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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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/

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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

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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

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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

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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