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Money is for spending too

Money is for spending too

I work hard to earn money, I budget carefully to save money, and I’m getting a good grip on investing. But you have one life and I’m going to do my best to enjoy it!

I normally write about those first three things- earning, saving and investing- and give you a glimpse into some of my leisure pursuits too (and why I think they’re mostly frugal!) but whilst my twitter icon is a tortoise, I am an actual human being and shock horror, there are some things I like doing that cost me money.

I like spending money sometimes, ok?

Even walking costs me money now and then, cos I like to invest in a little thing called walking shoes. Also, country pubs are excellently placed for lunch!

I’m pretty disciplined at not spending money on everyday things, like takeaways, cinema trips or new handbags (although see note above re being human, I do sometimes indulge). The main thing that motivates me is the opportunity to save all that cash I could easily have let slip through my fingers and spend a wadge of it on something a m a z i n g.

I have one large indulgence that I know I’m lucky to be able to afford and that is travelling. Whilst budgeting doesn’t go out of the window, I do what I can to make sure there’s enough in the budget for us to enjoy the holiday we want to do, whether it’s a long weekend staying with friend in Edinburgh (super bargain), a break touring northern Spain (great value) or splashing out on a trip to the US of A (well I am 30 this year!)

The more you can do to get a grip on your spending and reduce your bills, the more you can use your money to get where you want to go, metaphorically and literally.

I read some awesome finance blogs and honestly find so many of them inspiring. I started out as a good saver, but I’m onto investing now and just generally have a stronger hold of my money. But not all of what I read is for me, as I’m sure not every word I write will be for you.

I don’t want to work until I drop but I’m not desperate to retire as soon as physically possible, so I pay into my pension, invest into my stocks and shares ISA, keep my emergency fund topped up, and indulge in something I absolutely love as often as I can.

Indulging in my passions

This year (tomorrow in fact!!), I have an incredible trip to New York, Boston and Philadelphia planned and I am so excited! You might read that and think it’s beyond your wildest dreams, or you might think ‘so what?’. Our lives and finances are all different.

It’s ok to spend money, that’s it’s purpose after all.

I’d love to share a post on how to enjoy New York, Boston, Philadelphia on a budget. I’ll be operating on one, but one that I know will let me do the things that are important. So I think, instead, I’ll share the cool free stuff we get up to, the stuff really worth spending your money and time on and if they’re anything I’d avoid. Maybe I’ll even be telling you a million and one things you have to buy or spend on whilst you’re there. Well, like I said, money is for spending too!

I’m sure you’re only human as well- I’d love to hear your indulgences. Jealousy inducing travel experiences (mostly) welcomed! Just give me time to recover from jet lag to respond! 😉 

What if we walked more?

What if we walked more?

I’ve decided to walk more. I decided last week and have added a walk into each day since. I’m going away next week (eeek!) so each day will be filled with a LOT of walking. It’ll be handy to build up my stamina. I’m not sure if that is why I decided to walk more, or if it was an afterthought.

Have you ever thought, what if we walked more? Not in place of driving, to tackle a challenging trail or to achieve a lofty goal. Just… walked?

I had this thought and then hit obstacles. Mental roadblocks, if you will.

Obstacle 1. Wednesday

It was Wednesday when I made the decision and almost stopped before I had started, as a couple of errands took up a chunk of the evening. It felt important though, so I threw my water bottle in my bag and headed out for a short brisk walk. I didn’t walk as far as I’d intended to after bumping into some friends and spending 20 minutes talking. Even so, it was worth it to get out and interact. I’ve since mapped my walk, and it turns out I did 1.24 miles. It’s not far but further than I would have gone sat tap-tap-tapping away on the laptop.

Obstacle 2. Thursday

On Thursday, I again had doubts. With an osteopath appointment in the evening and the prospect of feeling a little bruised and therefore not in the mood for walking, I decided I’d use my lunch to walk. After eating my packed lunch quickly, I had 45 minutes to get out in the fresh air and sunshine. I was surprised my route clocked up 2.46 miles. Turns out you can cover a fair amount of ground in 45 minutes.

Obstacle 3. Friday

Friday again was a struggle. It’s a wonder I get anywhere with so many doubts! I thought about how I could wangle in my new extra walk and decided detours between errands was the way to go.  I’d have preferred to have covered more than 3/4 of a mile, but I still felt the fresh air and exercise did me some good 🙂

Getting over the obstacles

If you’re like me, you may occasionally frequently get described as stubborn. I decided to be stubborn about factoring in more walking to my days.

Walking is too often an ‘event’ and it’s my fault. I use language like ‘lets go on a walk’ and ‘we should do that walk one day’. I talk about walking when I could just get up and walk. I walk to and from work each day, but my thoughts are tied up in what the day will bring or what is on my to-do list for the evening. On my new walks, I’ve been clearing my mind and enjoying where I am.

Like I said, this walking more isn’t really a mission or challenge. I don’t have a goal as such. I just want to live in, be aware of and enjoy the moment more. I don’t want to look back and regret I spent my 30’s looking at a screen in so much of my spare time.

People spend their time reminiscing about childhood and dreaming about retirement. But the messy bit in the middle, the bit we’re in right now, this is the fun bit. This is the best bit of our lives.

I’d love to take credit for coming up with something so deep, but this is my husband’s pearl of wisdom. I think he’s right. I know I’m guilty of spending time thinking of the past and planning the future. Being in and enjoying the moment, enjoying the good days and even the dull and difficult days is what I’m turning my attention to more and more.

What if we walked more?

I would love discussions with people about where we’ve walked to, what we noticed, new routes we’ve found, and where we’ll go next. Rather than about the latest episode of prison break.

Maybe it’s just me, but even when I’m switched off and relaxing at home, I’m not really. In my mind, I know there are a hundred things I’m not doing at that moment that I think I should be doing.

Going for a walk feels like me caring enough about myself and my emotional and physical well being to take some time to look after myself. I’m sure I’m not the only person who knows they should exercise more, but is too wrapped up in ironing, cleaning, washing dishes, mowing lawns, etc. If our health is so important, why does it rank below washing dishes on our to do list?

Do you know what I reckon? I think you’d be better off eating off disposable crockery for a week so you don’t have a thing to wash, and using that time and energy to just walk instead. I reckon the following week, your energy levels will have improved enough to handle both. That’s a pretty small investment in your health, if you ask me. Cheaper than joining a gym even.

I think a lot would be better if we walked more. Physical fitness, stress, energy levels, emotional well being, our finances, relationships, vitamin D levels, sleep quality, awareness of our environment, community. I’ll be honest, I think Amazon and Netflix would suffer for it. But it doesn’t feel such a loss, compared to the gains we’ll get.

Enough nattering from me for now, I’m off out for a quick walk before bed time!

What do you think? Are you up for walking more?

 

 

 

How to stop bad days ruining good money habits

How to stop bad days ruining good money habits

Bad days, weeks, months and even years are a part of life. Money more than likely isn’t your chief concern when you’re having a bad day but it can be so frustrating to see you financial plans delayed or destroyed when you’re working so hard. It can be especially damaging if you were already struggling to get a grip on your day to day finances.

But how do you save money in sub-optimal conditions? Or to put it another way, how do you keep hold of your hard earned cash when life is throwing shovels full of shit in your direction?

I’ve revisited this post a few times, sometimes to add to the advice and other times as a reminder to myself. When I originally posted it I almost postponed publishing because I couldn’t polish it as much as I would like thanks to my ongoing back problems. Just do your best on the day you’re in. There will be opportunities in the future to do better.

It’s easy to save money when you had a great night’s sleep, a productive day in the office, the sun is shining and your pre-cooked bolognaise is defrosting in the kitchen. At least, it’s easier. If the day has gone well, it’s easier to push through tiredness to do something financially sensible. It’s easier to avoid the pull towards retail therapy and mindless spending. But saving in sub-optimal conditions? Now that’s a lot tougher.

There have been swathes of time where I’ve not found it easy to make good financial decisions. Where circumstances have been sub-optimal and saving has been hard work. Like I mentioned above, I have problems with my back after a seemingly innocent injury a few years ago. Until this point, I had always recognised how fortunate I was to have my health, although it is something we cannot fully appreciate until we lose it. I woke one morning at 3am in agony and that pain stayed with me for several weeks.

Some days I have a searing pain down my shoulder blade has a searing pain that saps my energy all day.

The question is, when life hits us with inevitable challenges, how to we find the energy and focus to make good financial decisions, when what we feel like doing is eating a tray of krispy cremes and ignoring the fact that the car insurance renewal is due and the price you’ve been quoted is a joke?

Here are a few suggestions to stop bad days ruining good financial habits:

Buy the right treats

It is easy to waste money on things intended to lift your spirits but make sure you’re spending money in the right places. A new handbag, pair of shoes or PS4 game isn’t going to help your situation (although the PS4 games would at least provide some distraction). Eating a tray of krispy cremes may sound good in theory, but neglecting your health is going to have negative consequences overall.

Instead, use your money to make your situation easier. When my back was bad, we’d buy microwavable rice pouches as well as fresh pasta and sauces to make cooking in manageable. We spent more on groceries, but we still ate well without eating out or buying takeaways all of the time. 

Eat a banana and drink some water

If you can choose a banana when what you really want is a bar of chocolate, and a glass of water when you want a coffee or can of coke, it’s not only cheaper but it is better for your health. Keeping yourself from becoming sluggish with a sugar crash will help stop you making lazy decisions that cost you money.

Know when saving money will cost you money

You could expend a load of energy making a meal from scratch for the lowest price possible. But if that leaves you without the energy and motivation to even lift a finger in the kitchen the following day, the cost of a takeaway will far exceed the money you saved the previous night.

It might not be the very cheapest option, but purchasing a few more convenience foods mean you’ll avoid caving in and buying a takeaway and will save you money in the long run.

Keep your goals manageable

It is better to keep inching forward than draw to a halt. Don’t expect yourself to move mountains everyday and don’t give yourself too hard a time if you spend more than you would like; it is only money, after all!

Consider your larger goals and what small things you can do (or avoid doing) to get there.

Money can feel completely irrelevant when you’re in a lot of physical pain or carrying a heavy emotional burden. I find it helpful to have non-money related goals that were cheap or inexpensive, but that helped me deal with the situation.

For example, when I first hurt my back and couldn’t work, I would get up in the morning, have a shower and get dressed (a challenge in itself). Then I would go for a short walk before lunch. Achieving these things helped the physical pain, made me feel more positive, and didn’t cost me anything to maintain.

Give yourself some leeway

Beating yourself up or feeling guilty that you’re spending more than you want to (or saving less) will leave you feeling demotivated and you might find it takes longer to get back to a place where you can push yourself to save more and spend less.

Accept that your situation means you’re going to let yourself have a little more flexibility (remember- you’re in control) for the good of your own emotional and physical health. Because lets face it, financial wealth isn’t much good if you don’t have those other two things.

 

These are the things I have learned over time and I’m sure they will serve me again in the future. If I can find out how to completely avoid bad days, I’ll let you know (maybe this is how I’ll make my millions?) I really hope this is helpful if you’re struggling to find the energy and motivation to save money when life and events conspire against you. If you have any other suggestions, I would absolutely love to hear them. But right now, I’m going to lie down and rest.

How have you kept on track with your financial plans when everything’s going pear-shaped or have you let them fall by the wayside? 

Wanna get rich? Hitch a ride!

Wanna get rich? Hitch a ride!

One day a few years ago, I was idly standing by the roadside, looking back how far I’d come and feeling pretty chuffed with myself.

I’d been auto enrolled in a pension since I was 19, I socked money into savings each month, I had an automatic over payment set up for the mortgage and had a decent budget that was improving year on year. Sure I could have been doing better, but I wasn’t doing too badly either. You can probably tell I felt pretty smug about it all.

I was minding my own business when along came this American guy with a mustache on a bike. “Hop in the trailer” he called. “I’ll give you a lift”.

As Pete peddled away and I rattled around in the trailer, he asked me what the hell I was doing about my debt emergency. My debt emergency? I didn’t have an emergency. I only had a mortgage. I overpaid every month. We could almost survive on one of our wages. What was the emergency? We might as well live a little since we were doing so well. We’d earned bottles of wine here, deserved meals out there, a cinema trip now and then, and we do love travel…

Did you hear the sound of a penny dropping then?

For so long, I thought of our luxuries as living a little, when in fact we were living a lot. We we were spending a shed load of cash that we could have been growing in investments or wiping out our mortgage debt. We were living a life that was an “Exploding volcano of wastefulness.” I tried to keep quiet and listen- partly to learn what this mysterious guy had to say but partly to avoid getting called a complainy-pants. As time passed, I got used to the bumpiness of that trailer. Sure, it was uncomfortable. But a little discomfort is good for you. Hitching that ride made me a little richer. In time, it will add up to becoming a lot richer.

I hopped out of the trailer feeling I’d traveled a million miles from where I’d been. Figuring how far hitching that first ride had taken me, I cautiously stuck out my thumb for the next driver going my way. My next driver was another mysterious sort. A British accent, cutting with sarcasm and with a surprising taste in music. Asking what we were listening to, he told me it was “Now that’s what I call financial independence“. I nodded, telling him I’d got “Now that’s what I call Christmas” at home. He didn’t comment.

He went on to talk about ridiculous spending stopping people from being rich. I wasn’t guilty of getting tattoos, betting or even wasting days in shopping centres, but he made an excellent point. Millions of people do spend money on ridiculous things. Some of the money I spent was on ridiculous things. I was doing OK. But I could do a hell of a lot better than OK. Doing better than OK would give me the option of escaping the prison camp.

After hitching my second ride, I was on a roll and my eyes were opened to getting to a better destination and having a better journey. That’s when I met Ty. He gave me a high-5 as I hopped in. He and his wife we forging a path for their family. They were extremely disciplined, not only thriving on one income, but chalking up some serious investments too-  getting rich quickish, he called it. A story he told really stuck with me. He told me about how when his Grandpa had passed away, 80% of his and his Grandma’s items were discarded.

I thought about my home, rooms filled with the things we collect, things forgotten, things kept for a ‘just in case’ moment that may never arrive. I’d love to think I have a long and healthy life ahead of me, but if I do meet my maker sooner than I’d like, it would suck for my parents to have to deal with excess amounts of crap we’re accumulating. It was a kick up the arse to get rid of stuff and to stop accumulating more. I’m not even sure if I said goodbye as I got out of the car, my brow still furrowed in thought.

 

Without really thinking, I held out my thumb to see who I could hitch hike with next. Was there really much further left in my journey? By the time Amanda pulled up, I’d used my redundancy package to payoff the final bit of my mortgage and was living on one income (much harder than I was anticipating, it has to be said) whilst looking for a new job. Thriving on one income was something Amanda knew a lot about. Well, she’d been doing it for 16 years! She was telling me about her awesome weekend where they’d gone the whole two days without spending a penny, and they’d had a blast. At the time, I couldn’t fathom how 2 days of no spending money could change your future finances. It was later that I came to realise it wasn’t really about those 2 days at all. It’s about regularly choosing to do free things and making not spending more normal. Getting rich centsibly. She even invited me to tell my story and listened with interest.

 


 

If you wanna get rich, there is no magical solution. There’s working hard, saving hard and looking at things in the right way to make both of those things easier.  When I was younger, I wanted my success to be all my own, but as I get older, I realise how foolish it is to ignore the wisdom of others.

There are countless bloggers out there all sharing their experiences and view points that you can learn a lot from. And that’s coming from a smug know-it-all like me! Some won’t be going in the same direction as you.

There will be a few who drive through a puddle as they go past you or don’t pay you the slightest attention, as though you’re a bug on their windshield. Luckily they are not the majority. Unless your aim is to be a rich jackass too, just let them keep driving and be glad you’re not obliged to listen to how awesome they are.

Hopefully there will be people who you can, in turn, give a metaphorical lift to.

By hitching a ride with these guys, my finances have improved, but more importantly, my life is richer too. I can see excesses more clearly, I have less desire to keep buying junk, and I find not spending money incredibly liberating. Perhaps you’re happy cruising along on your own, but you will get so much from listening to people who have already traveled along your route or gone a different way that you didn’t know about.

I have been particularly inspired by Mr Money Mustache, The Escape Artist, Ty from Get Rich Quickish and Amanda from Centsibly Rich (all featured above, in case it wasn’t obvious). You should hitch a ride with them if you haven’t already.

 

I feel like the metaphor would be incomplete without mentioning the driver of the (financial) party bus, J-Money, who’s gathered the financial rockstars together in one place. Everyone is different and you might not like all the songs, but there is bound to be one that talks to you… And that one might be the one that helps you get rich.

So tell me, is there anyone you’ve hitched a ride with that I should hail down next?

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!)

 

My investing journey and mistakes I’ve made

My investing journey and mistakes I’ve made

Before you begin investing, you might be worried about making mistakes and losing money. I know I was, but I decided at some point I’d have to bite the bullet and just get started.

I started small and with money I could afford to lose (though obviously didn’t want to lose). I have made a few mistakes that I’ve shared below. You’ll see they’re not worth avoiding investing for but hopefully you’ll be able to avoid them.

Mistake #1- Investing in a gilts fund

My first 2 investments were in a UK FTSE 100 tracker fund and a 10 year UK government bonds (gilts) fund. I chose the gilt because I was nervous of investing and gilts are talked about as being low risk. I didn’t understand that they were bought and sold at different values.

The thing is, my retirement age is 30 years off. It would be awesome to be in a position to retire early, but if I need to work, I’ve got a lot of life left in me (hopefully!) So I can afford to take risks, especially as I used a ‘small’ tester pot of funds to learn with.

I decided to sell at a loss so that I could transfer the money into something with some actual potential. It was a lesson well learned and a good move to make! No gilts in sight in my Stocks and Shares ISA anymore!

Mistake #2- Human error!!

Owing to the fact that I am an idiot, my second error was accidentally picking the wrong fund in a drop down list. It’s too long ago to remember what I had been intending to choose, but after the panic subsided I realised I’d inadvertently diversified my portfolio and at the time of writing it’s this US focussed passive fund that has made me the biggest gains. 🙂

However, it could have gone the other way, so just be doubly sure you know what you’re selecting before you hit confirm!

Mistake 3- Choosing the popular option too late

When I started investing, biotech funds were all the rage. They’d returned 30+ percent for 2 consecutive years and I figured I’d be chuffed with even half of that. I should not have just gone for something that had done well in the past. Sure, it could have paid off, but unfortunately it plummeted just after I’d purchased. 2 years later, it has made a small return so holding on can work out well in the longer term. I would have been better putting a smaller chunk of money into this fund, rather than seeing pound signs and getting greedy!

Mistake 4- Dilly-dallying

I had my penny drop moment about investing around 2 years before I got started and lost out on a lot of growth over that period. I’d love to say I should have started 5 or 10 years ago but sometimes it takes time to recognise the right route. Once you’ve recognised it though, it’s best foot forward along the path. The sooner you start the journey, the longer period you can benefit from the stock market.

Was it worth it?

You betcha! Don’t get me wrong, going in gungho can lead to much bigger mistakes than I’ve made. But if you take a measured approach, take it one step and a time, avoid the pitfalls (or climb out of them quickly!) along the way, I’m sure you’ll realise it was worth it too.

Where are you on your investing journey? Have you made any big mistakes? What cautions would you give a newbie investor?