Monday, 28 February 2011

What Zero-credit is here for....

When someone has a toothache they go to the dentist, when they need a divorce or a Will they go to a solicitor, when they have a leak they call a plumber, when they have had an upset with a family member they speak to a friend.

Yet when someone has a problem with debt they tend to withdraw and speak less and less to anyone. They often do not know who to seek help from, do not want to tell their friends or family, and may even not be admitting the full problem to themselves. 

Letters go unopened, telephone calls go unanswered and yet, just like many other problems, the longer it is left the worse it will get. And there are too many people suffering from this in the UK for it to be ignored any longer. 

Zero-credit Ltd is a cooperative set up by Emma Bryn-Jones to challenge the stigma, ignorance and fear associated with debt. Whatever the reason for debt, redundancy, sickness, bereavment, low income, a bad financial decision, the outcome is often stress and fear. 

Zero-credit provides supportive information, shares tips on low cost living and on tackling debt. It is here for everyone who has struggled with debt. Debtors Coop provides an Information Service on such topics as Debt Advice Trends and Borrowing and Saving.

If you become a Member, you can have a say in what we do. You can tell us what you would like to see tackled, what you think the important issues are, as well as supporting the work we do.

You will also get a monthly newsletter and a free Ebook.

Individual Membership costs just £1 for 12 months. Full terms and conditions here.

 

Want a say in how we do things?

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

Alternatively, if you're a business, why
not subscribe to our Information Service

Come on, join us today! 

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Do or Dye #SundaySavers

Today I am dyeing my curtains. I have been staring at my bedroom curtains (left by previous occupants) for over a year now and disliking them but not able to afford to replace them. Then I had a brainwave!!! Why not dye them! Cost is £5.50 per curtain. As the windows are large this is much cheaper than new ones. Results so far are good but still going through the process.

Here is first attempt - more photos will follow.

Before is top, after bottom.

Curtains1

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Friday, 25 February 2011

Family Meals for Much Less than a Fiver (9) - Vegetable and Bean Stew

Root_veg1

This is one of those recipes where you can make changes to adapt the basic idea to your taste. The stew consists of root vegetables and cannellini beans. You can use different root veg in the proportions you like, according to what is available, and of course, cost. I got my vegetables from Exeter Farmers Market. The cheapest veg is usually from green grocers or market stalls and if you care about it being locally grown, you can ask where it came from. A market stall near me does a fabulous stew pack for just £1.50 with carrots, parsnips, swede and onions.

And there is something earthy and marvellous about handling, chopping and cooking fresh vegetables - knowing the goodness they contain.

You can also try different types of beans - just go with your favourite.

Anyway without more ado, here is the recipes as I cooked it but feel free to ring the changes! Depending on what you buy this dish will cost between £2.50 and £4.00 to make.

You will need:

1 onion

1 garlic clove

2 tbsp olive oil

1 small (or half large) suede

1 small (or half large) butternut squash

2 medium parsnips

2 medium carrots

2 tbsps plain flour

300ml stock

carton/ tin chopped tomatoes

2 tsp paprika

2 tsp mixed herbs

2 medium or 1 large potato

Optional Substitutes / additions

Sweet potato, sliced courgette (add just before put in oven)

Method:

Prepare the vegetables. Cut butternut squah in half and deseed then chop into 2cm square (approx) pieces removing skin. Wash and slice parsnips and carrots. Peel and chop suede. Peel and slice onion. Heat oil in large heavy bottomed pan and cook onion. Crush or finely slice garlic clove and add. to the onion. Add all the chopped vegetables and stir. Turn down the heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. 

Add flour and stir to cover vegetables completely. Cook for 1 minute. Add stock, tomatoes, paprika and herbs. Stir to mix flour into liquid. Add more water if necessary. Add the cannellini beans and stir to mix.

Casserole_cooking1

Place all the mixture in a large casserole dish.

Peel and slice the potato. Arrange the potato on top in a circle. Cover and place in the oven at 180 degrees for about 90 minutes. Serve with a green vegetable or just enjoy on it own or with a slice of crusty bread.

Vegcasmeal1

Whilst it is cooking, its the ideal opportunity to bake some cakes or scones as suggested by one of our readers, to use the heat of the oven while its on.

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Thursday, 24 February 2011

Debt Advice Trends

Well that's six resources posted to our Information Service now! We've just uploaded Debt Advice Trends to 2010! The report analyses a range of secondary sources pertaining to the levels of personal borrowing in the UK and the provision of free-to-client debt advice. It also attempts to quantify and project the total level of demand for debt advice by correlating a range of reports and statistics - all very topical given the recent uncertainties surrounding FIF debt advice. Key findings include:

 

The total value of personal borrowing remained largely stagnant from the end of 2008.

 

In contrast, the value of secured borrowing increased by 4.3% between January 2008 and December 2010.

 

Estimates for debt advice provided in 2009 range from 3 to 7.7 million clients.

 

Zero-credit estimates unmet need for debt advice to be in the region of 15 million adults.

 

Since 2003, there has been a distinct increase in the numbers of home owners, middle income earners and older people seeking debt advice.

 

The Over-indebtedness Strategy has yet to report statistics or projections for the provision and demand for debt advice nationally.

 

 

We're coming up to next our password change for access to the subscription area, so if you haven't already subscribed for unlimited access, you know what to do! Later next month we'll be offering a free two-week trial to another group of organisations with an interest in consumer finance, and as always our Members enjoy one week's access every month. If you think we should offer you a free trial, why not e-mail TheSecretary@debtors.coop and we'll see if we can accommodate you?

 

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Come on, join us today! 

Meet the Third Thursday Club

Thirdthusday1

The Third Thursday Club

Exchanging produce and skills comes as second nature to the Third Thursday Club and are an example of how people can benefit from one another's skills in a simple way.

For example:-

Those with greenhouses grew extra produce and gave it to others

Those with horses provide "fertiliser" for veg growing.

Veg that was large & not particularly tasty given to those with goats in need of veg.

Wind fallen apples or fruit too small to use given to those with horses, goats, pigs, and the local Rabbit Rescue

Rabbit Rescue received preserves made from the fruit. Rabbit Rescue sold some preserves & received a percentage of the profit from them - giving some profit back to those who had made the preserves.

One of the Members makes cakes for others too busy to do so for a cash sum.

Fertiliser
Jason the pony who donates his 'fertilizer'

How marvellous is that!! So simple yet we could all do something similar, exchanging our skills and resources whatever they may be. And they have a fun time together too.

The group got together in 2009 and area a 'spin-off' from the local WI. Some of them decided they wanted something a bit different from what the WI offered. There are 12 Members with ages ranging from 20s to 50s.

You can follow one of the members on Twitter @JammyorWhat.

Do you have a community group or skills exchange? We would love to hear about it as it gives inspiration to others.

 

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Wednesday, 23 February 2011

How did we let this happen?

Adbusters_reality_for_men

Image from Adbusters

I have recently been reading 'No Logo' by Naomi Klein. It was written in 2000 and some aspects are now dated,  but it is a fascinating account of the rise of branding and marketing and many of its points are still relevant to day.

Naomi Klein talks about how brands spend far more on marketing and advertising, than on manufacture and workers wages. They create an image for the brand of luxury and wealth that is far removed from the factories in which they are made, and the working conditions of those making the product. If you have ever felt concerned about sweatshops and where products come from, it is a book well worth reading.

The book discusses how a lifestyle image for a brand is created. I have always disliked many adverts that imply that if you buy the product, you will be prettier, sexier, more successful, have a perfectly tidy house, have a great marriage, travel to distant lands etc. Even more so I dislike adverts that suggest thier brand is superior so will instill envy from your neighbours and friends, or suggest social rejection in its absence. Isn't that a terrible reason to buy a product?

However the thing that struck me most was just the intrusiveness of adverts; that it is impossible to live in the UK and not see hundreds, if not thousands of adverts a day. They are on bill boards in towns and cities, on buses and taxis, at sporting events,in newspapers and magazines, on websites and of course on television. In fact there are few advertising free places anywhere. It is why it is so important that Zero-credit.co.uk is an advertising free website. How have we let powerful companies intrude into our lives in such a way?

Naomi Klein talks about Reclaim the Streets movements in the 1990s and Culture Jamming of which Adbusters is probably the best known. The spoof ads are refreshing, amusing and show up advertising in their true light and hopefully make people view adverts differently.

It is easy for anyone to get drawn into the promises and images that adverts show to make their products desirable - making them out to be so much more than they really are - and telling us how we should be. Will someone please tell me what is wrong with a few wrinkles? The adverts assume we all agree that they must not be seen. Shouldn't looking older be a good thing - that people are wiser and know more about dealing with life? How have we become a society obssessed with appearance and expensive clothes and cars?

What can we do about his? On a personal level - don't succumb. If I feel the urge to buy a product, I give myself a 'cooling off' period of several days and ask myself if I really need / can afford the product. Learn to question adverts. All ads want to sell you something, so are all their claims really valid. Do you have to buy shampoo to make you feel you are 'worth it?' Do you require a brown sugary drink to have fun with friends?  Enjoy tearing the ads apart. Perfume cannot change the way you look or who will want to go to bed with you, and they certainly can't change your figure. Is it just me who never even notices what perfume someone is wearing. Doesn't soap often smell nicer?

By resisting the advertisers messages and questioning them, you will save money - and disappointment when the product turns out not to be so good after all - not to metion the carbon footprint in its manufacture and very likely the resulting landfill at its (possibly premature) demise.

Buy secondhand whenever possible and make use of sharing and giving websites such as Freecycle and of course charity shops.

What do you think?

 

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Sunday, 20 February 2011

Handing over the reins...

I always knew the time would come when Zero-credit was not mine any more... It was about this time last year that I took the very first steps towards making that happen, with a series of visits to the Cooperative and Social Enterprise Development Agency in Leicester.

 

Image

 

Now, Thanks to an UnLtd Level 1 award and six months into creating our debtors' coop, this website is really beginning to feel like it is owned by a community. I owe a huge debt of gratitude (my favourite kind of debt!) to Penny Ritson and all the lovely people she has persuaded, cajoled and encouraged into writing here. Over the past few weeks I have learned so many new ways of living #creditfree!

 

For my part, I have been busy developing content for the Debtors' Coop Information Service, which went live to great acclaim in "The Independent" earlier this month. As you might expect, we're also working on funding for more extensive research into unmanageable debt, so we can continue to support people out of it. We're particularly keen to develop tools, which prevent over-indebtedness. Remember that Members can contribute to our Research & Development programme too, so if you want to become involved, e-mail TheSecretary@debtors.coop.

 

Want a say in how we do things?

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Making Cakes whilst the Roast Cooks! #SundaySavers

Using the oven to the maximum is an ideal way to make the most of its heat. Kate Ellis  - @JammyorWhat on Twitter - makes cakes while she does her Sunday roast. She made three last Sunday, and because the oven was already on, she saved the cost of heating the oven to bake them separately at a different time.

Baking is becoming more popular at the moment, because it's homely and economical and tastes good! And you know what has gone into a home baked product.

So today's #SundaySaver is to bake a cake, bisuits, scones or what ever you fancy in with your roast. Kate trades her cakes in her community for other produce - but more about that in a future blog on community.

In the meantime, do tell us about your #SundaySavers.

 

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Friday, 18 February 2011

Twishing! Clothes for nothing and shoes for free!

Swishing - clothes swapping - is gaining popularity throughout the UK. Now www.swishing.com is bringing to you the first Twishing event - Swishing on Twitter - to coincide with London Fashion Week.

On Saturday 19th Feb the main event takes place between 12 and 20.00 - but could be set to last all week!!

Here is how it works....

Twish your garments from your twitter feed using photos of your items, the #twishing hashtag, & your #location!

- Follow to the #twishing tag and check out items up for grabs from #twishing

- You can do direct swaps or just Swish freely. As with any other Swish, trust in Swishing Karma- bring fabulous items and you will certainly get something treasured back in return...

EXAMPLE: Size 12 purple Marc Jacobs dress from #manchester! #twishing [link to photo here]

Once you have found a match- you can lovingly pack up your once loved item and post it of to its new home, safe in the knowledge that you have brought one lucky lady and one grateful planet a lot of joy!

Find out more at their Facebook page


Don't know what Swishing is yet? 

We all love fabulous new clothes but not the unfortunate side effects. Our bank managers don’t understand the importance of shiny new shoes, and buying heaps of new stuff is pretty terrible for the planet. What’s a girl to do?

Swishing is shopping without these hangovers. We all bring nice, clean, presentable clothes that are lurking unloved in our wardrobe, and other girls fall in love with them and give them a good home. You might bring one sweater and take two pairs of shoes, or hang a party frock on the ‘Swishing Rail’ and take a pair of skinny jeans and feather boa.


*Be careful to only exchange address details in personal emails or via DM and not publically through twitter* 

This event will be happening alongside the V&A Fashioning Body Shape & Style Grand Swishing Event & to kick off *London Fashion Week* and will include live link ups to the Swish


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Thursday, 17 February 2011

Petrol for 32p a litre......

Fuel prices 15% up on this time last year!

It costs over £20 more to fill a family car than it did just two years ago!

If you're not sharing yet, or still have some empty seats to fill, just take two minutes to join Liftshare and start sharing. With four people in the car the price of petrol per person is just 32p a litre!

Handy hint: fuel prices vary widely between garages. Our pals at PetrolPrices.com will tell you (for free) where the cheapest fuel is near  you...

The ever-growing popularity of car-sharing

So far this year, Liftshare have seen a massive 30% more new members joining compared to the same period last year. They now provide over 1,000 car-sharing schemes around the UK too (if the organisation where you work has parking challenges or is trying to reduce its carbon footprint, Liftshare might be able to help).

Happy sharing and happy saving! 

Quote of the Month: "Before I started car-sharing, I was filling up every five days. Now it's every fortnight. I'm saving about £1,250 a year, which will only increase as petrol prices go up." Katie Whitney

Follow Liftshare on Twitter; become a fan of their Facebook page.

If you would like to contact Liftshare, email support@liftshare.com


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How to Beat Inflation - and still live a little

The recent news that inflation is on the rise again does not fill the heart with joy. With people on fixed incomes with little prospect of an increase it's important to get the most out of every penny you spend.

But there are ways you can beat inflation and make changes that leave you better off. Here are a few ideas to help you make the most of your money.

1. Review all your direct debits and make sure you really get the best from them eg do you subscribe to a DVD rental company such as Lovefilm? - check the packages on offer and ensure you are on the right one. Gym membership? Could you walk, run or cycle instead? TV subscription - do you really watch all those channels? It's not about cutting back on fun, just cutting back on spending what you don't make use of.

2. Know when all your contracts, insurances etc are coming to an end to give yourself time to check for better deals before they automatically renew. Mobile phone contract ending? Consider going sim only or even pay as you go -check the minutes you are paying for against what you are using. Insurance - spend time researching the market - make sure you get all the cover you need but don't pay for unnecessary extras.

3. Review your supermarket spending. It's easy to get into the habit of buying the same things every week. Try a couple of budget meals a week - see Family Meals for much Less than a Fiver in our Household section. Take a look at the Reducing Your Food Bills series.

4. Go for changes that just save you a pound or two a month as well as those that save you more - it all adds up.

5. If you buy books, try secondhand bookshops - or join the library. If you need furniture or stuff for the house see Household goods for less.... And try charity shops too. Consider using Ecomodo to borrow an item if you only need something to complete a job.

6. Ditch the chemicals and clean with Bicarbonate of soda and vinegar - saves the environment from nasty chemicals too..

7. Try Ecoballs for your laundry - one purchase can last you six months to a year.

8. Buy your fruit and veg from a market stall or greengrocers - it's much cheaper than the supermarket and you are supporting your local economy too.

9. Try to liftshare whether to work, going to a meeting or social event and share petrol. And drive smoothly to conserve fuel.

10. Have fun doing things for free - learn new things and meet new people by volunteering - or just go for a walk in the park.

What ever you do - have fun doing and enjoy the satisfaction of spending less. Do share your tips, ideas and successes with us by commenting below. We are a cooperative and value people sharing what they know.

 

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Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Delighted with this, from "The Independent"

Consuming Issues: Who can you trust for sound debt advice?

 

By Simon Read

Saturday, 12 February 2011

...But vulnerable people in the middle of a debt crisis are easy prey for rogue debt managers. While the OFT is working on shutting down as many dodgy firms as it can, there are still plenty out there. But they are under attack from the pioneering work of Zero-credit, a co-op of debtors.

Its members have just completed a second mystery shopping exercise among commercial debt counsellors to highlight those that abuse the system by failing to be compliant, or at least failing to demonstrate that they are operating with a licence. Its research showed that of 10 debt managements websites, only four appeared to hold an appropriate consumer credit licence while four appeared to have no licence whatsoever. The remaining two appeared to have lapsed licences.

Debt management firms are not to allowed to operate without a consumer credit licence, so Zero-credit has passed its evidence on to the OFT for it to deal with the firms. The co-operative plans to repeat its mystery shopping exercise every two months; it also publishes how-to guides to help debtors.

Like all co-ops it's only as strong as its members, who pay £30 a year to join. "We believe that when consumers own the information used to develop products and services, there is a far greater likelihood that supply will reflect need," Emma Bryn-Jones, founder of Zero-credit, explains. "Subscription benefits include access to a minimum of one original resource per month, opportunities to shape the work programme, and further economies of scale through collective commissioning."

Anyone interest in supporting this important work can find out more at zero-credit.co.uk...

excerpt via independent.co.uk

 

 

A bit of confusion about our rates, but incredibly chuffed to receive such recognition for our work!

 

Want a say in how we do things?

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Join the Zero-Credit Cooperative - Have Your Say

Zzero-creditmini_1
Zero-credit Ltd was started  to challenge the stigma of debt, dispel myths and provide information and ideas for people who are struggling to meet their bills. We share news and ideas about living frugally, sustainably and joyfully.

The information on the Zero-credit website is available to all, but because we are a cooperative, we want you to join us and have your say, and have access to the Debtors Coop Information Service.

Become an individual member for just £1 a year.

Benefits of joining:-

1. Own a share of the companyYou help set the agenda. Suggest topics for discussion, research and reporting.

2. Support our work. Your £1 helps to fund Zero-credit, and your ideas ensure that the issues that are addressed are the ones which are of importance to you.

3. Receive a monthly newsletter by email. It contains news about the company, information and articles.

4. By 21st March get a free E-Book with information about debt advice, free and low cost services and key Money Saving Tips.

Dc_mini_heading

Debtors Coop - Zero-credit also incorporates the Debtors Coop - an Information Service, offering market intelligence of national and strategic importance, focused on consumer finance, conducted and analysed by the very consumers who use it.

Businesses and organisations can subscribe to this service for £30

For a free trial to the end of February - email TheSecretary@debtors.coop

Individual members have access to Debtors Coop for one week a month or on request.

Come and be part of Zero-credit and help us all to reach the goal of sustainable spending. 

Want a say in how we do things?

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

Alternatively, if you're a business, why
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Come on, join us today! 

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Cool thoughts on Budgeting

Fridge1
In a discussion the other day someone pointed out that when we go to buy a fridge, or similar household appliance, we take some time reviewing the options, weighing up cost against quality, value for money etc. and work hard to find the best product to suit our needs, and at the right price.

It's also an opportunity to review how a fridge is used, the relative size required between fridge and freezer, the electricity consumption, the merits of having frost free and the design and usefulness of the interior.

When spending money on a household appliance the cost can be anywhere from £200 to £1000, quite a major individual purchase and certainly requires due consideration.

However when considering our annual spend on food this amount pales to insignificance especially when you consider a fridge is likely to last over five years or more. And yet generally, in spite of spending anything upwards of £1500 a year on food, most people have a much more casual approach towards its purchase.

I have to say this really made me think. When considering purchase of food, it would clearly be a good idea to plan more carefully. After all, we have all heard statistics about the amount of food households throw away

Even if you currently plan your meals and make a list, supermarkets know how susceptible we are to impulse purchases which is why they ply us with special offers and tempting displays. They encourage us to spend extra, whilst at the same time getting us to congratulate ourselves for finding a bargain and being such a savy shopper!! Supermarkets draw attention to the 'bargains' they want us to buy - rather that the low cost alternatives that are always available. And remember - even if its a 'bargain' if it's not something that was planned for - it's extra spend.

Combine that with the fact that we can be creatures of habit, we may not notice, least of all try, more inexpensive regular alternatives to our normal food choices.

How many people plan how much they want to spend on food over the year and then look at how to achieve that? How about doing an annual budget for food with some plans to reduce the bill. Ideas might be a monthly or weekly 'cook-in' to bake several quiches, a large quantity of spagetti bolognese or other favourite dish to freeze. It's much cheaper and more nutritious than buying ready made, and will save on your overall electricty or gas bill for cooking. Plus you will always have a 'ready meal' in your freezer. Dates for cook-ins could be planned in advance. 

Plan for one or two meals a week that are budget meals using low cost ingredients such as pulses or lentils. And of course always take a packed lunch to work - this is so much cheaper than buying a take out lunch.

I would love to hear from people who carefully budget their food bill, and have some great ideas for reducing waste, and getting more, for less money. Does anyone out there have an annual food bill review? Comment below or get in touch - zerocredit.penny@googlemail.com

Meanwhile I am planning my first cook-in in a couple of weeks time and will report back on progress.

 

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Monday, 14 February 2011

Not Valentine's Day - but Vivacious Day

By Kloe Wood
Viviacious_day_logo
This Feb 14th forget the heart-ache, pressure and stress of Valentines day ...there's a new celebration in store ...Vivacious Day!!!
Vivacious day ..open to all ...is a celebration of life and being alive!!

Go out and do something you really enjoy, something which makes you feel full of life!!  Whether it be taking time out to listen to your favorite piece of music,  going on a walk you particularly like, spending time with people you love and enjoy the company of, baking your ultimate dish/cake/batch of cookies, skydiving, surfing, playing a bit of footie with your mates ...whatever it is make sure to do at least ONE thing that makes you love being here on earth!

Happy Vivacious Day!!

Spread the celebration!..pass on to anyone and everyone who'd like to join in the fun!
Join in the fun on the  Facebook event page.

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Friday, 11 February 2011

Can't Buy Me Love? - Dating with a Credit Card.

Press Release from Santander - comments welcome - unless this leaves you speechless!

Santander

Quest For Love Expected To Cost £377 Million

     09 Feb 11

Finding love can be expensive, according to new figures from Santander Cards. The research reveals that of the 1.6 million Brits (3 per cent) who have made a New Year resolution to find a partner in 2011, one in three (33 per cent) expect their search to cost them an average of £724 - a collective spend of around £377 million.

The figures reveal that many of those looking for love may also find the sight of loved-up couples around Valentine's Day too depressing, as over a third (36 per cent) of those who were searching for a partner in 2010 as part of a New Year resolution, had given up their quest by the end of February. 

However, all is not lost. The research also reveals that a further 34 per cent of those who resolved to find a partner succeeded in their mission; albeit at an average cost of £1,667 for the 11 per cent who said it cost them money. Finding true love can also save you money, with a smaller number of love hunters (9 per cent) revealing their search actually saved them an average of £754 last year.

There are more people looking for love in Scotland than anywhere else this year, with seven per cent of Scots having made a resolution to find a partner. London and the North East have the next biggest numbers of love-hungry inhabitants, at 5 per cent each.

Ian Coles, Director for Santander Cards, commented: "Millions of people are looking for love this year and Valentine's Day is often thought of as a key time for those seeking a partner. However, our research shows that the quest for love can cost a considerable amount of money for some, which could cause financial strain.

"For those who feel they need to spend money on their quest for love there are ways they can spread the cost, such as making sure they shop around for the best credit card. The Santander Credit Card offers 16 months of 0 per cent interest on all purchases(2) which could make a significant difference to spenders." 

 

 

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Share your Money Saving Know-How

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Here at Zerocredit we like to think we know a thing or two about saving money, spending less and having fun for free. But we also know there are lots of people and organisations out there who may know things we don't know! And we want our members and our readers to know as much as they can about credit free living. Zerocredit Ltd is a cooperative - and that's the principle by which we operate - sharing information, skills and goodwill.

So if you are feeling good about how you spend less than you used to, have had great fun on a shoestring or have some clever tips for living on less - well we would like you to tell us about it. And we hope that you will enjoy sharing your tips because it's a little bit of giving that's completely credit free!

Writing

Image: graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Your tips can be simple, clever, funny or just plain weird - whatever - we still want to know about them. Take Mavis's jackets - simple yet somehow so delightful - or practical information like London and back for £2.75

Tell us of your successes buying from charity shops or using freecycle, to help inspire others. Perhaps you have a favourite meal that is frugal and delicious - it might be part of our Family Meals for Much Less than a Fiver series (yes I know the title alone is a mouthful!)

If you work in an organisation that helps people to live more cheaply like Ecomodo, we would love to know about it - and indeed if you have used such a service send in a review. Or you may be part of a group trying to live more sustainably.

We would also appreciate stories about experience of being in debt. Leaning about how others coped can be very supportive and encouraging as many people who are in debt, struggle alone.

In a nutshell its all about sharing. You are invited to write a whole blog and may be become a regular contributer or send in your ideas and tips for us to write up. Your work and tips will be attributed to you on the blog, unless you wish to remain anonymous.

And we all end up with a warm, tingly feelgood factor.

What next? Email your ideas, queries or complete blog to zerocredit.penny@googlemail.com

For writing guidelines click on the PDF below

 

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Thursday, 10 February 2011

Don't splash the cash - borrow what you need

Collectionofstuff
Cutting back whilst still doing all the things we would like to, isn't easy - as most of the things we'd like to do require stuff to do them - and this costs money. But only 10% of the things we buy get used more than once a month - and that means there's a lot of stuff, lying around doing nothing. A new online website can help you gain access to all this stuff, that's just beyond your doorstep. It can help you to follow your dreams, pursue your interests or get the boring jobs done - simply by borrowing household items instead of purchasing new ones.

Ecomodo.com enables individuals to lend or borrow those everyday objects that so often gather dust in cellars, sheds and lofts with your neighbours. From lawnmowers to tents, golf clubs to awnings, Ecomodo lets you list your items to lend and see what others have on offer. Items can be lent for free or as a lender you are able to charge for an item, and choose if you want to keep the fee or make a donation to charity.

Lend objects, spaces or even your skills - make some cash and reduce your outgoings without having to give stuff up.

Some recent borrowing and lending:

Byron in Edinburgh borrowed a cordless drill and bits from Jeremy for free. Byron has fixed his shelves without having to fork out £50 for a new drill just for the one job.

Jayne in London borrowed Vicky's iPad for a week to continue with her college work whilst her laptop was in for repair. From the lend Vicky raised £21.16 for a favourite charity The Princes Trust.

Jon lent out his Petrol Hedge strimmer just for the weekend to a neighbour earning £24. And for his holiday David from Reading borrowed 2 Kayaks in Guernsey earning Andre £12 from his stuff that would otherwise not have been used.

To buy these items it would have cost the borrowers well over £1000 and though the lenders haven't earned huge amounts from their stuff it only took a few minutes work. And with a recent survey by Gumtree showing that Britain is a nation of hoarders with households sitting on £31 billion of goods they never use (an average of £581 per person) isn't it time you put your stuff to work?

But if you're concerned about lending your stuff, Ecomodo has some clever features that will make you more comfortable to share. Individuals can set up lending circles around any type of community (your street, neighbourhood, school, workplace, community group or club) and invite people to join and pool their assets. People can then use their circles to automatically control who can borrow their gear and choose to take a deposit or insurance for extra peace of mind. And just like Ebay, a feedback rating system checks that both parties are happy at the end of a lend.

So whether you're renovating a house; having a party; going on holiday; hosting visitors; gardening; learning something new or even trying something before you buy; Ecomodo can help you save money and help you feel good about helping others in your neighbourhood.

To join the marketplace of good returns, go to www.ecomodo.com. Explore items to borrow. Find out more about lending and borrowing.

We would love to hear your stories of borrowing stuff through ecomodo or other sharing schemes. Please use the comments box or email zerocredit.penny@googlemail.com

Want a say in how we do things?

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Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Loaded!

If we've been quiet, it's because we've been busy... loading all our content to the Information Service. And now of course, it's a job that's never done because we'll be adding an original resource every month. Not bad for a subscription fee of £30 a year! So what's in there? At the moment four reports and another to published early next week, including:

 

Two Mystery Shops on the OFT's CCA licence Search, giving the low down on the best and worst in debt counselling compliance

an overview of our digital media campaigns for the European Year of Combating Poverty and Social Inclusion across the East Midlands

and ground breaking new findings in our report comparing debtors' and savers' views of borrowing and lending.

 

At the moment, we are committed to bringing you something new every month, although it looks likely that we shall exceed this target soon. It's simple really, the more organisations that subscribe to the Information Service, the more we can do. Along side the significant savings of subscription, other benefits are:

 

the opportunity to shape our work programme

the right to attend Cooperative General meetings

a 5% discount on bespoke commissions

and even more money saving potential, through collective commissioning for those with similar project needs

 

You can trust Zero-credit to think of a #creditfree way to do business!  Please e-mail: thesecretary@debtors.coop for your free trial.

Spring Cleaning ??? The traditional way!

It’s that time of year again, when the weather starts to get warmer, flowers begin to bloom and the house could do with a good spring clean in preparation for the summer months. This is a great time to tackle those cleaning tasks that perhaps get left out of the regular cleaning routine. However the annual deep clean can be a daunting task, which in the past has involved a huge range of cleaning agents that promise to do different things. To keep things simple this spring, try the many benefits of using traditional cleaning products such as Soda Crystals, Bicarbonate of Soda and White Vinegar that have been used to keep homes clean for decades. Keeps things simple, green and low cost!

 

Windows

White Vinegar is a brilliantly versatile multi-purpose cleaner that has descaling and deodorising properties. It’s a mild acetic acid which can clean any number of surfaces naturally and gently. You may have heard old tales about using White Vinegar and newspaper to clean windows – well it really works! Simply spray the vinegar onto windows or mirrors and buff to a streak-free shine using a scrunched up newspaper!* 

 

Kitchen cupboards

Traditional cleaning product Borax had been reclassified by the EU, and is no longer available as a cleaning and laundry product, however Dri-Pak have launched a Borax Substitute that has all the same cleaning and laundry uses as original Borax! Borax Substitute works great when sprinkled onto surfaces and wiped with a damp cloth. Use this method to clean out kitchen cupboards and leave them spotless and smelling fresh! 

 

Oven

If you can’t stand the smell of harsh chemical oven cleaners then give this a go! To start, turn off the electricity or gas supply to the oven for safety, then take out all of the shelves and soak them in a strong, hot Soda Crystal solution. Leave them to soak whilst you tackle the inside of the oven. You can either mix a strong, hot Soda Crystals solution or use Liquid Soda Crystals in a handy trigger spray bottle and spray the whole inside of the oven. Then simply close the door and leave for half an hour to an hour. Once you come back, most of the greasy burnt on food will easily come off using a scourer. Simply repeat the process on any stubborn areas. In the mean time scrub the oven shelves, rinse and dry. 

 

Carpets

For fresh smelling carpets, use the deodorising power of Bicarbonate of Soda! Remove any lingering odours, by sprinkling Bicarbonate of Soda and leaving overnight for it to absorb odours. Then simply vacuum up in the morning and your room will smell fresh and clean.

 

Curtains and throws

If delicate curtains and throws need a freshen-up, but you’re worried about the damage modern detergents may cause, give Liquid Soap Flakes a go. Liquid Soap Flakes are pure soap with no added detergents or brighteners that can damage delicate fabrics. Check the curtain and throw washing instructions, and if safe to put in a washing machine, simply add the recommended amount of Liquid Soap Flakes to the machine drawer. If hand washing is recommended add a cap full of Liquid Soap Flakes to a bathtub of lukewarm water and wash using a gentle ‘plunge and squeeze’ action with your hands.

 

All cleaning products are available online through www.dri-pak.co.uk or in independent hardware shops, wholesalers and various supermarkets. For more information about Dri-Pak traditional and natural cleaning products call (0115) 932 5165.

 

NB Do not use Soda Crystals on aluminium items

*Do not use White Vinegars on frosted glass or leaded glass windows (with exposed lead)

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Come on, join us today! 

Monday, 7 February 2011

A Marvellous Night In....!

Peelingsinpan1
It's amazing how much fun you can have doing something as simple as cooking together. When my friend Rosie said she was having a go at making marmalade for the first time I was not too sure as I've never quite see myself as the WI type! However when she pointed out the cost saving - 10 jars of organic marmalade for less than 75p a jar, and the fact that seville oranges were in season right now, it was hard to resist!

Pans

It really is easy, and we had so much fun chatting and laughing in the process, that I hope to make some more before the seville oranges season is over - although there are many other jams and marmalades to try.

We both wondered at the fact that we had not made such a basic and traditional food before - no doubt our grandmothers and great grandmothers made preserved food all the time. It's a shame such skills are used much less than before especially when it is also cost saving and you know exactly what goes in to the jar. Marmalade dates back to the 1700s although preserving goes back to the Romans.

I have to say its the best marmalade I have ever tasted and it was also a fabulous girls night in - lots of laughs!

Marmalade1

 


 

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Thursday, 3 February 2011

Getting Together to Help Each Other

Just recently a group of people in Exeter, Devon have formed a 'Sustainable Consumerism group'. The group has grown out of Transition Exeter but could just as easily function alone.

The purpose of the group is to learn together to spend less, reduce their carbon footprint, share skills and live more sustainably whilst valuing and enjoying life. It is very important to the group that it is fun and rewarding. The group is also keen to support and help other people and encourage other groups to spring up.

The group meets in a house about every 3-4 weeks.

It's really simple - ideas have already been shared and successfully implemented. It's exciting and a means of taking control of the problems. Its amazing what simple, but brilliant ideas people have.

Being in debt or on a low income can feel like a lonely experience. Whilst we are constantly bombarded with advertising and marketing telling us how we can be more gorgeous, desirable, comfortable, trendy, 'discerning' etc if only we buy a particular product, can leave a feeling that the only choice is to be excluded or make another addition to the growing credit card debt.

Advertising is clever and can reach us even when we are determined to resist, and the shops products tempt us with offers whenever we venture to the town. 

Joining a group like this can be a fabulous learning experience, life affirming and exciting. If you are struggling to pay the bills, you are not alone - there are millions of people in the same situation.

You can share in the groups progress by looking at their website. Do get in touch to join in, create your own group or offer your tips and ideas.

 

Want a say in how we do things?

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Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Valentine's Day - Love on a Shoestring.

Hearts1
In two weeks time, across the UK and beyond, we will be telling our loved ones how much they mean to us. Having a day set aside for love is, I think a good idea. Yes, we should tell the one's we love how much we care everyday of the week but we all know that with busy lives, too many things to do and routine daily living can mean we take our partner for granted. So it's good to have a special day to focus on love.

BUT you don't have to spend lots of money to show you care - as the shops will want us to believe. They are now tempting us with lots of ways to get that message across with special jewellery, flowers, cuddly toys, lingerie, gifts and candles - the list goes on.  In fact time and effort are worth far more than money.

In day to day life it is thoughtfulness and small acts of kindness that can touch our hearts most. It's your partner doing a task for you that you didn't want to do, or helping unexpectedly or giving you a treat.

Time and thoughtfulness is usually much more valued than an item bought, especially a stock valentine's gift.

Here are a few ideas for Valentine's Day without sending flowers. If you are at work on Valentine's Day and haven't a lot of time - plan for another day and then make an invitation or a ticket for the day you are planning - to give on February 14th.

1. Go for a walk in the countryside where you can see lots of flowers growing - daffodils or snowdrops. Country Life hasinformation on lline about Snowdrop Walks. Walk, talk and enjoy each other's company - and the beauty of Sping's first signs.

2. Go to a place you haven't visited before - one that you have been meaning to go to but not quite got round to. 

3. Instead of buying flowers, chocolates etc. buy an item you know you loved one has been talking about wanting - a CD, book, DVD etc. Cheaper than many standard Valentine's gifts and it shows you have been listening - one of the most important aspects of a relationship.

4. Eat in with your favourite foods rather than eating out at an over priced and possibly over crowded restaurant. If cooking isn't your thing, most of the supermarkets will be doing some special Valentine's ready meals including wine. Try out recipe for Tiramisu

5. Go out for breakfast or lunch. You still get the joy of eating out, delicious food and some time of togetherness but without the same level of expense.

6. Go for a picnic. Obviously this is a bit weather dependant but if you go with warm and waterproof clothing you can pick one of your favourite romantic spots and enjoy huddling up to keep warm! 

7. Make a compilation of your favourite photographs - your life together so far - on a memory stick. Include some links to YouTube clips of favourite TV, film clips or songs.

8. Make a Valentine's card with a photograph taken at a romantic moment. 

9. Do an outstanding household job as a surprise. Whether its cleaning, mending painting or putting a picture up. 

10. Post a love note in the window of a British Heart Foundation shop. Shows you are caring as well as romantic and loving.

These are just a few ideas, there are many more and we would love to hear from you about the ways you will have a frugal Valentine. Post a comment or email zerocredit.penny@googlemail.com

 

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Family Meals for Much Less than a Fiver (8) - Pizza - update

You can easily make your own pizza's by buying the basic cheese and tomato pizza from any supermarket. Penny GoLightly recommends an even cheaper - and fun solution by making your own pizza base. Make a batch and have some ready in the freezer. Impress yourself, and your friends and family and enjoy good cheap food.

Many thanks to Penny GoLightly for this recommendation. Zero-credit is all about sharing tips so we can all try money saving tips and make our resources stretch a little further whilst living well and having fun. So do get in touch if you have some ideas to share.

 

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Mid-month marketing opportunity, with love

Val-big
Words fail me.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Family Meals for Much Less than a Fiver (8) - Pizza

Cookedpizza

Basics Cheese and Tomato Pizza 7" (50p) or 12" (1.00)

Basics Pineapple Pieces (16p)

Chilli (15p)

Cherry tomatoes (40p)

Goats Cheese 70g  (80p)

Total around £2.50 for a large pizza

Raw_pizza

Take the basic pizza and add toppings of your choice. You can add whatever toppings you like - can be a good way of using up some left over veg or meat. 

I enjoy pineapple using about 3/4 of the small tin of pineapple all over the pizza, interspersed with half cherry tomatoes and slices of goats cheese - with a sprinkling of sliced chilli.

Pizzaovenready
Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 200 degrees centigrade. Enjoy on its own or with salad, baked potatoes, beans - whatever you like.

If you have a favourite pizza topping ideas - do comment below or write in with your own recipe to zerocredit.penny@googlemail.com

 

Want a say in how we do things?

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