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Month: April 2017

What to do on a no spend weekend with kids

What to do on a no spend weekend with kids

Whilst it may be simple to have a no spend weekend with kids, it’s most certainly not easy.

Kids may not like doing the things we adults do to spend money- like food shopping for instance- and are happy with simple things, but it’s much more difficult to organise pulling off a no spend weekend with kids.

It’s easy to say ‘kids enjoy the free stuff just as much as expensive stuff’. It’s difficult, as adults to follow our own advice.

We want to make sure they’re exposed to a range of environments that we think are good for them- either for fun, development or both, and are happy to pay for that.

I’m guilty of telling my sister that she doesn’t have to spend money to entertain the girls, but as soon as I have them for a day, my mind jumps to all the cool places that we can visit and the free stuff doesn’t feel as fun to me!

I know that kids enjoy the free stuff- I was a kid once myself- and I’m sure you know that too! Whether you’re ready to tackle the mountainess challenge of a no spend weekend with kids in tow, or just want ideas for a few activities where you can keep your purse or wallet tucked away, check out my list of ideas for a no spend (family!) weekend.

32 things to do on a no spend weekend with kids

  1. Pond dipping- you can make your own net and download a guide to insects here 
  2. Feed the ducks
  3. Go on a bike ride
  4. Play in the park
  5. Launch a rocket
  6. Fly a kite
  7. Make a kite if you don’t already have one
  8. Craft recycling- Dig out cereal boxes, loo roll tubes, egg boxes and get creative!
  9. Play board games
  10. Make a new board game
  11. Make a treasure hunt
  12. Play hide the pegs in the garden
  13. Wash the car… just don’t expect perfection from little helpers!!
  14. Go on a nature walk
  15. Creative fun with a cardboard box
  16. Visit the library
  17. Watch a movie (you’ll probably be able to borrow for free from the library)
  18. Try geocaching
  19. Check out your store cupboard and bake up some tasty treats
  20. Have a picnic
  21. Make greetings cards
  22. Go to the beach (or a nearby play area with a sandpit)
  23. Visit a museum that has free entry
  24. Go for a stroll, walk or hike
  25. Make a bird kebab
  26. Play pooh sticks
  27. Go puddle jumping
  28. Make an obstacle course- indoor or outdoor
  29. Do some gardening (even if that just means digging a hole and watering the lawn!)
  30. Visit a pet shop
  31. Read and make up stories
  32. Take part in or watch local events in your town or city, like car shows, morris dancing or carnivals!

Ready to give it a shot?

It may not be as tough as you think! I have 5 simple tips for how to have a successful no spend weekend to help you along the way too!

If it seems to daunting right now or you wanna save this for later, why not pin it?

Have you tried a no spend weekend with kids and how did you get on? Was is easy or hard and what did they think of their weekend?

When being too good at saving is bad

When being too good at saving is bad

I know it sounds dramatic, but my obsession with saving nearly got me physically hurt last week. I’d never thought there was such a thing as being too good at saving or that saving too much could be a bad thing.

“Everything in moderation”, my Gran used to say, and I think that’s true with saving money.

Quite recently, something happened that made me realise I’m prioritising saving above something much more important. It’s really stupid. I could honestly kick myself.

So it’s a really dull story, and I’m glad about that. Because if this story had a different ending, it wouldn’t be very good at all.

How being a real cheapskate could have physically hurt

It’s about a saucepan. Please don’t stop reading yet, I promise it’s short and sweet…

It’s about a saucepan than we’ve had a long time. It’s fair to say our saucepan had seen better days. The base was seeping water a little, so if it hadn’t dried out completely after washing, it would gently hiss on the hob. The handles were plastic, and had started to flake a little underneath. Although it had seen better days, I figured it still had lots more life in it.

Just because stuff has seen better days, doesn’t mean it’s ready to get chucked out though, right? Well, in this case, it was wrong.

Last week when I was cooking dinner, I picked it from the pan stand and the saucepan clattered to the floor, leaving me holding only the handle. Where it had appeared flaky on the outside, it had well and truly crumbled on the inside. Had it held on a little longer, it could have been a pan of boiling water that had clattered to the floor. Another day, and I could have had one of my nieces in the kitchen with me. The thought of what could have been turns my stomach.

And just like that I realised how bloody stupid I’d been. If anything had happened to my husband or to any of my family because I was acting all frugal whilst actually being cheap and not buying a pan, I don’t know how I could forgive myself.

Later, I looked at our other saucepan, the £12 one we got from Ikea 7 years ago. It’s served us pretty well, but the plastic is showing signs of degradation. I was close to keeping it for a bit longer, before reminding myself what had just happened.

It’s just money. Sometimes you have to spend it when you’d rather not

And so, I have bought myself two new pans. Two pans that I should probably have bought a long time ago. Two that will hopefully last a long time- I did my research- but if they need to replaced, I’ll replace them as needed. Once I’ve had chance to thoroughly test them, I’ll let you know what I went for (if they’re any good)!

Whether you’re brilliant at saving or if you’re trying to get your financial act together, don’t forget the things that are important in life. Hint: The answer isn’t money.

I’d love to know if you’ve had any moments where your intended frugality has been cheapness or you’ve realised your money isn’t being put to work on things that are actually important. Surely I can’t be the only person to have been so silly with money?

Aiming for debt freedom? Knowledge is power

Aiming for debt freedom? Knowledge is power

Are you aiming for debt freedom? Understanding the cost of your debt can be a powerful motivator in helping you cut down on non-essential spending.

 

The are a couple of things it’s worth knowing, to give you a little extra push to repay that debt as quickly as you can:

How much interest you’re charged daily

If you don’t know this already, you may be surprised by how much interest you’re charged each and every day.

Let’s assume you take out a £150,000 mortgage over 25 years at a rate of 2.5%. At the start of the mortgage, you’re going to be charged daily interest of £10.27.

So before you’ve even got out of bed, you’re spending over £10. Or the equivalent of more than 4 coffees at Costa.

Makes you think twice about spending the amount of a fifth on an actual coffee, right?

To reduce your daily interest to £10 per day, you need to reduce your mortgage balance by £4,000. That might seem like a lot, but it’s a lot less than your mortgage and is a great first target to aim at.

How much you can save by overpaying

If that doesn’t work for you, perhaps the prospect of a nice juicy saving will motivate you?

Same story, if you have a £150,000 mortgage over 25 years at 2.5%, by repaying just £25 per month, you’ll save over £2,700 in interest AND be mortgage free a whole year sooner!

£25 might seem like a small amount extra when your debt is so high, but it really does make a difference.

Set a goal

Once you have the knowledge you need, the next step is to set yourself a goal and do something to shift that debt. Large debts looming over you might seem impossible to face, but setting smaller, manageable goals will help you stay focused and you’ll be able to measure the progress you’re making.

For example, you could:

  • aim to reduce the daily interest by a certain amount within a specified time frame
  • aim to reduce the balance by a certain amount within a specified time frame
  • aim to pay your debt of a specified number of months or years early

 

Find savings

There are lots of ways to make savings on your monthly budget. The grocery budget could be trimmed, or you could find a cheaper mobile phone contract. Shopping around for insurance quotes at renewal and regularly reviewing your energy tariff are other simple ways to save month in, month out, and throw extra money at your debts.

You don’t have to give up coffee, but you could cut one per week. You don’t have to stop going out, but you could socialise at home once per month. You don’t have to exist on bread and water, but you could eat meat free once per month.

Slowly but surely, changes you make will become habits and savings will start to snowball. Before you know it, you’ll be in your final sprint towards debt freedom!

Your story

Do you know how much your debt costs you each day or how much interest you would save by making relatively small overpayments? Do you have any other knowledge that makes it easier for you to keep pummeling your debt? Let me know in the comments below!

 

If you liked this post, please share it on twitter or facebook, or pin it to come back to later!

Making money with Swagbucks: My experience

Making money with Swagbucks: My experience

If you are looking for ways to make a few extra pounds online from home, you may have heard of Swagbucks. It’s a website that pays you in points called ‘swagbucks’ for doing a variety of tasks. When you hit 889, you can cash them in for a £5 amazon voucher, making each point worth 0.6p.

If you’re thinking about signing up, you might be wondering what I wondered; Is it worthwhile? This is my review after discovering it for myself. Its completely honest- I wouldn’t expect you to come back if it wasn’t!

Earning money on Swagbucks: My experience

Here’s a brief summary of some of the activities you can use the site for to earn those precious swagbucks and how I found each of them:

Search:

When you’re signed into your account, you can use the built in search engine to carry out searches that sometimes award swagbucks. Random searches seem to attract random amounts of swagbucks. The first search term I entered netted me 26 swag bucks, and after that I had a 6pt search and a 16pt search as well. To give an idea of success rate, I’d estimate it took 25 to 30 different searches to earn these three lots of swagbucks.

Once you get awarded swagbucks, they don’t credit without you entering 3 digits into a ‘captcha’ box to prove you’re not a robot. Within 3 or 4 seconds your points are credited.

The swagbucks search facility is powered by Yahoo. I am always open to trying alternatives to the brand leader (Aldi washing up liquid, I’m looking at you), but quickly found that there is a reason Yahoo isn’t the brand leader. Maybe you’ve tried cheap loo roll that you’ve regretted because it’s so thin? There’s a reason why Google is so popular.

So you can genuinely earn by using the search facility, but the amounts are low (In the case of my three examples, around 29p for 25 searches) AND you pay a time premium, due to the quality of the search results. If you’re genuinely trying to find something, you end up using Google anyway.

Searching with the Google add-on

Of course, there is a way around this, and that’s by adding swag bucks as an add on to google chrome. Thank goodness. Or not, as the case may be.

The add on makes everything s  l  o  w  e  r, causes normal search results to be populated with sponsored links (with no marking that the link is sponsored!) and the sponsored links aren’t swagbucks responsibility. As in, as long as Swagbucks are getting paid to send you there, they don’t care if the page exists or is safe. In the hour I had this installed, one link I clicked on took me to a page that no longer existed, and I had 2 messages that said the page I was trying to navigate to was not safe.

Is swagbucks worthwhile
I wonder if I could earn a £5 voucher through Swagbucks quicker than these snails could cross the length of britain

 

Not only this, but once the add on is successfully downloaded, a pop up message appears, advising that it monitors activity you do on your PC. Not just what you do online, anything you do on your PC, such as what you copy and paste, even when Google isn’t open. Why? God only knows. But I wasn’t comfortable with that.

Surveys

The first survey I attempted, I was able to complete successfully and reasonably quickly, giving an initial positive view. You know what’s coming though, right?

My second survey attempt took 10 minutes to screen me out (crediting a measly 1 SB/ 0.6p for my trouble).

Survey attempt number 3 was for a short 10 minute survey for 60 swagbucks. After passing a couple minutes of pre-screening questions, I successfully proceeded to the next page which said the survey was about to start; the time taken would be approximately 25 minutes. Somewhat foolishly, I pressed continue, only to be greeted by a screen that said ‘Thankyou for choosing to take part. This survey takes an average of 34 minutes. Is 34 minutes with 60 swagbucks/ 36 pence to you? It isn’t to me.

Watching videos

This seemed a no brainer, so many people have said they let the videos run in the background while they were doing other things online. Plus, I do use youtube now and then, either to have playlists on in the background, learn how to do something, etc.

However, there can’t be many people that would actively choose to watch the reels of videos swagbucks puts together. 10 minutes usually earns 1SB, 20 mins can earn 2 or 3. Good job you can just leave them playing in the background then. Except you can’t.

Now, maybe the majority of users singing the praises of Swagbucks have far better laptops than I do, but even just having swagbucks logged in slows everything down. When you’re playing videos, that just gets worse. So, an amazon page that would normally load in a matter of seconds takes 2 to 3 minutes. Sometimes it even times out. So its not enjoyable to use whilst videos are running.

The other thing no one mentions is the time is the total running time of the videos. When you add the 45 second gap between each video to advertise something and load, it takes a lot longer.

Anything else?

Well, yes, since you ask. I completed another random activity (I’ve forgotten what) that needed my phone number in order to get creditted with something like 50p’s worth of Swagbucks. Yes, I know it seems stupid now, but you get entranced somehow and I wasn’t thinking straight.

My cold calls went from 1 or 2 a week to 3 or 4 per day. The callers were really rude and none would agree to removing me from their list. Fortunately, I learned this could be sorted by registering with the free TPS service (did you know this works on mobile phones?).

I could talk some more but it’s been really tough to write about something I have zero passion for. I just wanted you guys to know the truth. Fortunately, Jenny at cantswingacat.co.uk has shared her honest opinion about Swagbucks, so if this has left you thinking ‘maybe I should try it’, check out what she has to say first. I’m not the only one who’ll tell you straight!

The Verdict

There were a number of title options for this post including “Not making money on Swagbucks: My experience”, “The time I’ve wasted trying to earn Swagbucks I’ll never get back” and “If you’re going to sell your soul, sell it for more than a Swagbuck”. If you have a barge pole, this will give you a good idea of how wide a berth you need to be giving this pile of crap. Focussing on something as small as a swagbuck makes you less focussed on generosity, with your time, money or skills. It makes you quite selfish. Because each penny is so agonising to earn.

I could not, in good conscience, recommend my friend or family to join up, nor could I post a referral link here in the hope that you might become ensnared, just so I could earn a few more halves of pences for having referred you.

There are genuine ways to save and make money online; this isn’t one of them.

Have you wasted precious time on Swagbucks? Let me know if I’m missing something!

 

 

Finding the confidence to invest

Finding the confidence to invest

When you have worked hard to save money, maybe paying off tens or hundreds of thousands in debt, cutting non-essentials from your budget, living simply and making frugal choices, the step into investing is daunting. It is a decision between holding on to money that you have, and risking it for the prospect of more.

It is natural to feel this way. Humans would prefer to avoid losses than to acquire gains. In other words, the negative feeling of losing £10 is stronger than the positive feeling you’d get from finding £10. This is called loss aversion.

Loss aversion might be stopping you from investing. It probably is, as it’s protecting you from losing money. Funnily enough, it’s causing you to lose money too, through inflation. Finding a savings account that even matches inflation in a pretty tough ask right now, and even if you can, it’s almost certainly stopping you gaining more.

You need to recognise this and take steps to change the way you think about investing.

Here are my tips for gaining the confidence to start investing:

Start small

Whilst you’re learning, the experience is going to be pretty stressful if you throw a massive wadge of cash that you need to live off. Even if you have larger amounts, its less risky to funnel money into the stock market over a period of time to smooth out any dips. And, I like to spread my investment over a variety of different funds in different geographic regions.

Choose passive funds

My first investment was a passive fund that invested in FTSE 100 companies. It’s not as exciting as choosing individual companies or trying to seek out a high performing, actively managed, specialist fund. But it’s safer.

Don’t worry about losses (too much!)

It sounds counter intuitive, but you need to accept your portfolio will dip at times. When I made my first £500 investment (a lot of money to just lose but not a lot to invest) I figured investing had stopped it from getting spent, which would be a 100% loss, so losing some in an investment wouldn’t be so bad.

Having this attitude has left me feeling calm, even on days when my portfolio is down 20% (right now, it’s positive by about that much).

If you see a loss and sell immediately, this is a sure fire way to lose money on investing. However, riding it out gives your investment time to recover and flourish and instead make money.

 

To be honest, that’s all the advice I got. Oh, having a grasp of the basics helps, so if you haven’t already, check out my other posts in the Investing: A guide for beginners.

I’m not a qualified professional, decisions you take are your own (unless you’re paying someone for advice!) but I’ve read, read, read what I can on investing and it’s now literally paying dividends.

Need to do more reading? Here are some articles that helped me:

What to do about this scary stock market from Mr Money Mustache

Get unstuck: The freeze response in finance from the Escape Artist

How scary can investing be? from Monevator

All three of these blogs have an absolute shed load of other helpful articles so whether it’s knowledge or confidence you need, I bet you’ll find an article to help (I know I have!)