Thursday, 31 December 2009

Savings stamps

If you find yourself tempted to dip into funds, a better option may be to invest small amounts weekly or monthly in savings stamps. Sold over the counter for £5 each at any Post Office branch you can stick them onto a collector's card and can use them to pay for utilities bills, car tax, travel insurance, mobile phone top-ups and even some goods and stationary on sale in your local Post Office shop.

It is also well worth asking about savings stamps at Coop supermarkets and corner shops, where in 2009, £50 was given back for every £48 of stamps bought towards Christmas groceries. That was a massive 4.16% in interest!

http://www.postoffice.co.uk/portal/po/content1?catId=94800755&mediaId=19400174

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Paypal

Now that interest rates are so low, other than security, there's little difference between depositing money in a savings account and keeping it under your mattress. On this basis, if online shopping makes you savings, you could top up a Paypal account on a regular basis, with additional small amounts, so as to set them aside for Christmas, holidays and Birthdays. There are no credit checks because you're not borrowing. However, misuse for the purposes of saving money by anyone with debts in administration would constitute fraudulent activity under UK Insolvency Law, so it is worth checking before you use a Paypal account to budget back to school funds or similar.

http://www.paypal.co.uk/uk

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Family Savings Accounts

Family Savings Accounts are a fit with Government strategy to tackle Child Poverty, so expect more. At present, the Coventry Building Society offers families a two-in-one instant access account with a very high interest rate for child benefit deposits and another more modest rate for those made from other income. You'll need to ask if your circumstances meet the eligibility criteria, but these do include discharged bankrupts.

http://www.coventrybuildingsociety.co.uk/savings/ProductFeatures.aspx?ProdCode=FFS

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Managed Account

When all else fails, you can apply for a managed account which is operated for a set-up then monthly fees. Although managed accounts may have the added benefit of a prepaid credit card in addition to a current account for receiving income and paying regular bills, they are really aimed at those who have failed to ensure sufficient funds are available when using other basic accounts. It's good to have this safety net, but ideally, aim to avoid accounts like these as you will quite literally be paying for your mistakes.

https://www.cardonebanking.com/landingpages/application.aspx?sourceCode=10422000

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Barclays

Also operable by any debtor including bankrupts, Barclays' Cash Card Account gives you the choice between a cash only or combined debit and cash card, Connect (also a VISA Debit card). Provided you have the funds available you may withdraw up to £300 in one day, which could be useful if you live in a remote area. The full range of transactions is available for no fee but again, there is no credit for going overdrawn on this account.

http://www.personal.barclays.co.uk/BRC1/jsp/brccontrol?site=pfs&task=homefreegroup&value=12866

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Cashminder

Great News! The Coop Cashminder recently switched to VISA Debit, making it one of the most widely accepted cards in the world! Not bad for one of only two accounts operable by anyone in debt, including bankrupts. The Cashminder accepts deposits in just about any format and withdrawals by direct debit, standing order, debit or cash card at numerous places internationally and online. With no monthly subscription, there's 24 hour tele and online banking and you can stop any automated payment which is likely to make you overdrawn when you know you won't have the funds available - just tell the other party and then the bank first. Don't, whatever you do, go overdrawn or you will lose the account.

http://www.co-operativebank.co.uk/servlet/Satellite/1193206368743,CFSweb/Page/Bank-CurrentAccounts

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Credit building

A good credit history secures the widest possible choice of financial products and can also influence your employment prospects. The Independent ran a great article on credit building cards for those with little or no credit history, early in 2009. However, if you have been involved in some form of debt management, your approach needs to be different. Ensuring an accurate record is crucial – some debts can still be recorded after settlement or discharge and you may need to pay court fees for their removal. A former financial adviser, Piggy Bankrupt is one of the best sources for advice on credit repair (he states what his credit licences are for, too), although be warned, it's not always cheap.

http://www.independent.co.uk/money/loans-credit/beginners-guide-to-creditbuilding-cards-1628043.html
http://www.piggybankrupt.co.uk/Bankruptcy/credit_repair_after_bankruptcy.html

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Prepaid services

If getting on at work or socially means that you need to use a credit card, look no further than the prepaid options. As a relatively new product, prepaid cards are awash with different features, so compare the benefits to your lifestyle before signing up.  Insurers are also hopping on the top-up bandwagon, which could assist your cash flow, though pay as you drive offers most savings to those with low mileage.  Pay as you go mobile comparisons are confusing to say the least. Most focus on handsets and if you are broke, it's the tariff that matters so check SIMS and mobile broadband charges.

http://www.compareprepaid.co.uk/compare-uk.html
http://www.fairinvestment.co.uk/pay_as_you_go_car_insurance.aspx
http://www.fairinvestment.co.uk/pay_as_you_go_sim_cards.aspx
http://www.cable.co.uk/compare/pay-as-you-go-mobile-broadband

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Credit checkers

As you recover from debt, you may wish to broaden the range of financial products that you use. Your credit record is the starting point for this, because without it, any application that you make - current account, savings, pensions even - could result in an increased negative score if you are turned down. Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis has up to date information on which lenders use which agency and Check my File offers the best all round deal on reports from all three agencies - important if you need to keep checking for any length of time.

http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/cards/credit-reference
http://www.checkmyfile.com

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


The Borrowers ??? keeping your debts small

Lending to an insolvent may seem like throwing good money after bad, but if it is such a terrible idea why are there so many loan sharks?

Zerocredit_UK believes there are always emergencies you cannot immediately finance so you need a backup. After saving for three to six months, most Credit Unions allow you to take out a small loan, usually around three times what you have saved so far – so at £20 a month that's two or three hundred quid. Rates are very reasonable too and certainly not the 400% plus APR peddled by sub-prime lenders.

http://www.abcul.coop/page/about/borrowing.cfm

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Saving Face

Completing a household budget or Statement of Affairs, it is easier to see that funds for one off expenses like a new washing machine or vehicle repairs need to be accumulated over time. Rather than borrow from a doorstep or pay day lender, find out more about community banking in your area. For as little as £20 a month, some Credit Unions allow you to keep a small savings account, although bankrupts will need to check this with the Official Receiver first, as disposable income belongs to creditors.

http://www.moneymadeclear.fsa.gov.uk/products/savings/types/credit_union_savings_accounts.html
http://www.abcul.org/page/members.cfm

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Basic Banking

Keeping a current account, which allows you to conduct your day to day business as usual is critical to anyone in financial difficulty. Contrary to all the scare mongering, there are plenty out there to choose from – just check the Money Made Clear guide to basic bank accounts. The most recent of these is the CUCA or Credit Union Current Account of which there are now 24 in the UK.

http://www.moneymadeclear.fsa.gov.uk/pdfs/bank_accounts.pdf

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


In Sickness and in Health

Some of the most vulnerable members of our society live in debt and poverty. Why not help them to approach a charity they may already know and trust? The newly merged Age Concern and Help the Aged run a programme called Your Money Matters. Macmilllan provides a comprehensive guide to financial issues for cancer victims. And mental health charity, Mind, offers local support through its shops and centres.

http://www.helptheaged.org.uk/en-gb/AdviceSupport/FinancialAdvice/Budgeting/YourMoneyMatters/as_ymm_contacts_110607.htm
http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Livingwithandaftercancer/Financialissues/Financialissues.aspx
http://www.mind.org.uk/help/mind_in_your_area

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Keep it in the Family

Increasingly, charities which focus on supporting specific groups of people are tackling poverty and debt, often working with other specialists on joint projects. For instance, Contact a Family and the CAB are trying to improve access to debt advice for families with disabled children. Barnardos have been tackling child poverty for over a century, whilst Save the Children work with Family Action similarly. Gingerbread provides practical support and advice to single parents.

http://www.cafamily.org.uk/inyourarea/index.html
http://www.barnardos.org.uk/what_we_do/our_projects.htm
http://www.family-action.org.uk/section.aspx?id=1019
http://www.gingerbread.org.uk/portal/page/portal/Website

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Kids Zone

Perhaps the hardest part of being in debt is explaining your circumstances to younger members of the family. Owned by YouthNet UK, The Site provides advice on a vast array of issues facing youngsters of which money is but one. The content may not be as comprehensive as other links posted, but it is pertinent and provides some good pointers to encourage healthy money management for all the family.

http://www.thesite.org/homelawandmoney/money

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Take Action

Credit Action focuses on educating consumers to manage their money well, as well as working in partnership with two free counselling services. With online and telephone support in the first instance, referral to a personal adviser is made if you need it. CCCS budgeting tools are very sophisticated, enabling you to keep track of changes easily. Should you find lots of text confusing, tools you can download to a mobile phone make Money Basics' Spendometer an ideal starting point to rein in your spending. If you try this before debts become an issue, the chances are they won't!

http://www.creditaction.org.uk/home.html
http://www.cccs.co.uk/Home.aspx
http://www.moneybasics.co.uk

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Advice you can Trust

The Money Advice Trust is a leading debt charity and creator of the Common Financial Statement (which standardises how income and expenditure are presented). It also runs two major counselling services. If you have individual or household debts, use the online or telephone support given at National Debtline. Small business owners will find help with managing household priorities against income tax, VAT registration and the like at Business Debtline.

http://www.nationaldebtline.co.uk
http://www.bdl.org.uk

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Back to Black

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzqOpOLKxIE?wmode=transparent]

The recently developed CAP Money course is aimed at anyone who wants
to take control of their finances.

https://www.capmoney.org/findacourse

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Good Samaritans

There are two Christian debt charities with centres nationwide and no faith criteria to use them. Community Money Advice trains and networks churches and community groups to provide local financial advice, simply enter your postcode to find branches near you. Christians Against Poverty usually offer a home visit, then, through an account that you hold with them, settle bills and repayments on your behalf – useful for those in isolated areas.

http://www.communitymoneyadvice.com
http://www.capuk.org/home/index.php

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Hail a CAB

Citizens Advice lets you choose between self-help guides, online, telephone or personal advisers, depending on how much support you need - though waiting times for face to face appointments can be long, so phone first. Their online advice guide will take you to frequently asked questions, debt, mortgage and credit guides, model letters to send to creditors, interactive tools, or you can simply locate a nearby CAB - all in all, a great array of self-help or supported prevention and care.

http://www.adviceguide.org.uk

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Hot off the Press

For debt advice which comes straight from the horse's mouth, make an informed choice about bankruptcy and its alternatives through The Insolvency Service. From April 2009, Debt Relief Orders have offered a solution for non home owners on low incomes, whilst in recent years, IVAs have become much more common amongst those with sufficient income to repay larger debts.

http://www.insolvency.gov.uk

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Not on Your Telly!

Want price comparison without paying commission for flashy advertising? Then look no further than the FSA, because your taxes have paid for this too! Money Made Clear offers everything from explaining high street products, to bona fide contacts for more specific help and advice. Product comparisons focus on financial goods and services, so use it for up to date information on basic banking, listed under "Everyday money". Such accounts are open to insolvents and, in some instances, bankrupts too.

http://www.moneymadeclear.fsa.gov.uk/

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Do YOU Pay Tax?

Then make this expenditure work for you and claim what's yours! Use Direct.gov for general advice and lists of contacts, providing genuinely free financial guidance for more specific inquiries. Local council websites are also certain of ad-free content and ideal for finding out what's on your doorstep - increasingly so as recession and unemployment have hit hard. One of the first to do this was Broadland District Council, with a lovely self help guide available in digital reader:

http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/MoneyTaxAndBenefits/index.htm

http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk/Launch.aspx?referral=other&refresh=Si5014Dk3Gd1&PBID=199cea4f-437f-4f8e-9045-60e9c1fb8997&skip

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


More Bang Going Bust

For difficulties with a significant business or income, you may need paid advice. Reputable businesses are registered with a professional association, usually DEMSA or the Debt Resolution Forum. The Insolvency Helpline is a national network of regulated professionals, which is impartial, does not advertise and is funded by donations and subscriptions, largely from participating practices. Other reliable independent advisers can be found through unbiased.co.uk and the Institute of Financial Planning.

http://www.demsa.co.uk
http://www.debtresolutionforum.org.uk
http://www.insolvencyhelpline.co.uk
http://www.unbiased.co.uk
http://www.financialplanning.org.uk

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


At Debt's Door

Watch out for claims managers offering restructured repayments and resettlements or contacting creditors on your behalf. All of these activities require a Consumer Credit Licence as well as Ministry of Justice registration. Another dodgy practice is offering debtors a self help forum so as to sell credit brokerage through the back door. Before sharing details, check advisors hold either or both of the following: Category D for debt adjusting and Category E for debt counselling. Both licences have sub-categories, D2 and E2 for non-commercial or free services. Most consumers only need the latter. Enter individual or company names and numbers to check licences on the OFT Consumer Credit Register.

http://www2.crw.gov.uk/pr/Default.aspx

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Result!

Goodbye Mr Site!  I have now copied everything I need to move my content somewhere else and within the next day or two I shall be handing over the £15 to allow me to do this.  Just in case anyone is interested, I was going to be charged somewhere in the region of £90 to keep Zero-credit on this inordinately awkward platform.  Telling perhaps that it took me 6 months to work out how to upload all my content in some semblance of what I had imagined for it - and even then I had to overhaul it in August just to get the internal links working. I might be a technosaur, but I am not a fool.  Everything took far longer than seemed necessary and rarely came out as I expected or hoped.  So on to pastures new in 2010, in more ways than one...

Posted @ 17:07:40 on 30 December 2009

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

acid test request

What follows is my response to an e-mail I received yesterday:

Hi I`m Chris Clarkson from debtwatchdog.com. Operated by the same people who created Holiday Watchdog, debtwatchdog.com offers users all the information they need to understand and start fixing their debt issues .

There's no doubt you have some interesting sites out there.  I'm just wondering why neither your LinkedIN  nor your Twitter  profile make any mention of debtwatchdog.com.  I know the debt / credit tag is a bit of a hot potato - it's easy for folk to assume you're a charlatan when you're not - but I tend to err on the side of transparency and find that works. 

Our management team has asked me to contact other site owners because we are looking for relevant partners and zero-credit.co.uk seems ideal. We can either exchange links with you - or - we can offer you some free of charge unique content in return for a link back to us.
I'm hoping you are aware that Zero-credit is a links rich site, although categorically not involved in any manner of affiliation scheme.  This not to say Zero-credit is averse to exchanging links, but that the majority of such arrangements are with Not for Profit organisations. 
We have access to a very large group of UK-based editorial staff who could research and write a high quality, unique piece specifically for zero-credit.co.uk. You will of course have full editorial control and it definitely won`t be a sales pitch for us!

Unclear as to whether you hold a commercial or non-commercial credit counselling licence and wary of site visitors entering financial information using your statement of affairs tool without greater clarity as to how this is used, would you explain this please? 

All we would ask is that you allow us to include one simple text link back to debtwatchdog.com towards the end of the content which will hopefully be found by the search engines in the longer term - which is how we would benefit.
Please let me know your thoughts.
Thanks and Kind Regards - Chris Clarkson

Posted to the Zero-credit blog, this correspondence will provide a link. Ideally, your response will reveal a shared aim to end the confusion for those seeking reliable advice, for as I am sure you are aware, Zero-credit is committed to ending dodgy debt ads and eradicating debt stigma.
Best wishes
Emma

Posted @ 08:04:47 on 22 December 2009

Sunday, 13 December 2009

The way forward

I'm coming up to the first anniversary of completing the Zero-credit book. It's been a tough year with loyalties torn between earning an income and keeping Zero-credit and now ConkerTU up to speed. Why spread yourself so thin you may ask? How do these activities relate to one another? The answer is simple – need.

I live in what should be one of the most accessible regions of England – less than 20 miles from the M42, M1 and M6, less than thirty miles from Coventry, Birmingham and East Midland Airports. All highly accessible when I use my car...

However, without it I'm lost. I cannot get direct transport to any of Birmingham, Nottingham, Leicester or Derby – indeed, I cannot easily take a bus after 6pm from any nearby town where I might find employment. In the summer I blogged how a five mile round trip for my son and myself cost £9.60 – imagine that on a low income! 

When there's a storm, fog or some other inclement weather, my phone line crackles and my Internet connection is non-existent. Yet according to the digital network analyses I enjoy an 8MB soon to be 20MB connection. Speak to any service provider and you'll be told that this is what the exchange can handle but at more than four miles away we're consigned to 1.5MB download and 0.25MB upload speeds. Could you run a business on that?

I've recently been involved in a community battle to retain a local fire station. At the county boundary, Moira Fire Station could seem surplus to requirements. Leicestershire would be a safer place if resources were more evenly spread across the county we're told, with scant regard for the Derbyshire and Staffordshire villages, which years of boundary changes have shifted in and out of the catchment, all in the name of democracy. 

After 6pm, the police attend from some 20 miles away, by which time any ill gotten gains are well and truly gotten. Specialist medical treatment can be at either of Leicester or Derby hopsitals (no direct bus to either, remember) and if you need blood tests to be sent on you can only do this if your GP is in the same county – otherwise it's two trips to the hospital where you'll be treated.

In the nine years since I moved here, house prices have trebled but only come back down to around 2½ times what they were, yet local jobs at or over £25kpa remain few and far between. When I was unemployed in the summer, it was suggested that I might travel half an hour by car to earn the minimum wage for shift work in a distribution centre, built here for the outstanding infrastructure!

I left social research ten years ago. Public services to cross boundary communities were poor back then and I was tired of the political tick boxing to demonstrate so called standards. Over the last decade, I've seen much the same in education. As ever, it is being at the front line of empowering people of any age which thrills me.

As 2009 comes to an end I find myself at a cross roads. Workng part time as a teacher, I have neither the funds nor the the capacity to make the impact required. I guess it will be a busy Christmas for me looking at social enterprise models so I can really kick butt!

Posted @ 10:36:48 on 13 December 2009

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Two blogs in a day sure beats retail therapy

Hello again!  Well I have had a fine day catching up with Zero-credit news. Sadly I don't have the time to include all of it here now, but rest assured that come the end of term (2 weeks) I shall be posting a whole host of new goodies to add to the vast array of links I have for all you Zero-creditors!

It's been fun being back in the Zero-credit saddle. I'm enjoying Conkertu and looking forward to more, but I have found it hard to give both the attention they deserve, so I hope you've found my posts over at conkertu of interest. I truly believe that sustainable lifestyles are the best way to live creditfree.

I didn't record any audioboo in and around Coalville in the end - I got there too late in the day to make the most of the market and my hands were cold. Still, I have just vented my spleen at the continued shenanigans of debt management companies passing themselves off as charities: debt ad scams. Maybe one day someone with some degree of influence will take note and kick up a fuss!  I still find it incredible that no one picked up on The Debt Standard blog I posted a couple of months ago.

I will be gettting back to you on the Jinlun saga - I have not had the time to pursue it further and remain vastly irritated at how people who know they are in the wrong come up with all sorts of delaying tactics instead of just getting on with it. Life is way too short to faddle about like that in my opinion - it is the ultimate cheapskate.

Anyway, that's all from me for a few more days - I'm off for a much needed and relaxing weekend with the man I love and without whom none of this would be possible. Good luck staying creditfree in the run up to Xmas - use some of the ideas on the Leisure page if you're trying not to part with your pennies - I know I am!  Still, better to live frugal and do this than earn shed loads and not have the time for doing anything worthwhile.

Oh yeah and I'm sorry there isn't a consistent font size for this blog - its such a pain compared to the likes of Tumblr - but that too will be sorted in the next fortnight or so!

Posted @ 23:28:05 on 04 December 2009

Debt ad scams

Friday, 4 December 2009

Phew

Well, the first ConkerTU was a great success!  You can see live media from the event over at http://www.conkertu.com 

I've spent the week catching up with marking, planning and all important make up for the impending school show and I'm about to head out for a spot of #creditfree shopping in Coalville, iphone at the ready to audioboo, twitpic and anything else I can think of for all of my favourite little haunts. You can do very nicely thank you without supermarket promotions!

Have some site updates planned over the next few weeks - some more very useful links to add in, but as you will appreciate working four days a week as well as all of this does take its toll.

Thank you so much to my regular readers and welcome all you newbies - hopefully I'll add some strategic Xmas shopping tips in the not too distant future!

Posted @ 12:49:27 on 04 December 2009

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Dawn of a new era!

Well, I must say I like audioboo for its simplicity in recording and uploading.  I can be Mummy and teacher and all my other commitments as well as Zero-credit and now 1/3 of ConkerTU.

I'm less impressed with the rigidity of this Mr Site blogging platform, though I am likely to be looking at other CMS in the next few weeks.  Afterall having the rss feed button at the end of every single blog I've ever entered is hardly an incentive for following this, now is it?  

Still I bought this package almost a year ago with zero-knowlegde of how to create a web presence and I haven't done too badly for my seventy odd quid!  As an exercise in what you can achieve with Zero-credit, I'm quite proud of this site!

I'm quite proud of this audioboo too - even if I did fluff one word - but hey for an off the cuff speech it's pretty good!  You'll hear more from me yet!

Posted @ 18:46:29 on 24 November 2009

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Biker Matron Blues

On 21st January 2009 I bought my first ever motorcycle, a Jinlun 125 T12.  I'd done my CBT a week before and was so excited to be riding a bike (okay, a scooter) to work.  I picked it because I could not afford more than a grand, needed good storage to carry exercise books and I wanted a new bike because I didn't know much about bikes (other than what I'd learned researching Zero-credit & watching local youngsters offroad) and my teenaged son is an ace at taking things apart.

I explained all this to http://www.jinlun.co.uk and was given the distinct impression they'd look after me.  About six weeks after I bought the bike, a wing mirror snapped off - I rang them and they did not call back to arrange a replacement.  Needing to get the pennies is an as a supply teacher I just kept riding and servicing locally as I was told to, till eventually the second wing mirror snapped off and the bracket to screw in the rear indicator disintegrated.  I resolved to take the bike in over the summer because the electric twist and go was also faltering.  The summer was taken up with being a mum after so much work on the Zero-credit launch.

Last month, I decided to ride the bike down there - I couldn't.  The electrics have gone completely and the kick start is bust.  As it is half term, I went in today to express my concerns.  I was not met with the response I was expecting.  I was told that my bike was a year old therefore outside six months warranty - despite the 12 months stated on my receipt which was "added up wrong" and given very short shrift about refund / replacement / repairs because I had not signed one of the two order forms, both of which I have.

Below is an excerpt of the letter I have sent to Jinlun after a little consumer rights research and which is also posted to every biking group I can think of on Facebook.  Earlier today I might have accepted replacement or repair but now, I want my money back.

"Further to our conversation this morning in which you informed me that I was not entitled to any refund or repairs from you for the now unuseable Jinlun 125 T12 bought from you “a year ago” and with “unsigned paperwork”, I write to advise you of the following:

A two year guarantee applies for the sale of all consumer goods everywhere in the UK under EU Directive 1999/44/EC, giving me the right to a full refund, replacement or repair for this purchase.

On this basis, I am in no way required, as you suggested, to pay yet further money for transporting this vehicle to you, nor indeed for the repairs which you claim to be uncovered by the warranty. 

As I am confident that Consumer Direct and Trading Standards, both of which I shall be contacting on Monday, will be most interested to to investigate both the paperwork and the after sales service you provide, I should appreciate a prompt conclusion in this matter."
Posted @ 17:37:37 on 31 October 2009 

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

As it is...

I think it's about time I fessed up! I'm conscious that I'm blogging less, tweeting less and could well appear to be divesting myself of Zero-credit, which I am not. Unequivocally, I am not. You see, I believe that ConkerTU , the project that's taking up so much of my time at the moment, is one of the single most important things I can do to empower individuals to self sustain and live creditfree. 

It's some 18 months since I started my Zero-credit journey of cataloging and classifying creditfree savings and if there's one trend that's made itself abundantly clear, it's that the biggest savings are to be made from reducing our dependence on consumerism. That's why we're launching ConkerTU on International Buy Nothing Day .

Spending less isn't about downshifting to value brands or foregoing life's pleasures either – rest assured that if you're down, both of these so called spending tips will only serve to keep you under. Value foods are packed with cheap fats, carbohydrates, salt and additives (guaranteed to wreck your health), whilst denying yourself the small pleasures which make you feel like an individual will damage any inkling of the "can do" attitude you have.

However, the creativity which abounds when we start to think of what 's possible with the resources around us never ceases to amaze me. Undoubtedly the most inspiring date of late I've had was with Lammas, in Wales last weekend, when so many childhood memories of struggling on my parents' reduced means came flooding back. Everywhere I looked there were reminders that we used to do this or I could do that.

Another great find last week was just for the love of it  a superb skill sharing site which my ConkerTU partner, Phil Campbell, and I came across through the lovely people at Buy Nothing Day – have you heard of Mark Boyle who's been living without money for a year? Yes! It can be done - freecomonists prove it!

Now whilst news like this fills me with joy and I want as many links to it up on this site ASAP, there's only so much I can do. As well as running Zero-credit and launching ConkerTU, I'm a full time mum and I work three to four days a week as a secondary school teacher, because I need to pay my bills. I also love teaching and am finding myself a much better teacher for bringing inspiration like the above into class – that's what it's all about right, securing our future?

So, where does that leave us, by which I mean you and me? Well, if I'm quiet, don't give up on me – I'm probably blogging for Freshties or ConkerTU. For Zero-credit, I've plans afoot over the next couple of months to make my blogging, tweeting and general levels of engagement a whole lot easier - darn I need to get away from my paper ridden kitchen table and this beat up old laptop! You'd laugh if you saw this, honest! 

If you like what I've been saying for the last four months, then e-mail me at zerocredit.emma@googlemail.com to add your own voice to the sustainable and creditfree debate or just add your comment on one of these blogs. And rest assured, the debt mongers and poverty peddlars won't get rid of me that easily!

Posted @ 10:22:04 on 28 October 2009

Thursday, 22 October 2009

My Age of Stupid

What do you understand by digital inclusion? Do you harbour an ideal of the logistical barriers to public service being torn down by our ability to access information? I do – which is why I am so frustrated this morning. My motivation is at its lowest ebb for some time. Odd, you might say, given that I recently blogged: “Vertical learning curves are great” over at http://conkertu.tumblr.com .

Motivation is critical to me. In my prior life as a social researcher, I measured it to chart service satisfaction, with my current alter-ego as part-time teacher I use it to keep adolescents engaged. For nearly twenty years, my mantra has been “what is the carrot?” for interviewing, survey design, lesson planning, this site. There isn't much I haven't consumed to ensure that those watching, reading and listening stay focused and continue to do so. Content is king. 

But I am increasingly uncertain as to what content means nowadays. As CMS's diversify, there seem to be ever more tools to present material which is less about message than medium. I am reminded of ICT lessons in which kids spend hours experimenting with features instead of focusing on what's conveyed, for an outcome which looks great, but shows little other than a knowledge of how to shift from one slide to the next. 

I'm feeling stupid this morning because I'm at a loss with Google Wave. It's yet another tool I need to master in order to disseminate ideas and I don't have enough time to make a decent job of it, yet. Ideas come first. At times like this, I feel I'm constantly playing catchup and I wonder if anyone really has the time to digest anything at all before moving on to the next new medium or API.

Don't get me wrong, I'm exctied by the flexibility. There are some great ideas out there, but set in the context of the superb cider producer I met at a farmers' market last weekend - who doesn't have a website because he hasn't got the time - I for one start to wonder who does? My first reaction was, “well, how stupid is that?” - probably what yours is now, but hang on. You see, if our cider producer chose to have a site, he'd need to research how to create it, find a supplier to host it, then start worrying about traffic once it was live. And if that meant producing less cider, it would be a very great shame.

Supposing he outsourced? There's a host of “experts” who gladly part the unsuspecting from their cash and my guess is our cider producer would probably dodge the bulk of those. Most folk who’ve been in business for a while can spot a cowboy when they see one. Next up are the blind leading the blind, on a road paved with good intentions, those big fish in little ponds who won't admit defeat. I've been guilty of the same myself, for how else do we learn what interests us most? Last but not least, is the myriad of folk who are so with-it that it hurts, and amongst whom we feel stupid for asking what we don't yet understand. Small wonder I'll be phoning for my scrumpy stash!

I don't pretend to have answers. Digital media are with us and with us they shall stay. By no means do I see that as a bad thing, either, for there are a great many good folk out there, inspiring and sharing in all that they do. However, if I, as literate, computer literate and post-graduate educated can find the process a challenge, what of those with fewer skills at their disposal? Digital inclusion is so much more than connection or post. At some point, it has to include a commitment to dialogue and that, my friends, is a two way street. 
Posted @ 00:31:17 on 22 October 2009

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Zero-credit's future ??? you decide!

It's coming up to a year since I left my full time permanent job. I had my ovaries out just over a year ago as a precaution against the breast and ovarian cancer gene I inherited from my mother. At the time, I hated every minute of it. It was difficult to come to terms with lost energy - it still is - although perhaps now my lethargy has more to do with the sedentary hours spent writing and researching in one medium or another. I was very out of puff walking around Conkers with Phil Campbell yesterday.

I've woken this morning with the thought that I need to exercise more and then recalled that I had pencillled in going to a gym from October half term as I should have settled into my routine of part time teaching and Zero-crediting from then. It all sounds very organised, but Zero-credit keeps growing through increasingly unexpected avenues - hardly surprising given it started life as a book and I knew nothing of social media until last June. ConkerTU is the current diversification, a programme of eight annual tweet ups in the Heart of the National Forest to promote sustainable living: http://conkertu.tumblr.com/ 

If you've been following this blog, then you'll know that Zero-credit is about so much more than living on the cheap. Budget lines are often a false economy. Much as I teach kids that we want to work smart, not hard, Zero-credit demands that you source savvy to sustain a preferred lifestyle. My treat is invariably a good holiday, yours may be film, music or sport and we can only indulge in these things when we accept compromise elsewhere. Still, I do wonder if Zero-credit will ever self-sustain so that I may pursue writing new. 

It's hard. Living on just over half of my prior income is hard. I can maintain the status quo, as I should not have taken this route if I could not keep my family. However, it's the investments in the future which require some thought and I have no financial model for Zero-credit as yet, although I'm beginning to think that charitable status is the logical conclusion. It's getting there which confounds me - I want feedback, another opinion.

In the immediate term, Zero-credit needs a couple of grand. My laptop is on its last legs - fit for word processing and that's about it - and for mobility's sake, I'd like an i-phone, although the finances are a huge stretch. More than anything, I'm asking you to leave a comment today. Some have said I should use Adsense, although based on the ease with which I pasted the “debt standard” into this blog, I'm most wary of that. Others have suggested enabling donations to be made. 

I believe that Zero-credit needs to remain a free resource for anyone wanting or needing to access a credit free lifestyle. My logic is emotive - our failure to respond to articles such as that in The London Evening Standard on 2nd October about a mother who drowned her son and attempted to kill herself over unmanageable debt is barbaric. Indeed, until UK debt advice is free from irregularity, Zero-credit needs to exist. My question is, how would you like me to ensure that? 

Posted @ 07:01:04 on 15 October 2009 

Friday, 9 October 2009

Why we cannot accept bipartisan Britain

My brother just called. I was about to get an early night before the end of yet another busy week and now, I cannot. He's just told me about The Findhorn Community in Scotland, because it fits in with the amazing hyperlocal, sustainable project that Phil Campbell, Steve Hamilton at Conkers and I are working on – more very soon, I promise. However, you really ought to take a look at Findhorn:

Incredible isn't it? I mean from a group of people who had conversations with God in a public lavatory to a UN recognised charity with exemplar sustainable living over a period of 40 years, that's green shoots of recovery and then some! 

I believe that Findhorn demonstrates precisely the kind of creativity and innovation upon which all of our futures depend: call it blue sky thinking or thinking outside of the box, whichever. I say this because we've swung left, right and back again for 40 odd years and all we are being offered, even now, is more of the same – a clamp down on benefit scroungers, inefficiency cuts and electoral boundary changes to put the kybosh on meaningful opposition. I mean, do you really believe that the ten per cent reduction in MPs will be democratic? Come on – that's vote rigging.

Manifestos seem less defined by politics than simply not being the party in power and wanting to be so. Is your vote worth so little that you are prepared to compromise your beliefs in the quagmire of tactical voting which prolongs this suffocating stranglehold? 

Answer me this, too: if a group of unusual hippies in a remote part of Scotland can lead the world in sustainable living, how on earth can it not be possible that someone who has no experience of Government will do a half decent job?

Add to my reasoning a recent mailshot asking me whether I was going to vote “Conservative, Labour or Don't Know”, and the assumption that I have no choice seems malevolent to say the least. In fact, the only alternative cited with any regularity by the “main parties” appears to be the BNP – undoubtedly because they're considered so beyond the pale, that we shall willingly fall back into the ranks of the bipartisan voting masses.

Now, do not for one minute assume that I'll be voting BNP, for I can give them a fine lesson in Welsh Nationality and the reasons why none of them should be here. And do not expect me to have decided how I shall vote yet either, for I want to hear real discourse and debate, ideas and beliefs before I make my decision. All I do ask is that you too, have the courage of your convictions and vote this time for someone or something you truly believe in.

Posted @ 21:36:13 on 08 October 2009

Friday, 2 October 2009

Bangernomics Guest Blog Part 2, by James Ruppert

Bangernomics cars are not Bangers 
Basically bangers are a lot better than they used to be. Cars built in the last decade or so are tough, reliable and right now cheaper than ever. Automotive downshifting has never been less painful or more financially sensible. Used cars have never been cheaper. In the last few years the fall in new car prices, cheap finance and a culture of increasingly rapid automotive obsolescence has meant that cars past their fifth birthday now cost marginal amounts of money. 

The Perfect Banger
Defining a banger is getting harder, but ideally it should be any used car that you can afford to buy and run on your budget. No loans, you own it outright and live within your automotive means. The ideal Bangernomics vehicle will be simple, possibly a little dull, but never down and out. Go for popular makes like Ford, Vauxhall and Rover because parts will be easy to find and cheap. Even better find an old Nissan, Toyota or Mazda that won’t ever breakdown. Four door saloons are cheaper than more practical hatchbacks. Don't be fussy about colour, white, non-metallic greens or browns are always going to be less popular and therefore cheaper. Avoid too many luxuries that could go expensively wrong, but it is possible to still use a car if the heated seats no longer work. 

Bangernomics means buying wisely
There is no excuse for buying an unroadworthy heap. Used car values are on the floor and it is perfectly possible to acquire a sound vehicle with a full MOT for less than a £1000. Ideally the car should have few owners and some recent history such as service bills and receipts. An AA Data Check (http://www.theaa.com) will tell you whether the car has a hidden history, for instance, it could be an insurance write off, or stolen. Before committing yourself and if you have little mechanical knowledge then a professional AA Vehicle Inspection is recommended. At the very least the car should be freshly MOT'd to guarantee roadworthiness and discover whether anything needs fixing. If it does and the seller won't pay or compromise, then walk away. Always pay cash and never borrow money to finance the car, that way you will be spending what you can actually afford.

Bangers are cheap to run
Firstly you won't want to bother with expensive comprehensive insurance cover, the car would be worth repairing, so third party fire and theft will do. Older cars can be less complex ones. Servicing is relatively straightforward, and changing oil, plugs and filters is within all our capabilities with a 50p Haynes manual from the Oxfam Shop. Yet cars are so much more reliable because of the electronic ignitions and electronic control units fitted to most cars from the 1980s to the mid 1990s rarely fail, or are cheap to replace. Finding a good local mechanic rather than paying through the nose for a franchised dealer charging £60 plus an hour is the key if you don't fancy getting your hands dirty.
So the key to a happy Bangernomic motoring is to cultivate a good relationship with decent local garage that knows you don’t have limitless resources to keep a car on the road. However, replacing simple things like bulbs, or anything straightforward that fails (buying these bits second hand of course) is easy and satisfying. All of us can do periodic oil changes too, absolutely vital to keeping any car, including a banger in good health. 

Bangernomics makes you feel good about owning a car. You will have a warm greenish glow from recycling a used car and prolonging its life and hopefully a slightly larger bulge in your bank balance.

James Ruppert is writing the Bangernomics Bible which he will publish this year and you can visit his site http://www.bangernomics.com for more bangtastic tips.

Posted @ 12:34:27 on 02 October 2009

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Silence isn't golden

Perhaps you thought I was too embarrassed to speak, tweet or blog? Well, think again! 

Last week I came across a blog post (and after a little bit of digging, hundreds more, courtesy of affiliate marketing sites) from one Leicester based, Steve Thatcher of Help with Debt (UK) Ltd. Something about it just did not ring true – perhaps because it was too easily tailored to St Albans (and then Rochdale, Abingdon and Peterborough etc – you get the picture), or more likely because its only reference to the major advice charities was that they were so overloaded that consumers needed a more immediate solution...

I Tweeted about it. No one else seemed to have heard of Steve either. I e-mailed Advice UK about “The Debt Standard”, which Steve had claimed one of his companies had been awarded. So what have I learned?

1.The Debt Standard was launched in July 2008 to champion good practice from commerical debt counsellors. Fourteen months later, the site remains live, but Advice UK (originally quoted as supporting it) tell me that the initiative launched by Nottingham based TDX failed and is therefore no longer active. It is important to set Advice UK's support in context. They were doing as any reasonable charity would and commenting that regulation was a good idea. Still, the position now is that anyone can visit http://www.thedebtstandard.com/ and with a little help from Google Images, do as I have done to save the logo gif to “My Documents”, enabling them to verify status:

2.

My first question is, do charities like Advice UK need to be overlaoded with tracking down mis-use of claims to regulation like this? 

3.Despite Steve Thatcher's claim to The Debt Standard, neither of his companies, Help with Debt Ltd (formed August 2006, in Nottingham, Company number 05897921) or Help with Debt (UK) Ltd (formed November 2008, in Leicester, Company number 06755405) is listed as qualifying for it on “The Debt Standard” website. In all fairness to Steve, who has yet to contact me, he claimed the standard for Help with Debt Ltd last autumn and the landing page for this site is now under constructon, so changes may be afoot. Even so, the fact that he uses a dot org URL for what is essentially a commercial practice seems incongruous.

4.As you'd expect, if you were looking for debt advice, both direct.gov and the Financial Services Authority provide links to reputable agencies. The Institute of Financial Planning appears to be a main recommendation for securing paid advice, as it keeps the Register of Certified Financial Planners. However, Advice UK also referred me to DEMSA and the Debt Resolution Forum as the two main fee-charging professional associations for debt advisors, although neither of these has links from any government website. Furthermore, I could not find evidence of either Steve or his two companies being registered with any of these professional associations.

Given the unequivocal recommendation by Citizens Advice that there is a need for statutory regulation, my second question is, why do tax payers need to pay for government consultation about basic registers to verify the authenticity of debt management companies?

5.The fact is, we shouldn't have to. Registers of licenced debt counsellors already exist with the OFT and since in order to manage a debt, one must first advise on it, debt management companies must surely hold such a licence? This seems all the more a prerequisuite when, providing Category E commercial debt counselling or category E2 non-commercial debt counselling without a Credit Licence is a criminal offence.

Still, back to my original investigation: try as I might, with every variation of Steve Thatcher and Help with Debt I could think of, I could not find evidence of any Credit Licence being held.

6.Finally, to add grist to the mill of continued confusion and guilty silence when it comes to speaking up about dodgy debt ads, not one of the comments I posted on Steve's blogs, asking him to give some evidence of his Credit Licence Category or his professional associations has been posted. 

I had so hoped to end up with egg on my face after naming names so shamelessly, but for now it seems, my questions simply do not exist.

As I said at the NFPTweetup in London, last Thursday, I am one person, living in a council house, just off benefit and back to work, typing my blog and my tweets on a beat up old Dell Latitude D600, with no sound. For my questions – which I don't think are all that unreasonable – to be asked and indeed answered, I need you to retweet, redirect and generally regurgitate everything I have found out over the past week. I pledge wholeheartedly to apologise in full and in writing to Steve Thatcher if I find anything to the contrary of what I suspect. Afterall, it stands to reason that anyone who genuinely wants to help debtors will also want to promote fair and easy access to good quality and reliable information for getting out of that predicamment.

My final question? How much less will debt cost us when we have some regulation of how to find help with it?

Posted @ 11:10:13 on 30 September 2009

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Beginners Guide to Bangernomics Guest Blog Part 1

Running a car is an expensive business. Comprehensive insurance premiums are at their highest levels for a decade, labour rates for car servicing are on the up, plus car values have plunged which means depreciation is now the biggest motoring expense. Luckily there is an alternative and its called Bangernomics.

Put simply, Bangernomics contrasts the absurd expense of buying a new car with the supreme good sense of buying well used. At a stroke depreciation no longer becomes an issue, running costs are slashed and there are no finance charges to be endured. Why buy a brand new car just to drive a few miles to the station each day? Why worry about leaving your pride and joy overnight in an urban street? Please allow me to explain.

Bangernomics Saves Money
Before a new car has turned a wheel you can write off VAT, plus the dealer's charge to put it on the road, but the bad news of new motoring does not end there, depreciation takes an unhealthy bite out of the car's value too. In the first year where the drop is worst you can figure on depreciation being as much as 50% of the original purchase price on some models. 

With Bangernomics you own a car which is unlikely to drop in value much and will be cheap to run. You won’t bother paying through the nose for comprehensive insurance and you won’t worry if it gets left overnight in a dodgy car park, or it gets a scrape, or dent. You won’t care what the Joneses next door are driving because image is less important than practicality. Then if you get bored with the banger, or it breaks down and costs too much to fix, you simply get rid of it and your losses are marginal.

Bangernomics is Green
According to some environmentalists car ownership is irresponsible because of the pollution they cause. However, a Bangernomic approach amounts to recycling. As the natural resources and energy used in building a new car is phenomenal, prolonging the life and disposing responsibly of a used car is very green.

Bangernomics equals Fair Trade Motoring
Bangernomics can also be a long term thing. Since 1976 Charles Ware has championed the Morris Minor as the durable, economic and lovable alternative to a new car every three years. Not only that in 1991 he established a plant in Sri Lanka to make the complex rounded body panels by hand. This is a proper partnership between Chares Ware’s Morris Minor Centre and local interests in that country. 

So long before it became fashionable to be Fair Trade Mr Ware was doing his bit. Indeed, owning a Minor or a simple classic car would also help local businesses to you rather than benefiting the global conglomerates that run car franchises and supply parts. Your friendly local garage can look after a Minor and maybe you could too in the spirit of self-sufficiency.

James Ruppert is writing the Bangernomics Bible which he will publish this year and you can visit his site http://www.bangernomics.com  for more bangtastic tips.

Posted @ 06:16:53 on 21 September 2009 

 

Want a say in how we do things?

For £1 a year, Zero-credit membership
is open to anyone, 
aged 16 or over
with personal experience of debt.

Come on, join us today!


Wednesday, 16 September 2009

make, do and mend...

Like Eats Shoots and Leaves, I believe this much bandied phrase benefits from punctuation. As we settle into recession with the trend for staycations and what not, how many of us truly consider what making, doing and mending really entail?

For many, it will be a brief flirtation with a cutback or two, or appearing to consume less because that's what's in vogue: “My life on beans for a week” by someone who has the luxury of enjoying the choice. But when you actually live it, no amount of journalism describing the experience can help you. Take note. Make do and mend is not a fad. Nor is it a call to make sure I'm better off, do well for myself and mend my ailing sales figures or finances. 

I find it ironic that so many are signing up for Climate Change initiatives without recognising that this recession is a precursor to yet more going without. The days of ubiquitous consumer choice are at an end - you can't haggle or wheeler deal your way out of that! And even if you do succeed in stock piling some security, how on earth are you going to hang on to it with millions in the have not camp? Haven't you heard of revolution, or are we back to tribal basics here?

We need to stop the “me first” mentality now. Rational thought precludes it. Unlike any other, this recession cannot entail a mad rush to be the first to come out of it because there are longer term futures at stake. When we exploit necessity, we give others a reason to hate. Daren Forsyth captured his understanding of this perfectly in his recent 9/11 blog: 

Want to end knife crime, terrorism, violence and fear? How about ending the bipolarity of wealth which encourages it? Thus “make do and mend” needs a comma. It demands a reflective pause so that we may consider making amends with each other, doing less for personal gain and mending the chasms which divide our now global society. Make, do and mend.  Call me old fashioned, but it's the future.
Posted @ 13:50:08 on 16 September 2009

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Big Barn Guest Blog: mmm crunchy!

Fresh English apples, fantastic food! One a day to keep Swine Flu away!

English apples are now in season but very few are on the supermarket shelves. How long will it be before they are, and how many varieties will we see, will they all be the same size and will they be fresh? Where do we find a really good, fresh, apple?

We have over one thousand varieties of apple in the UK but only 15 are grown commercially. Most, like the delicious Cox's Orange Pippin, have been de-listed by supermarkets and as a result most of the trees have been destroyed by growers, also with the help of EEC grant aid!

Different varieties of apple are ripening on their trees between now and October. Many are now in season and should be available to us all. Most fruit and veg is most nutritious and tasty when it is fresh and ripe. Far too much of what we eat has been picked early to satisfy the needs of distribution and shelf life. As always to get the best, grow it, or buy direct.

To find your nearest fresh apple try your local farm shop by typing in your postcode here: 

or visit our MarketPlace in the autumn to buy a tree to plant. 
Posted @ 11:53:17 on 10 September 2009

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Oh Wow!

I have just passed 1000 visitors to this website and I'm over the moon! I know the MrSite analytics include my own visits for publishing the site so I need to discount 300 or so (I am a technodud) but 700 visits in less than three months is fantastic, not least given the dip I had in July, before I got all the internal links sorted.

This news could not have come at a better time. I've started back at teaching part-time, so demands on my attention are at a premium, though I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm also delighted to report that there will soon be more guest blogs from others committed to getting the most out of less, in a bid to banish borrowing!

Thank you all so very much for your support - I'm loving every minute of launching Zero-credit. I've met some wonderful people and have every faith that the inheritance we'll be leaving our loved ones in the future will be anything but a lifetime of debt. Good on yer!

Posted @ 20:32:30 on 08 September 2009

Friday, 4 September 2009

Make a list and stick to it!

When was the last time you heard that top budgeting tip? I did, a couple of weeks ago, so I hope I've calmed down some, now that I'm settled to commenting on it.

I did a spot of blobbing in front of the telly last night, some repeat of a daft documentary called Time Warp Wives1. And there it was, as plain as the nose on your face, the reason why sticking to lists is a false economy. Mrs 1950s was merrily wheeling her trolley through Asda, whilst complaining that she'd prefer to shop in a nice little high street with grocer and butcher. 

You'd have thought that with all her research into wallpaper, kitchenware and clothing, she'd have managed to shop local and use markets by now - goodness knows she'd have saved a bob or two for her ration book - but no. Within the routine of expectation came the assumption that there is no alternative. And that my friends, is the crux.

Perhaps the most harrowing aspect of Barnardo's Breadline Report2 is the obsessive accuracy with which its subjects calculate and recalculate the pittance off which they live. For a few pence more an entire budget has to be reworked, so that oil can be paid for, or uniforms, or just enough petrol to get to work. Tethered to the list, there is no scope for creativity, no innovation, nothing new. 

How easy it becomes to bank with the doorstep lender who'll sell you a telly for a grand more than retail. The lender makes your list. And you... feed each pound into a set top box, blinkered from the certainty that freecycle, charity shops or mail order returns could have met your need for so much less. The irony of such escapism cannot be lost.

Of course there is the very pertinent argument that the piecemeal nature of benefit payments disables our most vulnerable. Packaging poverty out of existence we have multi buys, bulk buys and cash deals. But an overhaul of our welfare state is not the remit of this post. Much as it is overdue, we need to think differently.

Irrespective of wealth, the primary weakness in any budget is the assumption that perceived needs can only be met in one way. The more routine our essential pursuits, the more vulnerable we become. How else do we succumb to unswitched bank accounts, energy suppliers or insurers, for instance? And who loses out most? Why, it's those who are unaware of the alternatives - the elderly, people without Internet access; creatures of habit and victims of received wisdom.

So, thank you, but no thank you. I won't be making a list for what I need. Poor or otherwise, I should very much like to know what else may be achieved beyond mere existence. 

Posted @ 06:55:44 on 04 September 2009

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Inspired! Fresh Blog, Guest Blog, Fresh Ties!

You know the feeling? You have a few moments break, perhaps at lunchtime or when you get home from work, settling down to watch the news or read the paper – you're maybe hoping for something interesting, relaxing, uplifting even? But it’s one depressing story after another - wars, celebrities off the rails, young people behaving badly, politicians being dishonest, poor parenting, house prices up, house prices down, even criticism because of someone's hair or dress sense… Why is it all such bad news? By the time you have finished your heart is in your boots, you feel unable to make a difference and you’re drained of energy. You know good things happen in the world – it just seems hard to find the evidence.

Well there is some great news out there!

It’s on a website called FreshTies.com. There's a newspaper too, The Fresh Outlook, and it’s weekly, online and reporting good news from all quarters – individuals, charities, not for profits, businesses – even the government. Here you can read about young people doing good things, communities working together, volunteers having fun and serious issues seen in a positive light. And even the news that isn't so good is constructively reported from all angles, so you can make your own mind up.

The thinking behind FreshTies is that positive and constructive coverage of people and issues gives us a more balanced view of life, helping us to get on more. We believe that by sharing knowledge, we break down social barriers. Non-mainstream issues get regular coverage, too - after all, the less we know, the more myths grow. People will always disagree on issues, which is fine, but through FreshTies we can understand why. Ask yourself - every day, good things happen, so, who made the decision, and when, that all news reported must be bad? The more you think about it, the more you realise that what we read and listen to impacts on our thinking, consciously and subconsciously. Our thinking then informs what we do, our attitudes to other people and how we think about the future. Wouldn’t it be better to feed in constructive content rather than content which is negative or destructive? The FreshTies newspaper is for all people, and everyone can contribute opinions, good news stories, as well as encourage the sharing of knowledge so we gain from each others' experiences.

Linked to the FreshTies newspaper is our ishare, an online place for individuals and businesses to find and respond to non cash requests from their community easily - or make offers of help! For example, AVG, the anti virus company responded to a primary school request to provide staff to read with their children. Examples like these can be good news features in the newspaper, showing the non cash ways to get involved in your community, which means everyone has something to offer.

FreshTies runs not-for-profit, which means that everything we make in profit goes back into community projects, such as media projects to help young disadvantaged individuals gain practical skills and experience as reporters or marketers. This also helps increase the diversity of people in the media, which we all need for fairer, more balanced journalism. FreshTies - online or offline - involves us all in sharing whatever we know or can do, so we can all have a decent life.

Instead of feeling heavy and depressed at the bad things in life, feel encouraged at the positive, and the possibility that with a little help from each other, there is plenty of good news to go round! Why not start afresh with a few simple actions?

sign up to the weekly good news alert http://www.freshties.com/index.php?action=cms&subaction=newsletterSubscri...

tell other people about the newspaper / or FreshTies in general


http://www.freshties.com/index.php?action=recommend&subaction=visitNewspaper
http://www.freshties.com/index.php?action=recommend&subaction=individualJ...

join the FreshTies ishare – and make a token donation to grow our work

http://www.freshties.com/index.php?action=user&subaction=register


Thanks, FreshTies, for a touch of feel good factor.  It was needed! (Emma)
Posted @ 12:53:40 on 27 August 2009

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Mae hen wlad fy nhadau

Today I do not feel haunted, as I did in my Fresh Ties post (http://www.freshties.com/index.php?action=blog&subaction=showpost&pos...), by what my parents might think, for your support leads me to experience my inheritance as “yn annwyl i mi” (dear to me).

Anyone who knew Dad will tell you “Delme would give you the shirt off his back”. When Julian Dobson tweeted “Muck is like money. Not good
except it spread.”, I was transported to a launderette in Tottenham, newly appointed young nineties research executive, and spending my
weekends watching pants dry. Dad said “Do a service wash”, then explained his take on economics, or as I like to think of it, cash flow.

Over the past 25 years, I've often pondered the what ifs of my family's financial losses. What if my folks had bought the flats on Regent's Park and not Y Bwthyn (the cottage)? What if their bank manager hadn't suggested selling our London home, to take up living in rural West Wales? What if Dad had sung Peron in the original West End production of Evita? What if Mum's grandfather had not been cut off for illegitimate partner and kids? Or Dad's grandmother likewise for an ill advised marriage?

When I first moved to Birmingham in 1991, I lived in Sparkbrook – a three bedroomed terrace on Dearman Road. Within days of giving Mum the
address, I learned that Mary Dearman was in fact my great, great, great, great, greatgrandmother and that neighbouring Lloyd House was her family home, shared with her husband, Sampson Lloyd of, you guessed it, Lloyds Bank. What if...

But my inheritance is not an income of wealth, so much as the capacity to overcome and a passion for welfare. Take the Cadbury's investments in social housing, education and health or the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's work – good Quaker families both, with whom my connection is one Elizabeth Fry, not Turkish, but, delightful in visiting prisons so long ago.

My family could have bequeathed me a fortune, but for one reason or another our line was cut out or off, culminating in that most taboo of debt devised poverties, my personal bankruptcy of 2002. And yet, there is no purpose in crying over spilt milk. I firmly believe that in adversity, we learn our inner most strength. But then, I do come from rather a long line of dreamers:

“Gwlad beirdd a chantorion, enwogion o fri” (land of poets and singers, famed for honour)

Yesterday, I had the great fortune to spend time with an old school friend, Sian Phillips, formidable folk fiddler, and a Buddhist. We hugged as I left and somehow talked briefly of a funeral in the chapel opposite (Welsh fetish!). “How can you sing hymns, when you're a Buddhist?” she'd been asked. “I sing out of respect” she cried.  25 years ago, we'd never have guessed what that meant. 

Thank YOU!


Posted @ 12:31:41 on 25 August 2009

Sunday, 23 August 2009

#DueCredit #CreditFree and #enddodgydebtads

This is war!

No more faffing about here, people, I mean to put an end to all the passing off and poverty which prevails in the market for alternative lending and commercial debt counselling (genuine paid services need have nothing to fear).

First, I'd like you to embrace the currency of Due Credit / http://www.zero-credit.co.uk/page2.htm  (#DueCredit in Tweets) - giving thanks for a good tip or turn which comes at no cost to you.

Second, please share your Credit Free  / http://www.zero-credit.co.uk/page10.htm (#CreditFree, get the twicture?) tips for products and services which cost little or nothing, and if paid for at all, were paid for in cash!

Third, and most importantly, join Zero-credit's campaign to end dodgy debt ads  / http://www.zero-credit.co.uk/page9.htm (#enddodgydebtads - a hashtag costs nothing!) so that guidance for living credit and debt free becomes utterly transparent and accessible.

Hope you enjoy the new additions to the website and keep coming back for more!

Posted @ 14:14:53 on 23 August 2009

 

just a quickie!

New content published today!  Six more pages on the Zero-credit website!  Some alterations to reflect all your helpful feedback - keep it coming!  Working on internal links at the minute - need to publish first in order to set them - please be patient everything should be 100% by Monday :-)

Posted @ 22:41:33 on 22 August 2009

Thursday, 20 August 2009

because you're worth it!

So many people to thank, so little brain space left after a 17 hour stint, editing the site that I cannot list them all now.

All I can say is this...  Zero-credit undoubtedly has a place in our society and although my heart is calling me to start that novel I had planned for the Autumn, back in January, I shall see this through.

I reckon on having new content up over the weekend - from 19 to 25 pages in little over two months! Loads more links, especially to those who have supported me - you know who you are!  And if I don't list you here, rest assured that your name will appear somewhere, with Due Credit!

Blessings all - it truly has been a beautiful day indeed :-)

Posted @ 00:38:39 on 20 August 2009

Friday, 14 August 2009

#[Tr]end the Freak Show

Two documentaries stand out this week, as different as chalk and cheese: "The Trouble with Girls”, BBC2, Monday 10th August and “How the Other Half Live”, Channel 4, Thursday 13th August, both at 9pm. 

Were it not for the latter, this blog might have been very different...Teaching post-16 Drama, I have used my fair share of Brechtian devices to incite audience action, so perhaps my frustration when watching “The Trouble with Girls” was intentional. Yet I felt less inclined towards social intervention than to slapping its makers good and hard. How anyone can film such abject misery, without sharing a lifeline to come out of it, is beyond me.

Last week, Jeremy Swain (http://www.charityfinanceblogs.co.uk/content.php?id=322) complained that BBC1's “Famous, Rich and Homeless was a triumph of biased and inaccurate documentary-making”. He was rightly incensed that the combination of Dickensian contrast (Great Expectations is my son's GCSE set text) and resolute adherence to inescapable destiny, bordered on what I might teach as Conventions of Tragedy. Eureka, I think, great name for a documentary series: Arena!

However, compare these films to the frank innocence of eleven year old Sam, telling his wealthier counterpart, Rosie, over the balcony wall of an all too familiar custodial estate, that he hated the prejudice for being poor, and the incitement to help the millions of youngsters, trapped by our labels for poverty - underclass, scrounger, chav, fraud – hits hard.

“How the other half live” might have verged on cheesy in its optimism at times, but oh, what a breath of fresh air! I'm tired of the celebrity Colosseum which catapaults our Jades and Jordans to affluent excess, only to scorn their destitution in demise. “'Money is like muck, not good except it be spread.' Francis Bacon, 1625.” Julian Dobson Tweeted the other day (http://twitter.com/juliandobson and at http://livingwithrats.blogspot.com/). So, when are we going to switch allegiance and cease our complicity in branding and how much you own labels?

I find the hey-day of fly on the wall and reality TV well and truly passed. And if the likes of Murdoch want me to pay for the News, tell them I'm only buying media which facilitiates change!

Posted @ 12:09:12 on 14 August 2009

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The euphoric time loss of holidays...

... and finding bits of paper which have been put in a safe place. I think I wrote this on 2nd August:

Sat in my tent on a cliff top with the Writers' & Artists Yearbook all day, I can safely say that I've had an epiphany. There is immense benefit in being bereft of technology for a while – you have to focus.

First off I should like to thank the UK Poverty Post (http://twitter.com/UKpovertypost) for volunteering an endorsement of this site. I felt like a 50s debutante coming out to acclaim in “The Tatler”, “The Lady” or similar. My excitement could not have been more gamine.

However, I am fast approaching the deadline at which I had planned to be writing fiction. Since January, I have sought employment to finance my efforts, launched and marketed this site and I'm now looking for relevant NFP stakeholders to steer it further into the public domain – much as recommended by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in “Poverty in the media”.

I have a number of proposals which would effect broader contribution than I alone can muster. But lacking in capital, all I can offer is that which I have created and such time as I am willing to donate further.

In its infancy, last summer, I had hoped that Zero-credit might generate an income. As I learned more of the many people who have so little, raising awareness of the potential Zero-credit offers became a mission. I deteremined to be a philanthropist of beyond humble means.

There is no doubt that I seek interest – though none fiscal for this project, at least. I should like readers to ask why I created this resource and that any enthusiasm for it might extent to whatever else I may write. Long live the currency of giving!

Posted @ 12:23:14 on 11 August 2009

Thursday, 6 August 2009

It could be you - the lending lottery

If you've been reading the UK Poverty Post (as I most certainly hope you have: http://www.oxfamblogs.org/ukpovertypost/ ) recently, then you'll know I popped round to see an old friend the other day. For her sins she collects loan repayments. In point of fact, I have a couple of friends who do this, one working for Provident and the other with a Credit Union – it fits in well with being a Mum and I guess that's why so many doorstep borrowers trust such collections. 

Odd really. Only yesterday, most news programmes ran a feature on John Kiely, the 36 year old loan shark who made the lives of thousands in East Manchester utterly miserable. He got five years, which is laughable when you consider it likely that his debtors were on the receiving end of all manner of assault and abuse, not to mention the fact that his profits may have come from tax payers' money because he is most likely to have preyed on those receiving benefits.

Now you may well sit back and reflect that people on benefits should not be borrowing in the first place – and to some extent I'd be with you, because Zero-credit's aim is to reduce our dependence on consumer borrowing entirely – but when you think of the realities of a washing machine or a car breaking down, a late salary or benefit payment, there are times when each and every one of us believes that we have little choice, especially when there are dependents involved.

Spending time with both of my friends recently has brought home the realisation that even when individuals work in finance, they can still miss out on vital savings, often for basic needs: warmth, shelter, food. For those with reduced means, the isolation is great - there may not be a local CAB, bank or post office, they may not have or understand Internet access and then there's the stigma of friends who have what they do not - who, in our current society, will own up to that? All of a sudden, the doorstep lender becomes very appealing and then, it really ain't what you know, it's who you know...

Posted @ 09:45:19 on 06 August 2009