In association with Hoppy

There are quite a few areas of my life where I pride myself on managing to be Not Old. I know how to use social media, I don’t say THE YouTube and I even know who Logan Paul is. (Although I do not feel that my life is enriched by this.)

And then there are other things where I just feel CONFUSED, like I need a six-year-old to come round and explain it to me, like remote controls. Or politics. It’s a horrible feeling, because you know that deep down you are a smart and capable women, but your brain just won’t process whatever it is. You read about it, and the individual words make sense, but together it’s like a different language.

One of these areas of weakness for me is my broadband and TV subscription. We’ve been with Sky for about the last ten years, almost entirely because I am too scared to switch. It feels like so much has changed since I first had a TV. How would it even WORK if I didn’t have Sky anymore? Do you still use the dish? Do you have to have any kind of BOX? Do you need an aerial? If I switch broadband who do I have to tell and how long am I without the internet? Honestly, I’m completely hopeless. You should have seen me peering at the back of my television, looking baffled. It was pathetic.

My Sky contract expires at the beginning of December though, and I am determined to educate myself and stop paying more than I need. I just checked my bank and my last direct debit to Sky was £71 for TV, phone and broadband. HOW?? I don’t even have sports or films. It’s so embarrassing. I can’t even check the bill as I’ve forgotten my login details and am too scared to sort it out in case I accidentally sign up for box sets.

It was ideal timing then when I had an email from Hoppy, asking if I wanted to try out their services.

The main aim of Hoppy is to simplify your home management. In fact, Hoppy is the number one FREE home management site. Rather than having piles of paper everywhere and seemingly endless to do list – checking gas prices, getting the car booked for an MOT, finding someone to fix the leaky tap – Hoppy lets you store and manage all of your information and tasks in one place. It’s one site, where you can do everything from finding a reliable tradesperson to comparing mobile phone tariffs.

Hoppy home management

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In association with Gumtree

Today I want to set you a challenge.

I’m calling it the £147.06 Gumtree challenge, but you’re allowed to change the amount. (I’m nice like that.) My amount is £147.06 because that’s how much it is costing for me and Belle to fly from Bristol to Ireland to stay with my sister over Christmas. We’ve been every year since they moved there and although we have flight costs, petrol and car parking, I easily make it back, eating my way through the Bendicks Mints and assorted savoury nibbles.

Still, it’s a chunk of money, and it’s always nice NOT to have to spend chunks of money if you can help it, so when Gumtree asked if I was up for a money making challenge, it seemed like a good idea to set myself a goal. I love a good goal – the more specific the better, as you will know if you’ve read my new ‘50 things to do before you’re 50‘ list.

We apply the whole SMART goals thing to business a lot – specific, achievable targets with measurable time frames – but it makes a lot of sense in all areas of life really. Take these two examples:

‘Ergh, I could really do with a bit of extra cash, I should probably clear out the garage sometime.’

‘I want to sell enough of the unwanted stuff around my home to cover £147.06 of flight costs before Christmas’

I know which one makes ME want to sort through my garage more.

So where to start? The good news is that if you hoard an average amount of clutter, chances are you easily have £147.06 worth of unwanted stuff lying around the house, in your attic, or out in the garage. According to research carried out by Gumtree, households selling unwanted and unused items have made an average of £378 in the last year, and on average we’re potentially sitting on £881 per household – that’s not bad for a poke around the attic and an hour or so on Gumtree is it?

I was at a slight disadvantage starting the challenge as I’m one of those annoying people who says things like ‘Ooh, clearing out the wardrobe is just so relaxing!’ There is nothing more stressful for me than an untidy cupboard, so I’m already pretty streamlined. Still, in a way this proves the point even better – if I can find things to sell on Gumtree then anyone can.

I’ve actually used Gumtree quite a bit over the last few years. Scrolling back through my account I’ve sold all sorts – a fish tank, a pink ukulele, an air purifier, chests of drawers – I must have made over £400 altogether, which is a promising start to the £147.06 challenge. I’ve always found Gumtree very straightforward and quick to get things listed, especially because I’m of an age when online selling used to involve uploading photos, (slowly), to a PC, and going through a long and complicated listing process. Gumtree really isn’t like that.

Listing something to sell on Gumtree takes literally minutes and if you have a few things to sell then even better, as you can whizz through photos of everything all at once. I use the Gumtree app, which means you can take photos on your phone and add them directly to your product descriptions, write up a little blurb, and you’re good to go. When you take your photos, remember to take them in decent light and make them look as appealing as possible. This isn’t Tinder you know – we don’t need topless photos in dingy bathrooms.

The product description – a bit like a dating profile – is probably the bit that could benefit most from a little bit of thought. The temptation is to just list details about the product but, like any good salesperson, what you actually need to do is create an aspirational idea BEHIND the product, get people thinking about themselves using it. View Post

In association with the Money Advice Service

Bringing up two children, mainly on my own, the first one in tow when I was just 17, hasn’t always been easy financially.

Over the years I’ve accumulated debts, worried about them, tried to ignore them, faced up to them, paid them off, eaten 9p noodles for dinner regularly and switched jobs so many times that I found myself with seven separate pension pots.

Let’s call it a journey. Things always sound sexier when you call them a journey don’t they?

My point is that over the years I’ve been poor and I’ve been less poor, but I’ve learnt lessons. Some of them big ones, some not so big. One of the most important financial lessons I’ve learnt is that the very worse thing you can do is to bury your head in the sand and pretend that you don’t need to think about finances.

Spoiler: YOU DO.

The good news though is that there is a lot of support and information out there, and once you start learning more about the financial matters that impact you and your family you can quickly feel much more in control – it can actually feel very empowering and is great for your mental health too.

This week – 12-18 November – is Talk Money Week, a new public awareness week from the Money Advice Service to help encourage people to have more open conversations about money. With this in mind, and to show you that money doesn’t need to be scary, I’ve put together a list of nine ideas for parents (and non-parents) that could save you money either right now this very second, or for years to come. All of these would make great starting points for discussions about money with family and friends.

Face up to your debt

If you’re struggling with debt at the moment chances are you’re doing your best to ignore the FACTS of the situation. When I was in debt in my mid-twenties, post single parent degree, it’s exactly what I did for a good couple of years and it is a guaranteed way to make yourself feel terrible. Not only that, it doesn’t do you any favours financially as interest just racks up and people get cross. It turns out that banks and credit card companies aren’t keen on being ignored.

If I could offer just one piece of advice it would be to take a deep breath, get all those letters out of the back of the drawer, and start making a plan for how you’re going to tackle it. You will find that if you are honest and communicative most lenders will want to help come to a manageable arrangement with you – far better for them to have you paying them back five pounds a month than nothing at all.

The Money Advice Service has loads of practical advice here on how to start tackling debt. I promise you won’t regret it. Do not just hold a book over your head and pretend the bills aren’t all falling down around you. (Definitely what this guy is doing.)

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

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I bought a house for the first time last year, not long before I turned 40. On the one hand it has made me feel far more secure than I ever have before, but with that has come a new sense of responsibility, and the knowledge that unless I manage my finances and my lifestyle carefully, there is always the risk of repossession.

It might sound dramatic, but I sometimes It can be easier than you think to find yourself in trouble, especially when you are self-employed like me. It only takes one thing to go wrong – an accident that prevents you from working maybe – and you can find yourself on a slippery financial slope.

If you ever should get to the stage where you think your home might be at risk of repossession, there are plenty of organisations who can help. Citizens Advice can offer advice on debt and if it’s appropriate for your circumstances, you might want to consider a a bridging or repossession loan from a company such as TIC Finance. Shelter can also offer specific advice about house repossession, including information about applying to a court for a court order to be changed.

They say though that prevention is better than a cure, so here are a few ideas for ways to avoid the risk of repossession in the first place. View Post

In association with Post Office Money

A few weeks ago I had an email from Post Office Money.

They wanted to talk to me about my house, which I bought last summer, and a new online tool that they were working on – This Is My Home – looking at affordability of housing for first time buyers. Post Office Money were conducting some research into the saving and spending habits of first time buyers throughout the UK, but as well as finding out more about averages, they wanted to hear some individual stories that highlighted the challenges faced by first time buyers and the compromises that sometimes need to be made.

At the same time they wanted to show that it owning your own home IS achievable, even if you do happen to be single, self-employed and not keen on depriving yourself of treats. (Me.)

So…

My unlikely story of home ownership

By the time I got to about 35, I felt like I’d really missed my chance to get on the property ladder. I was living in Bristol at the time and house prices were through the roof, (pun intended). My rent was so high though that had no disposable income left to save – I was caught in the trap.

Mostly, I felt okay with it. When I was growing up we lived mainly in rented properties and moved house quite a bit, so I guess I was used to it. I convinced myself that owning a house wasn’t all that important – I just couldn’t see it ever happening, especially not when I was self-employed. (Everyone knows blogging isn’t a real job right?) I felt like I’d made my peace with always renting.

‘It’s great!’ I would say. ‘If anything goes wrong it’s not my responsibility to fix it!’

What I’ve learnt since buying my own house last year though is that owning a home comes with a lot more feelings than just responsibility. Having never owned a house or had such a massive debt, I thought it would feel overwhelming. I thought it would be a pressure, something always at the back of my mind. I even worried that I might resent the house, or feel trapped by it, given that I’m not used to the idea of living in one place for a long time.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. View Post

Over the last few years I’ve started doing this thing whenever I travel anywhere of bringing Bee back some local currency as a present. (I buy myself tasteless fridge magnets, but that’s probably a whole post in of itself – a treat for another day.) Not only does this tradition mean I have a useful thing to do with leftover holiday money, but it also means that I am technically giving her cash, which she always likes.

(She has from time to time, when things have got desperate, thought about exchanging it all for pounds, but I think she’s been disappointed by the value of her Vietnamese Dong.)

compare foreign exchange rates

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Although this is a very lovely and thoughtful gift, it’s undermined by the fact that my approach to travel money generally is a bit backwards. In my head, people who order foreign currency in advance for trips are OLD PEOPLE who are just overthinking things. ‘Look at me,’ I think to myself, ‘getting cash out at an ATM and casually paying for things like souvenirs or fun times abroad on my card like a pro-traveller.’ Then I get home and realise that my bank charges me a fee AND a percentage on all non-sterling transactions and I realise what a doofus I am.

And then I forget about it until the next time I go abroad and the VERY SAME THING happens all over again.  If I ever do think to buy foreign currency in advance then I just go into the post office because I really don’t know how it works otherwise. Thinking about it I really don’t know where the cocky attitude has come from as I am clearly RUBBISH at the whole thing. View Post