Six ways to make the holiday cash go further

17 Jun

Hey Skint pals,
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Apologies for the lack of posting here over the last couple of weeks – the old Skint back trouble flared up once again, making it nearly impossible to sit at a computer. for longer than ten minutes. Still, after a bit of a rest, and with cushion firmly tucked in behind me I am now back in the fray.
I’m now counting the days till the annual Skint camping trip in France. As regular readers will know, if you cut me open I’ll save money on holidayshave Camping Roolz written on my heart. There’s nothing like practically living outdoors for a couple of weeks after a long year in the city - and it happens to have the not-inconsiderable bonuses of being a great laugh and pretty damned thrifty too.
So thrifty in fact that we have managed to squeeze our pennies that bit further and be away for nearly three weeks this time – and I already know at the end of it I still won’t want to come home. We’re going with Eurocamp this year and have a week in the Dordogne and two on the west coast and now, with hols and flights booked I’m recoiling in terror at the thought of forking out three weeks spending money.
Camping’s a bargainous holiday, but you still need to eat and live once there, so I’ve put together a few ideas for making sure the holiday euros really go the distance.
 
 1) Buy suncream before you go. It has always struck me as one of summer’s little ironies: why suncream should cost waaaay more in warm, sunny climates than it does in our chilly homeland. You’d think, given economies of scale, that it should retail for less, but if you’ve ever run out of suncream abroad then you too will have experienced palpitations at the prices. A bottle of cream that costs £5 in the UK can easily set you back as much as 25 euros abroad. So, this year let’s all do our wallets a favour and and pack plenty of cream into our suitcases. In my experience the Skint family always needs three times as much as my initial estimate, so I’ll be packing more suncream and fewer clothes this year.
 2) Max your Money: Of course, if you want to make the most of your money whilst abroad, you have to know how to make it work for you before you even leave home. Don’t wait till you get abroad to withdraw cash at the ATM – savvy travellers sort it before they leave, using a service such as MoneyMax, which zips around all of the online currency sites in milliseconds, then does the maths to work out which deal is best for you. It takes fees into account as well, which can be rather mind-boggling.
  
 3) Plan your lunch at breakfast. This doesn’t apply to camping, but if you’re on a bed and breakfast or half-board deal at a hotel, you might want to think ahead a little and stock up at breakfast on a few goodies that will see you through the day. Some may call its sneaky, but I  say it’s savvy – butter a couple of rolls, wrap some slices of cheese and ham in a napkin, pop a banana or two in your beachbag and you’ve got yourself a ready-made picnic to see you through till dinner.
 
 4) Eat like the locals. This one scores both on value for money and on getting the most out of your holiday destination: wherever the locals eat dinner, make that your local too. Avoid the restaurants on the main strip offering overpriced tourist menus. Instead ask for recommendations in local shops or from hotel staff, explaining that you want to eat where the locals do. That way you can rest assured you’re not being ripped off with tourist prices and odds are that you’ll have a more memorable night too, really getting under the skin of the place you’re visiting. Check out tripadvisor’s forums to find out the best local haunts.
save money on holidays
5) Rent out your house whilst away: With the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer and lots of people travelling here from abroad, I know many savvy folks who will be leasing their homes through airbnb, then using  the revenue to fund their own summer holiday. This post from fellow blogger Prairie Eco Thrifter shows you how to give airbnb a try, as does this one from Paula at Afford Anything, who in her usual super-smart fashion, is using airbnb as a whole new income stream.
6) Turn off your 3G and roaming: Every year we read the horror stories of poor souls who kept the kids happy in the car by letting them watch kids TV on the iphone, then racked up a million pound bill.  You don’t want to be that person. Make sure your roaming is switched off , download any films etc you might want before you go, before you and use your nearest Wi-Fi hotspot whilst away whenever possible.
There are more holiday money-saving tips at this Dealchecker guide, which I contributed to recently as one of many money-saving bloggers. It’s worth a look before you pack your suitcase!
What about you, Skint pals? Do you have any other tips on how to get the most bang from your holiday bucks? If so, please do share them with us all.

Skint x

My early morning police call – and the Skint credit check results . . . revealed

14 May

Hey Skint pals, 

Remember the Skint break-in? How, when Baby Skint was just ten weeks old, chez Skint was burgled as we slept, leaving us without a car and as well as those irreplaceable items like newborn photos? 

Nasty at the time, but almost two years down the line we had put the whole thing behind us – or so I thought till a phone call from the police wakened me yesterday morning. 

Now, being wakened by a call from the police is enough to give anyone a fright, but thankfully it wasn’t bad news – more the intriguing kind. The police officer was calling to tell me that, two years after its disappearance the stolen Skintmobile has been found. What are the chances, eh? At the time, we were told that most stolen cars are recovered within three days – and if they’re not, you’ll most likely never see it again. So, where’s the Skintmobile been hanging out, eh?

Apparently its new owner had taken it to the garage for an MOT, triggering some sort of alarm bell to DVLA. Yikes, if the new owner had bought the car in good faith, that was a pretty nasty shock they must have got.

It’s all a bit of a mystery – the old Skintmobile always got its MOT in January, so I’m assuming the car must have been off the road for a bit: the police have said they’ll do some digging and let us know if they find out more. And they’ll also notify our insurers, because the stolen Skintmobile is legally theirs now. 

All this got me wondering again about how the break-in might have impacted on my identity security and credit history. I haven’t needed to apply for credit since the break-in but yesterday I couldn’t get it out of my head. With some key personal documents stolen in the break-in, and with a car registered in my name being stolen and presumably sold on – do I have anything to worry? 

check credit score - woman on phone

Take your own check – avoid nasty surprises

 

I decided it was time to run myself a little credit check, whilst there’s time to sort any issues. Better finding out about any ugly truths now than waiting till I might REALLY need to make an application for credit, (nice information here from Citizens Advice), and find myself with a poor score. It makes sense to be proactive with this one, because while credit checks alone won’t affect your credit status, a series of unsuccessful applications might. 

Whilst I know that there aren’t any big skeletons in the Skint closet, I have certainly missed the odd credit card payment deadline through lack of organisation, rather than lack of funds. Also, I just don’t know what the impact of the break-in has had on my identity and security. Stolen identity is, at its most dramatic, great fodder for psychological thrillers: on a day-to-day level though it’s a real pain in the neck to fix.

So, yesterday I used the independent Experian CreditExpert facility to check my credit score – heart in mouth the whole time. It’s astonishingly simple to run – I’d thought I’d be asked to enter all sorts of data about my mortgage, bank account details and so on, but actually the amount of data entry is mercifully minimal. Thankfully, because I was pretty nervous whilst waiting on the results, but: fanfare! Heraldic angels sing on high! My credit rating, Skint pals, is not just good but excellent! I am, it seems, in no great danger!

Here’s how they calculated it:

 The yippees

  •  I’ve had the same bank accounts for ages
  • I’ve had the same mortgage provider for more than twelve months
  • I have a low number of credit cards
  • I never max them out (I am very old-school in my use of credit cards.  They are used so rarely they might as well be wrapped in tissue paper      and kept in a display case.)

The yikes

  • I’ve recently missed payments on my credit card. Silly  me. I went on holiday and forgot to pay my card before I left. Twice.      *slaps wrist*
  • My credit card and store card limits are low. This  one surprised me – I’d thought I was being sensible by keeping them low      and would get a pat on the back for being responsible. Turns out having a low highest limit shows that lenders might view me as higher risk.

Right now I have a sort of Ready Brek glow of happiness around me  – all the better because I was worried before I did it. Even if the check had shown bad news however, I think it’s better to know, then take steps to fix it.

 What about you, Skint pals? Have you run a credit check on yourself? If so, was the diagnosis good or bad? Oh, and can you beat the Skintmobile record – have you ever had a stolen car recovered after even longer than two years?

 Skint x

 

 

 

 

Win £100 of supermarket vouchers!

30 Apr

Hey Skint pals, win supermarket vouchers

Phew, Glasgow is positively continental here today, and in a burst of spring cheer, I’m bringing you the chance to host the barbecue of the century for you and all your Skint pals. Or, if you’re the more sensible sort, the chance to stock your fridge and larder full of basics and a few special treats.

You see Skint pals, in collaboration with the folks at Debt Free Direct, we’ve got a little competition going to win supermarket vouchers worth £100. The vouchers are available for either Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys, Waitrose and M&S - handy, eh?

And whilst there’s no such thing as a free lunch, this comes pretty damned close: all you need to do is answer a simple question, to be entered into a prize draw.

Debt Free Direct run a blog called Making Money Go Further which is home to lots of money saving tips. They recently wrote about the importance of having an Emergency Budget and are on a mission to educate the nation about the importance of having some cash stashed away for rainy days and bad luck.

And so pals, that’s the thinking behind this little competition: a bid to let you put £100 of your usual grocery spend into your emergency budget instead.

Gimme the competition, you say! Well, nearly there. Before entering you just need to do a little light reading. Simply head over to the  Making Money Go Further blog and read the post ‘Why and how you should set up an emergency savings fund’. Done it? Then let’s go! 

<a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’d be lost without an emergency fund. If you own a house or have any sort of responsibilities at all (and who doesn’t have some?), it’s vital. What happens otherwise when a storm blows slates off the roof, or the boiler bursts in winter? Without an emergency fund you’re looking at trying to scrape cash together from family and friends or, worse, from quick loans. Having enough put aside to keep going for a bit if the worst happens is vital to my piece of mind.

What about you, Skint pals? How much do you think is right to set aside for emergencies? Three months salary? Six months? Let me know  – and best of luck for the competition. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, May 13. 

Skint x

Terms and conditions: The competition closes Tuesday May 13. Open to UK readers only. The vouchers are available for either Tesco, Asda, Sainsburys, Waitrose and M&S 

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Full of good intentions, outfoxed by life . . . sound like you?

15 Apr

Hey Skint pals,

The secret to making a success of life as an adult, I read recently, is to master the principle of deferred gratification. You know: study now, earn more later; ease off on designer shoes, be able to eat in your old age – that sort of thing. Simple formula really – so why is it so damned hard? Why, even when we know that the secret to a happy retirement lies in building savings, not designer dress collections, do we continue to resist?

Anyone who let the ISA deadline of April 5 slip past, full of good intentions to save, but outfoxed by life, will know what I mean. It takes a fair bit of effort to plan properly for your financial future. In fact, for most of us, getting a retirement plan together is up there in the fun stakes with getting more iron in your diet and regrouting the tiles round the bath. And so financial planning slips along at the bottom of the to-do list week after week – tell me I’m not the only one, am I? But . . . here and now Skint pals . . . this is where things change! After taking a little budget challenge in February, then examining my finances last month for the Skint garden makeover, I’m determined to keep moving forward with my rookie financial planning, chip chipping away till, by the end of the year I’ll be all financially tidied up.

A couple of things I’ve come across recently have strengthened my resolve to get seriously planning for retirement with minimal faffing around. The first was reading this jaw-dropping article by my favourite finance blogger J Money about the power of compound interest. Yep, compound  interest, folks. Even the terminology makes the eyes glaze over, doesn’t it? But when J Money showed how one penny doubling day by day would turn into $10 million by day 31, my eyes didn’t glaze any more. Can you imagine? Of course, we can’t expect 100% return on our cash every day, but it’s a neat trick to show the power of investing asap, then letting your money grow.

Then, right when I was open to it, this infographic from AJ Bell Youinvest popped into my  inbox, showing how much cash you need to invest, and when, for a decent retirement.

investing money

Well, that’s quite a read, huh? Whilst some of the more general stats, like the retirement age in 2050 being 84 (really?), make me raise my eyebrows all quizzical-like, the key message:  get your speed on when it comes to saving, is clear. That bit about what saving £200 per month gets you in the end if you start at 30 (£252,000), as opposed to if you start at 45 (£73,000)? That’s the scary bit for me. I tick the age box somewhere between those two (your guess as to where, my friends), and that stat brought home to me how procrastinating on decisions about saving and investing have one heck of an impact on your later quality of life.

And so, with the Skint garden project nearing its end (more on that in my next post), bringing the nine-year renovation of Chez Skint pretty much to a close, any savings from now on are earmarked for the Future, (which is, as we all know, light years ahead of the future). Short-term savings goals are less important to me now – I’m thinking of the bigger, foggier, scarier days, years and years from now, when my misspent youth catches up with me health-wise, at exactly the same time as the Little Skints’ are misspending theirs at college. (Or at cyber-school, or whatever it’ll be called then.) Going to need some financial cushioning then, pals – better get serious about it now.

At what age did you start seriously saving with a view to your future? Not for fairly immediate purchases like a car, but for your retirement/kids’ college fund etc? Or is that ship yet to set sail? Are you still on the party boat; destination good times? Let me know, Skint pals, maybe we can get a little savers’ support group underway!

Skint x

Supermarket Sneak! Five ways to cut the cost of your weekly shop

1 Apr

Hey Skint pals,

Do you remember Supermarket Sweep? That morning TV game show, so beloved of students everywhere, with Dale Winton carousing round the aisles shouting encouragement, as contestants jostled to fill their trolleys high?save money on food

Back then, pre-internet, finding ways to snag a trolley-load of food for next to nothing seemed the stuff of  dreams. We were so in thrall to the idea of bagging supermarket bargains that we devoted whole mornings to watching others do it.

These days, food prices might be higher but thanks to the internet we can all find ways to stretch the grocery budget.

Here are five skint ways to cut the cost of your weekly shop:

 MysupermarketI’ve written before about this one because I love it so. This handy app  lets you compare prices at Waitrose, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Aldi so you can find out where to do your shop before you leave home – the average saving on a weekly shop is £17. They’ve also just launched an app, mysuperlist. 

Quidco – This cashback site effectively gives you money back for doing your shopping online, so you may as well log on to the Quidco website first, then click through from there to your retailer. Many people don’t know that you can use Quidco on certain items even if you’ve shopped instore – you just upload a scan of your receipt and Quidco will pay cashback on those items too.  

Take your own music – Seriously folks. A sneaky supermarket trick is to play slow music which encourages us to linger instore, thereby buying more. Why else would they play that god-awful musak? So, get the disco music pumping through your headphones and you’ll whiz round the supermarket in no time and escape slow death in the baked goods aisle. 

Read the small print – Those headline offers don’t always give the best value. Make sure to read the small print underneath which tells you the price per 100g or the price per roll etc. A recent Which? study found that Asda was selling 12 rolls of Andrex toilet paper, which it had labelled as great value, for more per roll than a four pack not on offer. Bigger isn’t necessarily cheaper and offers aren’t always money savers.

 Get the best supermarket own brands - Food critic Martin Isark is on a mission to change the perception that generic brands - like Hellmans for example – are always tastier than supermarket own brands. He has chomped his way through thousands of own brand products and rated them out of 10, bless his soul. You can read his findings here in the The Supermarket Own Brand Guide and then decide whether to take a punt on them. Generally I’m happy to use supermarket own brands, but always stay loyal to Schweppes when it comes to tonic water, in the belief that it tastes far better. So, it’s time to try Martin’s suggestions for cheaper brands and see whether or not the cocktails suffer. I’ll report back from the frontline after some serious G&T taste tests. All in the line of duty, pals. You’re welcome.

What’s your top tip for saving money on your weekly shop?

Skint x

 

Are cash ISAs worth it? And other conundrums.

18 Mar

Spring is here, Skint pals!

Well in Glasgow anyway; suddenly, gloriously.  It has gone from driving rain to daffodils and if I’m feeling particularly chipper it’s because I’m looking ahead to the Skint Garden Makeover, later this month, which I hope will deliver a magical transformation of our titchy city space.  

This time last month we still weren’t sure if it would go ahead – a mix of doubts over budgets and being let down by a tradesman. But it’s full steam ahead now and – all going well – we’ll be enjoying  an evening G&T in it by Easter. 

With garden saving in mind you may remember that I opted to take a little Budget Challenge in February, using it as an opportunity to get my finances in shape. I identified four areas where I hoped to shave money off of my monthly spend and promised I’d report back saying what I’d done, so here’s the results pals:

woman on phone - finance makeover

The very first text message?

 

    • First up: sort out my savings accounts. These were in a shocking state. Because interest is so low, returns aren’t good generally, and because of that I’d let things slide to the point where an ISA was generating £3 a year. Rubbish! That’s less than the going rate for the Tooth Fairy these day. So I took a morning to search for better rates – such as they are.  An ISA was due to revert from a decent to a rubbish rate on February 27th and I managed to give my provider a call just in the nick of time to switch to a better deal. If I hadn’t made the call I’d have been looking at a shift to a 0.1% rate – as it is I’ve got . .  wait for it . . 1%! Well, hallelujah, huh? That’s surely going to pay for the garden makeover! The only upside of such rotten cash ISA rates is to strengthen my resolve not to bother with them at all in this tax year. Whilst I know a lot of people believe in maxing out their ISA allowance each year – both cash and stocks and shares – I personally see little point in cash ISAs whilst interest rates are so low. The best one I’ve found this year so far offers only 1.75% (Stafford Railway Building Society)  – not enough to lure me in. Any money I’ve got spare to put away I’m putting into a Stocks and Shares ISA, then letting it sit there for as long as I possibly can.

 

  •  Switch home insurance. At first I though this was going to be an easy one. With my home insurance due for renewal I did a quote comparison and was delighted to find that our current insurer, Swinton, actually came out pretty much on top. With little difference, (about £12),  between the renewal rate from our current insurer (£352), and the best rate from the price comparison site, it made sense for me to take the path of least resistance stick with Swinton. So, I phoned them to renew. I also wanted to remind them that we’d added an extra bedroom this year, following some work on the loft. ‘Right,’ I’ll just have to put you on hold,’ the woman told me. A few minutes later she came back .’Um, having the extra bedroom takes your quote up to £456.’  Whaaaa? £100 a year for an extra bedroom? Don’t think so. The price comparison site quote was for  way less, and was based on a four-bedroom house – so I got my haggling head on, Skint pals, and told her that I’d be moving insurer. Cue some umming and aahing, then me being popped on hold again. Ten minutes later she came back .’Right then, the best we can do is £356.’ Done! That’s £100, just for asking. I’m zealous about always asking for discounts on insurance, utilities, phone deals etc: inspired by Martin Lewis’ classic article about saving £1000 from one day of work on your finances. Boy, it’s worth it. In this case, hanging on the phone for ten minutes saved me £100.

 

  • Nix the money-eaters. All of those pesky little budget-suckers that eat up a good £50 a month if not more - these were on my list to blitz in February. But, umm, I didn’t. Magazine subscriptions, snacks on the go, buying too many newspapers - I’ve been putting this one off. Perhaps I don’t really want to give up these little pleasures.  And happily I found justification in my decision, when US blogger ,the Dough Roller carried a post this week about how saving money on lattes will never cut the mustard when it comes to getting yourself rich. Phew, that’s what I love – a new financial theory that gets me off the hook and lets me carry on enjoying my coffee . . .

 

  • Update the Skint monthly budget. I vowed to shave money off other monthly spends and I can report only partial progress on this one, folks. I’m in the middle of the Kafka-esque hell that is switching home phone and broadband provider – this will save me some cash, though may cost me my sanity, as it’s providing only slightly less complicated than running the FTSE. After this is sorted I’m turning my attentions fully to ISAs before the tax year ends on April 5.

Skint pals, do you still think cash ISAs are worth investing in? Are you loyal to them, no matter the rates, or will you, like me, be finding other ways to stash any spare cash this year?

 Skint x

Photo credit: Amoreux Vintage

Do you have ‘secret savings’ from your partner?

5 Mar

Hey Skint pals,

Sorry for the delay since the last posting. For the first time since t’internet was born I’ve had more than a week offline, due to a back and neck injury. It wasn’t all bad. When I wasn’t being pulled and prodded by physios and the like, or quaffing ibuprofen with every meal, I got some time to lie back, listen to music and think. No screens, no housework and no heavy lifting - could have been worse. Now I’m on the mend, but under strict instructions that things must change. So it’s no  more hunching on the sofa as I type – now it’s a retro  desktop for me.

One article that I read whilst on my enforced break has stayed with me and I wanted to share it with you, Skint pals: according to research, just over a third of married Britons claim to have secret savings, which they keep without their partner’s knowledge, with the majority claiming they do so in case of relationship breakdown. Stashing cash away from partners’ prying eyes is  more common than I thought, with 35% of married people claiming to have secret savings. The study was conducted buy vouchercloud, who surveyed almost 2000 couples, all of whom had been married for at least a year.

keep savings secret

What’s fudge got to do with it? Wonder if this pair of fudge-hating hand-holders are clandestine with their cash?

 The top five reasons for secret savings:

1)      In case of relationship breakdown- 47%

2)      Don’t trust my partner with money- 40%

3)      Like to have my own money- 32%

4)      To use on secret purchases for myself- 22%

5)      To use on secret purchases for partner- 17%

Most common ways of stashing secret savings

1)      Savings account- 57%

2)      Money in current account- 31%

3)      Kept for me by friend/family- 25%

The last of these reasons surprised me most – of those surveyed 25% would trust other family members or pals enough to hand over their cash for safe keeping, but wouldn’t trust their spouse with the same.

And, when asked if they intended to tell their partner about their secret savings in the near future, over half - 56% – said ‘no.’ Are they rascals or realists?

In addition, three fifths, 60%, of the respondents with secret savings admitted they thought their partner would be ‘annoyed’ should they find out about their stash – suggesting that they don’t have an entirely clear conscience about their secretive ways.

Now, here’s where it gets really interesting:  70% of those surveyed admitted that they would be annoyed to find out their partner had secret savings without their knowledge.

So, what do you think, Skint pals? Are those who keep their savings stash secret prioritising their loot over love? Or do you think it’s fine to squirrel cash away for a rainy day – it’s up to you what you do with your money after all. Mr Skint, I’d especially like to hear your views . . .  heh heh.

And those who do squirrel cash away – does it stay secret forever? Or is there a point at which you’d reveal all – say if your partner lost her/his job? Or what about if one day you fancy breaking in to your stash to buy yourself a new sports car – try explaining that one . . . It’s truly a conundrum, Skint pals, and that’s how we like it.

Skint x

Photo credit: luridwasbeautiful

Lessons from the Tooth Fairy

19 Feb

Hey Skint pals,

Little Skint is at the wobbly tooth stage. Two bottom ones are already out and last week, whilst on a trip to London to visit Mr Skint’s parents, her first top one was dangling by a thread.

 A retired dentist, Grandad predicted that it would be out by the time we left – he was itching to get his hands on it and whip it out himself. We decided to let nature take its course though and sure enough, the night before we were due to return to Glasgow, the tooth gave its last wobble and fell out just before bathtime. Cue much wailing and a not insignificant amount of blood – Little Skint is rather dramatic at the best of times, so the sight of the blood was her personal equivalent of the apocalypse: till we mentioned the Tooth Fairy. tooth fairy

‘Tooth Fairy?’ she grinned through the blood. ‘I’d forgotten about her.’ 

And, just like that, the blood and pain were replaced by hope and plans for buying ice-cream.

 ‘Does the Tooth Fairy come to London?’ Little Skint asked, familiar only with the Fairy’s Glaswegian route.

 Yes, it was confirmed, the tooth fairy sometimes journeyed south. There was some family speculation about whether London weighting applied, quickly quashed by me. 

‘How much does the Tooth Fairy pay again?’ Little Skint quizzed. 

Now, there’s a question that has perplexed parents since records began. ‘£1.50,’ I answered, fast, before anyone else could put in a higher bid.

 ‘Chloe’s Tooth Fairy pays £2,’ Little Skint flashed back.

 What to do when your tooth fairy is, quite frankly skinter/tighter than the Tooth Fairies of school friends? I do feel that in the interests of national family harmony there ought to be some sort of agreed standard – a task perhaps for the Minister for Families and Children, if not the Chancellor himself. 

After all, when you consider the number of children worldwide, and the potential investment in the global confectionery industries as a result of increased Tooth Fairy expenditure, well, it’s a matter surely for the IMF.  

Anyway, Little Skint got lucky that night in London, because the only small change available turned out to be a £2 coin. But she didn’t get off with spending it on ice-cream. I have decided to use the Tooth Fairy’s visits as a little lesson in saving; oh, lucky daughter of mine.  

 A new, highly sophisticated economic formula has been now devised. Twenty baby teeth = 20 x £2 = saving up for something big. I’m currently trying to persuade Little Skint that ‘something big’ is more attractive than frittering the cash away on buying an ice-cream each time the fairy visits.

 I’m even thinking that the Tooth Fairy might leave Little Skint a piggy bank on her next visit, together with a note suggesting the she saves the cash. After all, what’s the point in going along with the expensive traditions of Santa, the Tooth Fairy, etc if parents can’t exploit them for their own ideological ends?

Easter Bunny, I’m coming after you next. I will find a way to turn chocolate into a lesson on personal finance if it’s the last thing I do. 

What’s the going rate for the Tooth Fairy round your way, folks? And do you have any thoughts on how to get kids saving? Let the tooth be told!

 Skint x

 Photo credit: historyspaces

Holidays less ordinary: cheap holiday ideas for when the beach just won’t cut it.

7 Feb

Hola, Skint pals, guten tag and boujour to you too!

Why am I showing off my incredible command of three major European langauges, I hear you ask? Oh, okay then I’ll tell you . . .

Today I bring you the second part of the Skint mini-series focusing on getting the best deals from your summer holidays this year. Last week I shared some of the best ways to snag a city break on a budget and today we’re looking at holidays less ordinary - great summer holidays which are not only cheaper then your standard package break, but are way more interesting too. frugal holiday ideas butlins monorail

See, so many of the cheap summer holiday deals are a little, shall we say, dull? A fortnight on the Costa Brava has its place, but sometimes you want to think outside the beach a little. But unusual holidays are pricey, right? Surely last-minute packages are the best budget option?  Not necessarily, mes Skint amis!

Sometimes unusual and cheap get into bed together and when they do – ooh, it’s good. Here are four cheap holiday ideas that will keep the snooze factor at bay.

A holiday to boast to office colleagues about, which costs less than a fortnight on a Spanish beach – yup, we’re living the dream over here today . . .

Say hi to the sandman

One of the stand-out days of my life? The day I went to the start of the desert. In Morocco we hired the services of a local guide to take us from the town of Ouarzazate into the desert. We climbed dunes; were taken to a rocky outcrop used by Hollywood to shoot several major films; gave a lift to some women returning home with their shopping, and spent the evening having dinner with our guide, his wife and their three-week old daughter. At night, the stars are the most amazing you’ll ever see and I vowed then to go back for a proper holiday. As soon as the little Skints are just a bit bigger, we’re off. You can camp out in North Africa’s deserts in standard tents, with camels for transport, and hiring a guide will let you see things you’d never have come across otherwise. The price of these holidays can work out cheaper than your standard European resort breaks. Try to support the local economy as much as you can by hiring local guides rather than going through a major operator, or use a responsible travel firm like this one , which lets you stay with local families. Several cheap flight operators fly to Marrakech, then share a Grand Taxi (old Mercedes that seat six) with other travellers heading south, splitting the cost depending on how far you’re going.

Camp it up

You know I love camping. Way back I worked a couple of summers as a campsite courier, cleaning tents, welcoming holidaymakers and making emergency dashes to the hypermarket for more beer. Now I return with the family, because for me camping offers the best kind of holiday – one that’s a total break from daily life. No high street, few cars, just lots of cycling, wine, lounging and chatting to new friends long into the night.  And it can be pretty cheap too. Eurocamp, one of the biggest of the catered camping firms, has a number of deals on its website right now, especially if you can travel in early summer. Here’s the link.

We are sailing . . .
Looking to slash both travel and accomodation costs? Why not combine them in a crafty fashion? A sailing holiday is a novel way to pile on a big group of family and friends and it can work out really cheaply. Meander through canals and rivers at a leisurely pace. Drink wine as you go. Life is but a dream. Don’t worry if you haven’t sailed before – the training’s all part of the package. I’ve never done this type of holiday but have pals who swear by it. Plus, you get to sing that Rod Stewart song A LOT . . . Digging around today I found some deals on barge holidays that might be a place to start. Can’t vouch for it as never used this firm but if you’re thinking of a sailing holiday you might as well get the deals, right?

Take a staycation

If you really lack the cash to travel anywhere but still want to get away I recently met someone who swapped home with an acquaintance in the same city! An easy, free way to experience a change of scene – would you? Even if you don’t have an eligible swapee in your home town, you can still have a true holiday at home. Plumping for a staycation lets you do all the things in your town that you don’t normally get around to doing – seeing that museum exhibition; checking out the arthouse cinema; visiting that new café. And at the end of the day you get to sleep in your cosy bed. There’s one rule though – no chores allowed. No cleaning, apart from the essentials, no using the time to visit the dentist or get the car serviced. You’re on holiday, remember – your mission is to relax and have fun.

 What idea do you have Skint pals for holidays less ordinary? I’d love to know. Share them please? Bonus points for those who pepper their comment with some franglais/spanglish . . .

Skint x

PS – I haven’t been paid or perked for any of these links to holidays providers - just like to share the holiday feeling . . .

Photo credit: Hows

Ouch! Skint accepts budget challenge – then winces in pain . . .

4 Feb

Hey Skint pals,

I’m feeling the pain over here this week . . . February’s an expensive month chez Skint. There are no less then five birthdays in the immediate Skint family this month, so not only is it a month full of cake, it’s also, December aside, my most expensive month of the year.

What better month then to accept a budgeting challenge? When the folks at the Great British Budget asked me to be two goldfishpart of their panel I said yes – foolish, moi? It’s a rotten month for me to maintain any sort of normal budget, yet here I am, agreeing to monitor my spending and report back in a month when hardly a day goes by without a dash to the card shop / flower shop / booze shop and um, goldfish shop. Yup, that’s right – as of yesterday, thanks to Little Skint’s birthday, Chez Skint has two new family members: Wriggle and Wendy.

The cheapest of all the birthday presents, they cost £2 each – if I turn a blind eye to the cost of the tank, food, toys and fern, that is. Just as well, since the rest of the month is a corker in terms of cost. Five birthdays; two new babies; a trip to London to celebrate all those birthdays; a party and yet here I am in the middle of it taking on a budgeting challenge.

I had to though. Got to rein things in a bit if I want to avoid financial ruin before summer.

I also have a big financial goal this year: saving enough cash to get our massively sloping garden on the straight and narrow. Living in the city, our garden is titchy – but its gradient isn’t. Last summer we put out a paddling pool and all the water slopped to one side, leaving the other half bone-dry. We’ve been living with it like this for eight years whilst we slowly save the cash to put it right – and I reckon if we play our budgets right, 2014 could well be our year! I’m determined to save the last of the cash needed for the garden makeover, hopefully in time for us to enjoy some glorious 2014 summer sun . . . 

So, it’s time to start spring cleaning my finances and here’s my plan for the rest of February:

  1. Sort out my savings accounts. I have been lax with these of late. I don’t think I’m maximising interest at all. Because rates are so low I’ve taken a what-does-it-matter approach, when actually it matters more than ever in these lean times to make the most of what little interest’s on offer. I’m setting a morning aside to sort this out.
  2. Switch home insurance. A couple of years back I made a massive saving on home insurance but that was pre break-in. Following the burglary it jumped up, and did so again last year, so it’s time for a review. In my experience, you get no points for loyalty with insurance – quite the opposite in fact.  
  3. Nix the money-eaters. I have quite a few of these: pesky little budget-suckers that eat up a good £50 a month if not more. Magazine subscriptions, snacks on the go, emergency trips to pricey corner shops; sorting this one requires a minsdset change.
  4. Update the Skint monthly budget. If we’re going to get that new garden the Skint savings plan really needs a boost. It’s time to take a look at the monthly budget and see where else we can shave costs and how much more we might be able to stash away.

I’ll be reporting back soon folks on my progress, ( or lack of.  . .).  If you fancy joining me in a little budgeting challenge this February let’s join forces!

Skint x