‘Tis the season for giving and, as most of us know, the season for going broke. Christmas can test even the strictest of budgeters, but follow these mantras to help you through to the New Year without going beyond your means.
1. Portion like a Pro
Christmas dinner is a classic staple of the big day, and everyone wants to be a generous when hosting Christmas get-togethers.
But it’s easy to over do the big shops in December, and end up stretching your wallet as well as your waistline. Visit lovefoodhatewaste.com to help you work out exactly how much you should buy to keep your guests and family happy without leaving you with a lot of expensive waste.
2. Start freeing up freezer space
Start eating up the food in your fridge and freezer before you begin the Christmas stockpile. Not only will it make space, it will save you money on your general food shops.
3. Be strict with your gift list
Work out how much you can afford to spend on gifts, and use this as a start point to work out who you are going to give to this year, and how much you are going to spend on each. Perhaps set a “children only” rule, or organise “Secret Santa” with your colleagues or extended family (this is where everyone in the group selects one person out of a hat to buy for, usually to a budget of around £5-£10. The buyer is only revealed at the present exchange.)
In some cases, honesty is the best policy. If you can’t afford to exchange presents with your partner, best friend or parents this year, then tell them.
4. Expensive doesn’t always mean better
Earlier this year, Aldi came out victorious at The Grocer magazine’s food awards, winning 16 gold medals for its products (2nd came Tesco with 12 gold and 3rd was Asda with 11).
Upmarket supermarkets did not fare as well, with Marks and Spencer scoring 8 gold medals, Waitrose just 3 and Harrods failing to win any gold medals.
So, don’t think you have to spend more to treat yourself this Christmas. Downgrade a brand and see if anyone notices – chances are, they won’t suspect a thing and will love Christmas dinner just as much!
5. Get crafty with decorations
Putting cloves into oranges and piling them into a bowl with some cinnamon sticks will look and smell Christmassy, and making paper chains will keep kids entertained for ages. Similarly, you can attach your Christmas cards to ribbon to turn them into a nice festive display without crowding the mantelpiece.
6. Swap party outfits with a friend
If you like to splash out on a new outfit for occasions, try swapping clothes with a friend. That way you’ll have the “new clothes” feeling, without any price tag.
7. Remember your loyalty points & vouchers
Most supermarkets and stores have offers on in the run up to Christmas that allow you to double or triple the value of your points. It’s also worth checking the vouchers you get with your receipts, as these can also save you money on your shop.
There are also several websites also provide voucher codes
Remember though, vouchers only make a bargain if you needed to buy them anyway – don’t buy extras just because they’re on offer.
8. Consider buying “nearly new”
Ebay, Mumsnet Forums and local “nearly new” sales are great ways to get a quality gift for less. Often items in these sales are unopened or still have the tags still on, so you can benefit from shop fresh items at second hand prices.
9. Get creative with wrapping paper
Get creative with your wrapping,
Metres of plain brown paper can be bought for next to nothing, and can still be impressive with a little effort. If you have young children, let them draw on the paper in coloured crayons before wrapping presents for your family to give them a personal touch. Alternatively, nip to your local park and cut sprigs of holly to stick in the corner of your wrapped gifts, or buy a ream of coloured ribbon to tie in a bow round your presents for a traditional look.
10. Google your gifts
Get online and research your presents to make sure you are getting the best deal before you hit the shops or buy online. You can save a massive percentage off your total costs.
If you do choose to buy online, make sure you check that the delivery date is specified as before Christmas, or you don’t have any right to complain or ask for a refund on the grounds that it didn’t arrive on time.
As four of the six biggest electricity companies have raised their prices within the last month, waste and water services provider Thames Water has been told by industry regulator Ofwat that their proposed price hike of 8% has been blocked.
The proposed rise was almost three times the rate of inflation, adding an extra £29 to the average bill.
Water companies need the permission of Ofwat to raise prices beyond the limits set by the regulator for five year periods (the limit is currently 4.6%, which works out around £16 increase). Thames Water claimed that their proposed rise in prices was needed to help cover the cost of bad debts.
However, Ofwat’s chief regulation officer Sonia Brown said:
“We said we would challenge Thames’ application, in the interests of customers. We did just that and on the evidence provided we are not convinced that an extra bill increase is justified.”
Ofwat’s chairman Jonson Cox recently wrote to water companies asking them to consider whether they need to increase their bills by the full amount allowed within their limits, “given the hard time their customers are facing”.
Could you get a better deal on your utilities?
At Harrington Brooks, we understand that when you are working to a budget, a rise in your bills can be tough to cope with.
That’s why, with our partners Uswitch, we offer our customers a free checking service to ensure you are not paying over the odds for your gas or electricity. If you are, we will organise the switch to whoever is cheapest at no cost.
On average, our customers save over £100. Give us a call today on 0800 048 1764 and see how much you could save!
Visit our Utility switching pagefor more information.
Congratulations to Amy Gorman in the Creditor Relationship Team, Harrington Brooks’ Star of the month for August.
Amy with HB CEO, Matt Cheetham
Below are just some of the excerpts from Amy’s many nominations this month:
“Amy moved into a new role within the Creditor Relations Team early in July. She is now working alongside 2 Creditor Relationship Managers offering invaluable support in an extremely fast paced division of operations handling hundreds of creditor reports and updating thousands of clients accounts on a daily basis.
“The manner in which Amy has taken to the role has been extremely impressive and she is already surpassing standards that were set by her predecessor within little over a month in the role…”
“Given the manner of success that Amy has had in taking over this role it has meant that neither the client nor creditors have felt any negative knock on effects of the change in staff.
If anything they will have felt benefits, as previously noted, she is working to a more timely manner on the work thus having our creditors supplied with their report quicker and our systems updated quicker, therefore payments inevitably getting distributed quicker …”
Two more employees who have been singled out by your nominations for their sterling attitude to their work and their colleagues.
Shaun Bennett in The Payment Solutions Team:
“Shaun has only recently joined the payment solutions team, however he is already a consistent member of the team. I see Shaun arriving early for his shift in order to check payments onto accounts and he has built strong relationships within the team to create a strong resource structure. Shaun is empathetic to the client and through his eagerness he is supportive and eager to help the client. He has a clear sense of rehabilitation for the client and this can be seen in his offering of the money saving checks the HB provide…”
Kenneth Bateman in The Relationship Support Team:
“Ken has a keen eye for looking out for trends of issues that come in from creditors and possible effects it has on the client and other departments. Recently highlighting issues with Water Companies and our clients, after a number of days of tracking and monitoring contact from them in his own time. He then brought to the businesses attention with suggestions to help solve this and already many of these have been implemented within his own team and other areas of the company.
Sunday saw the first storm of the Autumn season, but despite the awful weather, the annual Bruntwood Ellipse charity bike ride went ahead and our willing HB victims (volunteers) took part and completed the course. The event, organised by Bruntwood, offers the opportunity to cycle either 10, 20 or a challenging 55 mile route.
Five staff from HB put their names forward, Marcus Roberts and Tom Edwards, (who both did the event last year), and new comers Colin Lowndes, Christopher Smith and Amanda Smith.
Over 300 cyclists were registered to take part in the event, but in view of the awful weather conditions some clearly thought better of it. It was therefore fantastic to see all 5 HB employees turn out in such horrible conditions. Marcus & Tom battled with the elements on the arduous climbs, at some points in danger of being blown off their bikes, to complete the 55 mile course.
Both Colin and Chris cycled to and from the event which meant they completed nearly 45 miles on the day. Chris completed the 20 mile course in 1 hour 15 minutes coming home in third place, and Amanda also finished the 20 miles.
Everyone taking part did fantastically well, especially in view of the weather, but it is the HB Chosen charity, MacMillan Wellbeing Centre that is the winner in the end. The business set a target to reach £500 in sponsorship for the HB chosen charity, though the team are hoping to reach £1,000.
Thank you to everyone who took part and all of you who made such generous donations.
We are pleased to announce that Harrington Brooks has been nominated for an Insolvency and Rescue Award, in the category Personal Insolvency Firm of the Year. The prestigious awards celebrate excellence, and it is an honour to have the team’s hard work recognised in such a way.
Congratulations to Anthony Watson of the Management Information Team, Harrington Brooks’ Star of the Month for July.
As one of the UK’s leading debt solutions companies, Harrington Brooks treats customer service as the single most important element of their business. Anthony’s diligent work ethic and analysis of survey feedback is vital to the service offered to clients. Anthony is awarded with £100 after tax and the esteemed title of Harrington Brooks’ Star of the Month.
Harrington Brooks’ CEO Matt Cheetham With Anthony Watson
Below are just some of the excerpts from Anthony’s many nominations this month:
“He is always willing to help anyone that approaches”
“He is always at hand to help with whosonline chat(offering advice for clients via the HB website’s online chat), and giving advice and information on the company that we didn’t know as newcomers”
“Helping the sales team when they need him, helping the content writers with his vast wisdom…”
Three more employees who have been singled out by your nominations for their sterling attitude to their work and their colleagues.
Ralph Ley in Finance:
“If I am needing help when doing e.g. refunds he is always willing to help even if busy, always tries to answer questions when he can…”
Lee Kennedy in Sales:
“Lee builds a good rapport with all his client’s make them feel comfortable and at ease speaking to him about their personal problems, he goes above and beyond his daily requirements, he has even spoke to a new PFM’s client and manage to keep the client on board as they were not happy with the service they were provided with originally and wanted to cancel. Lee used his skills and knowledge and enthusiasm to engage the client and turned the call around, the client stayed on board and was happy speaking to Lee…”
Clare Goward in One Advice:
“She is always helping other staff that I have seen in my short time and always happy to help and answer any queries that other members of the team have…”
Payday lender QuickQuid has admitted it got hold of non-customer details from third parties, following the company’s huge blunder when it emailed many consumers with incorrect demands for cash, even from people who had never taken a loan with them.
QuickQuid have yet to confirm the amount of people who are affected, but online forums were flooded with messages from concerned recipients, many of whom were panicked that they had been a victim of credit card or identity fraud.
Short term loans with the company have an APR of 1734%, and each missed payment to the company incurs a £12 charge, leaving many others worried that they would owe a fortune. The email also threatens to pass on the “debt” to a third party unless the outstanding balance is paid.
QuickQuid are currently working on contacting everyone affected
The email gaff is often given away by the data on the email template being incomplete. The name and email of the clients might be real, as well as a client number, but under length of plan or balance owed, there is often just “n/a”.
QuickQuid have stated that since the email was issued on 11 July, it has been contacting every recipient telling them to disregard it and to apologise for any inconvenience caused.
In a statement, QuickQuid said: “In addition to QuickQuid’s direct marketing channels, QuickQuid has established relationships with licensed credit intermediaries that assist in matching potential borrowers with potential lenders.”
The company said people might use these “intermediaries” to “compare” prices on loans, and they had the opportunity to “opt out” of being marketing and promotional material.
If you are concerned about contact from QuickQuid, or any other payday lender, contact us. We deal with creditor contact on behalf of our clients, and can confidentially discuss debt management options with anyone struggling with their debts.
New terms and conditions of the Co-Operative Bank are set to affect IVA-holders, along with the bank’s refusal to open future bank accounts with people who have been or are, in an Individual Voluntary Agreement. The action will take effect from 16th September this year.
The bank, who already closed their doors to bankrupts in September 2012, revealed their new policy earlier this month in a change of terms and conditions which they sent out to their existing customers. In it, they stated:
“It is a condition of having a bank account with us that you are not made bankrupt or enter into an IVA after you have opened your account. If you are made bankrupt or enter into an IVA after you open an account, this is a serious breach of the terms of this agreement and we can close your account immediately…”
In response to the decision by the bank, David Mond, Chairman of the Debt Resolution Forum, posted online:
“This is appalling. I was at the IVA Standing Committee meeting last Tuesday and the Co-op Bank have a representative there who never mentioned this.”
The move comes after the bank was revealed to have a £1.5 billion hole in its finances, and downgraded to “junk” status by rating agency Moody’s. It’s deal to buy 632 branches of Lloyds TSB also fell through earlier this year.
The bank accounts suitable for IVA and bankrupt customers do not generate much revenue for banks, as they cannot cash in on overdraft charges, late fees or interest on credit, making many high street banks reluctant to promote them, some even going as far as hiding their existence unless asked by name, even if the client has been rejected for current accounts.
Basic bank accounts are an essential way in which people who have experienced serious financial issues organise their money – allowing them to save, pay bills and receive wages, when a current account is unavailable. They do not require a credit check and do not provide any credit or finance.
IVA-friendly bank accounts such as Secure Trust still provide opportunities for people looking to fully rehabilitate their finances.
Over 13,000 IVA cases are currently supervised by Harrington Brooks, so if you are worried about your financial situation, get in touch.
There are a lot of myths and mistakes to be made regarding consumer rights. This handy guide explains they key aspects of your rights, and how to enforce them, to make sure you get a fair deal.
Satisfactory Quality and Reasonably Durable
All goods must fit the description above. If they don’t, contact your retailer. The level of quality and durability is debateable, and depends on the expense and nature of the item you have bought. For instance, if you buy a £300 Chloé hand bag and the strap breaks after a week, then it has not lasted a reasonable amount of time. However, if you buy a £2 bucket and the handle comes off after a year, it will be difficult to make a case to get your money back.
As Described and Fit for Purpose
Goods must also be as they have been described on the packaging, by the staff of the shop or in their online description. This links in with goods being fit for purpose. If you’ve bought a charger for your phone, and it isn’t compatible with your phone, you only have a right to take it back if you have been told it is – for example by member of shop staff, the product’s packaging, or its online description.
If you find a fault, you should quickly log your complaint with the seller, as not registering your problem can affect your rights – you should do with within 4 weeks of noticing the problem to prove you haven’t accepted the fault, though you could still argue your case for up to 6 months. You have a return window of 7 days for online goods to return any goods, even if there is no fault.
Knowing your consumer rights can save a lot of time and money
It is a common myth that if you spot an item that has been incorrectly underpriced you can have the item at that price. The rule only applies if this incorrect price is given at the point of sale – and it is true that once you have paid for an item the shop cannot try and undo their mistake. So if you are charged £2.99 for a £299 holiday online, and you proceed to checkout there and then, once that payment is confirmed the holiday is yours. Equally, if you get charged 2p for a £20 box set at the checkout in Tesco, once you’ve paid the deal is final.
Policies in shops are only in addition to your Consumer Rights, they cannot contradict them. For example, the popular 28 day return policy in clothes shops means you can take clothes back even if there is no fault and you just don’t like them or they are the wrong size (but are still “as described” because the size is in the label). After this time however, you still have a right to take clothes back if they do not meet the standards of “satisfactory quality, reasonably durable, as described and fit for purpose”.
The same rule applies to guarantees as store polices – they are only an addition to your consumer rights. If you have taken due care of an item, and it breaks outside of the guarantee but within the length of time you should reasonably expect it to last, then you should take it back as it suggests a fault with the product when you were sold it. So if your iPod stops working after 366 days, you can still take it back no matter what the Apple assistant says.
You should state on your receipt that the item has been bought as a gift, to give the recipient the power to take back the gift if it is at fault. Otherwise, the rights still lie with you and so only you have the real right to return or complain.
Losing the Receipt
If you want to take back an item but you can’t find the receipt, you can use a bank statement or other method of proof of purchase in its place (though this is only when enforcing your legal rights, not using a stores policy which may explicitly require a receipt).
Don’t Go to the Manufacturer
Some shops try and deter customers by claiming that consumers will have to take up any issue with the manufacturer. Don’t be fooled – your rights are between you and the seller, and they have an obligation to right any wrongs.
Please note that these are personal, rather than commercial consumer rights and refer to goods not services.