The food and toiletries shop is an essential part of household and family life. Step Change guideline figures (Oct 2014) for a household that features two adults and two kids, suggests that 35% of the monthly family budget would be spent on food and toiletries. So, if you get it right, better budgeting and money managing in this area can really help you make your money go further.
Here are our top tips to get the best out of your shopping trips.
Don’t shop when you’re hungry
Pretty self explanatory. Most of us have heard of this phrase but how many of us actually do it. The hungrier you are whilst shopping, the more likely you’ll be to buy more. And in most cases it tends to be the comfort foods. Either shop on a full stomach or drink a pint of water before hand.
Cut your food and cut your shopping bill
Life is fast for some people, so it’s easy and tempting to buy things like pre cut veg, pre grated cheese and pre diced meats etc. But these items tend to be more expensive or you get less quantity for your money. Spending a little less in the aisles and a little more time on the chopping board can definitely help save some cash.
Does paying with cash save you money?
If you pay for goods on a payment card it can offer more flexibility around your shopping list, enabling you to buy things you hadn’t planned, but shopping when you have a pre-defined budget and paying by cash is more likely to stop you overspending. An easy way of sticking to a budget is to only take cash to the shops. This way you won’t be as likely to spend more on non-essential shopping list items. It’s quite a discipline to master but reaps rewards in the long run.
However, you may need to also consider the advantages of online shopping and home delivery as doing it this way can stop you from deviating from your main shopping list, especially if you have a list saved or favourite for easy reference. If it costs you on average more than £3 to £4 to get to the shops then home delivery may well offer overall savings.
Take our taste challenge
Supermarket own brand products – what’s the difference?
It’s been reported that most people would probably not know the difference between premium and own brand products in a taste test so it could be argued that the biggest difference is price rather than taste. In some instances the manufacturers of top selling products will also make own brand products for the supermarkets. If you want to put the theory to the test try a taste test between McVities chocolate digestives, Weetabix and Muller yogurts vs the own label equivalents. Can you can taste the difference? Own brand soap and hair products can also save you pounds as well.
Why should I use a loyalty card?
If you’re a regular at a supermarket which has a loyalty card scheme such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Morrisons then make sure you collect your points and discount / cashback vouchers every time you visit as you’ll get rewards based on your spending over time. However don’t be tempted to buy things you don’t usually buy just because you have a discount voucher and it’s worth looking at how you can maximise your points by taking the cash or swapping them for activities etc.
Make sure you’re getting the best price – use a barcode scanner
Have you used your smartphone whilst shopping to scan the barcodes? It could help you identify what the price of the same product is at other retailers, meaning you can instantly tell if you’re paying more than you should. You’ll be able to find them in the app store of your relevant phone manufacturer.
Should I take my kids shopping?
OK, so this is a tough one because there are pros and cons. If you take them and they ask for treats it can add to your bill. If you leave them at home there may be a childcare cost. However it’s also worth thinking about how important it is to help your children to understand good money management, shopping on a budget and how to shop wisely.
Buying bulk food – yes or no?
Always check the cost per gram or per unit on an item by dividing total cost by the number of units or grams. Many supermarkets do show it on the shelf edge, price markers. Some supermarkets have recently been criticised for promoting multi-buy deals when the cost per gram of smaller products works out cheaper. If it’s a product you’re likely to use without having any leftovers then it makes perfect sense, otherwise throwing away the stuff you don’t eat or use is throwing money in the bin. If you shop at a wholesaler like Costco then it’s always worth considering if the savings you make buying in bulk also offset the cost of membership and any wastage you may encounter.
Supermarket offers on aisle ends
Supermarkets charge brands more to feature their products on aisle ends as it is more noticeable. With this in mind you can normally find some good offers on branded items. Though if they aren’t on offer don’t be sucked in to buying just because you’ve noticed the flashy signs and exclamation marks.
Plan carefully – with your money and your meal planning
If you ever have to do a top-up shop or get items from a local convenience store during the week then make sure you’re not paying more. The prices of products in smaller, local supermarket stores can be marginally higher than in the bigger store. It’s because you’re paying for convenience amongst other things. There may be more perishable items that you have to shop more frequently for like milk, bread, fruit and veg, but try not to pay more than you have to. Plan your main shop carefully and you’ll be less likely to run out of groceries. It can also pay to plan your menus ahead, and freeze what you don’t eat for another day.
Buy branded products at low prices
Over recent years a new range of discount food shops have popped up on the high street. Shops such as Home Bargains and B&M bargains sell branded products for a fraction of the normal cost. One of the main reasons why is because the products on offer are sold on a clearance or closedown basis. Meaning that the price you pay is cheaper than the RRP. The only downside is that the products can only be bought for a limited period until they are sold out. You won’t see any of the offers advertised but popping in will definitely save you a pound or two.
As it was National Pet Month we’ve got a couple of handy paw size tips that will help you save money on your furry family members.
Research by Sainsbury’s Bank found that “on average dog owners spend £32.70 a month on food; £9.10 on treats and presents and £5.80 on grooming and walking, for example. The corresponding figures for cat owners are £27.20, 40p and £1.40 respectively.”
So anything that saves a pound or two on your pet bills should always help.
Save cash on expensive bedding – use old blankets and towels
Every pet basket isn’t a place to nap unless it’s got an old family towel, t-shirt or blanket in it that’s covered in fur. If you’ve been paying for new blankets or bedding then think again as this is a really simple way of saving money; though some of you may not need to worry about it, especially if your best friend sleeps on the bed.
Pet toys at charity and discount shops
Rather than buying a brand new toy for your pet, it’s worth taking a trip to your nearest charity shop or discount store to get one there instead. You could even re-purpose or recycle everyday items or toys to make something just as effective. For example, you could wrap a treat(s) in an empty cereal box, providing your pet with a “pass the parcel” like game to unravel. Or you could plait rope or knot an old t-shirt round a bottle or tennis ball for them to chase and chew. Remember that it may end up being savaged and chewed on a daily basis and that whatever you use should be safe for them to play with and potentially swallow.
Shred your old bills, newspapers and junk mail for bedding
OK so many workplaces dispose of paper and confidential documents in a safe way using a shredder service, but you could use your old bills, newspaper or junk mail instead, to provide bedding for a hamster, guinea pig or gerbil. From experience though, it’s worth mentioning to avoid paper that has tons of ink or toner on it, unless you want dirty footprints everywhere!
Cutting your dog’s nails – walk it more
If you find that you’re having to clip or trim your dog’s nails more than usual then it may be an idea to walk them more on harder, rough surfaces, meaning you don’t have to take as many trips to the vets or grooming parlour. Anyone who has tried to trim a dog’s nails will know that it can be like hitting a moving target, whilst moving, so save the struggle and keep the pounds in your pocket.
Shop around for pet insurance premiums
It can be beneficial to get pet insurance especially as you never know what your little loved one is going to get up to, be it breaking a leg or eating a Mars bar. If you pay a few pounds a month, it can help avoid you encountering one big, unexpected bill. When shopping for insurance or renewing your policy, always remember to shop around and challenge the quote. If you do it through a cashback site you can also save money too.
Should I vaccinate my pet?
Keeping your pet up to date with jabs and vaccinations will help keep them healthy. It will also save them any unnecessary distress and trips to the vet in the long run. This includes rabbits as well as cats and dogs. If your pet is older you should still vaccinate as immunity in animals can decrease with age. Some pet insurance policies do require you to keep up to date with vaccinations as part of the cover, so check this too.
Bulk buy dry pet food – longer shelf life
Dry pet food will keep for quite a while so it can make sense to buy in bulk, but only if it’s cost effective. If your dog has a penchant for eating just about anything then this may not apply. If you’re in to healthy eating selected fruit and veg are great for a dog’s diet. But we recommend If you’re in any doubt check out the RSPCA guides for cats, dogs or rabbits.
While official figures are showing an overall decrease in insolvency, forecasts from other influential bodies suggest that the consumer debt crisis maybe shifting from unsecured borrowing to arrears in priority bills.
Recent figures released by Accounts In Bankruptcy (AiB) who administer insolvency in Scotland have shown a decrease in the total number of cases compared to the previous financial year.
AiB revealed that the total number of bankruptcies, Protected Trust Deeds (PTD) and DAS in 2014-15 is down 16.7 per cent from 2013-14. Total personal insolvencies, which include both bankruptcies and PTDs are currently at their lowest levels in ten years.
Bills for utilities and other priority commitments are becoming more of a debt issue in many UK households.
This week the Insolvency Service published its Q1 2015 Insolvency Statistics which showed overall falls for individual insolvencies compared to the same period last year.
The data pointed to bankruptcy orders continuing to decline. Though the service point to the introduction of Debt Relief Orders (DROs) in 2009 as a reason behind this. The number of DROs decreased for the third quarter in a row. Q1 of 2015 showed a fall of 5.1% compared to Q1 of 2014.
Provisional figures on Individual Voluntary Arrangements (IVAs) also indicated continuing falls. There were 10,405 IVAs in Q1 of 2015, which was a 13.1% decrease compared to Q4 2014 and 23.5% lower than Q1 in 2014.
From October 2015 creditors will find it tougher to force someone in to Bankruptcy. The current threshold of £750 is set to rise to £5,000. In addition the amount of debt covered for Debt Relief Orders, geared towards individuals who hold little or no assets, will also rise from £15,000 to £20,000. See New Bankruptcy and DRO thresholds for details.
Even with these insolvency figures in mind there are some statistics that contradict the fall in personal insolvency and state of individual finances. In a report from StepChange the demand for debt advice, through calls and website traffic, has increased 56% since 2012. The worrying statistic here is that debts to banks and credit cards are decreasing as utilities and council tax arrears increase.
“Although the average amount our clients owe to consumer credit providers – such as banks and credit card companies – continues to fall, as it has for several years, there is a growing crisis facing families seeking to pay their priority bills. For example, in 2010, gas and electricity arrears were 3.8% of the average unsecured consumer credit debt, by 2014 it was 7.8%. Two in five of our clients have arrears on priority bills; and over a quarter have arrears on council tax, mortgage, and rent.”
So, whilst the conventional thoughts on debts stemming from credit and over commitment may be decreasing the priority payments which every house has to contend with are seemingly cause for potential financial burdens regardless of the current stats on insolvency.
Our employees have been passionately collecting teddy bears to donate to Finley, who is trying to break the world record for ‘number of teddy bears in a row’. Finley was diagnosed with a Grade 4 Glioblastoma brain tumour, last year, and his journey has inspired our staff to help him achieve his goal.
Currently, the Guinness World Record for the largest amount of teddy bears in a line stands at 4,014, which Finley is aiming to beat. Finley has been on a mission to raise as much money as he can for Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital and Brain Tumour Research, while getting as many teddies as possible to break the Guinness World Record.
The world record attempt will be held on Sunday 3rd May at Alvechurch Cricket Club, Birmingham. It will give people the chance to support the attempt, plus help raise cash for the charities involved by adopting teddies after the event.
You probably spend more time in it than you think. But what’s the best advice on getting more out of your car? We’ve got some common, and not so common, tips on getting the best out of your car.
An easy one to do. Keep your tyres inflated to the correct levels because if you don’t then your car needs more power and petrol to move. You can normally find the correct tyre pressure for your car either in the petrol cap or on the side of the passenger door frame.
If you can afford to, it’s also worth investing in premium energy saving tyres as the savings over time will pay for the extra cost with a better miles per gallon (MPG) range.
And make sure the tread on the tyres is legal using the 20p test. If the inner rim of the coin is visible when putting the coin in the tread then you may need to change your tyres.
Change your oil and spark plugs
Your engine is the heartbeat of your car. And its two most important consumable components are the oil and spark plugs. If you have the tools, changing your spark plugs is quite easy, though changing the oil is a little more labour intensive – and messy. Our advice is to make sure you change them at regular intervals. Oil you should change at least every year and spark plugs, unless you’re fitting the manufacturer plugs should be changed every 20,000 miles. Ask around at your local garage as they should be able to help.
Half fuel strategy
If it’s good enough for Formula One drivers then it’s good enough for you. In order to get quicker times around a track some F1 cars will only fill up the tank halfway – because it makes the car lighter. The average fuel tank will hold around 50 litres of fuel. If you’ve ever weighed 25 litres of liquid you’ll know it’s not exactly light. So a lighter car can be better for your pocket. On a further note it’s always worth de-cluttering your car of any excess baggage,just so you’re not driving around with more weight and less efficiently.
What’s the first thing you should do to stop your car? It’s not hitting the brake, it’s taking your foot off the accelerator. If you can anticipate the flow of traffic, read the road ahead and use your brakes less you’ll put less strain on the car and your brakes. Of course we’re not suggesting you anticipate last minute braking decisions, just those where it’s safe to do so.
Change gear at the right time
In case you didn’t know what that big dial on your dashboard is, that isn’t your speedometer, it’s probably your rev counter. It will have numbers from 1-8 with ‘x 1000 rpm’ displayed on it. Why should you bother with it though? When you’re changing gear, assuming you’re on an even surface, you should change gear between 2000 and 2500 revs depending on the car. Or higher when going uphill. Changing gear outside of this range isn’t good for the car and also uses more petrol as you’re either over-revving or the gearbox needs more time to run in the most responsive gear.
Don’t drive when you’re angry
It’s like the other saying ‘don’t go shopping when you’re hungry’ as you’re likely to buy more based on your current desire for food. If you’re angry behind the wheel you’re likely to drive aggressively, speed and therefore use more petrol. If you have to, take a minute to relax before you turn on the engine. You, and your pocket, may feel better for it.
Monitor your drive
Some insurance companies offer lower premiums for those people that are willing to sign up to a ‘Telematics Box’, or commonly known as having black box insurance, for their car. It essentially monitors how you drive and feeds it back to your insurer. If they deem you to be a ‘safer’ driver then they will reflect this in your insurance premiums. Some more details are on confused.com.
Always shop around and negotiate your insurance
Each year, when getting a renewal for car insurance it will normally have gone up. Shop for your insurance, rather than renew as more than likely you’ll be able to save cash, unless you’ve had an accident or points added to your licence.
Look to put high ticket purchases like this through a cashback account – you could get up to 10% back against some purchases. If your annual insurance is say £500, you can get back £50 to spend elsewhere.
Keep cool, but not under 40mph
Having the air-con turned on will use fuel. If you’re driving at speeds under 40mph it’s probably worth just opening your windows unless you’re driving through a tropical storm.
Having your windows open whilst driving over 40mph will increase drag and use more fuel. So it’s better in this situation to turn the air conditioning on.
It’s that one time of year when everyone can be just a little bit silly. Yes it’s April Fools’ day. But just in case you need something up your sleeve in order to play a prank then read on.
The upside down computer screen
One of the easiest yet little known functions on a windows PC or laptop is that you can turn the screen upside down with just 3 buttons. Pressing the control, alt and arrow down keys together flips the screen upside down. Depending on your network settings it may or may not work and you’ll need to make sure that the user is also logged on (i.e. they’ve not not locked their machine) for it to work.
Change the O and P keys on the keyboard
This needs a little more effort but nothing too hard. Simply prize either key out of the keyboard (by using a knife or something similar) and then swap them over. This is not recommended for laptop keyboards as the keys are much harder to replace! Then see how long it takes for the unsuspecting person to notice. This joke is even more effective if the person’s password includes the letters ‘o’ and ‘p’.
Cover the mouse sensor on an optical mouse
Again another simple yet effective prank which needs nothing more than a mouse and a post-it note. Assuming the mouse you’re about to prank is an optical mouse (those with a red light when you turn them over) then this will work. Simply tear off a strip of a post-it note and stick this over the red light sensor. The result is a functioning mouse which no longer moves.
Leave a note or other items in the boot of someone’s car
This one is a little more stealth but it has maximum impact. If you have a colleague or friend whose car keys can remotely open the boot of their car then you’re in. All you need to do is open the boot from afar and then leave a note in the car – such as “I know what you did last summer”. Alternatively you could leave other items in there which could cause maximum embarrassment too.
The iphone prank
We’ve saved the best till last. Anyone who has an iphone with Siri can be the victim here, depending on if they have bothered to change their security settings. As you know Siri on the iphone lets you tell it what to do. However what a lot of people don’t know is that the feature also works when the phone is locked. Assuming they’ve left their phone out, even if it’s locked, simply hold down the centre button and see if the phone lets you ask it something. If you hear the 2 beeps then you’re in. So you can either text someone a message or if you’re really naughty, you can set an alarm for 3am tomorrow morning.
By the way, if you need to flip the screen back up hold down control, alt and arrow up.
The 2015 General Election is on 7th of May, but 7 million people who could vote are not registered to do so – and that may be harming their credit rating.
Even if you have no interest in politics and have no intention of voting, not being on the Electoral Register can prejudice not only any credit applications you make; but also applications for insurance and mobile phone contracts; and it can extend to any application or vetting where proof and stability of circumstances is a factor.
Also, you may be one of approximately 3 million adult non-UK passport holders currently living in the UK. You won’t be able to vote at the General Election, but you can still register to vote for local and (if your passport is from the EU) elections for the European Parliament. In fact, there are also local elections in some areas on 7th May.
Being On The Electoral Register Matters
Contrary to popular belief, there is no universal credit rating for which we all have a score. When you apply for credit, lenders request a copy of a credit report normally from one of the major providers and from the information held within, it helps the lender (or other service provider) decide if they are to offer credit or service at all, and/or at what rate or cost.
Among things listed on a credit report is whether you’re are on the Electoral Register at the address given in the application and for how long. Why does this matter? It’s all about considering risk and someone whom has a more stable address to the extent they registered themselves at that address could be considered as a positive factor.
How Do I Know If I’m Registered To Vote?
You can contact your Local Electoral Registration Office (see below how to find this) or get a copy of your credit report; we recommend Noddle, which is free.
What’s The Deadline For The May 2015 Elections?
The deadline to register to vote in the 7th May elections is Monday 20th April 2015.
See also AboutMyVote.co.uk which publishes useful information such as registering if you’re away from home or moving home and details of upcoming elections. You can find out where your local Electoral Registration Officer is by using a post code search.
Leading debt management firm Harrington Brooks has today called for the next Government to implement a national action plan on personal debt, as it revealed the results of its first indebtedness index, a new barometer mapping the cause of personal debt across the UK.
Over commitment as a reason for indebtedness rises from 43 per cent to 57 per cent.
Lack of income as a cause for indebtedness falls from 27 per cent to 18 per cent.
Increased expenditure has decreased in significance as a cause from 17 per cent to 13 per cent.
Of those that provided reasons, over commitment was by far the biggest cause for people falling into financial difficulty in Q4 2014, with 57 per cent of Harrington Brooks’ customers citing this as the reason that they got into debt. This represents a 14 per cent rise from the Q3 2014 figure of 43 per cent – suggesting that the problem is only getting worse.
The index also shows a number of other interesting trends. The number of people falling into debt as a result of income reduction has fallen from 27 per cent to 18 per cent, a sign that the recent rise in wage growth, as announced by the Office of National Statistics, is starting to pay dividends in people’s back pockets.
Moreover, increased expenditure as a reason for indebtedness has also fallen from 17 per cent to 13 per cent, supporting the argument that the recent fall in inflation to 0.3 per cent means that the cost of living has become more manageable.
Matthew Cheetham, Chief Executive of Harrington Brooks, commented on the new figures:
“The trends revealed by the indebtedness index raise a number of interesting points. Over commitment is a rising problem across society, but incremental increases in lending and spending often go and noticed until it becomes too late with individuals suddenly unable to make the minimum interest repayments on purchases or loans. It is important that, as a society, we are not judgemental but instead recognise how incredibly easy it can be to lose track of one’s money.
Clearly, to continue to borrow when under financial stress is not the answer and therefore it is important that the individuals are able to identify the problem and seek advice in the early stages, before the problem gets out of control.”
A recent survey has shown that worries about your finances are most likely to keep you awake at night. Among a list of things keeping us awake; financial/economic issues (28%) and work (25%) are the most common complaints.
The figures also revealed that sleep (87%) and financial security (84%) was a bigger influence on a person’s health and well-being than exercise, diet and an emotional relationship with a significant other.
The value of sleep was certainly high with 96% of those surveyed saying that sleep was important to them. Alarmingly though, 22% said they woke up between 5-7 times before their expected wake-up time. 21% woke up between 3-4 times and 40% woke up between 1-2 times. Only 17% of respondents got a full night’s sleep.
The survey was developed by a team of sleep experts at Philips. This was conducted in the US, Brazil, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Japan, China, South Korea, Australia and the UK on just under 8,000 people between January and February.
“Our report indicates how psychological factors can impact sleep, and how those factors can change depending on the times in which we live. Combating stress is critical to a good night’s sleep, but the toughest part for people is often just getting motivated to make changes.”
Dr. Mark Aloia, Senior Director of Global Clinical Research, Philips
If you’re currently worried about your finances, have unsecured debts from personal borrowing and would like to speak confidentially to an advisor who can talk to you about the benefits and considerations of a range of debt solutions and personal insolvency solutions, then please get in touch by calling 0800 048 1764. You can also visit harringtonbrooks.co.uk to request a call back at a time to suit you. By requesting a call, you are under no obligation to use our services. Harrington Brooks provide solutions to customers living in England, Scotland and Wales.
Should you choose to undertake a plan or arrangement, there may be consequences to consider, including restrictions on future expenditure, lending and on your ability to obtain further or future credit. Fees, terms and conditions apply. For further information and advice please visit www.harringtonbrooks.co.uk.
It seems that the each year we all wait to see what the Chancellor has to say about the state of the economy and whether or not his budget will affect our own pockets.
Some of the key points in case you missed them are:
Personal Tax Allowance, to go up to £10,800 from April next year. This means that you can now earn more, before your earnings are taxed.
The price of a pint cut by 1p.
Whisky and cider taxes cut by 2p.
No change to tax on cigarettes – meaning prices stay the same.
The scheduled increase on petrol duty planned for September has been scrapped which indicates that tax on petrol prices should not be increasing
Annual paper tax returns, for people who are self employed for instance, will be no more as the Government will look to introduce an online tax return and payments system within the next five years. Meaning you can pay tax at any point in the year and at various intervals.
Although not part of this budget the tax threshold (which is how much you can earn in a year before having to pay tax) is being increased in April from £10,000 to £10,600. And as of October the minimum wage is increasing to £6.70 per hour. So from a tax perspective, we’ll all be slightly better off and those on the minimum wage will be even more better off.
Whilst the Chancellor may have some time to plan for his budget speech, our advice for your budget is simple.
When you can do it, save what you can. It’s a good idea to have a buffer to help you manage should you incur any unexpected costs like a burst tyre or broken window.
If this budget can help some of you keep those few extra pounds in your pocket, make sure they stay there.
As the budget also included a new personal savings allowance, meaning the first £1000 of interest on savings will be tax free from April next year, there’s even more reason to save.
As this budget announcement is under eight weeks away from a general election some critics are arguing that ‘crowd pleasing’ policies will be featured to help swing voters.
Although he mentioned that there would be no gimmicks the Chancellor did, as you may expect, pull a few headline grabbing changes out of the hat. If they help the current Government stay in power then it may have proved to be valuable for the government and voters alike.
If you’re currently worried about your finances, have unsecured debts from personal borrowing and would like to speak confidentially to an advisor who can talk to you about the benefits and considerations of a range of debt resolutions and personal insolvency solutions, then please get in touch by calling 0800 048 1764. You can also visit www.harringtonbrooks.co.uk to request a call back at a time to suit you. By requesting a call, you are under no obligation to use our services. Harrington Brooks provide solutions to customers living in England, Scotland and Wales.
Should you choose to undertake a plan or arrangement, there may be consequences to consider, including restrictions on future expenditure, lending and on your ability to obtain further or future credit. Fees, terms and conditions apply. The services that we provide may be available at no cost from other government and charity based providers. For further information and advice please visit www.harringtonbrooks.co.uk.