Thursday, 28 April 2011

A Right Royal Budget

Money Saving Madam has been pimping her writing wares.

So I thought I'd share with the bloggle readers the article I'd been asked to write about the financial perils of being a Princess, in light of that big event that is seemingly happening tomorrow.


Kate Middleton is all set to marry into the British Royal Family, but what sort of financial worries does as a soon-to-be princess have? Do real-life princesses face budgets, money issues or financial stress? Rachel Brown ponders a few of the money challenges Kate Middleton might be facing as she prepares to be the future Queen.

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the past few months, you cannot have failed to notice that in London, this Friday, a boy named Will is getting hitched to a girl named Kate, and the World will be glued to their television sets to witness it.

But Friday is just the beginning.  Although Kate has been dating Prince William for some time now, and will have some idea of what she is getting herself into; what can she expect her financial life to look like as Britain’s future Queen?

Will Kate be overwhelmed with the wealth of The Royals?

‘The Prince will marry the pauper’, or at least that’s what people are suggesting.  A Royal has fallen for a commoner – blue-blooded William and ‘just plain Kate.’

But the reality is quite far from this. Although a ‘commoner’, Kate Middleton's family are financially very well off. Kate’s parents have built up a comfortable nest egg from a successful online party business, Party Pieces - established in 1987.

The income has contributed to a lifestyle that includes a £1m house in a desirable part of England, and the funds to put their three children, Kate, Pippa and James, through some of the most expensive private schools in Britain, which for Kate alone would have cost an estimated £250,000. 

If and when William becomes King, then Kate’s income will take on a new dimension. The Queen's own assets are estimated at £290m, according to the Sunday Times Rich List. So in this respect, the wealth Kate has experienced in her formative years is a far cry of what is yet to come.

Who will pick up Kate’s wedding bill?

Formal etiquette dictates that the family of the bride should pay for the wedding, but matters are somewhat complicated when you are marrying the future King.

The Royal Family will pay for the wedding.  However, Kate’s family will make a private contribution to the day, and the Government and UK taxpayer will pay for all consequential costs.

Will Kate have her own money?

It is unlikely that Kate will have to sacrifice her own savings and bank account once married, and will most likely retain autonomy in this area. Indeed Kate’s future grandmother-in-law, the Queen herself, has her own funds and finances.

It has long been suggested that the Queen never carries cash or credit cards, as she has assistants who make all required purchases for her. However, if any member of the Royal Family finds themselves short of cash, there is always a handy ATM inside Buckingham Palace – for the exclusive Coutts Bank, of course! 

Will Kate have a job?

It is unlikely that Kate will undertake any paid employment once she and William marry. Until recently she was working for the family firm after a brief post-graduate foray into the outside world working for upmarket clothes store, Jigsaw. 

She is a clearly a bright lady, but at age of 29, the future Queen of England, has rather a thin CV for an A grade Marlborough educated pupil who gained a 2:1 in History of Art from St Andrew's University.

But now, she will be taking on the full-time job of being the wife of Prince William, which will probably occupy all of her time and energy. Catherine Oxenburgh, daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, said of Kate working, “she most likely will not have a job. She will write a lot of thank-you notes, she will do a lot of ribbon cutting, she will receive dignitaries and appear on behalf of her selected charities. Basically, she will be a public servant with a lot of perks.”

Will Kate be free to spend money as she chooses?
The Royal Family must be very careful how they are seen to be spending money, as their public engagements are funded by UK taxpayer’s money. Their fund is called the Civil List and major royals get payments from it to cover their expenses.

Kate does of course enjoy shopping, and just last week was spotted on the fashionable Kings Road in London – no doubt stocking up her honeymoon wardrobe. The Queen-in-waiting wandered down the shopping street like any ordinary bride-to-be, with just one bodyguard for protection. She could not help but crack a smile as she saw dozens of shops adorned with her name and Union Jack flags in preparation for the big event.
Only time will tell if her public shopping trips continue post nuptials, but in the face of the recession Great Britain is suffering from, Kate would be wise to be seen being careful with money. The Queen herself has encouraged members of the Royal Family to show support to the people during this economic downturn. Through her reign she has been renowned for extolling the virtues of frugality, and stated she would avoid any public displays of extravagance amid growing unemployment and financial strife.  In fact, so frugal is the Queen, that she even collected coupons towards the cost of her own wedding dress.

In order to continue to hold the respect and affection of the British people, Kate would do well to learn lessons of thrift from her Grandmother-in-law.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Soul for sale: Oxfam, Edinburgh

I have been reflecting on my clutter issue. This weekend, as promised, I have begun the clearing out. The black bags are piling up, and my digital camera and I have been busy snapping my unwanted (although mostly wanted) clothes to flog on eBay.

But I feel I am alone in my mess.

My flatmates’ idea of a home is somewhere you live without leaving the slightest impression of human habitation. That's why, before they go to bed every night, they move the scatter cushions half an inch from where they’ve been all day, so that the sofa looks like a derriere has never darkened its door.

My mother is also a tidy woman. You could literally eat off the floor of her kitchen, and if you leave an item of clothing even momentarily unattended it will be washed, ironed and ready to wear afresh before you even have time to ask ‘where did I put my cardigan?’ There are clean surfaces, a place for everything and everything in its place.

As discussed in my last post, Stuff it,I am not like this. Every surface is littered with books, paperwork that needs attending to, junk mail that needs the bin, and dare I confess it, half drunk mugs of tea.

Nothing is in its place because nothing has a place. How do you give something a place? Surely this is a question that should tax the minds of the world's finest philosophers, and yet most people seem to manage it quite naturally. So instead I pick my way through piles of clutter and weave the hoover in and out of the patches of visible floor. Whilst I have always maintained that life is too short, I am beginning to worry that I am leading a perilously inefficient and disorganised life.

From a practical, moral and I suspect bacterial perspective, it is basically wrong to live like this. And so I have begun the Great De-cluttering of 2011.

It is at times like these that I wish I lived in America. Oh to just have a yard sale. Dump all my stuff on the front lawn and sell my wares to the nosy neighbours. A car boot sale is not the same. And besides, I don’t own a car.

So instead the charity shop is benefiting from my great purge. But where does it end? Do I have to give away my bed?

My books will be safe. The dvds may not be so lucky. I’m sure my soul will be shattered as I sell all my dresses to ‘hot-shopper-666’ on eBay. Ah well I'll just tidy that up and put it in a binbag. Coming soon to an Oxfam near you.


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Friday, 22 April 2011

Stuff it

I am living in a clutter filled nightmare.

Life is fine when I have not done any laundry for a couple of weeks and the laundry basket is overflowing with towels, clothes and the like. However, fast-forward to the domestic-goddess moment where all of my clothes are washed and (I’d say ironed - but ironing’s against my religion) ready to be returned to a drawer or wardrobe, and I have an almighty problem.

This was highlighted yesterday when I broke my wardrobe whilst in the process of ramming something else into it. The back just came clean off in protest of my overfilling. The contents are now mainly spilled all over the floor. I should mention that the wardrobe was from Ikea, so it certainly wasn’t built to last, but I don’t think this is the point. I took this event as a sign.

I don’t have enough space.

Actually, correction: I have too much stuff.   

My stuff is starting to trouble me. I am beginning to think that more stuff equates to more stress. Each thing I own comes with a small expectation of responsibility. I look into my wardrobe and feel guilt. I glance into my drawers and see my neglect. When was the last time I wore this? Have I ever even used that?

Clothes are my weakness. I have never been one for gadgets, and can think of nothing worse than owning a giant plasma tv. But why do we all own so much stuff? We buy loads of it, most of which we can’t afford, won’t use and definitely don’t need.

We laugh about the old notion of ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’  But nowadays we even give numbers to the versions of things we’re buying so we can track which thing is newer and better and when we are officially out of date. You could say this is Mindless Consumerism 3.0.

I do not want to become one of the breed of people involved in ‘extreme de-cluttering’ or embrace some higher-power-zen notion that I could survive with just what was in my pockets.

I like owning more than one pair of underpants, could never part with my shelves full of tatty books, and would risk my life in a house-fire for my ghds.

But I do want to be able to shut the damned wardrobe.

Of course first I’ll need to fix the wardrobe. Although maybe it’d just be easier to buy a new one?

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Ringing in the charges

My mother called me recently to give me the exciting news that my parents now own a cordless telephone.

‘I’m ringing you from the kitchen,’ my mother delightedly squealed.

What a wonder.  Because a phone that is mobile is a brand new idea isn’t it Mum?

This newsflash was also proof that nagging works – albeit rather slowly on my parents. I say this because I spent the majority of my teenage years pleading with my parents to get a cordless phone.

Let me explain why.

The housephone in the Brown household sat in the hallway by the front door. This meant that telecommunication in the Brown household was 1.drafty 2. inconvenient (you had to sit on the staircase to make a phone-call, and thus every time anyone wanted up or down the stairs you had to huff-puff-and move) And 3. Your conversations were entirely public.

I do not miss those days. I did not enjoy offering a public broadcast service to my family, and also loathed the quarter-hourly updates of how much time I had been on the phone for.

My parents claimed the reasons for not moving to a cordless phone operation were twofold: i) the phones are expensive and ii) the phones have poor reception.

I would suggest that the drafty and public location of the phone was truthfully the motivating force. This kept teenage time on the phone to a minimum, and kept the bill right down.

In fact, in the course of writing this I have had a flashback. Something I have kept deeply buried for 14 years. Each of my friends was allocated their own accusatory colour as my father went through the itemised phone bill with his pack of highlighter pens. (She shivers)

Nowadays, so accustomed am I to chatting on my mobile, that when I hear an actual telephone ring I feel compelled to answer it with my best telephone voice, ‘Good Morning, Rachel Brown speaking.’ Yet further proof that I probably need to leave my job.

But it seems that we Britons are not following the frugal doctrines that my father enforced on the phone bill. In fact, how many of us even check our phone bill? Each month we wave goodbye to the direct debit, blissfully ignorant of what we are paying for.

We do not keep our mobile phones in a place where we are reluctant to use them. They are not kept in a dusty and drafty spot. They are with us, ever-present, and ever bloody beeping.

And most worryingly, turns out they are a huge drain on our finances.
British mobile phone users are wasting an average of £195 a year on their mobile phone bills because they are on the wrong contract, a new report has found.
Just over three quarters of people on monthly deals are paying over the odds, signing up to tariffs after wrongly estimating how many minutes and text messages they use.
And many of us do not even know which package we are on. Do you know how many minutes, texts and internet-ing time you are entitled to? Be honest, did you just agree to whatever the salesman suggested because you could get a free Iphone?
And what the hell is a bolt on? Who is roaming? Why do I need streaming? WHAT THE HELL AM I PAYING FOR?
And breathe.
Money Saving Madam’s top tips for not wasting money on phonebills.
  1. Check your phone bill each month. Do not just wave a fond farewell to your direct debit payment. Phone companies make mistakes. (Probably quite frequently)
  2. Check your allowances and see if you are using them. You can call your provider and ask them to check this information for you. If you are not using them up, then try and negotiate a lower package.
  3. If you are about to sign up for a package because of the ‘free’ phone, then wise up and realise it is not free. You may well be better off buying the phone outright and then getting a cheaper monthly tariff. If you don’t take a new handset you can often get rewarded with many hundreds of pounds off your bill.
  4. Money Saving Madam’s favourite: Always threaten to leave when your contract runs out. Call up and ask to be put through to cancellations. Explain that you have found a better deal elsewhere. Put in an Oscar worthy performance. The cancellation team (or ‘retention’ team as they are otherwise known) can offer you a far better package than anyone else. It costs them a lot less to keep you as a customer than to recruit a new one.

That’s all for now.

Sorry, but I've got to dash, I need a set of coloured highlighters.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Things my Saturday job taught me

I think I need a Saturday job. This would serve a dual purpose. 1. Keep me out of the shops. 2. Earn me extra cash.

Luckily I have some Saturday job work experience behind me.

I had a brief stint as a paper girl. Because (irritatingly) I attended the Grammar School 2 buses away from my home, rather than the comp around the corner, I was unable to pick up a lucrative morning paper round. Really, what were my parents thinking?

I tried a Sunday morning round. This paid £2 a week. I had to get up 6am. Even at 14 £2 was not worth getting out of bed for. I wrote a resignation letter to the paper-shop, apologising for letting them down and explaining that my school work really did need to take priority as I approached my GCSEs. They said it was the first resignation they had ever received. Silly Grammar School Girl was I.

So instead, I started delivering the free paper. In Wolverhampton, this was the Adnews. I am starting to develop back-pain and can almost certainly pin-point its beginning to this bloody paper round. 500 papers. One trolley and one bag. A determination to take the whole damned lot in one go, (unaware that 13 years later my back would start to pay the price) and a less than lucrative neighbourhood to deliver to. And although they paid me, it was basically free for the Adnews to have me deliver their free paper. I wouldn’t like to speculate, but I’m sure Primark pay their workers more.

Lessons from a Career as a Paper Girl

1. People notice if you deliver their free newspaper (totally devoid of news) late. People are sitting at home waiting for it and will report you for its late arrival.
2. If people have a sign on their gate that warns ‘my dog bites’ – it probably does. And the owner is probably not much friendlier.
3. Don’t be a teenage smoker. Your paper round will not even cover your fag habit. 
4. Fly-tipping your entire week’s worth of papers is wholly illegal but utterly liberating.

By a miracle I managed not to get sacked, bitten by a dog or jumped by an angry Adnews fan, during a long 12 months of hauling 500 papers around the mean streets of Wolvo.

Aged 16 I hung up my paper-bag. I now knew better than writing a resignation letter, so I just stopped showing up. Turns out I was pretty replaceable.

I thought it was probably time I moved to an hourly paid position, and started a career in the glamorous and only slightly more lucrative, McDonalds.

Lessons from a Career as a Burger Flipper

1. I have worked the hardest in my life for that £3 an hour.
2. People think they are automatically superior to you because you are serving them a burger.
3. If you are polite and able to work out change from a fiver, you will never have to flip a burger again and will be promoted to a lifetime on the ‘till.’
4.Whilst this means you no longer face dangerous grill burns or smell of gherkins for days at a time, you are now face to face with the dreaded customer all day long.
5. Giving your friends extra fries/double cheeseburgers/happy meals toys, apparently does constitute theft.
6. You actually have to complete several tests to earn each star.
7.  If you have been a model employee for 2 years, your bosses will believe, (even in the face of damning evidence) that you did not deliberately knock that man’s milkshake all down him.

So if anyone knows of any Saturday jobs going in Edinburgh, please do get in touch. My criteria are: the lugging of heavy objects minimal, limited interaction with angry dogs, higher rate of pay than sweatshops and no requirement to wear a baseball cap.

I’m definitely not wearing a baseball cap.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves

So, Wednesday evening has rolled around again, and although the excitement was slightly eclipsed by the return of Desperate Housewives to out tellies, we settled in and have been taking tips from the penny-pinchers at Channel 4’s Waste Not Want Not.

Watch the episode at Channel

So what did we learn?

Well, 40% of us are unable to make our salary last until the end of the month. Tell us something we don’t know.

What can we do about it?

The little penny pinching things

Are your laddering tights the financial leak in your life? Apparently by putting them in the freezer we can make them last twice as long.

If your pesky kids or annoying visitors are using your loo roll like it’s going out of fashion; before use, give the tube a good squash. This will ensure that the roll doesn’t spin on the dispenser when pulled, and will save both your purse and the environment.

When you freezer is not full of your tights (or candles from last weeks tips) it might be wasting power cooling down the empty space around your oven chips. Fill it up with newspaper to ensure that it is working as efficiently – and thus cheaply – as possible.

Some bigger and more dramatic measures

Turn off the lights, unplug the TV and never leave anything on standby, and you will see an immediate difference to your electricity bill. (And you can feel a bit smug that you are saving the planet.)

Turn your thermostat down 2 degrees and save over £1000 annually on your heating bill. (After you have bought a thick jumper this will leave you £985 in profit.)

Get Bank Aware. This is surely the biggest lesson that we can learn from this week’s Superscrimpers. Did you know that the majority of bank accounts are paying 0% interest on savings? Do you know what your interest rate is? Call your bank now and find out.

People are blindly loyal to their bank. The average relationship with a high-street bank is 16 years. This is 2 years longer than the average long-term relationship. Your bank is not loyal to you, and will not take into consideration your supportive and dedicated love when you go into your overdraft or miss a payment.

If you have savings and your bank is not paying you a penny of interest on them – LEAVE. Move to one of the accounts below which are offering the best interest rates at the moment. It is categorically worth the small amount of hassle.

Halifax Reward Current Account, £6.25 per month

Santander Preferred Current Account, 4.89% (on balances up to £2500 for 12 months)

Lloyds TSB Classic Plus Account 1.49% (on balances up to £2500)

If you cannot be bothered to move your savings to a bank that will have the common courtesy to pay you interest on them, then at least move them to a suitcase under your bed. You will be no worse off, and at least then the bank cannot loan your money out to: 1. finance the arms’ trade 2. fund corrupt governments 3. support similarly dodgy endeavours.

Right, I’m off to move banks. Natwest and I are about to go our separate ways. It left the toilet seat up one too many times and I've had enough.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

You are NOT as fat as you imagine

Today, I was reminded of a song from 1999. 

I liked it at the time. Today I listened to it again. The lyrics are below, and a link to it on youtube is  here 

In 1999 I was 16 and thought I knew everything about the world. I thought I understood this song. Today, at 27, I know I don't. But I do wear sunscreen.

Ladies and gentlemen, enjoy. 

Baz Luhrmann: Everyone's free to wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. 

The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, 
whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh nevermind,  you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. 
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself,
and recall in a way you can’t grasp now, how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked, 
You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. 

The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing everyday that scares you.


Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts, 
don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don’t waste your time on jealousy, sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind, 
the race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember the compliments you receive, forget the insults, 
if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements.


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life, 
the most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives, 
some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium.

Be kind to your knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t, 
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, 
Maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary.

What ever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either, 
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s. 
Enjoy your body, use it every way you can, don’t be afraid of it, 
or what other people think of it, it’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but in your own living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good.

Be nice to your siblings, they are the best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but the precious few you should hold onto.
Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, 
the more you need the people you knew when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard, 
Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Accept certain inalienable truths, prices will rise, politicians will philander, 
you too will get old, and when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young 
prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund, 
Maybe you have a wealthy spouse; but you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair, or by the time you're 40, it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but, be patient with those who supply it. 

Advice is a form of nostalgia, 
dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, 
painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

A spot of sausage and mash?

Money Saving Madam has been doing a spot of reviewing for Itchy City Guides.

Read on for details of the finest (and most reasonable) Sausage and Mash north of the border.

Review a go-go

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Commemorative Mugs only £9.99

Sophia, this one is all about you.

Take an English castle, buckets of romance, an unseasonably sunny Saturday, a stunning ivory frock, sniffles in the church and inappropriate jokes in a speech.

Sounds like a right Royal Wedding.

Of course I am delighted for Miss Middleton, but this weekend, it was about a slightly more local breed of celebrity. The wedding of my dear friend, Sophia Potter.

She was complaining this weekend (it was her wedding day, she’s allowed to be demanding) that she had not yet featured in my blog. Well, Potter (now Ridley) – this one is for you.

I have just spent the weekend at a wedding that would not seem out of place in Jane Austen. But think slightly less demure women, more free-styling on the dance-routines and a few additional jager-bombs.

As a bridesmaid at said event, I am delighted to report that Sophia just about managed to stay on the right side of bride-zilla.

There were no hideous peach dresses, no ‘table-plan’ parties and no ridiculous demands.

Why do even normal girls go so gaga over weddings? It is beyond me. Even my sensible friends have done strange things, like growing their always-short hair long so it looks ‘weddingy’ in the shockingly expensive photos. The whole thing is a giant, frothy white puzzle that I just can’t crack.

A friend’s sister has even put limitations on the colour her skin can be for the wedding day. No sunshine or (horror) fake bake permitted for any of the bridesmaids, lest they upstage her golden hues. Best get inside and cover up then huh?

Sophia’s wedding was, of course, absolutely wonderful. Grand and ancient church, a vision of white floating down the aisle, dramatically throwing the bouquet over her shoulder and cutting into a giant cake. (I feel I should add that the wedding cake was made entirely of cheese. Not a cheesecake, you understand. A cake made of cheese.)

She even had Royal Wedding Top Trumps on the tables for the Wedding Breakfast, (meaning dinner, served at tea time) which she had blagged for free, pre-release from the publishers. Bravo, Money Saving Madam doth salute you.

She did the big day with style, grace and a drink in her hand.

However, I’m not entirely sure that The Big Day is for me. Maybe it’s a money thing. Maybe it’s media saturation (did you know that there are whole TV channels devoted to weddings now?). Or maybe it’s celebrities.  I mean, what on earth were Katy and Russell doing with those elephants and tigers and turbans?
I am happy to be proved wrong, but at this moment, the selfish notion of eloping for a two person ceremony followed by a fabulous five star holiday sounds like a far better option to me. I’ll buy my own toaster, thanks.

Sophia was slightly worried that one of my earliest posts, I don't was aimed at her. Well my dear, I did warn my engaged friends to look away, and Money Saving Madam has a duty to her readers to state the costs associated with attending these grand affairs.

But my dear, it was worth every penny. It was a magical weekend.

I do however have Potter-Ridley commemorative mugs available for sale.


Thursday, 7 April 2011

Superscrimpers: Wasting and wanting not

So, second instalment of Channel 4’s new series was on last night. Jumping on the Money Saving Madam bandwagon if you ask me, but maybe I’m biased.

If you missed it, watch it at 4 online here

In summary: Mrs Moneypenny is still wearing the orange hat and this week she showed the world her lovely beige bra too. She also met another family who were literally throwing money down the drain. Who spends 10k annually on food? That’s some nectar points right there.

This week, I thought I would divide my comment into 2 sections.

1. The ridiculous and 2. The less ridiculous.  That way, if you are pressed for time, you can decide which you’d rather go for.

Ridiculous advice from Superscrimpers Part 2

  1. Dog wool yarn can be just as effective as sheep wool. Turn your cute puppy into socks and mittens. Watch out pooches, times be tough.
  1. If your trainers have died a death, smell of a teenager’s bedroom and deserve only to end up in landfill, pour in cat-litter to revive them.
  1. Naming your children ‘Costcentre 1’ and ‘Costcentre 2’will encourage you to see them as the wasteful, expensive resources they really are.
  1. Pouring porridge oats into your mince will make the meat go twice as far. (and taste half as nice) Lasagne anyone?

Less ridiculous advice from Superscrimpers Part 2

  1. Wrapping paper can be reused. This is not ‘cheap,’ it is economical recycling. Sheets of nice wrapping paper can cost as much as £2-£3. When given a gift, delicately unwrap it. This will have the additional bonus of giving the illusion to the present giver that you are taking pleasure and time in unwrapping their generous and well considered gift. By then ironing the piece of paper, you will find that any remaining sellotape will peel clean off, and you have a fresh sheet – good as new.
  1. We should all try to spend no money at all for one week. (excluding the necessary of evils of rent/ electricity etc.) I will be doing this and blogging about the results very soon – but not this week you understand, I’ve got a wedding to go to.
  2. Credit cards are pretty evil. A balance of £400, at an ‘average’ interest rate, will take you 50 years to repay and cost you £3800 if you only make the minimum payments. If you have credit card debt –stop spending immediately, transfer your debts to a 0% credit card deal, (for current 0% balance transfer deals and good advice on this topic, visit Martin Lewis’ website here) and invest any spare cash in paying off this dreadful debt.
  3. Candles apparently burn for much longer if you have frozen the wax, so chuck your candles in the freezer and get twice the light/ fragrance/ ambience. Just the excuse I need to ‘invest’ in Jo Malone.
Did you see the show? Pick up any gems that I have missed. Let me know.

Oh, and if you ever find yourself darning your husband’s socks because he has put his long toe-nail through the end – throw the needle and thread away and buy him some nail scissors.  

It put me right off my dinner.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

A message in a bottle

This was my message in a bottle. (top)

Best when chilled: as indeed we all are.

Proof that gems of wisdom can be found everywhere. Even when you're least expecting them, on the top of your lemonade.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

The trouble with blogging

My blogging life started a little something like this:

I had an idea. That idea was to try and turn over a new leaf and become a saver. Read about this decision in my first ever post here.

I then had a second idea. Why not document my trials and tribulations in a blog? This would give me an outlet for my love of writing and provide a free hobby as per the saving strategy outlined. It would also make the mundane and painful task of saving into a project. I like a project.

The truth, readers, is that the blog project is going far better than the saving project, but if you’re a reader, you know that anyway.

They say that writing regularly is a path to self-discovery, a chance to work out what you want to do.

Now the irony of the blog going well is that I definitely haven’t worked out what I want to do, furthermore I’m pretty sure my life is rather boring. But I have been discovering. And what I have discovered is that blogging is not without its pitfalls. And currently mine are twofold.

  1. The Loss of Secrets.

There is something nice about having a secret and keeping it just for you. It gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling. Now, I’m not talking about the kind of secrets that ruin families, eat you up inside, or come out in the Queen Vic on Christmas day. No, just those pieces of information you like to occasionally hold onto for yourself.

Like, perhaps, finding your first grey hair. I blogged on this very matter (you can read it here) and ever since have felt people’s eyes searching through my thick dark hair for a rogue wiry grey ‘un. Well, you can all stop bloody looking, because I plucked it out.

The day after I had posted this, a friend sent me a link for hair dye. Oh, the hilarity.

When I find the hint of a moustache, you can bet your life that only me (and my beautician) will know about it.

  1. The confusion of my identity

If one more person tells me that Money Saving Madam wouldn’t be very happy with i) my holiday planning ii) my popping out for a cappuccino iii) my weekend plan, I am going to pitch them clean through the window.

I AM her people. She is me. This isn’t an alter-ego; this is the story of my attempt to save. Read the strapline: One girl. Trying to be frugal. Mainly failing.

I do not leave work, go into the phone box at the end of the street, spin around, and become a caped-credit-score crusader. I wish I did, but the reality just isn’t that exciting.

I am trying people.

Clothing shopping habits have taken at least an 80% cut. I bring a neatly parcelled packed lunch into work daily and am limiting my amazon book habit to 2 books per month. I cleared my credit card details from all websites, giving myself an extra few moments to decide I don’t need/can’t afford said item. I even gave up meat for a month to see if the cost saving was worth it. (Conclusion: it wasn't.)

I am not a hypocrite, nor a super-hero.

But I have cleared my overdraft.

Consumerism: 0    Money Saving Madam: 1