Friday, 26 June 2009

A lesson from Portugal

One of the things I remember most about conducting international research in the nineties was what a pain in the bum it was doing business with Portugal because they took interminably long lunch breaks and weeks passed before anyone ever called you back. In my twenties, it seemed like an inordinate waste of time.

My blog has been quiet for a couple of days because I have been exploring the merits of other social networking media – not to replace, but to complement this. I want my readership up. I believe my message is important, so share it I will. 

But there is inherently more to networking than site boost. On My Space I have hooked up with old Arts contacts, some of my own and some of Dad's, which necessarily brings a fair amount of reminiscence. There is something very demanding about respecting a loved one's memory - you cannot simply gloss over it to move on to the next lead.

On Facebook I have befriended ex-colleagues and school mates and am busy thinking about one, Arch Jones, whom my Dad always joked ran the Gorsedd of Joneses. All I can think about is a nice pint of beer somewhere in the vicinity of Aberaeron and tales of the last thirty years.

This weekend I shall be neither mummy nor Zero-creditor, for I am off to spend real time with another friend. My food costs research will have to wait and on current readership (albeit improving rapidly), I doubt the supermarkets are likely to relent on pricing strategies. So if I haven't blogged what you'd like to read, please don't send me to Coventry, I have merely sojourned to Portugal for a few days to enjoy the more human pace of life.

Posted @ 22:09:03 on 25 June 2009

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Have I got news for you?

I can see the satirists right now: Zero-credit has the breaking strain of a Kit Kat! 

Remember that test drive I was going to take? Well, I never took it. In point of fact the VW Dealer was damned rude about my wanting a Fox because I had scrappage in mind, so their loss turned out to be Toyota's gain because I have just bought the new IQ. Why have you broken your resolve you may ask? Simple. The Toyota IQ has unprecedented advantages, which will future proof my wallet and be kinder to the environment.

First off, my son is a wapping 6'7” of Jonah Lomu proportions. Not only can he sit extremely comfortably on the passenger side, without interfering with my driving (not achieved in either of our far bigger Mazda Premacy or now scrapped Volvo 940) but he will also be able to drive the IQ in a few years time. Secondly the IQ enjoys zero road tax, because its emissions are so low. It runs at just over 65mpg (combined) and costs peanuts to insure, so I can afford for him to drive it. 

I did the maths: buy the IQ on finance or run an older car. With petrol up some 17 pence a litre since January and suggestions that we may see £1.20 a litre at the pumps before too long, the IQ looks set to save at least a grand a year compared to anything else to accommodate my family. It reminds me of my old Fiat Uno – inherently practical, resilient and cheap to run – except that it has loads more leg room, all sorts of lovely little luxuries, and looks a doll.

Reviewed in “The People”, when I picked it up yesterday, Paul Myles headlined “i-cutie's a beauty”. I think it's pure genius and paying for it won't do my credit history any harm either. Besides Student Loans, there isn't much credit I endorse, but credit where credit is due - the IQ is worth every penny.

Posted @ 07:19:53 on 22 June 2009

Friday, 19 June 2009

Broadband Tax

You know how sometimes the penny takes an eternity to drop? Well I've had one of those – I guess you can't call them moments. The site launch is going well and I've had some very positive feedback about developing links and associations. I shall widen the net further as we approach the school summer holidays.

I'd heard the broadband tax news, of course, but it seemed to wash over me - £6 a year seems negligible if it means we're all connected.  Not least as I honestly believe that internet connection is the number one debt busting tool - I mean how else can you access information quickly and easily? Okay, so you have to sift through and sort it for yourself, but for immediate access to cheap or credit free activities and equipment, what else is there? Don't forget to check out all the hardware, software and online Zero-credits in the communcations tips to enhance your surfing experience!

Posted @ 16:59:56 on 18 June 2009

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The soaring costs of food

Okay!  The first thing I have to do is be honest that I could not find any old receipts - my spring cleaning must have been more rigorous than usual. So you will just have to trust that I have a relatively good memory for figures and events. This time last year, I was ill. Preparing to go into hospital, I did a big shop for easy to prepare goods. So, how did Saturday's prices compare with those of last year? Well, I can say with absolute certainty the following items are priced the same:

2 x 600g Rice Krispies :  £4.99
6 x 1lt skimmed milk : £2.99
2 x  large sliced loaves: £1.85
4 lt Robinsons orange squash: £2.39 (plus VAT)

What's more I don't recall any increase on any of these since I started my Costco membership in mid 2006 and for which I still pay just under £30 a year. Increases I did notice were:

20 x 1/4lb 100% beef burgers: from £9.99 to £10.59

and my > 1kg tin of coffee was about a pound more than I recall, but that has always fluctuated at around £6.

As for the baked beans, most annoyingly, both my memory and my arithmetic must be out. On Saturday, they were priced at: 
24 x 420g Branston Baked bean tins: £6.39 (26.625p a tin) roughly, although not robustly, the same as in my "Beans means profits" post.

Irrespective of my failings as a price comparison service, (and the fact that I need to add the cost of membership to my basket - at approx 30 items, nine times a year that's around 11p per tray of 24 baked beans or 1/2 pence per tin) my little survey would appear to support my theory: UK retail prices for grocery items are being massaged. There is no way that Morrisons or anyone else for that matter can claim that 31p for a 420g tin of Branston beans is half price, when I am clearly paying under 30p per tin and have been since 2006. Certain in my mind is that Costco won't be selling them at a loss.

This post has been slow to blog because my mind has been racing for the past couple of days. I intend to find out market size and compare prices by retailer so as to go some way towards finding out precisely how much profit these price differences are costing households living on basics. I have already found a Telegraph article from March 2006 stating that Branston beans were 41p a tin in Asda back then.

I think I shall concentrate my research on milk, bread and baked beans – all fairly staple items. Odd, I am reminded of Marie Antoinette suggesting that peasants eat cake... and I have a funny feeling that in my quest I am likely to find also that “value” is the new “premium”. 

Posted @ 06:07:45 on 16 June 2009

Friday, 12 June 2009

a Lidl annoyed

In switching to bulk buying over the last couple of years, I have tended to shop less and less at Lidl.  It had been my preferred creditfree supermarket. However on the last couple of occasions that I popped in, items that I've been buying for years were no longer on the shelves:

1 extra specially cheap 13p a bottle washing up liquid - vanished about December 2008
2 coffee filter papers - gone when I went in for them yesterday irrespective of Lidl's selling ground coffee...
3 loads of amazing toiletries, eucalyptus bubble bath and the like, replaced with Pantene, Sure, Lynx... 

A lot of branded goods have been introduced and many prices have increased, from what I can see, largely since since they were awarded Discount Retailer of the Year 2008.

It didn't help that the sales assistant whom I have known for a while was leaving as she was disillusioned with the number of goods that had been withdrawn from sale until further notice.

I really am beginning to believe there may be some kind of grocery retail conspiracy to ensure folk part with their cash. I mean we all need food, right? Off to my wholesaler at the weekend so I can't wait to report back.  Bread as I recall was £1.85 for two loaves, beans as blogged previously and I shall dig out some old receipts before I go... 

Posted @ 21:38:01 on 11 June 2009

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

So this is [not] Christmas

It is some thirty minutes since I finally published this site and I feel grand! Given that the book was finished (well it may need a few alterations now) back in December this may seem like an eternity. But not when you consider that within that time I have registered with 4 supply teaching agencies, kept myself pretty much in full-time work since the end of January and secured my ideal of a part time teaching contract from September. And all for the love of writing!

My ideal is to write fiction. Zero-credit was an idea thought up with my wonderful brother, last Spring and it has been a joy to write - frustrating at times, but a joy. Above all, I'd like it to succeed because over the past decade I have been disgusted at the lack of straightforward information for anyone in financial difficulty. The booby traps are many and simple practical details are few and far between.

My final act before pressing the almighty button was to spell check - Thanks, Mr Site, for yet another chuckle at Americanisms. Your spell checker does not recognise the spelling "okay", suggesting in the first instance that I replace it with "orgy". Well folks, it's time for bed, so have an orgy of credit free savings and debt busting on me, if that's okay?

Posted @ 23:55:32 on 08 June 2009

Monday, 8 June 2009

The Links Effect

If anyone was to catch a whiff of me right now, they'd run a mile - I've been sat here for ages editng links!  By my reckoning there must be in excess of 130 links on this site - there are 13 pages with them and at least 10 links per page.  At some point when I am not exasperated by checking they all open and are labelled correctly, I shall count them. In point of fact at some point in the next couple of weeks, I shall create a links directory page, to make it easy for anyone who returns to find what they're looking for quickly.  That is, after all, what Zero-credit is all about - ease of access.  

Posted @ 20:58:34 on 07 June 2009

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Beans means profits

For my sins, I have a wholesale account for bulk buying tins and washing powder  Every couple of months, I buy a tray of 24 tins of Branston baked beans for five pounds something or other which works out at around 26p a tin. For some time, I have been wondering what all the fuss about rising food costs was because I haven't seen much evidence of it where I shop. Now I know...  

On entering a local supermarket yesterday, I saw Branston beans promoted in large letters at the front of the store for 31p a tin at HALF PRICE! At full price, that's precisely 36p per tin more than I am paying. So I checked out the value beans - 29p per tin. I don't know about you, but I have a major problem with basic goods like these being marked up, just so 24 cans of beer may be sold for a tenner. Do children live on beer? Do pensioners? Is there a genuine retail price left in a British supermarket these days?

Posted @ 20:21:08 on 06 June 2009