Tuesday, 27 January 2009

5 MORE WAYS TO CUT YOUR WINTER FUEL BILLS

1. Make sure your radiators are working efficiently. Bleed the air out of them regularly, especially if you can hear noises in them or can feel cold patches on them.Try not to put furniture in front of them or hide them behind curtains. Fit thermostatic radiator valves - these are not cheap, but will earn their keep if you set them to off or very low in rooms that you are not using and keep all room doors closed. Don't cover your radiators with clothes - yes I know, I do it too, but it keeps rooms cold and probably doesn't do your clothes much good either! Instead, put clothes on an airer in a cooler room. Put foil on the wall behind each radiator (shiny side out) or buy proper foil pads to fit, less heat will then be absorbed by your walls and more reflected back into your rooms.


2. Eliminate drafts in your home. it's estimated that 20% of the heat in your home is lost due to drafts.Check windows, doors and letterboxes and fit draft excluding tape.If you have open fireplaces that are not in use, you can block up the opening with a piece of hardboard (not pretty, but cheap) or you can buy a chimney balloon to inflate up inside your chimney to keep heat in - this is not a cheap option (somewhere around £20-£25) but, it can be taken out at anytime and then put back when needed, so it should last. Make sure you have keyhole covers on the outside of all your external doors - a surprising amount of cold wind can come whistling in through that tiny opening!

3. Don't use the hot tap each time you wash your hands, the water takes ages to run warm anyway and the boiler fires up each time you do, wasting energy.

4. Make sure you know how to set your electronic heating timer. You can then have your heating on (and off) only at times to suit you. It can be set to come on before you get up and before you come in from work.

5. Dress for winter even when you are indoors. This means lots of thin layers, not one big chunky jumper, and the more of your layers that include real wool, the warmer you will be. We seem to have forgotten how to dress for winter - we need a vest (yes! really!) or t shirt, a thick, warm shirt or thin jumper, then a thicker jumper or cardigan on over that, plus warm socks, slippers and trousers. And if you are sitting still watching TV, then a warm blanket and a hot water bottle are lovely as well! Remember, if you then feel too hot, turn down your heating thermostat a degree or two - don't strip off a layer of clothes!

Keep reading - there are more tips to come!

Monday, 26 January 2009

5 WAYS TO CUT YOUR WINTER FUEL BILLS

1. Make sure you are claiming all the benefits you are entitled to - once you are over 60 years old (or are on ther benefits) there may be quite a few grants or cash payments you can claim. The Warm Front scheme can give grants of up to £4000 (if you need central heating) for heating and insulation. And you can find out HERE, by answering a few simple questions,whether there are any other benfits you should be claiming.

2. Make sure you are paying for your gas and electricity by direct debit as it's a little cheaper this way BUT, do make sure you are not constantly in credit in your account. This happens when your supplier puts up your monthly payment and you don't use the amount of fuel expected - and they do this automatically - they only have to inform you of it on your statement. If they owe you money, phone them and ask for the amount to be credited back to your account and/or for your direct debit to be reduced. See my previous post on the utility companies.You may have to be persistent! It is estimated that our utilities currently have millions of pounds of our money sitting in their bank accounts - in effect, we are loaning them interest free money - which we can ill afford.

3. You may be able to save money by switching your provider, but timing is everything here, if you try to switch when there are rounds of price increases going on, you may just be switching to a provider that hasn't yet raised their prices! Check the Social Tarrifs that your current providers offer - they don't seem to advertise this service very much - I wonder why! You may qualify for a discount - check it out on the Energy Choices website - they explain all the social tarrifs for each provider.

4.Insulate your loft and your walls - again, check HERE to see what help you can get with the costs.

5.Use heavy "winter" curtains and draw them at dusk - or sooner if it's very cold! Make sure they can be tucked down the back of any radiators that are under windows. Use thermal curtain linings if you have them.

Friday, 23 January 2009

FREE PATTERN TO KNIT THE LITTLE SACK BOY

Something to cheer up all those knitters out there! This little toy makes you smile just when you see the pattern! What a cutie! Pity I don't have anyone to knit him for yet! Knit the little Sackboy, from the LittleBIGPlanet™ game and help get rid of those winter blues.
Get the pdf. HERE

Saturday, 17 January 2009

NEW YEAR MONEY MAKEOVER 4

And finally, when I was really in trouble for money, my very first bill to pay every month was my mortgage - even before food! I had the opinion that if you paid your mortgage (or rent) then you were safe and secure in your home and any other bills would have to wait (or be given an offer of a small payment off the debt).
But, that said, I know it's not always that simple; if you are staggering under massive debt, have economised on everything you can, cannot see how you can pay your mortgage, rent or other bills or have been made redundant, then you need help NOW. If you can't see a way out of the situation, then don't delay - contact someone for help (not the loan companies that advertise on TV). Free, impartial help can be got from the Citizen's Advice Bureau - they can advise on employment problems, debt and benefits (and much more), Community Legal Advice or the National Debt Line
.
The main thing to always remember is that doing nothing but ignoring final reminders etc, will make things so much worse in the end. The whole problem will have to be sorted at some point - make sure you are the one to instigate that process, not the courts. Get in first and stay in control.

Friday, 16 January 2009

M & S CORD JEANS FOR £4.99!

I think this may be the very first thing this year that has cheered me up! I have, today, bought a great pair of flared, black cord jeans (M & S) from my local Oxfam shop. They appear to be unworn or at least very new and have great silver studs on the back pockets! They have that lovely black velvety look of new cord and the fit is great.
I hardly ever go clothes shopping because a) I can't often find stuff I like and b) my nearest "clothes shopping" town is 10 miles away with very expensive street parking! Frugallers don't pay to park!

Well, you've probably heard enough of all that by now, but my main point is that there are nearly always bargains to be had in your local charity shops. I live in a (not very affluent) rural market town with 7 charity shops and, yes, much of the stuff on offer is very worn out QS or Primark, but every so often, there's a gem - and the money you've paid goes to help someone as well.
Remember that Oxfam has just been offering an M & S voucher if you donate a bag of clothes with at least one M & S item in it - that's why there are a few more great items in their stores at the moment.
So get charity shop shopping - there's got to be a better way of expressing that! Chopping? No perhaps not!

Happy Frugal clothes shopping!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

GET COMPENSATION WHEN YOUR TUBE IS LATE!

TubeTrainDelays.co.uk enables tube travellers to get compensation when their tube train is late. They process the claim for you and there are no forms to fill in and post - they do it all.
Well, it may at least be something to cheer up your January journeys!

Saturday, 10 January 2009

DITCH THE GYM MEMBERSHIP!

Cancel that gym membership - you don't need it! (Well, unless you enjoy posing in lycra, sitting on bike seats after men with sweaty bum stains on their shorts or being parted from £30+ a month!).
I've just been reading that you can lose up to 24 lbs in a year just by walking! I've seriously got to try it (especially after putting on 4lbs over Christmas) as it's free and has other health benefits like improving heart and lung fitness, building bone density and cheering us up, as all those feel good endorphins start rushing around our bodies. So ignore all those slimming club adverts and save your money - get walking!.
Apparently all you need to do is go for a brisk 45 minute walk, four times a week. Your pace should just be fast enough to make you a little warm and sweaty, but you should not be so breathless that you couldn't hold a conversation. By the way, the last time I regularly went out walking (about 3 years ago!) it took me an hour to walk 3 miles, so that gives some idea how far your 45 minutes will take you.
You should also aim for 10000 steps a day - that's easy to count if you have a pedometer, but not if you don't! If you do have one, try wearing it for a normal day - if you're anything like me you may get a shock at how few steps you've done in a day - even when you genuinely think you've been constantly walking about.
So that's resolution Number 1 - I'm going to walk more. This should help with resolution number 2 - to lose 4 stone this year! (without it costing me any money) - I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

NEW YEAR MONEY MAKEOVER 3

Lastly, economise on your food bill; plan a week's menu at a time, buy supermarket own brands, never buy too much fresh food at a time, unless it will freeze. Always check at the end of the day for reductions in chilled foods and fruit and veg - and if you can't cook, teach yourself by looking up ingredients on the 'net and getting recipes or borrowing a basic cookery book from the library. Don't buy expensive ready meals or bags of prepared vegetables, washed salads, or chopped fresh fruit. Buy in season where possible and try to shop with a friend, relative or neighbour and share the savings on BOGOF deals, if you can't use up all the food in the offer. Ask around at work or in your neighbourhood to see if anyone grows their own fruit or vegetables or has chickens. Make it known that you would like to buy produce from them, providing it costs less than the supermarket of course! Cook in bulk and freeze your own meals. Take home-made packed lunches and drinks to work each day. Use coupons and reward card schemes, but don't buy expensive items you wouldn't normally use just to get a small amount off.

Finally, when you are tempted to buy something, decide carefully whether you need it or just want it, mend and repair everything you can and try to put some money aside in a savings account each month, but pay off all debts first, as borrowed money usually costs more than you can earn in most savings accounts - especially in the current economic climate!
Happy Frugal New Year!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

NEW YEAR MONEY MAKEOVER PART 2

If you are a tenant, paying less rent may be impossible (although you may be able to negotiate a reduction if you have a longish relationship with a reasonable landlord who is very happy to retain you as a good tenant), but house buyers may be able to find a cheaper mortgage deal (if they are still employed).
Save money by switching your gas and electricity supplier- probably a better saving to be had if you have never switched before. It's also worth checking if you are in credit with any of your suppliers and if you are regularly so, then contact them to ask for a refund and/or to reduce your direct debit.
Water is a problem - we don't have any choices here, so the only option is to economise. If you are on a metered supply (and for environmental reasons) never wash or clean your teeth under a running tap. Have showers not baths. Don't keep washing clothes that are not really dirty and try not to flush the loo unless it's really necessary. I have a Hippo bag in my cistern to reduce the amount used each time I do have to flush it. Fill up the dishwasher all day and only put it on once there is a full load. Remember that the amount of metered water you use dictates the size of your sewage bill as well, so water economies will bring savings on this bill too.
Walk to work if possible but if it's too far, then make sure you have the cheapest bus/train season tickets available or car-share. Check your car insurance (and any other insurances you have) on a comparison website and see if there are savings to be made. If you are paying high monthly credit payments for your car and you are in trouble financially, it may make sense to sell it (if you can) and downsize to something that you can buy outright.
Find the longest interest free credit card deal you can and transfer your debt to it - this may incur a fee, but if you have a large debt, it may still be well worth it. Stop using your credit card if you can't pay it off each month. If you can pay it off each month and have the will power not to overspend, it could be worth finding a cashback credit card that will pay you a percentage back every month.
Check with your council to see if you qualify for any discounts on your council tax bill. If you are a sole occupier of your property, you are entitled to a 25% discount on your bill. If you don't live alone, but the other occupant in your home is a student, this will also give you a discount. Check out this website to see if you are entitled to any benefits - even if you are working you may still qualify. If you have a spare room, think about taking in a lodger, even if it's only from Monday to Friday - you can earn some much needed tax free cash from this.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

YOUR NEW YEAR MONEY MAKEOVER PART 1

In a recession, downturn in business or when facing unemployment, a lot of people think their first task is to stop spending, or to cut back drastically. Wrong! If you have money problems, be they debts or redundancy, your first task is to know exactly where you are spending your money. Get out your utility bills, phone bills, bank and credit card statements for the past year at least and work out exactly where your monthly salary goes. Recent research by Paypal has revealed that 15.9 million people in Britain regularly spend an average of £123 more per month than they earn! That's nearly £1500 per year! After 10 years of spending like that, they will be an average of £15000 in debt.
We appear to be a nation of borrowers and it is not a situation that can continue for ever. We all need to know exactly what we spend each day and writing it down - even if it's only for a few months will help us all get into the budgeting habit.
This free downloadable printable diary page will help you keep track of your daily spending and the example HERE will show you just how simply it works and then you can get started with your own. Seeing what you spend written down each week really makes you realise where your money is going - and where you can make savings.
Secondly, but most importantly, know whether you are spending more in a month than you actually bring home. That may sound silly, but I do know people who are unaware (or are ignoring the fact) that their bank account is actually just an ever-increasing overdraft! If this is the case with you, then the next step is to identify the salary gobblers - by that I mean those things that suck money out of your account every month in the form of regular direct debits, e.g. Sky subscription, gym memberships, DVD rentals, phone contract payments, charity donations, magazine subscriptions etc. If you are in debt, all those have to be got rid of - at least until you are back in the black again!
Next, be honest with yourself about your daily spending; cigarettes, take-out coffees and muffins, a pint after work, newspapers and chocolate bars can mean you are frittering away anything from £5 to £25+ a week, which could be £100 per month, £1200 per year. Cut them out! Anyway, think positive, stop eating chocolate and muffins, drinking beer and smoking and you probably won't need that gym membership!
The next step is to identify those items of expenditure you cannot do without and we're not talking clothes, iphones, lap-tops, shoes and handbags here! These are essentials like mortgage or rent payments, credit card repayments, fares to work, gas, electricity, water, sewage, council tax, car expenses and food. And this brings us to the final step - check every bill you have to pay and see how/if you can pay less for it.
Part 2 coming soon!