Monday, 27 October 2008

Dropping temperatures and the Icelandic Freeze

I don't know if any of you are affected by the drama in Icelandic banking right now, but we have been. These past few weeks have been a stressful rollercoaster ride, with hopes high for updates from the government, hopes low when we have found there are yet more delays. Yet now things seem to be moving faster, with the latest update on Friday 24th from the FSCS that by the end of November, everyone should have their cash back via electronic transfer. I breather a sigh of relief for now and can turn my attentions back to this here blog...

Seems this week temperatures are set to drop below double digits - so it's time for the yearly hunt for scarf, gloves (will I find the set of 2 this year?)and even the big ol' coat in the cupboard... I have resisted the urge to fish it out from the depths of 'Winter Clothes', but I can see that this week I will have to. This coat is warm, and made even warmer still by the fact that I bought it with proceeds from Cashback Sites - see the right menu - so it was totally free! My Autumn boots were also free, both items to last a good 3 years each.

You may think - 'What - how can I do that?'. Well it takes time and effort to start off and get used to it, but I do recommend you take a peek at my articles on Cashback, as most things you buy online can give you cash back via special sites. You can also even get cashback for your time - clicking away, to earn free cash.

This is the perfect time now that nights are drawing in and the temperature is dropping - why watch TV when you could be counteracting this credit crunch madness? In 2008 I will have earned at least £400 from this, a nice payrise especially if you save the cash and let it work extra interest for you.... just don't put it in an Icelandic bank! But still, Christmas is made easier as I save up all the cash and in December decide how it will be spent. A great time for some luxuries and then also to spend in the January sales (mind you, sales seem to be at any time these days).

So what are your plans for the months leading up to Christmas?
Do you have any money saving tips you want to share?
Let's all think of how we can save cash and protect ourselves against further price increases and tumbling stock markets.

Wrap up warm and look for those chunky toasty clothes!

Monday, 6 October 2008

Autumn now, Xmas next - scary!

Well the cold is definately settling in now, and in our household we had held out until 1st October to put the heating on... it finally happened on the 4th, this Saturday, as it was quite chilly. Here are some points we have been talking about which may help you...

In August we called our energy supplier and switched to a fixed tariff for gas and electric, I guess for us it's worth the peace of mind. I have also made sure they are going to take a bit more from my Direct Debit every month, to cover the fact we will start to put the heating on more now. Could you benefit from switching suppliers? Even if not, what about a fixed tarff so you get no nasty surprises? Also to avoid some of those, why not set up or increase your direct debit, so you know you will have enough for gas/electric when the bill comes? Paying by DD saves money as they usually give you a discount, and it also allows you to save paper/postage stamps/ envelopes and those horrible big bill days. I love DD and wouldn't go back!

We also decided this weekend we would look at our goal for the next 6 months, which is to really bolster up our savings, as we are hoping to buy a place next Summer. We keep our eyes peeled on the markets but for now we are waiting and seeing, like so many other millions out there. For now we are holding fast with our Icelandic bank called IceSave but we're glued to any news about the Icelandic economy.

In September was interviewed on a local radio station as a first time buyer and what my thoughts were - and in a nutshell, I explained that whereas family and friends used to look down at us for now being 'on the ladder' yet, now they see it as a wise move that we are renting and saving, waiting for more sensible prices to come along. We have friends who bought last summer and are probably now in negative equity - not a pleasant prospect for anyone. In time we will hopefully see some more acceptable prices that reflect people's real wages and with some luck, a balancing of the current market turmoils.

We also took the opportunity last week to cancel our joint gym membership and buy a second hand cross-training machine, which just barely squeezed into our flat. At £60, this is the cost of our joint membership, so in October it has already paid for itself. I have also sourced some free weights for my husband from FreeCycle, which he is happy to collect as there was no spend involved. This has saved us £720 a year and even if I join again in Spring, it is still worthwhile. For now I am using the machine almost daily, sometimes twice a day, because the weather and effort of travel are no longer an excuse!

We bought a counter top freezer for £20 too, which again, just about squeezes into our kitchen, but we feel for the cost will easily pay for itself and much more. We can now batch cook and obtained some free containers from a recent work take-away meal. This means so much to us - and easier dinners from now on. It would also allow us to make homemade pizzas for example in advance and then pop them in the oven which is extra lazy as making them from fresh (pre-bought base) only takes 5 minutes... I can now take advantage of more Buy One Get One Free offers!

My husband agreed to buy a hair trimmer a while back so I am now designated hairdresser! Each time I cut his hair he puts the cost of a haircut in a savings tin, which is great and I have to admit, the first cut was scary but now it's not so bad!

So there you go - some ideas to keep you going as we head into Autumn - I would love to hear what you are up to and what tips you have!