Friday, 17 December 2010

Getting in and out of Debt(1) ??? Beginnings - Sally's Story

Getting into debt often happens gradually over time, just buying 'ordinary' things. That's the trouble, its easy not to notice until it is becoming a problem.

Sally's Story

Sally is 30 years old. She is an office administrator. She is a single Mum with two small children who need childcare whilst Sally is at work. Most of her salary goes on rent, childcare, food and household expenses, and getting to and from work. There is little money left for any extras.

 Sally has credit card for convenience, emergencies and to help cash flow. In the first six months, she  used it twice and has paid off the balance in full. She knows she can use it responsibly.

Sally works in an office and has to be smart. In September 2009 she needed a new coat for the winter as the one she had is shabby and thin. She saw a coat in the sales, a bargain at 50% off. She is expecting a bonus in her salary at Christmas time. So  she puts it on the credit card feeling she can pay it off over a few months.


Image by Idea Go

In October Sally's car failed its MOT and needed £375 spending on it. Most of the car expenses go on the credit card and she pays back the minimum. Thus she starts incurring interest on the card at 16.9%.

Sally decided it would be more economical in the long run to buy a new (second hand) car that will be more reliable to be sure she can get to work, and won't throw up unexpected expenses. They are offering a good deal on loans at the garage and she has a good credit rating. So she traded her car in and took out a 'credit agreement'. This has increased her monthly outgoings by £154.


Photograph by Bill Longshaw

Things were tight the following month her children needed some new clothes. Sally uses her overdraft facility on her bank account. She has stayed slightly later in the office a few times too and incurred a premium on her childcare costs, for picking up the children late. And Christmas is coming...

The cost of food and petrol have been rising and her childcare costs have increased. Sally is in danger of going over the overdraft limit. She is afraid of excessive bank charges so instead so she takes some cash out from her credit card. This helps to pay for toys for the children too, as she wants to make sure they have a good Christmas.



As the New Year begins, Sally is a little concerned at how things are going, but she feels she is in control. She is not doing anything that she does not have permission to do, it is all authorised and the bank and credit card companies are happy.

Then help comes through the post. She gets an offer for a credit card with six months interest free credit on balance transfers. Sally will transfer the balance and pay it off in six months at no interest!


Photograph by Michelle Meiklejohn

Sally's boss has indicated that they are pleased with her and she could be in line for promotion. She needs some new shoes and a suit to look the part to help her in her career. Her first credit card is now empty so it won't hurt to put a couple of hundred on it – after all it will be fine when her promotion comes through with the increase in salary so the debt now will be worth it......


Debt is rarely incurred by buying flash cars, expensive jewellery or similar, but by spending on much more everyday things that you can justify buying.

Please feel free to share your experience in the comments box below.

Photographs from

Whatever your debt situation, you are not alone.


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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The customer is always right?

[vimeo w=500&h=283]

Nice work from Phil Stein and Sky1, especially on the explicit role of loyalty cards in gathering crucial customer information, but surely the answer isn't in the cognitive reinforcement of making a list and sticking to it?

Notice how the student guinea pigs failed to stay on task. It's small wonder so many of us are trapped in unmanageable debt, with impulse buying on this scale.

Most of the techniques profiled in this clip have been around for twenty years or more and our responses to them have become deeply entrenched as routines. If you really want to break the cycle, shop somewhere else.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Family Meals for Much Less than a Fiver (7) - Rice Pudding


Rice pudding is an easy and very inexpensive pudding. Made in minutes, it does need a couple of hours to cook. Cost for a pudding for 4-6 people is about £1.40.

110g pudding rice

900ml full fat milk

55g sugar

25g butter

pinch of nutmeg

Margarine for greasing


Grease an oven proof dish. Place the pudding rice in the dish. Add the milk and sugar and stir well. Place small knobs of the butter around the pudding. Sprinkle the top with nutmeg.


Place in the oven for about 2 hours at 150 degrees C. Stir after the first 20 minutes to ensure rice is not sticking together.

The pudding is ready when it has a creamy texture and is brown on top. Serve with jam and evaporated milk.


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Live blogging!

My, Zero-credit has come a long way from an idea for a book in a council house bedroom! Today we were commissioned to live blog the East Midlands ESF conference for the All in One Project - not to mention presenting the finished All in One website.


Aware of a vaccuum for EY2010 content across social media, at the end of August, the All in One Project decided to use digital media to raise the profile of the Poverty Convention, as a focus for live debate. We were also hoping to connect with other EY2010 projects nationally, so we could harness the momentum of discussion around poverty and social exclusion, creating a legacy for the future. The Bevan Foundation, a connection made through social media, has been extremely amenable to this.


On average, around 1 in 318 Twitter users repeat content, generating an average 1.5 additional site visits. Thus, within a six week timescale, our task was to focus attention on key influencers, who might support EY2010 and drive a live digital audience to the Poverty Convenvtion stream. In the days immediately before, during and after the Poverty Convention there were some 17 retweets and mentions using the #povcon hashtag from users with an average Klout of 48 (ours is 26). Several were East Midlands or neighbouring South Yorkshire based, many were well respected digital commentators and some were key figures from the wider not-for-profit sector. We even had one retweet from the US and perhaps most satisfyingly, one of the young people involved in creating a video for us was able to follow events on the day from her 6th Form College.


A week after the convention, the blog site we had created to record events leading up to and at the Poverty Convention had received some 10,000 site visits and by the end of November that number had increased to 12,750. Individual posts relating to specific places, Mansfield and Bolsover for instance, have been viewed in excess of 5,000 times. Much of this traffic may be attributed to interests in individual post topics, such as a town or a specific issue like working age poverty, and may well satisfy a passing interest. The point is that the currency of our content is still very much alive.


Ultimately, the process of applying digital media to the Poverty Convention has demonstrated dynamic potential to create a thriving legacy for continuing the dialogue started in 2010. For this reason, as an All in One Project plenary, we have transferred all content and networks to a new user interface, capable of sustaining and extending the relationships and connections forged in 2010, so that we may continue to combat poverty and social exclusion well into the next decade. The gateway to this may be found at


Friday, 10 December 2010


Throughout the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, I have been troubled by one concept – the desire to lift me out of poverty. I feel silenced and subjugated, my dependence determined by another's articulation of my needs. More than anything, I seek the opportunity to forge my own success. Yesterday, that potential was entirely blown away.


For almost eighteen years, I have strived to provide better for my child than my parents did for me. Coming from an insolvent household, I sought employment to make up for the losses of a depleted inheritance, only to find one circumstance after another requiring me to recreate plan B. I still have no savings to bequeathe.


In the immediate term, the costs of university are no longer upon me. Gone are the frantic calculations of how much I need to earn: my child may attend, deferring repayment for some time. But this decision leaves him worse off than I am now, for every step forward will take him two steps back: because he has this, he may no longer have that and thus the fruitless treadmill to asphyxiated aspiration continues. I feel betrayed.


As parents, is it not our duty to nurture our young? Yet in my generation, which enjoyed free education with benefits on top – we were able to claim unemployment at the end of the summer term – I see nothing but avarice and greed. Leeches of the buy to let bonanza sapping the first earnings of the newly qualified from accommodation once owned by the state.


Because I dare to pop my head above the parapet, is my poverty not abject enough for you? Must I, at every hurdle jumped at my own initiative, find others set by those who encountered none? What is it that you want? To absolve yourself of the material rape from which you profited, by weakening me to a compliance in which with effortless benevolence you may lift one who has lost the appetite for your diet?


Thursday, 9 December 2010

BIS evidence submitted

Phew! 146 responses later and we have submitted our evidence to the BIS review of responsible borrowing and lending. You can find our results by subscribing to the Information Service, where we publish all of our work in full. Perhaps of most interest to us though, in comparing savers and debtors views of credit was the extent of financial illiteracy across the board. We suspected that government and the finance sector use such a broad range of terms to describe high cost credit that consumers have little to no chance of keeping up with it, and we were right.

Tiramisu with a sweet surprise

Tiramisu is a classic pick me up desert which has been my all time favourite desert. It can be done under a £5 budget to serve 12 people. May be a little over ;) but I really, really tried and made the effort to search for the best deal in the supermarket to keep this in the £5 budget. As the festive season is ahead of us, we are always after some quick but delicious ideas to serve plenty in the house. I like adding, or changing tiny bit the classic recipes to surprise my guest. This time, I added raspberries in it which fit in perfectly with the creamy taste of the mascarpone and the chocolate.

So there you go The ingredients:

6 eggs separated
6 spoons of sugar
2 cups of strong coffee
2 packets of sponge fingers
400g of mascarpone cheese
2 spoon full of cacao powder

Separate the eggs. Whisk together the egg yolks and the sugar until thick and creamy,
In another really clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Add the mascarpone cheese to the yolk mixture and stir well until smooth and thick.
Gently fold the whisked egg whites into the cheese - egg yolk mixture.

Dip the sponge fingers into coffee and place them on your dish pour half of the mixture
over the biscuits. Sprinkle cacao powder and place the raspberries.
and repeat with the mixture and cacao and cover the dish with cling film and refrigerate
for min of four hours.

Et voila bon appetite! see you next time with a Turkish vegetarian dish Enjoy the good food.



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Wednesday, 8 December 2010

SRA Conference

Business Development Director, Emma had a great day out at the British Library in London for the annual conference of the Social Research Association. Whilst it is a great shame to see so many budgets for longitudinal studies cut, it gives us great hope that our collaborative and participatory research model has potential. And it was inspiring to meet so many researchers committed to getting the most of out data - there were some really creative ideas up for discussion.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

A Week of Eating Frugally

With Christmas coming and the potential to buy food and drink, beyond your normal means, it is good to have a week or two of living frugally so you go easy on your purse. 

Here are some really cheap and easy recipe suggestions for some simple living.It's all great comfort food for these cold evenings too!

I use cheese a lot, usually a mature cheddar. There is nearly always 2 for 1 offers in supermarkets meaning you can get 800g mature cheese at around £4 - excellent value!

1. Pasta and Pesto


 75g-100g Pasta of your choice, per person (around 60p total).

Jar of Pesto sauce. (£1-£2 per jar - serves 4)

Optional - Olives, grated cheese, salad, coleslaw

Boil pasta in plenty of water for 10-15 minutes depending on the texture you like.  Pesto can be spooned in directly to the pasta.

Serve as it is, or add grated cheese, olives. Serve with salad or coleslaw if desired.

2. Baked Potatoes

One large potato per person (80p total for 4).

Choose from Baked Beans, grated cheese, coleslaw, sweetcorn, tuna.

Bake in the oven for 90 minutes or until soft in the centre. Serve with a knob of butter and your favourite filling (or two)

3. Cheese Potato

For 4 people

750g potatoes.

150g cheese


Peel potatoes and chop. Boil in plenty of water. When soft drain. Add splash of milk and knob of butter. Mash with a masher adding more milk if too dry. Stir in cheese reserving about 25g. Put mixture in casserole and bake and sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake in oven at 180 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Serve with a vegetable, frozen peas or sweetcorn.

4. Pasta with Peas and Cheese

75g-100g Pasta shapes per person

1/2 cup frozen peas per person

25g grated cheese per person

Black Pepper

Boil the pasta for 5 minutes until soft. Add the peas to the pan and bring back to the boil. Boil for a further 10 minutes. Drain. Stir in the cheese. Sprinkle with black pepper.

5. Pizza with extras

Basics Cheese and Tomato Pizza £1

Basics Pineapple Pieces (13p)

Green chilli (optional)

Herbs and black pepper

This is about buying a basic pizza and adding toppings of your choice. Most supermarkets do a basic pizza, or even just a pizza base to start from scratch.

Cheese, pineapple and chilli is a favourite in our household but clearly you can add what you wish. Could be ham, Pepperoni, onion, sweetcorn.

Do let me know what variations you come up with! 

6. Bean Stew

Serves 4


1 onion, chopped      18p

1 tomato                    10p 

I garlic clove

400g tin cannellini beans   50p

400g tin haricot beans       50p

400g black eye beans       50p

500ml vegetable stock

Mixed herbs

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp coriander

Chilli powder (optional)

Fry the onion in olive oil until soft and then add the garlic and tomato. Drain the beans and add to the pan with the stock. Add the herbs and spices, adjusting to taste.

Serve with crusty bread.

7. Cauliflower Cheese

Serves 4

Cauliflowers are plentiful in the winter - and cheap. If you can, go to your local green grocers or farmers market. Cheese sauce is easy to make using Delia Smiths all in one approach.

1 large cauliflower      80p

100g mature cheddar  50p

700ml milk

50g flour

50g butter

Cut the cauliflower into florets and boil or steam until just soft. Place in a large casserole dish.

To make the cheese sauce, place the cheese, milk, flour and butter in a saucepan and gently heat to boiling stirring all the time with a balloon whisk. Cook for a minute once boiling.

Pour over the cauliflower and add a little more grated cheese on top.

Bake in the oven at 180 degrees fro about 30 minutes. I enjoy this best with boiled peas.


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Friday, 3 December 2010

Are you ready for Christmas?

We have reached that time of year  when people start to worry about being ready for Christmas. What does this question mean? How do you know when the answer is 'yes'.

Christmas will certainly arrive on time on December 25th. Many people will have spent too much money on gifts that nobody wants, food that will go straight in the bin and drink that has given them a headache. But before you think I am a complete cynic about Christmas, its only the pressure to spend money that I hate. The pressure on people to max out their cards so they can buy presents that they feel the people they love deserve. 



DON'T spend more money than you have in the bank, after paying your routine bills. And you can still have a fab Christmas - better because you won't have that sinking feeling as you look around you and wonder how you will pay for it all. Tell your loved ones that you are only doing very small gifts this year - and not to buy for you either - you may be surprised at how relieved they are!

Small gifts, thoughtfully given, beat any amount of money spent. Favourite food, home baking, a promise to do something special, a photograph, are better gifts than perfume and jewellery every time! 

And for someone you love, no amount of money spent will ever be enough, because love and our loved ones are priceless. 


Personally, and I know I am not alone in this, when I look back on Christmas's past it is not the presents and food that I remember most, but the time spent with people and the laughter (and tears!). It really doesn't matter if you buy Harrods luxury Christmas pudding or Sainsbury's basics, whether your have a table decoration or some fancy tablecloth or your Christmas tree is decorated in 'this years' colours. It is who is sitting round the table and eating dinner that matters.

Recent Guardian article on having an extravagant or thrifty, Christmas

Spend time with people - and have some time for yourself. Be as giving of your time, smiles and help as possible. Talk to your nephew, uncle, Great Aunt that you haven't phoned all year. Play a game with the children, watch a film with your Grandma. Make a date to meet up with your school friend you haven't seen for years. And then curl up with your favourite book or film.

You will be amazed at how much better you feel!

Are you ready for Christmas?


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Thursday, 2 December 2010

Ooh! Aah! Cantona!

There is a growing sentiment of frustration with the banking system, fuelled by the fear that collapse in the Eurozone may cost more than a few million jobs and cutbacks before the year is out.

Eric Cantona's answer is to have it out - your money that is. His "Kill the Banks" campaign for mass withdrawals on December 7th is designed to grind the system to a halt. But revolution is not the preserve of the French: in the States, perfectly respectable middle class households are simply not repaying the mortgages they can no longer afford.



It's populist, appealing even... But is it right?

The first people to suffer the inevitable chaos that a lack of cash flow will bring are the elderly, infirm and benefit dependent - those who are sitting in cold homes right now, waiting for the next payment to recharge a meter key or to put food on the table. Precisely how fair is it to grind the system to a halt two and half weeks before Christmas, when everything shuts down anyway, with a blanket of ice and snow sweeping our countries and transport unable to move?   

We've just spent an entire year trying to combat poverty and social exclusion across Europe and the job is by no means done. Winter fuel deaths are a very real concern and with energy prices increasing and freak weather at the start and now also the end of this year, there'll be many more of these chilling statistics in 2010. So, before you claim a bloodless revolution, Mr Cantona, spare a thought for those who cannot afford your call to action - le pauvre con qui est plutot le #povcon d'EY2010.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Family Meals for Much Less than a Fiver (6) - Pineapple Upside Down Cake

It is winter and it is cold. When you have been outside and feel chilled to the bone you need something to warm you through. Good old fashioned comfort food springs to mind. Something simple to make, tasty and doesn't cost very much.  


Pineapple upside down cake fits the bill. Traditional fare that even contains some fruit to help keep up your vitamin levels! This serves six people for a total of £1.50.

You will need:

18 cm (7in) round cake tin

Small tin of pineapple rings (ideally in natural juice) - 35p

125g butter or margarine  - 30p

125g sugar - 15p

2 eggs, beaten - 50p

175g self-raising flour - 15p

1 tsp baking powder

2 tablespoons of juice from the pineapples



Grease the cake tin. Place the pineapple slices on the bottom of the tin.



Place all the other ingredients in a bowl and mix well together. Use a food processor if you have one. The mixture will be quite soft. 

Place the mixture into the cake tin, on top of the pineapple rings and level the surface. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees centigrade for about 45 minutes.

Serve warm with custard, ice cream, cream or evaporated milk.





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Sunday, 28 November 2010

Online Survey Success

We must say we are delighted with our new subscription to the Survey Monkey premium service. We've been using it to collect evidence for the BIS responsible borrowing and lending review. Huge thanks also to James and Miriam at imoney manager for sharing our link and of course, Jason at Save our Savers. We're looking forward to publishing our data in the Information Service area.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Management Committee

Things are looking set to take off in 2011 if tonight's Management committee meeting is anything to go buy. Despite our early setback with the still unpaid Social Enterprise Startup Grant, we've been selected for the Coop Enterprise hub and are on the brink of submitting to the Arthur Guinness Fund for some major national research into the UK Debt Market. Between the amazing support we've had from UnLtd, CaseDa and our Business Champion Graeme Dixon, things really feel like they are moving again!

Debt Advice in the Forest!

As yet another Christmas lending mailshot comes through the letter box, CAP in Ashby send us this - perfect timing!

In addition to the free money management courses they have been running, there is now a fully trained Debt Counsellor working from Ashby de la Zouch and covering that all important shortfall in free services between North West Leicestershire and South Derbyshire - how strategic!

And remember, Christians Against Poverty welcomes people of all faiths or none, so whether its a big debt or small, you needn't worry about talking to someone to keep it manageable... We can't think of a better Christmas present than that!

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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Repeat Business

Well, there's a turn up for the books! Quite literally... CEFET were so impressed with our work for the Poverty Convention that we've been commissioned to overhaul the entire All in One Project website, to make it as accessible as possible for ongoing development. Of course we're delighted to be retained to work on this, not least as it fits with our commitment to the EY2010 objectives of combating poverty and social exclusion.

45% of your costs pay another's debt


Thanks to @organisedpauper for connecting us to this fascinating video from Swedish Jak Bank. It reminds us of Frederick Soddy's view of mistaking debt for wealth...

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Monday, 22 November 2010

Great Citizens Advice Video

A brave and perceptive video by Citizens Advice aimed at Generation Y, who know little of life before plastic. Due credit to the CAB for creating a youth debt advice service too.

If you don't feel sympathy towards the young person in this video, think on this. Would you rather she and others like her continued to bury their heads in the sand or were encouraged to tackle problems early?

When the Governor of the Bank of England declares that more than half of UK families are unable to meet their credit agreements, then surely, we are way past the hubris of "I told you so".

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Friday, 19 November 2010




Ah the self service checkout, the speed, the technology, the anonymity... Magic machines which talk electronically, checking your loyalty with every scan. But where do our loyalties lie?

Irrespective of politics, not one of us revels in the loss of half a million public sector jobs because we are all too aware of their impact on our economy and the need for the private sector to deliver new jobs. How, then, can any of us justify the use of a machine which threatens yet more jobs, as we herd our way through these contactless cashiers at supermarkets across the country?

Taking one in every three pounds spent in UK supermarkets and making £6000 a minute, Tesco opened its first cashier-free supermarket in June this year - an Express store In Kingsley, Northampton, with five self-service tills. Doubtless you have seen the introduction of similar during your weekly shop, for Tesco is not alone in this phenomenon.

Some 750,000 people work on the shop floor of the 50,000 or so supermarkets in the UK, providing an average of 15 jobs per outlet. An Express store, which to all intents and purposes is a corner shop, might employ two or three staff of which at least one would be lost to these machines. Rolling such proportions out across the spectrum, it is therefore not unreasonable to assume that two thirds of supermarket cashier jobs could be lost to self-service checkouts.

Assuming that cashiers earn the minimum wage and work a 40 hour week for an annual income of £11,385.60, £623.22 is paid to the Government in National Insurance and a further £982.12 in Income Tax. Now, add this loss of revenue to an annual payment of £3403.40 in unemployment benefit and the loss of an employer's National Insurance contribution at £791.76 and we have a cost of some £5800 per redundant employee. Multiply that by the half a million jobs lost and the cost to the taxpayer reaches an astronomical £2,900,250,000, whilst the supermarkets are saving themselves more than twice that.

What is more, our calculations do not take into account the likely costs of associated Housing or Council Tax benefits, nor indeed the impact of lost pension contributions on the Welfare costs for this workforce as it retires. Our calculations ignore the administrative costs of processing all these benefits too - probably because we're debtors and there's something else which concerns us...

Contactless transactions are a critical component of the move to eliminate cash: smart cards, prepaid cards - you name it - are designed to eliminate the expense of producing notes and coins. And yet, every major debt counselling agency in the UK will tell you that you are far more likely to stay within budget when you use cash. So why, when only the other day Mervyn King said that half of UK families are struggling to pay their debts, are we queueing up for a service which will cost jobs, taxes, personal solvency and the recovery?

If you share our view that companies which earn up to £6000 a minute should not be exploiting the Welfare State and putting our economy at risk, then join us by wearing a tee shirt to raise awareness of our "jobs for people" campaign and for goodness sake, shop with your feet! 

Thursday, 18 November 2010

APRs @ millions, okay?



The Daily Mail, like so many others in the media and banking seem to think that extortionate APRs on payday loans may be justified in the context of unauthorised overdraft charges.

Have they looked at the UK debt statistics lately? They must have done because only a few days before, on 11th November, they reported Mervyn King, Governor of The Bank Of England as saying that half of all UK families were struggling to repay their debts.

Responsible lending? Ha!

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Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Family Meals for Much Less than a Fiver (5) - Apple Crumble


Delicious puddings can be home made for much less money than shop bought plus a home made apple crumble will have lots more fruit in it. Use British Bramley apples, ideally from your local greengrocer. Serves 4-6. Cost effective, this recipe for a large pudding costs around £2

You will need:-
For the Topping:
225g Flour
100g Butter, soft and cubed
75g Sugar
For the Filling:
800g Bramley apples ( 3 large apples)
75g Sugar
A little water
1 tsp cinnamon
NB. You can adjust the sugar according to how sweet you like the pudding.
1. Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Rub  the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar. Set aside.
2. Peel the apples with a peeler. If you have a corer it is useful to take the core out too. Chop the apple into bite size chunks. Place in a large oven proof bowl. Once you have cut the apples work quickly to cover them with the crumble as they soon start to go brown. 
3. Add a little water, just enough to cover the bottom of the bowl. Add the sugar over the apple. Sprinkle on the cinnamon, ensuring an even spread over the apple. Give it all a good stir.
4. Cover the apples with the crumble mixture, ensuring there is no apple showing.
5. Bake in the oven at 200 degrees centigrade for about 45 minutes. The crumble should be light brown and the apple will be soft.
6. Serve with cream, ice cream, custard or evaporated milk. Enjoy!

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Monday, 15 November 2010

Up the coalition!


The coalition which counts for every penny you earn is founded in co-operation between Save our SaversiMoney Manager and Zero-credit. Recognising that the skills required to create a nest egg for the future and to pay off a debt are one and the same, we are united in our recognition of the need for change to consumer banking - borrowing, lending and saving.

Not once in the Government's Call for Evidence for the Consumer Credit and Personal Insolvency Review do we see a reference to UK savers.That's astonishing when you consider that high cost credit providers may charge interest without limit, whilst lifelong savers get little more than the 0.5% base rate - small wonder there are cries for the return of debtors' prisons and the like. 

Yet, divided we fall.

With more than 15 million UK adults struggling with unmanageable debt, unless we find a path to sustainable spending, we all face a dip of Titanic proportions. Charles Bean might want our hard earned dosh to oil the wheels of fiscal stimulus, but until we tackle the behavioural economics of spending and the complete and utter irrationality of financial products and services, which encourage us to defer our debts, then there is no point in our parting with even one penny. And that's where our actions count.

Together, we are conducting research that will make the Government sit up and listen. For a start, we'll be able to compare debtors' and savers' perceptions about what constitutes responsible borrowing and lending and we're exploring the reality of financial literacy too. So, if you share our view that market forces begin and end with consumers, then you really should complete our survey.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Violet Posy - more #creditfree craft than days to Christmas!


It all started with our fab friend Piper Terrett, aka the MSN The Frugal Life Blogger... She'd been slimming her bin, along the lines of The Rubbish Diet diva Karen Cannard. We hadn't caught up with Karen in a while, but when we did we found a fruity tip of hers posted to Violet Posy.

Violet Posy is one of those to die for design led sites where the blogger, Liz attracts and engages a whole host of like minded creative people. The result? 44 and counting superb ideas for a thrifty Christmas. Due credit :-)


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Saturday, 13 November 2010

#futureofmoney video

[vimeo w=500&h=283]

At seven and a half minutes, this video is a little longer than we'd usually post, but it is exceptional. Due credit to @VenessaMiemis and associates.

We so have to understand that as consumers we have the power to dictate the future of money, or more particularly to determine which currencies have value for us.

How relevant then that Zero-credit is running a survey to capture your views on borrowing and lending to feed back to the government. There is now an unique window of opportunity in which the balance of power will shift at the touch of a button. Shall we grasp it?

Friday, 12 November 2010

Luxuries for Less (1) - A little bit of time to relax

However frugal you are, you need to be a little frivolous every now and then. So what can you do to indulge, treat yourself? It doesn't have to cost a lot to be valuable. It's the time given to yourself that is the most important thing.

Whether its time out, a little luxury or a little retail therapy you are after, here are some suggestions for a little treat.

  1. Have a long hot
    bath with your favourite luxury bubble bath, glass of wine,
    favourite music and a great book. May be a few chocolates too! Put a
    'Do Not Disturb' notice on the door.

  2. Go out for coffee
    and cake with your partner, best friend, or alone. You may not be
    able to afford a meal out but lingering over a coffee and indulgent
    cake can be just as good and a lot cheaper.


  3. Fancy a Takeaway?
    Supermarkets now do excellent Chinese or Indian takeaways that you
    just heat up at home. They are just like eating out, but much
    cheaper. Just heat up in the oven and serve with your favourite

  4. Buy a new item of
    clothing or jewellery. Try the website 10orLess . It brings together the best bargains from 100s of shops featuring
    men's and women's clothing and household goods and everything is £10 or less.

  5. Reward yourself for all those times when you have spent less than expected. Go to the shops
    with £10, £15 or £20 to spend on what ever you choose. Enjoy
    looking round and deciding – and then enjoy what you buy. You will
    value it all the more for being such a special treat.

  6. Plan and save up
    for a trip to the pub, cinema, theatre or whatever you fancy,
    putting aside what you can each week. Then enjoy the experience knowing you have earned it!
  7. Make a Pudding.
    How long is it since you had treacle pudding, rice pudding or apple
    crumble, with custard, cream or ice cream? These are all cheap to
    make and will feel very indulgent! Here is the recipe for Apple Crumble
  8. Go for a good walk
    in a park, country lane or by the coast (especially if you had a
    pudding!) The fresh air and exercise will be invigorating and
    encourage some mood enhancing endorphins! 


  9. Volunteer. You
    will meet new people and learn new skills. To find out how see You can volunteer as a 'one off' or start a regular commitment every week, fortnight or month.
  10. If you save loyalty points, spend them on a luxury instead of day to day stuff. You will value it much more.

Whatever you decide to do, it's important it is entirely guilt free both in terms of time and money. So give yourself a little break every now and then.


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Thursday, 11 November 2010

Midlands Leadership Experience

A huge thank you to Simon Bozeat at the Midlands Leadership Experience for inviting us to present Zero-credit to local businesses at this month's networking event last night. We had a wonderful time being tied up in knots - quite literally - with Go Mad thinking.

Cashless Squid Card

Hit the link above to watch Squid's video about how this cash replacement card works.

Whist we totally appreciate the uses of smart cards in schools and on public transport, we're concerned about the costs to smaller retailers of moving to a cashless transaction model.

To what extent will suburban and rural broadband speeds place independents at a disadvantage compared to major retail chains?

If our entire economy becomes cashless we probably won't see much community fund raising either and markets could become a thing of the past.

Recent work for Re-imagine Your High Street by the New Economics Foundation suggests that independent and varied trade is what makes local economies sustainable.

Are queueing and cash so very bad - what are your views on the cashless society? 

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

compare the sponsors dot com

posted to via Money in Mind 


Comparison sites are basically brokers - insurance brokers, utility brokers, you name it. A database to search for deals is more cost effective than phoning around so there's no credit for guessing that revenue is created from suppliers paying for poll position.

When everyone claims they're the cheapest, verify any savings to be made by checking companies stick to the Consumer Focus Confidence Code or use independent Money Made Clear advice.

Package energy options yourself to make savings for your pocket - duel fuel isn't always the cheapest. And when job security is at stake, try Ebico's one charge fits all, so bills don't increase with a meter fitted. 

Why not let us know how you cut through the comparisons maze by posting a comment below?



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Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Family Meals for Much Less than a Fiver (4) - Cheese and Tomato Quiche

Making pastry really is easy and there is so much you can do with it! The Quiche costs about £2 to make plus about 50p for vegetables depending on what you choose. It can be eaten straight away or cooled and kept in the fridge or freezer for another day.

Cheese and Tomato Quiche


The Quiche costs about £2 to make plus about 50p for vegetables depending on what you choose.  Serve hot or cold - great with new potatoes and carrots. 

110g flour     8p

55g margarine  15p


I small onion  chopped  15p

2 Large eggs    60p

125g mature cheddar  90p

200ml milk      10p

Mixed herbs

Ground black pepper

Whole Grain mustard (optional)

Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Rub in the margarine using just your finger tips. Lift your hands up as you do this to incorporate air for a lighter pastry. When it is fully rubbed in it will look like breadcrumbs. Add a little water. Incorporate the water into the pastry until it is one big ball. If you have time,  leave in the fridge for 30 minutes. For more information on how to make great pastry read Delia Smith's advice.

Roll out the pastry into a floured work surface. Don't forget to rub some flour on your hands and on your rolling pin to stop any sticking. Roll it out large enough to fit into your metal sandwich tin. (Metal is much better than ceramic for pastry). Put your pastry in the tin and trim the edges in line with the tin.


Put the chopped onion in the bottom of the flan, followed by the grated cheese. Put the eggs in a bowl and gently beat, then add the milk. Add mixed herbs, ground pepper and may be some grainy mustard. Pour over the onion and cheese. Slice the tomato and arrange on top. Put in the oven at 180 degrees for about 40 minutes. 

Serve with vegetables of your choice or leave to cool, cover with foil and leave in the fridge or put in freezer bag to freeze.

While you are making pastry, why not double the quantity and make two quiches or make some mince pies as well...

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Monday, 8 November 2010

Suds Law - Soap more appealing than Banks



Although this research was US based and conducted a couple of years ago, much of it rings true, here in the UK now. The continued prime time television advertising of mortgages by the likes of Lloyds TSB is a good example of how out of touch so many lenders are - why bother to promote what is largely unobtainable for most of us? Zero-credit is running its own survey about borrowing and lending and we'd appreciate your views: Click here to take our survey


Thank you!

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Saturday, 6 November 2010

The Financial Reformation

[vimeo w=500&h=283]

Stunning audio and visual effects support this very upbeat video about the new economy. Not only does it draw some rather cute historical comparisons, it's very much reflective of Zero-credit's experience with social media and our commitment to what the video calls "user centric finance".

Due credit to @AlanRosenblith for drawing our attention to the film and to @anthemis for making it. Both of these guys are working on some seriously interesting projects so, be co-operative and check them out - who needs an intermediary anyway ;-) ?

Friday, 5 November 2010

Christmas is coming...the cash is running out...

Are you worried about Christmas this year? Its not that you are a killjoy or grumpy about having fun. In fact you love the getting together, the sparkle and the fun.

It's just the money.......

It's been a tough year and there is no spare cash and may be some debt. You don't want Christmas to make the situation worse.

Yet you will feel bad if you can't buy your kids what they want. You know your friends will want to go out for a meal and lots of drinks. There is the demand for new decorations and expensive food.

What to do, what to do.......

Well there is a lot you can do to have fun at Christmas without the cash.

But – you need to be honest with your kids, your family, your friends and most of all... yourself.... Tell them there is no money this year – they may be more understanding than you think. But instead of cancelling Christmas - here is a list of alternatives which just might be better than spending lots of money!

  1. Instead of going
    out for a meal – have a 'bring and share' at someone's home.
    Everyone brings their favourite dish – someone organises who is bringing what, so you don't get all puddings – and you have a fab
    time having a varied meal. Have a kitty for wine / beer / soft
    drinks or decide what each person brings. You can also put a
    spending limit on what the ingredients for each dish can cost.

  2. Instead of buying
    gifts – give a 'gift promise' – a promise to cook a meal,
    babysit, wash their car, be their taxi when they go on holiday –
    whatever you think will work and will cost little or no money –
    just your time and attention. This is for the kids too - promise them a games day,  day in the park, whatever you think they would enjoy most without spending money!


  3. Have a spending
    limit - £5 or less! This is a challenge and quite fun as you have
    to get a bit creative with getting the most for your fiver.

  4. Make a present!
    You knew that one was coming didn't you? It doesn't have to be
    complex. A cake, biscuits, calendar from photographs – what ever
    you can do.

  5. Have a 'no gift'
    agreement with some members of your family and friends – you may
    find they are delighted with this idea.

  6. Don't send
    Christmas cards – instead email, phone (if you have unlimited
    calls deals), chat over the internet. Or better still, invite friends and family round for a Happy Christmas' cup of tea!

  7. Get out last
    year's Christmas decorations and enjoy their history, don't feel
    compelled to buy new ones. I have decorations going back to my
    childhood that have real memories and meaning for me. If you need a
    christmas tree (artificial!)– try Freecycle.


    This fairy has been at the top of my Christmas Tree since I was a little girl!

  8. Ignore all
    articles about How to have the Perfect Christmas. If it involves
    buying table decorations and candle holders it is nonsense.
    Christmas is about what you do and who you share it with.

  9. Have a games party
    where everyone brings their favourite board games and / or video

  10. Make a lot of your food rather than buying it – it really is easy and so much
    cheaper than bought. See my Family Meals series under Household for
    recipes over the next few weeks.


Christmas is about fun and friendship - not money and things. If you have some good friends you are rich beyond anything you can buy.

Do share below any ways you keep the costs down at Christmas - while still having a great time.

Happy Christmas!


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Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Red Letter Day

Not only was the feedback for our seminar at the DRF conference outstanding, we also received confirmation that we have successfully attracted a Business Champion to work with us on developing our business and funding strategy. This is great news, not least as there is still no sign of the Social Enterprise Startup Grant...

Paying for it - at the #debtdebate

Yesterday, I attended the annual conference of the Debt Resolution Forum, which is one of only two professional associations to represent practitioners in the commercial debt counseling sector. The other is DEMSA. You may recall, that this is an industry which took a battering from the Office of Fair Trading only a few weeks ago, and not without reason.

As our seminar set out, the level of personal debt in the UK is such that we have not so much a debt market, as a market for debtors. People in financial difficulty can be a lucrative customer base and we need to address this.

So why did we cross over to the "dark side"?

Well, Zero-credit has always maintained that paid advice can be appropriate in some circumstances. Like or not, debtors are consumers: some do not like the involvement of creditors in debt advice charities, whilst others feel uncomfortable with faith based advice. Some are just too busy or embarrassed to wait at a busy advice centre.

Irrespective of how misguided some of these perceptions might be, we believe that debtors need a solution which works for their individual needs, otherwise they're not going to get out of unmanageable debt. And with at least 15 million adults not coping with credit, we need to explore all the options.

Another reason for attending yesterday's conference was the increasing likelihood that debt advice, like so many other publicly funded services, may be cut. As well as campaigning against this, we do have to deal with the outcomes if they are. Who are the people who are paid for debt advice? What are their principles and motives? And ultimately, what can Zero-credit do to protect debtors' interests?

We have watched the professional debt counseling associations for some time. It is important to note that a large number of firms are members of neither, so if you want paid advice, make sure you're using a DEMSA or DRF member, as both work closely with the OFT to raise standards and close loopholes. In 2008, for instance, and accredited by Edexel, the DRF introduced the BTEC Advanced Certificate in Debt Resolution.

Both the OFT and the Insolvency Service spoke at yesterday's conference, as did the Crusader Columnist and Daily Express journalist Maisha Frost. More particularly, many of the people that I met were passionate, committed and proud of what they did. One, from Cleardebt, particularly stands out: "I like the way we see a client through the whole case - many other companies don't. I can be there for them, whether they have a baby, become ill, lose a job and because I've been there talking to them from the start, I can help."

Paid or unpaid, the security of someone who cares about your problems is priceless. Find that, and you're well on your way out of debt.  


Emma Bryn-Jones

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Family Meals for Much Less than a Fiver (3) - Vegetarian Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti bolognese is a popular dish. Here is my version. It includes grated carrots (a great way to disguise them if your kids won't eat them!). It costs about £2.50 for a meal for four.


You will need


1 onion chopped 18p

1 crushed garlic clove 4p

1 Pepper chopped (cheapest per unit if bought in a pack) 40p

1 carrot, grated 12p

400g can / pack tomatoes Sainsburys basics 33p

Half pack frozen soya mince – 90p

300-400g spaghetti - 50p-60p

Splash of olive oil

Mixed herbs - 10p

Squeeze of tomato puree - 10p


  1. Fry the onion in a
    little olive oil until soft

  2. Add the chopped
    pepper and continue frying for a few minutes

  3. Add crushed garlic

  4. Add the minced
    soya and stir

  5. Pour in the
    tomatoes – add a little water

  6. Season with mixed
    herbs and add the tomato puree

  7. Add grated carrots

  8. Stir together and
    cook for 10 minutes


  9. Meanwhile boil
    the spaghetti in boiling water for 10-12 minutes

  10. Serve with a splash of Worcester sauce

Can be made with 500g minced beef or lamb but this will increase the price by £1.50 - £2.00


Photographs by Ian Nicholson

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Monday, 1 November 2010

Our debut on the conference speaking circuit!

Tomorrow, Business Development Director, Emma is addressing the annual conference of the Debt Resolution Forum about the UK Market for Debt. Here's a sneak preview.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

We're 'avin' a laugh...

From the height of their fame throughout the 1940s, this is one of several Abbott & Costello sketches that makes a play of money scams.

Perhaps it's just coincidence that sketches like this were popular in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Then again, maybe we too will see more of their like when we can laugh about high cost credit as a thing of the past?

You have two more days to put pressure on your MP to support Stellla Creasy's EDM to end legal loan sharking. Here's how to act now!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Belt up!


21st Century Dressmakers have a superb blog and website for any point of entry with making your own clothes and accessories. There's even a great link to Jean Repair if you're not ready to throw your denim away just yet. 

We particularly like this step by step belt making and the Halloween mask, which could be adapted and applied to any number of evenings throughout the party season. 

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Friday, 29 October 2010

Clean Green and Save Money

Do you sometimes hate the smell of the house when you have cleaned with chemical cleaning products? Or are you worried about what toxins you are breathing in or getting on your skin? Not to mention the cost of some cleaning items. And do you really need a sink cleaner, a hob cleaner, a shower cleaner and a separate floor cleaner – well the marketing people would like us to think so, but the reality is – OF COURSE NOT!!!

All you need for a clean and sparkling home is some Bicarbonate of soda and some distilled white vinegar. A little lemon juice can help now and then, and of course smells wonderful.

So down to practicalities. Here is what you need... I bought the Bicarb and Spray vinegar from Wilkinsons. Bicarb is £1.29 and Spray vinegar is 98p.


Kitchen First


See this hob – needs a good clean especially as it has some burnt in stuff on it.

Well a little bicarb and a damp scourer and just a few minutes later


Dah Daaahhhh! I shined it up with a spray of vinegar at the end.

And now for the sink


Just a sprinkling of bicarb, scrub it round, spray some vinegar so it all fizzes. Leave for five minutes then scrub, rinse and final spray with vinegar. Sparkling as new!!


I recommend you to try it you haven't already. Whether you are trying it out for the first time or are a dab hand with the bicarb and vinegar, please do leave a comment as to how well you think it works for you.

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Looks like we made it!

... to The Ashby / Coalville Times! Our local business launch and whiskey tasting event received a write up in the local press.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

UnLtd update

Great feedback from our meeting with our UnLtd project adviser today, our accounts are well kept and in order and we are okay to invest some of our marketing budget in #jobsforpeople t-shirts.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Family Meals for Much Less than a Fiver (2) ??? Chick pea and Potato Curry

Chick pea and potato curry is a favourite with everyone. It is filling and tasty, a warming comfort food. It is easy to make and costs around £2 for a meal for four, and takes less than 30 minutes to put together.


Here is what you need:-


200g Rice – I use easy cook basmati rice 35p

Curry sauce – from Sainsburys basics range 9p

2-3 medium potatoes 50p

400g tin of chick peas 53p

chopped onion – 18p

frozen peas 30p

If you like your curry with a little more spice, just add some chilli, cumin or other spices to the sauce.

  1. First place the
    rice in a pan and cover with boiling water. Simmer for about 15
    minutes until water is absorbed and rice is soft.

  2. Meanwhile chop the
    potatoes into small cubes and place in a pan of boiling water. Cook
    until soft – about 8-10 minutes.


  3. Add the drained
    chick peas to the pan along with the frozen peas and simmer for a
    further five minutes.

  4. While the potato
    is cooking, fry the onion in a little olive oil in a large frying

  5. Warm the curry
    sauce in a small saucepan.

  6. When everything is
    ready put the potatoes, chick pea and peas into the large frying pan
    with the onions.


  7. Add the curry
    sauce and mix in thoroughly over a low heat.

  8. Serve on a bed of


Photography by Ian Nicholson


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E- E- EDM!



If you have been following Zero-credit since the early days, you will know that I have supported numerous campaigns to end the so called legitimate scams of high cost credit. I've called it #WTFAPR, I've called it #institutionalbenefitfraud, I've called it's number on countless occasions, comparing interest rates internationally to illustrate just how expensive these loans are in the UK.

I could just give up, become jaded or disillusioned that debtors' voices are still not heard. The finance sector, government and the media seem intent on justifying exorbitant fees as a necessary evil: how else will the poor and ill-educated manage without a short term fix? Pedlars of our dependence is what they are.

Yet you and I both know that it is not just the poor and less academic who are sucked into high cost lending to make ends meet. On average income, fewer and fewer of us are able to afford the rising costs of living and these debts pose a risk to the well being of us all. There but for the grace of God go I - and half a million public sector job cuts down the line, there am I.

End Legal Loan Sharks may be just another EDM to fight the cause, after all, you could say nothing much came of Greg Mulholland's EDM for the 2356 campaign last March - it was gazumped by the General Election. But each time a motion is tabled, we chip away at the status quo and this time could be the time that we cap interest rates for good. 

So I am inviting you on a personal note, because after working on Zero-credit for two and a half years, I have not given up and I'm asking you not to give up. The End Legal Loan Sharks campaign needs you to:

1. Join the facebook group

2. Ask your MP to attend this debate to show support for action on these issues and sign EDM 872. The more who show up, the more the Government will feel the pressure to act!

3. Share this group with friends and family and ask them to do the same to help spread the word. If your MP is on Facebook invite them to join too!

4. Conact Stella Creasy on if you want to know more about this Bill or this campaign.

Just DO it?

Thanks :-)

Emma Bryn-Jones