Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Are you prepared for the bleak winter of 09?

Ok, so the title sounds scary but the truth is, with job losses, increased costs, energy prices changing all over the place, Swine Flu panic and strikes, we’re all at a loss as to what the next 6-12 months will bring.

I know of people whose mortgages have reduced by about half, and instead of saving the cash, they are preferring to go on expensive holidays. Normally I would be tempted by the same thing in their situation, but in the current climate? No chance.

If you do not have an emergency fund to be your safeguard in this recession, please start one. It is better to have something as a buffer than nothing. It means if you are ill, or your partner is ill, or your washing machine dies, or your car just suddenly stops, you have a stash to cover the problem. Even worse – what if you are ill for several months, or you lose your job?

I started saving £5 a month many years ago when I earned £80 per week, my rent was £40 of that. It was back breaking work and very hard to put that £5 aside, but I did it. The years went by and I increased the amounts as I could, I couldn’t yet afford a pension yet so at least I thought I should increase the savings slowly.

That idea stayed with me and I kept it going. That £5 a month turned into a thousand after a few years which made me feel I could cope if I lost my job and needed to look for another one.

These days, the recommendation is that you have 3-6 months worth of salary just in case. It means if you lose your job, or want to change and walk away from the job, you feel safer.

Savings rates are not amazing right now, but the main reason to do this is for protection, not rates.

So no matter what the next 6-12 months bring for us all, please make sure that if you are paying any debt obligations, you also put a little aside for the emergency fund. You will feel better and able to look ahead and not worry as much about what will happen. We are all in the same boat, so worth having a lifejacket!

Monday, 20 July 2009

How to organise with no time!

Ok, we have all been there – trying to get stuff done, it all piles up and you suddenly have a moment where you think ‘How can I even make a start on all these things’!
I have been a bit like this lately – lots of things I had in my ‘head’ list but never wrote down or if I wrote it down it was on a post it note I lost under a pile…

So today marks a new start – I will write more down and every day take a few minutes to revise the list and see what I have still to do.

The key with this will be to mark each item with a deadline date. With out that, items just sit on the list. I can cross them off, then by the end of the week write a new list for the week ahead, hopefully with less items (ha ha, as if that will happen!).

This isn’t just for regular things like collecting dry cleaning (which by the way is a pet hate of mine, I don’t buy an item that needs dry cleaning as all I can see is expensive bills in the future each time it needs to be dry cleaned!) – anyway – this list is also for hopes, dreams, research and more.

Make A List
So your list might be a mix:

- Book dentist
- Call friend to arrange movie
- Research soap making courses
- Buy birthday present for brother
- Check phone cashback
- Pay tax bill

Each one needs a deadline date, or you might mark the item with several asterisks to show a higher priority – say 3 asterisks (***) for important, two (**) for important and one for normal (*).

Online and Technology Helpers
Also Yahoo mail offers a calendar which might help you get organised too, as well as mobile phone applications etc which can buzz a reminder at you at a set time. I use these mobile reminders especially for appointments, as a written down note will not get me there guaranteed for the set time! Very important especially if your dentist charges you for cancellations/not showing up!

Plan Time & Money
Obviously if you have a month coming up with lots of tasks to do with birthdays, it would be an idea to budget that cost in ahead of time, so you know you will need more time for research as well as the extra cash to spend. If you research a few months in advance, you might be able to pick up the items cheaper at car boot fairs, on Amazon 2nd hand etc etc.

Set Days
Another things that I would like to do, for housework especially, is set a day to do certain things. For example, Tuesdays might be 5 minutes polishing and dusting when I get in from work.

Get Help
If you are really struggling, who can you ask for help? Even small things removed from your list and onto someone elses' can help you tackle the other tasks much better. You may feel embarassed to ask, but often people realy don't mind - to you it's something huge in your mind, to them it's something they can handle easily and it's such a relief to you, plus they feel good for helping out.

Sit Back and Assess
See how it works for you – one persons method may not be the same as someone else’s best way to do things, you can chop and change to suit.

We all fall short of the super-organised ‘ideal’ and I know that for me both writing things down and having a Household Binder helps a lot (see the Organizing category on the right for more info)…

Friday, 10 July 2009

The 6 month Review - What can we reduce?

Hi everyone,

Well one minute we think it’s Summer and the next – it’s Autumn/Winter! The last couple of weeks have been strange weather-wise and also personally, I am a big Jacko fan so the new hit me hard, hence lack of updates, my apologies for that.

Anyway today is green day, so today’s focus is about what you can start to live without and reduce resources. As times get tighter and we see the news headlines talking about more job losses, higher cost of living and the lack of mortgage lending, cutting back is on all our minds.

Are there any items you would be able to do without? Those little niceties that you think you ‘need’ to buy but can in fact either make at home, buy second hand, or not buy at all? Not only would they declutter your life, they would leave more cash in your purse.


Take aways
Coffee on the go
Sweets and chocolates
Snacks like crisps
Bus fares or taxi fares
Beauty of make up products
Outings to the pub

All of these slowly drain away from our pockets and don’t seem like much but can amount to a lot over the year. We have all heard the Starbucks quote that a take away coffee every working day can cost around £650 a year – sounds very painful that way!

So for me, this is my 6 month review on how things are going. Below are the things I have either started to make myself at home, or stopped buying completely:

- Washing up liquid – make at home for a fraction of the cost (see right hand menu for how to make this) – now just costs around £10p per litre.
- Handwashing soap – same as above
- Kitchen counter spray – same as above… barely costs 1p per bottle now.
- Magazines – I probably buy one every 3 months now, if that.
- Clothes – I have bought almost all my clothes in the past 6 months from second hand stores and all are of good quality, saving me at least £200.
- Washing powder – I buy the big boxes on an offer then cut it with half of soda crystals (around £0.69 per KG). This means one box has lasted us over 6 months, at a cost of around £5.50 for washing all our clothes for half the year.
- Paper towels – stopped buying and now use small rags cut into squares – has saved around £4, not much but it all counts.
- Beauty products – I make my own now from shea butter, cocoa butter, jojoba or almond oil and some essential oils plus some kitchen cabinet ingredients. Although it costs a little in raw materials, I estimate that it has still saved me around £30 these past 6 months, possibly more. See right hand menu for recipes – the beauty oil alone that I made saved lots! I have made lip balm, moisturiser, cleanser, exfoliator and beauty oil from around 6 ingredients, amazing really and so natural, no preservatives as I can just make them when I need them.
- Foods – sounds daft but I used to buy Hummus a couple of times a month – I make my own now for a fraction of the cost then freeze it in small pots for as and when I need it. Other examples: Chilli oil, vanilla essence, tomato and onion chutney and more – these have saved us at least £20 compared to store bought.
- Movies – We rarely pay full price for a movie – get a free sim card from Orange on Google and this gives you half price movies every Wednesday when you take a friend. We also see a lot of free movie previews which cost nothing. Savings are around £50 so far this year, compared to paying ticket prices.
- Energy - Obviously with teh warmer months there is less expense, but we have decided to keep our direct debits as they were so we can have some money on account over the next few months. Also, we have made conscious efforts to always turn off rather than leave items on standby, I charge my phone at work etc. Plus being outside more means less use of gadgets inside.
- Plant your own - we have planted green beans, basil and tomato which are all going well. Savings so far probably £1 as we have only used the basil, but once the tomatoes ripen in 4 weeks or so I am hoping we will save more.
- Amazon - selling books I had read but were still in good condition - have sold arounf £4 worth, nothing much but then I haven't bought many books this year either...

Hopefully these give you some great ideas to continue with and maybe make some cuts or have different ways at looking at your spending / making items at home. Be it honey lip balm, vanilla essence or delicious chutney, once you start to see the product marketing for what it is you can save lots more money!