaged fruit and vegetables are cheaper; loose generally cost less.
- If you do buy bags of fruit and vegetables then weigh them to ensure you are getting the correct weight.
- Instead of cooking large portions of meat, cook pasta, rice or beans to accompany a small amount of meat.
- If you are a meat-eater, try having a few meatless days a week.
- PS - If carrier bags are charged for where you shop, take your own. Otherwise, use the free ones for reuse as bin liners.
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
Friday, 30 April 2010
Monday, 26 April 2010
Thursday, 15 April 2010
Thursday, 8 April 2010
Monday, 5 April 2010
Monday, 29 March 2010
Thursday, 18 March 2010
Thursday, 11 March 2010
A: Enjoy your money as much as possible!!! But pay your bills first, and make sure it's your money you're enjoying not the bank's, and remember you live in England, so a rainy day is always just round the corner!!!
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
- There is no longer such a thing as pay day, so we have to make sure we end the month with money to pay our expenses for the following month. We get paid regularly, but not on a set date each month.
- We are more motivated to build up our savings, in an attempt to make good use of a high earning month, and also because this helps us to feel more secure.
- We have to actively invoice in order to be paid, which still feels odd to me, and to keep track of money coming in from different sources and chase it up if it does not arrive.
- We need to make sure we save a proportion of everything that comes in, to pay tax, rather than this being deducted automatically.
- We have to keep track of expenses which may be tax-deductible.
- We need to actively make pension contributions, rather than have them deducted from pay automatically.
- We have both started to think more in terms of the value of our time; if we want to take time off we have to pay for that by working at another time. We no longer have paid holiday or sick pay.
- There is scope for a greater variety of types of work; I'm doing contract work in my industry, but also setting up another part-time business, and trying to write as well as do voluntary work. We both feel more entrepreneurial.
- One of us sometimes works at weekends, but we often have a day off together in the week instead; not every day involves an early start.
- There is less of a routine; it is possible to forget what day it is. On the other hand, the dreaded 'Sunday night feeling' before the start of a traditional week's work is no longer a problem.
- If work becomes a bit quiet for a week or two, it can become disconcerting, although having the extra free time is nice. (My husband wrote a detective story during a slightly quiet phase at the beginning of the year.)
Friday, 5 March 2010
- Joined a local oil-buying consortium and cancelled my oil direct debit
- Continued using up toiletries, cleaning products and freezer contents
- Kept within our £50 a week food budget
- Saved most of my freelance earnings
- Experimented successfully with life without a car for a few weeks. (The experiment continues, beyond my control...)
- Learned that if an oyster card is not swiped firmly enough, the gate may open, but extra money will be deducted from the card as a penalty. (I got most of the extra few pounds re-credited when I queried how my card could be down to a £0 balance after a very few uses, but am not sure I have heard many things as nonsensical as this explanation. Others may not be aware of this quirk in the system....)
- Was charged interest in a catch-22 type situation by my credit card - but managed to get it deducted after pointing out the unfairness of the charge. (I had been asked to re-register my payment details after a new card was issued, did so immediately, but not in time for the next payment due date, and my payment was therefore inevitably late.)
- Discovered the dangers of buying cheap car insurance through a broker. Next time, I will check feedback on car insurers before renewing, rather than just going for the cheapest quote, as my current insurer was, for many days, completely failing to progress an insurance claim. (It is now ongoing again, after much pestering from me, thank goodness!)
- Learnt much about the handling of debts, budgeting, and the UK benefits system, as part of my financial capability training course. These budgeting tools from Martin Lewis's site were recommended to me; I intend to try some of them out in the
Wednesday, 3 March 2010
Thursday, 25 February 2010
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Monday, 22 February 2010
- On days that I go to London, J. already usually drops me off at the station and collects me in the evening. (This saves us about £6 a day in parking costs, and is reasonably convenient for him.) So not much change would be needed there, except that he would always need to collect me, or I would have to take a taxi home if he were not available.
- On days that I go to other places to work, I would need to plan my journey ahead, and either a) get J. to drop me at the station or bus station b) take a taxi part or all of the way, c) get the bus into my local town and take a bus or train from there, or d) for major expeditions, maybe hire a car for a day.
- If I were working at home and either needed or wanted to make an expedition into town, I would need to time my outing to catch the bus either both ways, or bus one way and taxi back.
- We might occasionally have to make use of online supermarket shopping, something we have not really done so far.
- For holidays, evening or weekend outings, we already generally use J's car as it is more comfortable than mine anyway, so no change would be needed there.
- The main difficulty I see is in my going on a spontaneous outing during the day, or in getting to certain work locations if they are far from a station or bus, but perhaps I just need to become used to taking the bus, or using taxis.
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
However, I'm now starting to panic slightly at the fact that our stores of food are running unusually low; I suppose that the only time this would actually matter would be if we were snowed in, or overtaken by some other natural disaster, and I think that if that happened, we'd find enough to eat for quite a few - probably rather dull - meals. In the meantime, I should probably try and get used to our new 'just-in-time' system.....
P.S I am not sure whether £50 a week is a lot or a little, for two people (and one cat)? It is definitely less than we were spending before we started this system. We have included small-scale entertaining and wine in that figure, and lunches, as we pack these ourselves. Any meals out come out of our 'fun' jar.