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Being a single parent is no bed of roses!

posted by in Budgeting Leave a comment

One parent and child tacmac

Parent and child (thanks to drinksmachine)

Being single does have rewards. You have complete control of your life and you’re able to do whatever you like when you like. You don’t have to justify your actions to anyone.

And some of the best parts of being single are being able to come and go as you please and not having to have an argument or discussion with anyone when you want to go on a shopping spree!

However, being a single parent and trying to raise children on your own is no bed of roses.

According to Gingerbread nearly a quarter (23%) of households with dependent children are single parent families, and there are 1.9 million single parents in Britain today.

As well as the constant demands from the children, you may find yourself having to juggle the bills on just the one income.

You don’t have the freedom to come and go as you please and there’s never any money left in your budget to go on a wild shopping spree.

It can be even worse if you have significant debt as well.

If you find yourself on the downward spiral of debt, struggling to make ends meet on your own with a young family, then don’t keep it bottled up and hope it will go away. It won’t. Tell others about it.

Using credit cards and payday loans to get from one pay day to the next or to cover unexpected expenses and income shortfalls just does not work. You need to work out a budget.

If there is more going out than coming in, look at ways to either try and increase your income or cut back on non-essential spending. By spending more money than you have coming in, things can only get worse.

Eight tips for single parents to grab back control of debt

  1. Do you find unopened bills scattered about the house in unusual places such as in the food cupboard, or stuffed down the back of the sofa? Don’t leave letters unopened. Deal with them as soon as they arrive.
  2. Contact your creditors as soon as you realise that you’re struggling. Don’t leave it until you’ve missed several payments. Let your creditors know what your circumstances are and why you are having problems paying your bills. Send them a copy of your income and expenditure to back up any offer of payment and don’t be pressured into paying more than you can afford.
  3. Make sure you are receiving all the benefits and Tax Credits you are entitled to.
  4. Tell family and friends that you’re struggling. They may be able to help you.
  5. Shop around for the best deals on utilities and mobile phones.
  6. Do you need two mobile phones? Is the SKY package essential? Cut back on unnecessary expenditure.
  7. If you’re living in your overdraft, change to a basic bank account elsewhere. This will put you back in charge of your finances and stop the bank taking money from your account to pay off the debts you have with them
  8. Don’t feel you have to cope on your own. Gingerbread and Netmums offer practical support for single parents.

And, if your debts are becoming a problem and you need some help, you can use our online debt advice facility Debt Remedy.

If you’re a single parent let us know how you cope! Remember, you don’t need to struggle alone.

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Frugal Wooing – Valentine’s Day on the cheap

posted by in Budgeting 3 Comments

Service station

*Not* the place to buy those romantic gifts for your loved one

One sure way to dampen passion and loving thoughts on Valentine’s Day is to think about how to do it on the cheap or go for the easy option, such as flowers from the local garage. It hardly sounds very romantic does it?

However, with the Government spending and benefit changes biting hard, and money being tight, we may have to resort to some ‘frugal spoiling’.

The best things in life are free, or so the saying goes. One thing we forget in this materialistic, spend, spend, spend world of ours is that just spending time with the one you love is free and can never be replaced.

Continue reading »

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Pets not debts: 10 money saving tips for pet owners

posted by in Saving money 2 Comments

Cat and money

Pets can eat money, although not usually literally (thanks to Piez)

It’s love at first sight. You’re smitten. How can you resist those big eyes that plead, “Take me home”? You’ve fallen hook, line and sinker and you take your new pet home to meet the family. Now be prepared for the commitment that will last the animal’s lifetime.

An important fact that some people forget when they set their hearts on a pet is that they can live for as long as 15 to 20 years. Before choosing your pet, you need to do your homework and look at the cost of food, shelter, vet bills, toys, accessories, and in some cases, training. Continue reading »

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I resolve to start an emergency fund this year

posted by in Budgeting 2 Comments

So you’ve made the usual New Year’s resolutions. You’ve resolved to go on a diet, take more exercise, take up a new hobby and stop drinking. And you’ve already you’ve broken the majority of them.

The wine’s back in the fridge and the vow to never eat chocolate again finished at half midnight on New Year’s Day. You were going to go for a brisk walk in the fresh air but the dog developed a limp and it was snowing outside, so you succumbed once again to the sanctuary of the sofa and Netflix.

Don’t feel so bad. It happens to most of us. Very often, resolutions can quickly become difficult to sustain. There’s a lot of pressure that comes along with keeping a resolution. One minor slip-up, and it can feel like it’s all come crashing down and there’s just no point to persevere with it.

There is, however, one resolution that you should make and keep this year; start an emergency fund.

Why you need an emergency fund

At this time of the year, some emergency always seems to crop up out of the blue and catch you off guard. It could be anything from the car packing up to something more serious, such as job loss.

Research we’ve carried out shows that a small amount of savings can stop an unexpected expense turning into a debt problem. Over half of the people we asked told us that emergency costs they had to pay could have been covered with savings of £300.

In other words, an emergency fund can help to stop the need to use credit to pay for unexpected expenses; they could help resolve the problem.

Nothing to do with the weather!

The unexpected can occur at any time, and it’s important to put some money aside in case of an emergency, to pay for bills just like this. You never know what may happen to your job, family or health, so it’s wise to be ready for the unknown.

A rainy day fund or an emergency fund is savings that you keep separate from any other accounts and only touch when a true emergency arises.

New ‘must have’ shoes in the January sales do not constitute an ‘emergency’. Neither does decorating the front room or buying a new sofa because the current one doesn’t match the wallpaper.

Determine how much you can afford to save

You’re probably thinking, “Yes, I agree, but putting something aside is impossible”. After all, you struggle to make ends meet as it is.

However, even if you don’t have much to save, it doesn’t matter. Even a small amount each month will soon add up.

Try to aim to save enough to cover at least three months’ worth of mortgage payments and priority bills. Don’t worry if you do not have this money immediately. Take time to build your fund up gradually.

Examples savings that could pay for an emergency fund

  • Save your change: Don’t spend any small change you get but at the end of the day, empty your purse or pockets into a jar. Once a month go to the bank and put it into a savings account. You’ll be amazed how quickly it mounts up
  • Open a separate savings account: At lot of people start emergency funds with good intentions, but then dip into it as soon as it starts to grow. Keep your emergency fund separate from your other accounts and only use the money in a true emergency. Make sure you can get at your money easily when you need it. Credit unions are becoming more and more popular as an alternative to high street banks.
  • Cut back on unnecessary spending and put the money you save in the bank: Items such as weekly magazines, coffee on the way to work and meals out all add up. Keep a spending diary. Look at where your money is going and find things that can be cut back.
  • Stop smoking: An obvious one but this would save you £8 a day (based on a 20-a-day habit) or a staggering £2920 over a year (and if there are two smokers in the family, double this).

Emergencies tend to crop up when you are least prepared. The majority of us will take out the already battered credit card and use this, but if you’re canny, you save now and save a lot of worry later.

Have you broken any of your New Year’s resolutions yet? Was starting an emergency fund one of them? We would love to hear your experiences!

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Let It Snow! How to have free fun in the snow

posted by in Saving money Leave a comment

Children fun in the snow

Use anything for a sledge! (thanks to RobWinton)

It’s all “snowpocalypse” doom and gloom in the news at the moment, and to top it all, there’s a threat of even more snow over the next week, just as the main Christmas getaway takes place.

Instead of cringing at the thought, why not embrace it, and look at ways to have some free fun in the snow this Christmas. After all, isn’t that why we have accumulated all that warm winter gear?

So, prise yourself out of the armchair, root out those woolly gloves, scarves, wellies and pom-pom hats and head out into the crisp fresh air. Here are some tips that can help turn a boring, cold winter day into a fun snow day.

1. Make a snow angel
Just lie down in fluffy white snow, outstretch your arms and legs and make your mark in the snow. Great fun!

2. Eat some snowflakes
Catch snowflakes on your tongue as they fall from the sky. It may not be the healthiest thing to do, but it’s fun. Remember the oft-told tip about avoiding yellow snow though!

3. Build a snowman
All you need is a carrot for his nose and pebbles for eyes. Or let your imagination run riot and invent a different snowman.

4. Make snow footprints
Make a pattern or write a message in the snow with your footprints. And keep an eye out for unusual footprints and try to guess which animal they belong to.

5. Go sledging
You don’t have to buy an expensive sledge. You can make your own out of cardboard.

6. Make an igloo
Become an Eskimo and build your own igloo. Then climb inside and admire your handy work with a hot mug of chocolate!

7. Have a snowball fight
Forts are allowed, although we always thought that was cheating. Here are some tips on how to win a snowball fight.

8. Go for a walk and take your camera
Look for unusual snowy scenes or day-today objects looking very different in the snow, and take some photos.

9. Volunteer to help an elderly or disabled neighbour
Elderly and disabled people can become isolated in the bad weather. Offer to get shopping for them if they are unable to venture out into the snow, or volunteer to clear the snow from their drive. Spend some time chatting with them; they may not have had any visitors for some time.

10. When your fingers and toes get too cold
Head back indoors, warm up with a hot drink, snuggle up in a blanket and huddle by a fire. Or run a hot bath and fill with lots of bubbles. Relax and enjoy.

As the old saying goes, ‘the best things in life are free’ and snow can be fun and it’s free for everyone. And there’s even the chance we may have a white Christmas to look forward to!

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