Saturday, 24 December 2011

No room at the Inn

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a housing office with a victim of domestic violence. Several months pregnant, her social worker had removed the other children for her mental health assessment. Sitting with someone I know to be sane (the crisis team agreed), the conversation began as follows:

- you need to make an application online, then it takes about 10 weeks
- do you have any arrears, because if you do you are not a priority

Christmas heightens the irony, for how many of us have ignored the simple nativity in favour of festive perfection? I have no doubt that debt has brought us to this service, pruned to inhuman efficiency, a few hundred quid, more valuable than the lives of mother and child. 

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What angers me most is that we deny our humanity in the politics of cuts, conferring the status of victim, simply to raise our own. How dare we lift others out of poverty and destitution, when it is the weight of our self-gratification, which keeps them there?

We are complicit in shirking responsibility - politicians, journalists, civil servants, the judiciary, bankers and consumers alike. Whether rioting or spending, we violate our most sacred to enforce our way of life. It is obscene.

Anyone may be traumatised - man, woman or child. Abuse holds no respect for class, creed or colour. Rather than perpetuating the agony, to heal these experiences demands humility. There, but for the grace of God, go I. 

By the time you read this post, you will be ready for Christmas, be it flash, frugal or decidedly alone. There is no going back. May I ask you to come forward in 2012, would you make some room at the Inn? Due credit to your New Year’s resolution, thank you.

 

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Monday, 12 December 2011

Checking in at Experian

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"It’s a bit like waiting outside the Headteacher’s office when you get an invitation to visit Experian," yet Emma Bryn-Jones was pleasantly surprised to find her own personalised parking space. "I'd have preferred 'Experian welcomes Zero-credit' because of its implications for 'no credit checks', but being welcomed by a credit referencing agency was wicked," said Emma!

Due Credit!
For the past few months, Zero-credit has been part of the East Midlands Financial Capability Forum, where money advisers from all sorts of backgrounds meet to share new developments and ideas. Groups like these meet all over the country, funded by the Money Advice Service and our local group is brilliantly organised by Corby CAB.

Nottingham based Experian is no exception to the range of agencies that attend and host these events: advice charities, social landlords, credit unions, financial educators, lenders, social enterprises, you name it. Visiting each other’s premises increases the opportunities to collaborate, respect and understand different consumers’ needs.

Computer says no...
At Experian, James shared top tips for advisers helping people with damaged credit scores. Financial transactions create such a wealth of information that it is less likely to be a declined loan that causes difficulty, these days. If your record is not up to date, you may still be carrying the can for a problem you have resolved.

Your credit history is as much as part of your tool kit as your qualifications or health records. If you fail your driving test, you try again. During an accident or illness you want care to get well soon. So, when squeezed by recession, why on earth do we go cap in hand to the back street barber of high cost credit?

Critically
Before assuming your less than perfect history consigns you to the scrap heap, remember how many others are struggling as you are. Miscalculated repayments will set you back with arrears, default and bank charges - yet more reasons to pay over the odds for things you may need. It is impossible to recover from a failure or difficulty with more of what caused it.  

After Emma's visit to Experian, we're inclined to think of them as wealth care professionals, keeping track of how well we’re doing to get out of this mess. We need a clean bill of wealth, so that the opportunities for borrowers are the very best they can be. Here’s how to go about it:

Check
- you’re on the electoral roll 
As soon as you move into an area, let the local council know. You wouldn’t give the wrong email, address or phone number for a job application, now would you?

- your connections to others
Whenever you have shared responsibility for borrowing, jointly or as a guarantor, others’ money management will show up on your record. You have every right to end this relationship, but you need to do so in writing.

- your circumstances
If you’ve had difficulty keeping up to date with an account, explain why. Each account entry allows you write up to 200 words about problems like a disagreement over poor service, redundancy, illness, divorce or separation. When you put your side of the story, the computer cannot say no, because only a human being can read it – not a guaranteed “yes”, but discretion is more likely.

- your cash withdrawals
Every lender has different acceptance criteria, but when contracts for energy, insurance and telecommunications are credit agreements also, it pays to stay in good shape. Lots of cash withdrawals on a credit card can be a sign that you are struggling to make ends meet. Fears that you’ll miss a payment may make you a risk and can put prices up.

- your settled accounts
With so many struggling, defaults and arrears are a bit like a flu virus and the system cannot always cope. Particularly if your delay went so far as a County Court Judgement that you have now paid, you need to make sure that your record shows a certificate of satisfaction. To speed things up, ask your creditor to send a letter to the court confirming payment.

- you can count to six!
Individual account records are wiped after six years, leaving only the most recent information. Given the economy looks like it may take some time to recover, why not set your sights on a wealthier future and start rebuilding your history today?

 

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Saturday, 10 December 2011

Our kinda payday for our kinda people

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Wednesday 7 December was a landmark for questions into the relentless growth of payday lending. It all kicked off with the BBC featuring the results of a massive new survey by a leading pollster for a Zero-Credit subscriber. 

On ITN, our newly elected Due Credit Tsar, and founder of Say No to Payday Loans, Steve Perry, gave his take on the survey results, while on Channel 4, another Zero-credit subscriber spoke about the rising numbers of payday debtors. Over on Sky, a Zero-credit member told viewers how credit unions can prevent knee-jerk borrowing through regular saving and access to responsible credit.

With Zero-credit covering all news bases, it comes as no surprise that the professional body representing payday lenders, the Consumer Finance Association, is courting us for pointers on how to do better - all this from just the first in our Mystery Shopping for Online Credit series and a whole load more to come in the New Year!

Should we offer the Consumer Finance Association a subscription to our Coop? Well it all depends on whether YOU are prepared to become part of one of the strongest consumer rights movements yet. If you want financial services to work for and not against us there’s never been a better time to join Zero-credit.

 

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Monday, 28 November 2011

Participation for the Nation! #MALG11

Zero-credit's Emma Bryn-Jones reports on her day at the 2011 MALG Conference.

When we’re sitting on £1.5 trillion in personal borrowing, you would hope that some of the people who manage our repayments get together once in a while. Perhaps a room full of lenders, collectors, advisers, credit checkers, regulators and ombudsmen is not your idea of a great day out, but bear with me! The Money Advice Liaison Group invites open dialogue and this year’s conference, “The changing debt landscape – a change for the better?”, was no exception. 

2011 has been a tumultuous year in credit and debt. First, we had the £27 million Financial Inclusion Fund for face to face debt advice pulled and re-committed, then came news of a national debt advice gateway to be handled by the Money Advice Service from next spring. Throughout all this, the Office of Fair Trading has been developing new credit and debt related guidance, aimed at increasing consumer protection. The Crunch affects us all.

Operating Queensbury style rules of engagement, MALG insists on fair comment - no dissing absentees who cannot defend themselves, for example. From this alone, it is useful to observe who attended the conference and if I were in the market for credit, I’d want to know my lender had been there. The same goes for anyone seeking money or debt advice.

As far as I could tell, the day had two key themes: how we design services using less money for more people, and how we ensure that with fewer resources, vulnerable people remain protected.

Both concern consumers, because the channels for accessing information are in question here. It never ceases to amaze me, for instance, that the Internet is heralded as a key solution, when only a small handful of professionals tweet from events like this  - #duecredit @Debtology @tvl_info @CCCSPressOffice @kermitbantam @nwpearson and @ExperianJames.

We could argue the politics of a cash strapped economy all day, of course, but it won’t change the immediacy of problem debt. When you are up to your eyes in defaults and arrears, sitting on the steps of Saint Paul's may be the last thing you are able to do. You want charges dropped, interest stopped and a realistic conversation about what is possible. Due credit to all who attended the MALG conference, this is precisely what they were there for.

However, a key issue that worries me is the suggestion that, irrespective of how borrowers prefer to access advice - in person, over the phone, or online - their direction to one of these channels must be based on need. This does not sit easily with what we learned from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, to my mind. Despite MALG and the College’s best efforts, we are still not entirely sure of how far problem debt increases the likelihood of mental illness. 

A strong consumer voice is essential to these debates and I hope that others from our Coop will join me at the MALG conference next year. The overriding impression I take away from the event is that the professionals can be as vulnerable as we are. From the debt collector I met, who was worrying about fines for the Congestion Charge, to an ombudsman who had argued the toss about bank charges, we are all consumers of personal finance and there's a certain equality in that.

 

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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

By Crimbo, what would you do?

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Chatting to my son on Friday evening, I learned that one of his mates has been asked by his parents to forego a gift this year, in favour of keeping the magic of Christmas alive for his younger sister. I must say, we both found this tough for a 14 year old to handle, and Will gave a strong defence of how stressful it is for teenagers when they are so easily judged by their peers.

But, when it comes to the Christmas crunch, what can you? 
You may have read about the new 0% payday loan, available in the last eight days of every month - settle it quick and pay nothing... Buyer beware, though, because when you look at the small print, if you miss the eight day deadline, you’ll pay interest from the minute the loan was made, right up to when you can pay it.

What’s more, if there is any problem with funds going into your account - and we all know the damage Bank Holidays can do there - a continuous payment authority will come looking for the loan, plus interest, plus penalty charges, every seven days, up to twice a day. That’s an awful lot of unauthorised bank charges to add to your woes - Happy New Yuck! 

Have you opened a Credit Union account yet?
No doubt, our regular readers will have opened a Credit Union account, entitling them to borrow a small amount of money within three months of saving. Keep these on hold if you can, because they are ideal for covering post-Christmas emergencies like burst pipes, bald tyres and all those other horrors that seem to crop up without fail after we’re all fested out.

Tell me about it!
Still, I was very taken with Will’s advice for parents. Talk to your kids, he says, especially if they're teens who can handle some responsibility, because they’ll have ideas you had not considered. For instance, many youngsters know all about the second hand deals in DVD and game shops, and may be delighted to pick out a bundle so all the family can lay claim to a list of credible gifts.

Time it right...
Above all, Will believes children need more of our time, a spot of advice that sits well with recent research by Unicef, stating that British kids are among the least happy in the developed world, because we keep giving them things instead of attention. The parting tip I found most moving was to stick to your family traditions. Even if your meal has value crackers and tinned veg, Will says keeping some sense of normality helps kids trust that no matter what, your love is still strong.

 

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Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, 4 November 2011

Democracy is dead. Long live market forces!

As right to govern, you reported my vote,
To an unwanted war, you took it,
At the banks that I own, I’m of no note,
The accounts and expenses all crooked.

Protesting my ignorance, you rage when I strike,
In coffee-cup activism, dissed.
I occupy ground from which you are removed
- would it help if I did not exist?

In money shop madness, you squeeze me dry,
Freeze my assets in book-cooking energy.
Shopped to the market for shopping around,
You need me, to every last penny.

Go, shorten my hours and cut-back my rights,
I am growing and shall not desist.
Take my spending away from your occupied wealth
- who will pay when I cease to exist?

Anon


November 5th marks the start of Bank Transfer Day, a call to action for us to move our money to an ethical account that puts people first, at a cooperative, mutual, or credit union. Why is this critical? Because globally, we are not markets, we are people.

Perhaps you don’t have much in common with protestors at Wall Street or St Pauls - few at Zero-credit can afford such persistence. Yet we agree that every penny has its value, be it a benefit, payment or deposit.

Forget your ideology for a moment and consider that capitalism is failing because of protectionism, nepotism and greed. Since when was a rip-off what any consumer demands, or honest business but ignorance of profits?

From insurance policies, to packaged bank accounts, debit card and ATM charges, fees for switching, price increases for not, more fool you for skimming an encyclopaedia of small print. The wise know that loyalty means a scam.

For goodness sake, if you don’t buy the spin that stifles talent and creativity, MOVE YOUR MONEY. Invest in a society that breathes mobility, in which innovation reaps rewards for all. Bank ethical, shop local, save wisely with people who respect the seed you have nurtured.

We are not weak, nor are we helpless. The extent of shoddy practice reveals a dependence on the power of our purse, so let every penny, pound, dollar, euro, you name it, teach capitalism the lesson it forgot. As consumers, may we all vote "It's our money"!

 

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Friday, 28 October 2011

In the market for credit freedom?

Cash is king and here's why!

Markets are the best, as old as the hills yet still quirky and modern and brimming with alternative lifestyles. Big towns have great markets: Birmingham, Swansea, Glasgow, Leicester, Newcastle, Darlington, Leeds - and they keep up with the times. Leeds’ Kirkgate has had an interactive stall finder for more than three years now!

In London, try Berwick Street in the depths of Soho since 1778, offering a dose of your five a day when you’re shopping in the West End. 

Berwick Street Market (dates unknown) via britishpathe.com


Birmingham
has superb meat, fish and poultry, making it an ideal stop for a pre-Christmas jaunt. Swansea is marvellous for Welsh lamb and lava bread, not to mention those sexy nylon pinafores we all yearn to wear when dusting, while Glasgow’s Barras boasts a ballroom on site!

In Newcastle, where the night-life gives our most liberated European cousins a run for their money, streets throbbing with clubbers at three are all swept up and washed down for stalls to be set up by five. Never mind “Go large”, go Bigg instead!

Smaller towns that are rich in history have iconic market status: Oxford’s covered market is a little pricey, though not compared to anywhere else in town. Cardigan’s Medieval market hall has Hoover bags, souvenirs and joss sticks to delight - all rubbing shoulders with home baking and locally reared meat.

Farmers’ markets have been on the increase in recent years and both Farma and Farm Direct have good information about who produces what, where, when and how.

Some farmers offer e-commerce so you never have to leave home - not bad if your car needs a SORN because you can’t afford your road tax just yet. Try Big Barn to see if you’re on a route for local produce to be delivered. The supermarkets didn’t invent door step delivery, you know!

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Sunday, 23 October 2011

All heart in the home

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We’ve been big fans of charity furniture and electrical stores since we started in June 2009, so you can imagine our joy when we spotted this High Street branch of the British Heart Foundation, specialising in second hand home wares.

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Apparently there are 120 of these stores now and to find one, their website is simple to use too. Just tap in your postcode and it will map all the local stores for you. There’s no need for Brighthouse with the British Heart Foundation on your side! Good for your ticker and your pocket, due credit, BHF!

 

 

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Saturday, 22 October 2011

Lies, damned lies and banking

Hurrah! The Treasury Select Committee gave the Payments Council what for when they overturned the decision to phase out cheques!

Not so fast! You see the humble cheque guarantee card had already been pulled, creating notices like this in Post Offices across the land.

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Far from performing a U-turn, three months since the change was implemented, rural folk, who depend on post offices still cannot pay for Homecare, Meals on Wheels or energy tokens with a cheque. A result for whom?

 

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Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Look out banks, we're coming!

It would be a good idea for the banks to sit up and take notice of what’s happening around the country as people are gradually understanding the benefits of Credit Union membership and hedging their bets in many cases or, in a few, moving their accounts entirely over to their local Credit Union.

We recently had a regular saver of small amounts suddenly realise that our Credit Union had paid 1.5% in dividend on accessible savings last year when she was only getting 0.25% on her bank-based savings account and so she transferred her whole £10,000 to her Credit Union account. Her bank manager was startled and queried the decision and she quite enjoyed explaining her rationale.

Banks are in a quandary at the moment, struggling for profitability and failing to win back the public’s trust because they live in a world where top banking employees demand and get massive salaries and vast bonuses and they don’t know how to keep them unless they do the same. When they’re using the public’s bail-out money to fund these, it’s understandable that the public gets a bit miffed.

When members of the public start to realise that their local Credit Union can offer them a decent deal at the start of their relationship and increasingly great deals as time goes by, more and more of them are getting involved. Dividends tend to be better than most easy access savings accounts can offer because there are no fat-cat salaries to pay, no shareholders creaming off the top – all the surplus goes back to the members! 

The service in most Credit Unions (often almost wholly run by volunteers) is friendly, patient, non-judgemental and completely personal to you. There are rules, of course, but Credit Unions will go out of their way to find a workable solution that meets your particular needs, without any extra charges, just because that’s what they do.  If you just want to deal over the phone or, in increasing numbers of Credit Unions, online, that’s also an option. Why wouldn’t you use a Credit Union?

A bill is about to be passed which will allow for more expansion of Credit Union territory, the ability for Credit Unions to take deposits from organisations, not just individuals and a whole host of other options which will make Credit Unions even more attractive to wider audience from January 2012. If, in addition, a current government feasibility study has a positive outcome, there will be exponential growth in the Credit Union movement and everybody should soon have access to one, wherever they are in the UK and the underpinning technology will enable them to compete on a more level playing field for personal banking services.

So, banks, if you’re reading this, you need to buck up your ideas, your ethos and the way you treat you account-holders because we’re coming for your customers!

Claire

This is the personal view of Claire Walters (@WFCCUClaire) and not necessarily that of Waltham Forest Community Credit Union.

 

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Thursday, 13 October 2011

Bogof Banking from the Coop

We're great fans of co-operatives and a big fan of the Coop Bank here at Zero-credit. Can you imagine our excitement when we found out they've been planning the ultimate bogof with in store banking?! Here, the lovely Nuala tells us more...

A New bank in town - the Co-operative opens an instore bank in Cranbrook 

Cranbrook will this week get a new instore bank in town when The Co-operative Bank opens its doors to the public at their new instore bank inside the Co-operative Food store on the High Street. 

This new bank will offer a full range of retail and business banking services to Cranbrook’s 6,000 residents. It is one of five instore banks to be opened by The Co-operative this year as part of an eighteen-month pilot. If successful, several hundred instore banks could be rolled out across the UK. 

Nathan Griffiths, Branch Manager at The Co-operative Bank in Cranbrook, said: “Our new bank will give us the opportunity to provide a different banking experience for the residents of Cranbrook. Our aim is to provide personal banking in the most convenient way to customers, and by bringing our bank and food store under one roof, we can achieve this.” 

“We aspire to be a branch that focuses on doing the right thing, right for our customers and the local community, making sure that we are meeting customers’ needs above everything else. Cranbrook is a small community and we want to be involved in it.”   

The Co-operative Group currently operates more than 2,800 food stores and 345 bank branches under The Co-operative Bank and Britannia brands.

 

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Tuesday, 11 October 2011

It's OUR Money - Westside from Wall Street!

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Due credit to our cousins across the pond who have taken to the streets in a bid to remind the power houses of world finance that it's our money. Find out more at: http://occupywallst.org/.

You know, one of the first things we said about ourselves when we formed our coop was: you can throw us on the scrap heap and we'll all go bust, or buy our information to keep us spending sustainably... (in case you're new to Zero-credit, we track people's behaviour with money). Some people just don't get it though...

Treated as consumers when we're in the market for credit, you'd expect us to have similar rights when it all goes wrong - not least when there are an awful lot of people who got it wrong. My, my, if there were as many forecasters and experts preaching caution back in 2007 as there are now, we might not be in such a mess.

An "awful lot of people" is the key to this crisis and we need to stand firm in the certainty that it's our money - nothing more than a token that pays our day to day living expenses.

When you throw people on the scrap heap of homelessness, hypothermia and hunger, well, I predict a riot. In The Welfare Costs of Personal Debt we demonstrated the impact of our economic lending for spending policy on the public purse - housing, health, education - and that's on top of the bailout funds.

Already we're seeing pension pots drop by a third, lifelong savings crumbling against inflation. Yet anyone lured into a patriotic spending spree is rewarded with unauthorised overdraft, account and ATM charges on the money they have. Oh, it is thoughtful banking indeed when you're a quid short for less than 24 hours and pay £20 plus interest for the priviledge...

For the money we don't have, the show must go on. Payday APRs have increased from some 1500% in 2008 to 4000% or so in 2011... Has it not occured to anyone that in the midst of recession, a market that Consumer Focus said grew by 400% in the four years to 2010, and that the CAB says has created four times the number of debt problems in the last two years might be eating away at our spending power?

Cameron was a fool to edit that speech, and for complaining that he is simply too rich to say such things, his critics are fools also. Fees for financial services are sucking us dry and it is high time we reminded ourselves that it's OUR money.

 

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Sunday, 9 October 2011

Just the season ticket!

If you think about it, the choice between car, bus or train is a nonsense! We never seem to consider the nature of a journey, the number of passengers, the load, frequency or distance we need to travel before thinking about a journey’s comfort or style. Routine imprisons our pockets too.

The trek to work is a classic case in point - marred with monotony, we drive ourselves into a state of solitary confinement so often in excess of need. Short of changing job so we can live and work within walking distance, the expense of commuting is inevitable. All the more reason to examine it.  

Commuter journeys present themselves as packages, their repetition and frequency conditioning us to accept our route from A to B. Our desire to arrive fit for work creates a fear of alternatives informed only by a lack of familiarity. We assume that nothing can change.

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What difference can creditfree commuting make?
When we do not ask: can I arrive earlier, leave later, work from home; or is there a car share, cycle scheme or shower I may use, we allow travel to affect both our competence and capacity to work. Living costs increase, so we hope for a pay rise, becoming less motivated when we cannot or do not receive it.  

As a nation in debt, we should welcome initiatives that help us to ride the storm. Alternatives that enhance staff benefits can boost recruitment and retention. Too often, we stick rigidly to notions of cost, without exploring other methods for achieving our goals. We lose our capacity to innovate and be creative, when we accept the humdrum of every day life.

The reality of A to B is that it could pass via any combination of C to Z
How do we know whether another route is more convenient, if we do not travel though places where a journey could take us? How can we tell if the trade off is cheaper, shorter or more comfortable if we do not try it? Route change may be just the kind of energy boost or efficiency saving our workforces need - at no-to-low cost to employer or employee too.

Faced with increased travel costs, surely it’s time to look for savings elsewhere? 
Avoid cramped carriages and endure discomfort for less time, when you get out and walk from a stop that is further from your destination. Perhaps you can liftshare to a station or for your whole journey, or swap your pass the time paper for a one off investment in an electronic device? If you don’t ask yourself - and your employer - these questions, you’ll never crack the code to staying in and not out of pocket. 

 

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Image: vegadsl / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Dramatic DIY

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Coming from a theatrical family, I’ve made stage sets from all sorts in my time. I think little of dressing my entire residence - swathes of cheap fabric to hide recesses fitted with clothes rails instead of wardrobes, sheets of bubble wrap saved from the delivery of a new mattress and glued around the shower fitting instead of tiling. It all comes in handy.

Dream on
When I first moved into our council house, I was given a redecorating grant – ninety quid for five rooms, as I recall. My son had grand designs and after losing our own property, I thought well, why not - we’d lost everything else - why shouldn’t our dreams come true? Inspired by a friend who had turned his toilet into a cave with papier maché and chicken wire, we set to work.  

Child’s play
Hearts set on the Jurassic period, we painted a jungle with dinosaurs and volcano, complete with trees bearing skeleton leaves sprayed green. I found some cheap camouflage nets in an army surplus store, which we tacked around the bedroom and draped over some old rose arches for a den. I drew the outlines, whilst my son sponged in the shading and threw “lava” all over the ceiling.

Create your creditfree
Sample pots are a great ally to your creativity, as is keeping old remnants to blend with whatever you can lay your hands on, when it’s time to refresh your decor. Try not to have a fixed idea in mind and be flexible with your materials. I once sold a whole load of old sheet music to a fellow car booter for wallpapering and there is nothing to stop you using newspaper or magazine pages like this too.

 

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Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Savings up... debts down... creditfree!

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When you’ve borrowed against an income you may never earn, fear dominates your reality until you become the failure you perceive. Step back from the resource you have, to look at other ways of financing it. Borrowing is NOT your only option.  

Save money where you spend it most
Make regular savings on household spending, using our creditfree categories:  finance, propertytransportleisurehouseholdfashionwelfare and communications

Unsure if the national profile matches your household outgoings?
Pick a DIY budgeting tool to pin-point where most of your money goes, then focus your efforts on the big spenders first. Attempt only one or two at a time, mind you, or you’ll be setting yourself up to fail...

Quit knee jerk denial to avoid benders and binging
Long periods of denial can result in what psychologists call the “what the hell effect”, doing more harm than good. Rotating your efforts means you’re less likely to overcompensate when you do feel hard done by.  

Creditfree not for me?
If you haven’t enjoyed cutting back on a particular category, then for goodness sake don’t just grin and bear it. Contrast a challenging month with some modest celebration, then move on to another creditfree category.

Use nice, round figures to make sums easy
Aim to reduce one area of household spending by around a tenth to a quarter, building this up gradually if your need to cut back is not urgent - no hard feelings if you don’t quite make it yet. Creditfree works best by trial and error, as you learn what you can live without.

At the end of your first month
Pay at least half of your new found wealth into reducing any existing debt. Split the remainder between a reward you would otherwise put on plastic, a charity donation, or savings  - an emergency fund if you don’t have one, a pot for large ticket items or a long term nest egg. 

Due credit!
When you switch to creditfree living there’s no money to pay back, no charges - so why not give yourself credit for what would otherwise end up in someone else’s interest?

 

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Image: thanunkorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Bring on the champers, Debtology is live!

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Debtology Ltd is proud to announce the launch of the Debtology interactive debt advice smartphone application. This app will help thousands of people every year get bespoke advice and assistance with their financial difficulties. The first ever app of its kind, it replicates the independent face to face debt advice process through an intuitive, easy to use process.    

Sim Ilyas, Debtology Founder and Managing Director says: “Problematic debt remains a huge contributor to poverty in the UK. The root causes of debt are complex and widely misunderstood. Debt problems affect individuals, families and children and often stem from unexpected life events such as ill health and relationship breakdown. The fundamental factor in whether an individual feels able to cope is often the availability of independent advice”.  

“We have created a brand new channel of advice delivery through our smartphone application. People can now discreetly and efficiently obtain bespoke advice and take proactive steps towards improving their financial situation. Debtology will help people make genuine progress and not just continue with typical avoidance tactics”.  

The only charge associated with the process is the nominal payment for downloading the app (£1.49). App users are guided through an advice process and offered a range of recommendations on strategies they might adopt to help improve their financial situation. App users are also given a range of suggestions regarding organisations which can help them take the next step.  

Debtology is always interested in hearing from people who would like to work in partnership - please contact mail@debtology.org.uk. You can find out more about Debtology at their website www.debtology.org.uk.

 

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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

And the point is?

Ever since they were invented, I’ve had a bee in my bonnet about loyalty cards. "I’m inherently disloyal" I declare at the checkout, which always raises a few eyebrows.

As a young researcher, I witnessed the invention of scanners and quickly realised the revolution they were going to create. Correlating every purchase to your age, socio-economic status, where you live and back to the frequency of every item you have ever bought, loyalty cards are great if a relationship is what you really want.

Loyalty had been around for a while, of course. As a small child, I remember my Granny painstakingly sticking her Green Shield stamps into books that grew fatter by the month, then trading them in at the glitzy showroom in Amanford. We’ve swapped licking for swiping - there’s progress - but stamps were simple, they rolled out of the till, no questions asked. 

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In the seventies and eighties, my Dad collected cigarette coupons - crystal cut tumblers from the Benson and Hedges catalogue. I’m sure they were called Gold Points - my brother and I were so impressed. We both grew up to be smokers and though the vouchers weren’t all there was to it, the opportunity was sure as hell golden.

I prefer the spend fifteen pounds on fuel and get this for only three quid kind of offers, myself. You need fuel and either want the deal or you don’t - it’s an honest, one night stand of a ploy. Otherwise, what goes in, on and out of my body is entirely my affair, no matter much cashback you have to offer.

 

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Friday, 30 September 2011

#Creditfree Cutbacks

We've said it before and we'll say it again: when money saving is such a buzz word, buyer beware! If you really want to kick butt with your spending then you need to start thinking about how to make it count - not just a cutback but a fightback too! #Itsourmoney after all!

1 Cutback on cover!

Have a look for any insurance policies and warranties you do not need and check your direct debits for those sneaky little beggars that have been set up for automatic renewal. Car insurers can be particularly crafty with this after an initial year of free roadside assistance. You may prefer to keep protection for outgoings that could become priority debts. Not so essential is insurance on every single electrical item you've ever bought, or anything else that's covered by home contents.

2 Fightback on banking!

Open a credit union current or savings account to make your money work for you! Many have the added bonus of low cost insurance and access to credit when you need it - at far better rates than doorstep or payday lenders - it's better to be safe than sorry. The banks are already moving in on charges for basic accounts and cash machine withdrawals, so keep your money with friends and family to have control over what's rightfully yours!

3 Inflation busting insulation!

You could spend a small fortune on all the latest green gadgetry - triple A this and solar powered that. Never mind what you could buy - start looking at what you can re-use to keep warm this winter. Many in the low impact living community share real eco-savings, from simple ideas like using cardboard to cover windows, or recycling waste paper and junk mail with a briquette maker. It may not be pretty but it's cheap!

4 Supermarket savers!

Have you noticed how everything comes in packages these days and that portions are getting smaller? Less is quite literally more, when it comes to supermarkets keeping you shopping every day... Why pay for packaging when you can weigh out what you want at a market or local independent? Fresh produce is often 60% cheaper on a market stall and you can stew, freeze or preserve what you don't use now.

5 Let there be leisure!

It's a fool's economy to believe you can live without a little me time, so cut the day to day spending that's a drain on your purse to create a dedicated pot for your pleasure! Are you after a touch of rest and relaxation in which case the quality of accommodation counts, or the buzz of city life when your spending money matters most? Focus on the biggest pick-me-up for your free-time and cut corners on what matters least.

 

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Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Upgrading your mobile?

When a Zero-credit member recommends a new service, we just have to pay attention, and my goodness, are we liking our introduction to Kelly from Mobilife, who is guest blogging some top creditfree tips for us here! 

Apparently, consumers could typically save £13,000 over a lifetime by switching every time their contract is up. But if you’re happy with your current network and don’t want to change, how do you get the best deal? As you’ll be talking to your current network’s upgrade/loyalty department about a new contract, it’s useful to understand how these departments work. 

To get the best deal possible, it’s the LOYALTY team you should speak to.

When calling about renewal, you have the choice to speak to someone about upgrading or leaving. The upgrade team deals with standard renewals, but the loyalty team deals with customers who want to leave - meaning they have a bigger budget to play with when it comes to discounts! The amount of loyalty “allowance” they are able to give is usually based on your average spend over the last 3 months. 

So, if you’re looking for a new handset that isn’t out for a couple of months and think you may save some money by switching to a SIM-only deal for a bit, think again. This is likely to reduce your discount because your average spend will go down. You could be better off staying on your current tariff for a couple of months to attract a better discount when you do upgrade.

Old-phones

Ammunition...

Before you speak to anyone though, you need to know what to negotiate for and here’s where Mobilife comes in. You can search our site for deals by network, price, allowances - you can even select not to see deals from third party retailers or just see the ones sold directly by your specific network. 

Even better, use our bill analyser to tailor the deals you see to exactly what you need, or this guide if you’re quite not sure what you want from a deal yet. Once you’ve found something you’re happy with, note down the key elements so you can quote it to your network’s loyalty team. If they think you have a deal lined up, your efforts will progress a lot quicker!

Mobilife

Whatever you’re offered first time round, challenge it!

Networks often have different offers, depending on what they feel they can “get away with”, so it’s rare they’ll give you their best discount first. If you say you are still thinking of leaving or even ask for your PAC, you may find they give you a better offer there and then, or call you back a couple of days later. Oh, and the beginning of the month is usually the best time to call, as the agents often have loyalty targets, so if they’ve already given a lot away one month, they can be a bit tight at the end of it!

As an existing customer, you should find a better deal than a new customer, especially if your monthly spend is around £30 a month. If you spend £50+ per month, then you’ll probably get whatever you want, as your current network won’t want to lose you!

My Sensational Deal!

When I upgraded this year to the HTC Sensation I was spending around £30-£35 a month (including insurance for £5 a month, line rental at £25 a month and charges like Orange Wednesday texts and 08 number calls). My tariff was 400 minutes, unlimited texts and 500MB of internet. By speaking to the loyalty team, I was offered a free Sensation, 800 minutes, unlimited texts and 1GB of internet for £25 a month on an 18 month contract. Pretty good huh?

So, get your bartering hat on and see what deal you can get! Don’t forget to earn some good money back by using one of the phone recycling sites like fonebank and tweet @mobilife_kelly to let me know how you get on!

 

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Image: vichie81 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Debt management never looked so good

For those who feel that free advice may not be for them, it is important to be sure of a reputable company that sets and sticks to professional standards. But where are they? 

 Emma Bryn-Jones reports on her day at the annual DRF Conference. The Debt Resolution Forum is one of two professional associations for debt management companies (the other is DEMSA), and has been opening its doors to the wider communities of advice, collections and insolvency practice for some time. 

The Office of Fair Trading were there, The Insolvency Service, the Money Advice Liaison Group, the Money Advice Trust, Advice UK, DEMSA board members, countless banks, collections agencies, insolvency practitioners, technology specialists and a room full of professional debt management companies.

You’d be forgiven for thinking there’d be a show-down - money-grabbers brought to heel, so to speak. But the DRF were having none of it, for here was a group of people so far beyond basic housekeeping that their conference oozed hope and a new era of transparency and co-operation.

Perhaps, like so many British companies, commercial debt professionals are realizing that corporate social responsibility is so much more than a list of charities to which they donate, and are putting the relationship back into relationship marketing. We should hear them out, at least.

When the Insolvency Service talked openly about working within a remit for small government, there were parallels with the not-for-profit forums I've attended – how do we work smarter, achieve more for less and if the government will not legislate, are we able to self-regulate towards a common protocol? 

The Debt Advisor even suggested sharing investments in new technology with the free to client sector. Who’d have thought that a fee charger would want to help those uncertain of funding? And with not a mainstream journalist in sight, it was hard not to believe the offer was genuine.

When collections agencies complained about up-front fees, there was a kerfuffle – livelihoods depend on this – and I guess if you accept that free or paid, every advisor needs a salary, you can see why. Even so, talk of alternative payments ensued, a desire to offer the best deal, clearly genuine. 

With consumer interests to the fore, DebtWizard questioned how debts are sold on for a fraction of their value, yet debtors are still chased for the full amount. You’d have thought this would send the creditors and collectors packing, but far from it - an ethos of collaboration transfixed the room.

I found my own prejudices challenged. Nottingham based AMS Debt Doctor is direct and outspoken, fiercely defensive and, for some, a little too ready to question the status quo. They have just signed up to a comprehensive programme of the Edexcel CertDR training, showing commitment to a recognisable standard. 

On my journey home with the DRF Adviser of the Year, I was struck how a hairy rocker could talk so eloquently and passionately about customer service. I understood why it felt a bit like a vicar winning the Church raffle, when Cleardebt’s own David Mond presented his employee with this prize. Even industry leader, Paymex, laughed off the odd jibe.

Of course, grumbles emerged. People who have invested heavily in an ideology or a business model will always be fiercely protective of their achievements. It will take time before we see the fee chargers and free providers agree a level playing field, but there is most certainly hope that the OFT’s vision of transparency is coming.

So where does this leave the consumer? Far from the melodrama of boo to the baddies and hurrah for the good, the days of charlatan barbers hacking off pounds of flesh to recover your debts are numbered. Yes, there are scam artists, who thrive on the immediacy of the Internet, and we may never catch them all, but by working smart, we may not have to. 

As dialogue progresses, expect to see common principles, new technologies, specialist niches, social enterprise, free to fee hybrids and joint initiatives to tackle social exclusion. Look out for organisations that subscribe to the high standards set out by the Money Advice Trust, R3, the DRF and DEMSA and if they ain’t listed, don’t go there.

 

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Monday, 26 September 2011

No credit snobs

There isn’t one single person who knows for sure whether they’ll be accepted or declined for credit. Every lender has a different set of criteria, many of them automated and all of them carefully concealed to prevent fraud.  However, real fraud is committed by those who promise a loan come what may, exploiting our fears of no to low credit. 

To reach some £1450 billion of personal borrowing, there must be an awful lot of people, who borrowed beyond our newly refined comfort zones. Why then do we continue to pay for the shame of struggling? When countless economists failed to predict the impending recession, what makes anyone else so useless? 

Whether someone has lost a job, been ill, or on a silly spending spree, another loan is the last thing that any of us needs. Insolvency costs us all. We have a collective responsibility to say there is no shame in struggling and that tackling the problem shows courage.  None of us thrives on decisions made in shame or fear.

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Unpaid bills levy charges that add to the costs of living, so like or not, your security depends on that of another. If you can afford more price hikes, by all means, mutter debt’s name under your breath. Pretend it’s not there. Ignore the payday, guarantor and no credit check loans. Only, don’t expect help when you need it. 

 

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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Lies, damned lies and averages

In the midst of recession, we are inundated with figures about how much we spend - more on this, less on that and we’re being played with deals to keep us spending. The thing about statistics is that they mean absolutely nothing without an understanding of distribution.  

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Take two kiddies spending pocket money - for ease, let’s say ten pounds a week. Child A buys a chocolate bar for fifty pence every day and puts the remaining £6.50 in a piggy bank. Child B buys ten multi-packs of chocolate bars at four for a pound once a week and saves nothing. The total volume of chocolate bars bought is 47, the total value is £43.50 - simple enough.  

But supposing we use this information to work out what the average child spends, on what, how often, and then how much is saved? Easy: we divide the totals for volume, then value, frequency, then savings, by our nice little population of two. Every week, the average child buys 23½ bars of chocolate, spends £21.75 to do so, goes to the shop four times a week and puts £3.25 away in savings.  

By the end of one year, our kids will each have a nice little nest egg of £169. Twaddle. Child A will have money and Child B will get fat. Our kids are at opposite ends of the distribution. So, before you think of yourself as average, spare a thought for the excesses of rich and poor. You may find yourself more squeezed and less middle than you thought!

 

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Friday, 23 September 2011

Hands off my Granny!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjY0mbh8fxU]

It's no joke.

Since when were pensioners, who are quite literally dying in their thousands from winter fuel poverty, likely to promote a 4000% plus payday lender - and like muppets we just sit and watch?

If you ask Save our Savers what their members can expect from a lifetime of saving, it certainly isn't 4000%. Many are struggling to make ends meet because interest rates are lower than inflation - hard earned nest eggs shot to pieces by the greed for need.

This is elder abuse of the most insidious kind. The make do and mend generation portrayed to fit some marketer's whim - how sick does it get?

 

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Thursday, 22 September 2011

No More Excuses

Zero-credit is delighted to welcome fellow coop Member, David Jones, to our blog. Here, David explains his exciting new "No More Excuses" campaign to ensure that our right to a Basic Bank Account without account management, transaction fees or ATM charges is made law.

Reforms?

Hurrah! Banking reform is upon us! But are these the reforms that everyday bank users want to see?

Whilst the Vickers Report considers investment banking and seeks its separation from retail operations, it seems the poor old consumer will still lose out. The humble and simple Basic Bank Account looks doomed to extinction, along with every day access to our money. 

As always, the first to find out, are the vulnerable, the elderly, and the poor. Don't forget, some people are not able to have a normal bank account. This type of account was designed as a catch-all for our society and has been supported by successive Governments, but never made mandatory. It's about time it was.

It's that basic

Time and again promises to Parliament have been broken, while the very banks that we own continue to badger politicians for more ways to make us pay for their mistakes. Right now, they're bemoaning “unprofitable” banking, as used by you and me. 

The decline of the Basic Bank Account and access to “Link” machines is well under way. Existing Basic Account holders at Lloyds TSB and RBS may only enjoy free withdrawals from machines within the same group. RBS have gone one stage further by not accepting NEW basic accounts!! 

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Everyone had therefore better hope for a nearby ATM that belongs to the same group or, as the bank's hope, you'll have to 'migrate' upwards to a 'Fee-paying' account, just to get 'your' money out whilst they 'make' money on it, as it sits in your account. Not only do they tinker with their promises, they have withdrawn from them completely.      

And there’s more. In Scotland, moves are afoot by Clydesdale and RBS (again) to charge not-for-profit organisations, like Credit Unions, for allowing their customers to use their ATMs! So if you dare to bank with your friends or colleagues and in an attempt to protect your nest egg, you’ll pay for that too. It stinks.

Can we trust them?

The spin banks feed us is that unless a service makes a profit, it simply will not do - they have “shareholders” to consider and need to recoup their losses. But aren’t WE the shareholders and aren’t WE recouping their losses by bailing most of them out. 

You know, there is a little known truth about Basic Bank Accounts. They DO and CAN make money and here’s how. 

Around one million RBS customers have been affected by the new cash machine strictures, if say, each had as little as £10 in their account at any one time, that leaves ten million pounds available to RBS 24 hours a day, 365 days a year - to 'invest' [cough] worldwide, as they see 'fit' [another cough], and return the profits to the bank. Across the UK there are an estimated eight million Basic Bank Accounts – so you do the maths!

Sadly, it’s not enough though. Services to ordinary people like you and me are a loss leader, loyalty as such, flies out of the window. As Basic Bank Accounts are not mandatory, one by one, banks who were encouraged  into promising the facility, as a matter of social conscience, are now endeavouring to make them so unusable and restrictive that people are given little or no choice but to consider switching to a fee-paying account. Somewhat unreasonable considering ALL the circumstances.

Unless we make a concerted effort to act now, whilst the proposed reforms take shape, true reform of the banks will not take place. The effort therefore is to make a Basic Bank Account MANDATORY with access via ALL ATMs free of stricture and circumstance.       

What can we do?

Please visit No More Excuses here, or follow Twitter @NoMoreExcuses_ or @DavidJones_dpaj. And, of course, sign our e-petition! The later stages of the campaign will see an integrated media effort together with letters to all MPs and other bodies. It leaves me to ask for your ongoing support... this WILL take time, be under no illusion. We really have No More Excuses not to do this.

It's Our Money...

 

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Monday, 19 September 2011

Now, that's what I call cheap!

Are you middle income? Then watch out – you’re under attack! Average rent hit £1025 a month in London last week, around half of average household income. Nationally, rents average £713 a month.

If you spent half your income repaying a mortgage, you’d be classed as over-indebted, and someone, somewhere would intervene, but because you’re not interesting enough (sick pun), your squeezed middle will not burst the 0.5% trap.

0.5% interest rates are a trap because they are protecting some 800,000 mortgage holders from negative equity, whilst 3 million renters foot the bill. Meanwhile, the number of residential tenants is growing...

How else could property prices have continued to rise after the volume of sales almost halved in 2008? If you’re not on the ladder, you’re a sitting duck - ripe for the foie gras of overcrowding.

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Depending on which economist you listen to (perhaps none, after such accurate crash predictions), inflation is due either to historically low interest rates or the flat-lining economy. Of course, the real news is that neither makes a difference, when your pay is consumed by staying afloat.

Energy, food, fuel, housing, has anyone put the water rates up yet?  Anything and everything we need to survive has increased in price. But has it really?

Last week, in Nottingham, I saw park & ride for “only £5 a day”. The other month, in Coventry, I paid £2.50. Similarly, Arriva charges students in Birmingham £315 a year to get to college, while in the rest of the Midlands they pay £490 - a £175 premium to live outside the second city.

Then, there are wholesale energy prices that are lower than they were in 2008, yet consumers pay more in 2011. And what about the banks? No sooner had they received their kick in the teeth from last week’s Vickers report than the papers were full of their justifications for charges.

Banks are businesses with shareholders, and they need to make a profit,” said Kevin Mountford from the very Moneysupermarket that refers people to the Samaritans for free debt advice.  Yeah right, Kev. “So” busy paying for surfboards and ape suits, you forgot all about the specialist debt charities. Never mind that some poor sod might snuff it, waiting to speak to an adviser for whom you have not paid.

The rising costs of living? I see only the greed for need.

 

 

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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Solidarity with the Broken of Britain

Zero-credit is proud to repost this blog, taken directly from http://thebrokenofbritain.blogspot.com/2011/09/urgent-appeal-for-action-now.html

After an incredibly constructive debate yesterday in the House Of Lords the government appear to be concerned about how many Lords had significant concerns about the Welfare Reform Bill, even those Lords who in principle supported the bill had major questions they wanted answers to.

For a bill of this size and importance, convention dictates that the next stage of the bill should be kept in the main chamber of the House of Lords for debate. It's particularly important the bill be continued to be debated in the main chamber as disability access to the smaller committee rooms is very limited and people will not be able to access the committee rooms to exercise their democratic right to observe the passge of the bill from the public chamber.

At 3.30pm today the govermnent are tabling a motion to move the grand committee stage of the bill into one of the smaller committee rooms. Presumably the government are hoping that by moving a bill into the committee rooms it will be harder to scrutinise - there won't be enough space in any of the committee rooms to allow for all the Lords to participate, let alone for us to scrutinise online or attend in person.

This is an outrage - the government are clearly concerned by the level of queries and opposition to the Welfare Reform Bill highlighted by yesterday's debate and wish to quietly sideline it to a committee room where they hope it will pass with less opposition. Tabling the motion for the afternoon following PMQ's is also an underhand trick as it means it will be harder for us to object through the main stream media.

This is our call to arms. This bill affects us, our families and every aspect of our lives, as well as the lives of those currently paying into the system in anticipation of protection should they require it. If we can make enough noise in the next few hours the government will be forced to keep the passage of the bill in the main chamber of the house of lords where it can be effectively and appropriately scrutinised by all.

What you can do to help is this:

Please post copies of this blog onto your facebook, your twitter, stumbleupon, wikio etc. Please email it to everyone you know, please talk about this on your own blogs. Email or phone your MP to register your objections, email or phone the house of lords to explain your concerns, email or phone the media, local or national and explain that whether or not people are in favour of this bill, that it is a fundamental democratic right to have it debated in the main chamber of the house of lords where there is space for all who wish to attend and observe. Highlight the injustice and hypocrisy of the governments behaviour in trying to sideline this important bill into a room too small for all the Lords to attend and certainly too small to allow those in wheelchairs, or with guide dogs, the very people most affected by this bill to be able to observe from the public gallery.

If we make enough noise before 3.30pm today the government will have to drop this underhand tactic and the Bill will continue to be debated in the main chamber of the House of Lords where everyone who wishes to can attend and observe.

UPDATE 13.30
The email addresses to contact are;
anelayj@parliament.uk – this is the chief whip to whom you should send the email and cc it to the others .

bassams@parliament.uk – opposition chief whip

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Are you kidding... Free Money Day?

Zero-credit is delighted to invite Brazilian journalist, Renato Gianuca, to share his views on the forthcoming Free Money Day, which takes place across the world on Thursday 15th September.

What would our communities look like if some of us had less money but more time to care foreach other? That is one of the main questions posed by Free Money Day, which is an initiative of the Post Growth Institute, a global network spanning Australia, Europe and North America. Imagine that in your life, only for a day, you could live this experiment. What would it be like?

Fmd_janet

Free Money Day
Fortunately, the opportunity is about to be presented. Prepare yourself and your friends: Free Money Day will take place on September 15th, 2011 at various public locations worldwide, such as streets, squares and parks. And you could host one of them.

It will be very simple: people will hand out their own money – two coins (or two notes) at a time – to complete strangers. They will ask these strangers to then pass on one coin (or one note) to someone else.

Is it a strange notion? Maybe. Will it actually change the economy? Not likely. The intention behind Free Money Day is twofold: to invite people to experience the freedom of physically letting go of money, and to start conversations with strangers about the possibilities and benefits of more sharing economies.

The key message is this:  sharing is common sense.

A World Beyond Growth
Relying on less ‘stuff’ and less money is an important step towards both individual wellbeing and collective sustainability. It reduces our global environment footprints. It encourages us to deeply consider the question: ‘how much is enough?’ It enables us to see the fallacy of believing that constant growth (of our bank accounts, salaries and economies) is an indicator of progress in and of itself. It reduces social isolation. It increases interdependence and community. The list goes on…

Beyond considering the potential benefits of a decreased reliance of money, it is also important to critically engage with some of the realities that our current growth-fetish propagates. This engagement lets us better recognize the necessity of economic transformation. First, despite unprecedented affluence, we live in a world of ever-growing social inequality. Second, we continue to rely on the exploitation of finite natural resources, despite the steady production of more and more ‘efficient’ products. Finally, as we have all been witnessing since 2008, when global economic systems crash, the suffering is widespread and often hits hardest those without the luxury of a ‘safety net’. With the social, environmental, and economic costs of growth clear, it is up to us to chart new paths towards global prosperity.

We are living in uncertain times, worldwide. In the USA, for instance, writes Barbara Ehrenreich,  “media attention has focused on the ‘nouveau poor’, that is the formerly middle and even upper-middle class who lost their jobs, their homes and/or their investments in the 2008 financial crisis and the economic downturn that followed it. But the brunt of the recession has been borne by the blue-collar working class, which had already been sliding downwards since deindustrialization began in the 1980s”, she adds. With deeply interconnected global economies, we are seeing that this is not only an American problem.  It will take a large-scale systemic shift to alter this trajectory.

A Global Movement
Initiated by the Post Growth Institute, Free Money Day is intended to engage citizens worldwide in conversations that question current economic realities and encourage consideration of realistic alternatives. As the Institute’s website states, this is an organization committed to “the end of bigger, the start of better.” According to the group’s spokesperson, Dr Donnie Maclurcan, a big part of doing so involves “preparing for societies that consume much more collaboratively”, in which wellbeing and justice are prioritized over economic growth for its own sake. Whilst justice and economics may often be seen as distinct issues, Ehrenreich sees it otherwise:

“The most shocking thing I learned from my research on the fate of the working poor in the recession was the extent to which poverty has indeed been criminalized in America. (…) The second – and by far the most reliable – way to be criminalized by poverty is to have the wrong color skin. (…) Whole communities are effectively ‘profiled’ for the suspicious combination of being both dark-skinned and poor,” writes Barabara Ehrenreich in the afterword of her new book “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America”, published August 2011 by Picador USA.

According to Dr Maclurcan of the Post Growth Institute, “Growth is simply not working for most of us, including the natural systems of which we are all a part.” If the financial meltdown of the Global Financial Crisis has been horrendous, it will be nothing compared to an ecological collapse. Continuing to idealistically rely on exponential growth in a finite world is nothing less than exposing ourselves and the world to immense risk.

The observations and concerns from the Post Growth Institute reflect the considerations of the French writer Edgar Morin, who was in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in August 2011. In his speech in the Rio Grande do Sul Federal University, Morin said emphatically: “It is possible to conceive another policy away from the simplest concept of ‘we must grow’.” And added: “We are speaking of a policy capable to offer more life quality to all citizens and an economy more social, with more solidarity and cooperation. We must go on to the positive aspects that promote global solidarity among citizens and the riches brought by these exchanges. But we should de-globalize … to protect the local and regional realities.”

Get Involved
There may still be some doubt among readers: aren’t notions of post growth economies nothing more than utopian dreams?  Maclurcan of the Post Growth Institute sees things differently: “You’d have to be an idealist to think we can grow on like this”, he says. Rather, referring to movements such as Transition Towns, collaborative consumption and open source software, Maclurcan believes that post growth futures are, in many ways, already here, “we just haven’t yet named it as such, or developed an over-arching vision, like a ‘not-for-profit world economy’” he says.

To find out more about Free Money Day, please visit www.freemoneyday.org. There you can subscribe to receive updates, find out where events will be taking place near you, or even learn how to organize your own FMD event. Remember, it’s September 15th. Anything you can do to support the movement: host or attend an event, participate in conversations online or on the ground, or give thought to notions of alternative economies… these are all valuable contributions to embracing post growth futures.

 

 
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