Category Archives: Finance

The 5 reasons why you don’t have more money in your bank account

It doesn’t make sense, does it? You spend your days trying so hard to be frugal, you plan your food shopping meticulously and you never … well rarely …. go out.  And yet, you find you get to a point each month where your bank balance is still far lower than you need it to be. Far lower than you feel it should be.

I am going to explain over the course of the next 200 or so words why this is the case. Why you don’t have more money than you do. But don’t worry, this isn’t all doom and gloom. There’s help on the way too!

You don’t have a clear target

We’re only human. We all need incentives to do hard work. That’s what wages are, after all. So you need to be really honest with yourself about what you need to save more money for.  The reason you’re not left with more money at the end of each month is because the end goal is not clear enough. Why do you want more money? Because life will be easier? WRONG. Not a good enough answer. Can you measure “easier”? Can you touch it? No? So try again. Set an end goal, define what having more money means to you.

Solution:

Once you’ve thought about why you need more money – and it’s something significant like paying off a debt, buying a car, being able to work less so you can spend more time with your kids or even buying five new pairs of shoes, once you’ve decided on your target, get obsessed with it.

Yup. Obsessed.

Imagine you’re 15 again, and your target is the person you have a huge HUGE crush on. Its photo is your screen saver on your phone and computer. You’ve photoshopped images of you with that “crush” and posted them up in your house. Every night, you go to bed thinking about what you’re going to do the next day to get one step closer to your “crush”.  Do that. Do all of that. (Or do the screen saver thing at least). It will keep you focussed and help you prioritise not spending over spending.

You don’t have a set deadline

To achieve a task is not just to do it. It’s also about doing it within a certain timeframe. If bills didn’t have payment deadlines, would we ever pay them? Er….probably not. Well, paying a bill is just like not spending money. It’s an unpleasant task that none of us wants to do. However, we do it because there’s a deadline. To miss that deadline means failing, getting in trouble and paying a fine. And paying a fine would take us further away from our saving goal, would it not?

Solution:

So let’s keep that fine in mind.

Don’t just set a deadline and keep it to yourself. I need you to publicise the deadline you’re setting yourself to save this money. Use Facebook, twitter, whatever. But set a deadline and make people aware of it. Then, as part of that promise, agree to face the consequences if your deadline is not met. And what are the consequences? You have to pay £100 of your precious cash on a challenge of your best mate’s choosing. And if your mate is a good friend, they’ll make it something you really  don’t want to do. (That’s the fine I was talking about.)

You’re aiming too high

Let’s be realistic. Unless you win the lottery or had shares in Snapchat, you’re not going to become a millionaire overnight. Also, if your savings target wildly exceeds your disposable income each month then you’re not going to meet your target either are you?

A really common mistake people make when trying to achieve a goal is they make that goal impossible. They set themselves up for failure before they’ve even started.

Solution:

To set a realistic goal, start by looking at how much money you have each month after your bills. What you can save each month will be a proportion of that. Then look at your bank balances and credit card statements and total up how much you spend each month on absolute non-essential you-don’t-even-think-you’ll-miss-them items. This could be 4 of the 5 coffees you buy each day. This could be your weekly trip to Primark where you come back with two full bags of clothes you never wear. This could be the after work wine which you don’t need because you’re trying to lose weight anyway….. Whatever it is, total up  the cost and make that your money savings goal for month one.

Be realistic about what you’re prepared to do and once you notice the difference a few small changes makes to your bank balance, implementing bigger changes will become a whole lot easier. You’ll have a lot more money before you know it!

You haven’t set yourself allowable cheats

You know why fad diets don’t work? They’re far too restricting. They ask you to cut out all the things that taste nice, and make you feel good, and they stop you from eating them forever and ever and ever again. Well that’s hardly a sustainable diet, is it?

Diets that work, and are sustainable for life, are the ones that allow you to treat yourself. To have something which is semi-naughty without the guilt so afterwards you can keep on with the food plan and don’t feel like you’ve failed and need to binge on crisps.

Well, think of money saving in the same way. If you can never buy yourself rewards for good behaviour, then you’re never going to stick to an effective money saving programme, are you?

Solution:

When deciding upon your end goal, and your deadline to achieve this goal, also set yourself some landmark dates. Perhaps they’re every fortnight. Keep them small but make sure they’re incentives. They simply need to be little treats you can spend money on but you only get them if you’re on track for your end of month target.

Treats could be £20 put aside for another of your spending goals or a massive slice of chocolate cake. Whatever floats your boat.

You’re not having to report your progress to anyone

Diet clubs’ most effective slimming tool is the weekly public weigh-in. You have to turn up and have your weight read out to a room full of strangers. It’s terrifying. And you feel awful when you haven’t lost weight.

On the other hand, when you have, you’re applauded. Your achievements are celebrated. It’s amazing.

But without that public display of your progress, you wouldn’t be incentivised to lose weight.  And that’s about pride and shame.

The same kind of applies for people that commit to achieving huge physical and sporting achievements for charity. Of course, 95% of the incentive for going through with the training and the challenge itself is to raise money for a good cause, but the remaining 5% is down to the fact that a lot of people know they’re doing that challenge and they don’t want to be seen to fail.

So when you start a money saving goal and you don’t report your progress to anyone, how can you expect to stick to it?

Solution:

Don’t just tell your mum or your mate what you plan to save. They love you. They’ll understand if you fail. Strangers on the other hand….they’re judgemental. They can be really cruel.

You need to commit to a group of strangers to save money and meet your financial goal. Where do you find these strangers? On Feast Style Thrive’s Facebook page, of course. From Monday 6th March 2017, the page will run a weekly money saving weigh-in where anyone looking to achieve a financial goal can report their target and their progress. We’re nice, we won’t be cruel but we will give a hell of a lot of praise to those  who are succeeding (and a lot of support and encouragement to those who aren’t).

So what are you waiting for?  Stick to those goals and come join us on Facebook to share your progress! The pathway to more money is here!

Why you should never pay full price for your beauty products

Whether you buy your make up and skincare in the supermarket or you buy it in Harrods, you don’t need to pay full price. Yup, I mean it. In true Feast Style Thrive fashion, here is how to get what you want, for less.  How to save money on beauty products.

HOW TO GET A DISCOUNT ON ALL YOUR BEAUTY PRODUCTS

The first step is planning.

Look at all the products you use. Everything from your mascara to your toothpaste. And make a list. If you love a brand and you’re not willing to budge on it, then fine, write it down. But if you are willing to shop around, write down a ? next to the type of item.

With all the items that are question marks, now is your time to get trialling!

Free samples

When a beauty or cosmetics company creates a new product, they’ve spent a LOT on that process.  Therefore, a sales flop would be a disaster. They want to get that investment back, and more. No company wants a failed product. So, they invest even more money – LOTS and LOTS – in marketing that product. And that marketing includes producing free samples for people like you and me to try!

If you’re yet to find your can’t-live-without mascara, or the lipstick that-is-better-than-anything-else-ever, then you could stock up on enough free samples from different brands to last you months!

Here’s how you get your hands on these free samples:

  1. Simply go up to the make up and beauty counters at department stores and say you’re bored of your make up and want to try something new. If they offer to give you a makeover say that’s fine but “you’re heading to the gym in an hour and want to be able to test the make up for a whole day to see how it lasts and works in different lights.” That should get you a few freebies to take away.
  2. Sign up to freebie sites such as FreeStuff.co.uk,  Myfreemakeupsamples.co.uk and Latestfreestuff.co.uk . They always have a load of free samples available.

Join a beauty review panel

Another method brands use to market their products is to use a consumer panel to trial the product and approve it for use. The consumers on these panels get the items for free and sometimes even get paid too! So why not join one?

Here’s a list of sites to join (in no particular order):

Go second hand

Ok, hang on hang on. This is not as disgusting as it sounds. By this I mean, share with people you know. Wait, no, that sounds gross too. Let me explain.

Go into your bathroom, and pull out all the unused samples and beauty/cosmetic products that you’ve bought but only used once or twice. Ask your mates to do the same.

Then invite everyone over to yours one night with those items (and wine, obviously) and do a bit of swapping. You’ll end up with some fab new stuff.

So I promised you I’d share how to save money on beauty products and so far I’ve told you how to get them for free! You’re welcome.

As for those items that you’ve already decided are keepers such as the-only-shampoo-that-keeps-your-hair-sleek or undereye-concealer-that-actually-works, then you need the following tips:

Sign up to mailing lists for special vip nights and for discounts

Let your favourite brands communicate with you. Let them reach you and share their love. To brands, consumer data is like gold dust so give them your contact details and let them reward you with offers, sales alerts and invites to VIP events. Yes, it’s that easy. For us it’s just an email address but for them it’s a way of contacting you to build on your brand loyalty. It’s likely you’ll get a discount code as soon as you sign up to their mailing list so do it when you need to stock up!

Become a brand ambassador

If you have a good social media following, exploit it. Produce some compelling content that promotes your favourite product (perhaps using imagery or video so that people can see how good the product looks) and share it on your social media platforms. Then contact the brand you’ve promoted to share what you’ve posted. The PR agency or the marketing team is the best point of contact. They may take an interest in your posts going forward and reward you for your kind words with some free products to trial! That’s called collaboration, baby.

One word of advice – go easy on the language. It needs to appear genuine.  So phrases like “I love this brand so much I named my first daughter Chanel” and “I’ve stopped buying food so I can spend that money on more Dior make up” are to be avoided.

Use cash back sites and voucher codes

This one actually involves spending some money. When you come to buying what you need, don’t just go straight into the store, or straight onto the brand or department store’s website. That’s craaaaazy. What you need to do instead is check out if there are cashback or voucher code offers available. For info on how cashback sites work and links to the best ones, you can read my guide here.

I would always recommend buying your products online rather than in-store as you can shop around on a range of sites for the best deal.

And they are my tips on how to save money on beauty products. Plenty of reasons why you should never need to pay full price for your make up.  Reckon you’ll give these a try?

Romance on a budget? Try these cheap ideas for love

After cheap ways to express your love? Read on…..

If you ask me, Valentines Day falls at a bad time of the year. The idea is that you spoil your loved one rotten with gifts and treats and get spoilt in return, but the reality is that you’re still skint after Christmas and at halfway through the month, your bank balance is PARTICULARLY low.

So if you want to be romantic any time of year without the expense, you have to be creative.

Because P and I are still in frugal mode, we don’t celebrate Valentines Day in extravagant fashion. (In fact, he has other plans that night! The cheek of it!) When we do come to celebrate it, we’ll hardly spend a thing.  How? Here’s my list of cheap ideas for romance:

Cards

Don’t buy cards for each other. They cost as much as a fiver each and because the message and sentiment of the card has been written by someone else and mass produced, how personal and romantic is it really?? Instead, you’re better off writing a note to your other half, putting it an envelope and giving that to them. You don’t have to be a world-class poet – you can even just list three things that you love about your other half, and that will be enough to make them smile. And it’s personal. And it’s free.

Entertainment

You don’t have to go out to be romantic, particularly if you’re trying to save money. Instead, plan a night in watching romantic films and get those films from your friends by posting a request on Facebook asap and arranging a romantic movie swap. I’m sure you’ll get a few that you haven’t seen.

Dinner

Don’t cook. It’s stressful. And stress does not equal romance. Check out the supermarket for meal deals – they all have a good one. And to help you out here’s a lovely list of what’s on offer:

Asda: Get a starter, main, side, dessert, wine and a box of chocolates for £15

M&S: Get a starter, main, side, dessert, prosecco or wine and chocolates for £20

Morrisons: Get a starter, main, side, dessert and a bottle of wine or fizz for £15

Tesco: Get two mains, two sides, two desserts and a bottle of wine or Prosecco or chocolates for £20

Waitrose: Get a three course meal for two and fizz for £20

Chocolates

If you have a very sweet tooth, try a homemade fondue, by melting a big bar of dairy milk, and dipping marshmallows and berries and grapes into it.  Total price: £3.07. Yum!

Gifts

Don’t set budgets for gifts because while it means you won’t spend lots, you won’t manage to get them anything decent either. Big waste of money. Instead, sit down together and choose a luxury gift that you each want – such as diamond earrings or a football season ticket – and then the romantic gesture is that your other half saves up to get you it by Valentines Day next year. You’ll feel excited about the gift you’re getting, satisfaction that it’s something you truly want and deep appreciation of the trouble your other half has gone to in saving up for it. Who cares if you have to wait a while?!

And then…..it’s bed. And if you need help in that area, then you need a different kind of blog.

So there you have it, 5 very simple cheap ideas for romance! Love you….

Cheap meal ideas to get you through the week

cheap-meal-ideas

For the last few weeks, I’ve been following strict meal plans. It’s been bloody brilliant. Not only has it meant that I’ve had to become super organised and P and I know exactly what we’re having to eat each night, but we’ve also saved a fortune. I’ve also been getting this strange pleasure from using up what’s in the freezer and bagging up and freezing meals to have at a later date. Have I become boring and old??? Who cares if it means my healthy bank balance of early 2016 is restored!

Anyhoo, where am I getting the cheap meal ideas from in order to build meal plans? How am I saving money on my food shop? Well, if you need an answer to my second question then you haven’t signed up for my financial e-course yet. That has a WHOLE DAY dedicated to saving on your food bills so sign up now. It’s free after all.

To answer the first question, I thought I’d share a few links I use which have helped me A LOT. You see, I don’t follow the prescribed meal plans you’ll find online on sites such as Tesco because they make assumptions about what you do and don’t like to eat and they assume that there will be 4 of you eating in every single night. That’s not a true reflection of every household is it?

As long as you follow some simple rules, meal planning can be so. much. easier.

How to build your own cheap meal ideas

  • Cut out expensive meats and seafood for a while. This means chicken breasts are a no-no (go for thighs or turkey instead) and prawns and scallops are also to be avoided.
  • Sausages are great provided you stick to the rule of two per portion, and if there’s two of you to feed, you freeze or refrigerate the remaining two for a future meal.
  • Mince is a great buy. If you add a whole lot of diced onion, carrot and celery to the mix when making a ragu, you can squeeze out a lot of portions and then it can be used as a base for a multitude of meal options. Check out my recipe here.
  • If you love fish, try frozen. You can buy bags of frozen cod, salmon, pollock and smoked haddock and all can be cooked really easily in a pot of sauce and served with rice and veg.
  • Don’t buy ready prepared fresh veg. Work out how many ‘portions’ of veg you need and buy only that, or buy frozen.
  • Don’t buy pasta sauce – instead buy a tin of tomatoes, season and cook slowly. Done.
  • Eat one of the following meals once a week. It won’t kill you and it’s so cheap (this is a post on cheap meal ideas, after all):
    • Scrambled egg on toast
    • Jacket potato and beans
    • Omelette
    • Soup
    • Homemade cheese scones (see recipe here) or homemade soda bread (Be Clever With Your Cash), ham and pickles
  • Embrace the wonder of chorizo. I think it is possibly the most wonderful and versatile ingredient there is and it can work in soups, pastas, omelettes and fish dishes and it will keep for weeks in the fridge too.
  • Finally invest in a cheap blender and some vegetable stock and when ever you have ANY leftover meat or veg, chop, bring together in a pot with the stock and seasoning, blend and freeze. And voila….homemade soup.

The above should give you a good few cheap meal ideas but if you want to get a little more creative (without spending a fortune), further help is at hand.

Cheap meal ideas in recipe form

So, without further ado, here are some meal options (and links) to help you plan weeks’ worth of interesting and tasty meals and save some money:

  • Sausage and bean casserole (BBC Good Food)
  • Sausages with mustard mash and red onion gravy (Good Housekeeping)
  • Vegetable Crumble, just 25p a portion! (Thrifty Lesley)
  • Pasta, chorizo, homemade pasta sauce, red peppers. (Chop up the peppers and chorizo and fry. Cook the tinned tomatoes slowly in a pan and season. Boil the pasta and mix altogether. Simple but delicious.)
  • Leftover roast dinner hash with poached eggs (Tesco Real Food)
  • Easy mac and cheese
  • Sausage/leftover roast chicken risotto (my recipe here on my old blog)
  • Leftover turkey and potato curry (Savings 4 Savvy Mums) and keema naan (Reduced Grub)
  • Creamy fish curry (a good recipe for the frozen fish) (BBC Good Food)
  • Sticky hoisin pork stir fry – you’ll never buy bottled hoisin sauce again! (Skint Dad)
  • Chorizo, chickpea and tomato flatbreads (Thrifty Lesley)

And for the sweet treats, you have to try my shortbread and Miss Thrifty’s FABULOUS Chocolate Orange cake which costs only £1.44 to make!!!

I really hope this helps you. Do you have any cheap meal ideas or recipes of your own you can share with me?

How to save money

How to save moneyWhy I’ll be saving this year

I’ve been bad. I’ve let a lot of good spending habits slip. It all happened gradually and I wasn’t really paying too much attention to the bank balances and then disaster struck. Well, several disasters struck. Over Christmas, our boiler broke. And a pipe in the loft started leaking. And our hoover gave up the ghost. And our microwave started making crackling noises. All of that cost a lot to fix or replace.

But….because it’s Christmas, you think, “ahhh it’s fine. I’ll look at the finances in the new year. We can cut back a bit. Not a problem!”

Then in January, perhaps my least favourite person on the planet, after Donald Trump, Harry Hill and both Jedward twins, decided to make life a lot harder. The taxman ruined everything. Both P and I learned we owed several thousand pounds. EACH! Oh, and because of the new way HMRC is doing things, I also owed money for the current tax year too!

So, to say I feel skint would be an understatement. Our debt has now grown significantly and I need to pay it off quickly. Very quickly.

So, I’m getting back to my good money saving habits. In fact, I’m taking it even further this year. And my plan of how to save money works.

How to start saving money

The trick to doing anything new well and maintaining it is – I find – to start with an intense, and sometimes painful, kick off and then you ease into a programme which has the right balance of the good habits and the rewards so it’s easy to fit it into daily life and keep it going.

For the rest of January and for all of February, I will be conducting my intense programme. The first thing I’m doing, is going through the FeastStyleThrive e-course myself. Hey, it doesn’t hurt to refresh my memory and check I’m doing everything! That means I conduct a full-on check of my finances, and then overhaul my spending on EVERY SINGLE PIECE of expenditure. Then I pick and choose the habits to keep going and voila! That’s how to save money.

Adopting a money saver mantra

It’s all very well signing up for a free course and reading the emails but it does still require a hell of a lot of willpower to actually take action.

So here are some helpful reasons why this is exactly the right time to do it:

          A lot of the people you know are doing Dry January – poor souls. So you have fewer drinking companions which means fewer excuses to go out!  Plus it’s BLOODY FREEZING! Stay in, enjoy the slipper time!

          You put on weight over Christmas. I’m sorry. But it’s true. That diet will only work if you don’t buy treats, booze or ready meals so save the pounds (in more ways than one).

          One of the easiest ways of how to save money is to adopt a meal plan and I’ll be posting mid-week meal plans over the course of the next few weeks! You’re welcome in advance.

          You deserve a good summer holiday this year. A fabulous, post-lots-of-pictures-on-facebook-and-instagram-and-make-everyone-hate-you kind of holiday. It’s not going to pay for itself so start the hard work of saving for it now.

          And finally, by looking at your finances now, at the start of the year, and working out how you can change a few habits to save money each month, you will be looking at a bank balance that is several hundred pounds heavier by Christmas.  Yup!

I’m going to be posting more tips on how to save money and documenting my money saving journey here so keep checking in, and please do share you advice and experiences, I’d love to hear them!