Category Archives: MONEY MATTERS

millennial money mistakes

With news this week that home ownership amongst young people is the lowest it’s been in decades, you might find it interesting (or fit-of-rage-inducing) to know that your wake-up call of smashed avocado on sourdough toast with a perfectly poached egg that has been artfully placed on a plate is apparently the thing that is preventing you from buying a property.

Yep. You heard that right. The archetypal Millennial fruit (and probably an integral part of many new years’ resolutions) is being lauded as an obstruction to financial security.

Not only do the damned things seem to get ripe on the exact day that you have to get into the office early for a meeting (a meeting which will undoubtedly not involve any sort of delicious morsels to munch as Elspeth the early-riser witters on about something that doesn’t do anything to distract you from your famished state – Millennials need to eat every 2.2 hours don’t you know) and are completely inedible the next time you are actually able to contemplate not hitting the snooze button to create your Turner Prize-worthy breakfast (I jest – every Millennial is a morning person with bounding energy who, thanks to social media ramming it down our necks, knows that the key to being successful is to wake up hours before everyone else so you can beat them, obviously), but those already in the money are now telling us that you really can have too much of a good thing.

Earlier this year Australian property developer Tim Gurner did the unthinkable and told off an entire generation for spending too much money on what could be termed ‘lifestyle’ items, including brunches *gasp* and coffee *GASP*.

“When I was trying to buy my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each. We’re at a point now where the expectations of younger people are very, very high. They want to eat out every day; they want travel to Europe every year.

“The people that own homes today worked very, very hard for it (and) saved every dollar, did everything they could to get up the property investment ladder.”

“But”, I hear you cry, “Millennials love adorning every surface in their rented flats with fresh flowers and the sorts of candles that make every room smell fabulous and con their friends into thinking they have their sh*t together. Brunches are what weekends are for. And god forbid anyone that stands in the way of a 20 or 30-something and their daily trip to [insert name of favourite coffee shop here*]”.

*I’m not being paid to advertise so, in true Millennial style, I won’t promote anything if I don’t get something out of it myself.

Tim does have a point though (an apparent oversight of heart-palpitation-inducing property prices aside).

With beloved bottomless brunches averaging £30-£40 each, spin classes costing enough to put your head in a spin and coffees/ginger bread lattes (you can tell I’m still desperately holding onto that festive feeling even though Spring is in our midst) denting our wallets on such a frequent basis I think it’s fair to say that Millennials really haven’t chosen the cheapest forms of entertainment/morning kick up the backside/hydration. Just thinking about the amount of money you spend on these items alone per year may horrify you.

We can’t deny that there are so many ways that you could put your money to better use; whether that be investing it, saving it in a high-interest account or at least buying something that has a little more longevity than something that ultimately lasts about 20 minutes (although it could last several hours, if you’re like me and somehow forget to consume liquid even when absolutely parched and its approximately five inches from your mouse-wielding hand).

And, let’s be honest, we probably shouldn’t balk at anything said by someone who, at 34, has amassed a $460 million fortune and who Ernst & Young considered their Emerging Australian Entrepreneur of the year (even if, as the article stated, he was given a bit – read AUS$34,000 and determine whether you think that’s a ‘bit’ – of a leg up by his grandfather).

Whilst it’s completely understandable for many Millennials to consider stepping onto the first rung of the property ladder out of their reach and to bemoan the actions (or lack of action) by successive governments, frequent indulgences of the Millennial persuasion will never make the situation better.

But this blog is about being able to save and make money without impacting upon the lifestyle that you want and, with that in mind, I’ve come up with 5 mistakes that you may have been making which, if changed, may allow you to indulge in a few more – to steal Gunner’s terminology – ‘lifestyle’ items:

1. Not getting financially savvy

For some godforsaken reason Pythagoras is on the curriculum and financial know-how isn’t. Now this isn’t a dig at Pythagoras (I’ve actually found it quite useful when ‘home improving’) but it is an observation that our generation have learnt a lot in school that probably isn’t as useful to us now as getting a solid understanding of terminology that gives us the ability to create a future for ourselves where money is never a concern.

That said, there’s still time to learn! It pays (literally) to get a grip of financial jargon to give you the best chance of making clever decisions with your money. I hope that this blog is starting to give you a better idea but Google is your best friend when it comes to educating yourself.

2. Not using credit cards sensibly

A few years ago, I admitted to an journalist of a well-known Radio 4 consumer programme that was interviewing me at work that I had no credit whatsoever. In my early twenties this wasn’t unusual amongst my peer group, nor was it met with an expression of shock (apart from an older colleague sitting close to me who later told me she had 15 credit cards, with a balance on all of them).

Fast forward to now and I do have a credit card. One.

I’ve spoken before about having the correct money mindset and part of this is coming round to the idea that you should only ever spend what you have already earned. That means not using credit cards to make any purchases whatsoever unless you know that you already have the money to be able to pay it off.

I’m not against the idea of credit cards altogether. The complete opposite in fact. Having and using a credit card can ensure your own money is in your account that little bit longer so that it accrues interest, has the potential to boost your credit rating and certain purchases are also doubly protected should something go wrong. But the key to sensible use of credit cards is to ensure that you never have a balance so that no interest accrues. That means paying it off in full – which you’re able to do if you don’t spend money you don’t have.

3. Living beyond your means

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Millennials have a habit of chasing the proverbial dream of having the entire contents of beautifully decorated, vegan-friendly and Instagram-worthy cake shop and scoffing the whole damned lot.

As lovely as that sounds (apologies to those of you who have given up such glorious sugar-filled delicacies for lent), it’s completely unrealistic and will make you feel fairly sick for several days afterwards.

Metaphors aside; not living within your means can lead to severe debt and the best thing to do is to prevent it happening in the first place.

Budgeting is something that I’ll cover in more detail in future but a really useful exercise for now is to analyse your income and outgoings over the last month. That cab you decided to get on your way home from a night out with the girls just because your heels hurt; the manicure you treated yourself to; your alarmingly large phone bill. Count everything.

Not only should your income be greater than your outgoings, but to stand any chance of saving a deposit you need to be putting a large chunk of that income aside (see the 50/30/20 rule). Instead of spending throughout the month and putting the leftovers into a savings account, treat the amount you want to save as your first outgoing as soon as payday comes around.

4. Not realising the advantage of time

There are so many different points I could make here but what I want to get across is that it’s never too early to make a start on improving your financial future. In fact, the earlier the better!

I’ll be writing in more detail about investing, compound interest and pensions soon but starting to get your ducks (or bucks) in order now rather than in a year’s time really could pay off. Literally.

If you realise that you’ve been making these mistakes then don’t fret, you can do something about it. You’ve already done some of the hard work in recognising that your habits need to change.

All you need to do now is make a plan of action. After brunch.

Avocado on toast for me please.

H x

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4 ways to save before Christmas

With tomorrow marking just 30 days before ‘the big day’ you may be starting to panic.

Whether it’s because you’re concerned that half the turkey may need to be lobbed off to be able to fit it in your at-any-other-time-of-the-year-perfectly-roomy-enough oven, the looming prospect of jaw-ache from having to grin and recount your year to every family member or due to the fact that you have absolutely no idea what you’re going to get everyone, an additional worry may be how you’re going to afford to go to all the festivities that you’ll be invited to/buy the seven different Secret Santa presents you’ve somehow agreed to purchase/drink all the drinks you will legitimately have to knock back just to get through your work Christmas party.

With that in mind, I wanted to share 4 simple tips as to how you can make a real difference to your finances in just 30 days.

1. Stop buying coffee on your way to work

At the risk of becoming a social outcast I have a confession to make here – I don’t drink coffee. There, I said it. However, the number of commuters I see nursing a hot beverage in a paper cup every morning is clear evidence that I am not amongst the majority in this regard.

Aside from the fact that I’m speaking as someone that had an entire cup of the stuff thrown over me by someone whose paper cup lid had gone rogue on a train the other day and therefore thinks that a sturdy and reusable receptacle is the way to go if you don’t want to create a hate storm around you before 9am (not to mention the environmental benefits), the cost of a daily caffeine fix racks up.

Spending ‘just’ £2.50 on your liquid energy amounts to £12.50 a week or, wait for it, £650.00 a year!I wouldn’t dream of telling you to forego the thing that may make you vaguely human in the morning but, rather than hitting [insert name of your favourite coffee chain here] and the inevitable queue that comes with it, make your coffee at home before you go to work and stick it in a reusable thermal mug.

2. Take advantage of voucher codes and discounts

In this day and age there is no excuse not to look for a way of paying less for the things you want to spend your money on.

2 for 1 deals on meals out, special offers and voucher codes can all be sought out online, but there are also websites and apps that alert you whenever items you have your eye on are put on sale. Shoptagr and Lyst are great options.

Other ways of saving are by paying a one off fee to get access to discounts. Tastecard and Gourmet Society have been around for a few years but it’s worth having a look around for the new breed of discount cards.

I recently joined Sheerluxe VIP. I spent £5 and, without even mentioning all the other pretty fabulous benefits, went to 2 Psycle classes that are usually £20 each. As a side note, if you’re struggling for present ideas Sheerluxe has curated a Christmas list of dreams (some of which are fairly pricey but definitely worth a look).

Another top tip is to look at what offers are already available to you. By way of example O2 Priority and some credit providers offer discounts and even some freebies (the coffee drinkers amongst you who have a contract with 02 and balk at the idea of point number 1 above will no doubt appreciate the free hot drink you can get from Café Nero every Tuesday after 12pm).

3. Learn to live without UBER

Love it or hate it, the word ‘taxi’ has now been replaced by ‘Uber’.

The convenience of ordering a cab at the click of a button/a swipe of your phone and your ride being outside in a matter of minutes (if it doesn’t get cancelled that is) makes it all too easy to spend with sheer abandon.

Never mind the eye-watering surges that Uber always seems to stick on at the exact moment that you try to use it, paying for any sort of taxi will eat into your Christmas budgeting and, if possible, you can avoid it.

Whilst sharing a journey (or, to use the new jargon, ‘pooling’) can save you some cash, public transport is by far a cheaper option (safety and time permitting). And, if you’re not going far, walking is free and allows you to add to your all important step count.

Just make sure that you have some comfortable shoes with you (speaking from experience).

4. Cancel your gym membership

This sounds like a completely crazy idea given the inevitable festive indulgences that December brings but hear me out.Gym memberships and the growing trend of pay as you go classes can be extortionately expensive. The idea of spending £20 a time can surely only be justified if you emerge from your sweaty state looking like an Amazonian goddess after just one session. I’m not sure about the rest of you but sadly this hasn’t been my experience.

Yes running is free, yes you can watch hours of youTube videos (not a brilliant one if you have neighbours underneath you though) but sometimes you need the instructor and peer pressure to provide you with the motivation you need to hold that plank for an extra minute despite your arms feeling a bit like someone has attempted to rip them from your body in the manner of a child of the 90s playing with a Stretch Armstrong.

Thankfully some fantastic brands have come to the rescue and are providing free, yes FREE, opportunities to exercise with some of the best in the business.I’ll be writing a dedicated post on ‘frugal fitness’ soon but here are some crackers to keep the turkey tummy at bay in the meantime:

  • Women’s Health Run Club – get taken on a route around London with ‘breaks’ to fit some HITT in.
  • Lululemon – instructors from different boutique gyms are brought into the brand’s shops to put you though your paces. These classes are announced on Eventbrite, just put ‘Lululemon’ in the searchbar. Definitely keep checking back if you can’t see anything near you right now.
  • Sweaty Betty – each Sweaty Betty shop puts on a huge variety of classes. I used to go to a class run by the gorgeous Chiara of 4FitnessSake (who is a Sweaty Betty ambassador and put together the Women’s Health 10 week transformation plan so you can see the calibre of instructors SB give you). Top tip: book as early as you possibly can!
  • Adidas 26rs – the key is in the name with this one and it was set up to help those training for the marathon but it also caters for all abilities.

H x

 

freebie friday

First of all – apologies for my absence over the past few weeks. Life admin has gone in the way somewhat but I’m back on track and ready to provide you with some fantastic freebies!

LUXE by SheerLuxe

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BURBERRY My Burberry Blush

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LA MER Moisturising Matte Lotion

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GIVENCHY Matissime Velvet Fluid or Compact Foundation

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CHARLES WORTHINGTON samples

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BENEFIT POREfessional Pore Minimising Make-up

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ELEMIS samples

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AVEDA invati trio sample

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STARSKIN masks

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BURT’S BEES Soap Bark & Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream

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JOICO sample kit

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BOBBI BROWN Full Cover Concealer

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iGlow Long Lashes Serum

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ESTEE LAUDER Nutritious Micro-Algae

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MONU Skincare samples

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VICHY Slow Age

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CLARINS samples

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QUEEN Eye Make-up Remover

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EMPORIO ARMANI His and Hers

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DR BOTANICALS samples

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GIVENCHY Live Irrésistible Eau de Parfum Délicieuse

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BAREMINERALS SkinLongevity Serum and Eye Duo

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CLINIQUE appointment

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SENSORA Night Cream, Facial Oil and Micellar Water

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THE ECONOMIST print copy

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Hope you all have a wonderful Friday and weekend.

H x

spend less by eating seasonally

Eating healthily seems to be something that more and more people are setting as a priority in their lives. The only problem is that lots of the ingredients lauded as what we should be eating (aside from being things most of us had never heard of and could barely pronounce until a few years ago – quinoa being a prime example) are so damn expensive! 

My own bookshelves are brimming with recipe books that have the most delicious looking dishes in them, but even the most nutritious food in the world wouldn’t benefit me if I’m constantly being confronted with receipts that make me ill at the sight of them.

There’s a Whole Foods near me which houses all those niggly things that some recipes call for that I can’t seem to find in ‘normal’ supermarkets, but I wouldn’t dream of doing my weekly shop or fresh ingredients there (instead I simply go in and peruse the shelves for anything which looks to be on particularly good offer and take advantage of the tasters that I frequently get offered – the PULSIN Orange Choc Chip Protein Booster was a particular highlight).

One thing I’ve found incredibly useful is to buy seasonal produce.

The fact that the food is, on the whole, locally produced rather than imported and is in more abundant supply naturally lowers its cost.

Advocates of this method of choosing what food to buy include Madeleine Shaw, a nutritional health coach and nutritional therapist whose book ‘A Year of Beautiful Eating’ provides recipes and inspiration for different times of the year based on what ingredients will be at their very best (on a separate note – I’ve been cooking from her books since they first came out and literally everything I’ve made has been absolutely delicious. Her chickpea and lentil dhal is now a staple in my repertoire).

Madeleine notes that the benefits of seasonal eating go beyond the stabilisation of your bank balance. Better flavour; the chance to try new foods; the decreased environmental impact; and the fact that what is being grown will be what your body actually needs are among the reasons why she believes we should cook with and consume what is in season.

If you’re wondering what is currently in season then, never fear, your handy guide is here:june.jpg

As we move through the year I’ll update you as to what’s in season every month, so that you can make easy savings!

H x

how to save £1,000 a month

I recently explained to a friend that I was trying to save £1,000 each month and her instant reaction, as I’m sure mine would have been nine months ago, was that I must be earning far more than her to be able to even contemplate putting away this amount on a monthly basis.

However, the truth is that you don’t need to be earning a lot to be able to save a lot. You simply need to be careful with what you do with your income.

In the first steps I referred to the 50/30/20 principle – whereby 20% of your income should be saved. If you’re serious about saving, or building up an ’emergency fund’ that will give you financial freedom and the ability to choose what you actually want to do, you really need to be stashing away more than this though.

Having been completely motivated by Canna Sass of SugarMamma.TV to take control of my finances (her blog and YouTube channel are well worth a look if only to lust after her wardrobe, but she’s also a certified financial adviser), I read about what she called the ‘$1,000 Project’.

The $1,000 Project is a challenge Canna set for herself (and her readers) whereby she put money she saved, manifested and made into a savings account that was separate from her usual accounts. Once the balance on the account reached $1,000 she then invested it in long term passive income sources (i.e. ways of making money without you having to do anything…and doesn’t that sound amazing – more about this on the blog soon). Canna originally did this with the intention of buying a designer handbag with the money made from these investments but has since donated it to charity – what an inspiration!

My ultimate aim was to do just as Canna was doing and to invest the money I had saved and created myself above and beyond my salary – but to give myself some security (given the prospect that no investment is certain to provide a life-changing return) I wanted to build up my emergency fund first.

Now 1,000 Australian Dollars equates around £580 but, given my desire to achieve the financial independence I needed, I wanted to set my goals high so that I could do it as quickly as possible. £1,000 seems like a huge amount to save every month and, I’ll be honest, sometimes this wasn’t achievable but it was a nice round number to aim towards. You can set whatever goal you like, but I would say that having a large figure to aim for really does help imprint in your mind how stringent you need to be.

Although I wanted to save this amount every month, I didn’t want to compromise on the lifestyle I had already established for myself. Going out for dinner or a glass (*bottle) of wine with my friends is what keeps me sane, exercise and eating well is incredibly important to me, and I have expensive taste in clothes, shoes, handbags, jewellery, cushions, candles…you get the idea.

I therefore set about trying to find ways of doing and having what I wanted for as little as possible, or even for free! I was amazed to find that there are so many opportunities to do so. Most of these are well-documented (such as switching energy supplier or foregoing your morning coffee-shop coffee) but I wanted to share three ideas with you that you may not already have thought of.

1. Supermarket savings

Yellow stickered goods have filled my fridge for the best part of seven months. But these are not just any yellow stickered goods. These are Marks & Spencer yellow stickered goods. See what I did there?

Joking aside, finding out when your local supermarket makes reductions is an excellent way of saving money. I’m strangely proud of the number of delicious salads I’ve picked up for under a pound, the quarter-price salmon fillets I’ve delved at the bottom of the shop freezer for and the treat Indian takeaways for two that I’ve bought when they’ve been reduced to £1.49 instead of hitting Deliveroo (notice I try to go for the healthy stuff – my sister on the other hand has, on two occasions, come home with enormous cakes that have been reduced from £10 to 99p – one Galaxy one and one in the shape of a pug that said that it served 18. We ate it between the two of us within 26 hours…oops).

2. Forget gym fees

Moving on from gorging on cake to keeping fit…I haven’t paid for the gym since my change in circumstances nine months ago. I had previously been paying £25.99 a month at PureGym (which was actually a great deal for 24 hour access and all classes included, including a spin class with Katie Stones that was so good I used to drag myself out of bed at 05:45 for it) but, when reassessing my finances, couldn’t justify the fees the gyms around my new corner of London commanded.

I started looking online for different ways I could exercise for free and found that there are so many ways of doing so beyond simply going for a run or doing squats whilst brushing one’s teeth. Come back soon for a blog post dedicated to ‘frugal fitness’.

3. Become a mystery diner/shopper and product tester

I used to sit at my desk every lunchtime with a homemade salad or leftovers from the previous evening’s dinner which, as thrifty as this was, meant that I didn’t get out of the office all day and was frequently asked work-related questions or to complete tasks despite it supposedly being my lunch break.

It’s now become a running joke amongst my colleagues that I spend most of my lunchtimes reviewing different restaurants in the area around my office.

The premise behind mystery dining is that you go to a restaurant, write a review on things like the service you received, the cleanliness of the restaurant and the taste of the food and then you get reimbursed afterwards.

Not only have I been able to eat an awful lot of food for free as a result (so much so that I have, on occasions, been able to go two weeks without doing a food shop!), but I’ve found it’s an excellent way of getting some fresh air during my lunch break. Some mystery dines have also been in some fantastic restaurants and I’ve been able to treat some of my nearest and dearest to some fabulous meals as a result.

Mystery shopping works in much the same way but obviously you are buying products, as opposed to food, which you can keep afterwards.

I’ve also signed up to be a product tester through a number of different websites. Not only do you get to keep the product you’ve been sent to try but it’s a great way of finding new things that you may want to buy again without having to splurge on it first. I’ve actually been sent the best shampoo I’ve ever tried through one of these schemes (worth £28) which I would never have wanted to buy without knowing it lived up to the hype for myself.

For the ‘cost’ of writing a review, I would absolutely recommend this as a way of saving money.

I hope these ideas are of interest. I’ll be writing about each of them in more detail in the future but if you have any questions, or would like me to focus on anything in particular in these posts, please do get in touch.

Do you have at ideas as to how you can save money? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

H x