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Which biscuit sums up your spending habits?

calendar24 March 2017

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Which biscuit sums up your spending habits?

1. You’re in the supermarket and come across a deal offering two tubs of margarine for the price of one. What do you do?

A) Think ‘Bargain!’ and get four tubs for the price of two, even though you already have a couple unopened at home.

B) Pace up and down the aisle for a while, pick up the tub, put it down, pick it up again, put it down again, leave the shop. Dry toast isn’t that bad, is it?

C) Ignore the deal and go for a more expensive brand on the shelf above. After all, the advert said this margarine makes you instantaneously better at your job and three inches taller - wow!

D) Margarine? Who needs that? You’re in the clothes aisle looking at multi-coloured bandanas.

E) Only go for the offer if you’re sure you can fit the second tub in the freezer.

F) Get one for you and the other for your elderly neighbour.

G) Leave it – you know there’s a much better offer on margarine in the supermarket up the road.

H) You can’t afford fancy margarine. Supermarket own brand lard it is.

I) Buy several dozen tubs – Christmas is around the corner and there are cakes to be baked!

2. Your car breaks down and the mechanic tells you it’s not going to be cheap to get it fixed. What’s your first thought?

A) ‘Didn’t I see a garage down the road offering half price repairs?’


C) ‘Looks like a new car is in order then.’

D) ‘How on earth will I afford it? I just spent £300 on a set of plates!’

E) ‘No problem, I should have enough in my savings account to cover the cost.’

F) ‘Oh no, I promised I’d give my mum a lift to the nail salon later – perhaps if I offer to pay more they’ll fix it sooner?’

G) ‘Rip off!’

H) ‘Looks like I’m walking to work for the foreseeable future then.’

I) ‘That’s a shame, I was saving up for Christmas presents. Wait, what did that advert say about payday loans?’

3. It’s 100 days to Christmas and you’re about to start shopping for presents. How do you prepare?

A) Dig out the coupons and loyalty vouchers you’ve been accumulating through the year – time to bag some bargains!

B) Have a small meltdown before calling all your friends to tell them Christmas is cancelled.

C) Suggest a £5 Secret Santa to your colleagues, and start pricing up a Rolex watch for your granddad.

D) Hit the shops and fill your baskets with anything you can get your hands on – Martha from HR totally wants a wobble-head for her car, right?

E) Have a quick check over your budget, then head to the cash machine to withdraw the amount you’re allowed to spend on presents.

F) Buy several dozen tins of chocolates – one for everyone you know, plus a few extras just in case you meet anyone new before December.

G) Write out a gift list for each person, get online and compare prices.

H) Panic. Just panic.

I) Call your bank to increase your credit card limit.

4. You’re about to check your savings account – do you know how much is in there without looking?

A) Not exactly, but there should be a little bit left after you got a great deal on your package holiday.

B) Yes, but you haven’t withdrawn from that account in several years.

C) Yes, you’re saving up for something special.

D) Sort of, you regularly dip into your savings for your morning coffee and bagel.

E) Yes, you have a monthly standing order and only withdraw money when it’s absolutely necessary.

F) No, but you know how much is in your brother’s account – you lent him it just yesterday.

G) Yes, you’re always moving your money between banks to make sure you’re getting the best rates.

H) No, and you daren’t look.

I) Depends what month it is.

5. A group of friends suggests going on holiday together over summer. Where do you suggest to go?

A) Any place that’s included on the voucher you got in a pack of yoghurts last week.

B) You have ideas but panic about the cost and decide to stay at home instead.

C) A stunning resort in the south of France – it’s a once in a lifetime chance!

D) Greece. Great nightlife and street stalls.

E) A city break in New York. You’ve been saving up in case they asked.

F) Let them decide amongst themselves and even offer to pay for a friend who’s on a low income.

G) Tell them to hold off booking anywhere until you’ve compared flight prices.

H) You know you can’t afford to go anywhere on holiday this year, but you nod along to their ideas anyway and start thinking up an excuse to get out of it.

I) London, early December. Just think of all the Christmas presents you could buy!

Now click below if you scored:

Mostly As | Mostly Bs | Mostly Cs | Mostly Ds | Mostly Es |

Mostly Fs | Mostly Gs | Mostly Hs | Mostly Is | Every letter different

Rising household costs – what can you do?

calendar21 March 2017

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

Rising household costs – what can you do?

You’re likely to have noticed that you might be spending more than usual on the basics. You’re right!

With the changes brought about by Brexit, there are bound to be some shifts in the costs of imports, fuel and more until things settle down (we hope!) With big changes going on way above most of our heads, it can all feel a bit overwhelming. We may well ask, ‘Is there anything we can really do?’

Someone once said to me, ‘Do what you can do – not what you can’t,’ and I can recommend this as a strategy when panic hits.

Yes, there are things we’d like to change – and maybe you’re up for going into politics to make that happen or you’re a big campaigner. All power to your elbow, if that’s the case! But, even if you make a big noise, you’ll still have to trust those in positions of authority to crack on and make the big decisions.

Some of it does land at our door, though, so which bits can we change?

Car travel costs

Petrol and diesel prices have soared up again since 2016, with a medium-sized petrol car now costing an average of £65.48 to fill.

What are your options?

  1. Empty your car of all the stuff you carry round then ensure your tyres are pumped to the correct levels. Leave more time for your journey so you’re not whipping round the neighbourhood like Lewis Hamilton – you will use less. Next, seek out the best fuel prices, and the best points deals. There's a handy website here, and they've got an app too.
  2. See if you can share your commute – loads of us do this at CAP HQ and it works very well. One last thought, you don’t have to wear fancy stuff to ride a bike.

Food costs

Rising food prices are one of the things that have pushed up inflation at the start of 2017. Staples like butter, tea, lamb and fish have all risen by more than 5% in the previous twelve weeks.

What can we do?

  1. It’s a good chance to look again at the way you do things. Supermarkets generally make their discounts with those fabulous yellow stickers after 5pm. So, if you like to live dangerously, this might be your chance to sweep by for a cheap meal.
  2. At CAP, we’re big fans of cooking from scratch. It will take planning (not my favourite) but oh, how smug you will feel to see the week’s meals ready planned and stuck to the fridge. Use the internet for budget meal suggestions and try it.
  3. You can learn more about meal planning and budgeting on a free CAP Life Skills course – enormous fun and seriously life-changing tips to boost your finances. Click here to find your nearest course.

Energy price rises

Five of the 'big six' energy companies have confirmed price rises. EDF Energy, Npower, Scottish Power and E.ON are all going up and now SSE are increasing electricity prices by a massive 14.9% from 28 April (gas will stay the same).

What can you do?

  1. Much has been written about switching but half an hour spent really could save you hundreds across the year. Dig out your last bill or two. Get yourself on uSwitch here or a similar site and see what can be done. Martin Lewis gives us the low down on why now is the time to seek out a better deal here.

Council tax

By now you should have received your council tax bill and it’s very likely to have gone up. Most councils have put up the cost by around 5%, costing the average Band D household another £50 a year and this is largely to pay for social care.

What are your options?

  1. Well, this is one you have to pay as a priority or life will get pretty awkward, pretty quickly. You’re probably already paying per month, which helps to split up the cost.
  2. If you’re unable to pay on a particular month, the key here is don’t wait for the council to contact you – speak to them straight away. See here for more info.
  3. In the longer term, you could do with making sure you’re budgeting as well as you can to make sure the important stuff gets paid on time. Try CAP Money - click here for details.

So, pour yourself a cuppa (because that is the answer to everything, right?) and start making the moves you can make.

Remember, if you’re in hot water with unpaid bills and out-of-control debts, you’ll need more than this. Don’t be alone with your worries. Call our helpline on 0800 328 0006 and chat to us about what’s happening.

There’s a bailiff at my door – what do I do?

calendar14 March 2017

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

There’s a bailiff at my door – what do I do?

N.B. This information applies to people who live in England and Wales only.

There’s an enforcement agent/bailiff outside my house – what do I do?

  1. Lock your doors and don't let them inside. Talk to them through the letterbox. They can't take your stuff if they can't get in.
  2. It's not too late to get help with your debt. Call CAP on 0800 328 0006 now. If you're already a CAP client, call your caseworker team on 01274 761 999.
  3. Have a look at the following FAQs so you're clear on your rights.

What’s an enforcement agent?

‘Enforcement agent’ is the new formal name for a bailiff, someone who collects money on behalf of a creditor, by taking control of (or 'seizing') goods to cover the debt, arranging a payment plan and/or enforcing payment.

Should I let them in?

No, lock your doors and windows. In most cases (including Council Tax arrears), enforcement agents can only enter a property ‘peaceably’ or if you’ve given permission – which means, if a door is unlocked, they have every right to walk on in and take control of your belongings.

If there’s an enforcement agent at your door and they haven’t yet entered the property, talk to them through the letterbox. They can't take your things if you don't let them in. However, any items outside of your house are still fair game, so they could seize things like cars, bicycles and garden equipment if they’re on view.

What if they're threatening to ring the police and have me arrested for not letting them in?

Try not to panic; the police can’t arrest you for not allowing an enforcement agent into the property, nor can they help the agent to remove items.

The police would only get involved in order to keep the peace, so you should call them (as can the agent) if you're frightened or you feel there's a threat of violence.

What if they're trying to break in?

Only in a small number of cases can an enforcement agent lawfully use ‘reasonable’ force to enter your property – these include debts for criminal court fines and when collecting for a business debt in specific circumstances. Even if the enforcement agent is lawfully able to force entry, they may be reluctant to do this and will prefer to enter with your permission.

If you’re unsure, call your caseworker team immediately on 01274 761 999. If you think there’s a threat of violence then phone the police.

I haven’t had notice that they would be coming - is that allowed?

The law states that you have to be given at least seven days notice that an enforcement agent is going to visit your property (Sundays, bank holidays, Good Friday and Christmas Day don’t count). You’ll usually be notified in writing, and the notice will be headed ‘notice of enforcement’. It will detail who the enforcement agent is, who they’re collecting the debt for, and the amount you owe.

So if you have any unopened letters lying around, you’ll need to have a really good look through to see if you’ve been sent this notice. If you genuinely haven’t been notified, the agents will have to come back later.

However, there are exceptions to this rule that you need to be aware of. For example, as soon as you receive the notice of enforcement, your belongings are what’s called ‘bound’ and you’re not allowed to get rid of them – if the court feels there’s significant chance that you may remove or dispose of items from your property to stop them being taken by an enforcement agent, they can make an order that allows a shorter notice period to be given. The rules also differ for enforcement agents from the high court and magistrates’ court – if you receive paperwork from either of these, call your caseworker team on 01274 761 999.

They've made entry into my house – what now?

Once an enforcement agent has entered your property, they’re allowed to take control of items (to cover up to the value of the debt you owe, plus the enforcement agent fees). The most common way they will do this is by making a Controlled Goods Agreement (CGA), a list of the seized goods that both you and the agent must sign and date.

Once a CGA is in place, the agent will return at a later date to collect the goods and sell them to cover the debt, if it hasn’t been cleared in full in the meantime.

When you sign the CGA, you’re agreeing not to remove, dispose of or damage the items listed before the debt has been repaid in full or they’re collected by the agent – to do so is a criminal offence.

Before you sign, make sure the CGA clearly lists all the seized items and details the terms of any repayment plan you’ve agreed with the agent. There are certain rules about what enforcement agents can’t seize, so make sure the CGA doesn’t include:

  1. Any items belonging to children
  2. Any items needed for basic day-to-day living, including your bedding, clothing, furniture, fridge, oven, washing machine and other similar household items
  3. A vehicle which has any outstanding Hire Purchase owing on it
  4. A vehicle which has been purchased under the Motability Scheme
  5. A vehicle that has a valid disabled person’s badge displayed on it (the blue badge)
  6. Any items necessary for someone’s employment or trade, up to a value of £1,350
  7. Items that belong to someone else, although it’s down to you to provide proof of ownership, so get searching for any related paperwork pronto (items that are co-owned by you and someone else are different – these can be seized, but if they’re sold 50% of the money raised has to be paid back to the joint owner)

Since making entry into my house they've gone outside again – should I lock them out?

If an enforcement agent has already been inside your property and taken items into control, they’re allowed to use reasonable force to re-enter, so it’s best not to lock them out (or indeed in).

It’s the middle of the night and there’s an enforcement agent at my door – what do I do?

Enforcement agents aren’t allowed to visit your property between 9pm and 6am. If they call between these hours, you can refuse them entry and complain to the enforcement agents’ head office, or phone the police if you feel you're being harassed. Be aware that they can return at any time outside the restricted hours – that’s after 6am and before 9pm.

My child has just called to say they’re home alone and there’s a bailiff at the door – what do I do?

Enforcement agents have to leave if they suspect that only children under the age of 16 are in the house. Tell your child to communicate this to them through the letterbox, and give them a time to call back when you’re going to be home.

CAP has teamed up with a number of UK debt advice agencies and charities to campaign for change to bailiff law. To read the full report, click here.

CAP Life Skills has officially launched!

calendar09 March 2017

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

CAP Life Skills has officially launched!


Thousands of people across the UK, from every age and background, are struggling with problem debt today and CAP is fighting as hard as ever to help them towards a debt free life. Of course, one way of doing this is to help stop people from getting into debt in the first place – and that’s the thinking behind our newest service, CAP Life Skills, which launched officially on Tuesday at Westminster.

Living with the pressures of a low income can affect every part of your life, from the food you eat, to the things you do in your spare time, to your relationships with the people you love. That’s why last year we began piloting CAP Life Skills, an initiative built on the key principles of our award-winning CAP Money Course (which itself helps 11,000 people each year) and expanded to deal with a wider range of modern-day issues. With both practical and holistic support being paramount, the eight-session course aims to help members develop the skills and uncover the self-confidence to live well, whatever their income.

The sessions cover all sorts of subjects in a fun and relaxed environment, from how to work out a budget and make your money go further, to hands-on lessons on how to shop, cook and eat healthily for less. The course also takes into account the deeper impact of financial hardship, with sessions on, for example, how to maintain healthy relationships when money’s thrown into the mix.

In its pilot phase, CAP Life Skills has accumulated more than 50 centres across the country, and has already helped lots of people to make important changes to their lifestyles. Many members said their financial situation had brought stress to their life and some even said they had been afraid to look at their bank account. However, since taking part in the course, a huge number said they’ve found peace not only through knowing how to navigate their income, but discovering a life with God too. Simon, a CAP Life Skills member, said, ‘Before we knew God, life was full of negativity. There was money and stress. We were searching for this happiness, and for us God and Jesus gave us that inner peace and we’re building it every day. Life is getting better every single day.’

Having seen such a successful pilot phase, CAP Life Skills was officially launched at Westminster on 7 March, in a brilliant event attended by around seventy guests, including thirty-one MPs. Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, tweeted, ‘Strong cross party support today @CAPuk #CAPLifeSkills launch in Parliament. Helping people break cycles of debt & poverty for good.’

It’s going to be exciting to see how CAP Life Skills grows in the follow up to its launch, and we’d love to see more churches partnering with us to run a course. If you’d like to help people in your community to transform the way they see, spend and save money, get in touch with CAP and we’ll give you the tools and training to set up CAP Life Skills in your church. Click here for details.

Click here to find your nearest life skills course.

Sandra’s carrot and lentil soup

calendar02 March 2017

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Sandra’s carrot and lentil soup

Here’s a recipe submitted by one of our ace Facebook followers, Sandra. She says, ‘We’ve experienced times when money was very tight as we were unemployed for five and a half years in the past, with a young family. This soup is both cheap and healthy, and it’s quick and easy to make.’ Thanks, Sandra – sounds delicious!

Preparation time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 30-35 mins
Serves: 6
Total cost: £1.04

1 tbsp oil
1 tsp ground cumin
Pinch of chilli flakes
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
200g carrots, peeled and diced
400g potatoes, peeled and diced
2 sticks of celery, chopped
150g red lentils
1 litre of veg or chicken stock
125ml milk (I use semi-skimmed)
Black pepper to taste


  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan with the cumin powder and chilli flakes for a couple of minutes, before adding the onion and garlic. Fry until softened.
  2. Add the carrots, potatoes, celery and lentils. Give everything a good stir.
  3. Add the stock and milk, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and use a stick blender to carefully blend the mixture until smooth. If you don't have a blender, you can mash it using a potato masher – not quite as smooth but still tasty.
  5. Enjoy with bread or toast!

*Prices from Tesco, correct at time of publishing

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