Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Negative Interest Rates?

The Bank of England is considering changing its base interest rate of 0.5% to a negative figure. The idea is effectively a fee on commercial banks leaving money sat in the central bank, and should persuade them to lend more money to stimulate economic growth.

People looking for a decent mortgage rate are in luck (rates could be lowered even more), but on the other hand savers will take yet another hit to the amount of interest they can earn. It doesn't mean that savers will actually be charged interest, but with interest rates so low already inflation is taking big chunks out of their hard-earned cash.

I guess anything that stimulates the economy has to be a good thing, but I worry about the impact this could have on banks (for our sakes, not theirs!). If they start to feel the pressure too much, they might pass on an even bigger hit to their customers. I for one don't want to see current account fees or even lower interest rates for savings! Don't forget, banks are out to make money, and if they can't make it in interest they'll make it from us!

The jury's out on whether or not negative interest rates will actually be brought in. What do you think about this? Will you benefit from cheaper loans (mortgage refinancing, for example), or will your savings suffer instead?

Monday, 25 February 2013

Cheap Hair and Beauty!

Hello all! Sorry I've been AWOL lately. Uni's been crazy and the past few weekends I have been ill / in London! Hopefully things have calmed down a bit now.

The good news is that I've got some great ideas for saving money! February's been an expensive month, so I'm planning on locking down spending now and having a true Money Saving March! :) Who's with me?

Cheap Haircut!
I got a headstart on saving! My hair was getting annoyingly long and I spent a long time trying to find a frugal place to get it cut in Bristol. I could barely find anywhere for under £20, even with student discount!

I decided to check out the local colleges for hair stylists looking for cheap models! It's not as scary as you might think. A hairdressing student cuts your hair, with lots of advice and help from their supervisor. It does take a little longer because they have to get their work checked, but it's kind of interesting to learn the techniques yourself!

The best part is the price! My local college washed, cut and finished my hair for £6.50! (If you go to the right place, you can sometimes get a completely free haircut!) A full head colour is £20, a man's haircut is just £2.50, and they even do full body massages for £12!

I am really pleased with the value for money would definitely recommend college haircuts! To find your local hair and beauty college, Google "college haircut <your local area>".

Have you ever used the local college for a haircut? Have you ever cut your own hair? I once made my housemate cut my hair. She was terrified even though I didn't really mind how it turned out. She actually ended up doing a better job than my last visit to the hairdresser!

Friday, 8 February 2013

Will Kids Benefit from Learning Finances at School?

The Government has announced that financial education will be added to the National Curriculum for secondary school children from 2014. Younger students will be taught the basics of money and budgeting, whilst GCSE age teens will be taught about credit and financial risk, amongst other things.

Whilst I suppose this is a step in the right direction, I can't help thinking that it will go in one ear and out the other. I remember the citizenship classes being, for the most part, extremely dull. You sit reading about various laws and how they apply to you, whilst the teacher sits disinterested at the front, usually doing some marking! (Maybe that was just my school? Anyone have a better experience?)

Contrast this education in responsibility with the rest of the teenager's life; iPhones, Playstations, fashion magazines, movies, etc. Everything's a lot more exciting with the latest gadgets and trends. My friends and I used to go to the cinema pretty much every weekend as teenagers. Will today's students want to miss out on the fun just because their budget tells them to?

I know that the purpose of this education is to prepare them for their futures rather than to make teenagers live frugally, but I don't think they will really take in this theoretical knowledge until they actually need to use it, for example when they get their first job. Perhaps it's a good idea to introduce the concept of saving and living below your means, so that it's still kicking around in their conscious when it is needed in practise.

I think people learn by example, so if they see parents, siblings and friends living the high life by flashing the plastic they'll be more likely to do the same. Where possible, I think parents would be by far the best educators in finance for their kids because they're able to practically teach them about saving as a requisite of receiving an allowance.

What do you think? I don't think it's a BAD idea, I think I'm just a bit cynical! If I had been more financially aware, I would have budgeted saving for an emergency fund rather than just trying to avoid my overdraft! Do let me know what you think - I'd love to hear some opinions!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

How I Sold My Old Car

Last month I weighed up the pros and cons of keeping my car and decided that saving an extra £1000 a year is worth the hassle of public transport and ordering the groceries online.

Jools is a T reg (1999) Peugeot 306 (1.9L diesel) with 157,000 miles on the clock, so not exactly a stunner of a car. He had 7 months of MOT left but the tax was about to run out at the end of this month.

I did some research on the price of similar cars in Bristol and put him up for sale on Gumtree and he was sold the next day for £100 more than I was hoping for! Brilliant!

Of course, there are a lot of differences between selling a decent second hand car and selling a low value car like Jools. A lot of advice is geared towards cars selling for a few thousand pounds, but I've got a few tips for you if you want to sell your old car.

First, get your car looking its best. We don't have any way of washing the car outside our flat so we took Jools to a £5 car wash and he came out sparkling. I tried to clean the inside of the car by hand, but I ended up splurging another £1 to use a car vacuum to get all the mud and leaves out of the carpets! Don't forget to clean the interior windows and the dashboard surfaces too!

The couple that bought my car remarked about how clean and tidy it was inside, so don't underestimate the power of a nice first impression! DON'T spend £100 on a valet service if you're looking for less than £1000 for your car! DIY can be just as good!

Once your car is looking spick and span, take lots of photos! People want to see the features of the car, so take a photo of the front, back and side of the car, as well as the interior, alloy wheels, snazzy CD player, etc.

Making an advertisement
Think about where you want to sell your car. If you're buying a new car you could part exchange your old car to save yourself the hassle of a private sale, but you'll usually get a better deal selling your car yourself. 

For a more valuable car it might be worth buying ad space on Auto Trader or in your local paper, but for a cheaper old car I would start by placing a free ad on Gumtree. (You can sell cars on eBay, but I've known a few people to have bad experiences with buyers not paying, which can leave you stuck with extra fees to pay).

You might also want to put a sign in your car's window stating its features, a price and your mobile number. Facebook is a good way of spreading the word to friends of friends who might be looking for a new car too! The less you spend on advertising, the better!

How much should you sell your car for? 
A good starting point is to look at the WiseBuyer's Guide, which will tell you a reasonable price for your car based on the make and model, the mileage and what condition it's in. You should also look for similar cars for sale in your area to see what the current market looks like. (Check out the above listed selling platforms!).

When you make the advert, be sure to set the price a little higher than you are hoping to get. People like to haggle and if you can lower the price, they'll feel that they are getting a better deal.

Dealing with buyers  
Be prepared to field a lot of phonecalls from people asking detailed questions, booking viewings and trying to get you to lower your price! Be honest about any problems with the car if asked. Be friendly and polite too - don't forget you are the salesperson!

Make sure you are free in the evenings for most of the week when you put the advert up because people will lose interest quickly if they can't see the car for a fortnight! Try and swing it so both you and your partner / a friend can be there at the viewing. Most people are nice but don't take chances.

Decide whether you will allow people to take the car for a test drive. If you are happy to let them, make sure that they show you a full driving licence and insurance that covers them to drive other cars. You and your partner/friend should go with them to make sure they come back again!

If you're selling an old car, chances are you won't be asking a very high price for it. Make sure that the buyer pays you in CASH. If they want the car, ask them to leave you a deposit until they can withdraw the full amount. This is pretty standard, so don't feel embarrassed!

Draw up a receipt for the buyer, stating the car make, model, registration number, mileage and price of the car. Make sure it says that the car is being bought "as seen", which means that you are not liable if it breaks down in the future.

Lastly, don't forget to fill in the V5C (log book) form with the new owner's details. You will both need to sign it, then you (the seller) post it to the DVLA. Don't forget or you could be the lucky owner of speeding tickets or road tax demands.

Don't forget to cancel your insurance policy! You should be able to claim money back for the days between the sale date and the end of the policy, less a cancellation fee. I'm getting £150 back! :) It feels like free money!

Bye Jools! You drove me crazy at times, but you're alright really!

Savings: £1000 a year!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

How to Make an Applique Draught Excluder

Brrrr, isn't it chilly?

Our flat was even colder than it should have been because there's a half inch hole below the front door and the carpet!

My finger can fit under the door!

The Boyfriend said I should make a draught excluder to block the gap. I don't usually like to admit when he's right (it goes to his head), but this time he had a point so I got to work!

I had an old pair of holey jeans waiting for just such a project. (Someone did this on Superscrimpers too, but I like mine better!) My Mum also gave me a book on how to applique, complete with some fabric scraps and Bondaweb. Perfect!

How to make an an applique draught excluder:

1. Cut a leg off an old pair of jeans, turn it inside out and sew along the cut edge to close it.

2. Design a pretty pattern. I drew some Cath Kidston-inspired flowers.

3. Trace your pattern onto the paper backing of fusible web (Bondaweb or similar).

4. Iron (I KNOW, IRON!) the fusible web onto the wrong side of the fabric for the design. Make sure you leave the paper on or your iron will be stuck to the fabric!

5. Cut out the design. Turn the jean leg the right way round.

6. Pull off the fusible web paper and position the design right side up on the jean leg. Iron to secure it place.

7. Using embroidery thread, sew each design piece into place. Two common ways to applique are running stitch (the yellow thread) or whip stitch (blue). 

8. Stuff the leg with whatever free padding you have knocking around. I used: lots of odd socks that The Boyfriend refuses to wear, the other leg of the jeans and had a clear out of old pants that I never wear! :)

9. To seal the draught excluder, I folded the opening like an envelope and secured with a few stitches in a dark thread. (This way I can easily unpick it and wash the contents if I have to).

Tell you what, this thing is amazing! You won't believe how much of a difference it makes!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

£1 A Day - Plan Ahead!

The £1 a day challenge ended last night! I celebrated with a cup of tea and a Cadbury's creme egg at the stroke of midnight! :) It's the simple things.

I survived pretty well on the food I bought for £7 at the start of the challenge. I only have some porridge oats, two carrots and some of the baking fat left. I didn't even have to resort to foraging for stinging nettles in urban Bristol, luckily.

I have to admit to a fail though; I forgot my lunch on Friday and had to buy a sandwich! I hang my head in shame, but I really don't cope well not eating for 10+ hours.

My food for the week:

Breakfast: porridge
Lunch: lentil soup
Dinner: stew

Breakfast: porridge
Lunch: lentil soup
Dinner: stew

Breakfast: porridge
Lunch: lentil soup
Dinner: vegetable ragout

Breakfast: porridge
Lunch: lentil soup
Dinner: vegetable ragout

Breakfast: porridge
Lunch: lentil soup
Dinner: lentil burgers

Breakfast: porridge
Lunch: DISASTER - I forgot my lunch, so bought a sandwich.
Dinner: stew

Breakfast: porridge
Lunch: lentil burgers
Dinner: rice, lentils and vegetables

As you can see, my meals were seriously repetitive (although were somewhat saved by that awesome lentil burger recipe!). Still, I knew I had enough food to last the week. I think that's the biggest thing I've learned from this: if you can plan your meals in advance, you can buy exactly what you NEED and avoid impulse buys or wasting food.

My Mum was doing the challenge in a slightly different way. She worked out the cost per serving of everything she ate during the week. She managed to have a much better variety of food than me (including fruit, biscuits, tea and more veg) for £1 a day by spreading the cost over more than a week. This shows that it is possible to eat well on a very small budget!

It is VERY strange to be able to pick whatever I wanted to eat today. I had boiled egg and soldiers for breakfast and fajitas for dinner! I could also have a nice cup of coffee or tea whenever I fancied, which was ace!