Tuesday, 29 April 2014

More Is Less

We are bombarded each and every day by a thousand adverts. Television, radio, billboards, buses, magazines, newspapers, websites, email, social media. The assault is incessant, relentless, inescapable. From every angle, at every given opportunity we are presented with temptation and reminded of our inadequacies.

Still wearing last years fashion? Loser. Driving around in a beat-up old car? Life must have dealt you a bad hand. Leaving the house with no make up? Have you no self respect? These are the types of messages that are drilled into us by society. This is a modern phenomenon. Marketers of the 20th century have not only conquered our cities and towns, but also our minds. Go back just a few generations and the attitude of modern man would have been considered wasteful, flippant and downright crazy.

As a society we are more reckless, more lazy and more demanding than ever before. Those who see the insanity in what has become the new norm are regarded as insane themselves. Could it be though, that those who are more reserved with their spending, more cautious with their possessions are actually on to something?

I think so. If you are able to filter out the noise of modern life, able to stop judging your success by measure of your possessions, able to stop comparing yourself to others, you will likely find a greater contentment. You will find that it is much more rewarding to concentrate on the things you really value, and strip away that which you do not.

I'm not saying you should reject all forms of consumption. I am just saying; take a step back and think about why you choose to buy what you buy. Chances are, many of your purchases don't actually add anything to your life. You might get a short lived buzz upon indulging in a new pair of shoes or a new car you didn't need, but the real winners in this situation are the companies that have persuaded you to buy these things.

If you adopt this mindset it becomes easier to save, and less stressful to live. Saving money doesn't have to be a painful experience, it can actually be quite liberating. It gives you time to re-evaluate your spending. It gives you time to re-evaluate your priorities.

Our most cherished memories are not of things, but of people, of places, of experiences. The rest is really just trivial.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

7 Frugal Travel Tips

Many of us love to travel. It is often regarded as a luxury, something we do once a year if we're lucky. Travel needn't be crippling expensive, though. Over the years I have discovered many ways to save money while travelling,

1. Save On Flights

Using sites like Skyscanner can save you a whole lot of money, not to mention time, when it comes to booking flights. You'll get the most benefit from these kind of services if you are a little flexible with flight times and dates.

2. Find Bargain Accommodation

There are many fantastic deals to be had on sites like lastminute.com, Trivago and Trip Advisor. Whether you're looking to get a discounted rate on a four or five star hotel, or need help finding the cheapest options possible, these have you covered.

3. Fly Indirect

Sometimes time is less important than money. If that's the case it can you may want to consider an indirect flight. This doesn't always work out cheaper but it's worth a look. And who says you can't do some sight-seeing on the way? It's all about the journey after all!

4. Picnics On A Plane

You could buy overpriced and oddly sized food on the plane. Or, you could save yourself a few quid and come prepared.

There are no rules against taking food onto the plane, and you won't exactly be missing out on much considering the reputation of airborne cuisine.

5. Wear Your Stuff

With many airlines charging exorbitant amounts for the pleasure of hand luggage, why not simply wear it instead?

Do you really need a whole bag of stuff for your 2 hour flight? Maybe you do, but in some cases you probably don't. Be creative and take what you need on your person rather than paying for the privilege of overhead luggage.

6. Package Holidays

To some travellers the phrase package holiday is tantamount to blasphemy. You may relish the idea of planning every aspect of your trip, and that's fine - but it actually works out cheaper to go with package deals in many cases.

They aren't all your typical family trips to Benidorm either, if you look around you are likely to find a package deal that takes your fancy and comes in under budget.

7. Book Car Hire In Advance

If you know you need to hire a vehicle abroad then it will often pay to book it well in advance, not when you arrive. This has the added benefit of being able to reserve a suitable vehicle with the features you need (such as adequate seating, storage and extras like air con).

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Small Banks have the Best Deals for Savers

Recently it has become clear that savers who are willing to tie up their money for one or two years are likely to get better deals with smaller banks.

Shawbrook has a one-year fixed-rate bond at 1.95 per cent before tax, while it's 18 month bond pays 2.05 percent.

If you're prepared to put your money into a two-year fixed rate bond, Close Brothers can offer you 2.4 per cent and Shawbrook Bank can offer 2.3 percent.

You can access these accounts by post and your money is covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

These new rates have made them the most lucrative two-year savings accounts around, previous top rates included the 2.1 percent offered by the State Bank of India and the 2.05 percent offered by Britannia. 

The experts impression of saving trends, backed by Bank of England figures, show that savers have been giving up on fixed-rate bonds in droves. With money held in fixed-rate bonds down £40 billion on a year ago.

Conversely the amount in easy access accounts has risen by £52 billion, mostly down to the awful bond rates offered by large high street banks.

Lots of the high street giants pay less for one-year-fixed-rate deals than they do for easy access accounts elsewhere. 

HSBC pays just 1 per cent, NatWest 1.15 per cent and Barclays 1.2 per cent.

Halifax, Santander and Nationwide all pay just 1.4 per cent.

Two-year deals are not much better, at as little as 1.25 per cent with HSBC, while the best deal is 1.7 per cent from Nationwide.

The main consideration before embarking on a fixed-rate bond is that you're sure you are happy to tie up your money in the long term.

During the period your money is in the bond, you usually can't make any withdrawals. Although some bank or building societies will allow this, if you're prepared to pay a hefty fee, which can be anything from a penalty fee to a loss of the interest you've accrued over the last month. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Are you Haemorrhaging Money Daily?

1) Do you keep track of your cash?

If you're not making ends meat and you don't know where its all going, track your cash!

Whether you use one of the number of apps available, a spreadsheet or you simply collect your receipts, it is essential to write down your daily outgoings. Look at where your cash is going and you should have a much tighter grasp of your finances. Knowing where and when you can spend is the key to reducing your outgoings.

2) Coffee-rich, Cash poor

This ones quite simple, if you're spending £2-3 plus a day on take-out coffee that's between £10 and £15 a week. Which is between £500 and £750 a year - It soon adds up!

Getting a latte from the local coffee shop on the way to work might not seem like much individually, but throughout the whole year that is a pretty big outgoing for anyone. Its time to grab that Thermos!

3) Cigarettes and Alcohol

The average British family makes £489 a week to spend on everything, but more than 12% of this is spent on cigarettes and alcohol. The taxes applied to both will generally always rise, with smoking in particular becoming a massively expensive habit. 

You can save cash on alcohol by entertaining at home rather than going to your local bar or restaurant. Not to mention, the obvious benefits cutting down on the deadly cigarettes will have on your wallet and health.

4) Make Meal Plans 

As well as cutting back on expensive coffee, make sure you pack a lunch to take to work. Buying your lunch rather than bringing it in from home could cost you more than £1300 over the course of a year. 

People also throw away a huge amount of the food they buy, if you're fond of a big supermarket order and don't plan out your meals for the week, the chances are you'll end up chucking at least some of it away. Planning where your food goes will save you a lot of money and reduce waste at the same time.

6) Auto-saving Isn't just for Computers

The best way to save money is to do it without thinking. Automatic transfers from your current accounts to high interest saving accounts you can't touch, will allow you to build up your savings fairly quickly. It also means you'll have to tighten your belt to accommodate it.

7) Credit Card Interest

Don't pay too much for your credit card debt, switch to lower-rate cards. A balance transfer credit card can give 0% APR on transferred debt for increasingly longer periods. Failing that call your credit card provider and tell them you're planning to swap provider and see if they will reduce your interest rate. They may just want to keep you that much!

8) Home Heating and Electricity 

With ever increasing utility prices, this is an easy way to save money and cut back. Wearing warmer clothes and lowering the heating by a few degrees could save you 10% on a yearly heating bill. Make sure your house is insulated and make sure you turn off items that are on standby. Unplugging can save cash.

6 Ways to Save Money on Organic Food

Many people think Organic food is ridiculously expensive, in my opinion this is only a matter of perception. The cost of buying organic food and as a percentage of household income it has has probably remained relatively similar throughout history. 

However, the last 30-40 years has seen food producers - cheered on by supermarkets - conduct a race to the bottom on food prices. Until very recently food prices had been going down relative to household income. So how did they reduce the relative costs of producing food?

Junk food and mass farming techniques have brought prices down. 'Real food' has been replaced with fillers, artificial flavours and colours. The mass of the population have not seemed to care about this, although there is now a growing trend for fresh organic food. 

Regardless of whether you agree with my line of reasoning above, junk food is definitely cheaper to buy than organic.

So how do you reduce the cost of the wonderful Organic food available?

1)  Eat Seasonally 

Before the days of food being flown halfway around the world, you couldn't eat fruit like strawberries in Winter. If you buy locally and seasonally, the food is usually cheaper than food flown in from the Southern Hemisphere in Winter. 

Another tip is to buy lots of cheap organic products in season and freeze it for later in the year. 

2) The Freezer is your Friend

Recent studies have found that freezing fruit and vegetables retains more of the essential vitamins and minerals when compared to fresh produce which has been stored for five days or more. If you can buy organic from the freezer section you get the best of both worlds. Not to mention you can use just the amount you need and reuse it. not wasting food once it goes bad. This is another easy way to cut the cost of organic food.

3) Reduced Food

Whether you're at a supermarket, green grocers or at the local market. Generally, there is a section in which food that is almost reaching its expiry date is kept. When fruit is fully ripe or doesn't look "pretty" any more it is usually reduced to clear. So look for food that is the best quality and then buy it at a reduced price, obviously it has to be eaten quickly so don't buy more than you need. You can also buy it and freeze it for later.

4) Get a Veg Box 

Veg Boxes have become more and more popular in the last ten years, essentially they are subscription services where you are delivered boxes of organic fruit and veg weekly from your local farmer. Most of these services have expanded far beyond fruit and veg - with a variety of products available. These services can often work out to be very cheap and having them delivered weekly to your door is very convenient.

5) DIY Cooking

Cooking big meals yourself is cheaper and more nutritious than buying daily ready meals for example. It does take more time and effort, but a big stew can either be used several times over the week or frozen and eaten at a later date. This should free up more money to buy the best organic food.

6) Bulk Buying 

As with most products buying in bulk can save you a bundle. If you're buying rice and beans for example, you can easily save 20-30% when compared to a supermarket. Go to your local farm stores and farmers markets to get the cheapest deals. Make sure you know how to store and preserve all the food you buy, but if you do it correctly, you should save a lot of money.