Friday, 24 March 2017

Five fabulously frugal things I've done this week (24 March)

The joy of returning home to a big box of food


What a weird week. We've been pottering around in our own little bubble, and then you hear the news from Westminster and reflect on how circumstances can change in a heart beat. My thoughts are with the victims of the attack and all their friends and families. I don't know what to write that isn't trite, but somehow feel that carrying on living our lives, undeterred, and while still welcoming others, is the only way to proceed.



Let's hope blossom now = fruit later


Celebrated blossom on the fruit trees


In my frugal quest I remain optimistic about growing some of our own fruit and veg.
When we first moved, the little peach tree in the secret garden was almost engulfed in ivy and growing out at an angle trying to reach the light.
We stripped away loads of ivy and gradually persuaded the trunk back upright, but it has only ever produced a solitary peach, in true Roald Dahl style.
This week, pink blossom has started appearing on the branches. I've been reading up on the RHS website, and it looks like I need to get out there on sunny afternoons with a small paint brush, and start transferring pollen between the flowers. Fingers crossed for fruit in the future!


Half price ham. Kerching.


Made the most of a yellow-stickered ham


When it comes to making the most of your money, I reckon small changes can add up to a big difference. Paying less for products, buying food that will stretch for several meals, using loyalty cards where available, earning cashback on your purchases, that sort of thing. Ideal world, I try to combine several money-saving measures at the same time.
This week was a good example when I did a quick scan of the reduced section in the Co-op. I found a chunky piece of gammon reduced to half price (pay less, tick), big enough to last for several meals (stretch food, tick), handed over my Co-op divi card (clocked up some dividends, tick) and paid for my shopping with my Nationwide Select credit card (few pence in cashback, tick).
I also bought some value range orange juice so I could cook the gammon using a family favourite recipe. Last night, my husband and I ate slices of gammon with boiled potatoes and cauliflower cheese, and this morning my husband made ham sandwiches for his packed lunch.
Reckon the remaining leftovers should also cover a topping on movie night pizzas plus another family meal of either creamy ham and pea pasta or quiche.


Yes, I am overexcited about a box of food.


Grabbed a discount Gousto box


Ever tried one of the food delivery boxes? They send recipe cards and carefully measured ingredients, so you can cook up a storm with less effort and no food waste. Much as I love cooking, I do sometimes get fed up with all the planning and shopping and working out what on earth we're going to eat.
We tried a Gousto* box last year and it was great fun attempting new recipes and techniques, and inspired my husband to have a go at cooking.
So when I saw a £25 off voucher code last weekend, I leapt at the chance. And coincidentally (cough) our 3 meals for 2 for £9.99 have shown up just in time for Mothering Sunday, so I'm letting Josh choose which one to cook for me. Even after the discount, it's probably a bit more than I would spend normally on our food, but it's nice as a treat.
If you've never tried Gousto* and fancy giving it a whirl, you can get £25 off using the code PROMO25. Alternatively, if you want one of the mega boxes with 4 meals for 4 people, you might save more by using the code SAVE50 for 50% off. The codes work until the end of April, so pick the right delivery date and it could help survive the onslaught of the Easter holidays.



Running trousers after a muddy run



Repaired a rip in my running trousers

I am still slogging away at running, in my attempts to get fit for less and last long enough to get round the Great East Run. So far, I can run for 5km. This means 20km by September still seems a big stretch.
Part of the waistband on my running trousers got ripped, right by the drawstring. However, as the rest is perfectly good, I sewed up the rip rather than shelling out for a new pair. Aside from any thrifty motives, I'd rather not add to landfill if I can avoid it.



Attempting to keep the lights on for less


Switched electricity provider. Again.


Back in January, I got an email from our electricity company explaining my bills were about to go up at the end of a year-long deal. I promptly switched providers - and now, only a couple of months later, the new company has emailed about price rises. Our bills are due to shoot up a whopping 30%! No wonder they were a cheaper option back in January.
So once bitten, twice shy, and when I switched again this week I went for a fixed tariff with Octopus Energy*.
It wasn't actually the super cheapest option on the comparison sites, but a couple of the companies with the lowest prices had really dire customer service ratings, and I've had a bad experience in the past with the seven circles of utility bill hell.
Octopus Energy* seems to have lots of happy customers, supplies big chunks of renewable energy and advertises itself as offering consistently good value prices, rather than luring you in with a bargain basement offer and then whacking up the bills in year two. I'm hopeful it's a better option for us, and will report back on how it actually works in practice.


So there you go, a round up of five frugal things from our week. Any thrifty triumphs to celebrate? Do comment and share your successes, I'd love to hear. And if anyone tries the Chip savings app (post here) to save more and earn extra interest, do let me know.

I’m linking up with this CassEmma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

*indicates an affiliate link, so anything you buy through it will help support the blog, as I will get a small commission at no cost to you. Many thanks!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Chip - earn extra interest by saving on your smartphone


How Chip works, according to Chip.


Interest rates on savings are so rubbish right now, that I'm keen to find different ways of making the most of our money.

As the rates on savings accounts and high interest current accounts limbo even lower, turns out there's a solution on your smartphone.

I opened a fistful of current accounts to earn extra interest, only for the banks to turn round and slash the rates. Cheers for that Santander, Lloyds and TSB.

Now it looks like the Chip savings app can help me earn more interest, on more money, than I could with the current accounts.

Whoop whoop! (I'm easily pleased).

So I signed up for Chip back on March 2, and here's what I reckon so far.

What is Chip?


Officially, Chip touts itself as an "automatic savings app".

You let Chip take a dekko at your current account, and it uses whizzy alogorithms to analyse your spending patterns, and tot up how much you can afford to save. It then transfers small amounts of money every few days into a Barclays savings account.

This is all well and good, and could definitely help people save more than if they waited until the end of the month, looked at what little was left, and didn't get round to saving it.

It also takes away the fear that if you set up a standing order to a savings account each month, you risk not having enough left to pay your bills. Plus, it sounds great if your income and expenses vary a lot each month (hands up all freelancers).

However, the bit that really interested me is that you can earn up to 5% a year interest.

YES PEOPLE 5%.

Officially, Chip starts out paying 1% a year. However, if you sign up using a referral code (and mine is 4T0C9I), then your interest doubles to 2% a year. That's already better than the vast majority of bank accounts on the market.

Persuade other people to sign up with your own referral code, and your rate gets bumped up by an extra percentage point per person, to a maximum of 5% a year.
Alternatively, if you prefer cold hard cash, you can opt for £10 each time rather than 1% interest.

Plus - there's no limit on the balance.

You don't have to wait for the app to make savings, but can tell it to shovel across up to £100 a day yourself. Do that for long enough, and you could end up with a tidy sum earning 5%. Sure, if it gets too popular, Chip might change the rules. But right now, that sounds pretty good to me.

Interested? Read on for what I think is good and not so good about Chip.


WHAT'S GOOD


The chance of 5% interest

Seriously folks, this is pretty much as good as it gets on cash savings. Nearest you'll get otherwise is 5% on a Nationwide FlexDirect current account on a maximum of £2,500, and that only lasts for a year. With Chip, keep on shovelling across £100 a time, and the sky's the limit - unless and until they put a stop to it.

The app is quick and easy to download and set up. 

You can find it here for iPhones and here for Android. Then claim a tenner or an extra 1% interest by using the code 4T0C9I

Saving is incredibly quick and easy 

Seriously, you can save £100 with just 12 touches on your smartphone screen, and that includes typing in a 5 digit passcode. I've saved first thing in the morning, while jogging and at a jazz club (don't judge). Otherwise, if you don't want to transfer lump sums, you can just leave Chip to do its thing without doing anything further.

The online support is quick and easy to access

It's just like typing a text or Facebook Messenger exchange. You don't have to wade through pages of "contact me" forms, and "have you checked out our FAQS?" and "we aim to answer your email in 24 to 48 hours" like normal internet banking. Admittedly, Chip probably doesn't have gazillions of customers right now, but the live customer support is working pretty well at the moment.

Your money goes into a Barclays savings account in your name

Rest easy, because your hard earned cash doesn't end up in some strange bank account in the Caymans. If Chip goes bust, you can still get your money from Barclays. If Barclays goes bust, you have bigger problems on your hands because saving this way isn't covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. So let's keep our fingers crossed that we don't face a financial apocalypse that sees Barclays going to the wall, eh.

It promises not to take too much

Chip is so confident that the whizzy algorithms won't get it wrong, that if it makes an automatic saving that pushes you into your overdraft, it promises to replace the money immediately, pay the bank charges, and pop £10 in your savings account to apologise. You also get notified of transfers, and can cancel, pause, increase or decrease them if you want to.

You can get your money back pretty quickly

According to the Chip website, if you ask to withdraw money before 2pm, you'll have it back in your current account that afternoon. After 2pm or at the weekend, and you'll have to wait until the next working day. I haven't tried withdrawing anything yet so can't confirm this.



WHAT'S NOT


It's only a chance of 5% interest

You'll only earn that much if you can persuade other people to sign up with your referral code. Plus, the extra interest only works for a year. Come year two, you'll need to persuade more people to sign up if you want to keep earning higher rates.

You can't automate the £100 a day process. 

Nope, you'll have to resign yourself to transferring £100 a day until you run out of spare hundreds. Rats. Plus, it resets every 24 hours, rather than at a set time of day or night. Think about that - it means if you tell it to save at 7am one day, you have to wait till after 7am the next day. Forget to do it till later, and you'll have to wait until later every day after that too.

There's a big time delay between you telling the app to save, and the money actually hitting your savings account. 

If you're used to normal internet banking, where the money can switch between accounts faster than you can open browser windows, then Chip is positively glacial. Part of that is because the transfer takes place by direct debit, and Chip says it has to give you a day to cancel a save, and then wait 48 hours before instructing the Direct Debit transfer. In practice it takes even longer than that - currently I have 6 days' worth of transfers pending.

If you make savings yourself, it delays the automatic savings

If you tell Chip to transfer a lump sum, as I've been doing with my £100 transfers, the algorithms throw a wobbly and won't do any automatic saving for a week or so.

Prepare for emoji overloand

Chip is targetted fair and square at millenials who've never known life without the internet and a smartphone glued to their hand. If you're going to use it, brace yourself for extra emojis, bad puns and gifs aplenty. The most disturbing one is a flirtatious Paul Hollywood.

It only works with 12 banks currently

Fine if you're with one of the big banks, not so good if you use for example Tesco Bank.
The accounts that are included are (big breath): Barclays, Co-operative Bank, First Direct, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, Metro Bank, Nationwide, NatWest, RBS, Santander and TSB.

You can only link to a single bank account

If your banking is a tangled mix of standing orders and direct debits from multiple accounts, it won't cover them all, but only one of them. So choose carefully.

The interest is only paid every three months

If you take money out of your savings account just beforehand, you won't get credited with any unpaid interest on the withdrawal. So sure, you can get hold of your money quickly, but you'll need to think about the timing if you want to make the most of your interest payments.

You're giving an app access to your bank account data

Chip bangs on about encryption and security and data control licences, but fundamentally if you're paranoid about internet banking this won't work for you. Also, you're letting a company look at all your transactions. It may be read only, but they can see what you pay to whom, with the risk of unleashing mammoth amounts of targetted junk mail in future. If you avoid supermarket loyalty schemes because you don't want someone analysing your spending patterns, steer clear of this too.

Don't do it if you're in debt

As with any savings, it's a bad idea to build up savings if you owe expensive debts elsewhere. If you're paying more interest on debt than you earn on savings, I suggest using any extra cash to pay down debt first.

Who knows how long it will last?

Just as the banks chopped the rates on high interest current accounts, so Chip could decide at any point that it's lured in enough customers, and cut the interest paid. Get in fast and grab any interest while you can, I say.


So - over to you? Any interest in saving by smartphone?

And if you do want to try Chip, whether for iPhone or Android, do consider using my 4T0C9I referral code, so we both end up with a tenner or an extra 1% interest.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

A smashing start to spring

Mahonia, as seem through a big hole in the window. 


Saturday morning got off to a rather surprising start when a bird smashed through our dining room window.

I was pottering around tidying the hall (a rare occurrence and therefore worthy of mention) when I heard a crash, and my son started screaming.

When I ran into the dining room, I discovered he hadn't broken anything - but was shouting about a bird in the corner of the room. At first I thought a rook had come down the chimney, as that's happened a couple of times before.

It was only when I opened one of the windows, so the bird could get out, that I was showered with broken glass and realised how it had got in.

That bird must have really wanted to see what on earth my son was watching on YouTube.

Anyway I switched off the computer, turned off the light and led my son out of the room so the bird could fly out of the wide open window. Only it didn't. It waited until my husband went to investigate, and then flew up and perched on the pelmet.

Next we opted for Plan B, involving opening the dining room door and the front door, and closing all blinds and curtains so the room was darker.

For those concerned about the bird: it seemed fine. In fact I reckon it was pretty comfortable up near the ceiling, as when my husband poked it with a broom to encourage it to leave, it just looked mildly offended and shuffled along a bit. He actually had to nudge the bird off the end of the pelmet before it finally flew out.

In the aftermath, I texted Paul the painter ("only Constable painted Dedham better"), as he has replaced broken panes of glass for us before. After checking the measurements, Paul was kind enough to nip round later that morning and fit the new glass.


Spot the wavy shadows cast by the old glass


It seems that the Georgian builders had no truck with BSI safety standards, as the old glass in our sash windows is only 2mm thick, much more like the glass in picture frames. The trouble with replacing it with thicker, heavier glass is that this would affect the balance with the lead weights that make the sash windows work. Also, I do love the wavering shadows when light shines through the imperfections in the old glass - you can always see from the shadows which panes have been replaced and which haven't. So keep your fingers crossed that we don't get any more birds divebombing the house.


The culprit


I have no clue about birds, but the general consensus on Facebook seemed to be that the culprit was a red-legged partridge. Unfortunately I missed my opportunity to wreak revenge by cooking it - we should have caught it with the crabbing net rather than pushing it along with a broom!

So there you go - country living, complete with kamikaze bird. So much for the quiet life. On the plus side, the dining room floor has now been brushed and hoovered within an inch of its life to remove stray shards of glass.

Anyone else have any crazy bird stories to report?

Friday, 17 March 2017

Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (17 March)

Spring blossom down in the secret garden



I'm not quite sure where the last week has gone. At the weekend, my daughter went on a day trip to London with the Cubs, while my son got the excitement of coming to view carpet samples at the shop down the road (unlcuky for some).
I headed to London myself on Wednesday for a work event, and otherwise have been attempting to sort out various work, house, garden and financial stuff.
It really feels like spring has sprung, with the daffodils out and the blossom emerging on the trees, as pictured above. I was able to eat lunch outside on Wednesday, and spend part of Thursday sitting outside in the garden - one of those times I really appreciate being freelance!

Here are the five frugal things we managed to fit in this week.

...and here's one I made earlier...


Contributed a cake to the local rugby club


On Sunday, I got up bright and early to cook a cake. I was heading off for another 5k slog around the Great Run Local at Needham Lake, but the rest of the family were going to the Hadleigh TAG rugby festival as my son was playing for the under 7s. It's a big event for the local rugby club, and they'd asked for cakes to sell, so I whacked out a Victoria Sponge to help.
I forgot to take any photos, but reckon it looked remarkably like the cake above, baked for last year's Hadleigh Show. The combination of inexpensive ingredients (mixed weight eggs, value range flour, granulated rather than caster sugar and own-brand jam plus good 'ol Stork) meant it only cost £1.50 to make a pretty large cake that sold for 50p a slice.



Friday night fun for all the family. Rock 'n' roll.


Nabbed a DVD at the charity shop sale


My enthusiasm for charity shops increases even more when they have a sale.
This week the local branch of our East Anglian Children's Hospice shop started a 50% off sale. With iron self-control, I managed to avoid buying a massive and completely unnecessary soup tureen. Instead, I shelled out the grand total of 75p on a family friendly DVD for Friday's movie and pizza night.
Buying "Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3: Dog Days" is actually a saving compared to the £1 we'd normally spend borrowing a DVD from the local library. Fingers crossed everyone actually enjoys it - our current low point is anything Alvin & The Chipmunks related, but last week we all loved Pixels.


Sandcastles from last year's holiday in Dorset


Saved money on ferry tickets


For our summer holiday this year, we 're heading to the glamorous destination of the Isle of Wight. We'll be staying in a self-catering cottage (natch) on a farm for a full on trad bucket-and-spade holiday while the children are still young enough to enjoy it.
This week I got round to working out which ferry times we should be use to get there and back. I did it well in advance as we'll be travelling on popular weekends and prices are likely to rise. By booking through our hosts, rather than direct, we also saved £85 on our tickets, so it was well worth doing.


Share trading from the comfort of my own computer


Used free trades to buy some shares


About 18 months ago, I got so fed up with years of rubbish interest rates that I shovelled the money in our cash individual savings accounts over into stocks and shares. We're intending to use the money towards funding our retirement, a few decades away, and it can make financial sense to risk the stock market over such long periods.
Anyway I opened an account with Alliance Trust Savings, and got them to transfer across the cash Isa money so I could buy the investments.
One thing I only found out after opening the account was that they charge £5 to reinvest dividends (which is expensive) and only automatically reinvest the dividends once you have £100 or more (which can leave a chunk of money sitting around in cash and not invested).
Alliance Trust Savings have subsequently pushed up the account charges, while now offering the chance to buy shares four times a year without paying any dealing fees. Frustratingly, the free trades do not cover dividends that are reinvested automatically, but only trades you make yourself.
So this week I shuffled around some of the dividends sitting in the account, and used the money to buy a few more shares in two of the investment trusts we already own. By doing it myself and using two of the free trades, I saved £10 compared to waiting for the account to buy the shares automatically.
I also tried to look for a cheaper account elsewhere, but comparing the options is so complicated it gave me a headache so I've left that for another week.



Lavender: spot the 'before' and 'after' in a single shot


Gathered up the garden waste


This week we've been out and about taming parts of the garden. The immensely tall Andy the gardener came for one of his twice yearly visits to hang off ladders and hack back some of the climbing stuff. It's a running battle trying to contain the wisteria, vines and assorted climbing roses from bolting up the walls into the roof tiles. Fortunately Andy reminded us not to leave it too late to trim the wistera, so it didn't interfere with the flowering. We ask Andy to focus on pruning rather than tidying up, figuring we can cope with the unskilled side of shoving garden waste into bags and bins. I'm always keen to fill up the garden waste bin before the fortnightly collections, given we pay £40 a year for the privilege.
Fired with enthusiasm in the spring sunshine I also got round to trimming and tidying up the lavender beds either side of the front path, and my husband mowed the front lawn last night. This morning the rooks, pigeons and blackbirds were having a field day, pecking out worms from the newly-shorn grass.


Now over to you - and frugal triumphs to celebrate? Do share your top tips in the comments below, I'd love to hear!

I’m linking up with this CassEmma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (10 March)

Crocuses in the garden this week


This week seems to have zoomed past, juggling work, family, friends and an assortment of children's activities. I've also been ploughing through bank statements and budgets trying to work out what we need to save where and still feel like I'm knee deep in numbers.

Anyway, I was glad to carve out the time to write a post to mark International Women's Day (10 lessons I'd like to teach my daughter about money) and now here's my round up of our five frugal things this week.


A Pokemon caught during our walk. I am far too old to know which one.


Got outside on a Pokemon walk

On Sunday it was pretty sunny in Suffolk, so I wanted to drag the kids outside for some fresh air. Fortunately they recently became obsessed with Pokemon all over again, and were keen on a walk too, provided they could play Pokemon Go on my phone.
If you're unfamiliar with Pokemon Go from the first time round, it's a smartphone game that uses GPS to show you a map of your local area. You then walk around collecting Pokeballs, hunting Pokemon, and battling other people's Pokemon, while trying not to get run over or bump into people anyone you're staring at a phone.
I let the kids decipher the map and choose the route, and we ended up heading along the railway walk for one particular pokestop, then taking in highlights of Hadleigh while testing the limits of any WiFi connections.
So in the end we all got out for a walk in the spring sunshine (happy mother) while playing Pokemon Go (happy kids), and it cost precisely nothing at all.



Free wine? Finally my husband saw the point of supermarket cashback apps.


Stocked up on free food from Shopmium

Remember last week I mentioned Shopmium, the supermarket cashback app?
Well thanks to some kind readers signing up with my code, I was able to use referral credits to get some free wine and ice cream.
My husband swung by Sainsbury's to buy the stuff on Monday evening, I sent a photo of the receipt on Tuesday, and the money hit our bank account on Friday. The ice cream came in very handy for pudding and when I was feeling sorry for myself after having my teeth cleaned at the dentist's (Is there anything more painful? Seriously?).
So fill your boots with Jacob's Creek Merlot for £3.50 and Jude's ice cream in some fabulous flavours for £2, and if you download the app with code KFKKAMKL you can grab a free bar of Lindt chocolate too. Check when the offers end, especially if you do internet deliveries, to make sure you can buy the product and submit the receipt before any deadline.



Sigh. Somehow brown food just doesn't photograph well. It tasted great, really!


Saved with yellow-stickered beef for stew


Fortunately, the dentist did not drive me to knock back an entire bottle of free wine.
Instead, I used a decent slug in beef stew, made with yellow-stickered stewing steak from the reduced section in our Co-op. Once you've bought the beef, the other ingredients are inexpensive: onion, celery and carrots, plus store cupboard staples of tomato puree, flour, bay leaves, thyme and a beef stock cube.
My daughter sang in the school choir at a concert in Snape Maltings yesterday evening (proud parent alert). To get there in time we needed to leave virtually as soon as my husband got back from work. Instead of buying food on the way or going hungry, I made the stew the night before. That way, he could take some as a hot meal with rice at lunch time, and then just grab a quick sandwich before we ran out of the door in the evening.
I've written in the past about my top tips for cutting costs with yellow-stickered food, but now I've even taken part in a video about saving with yellow-stickers, made by Tom over at Latest Deals.
Check it out if you want to see me and a whole host of other UK Money Bloggers in action.
NB: I did not chose the wallpaper. Just saying.



Pension paperwork. Contain your excitement.


Crunched the numbers for pension contributions


The thing I like about pensions is the free money.
For every £1 you pay into the pension, the goverment bungs an extra 25p on top. I don't know many savings accounts where your money increases from £1 to £1.25 as soon as you pay it in.
As an added bonus, if you pay into a work pension, some employers will chuck in extra money too. Opting out of a work pension if they're willing to contribute is like turning down a pay rise.
In exchange, you can't get the money out again until you're at least 55 so it's not a good plan if you might need the money next Thursday.
Sure, there are headache-inducing rules and the real winners from pension contributions are people who pay higher rates of income tax, but if we're ever going to stop working, we need to set some money aside beforehand. Pensions get a lot of bad press, but I see them as one part of paying our bills in future.
Anyway we've got some cash sitting around earning next to nothing after a couple of decent-paying regular saver accounts finished at the end of a year (5% from First Direct and Nationwide if you also have their current accounts).
We're not intending to spend the money in a hurry, so rather than starting new regular saver accounts, we'd like to add cash to my husband's pension. You can only pay in a certain amount each year, so I double-checked the numbers to make sure we'd be OK.
New allowances start from April 6, so if we want to take advantage of this year's limits, we need to get a shifty on.


Replacement Fitbit for free.


Got my new replacement Fitbit

Many cheers, the replacement for my broken Fitbit showed up this week.
As mentioned before, I checked the guarantee when my birthday present Fitbit broke, and discovered I could send it back for a new one. It did involve forking out £8.70 on tracked postage to the Netherlands, and faffing around with the rules about sending devices with batteries through the post. Turns out bubble wrap and a padded envelope are insufficient for a device that might contain rechargeable lithium batteries, and might get squashed in the post, and if squashed might burst into flames. Imagine my joy when I got sent home from the Post Office, and told to return when it was packed inside a cardboard box or original packaging.
However, in the end the postage cost a lot less than a new fitness tracker, so good news all round really.


So now - over to you. Any frugal successes to share? Ideas for where else to cut costs or earn more? I'd love to hear.

I’m linking up with this CassEmma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

Disclaimer: no-one has sponsored me to write this post (sob), it's just me banging on about some of the things I do to stretch our family budget.
If you're kind enough to use a referral code, then I'll get a few pounds, and you'll get chocolate, but you can also download the app without using any code at all.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

10 lessons I'd like to teach my daughter about money

Attempting to learn how to use a selfie stick. Next lesson: money


As a money journalist and blogger, my way of celebrating International Women's Day is to write about...you've guessed it...money.

Pondering issues for women at work and at home made me consider what lessons about money I'd like to pass on to my daughter.

Fairy tales have a lot to answer for. Sure, I'd love to sprinkle her with a good dose of health, wealth and happiness. But when it comes down to it, I'd like to encourage my daughter to grab life by the scruff of the neck, rather than waiting around for a fairy godmother or Prince Charming to step in.

So when it comes to money matters, here's what I'd like to teach my daughter:

Money isn't boring, it can set you free

Mortgages, Isas and pensions don't sound a whole bundle of fun compared to Pokemon. But don't get bogged down thinking money is boring, focus on the freedom it can bring. Get your money sorted, and it will give you choices - choices about where to live, where to work, where to travel, who to spend your life with and how much time you have with them. You may not be able to have everything all at once, but by managing your money you'll have much more chance of making it happen later.

Live within your means

I reckon this is the most important money message I can pass on to either of my children. It's not how much you earn that matters - but how much you have left. Spending more than you bring in is a sure route to a whole heap of trouble. I don't think I'd do my children any favours if I subbed them every time they wanted something that costs more than their pocket money. Whether they spend less and save up, or earn more doing jobs round the house, I'd like to help them understand the value of money.

Start saving

No-one knows what's round the corner. It's never too early to start saving, and no amount is too small - as the long-suffering staff at our local building society have seen, when you hand over pocket money and then whip it out to spend at Build a Bear. Stashing some cash as emergency savings or a freedom fund can help you cope with whatever life throws at you. And remember, investing isn't only for old men in braces, something I wish I'd discovered earlier myself. Make your money work for you - think interest, dividends and even rental income.

Don't spend money you can't afford

See that credit card? It's not free money. You still have to pay it back. If some bank is willing to give you a credit limit of £2,000, that doesn't mean you should go out and spend it. Much as my driving instructor said about the speed limit - it's a guideline not a target. Think about what you can actually afford, and try not to spend more than that. Otherwise, the free money could suddenly become very, very expensive if you can't pay your bill at the end of the month and end up paying shedloads of interest.


Treat debt with respect

Debt is expensive. Borrow money, and you have to pay interest to someone else. Save the money yourself - and someone else will give you money as interest instead. So where possible, try to spend your own money rather than borrowing from elsewhere. If you are going to borrow, make sure it's for something worthwhile. Maybe you need the education to get a job, a car to get to work or a home to live in. Check the interest rates and repayments, so you don't take on a bigger burden than you can afford to repay. But if you do end up with debt problems - don't be ashamed, don't leave it to get worse, and seek help sooner rather than later.

Once it's gone, it's gone

Fancy the expensive sweets, toys, shoes, holidays or whatever else? Sure, save up until you can splash the cash. But remember - once it's gone, it's gone. Once the sweets are eaten, or the toy broken, or the shoes go out of fashion, you can't get the money back. All those small items could add up to a whole deposit on a house, or the chance to quit a job you hate. Weigh up how much you really want something, and how much it would stop you getting something else. But once it's spent, no point beating yourself up. Don't cry over split milk or spent money, pick yourself up and carry on.

Forget Prince Charming, stand on your own two feet

Don't hang around waiting for some man (or woman) to sweep you off your feet into a life of luxury. Take responsibility for your own career and earning power. Work hard to get your own job, so you can pay your own bills and save for your own future. I really hope you do find someone to share your life with. But sometimes Mr Right turns into Mr Very Wrong, looking at the divorce statistics. Don't leave all financial decisions to your other half, think twice before taking on a joint account and always keep some money in your own name.


Know your own worth

Don't assume certain jobs are for boys and others are for girls - pursue your own path to the best of your abilities. Know your own worth, so you speak up for pay rises and promotions. Make your own choices about how you juggle work and family, and try to avoid feeling guilty whatever you decide (easier said than done). If you do ever take a break from getting paid, consider how you might return to work in future - you never know when you might need to earn your own income again.

Fund your own future

I may seem as old as it's possible to get ("Mum, were you alive in the Stone Age?"), but believe me lots of us are living a lot longer! Odds on, my kids will make it past their 100th birthday, and women have longer life expectancies than men.
That's an awfully long time to keep working, if you don't set aside any money for retirement.
So while you're earning, remember that money doesn't just have to cover right now, and you'll need to save for your future too. If your employer and the government are still willing to give you money towards a pension, take them up on the offer.

Don't measure yourself in money

I've banged on at great length about money, but remember there are far more important things in life. Don't define yourself or others by how much you earn or how much you own. The clothes you wear or the car your drive don't make you a nicer person. Just because something costs money doesn't make it worthwhile. The most important things in life aren't things at all. Kindness counts.



Now over to you - what lessons would you like to teach your own daughter? What do you wish you had learnt yourself? I'd love to hear your thoughts, so do comment below.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Five fabulously frugal things I did this week (3 March)


Appropriate attire for cooking: shirt and tie

Any week that crams in Pancake Day, World Book Day, a work day in London and a mini rugby match in Bury St Edmunds (which I hasten to add involved my son not me) was always going to be busy.
Here's a selection of five frugal things we did along the way!



Free biscuits? Don't mind if I do.


Nabbed some free biscuits from Shopmium


Normally, I don't buy many biscuits.
The general approach is that if someone wants to eat biscuits, they'll have to make them - and we do enjoy baking family favourites like ginger biscuits, New Zealand biscuits and cookies with raisins or chocolate chips.
However, last week I spotted that Shopmium, a supermarket cashback app, was offering some biscuits free, gratis and for nothing. I like Shopmium because it pays you back any cashback fast, and you don't have to earn a minimum amount before you can claim it.
I duly added some Bahlsen Choco Leibniz and Mikado biscuits to the shopping list, sent in photos of the receipt using the Shopmium app on Saturday, and by Thursday the £2.60 was already back in my account. Super speedy!
The biscuits made a delicious treat during the weekend, especially when we got back from taking the kids on a bike ride along the railway walk.
If you've never used Shopmium before, it's worth giving it a whirl to see if there are any freebies or discounts you'd like to try.
Download the app (it's on Google Play and the App Store) and enter the code KFKKAMKL and you can even claim a free bar of Lindt chocolate too!


Ladling on the lard to make pancakes


Made some pancakes


We didn't quite manage pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, when my son disappeared off to Cubs and my daughter didn't feel well.
Instead, I bowed to popular demand and whipped some up for breakfast the next day. (NB This is not an approach I recommend, on top of the normal school morning chaos plus me heading to London for work. I got suckered by my own offspring. Think big eyes and pleading.)
We make small fat pancakes on Sunday mornings, but for pancake day I went old style with big thin flat ones, accompanied by lashings of lemon and sugar.
I even dug out a retro (by which I mean elderly) children's cook book, to check on the proportions. The big surprise was spotting lard in the 1950s ingredient list. Maybe that's because you can heat it much hotter than ordinary vegetable oil or butter?
Funny how food fashions change - suspect there aren't many references to coconut oil in the Good Housekeeping Children's Cookbook, and I doubt my son would be delighted if I tried to make him wear a tie while cooking (or indeed at all).
Anyway, I gave it a whirl, and the kids wolfed them down.
Some of the supermarkets have pancake mix on sale, which seems a shame for a simple recipe with cheap ingredients. I added up what our pancakes cost us, based on Morrisons as our nearest big supermarket:

112g plain flour for 3.4p (45p for 1.5kg bag of value range plain flour)
1 egg for 13.3p (£2 for a box of 15 mixed weight free range eggs)
1/2 pint of milk for 12.5p (£1 for a 2.27 litre / 4 pint bottle of milk)
10g of lard for 1.6p (39p for 250g value range lard)

Total: 31p, before you add toppings.

Now, I do appreciate that buying these ingredients cost rather more at £3.84.

For me, it's worth shelling out the cash because I'll use them all for other things. Even the lard gets used in pastry and for making Yorkshire puddings, and it lasts in the fridge for months.

As an alternative, I saw the Co-op had small sachets of pancake batter mix for 25p, which only involved adding an egg and water. I can see that would make sense if money was really tight and you still wanted to make pancakes for your kids.

But loads of the other pancake mixes ask you to add eggs and milk - what do they contain? Paying £1 to £2 for a bag of measured flour seems a right rip off to me. Maybe there's something I'm missing - do let me know in the comments!




Your shield handle worries, sorted.


Survived World Book Day with the aid of wine (carrier)


Much as I love books, I do not love World Book Day.
Apart from anything else, it seems to contribute far more to the sales of polyester fancy dress than anything to do with reading. I will save you the full auto rant on this occasion, but suffice to say my preferred Twitter hastag for World Book Day was actually #WorldofPain.
(Just to clarify for those who are not parents, and may live in blissful ignorance, it's an annual event when children are encouraged to go to school or nursery dressed as a character from their favourite book)
This year, my son was determined to go as Tom from Beast Quest, mainly I suspect because it involved taking a sword into school. Good luck with that, teachers.
Anyway in my frugal attempts to avoid buying an expensive costume, we made a family effort to cobble together a suitable shield. In true Blue Peter style, this involved much cardboard, parcel tape, felt tips, scissors, glue, searching on Google images, and only a small amount of swearing.
My top tip for future shield making was hacking apart a cardboard wine carrier to make a handle. Worked a treat. You can thank me later.


Just waiting for my turn to read it


Sent a free children's book by Mumsnet book club


I may not be the biggest fan of World Book Day, but I do love free books.
I was therefore particularly grateful when a parcel arrived from Mumsnet Book Club. I'd entered a book giveaway competion for a copy of "The Painted Dragon"* by Katherine Woodfine.
This time, it was a book for my daughter, rather than for me, and she's already got stuck in. It's a detective story for readers aged 9+, where the heroines, Sophie and Lil, face "forgery, trickery and deceit" on all sides in their search for a stolen painting.
The quido pro quo is that we have to write a quick book review on Mumsnet, but there's even a chance of winning a £100 Love2Shop voucher if we do.


Appears piggy banks are old hat. Apps are where it's at.


Downloaded the Chip savings app


Hark at me. A year ago, I didn't even have a smartphone, and now here I am downloading a savings app.
I'd like to do a proper post on Chip, but it's meant to help you save money by studying your current account, and then siphoning off cash it reckons you can afford into a savings account with Barclays. You are notified of any potential transfers, and can stop them if you want.
The part that made me think "kerching" was that you can earn up to 5% interest by inviting your nearest and dearest to download the app too. Given how rubbish most savings rates are right now, that's pretty good.
Chip also lets you shovel across up to £100 a day yourself, which means that potentially you could end up with a bigger balance earning 5% than using one of the high interest current accounts.
I'll let you know how it goes, but if you did want to try Chip and plug in my code 4T0C9I you'll get the choice of earning 2% interest, or 1% and a free tenner. Pass on your own code, and you can add extra interest. (Chip is on Google Play here and iTunes here)
In exchange you do have to bear with the gifs and bad puns, but every little helps in making the most of your money!


Now over to you - any frugal successes to celebrate? Do share in the comments, as I'd love to hear.



I’m linking up with this CassEmma and Becky in this week’s ‘Five Fabulously Frugal things I’ve done this week’ linky.

Disclaimer: no-one has sponsored me to write this post (sob), it's just me banging on about some of the things I do to stretch our family budget.
If you're kind enough to use the referral codes, then I'll get a few pounds, and you'll get chocolate, interest or cash, but you can also download the apps without using any codes at all.