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Claire’s cheap chicken enchiladas

calendar18 July 2017

Claire Wong's avatar Claire Wong

Claire’s cheap chicken enchiladas

Claire says, ‘The great thing about this recipe is that it’s much simpler than it looks! A tin of soup works as a great cheap substitute for enchilada sauce and no one will guess your secret ingredient!’

Preparation time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 50 mins
Serves: 6
Total cost: £5.66 (94p per serving)

Ingredients
500g chicken pieces (£3 – you can also save money by buying chicken thighs and chopping up the meat yourself)
1 tomato, chopped (12p / 69p for pack of six)
1 onion, chopped (16p)
6 tortilla wraps (68p / 90p for pack of eight)
1 tin of condensed cream of chicken soup (£1)
100g cheese (any kind that’s easy to grate) (70p / £1.40 for 200g mature white cheddar)
2 tsp chili powder (few pence / 85p for 50g)

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees (or 180 if you have a fan oven).
  2. Fry the chicken in a pan. When it starts to turn golden brown, add in the onion and cook for five mins. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool down.
  3. Pour the whole tin of soup over the chicken and onion. Mix in the chopped tomato and chili powder.
  4. Divide the mixture between the tortilla wraps. Roll up each one and place them side by side in a rectangular baking dish.
  5. Grate the cheese and sprinkle over the wraps.
  6. Bake in the oven for 30 mins or until the cheese is melted and the sauce is starting to bubble.

*Prices from Tesco, correct at time of publishing

‘Breathing space’ to tackle problem debt

calendar11 July 2017

Kiri Saunders's avatar Kiri Saunders

‘Breathing space’ to tackle problem debt

The stress of being in debt, combined with the threat of enforcement action and the spiralling of interest and charges often leads to ill health, relationship problems and even thoughts of suicide.

‘Breathing space’ is an initiative to give those in financial crisis time and space to begin to work towards a debt solution, without their situation worsening. This is done by providing guaranteed protection from collections and enforcement activity, as well as stopping all interest and charges.

Here at CAP we always work with creditors to try getting interest and charges stopped and we contact enforcement agents to prevent collections activity. Unfortunately, not every company responds positively but a formal ‘breathing space’ would guarantee protection to all those in financial crisis.

Background

‘Breathing space’ builds on the idea in the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) guidelines stating that as soon as someone seeks debt advice, creditors should provide a 60-day hold period on collections activity.

The idea of an extended ‘breathing space’ was first mentioned by our friends at debt charity StepChange two years ago, inspired by a scheme in Scotland that gives legal protections to those repaying debts.

In 2016 ‘breathing space’ started to build momentum and The Children’s Society, StepChange and Kelly Tolhurst MP brought it to be discussed in Parliament via a Private Member’s Bill. ‘Breathing space’ gained much political support and Parliament discussed the idea twice, but the election in June put a halt to progress. That being said, we were all encouraged when both Labour and Conservative manifestos included a commitment to implement ‘breathing space’.

The new Conservative government hasn’t yet formally put ‘breathing space’ plans into motion, but we understand that this is still something they are looking to do.

CAP supports the principle of ‘breathing space’, but we still need to work out the technical details to make sure it is flexible for those in the most vulnerable situations. In June it was promising to hear Stephen Barclay, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, say:

‘The Government fully supports the principles of better debt management and lower levels of problem debt. The Conservative manifesto committed to introduce ‘breathing space’ and we will outline further information on how this policy could be implemented in due course.’

Email your MP

With the formation of the new government, this is a key time to ask your MP to keep it on the agenda. Why not write to them and explain what is important to you, asking that they keep supporting ‘breathing space’ in this new parliament?

Persistent debt: when credit cards get out of control

calendar03 July 2017

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

Persistent debt: when credit cards get out of control

More than half of the UK population has a credit card and, for many, it’s a useful resource, offering cashback, greater protection on purchases and, of course, the opportunity to spread the cost of a large item.

The problem comes when people are using credit cards all the time, something known in the industry as 'persistent debt'.

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is rightly concerned. In June 2017, £67billion was owed on credit cards and this kind of debt is growing.

No wonder the attention has fallen on the 4.5million people who have problem debt and especially the 1.6million making the minimum payment month after month after month.

The FCA wanted the debt advice sector’s thoughts on just what should be done and today that consultation time is over. CAP is keen to see just what happens next!

The FCA’s proposition is that, after 18 months of paying just the interest and not tackling the debt, a credit card customer should be:

  • Sent a letter encouraging them to pay off more, warning of the dangers if they continue to just pay the interest and charges – it will also point towards debt help
  • Sent a further reminder if they’re still in persistent debt after another nine months
  • Sent a letter, after 36 months in total, asking the customer to choose an alternative payment mechanism to pay more quickly, with a signpost to debt help – if they don't engage, the card will be suspended or cancelled, and if they can’t afford to pay more, they’ll be offered support (such as stopping interest and charges) to help them pay off the balance

As you’d hope, Christians Against Poverty has responded in full to this consultation because, in all such cases, these decisions at the top can have a huge positive or negative effect on those who are rarely heard.

As part of our remit to speak up for those who don’t often have a voice, we’ve explained how more than six in ten of our debt clients were using credit cards to pay a household bill or other debt repayment.

We warmly welcome the FCA’s ideas for intervention when a credit card debt seems to be persistent, but we’re also raising concerns that for many, it will come too late.

Instead, we’d like to see the first letter going out at six months. We believe that 18 months is a long time to endure unmanageable debt and, in our experience, the longer a problem continues, the less likely people are to open their post.

We find CAP clients who wait two years before seeking help are too afraid to open letters (75%) and too scared to answer the phone (64%).

We’d like a softer approach at an earlier point, highlighting the dangers of unsustainable credit but in a way that is likely to trigger a good decision-making process.

As ever, we’re grateful for the work of the FCA, which has already brought about huge changes in a changing industry – and it’s an honour to be asked our opinions.

‘It would have taken over 20 years to clear my debt.’

calendar03 July 2017

Vicky Eves's avatar Vicky Eves

‘It would have taken over 20 years to clear my debt.’

A while ago I found myself in debt and didn’t really know by how much or what I was going to do to get out of it. I’d lost my job whilst my dad was terminally ill in a hospice and although I found a new job very soon after he passed away, it was a big drop in salary and I was overwhelmed with what life was throwing at me.

If I’m honest, I was in denial but I also didn’t realise what I was doing or the consequences it would have on my future. I hid my head in the sand, and even stopped opening my post. I was too embarrassed to admit I couldn’t afford to do things, and kept doing them anyway, whether it was going on holiday with family or going out with friends. I wasn’t earning enough money and kept putting things on credit cards. When I hit the credit limit on one card, I did a 0% balance transfer and moved it to another card and started again. It technically wasn’t costing me money as it was always on 0% cards and I was making the minimum payments so I didn’t think it was a problem.

This went on for a while, probably a few years. The church I was going to at the time was hosting a CAP Money Course. I thought if I went along and learnt how to budget I could clear it all off in no time. In the break of the first session, I went and had a chat with the leader of the course. I hadn’t appreciated all the different things CAP do apart from these money management courses. I didn’t know anything about their debt help/management services. After chatting with the leader, I was starting to realise the mess I had gotten into. She was helpful, understanding and I didn’t feel judged in any way. She gave me her card and I got in touch with her after the course. I didn’t really have any reservations as I knew I needed help. If you have a leak, you call a plumber, so if you have money problems, why not call in someone who knows about money?

We went through everything: income, outgoings, bills, my spending. I have to admit it felt slightly invasive but it was really insightful and I realised where I was not helping myself get out of debt. I didn’t realise the figure of my debt until we did this. I was shocked to find it was over £8,000. By this time I was in a different job and I was earning a little more money but I still was only just about making the minimum payments on my credit cards, let alone clearing them. I really couldn’t see a way of ever paying it back.

Once we’d gone through my finances, the calculations from CAP said in the situation I was in at the time it would take over 20 years to clear my debt. I honestly felt my world crashing down around me. I felt like a complete failure and that I had let everyone down, especially as I was brought up in a family where you didn’t spend money you didn’t have and if you wanted something you saved up for it. That feeling of shame was really hard to deal with - even though it was pressure I was putting on myself. I totally see why debt and mental health can be so tightly interwoven.

As part of the debt management process, CAP took over the managing of my money, dealt with my creditors and took a lot of the stress away. I took on extra work, sold some things at car boot sales and online and found ways of reducing my spendings, such as meal planning and car sharing. Amazingly I was out of debt within a year. I could never have done it without the help and support of CAP. They genuinely turned my life around. I’m not saying I’m a money expert now, but I have a budget, I open all my post, and only buy things I can afford.

If you are struggling with debt, you genuinely can’t afford to not call CAP. I understand why people may have reservations about admitting their problems as there is a lot of stigma about debt but it’s the first step to turning things around for yourself. The longer you leave it before facing the problem, the more in debt you will get, and the harder and longer it will be to get out of it. You will be supported, cared for and loved throughout the process. I have no doubts that it will be one of the best things you ever do.

Here are my top five things that I love about CAP:

  1. Their services are 100% free.
  2. You don’t have to be a Christian to access their services – all are welcome!
  3. They won’t suggest anything radical, and will help you to come up with solutions to help yourself.
  4. You will learn a lot about yourself as well as money whilst working with them.
  5. They do change lives!

Since becoming debt free, Vicky is now blogging under ibeatdebt.com

Warmth isn’t just for the wealthy – why we love the summer

calendar22 June 2017

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

Warmth isn’t just for the wealthy – why we love the summer

Daily life on a budget, as many of our debt clients experience, is productive but super tough. So, when that rare thing happens in Britain and the sun comes out, all of us at CAP are glad because it does bring some relief. Here are my nine favourite things about summer that we can all enjoy, regardless of income.

  • Playing out and sitting out means the house can feel twice the size. If you have children, getting them out playing in the garden or on the street means you get a little more space indoors, and maybe even a bit of peace (occasionally!)
  • Scientists say warmth causes our brains to release serotonin, making us all nice and relaxed, so even if you’re feeling tense about something, lapping up the heat can help you breathe deeply, rest well and get some perspective. If the stuffy nights are stressing you out, snoozing in the garden could make up for any disturbed sleep.
  • Community events – be they a church barbecue or a free local festival – can provide somewhere colourful and fun to go without having to empty your piggy bank (as long as you’re careful, of course)
  • You can grab a cuppa, sit on your front step and chat to the neighbours over the fence. You can feel like you’ve got company without feeling like you’re imposing yourself.
  • In winter, you’re forced to wear multiple layers and inevitably it all needs washing. In summer, it’s all about the flip flops and shorts. Less clothing equals less washing!
  • Bigger washing projects like bedding, curtains and sofa covers can all go out on the line – no need for tumble driers and the extra energy cost that goes with them!
  • Apart from the washing machine thumping away occasionally, you’re largely living energy free. Salads and cold foods require no cooking, of course, and you don’t need to stay in watching TV with the lights on when you can be outside with a healthy plateful soaking up the warm evening.
  • Things are growing fast now in the warm weather. If you’ve planted a few veggies or fruits they’re likely near to bearing fruit, which ultimately means cheap eats for you! There’s still time to plant from seed as well – radishes and salad leaves have plenty of time to grow while it’s warm.
  • You can pretend you’re on holiday without having to venture very far at all. Throw on something you once wore on the beach, get your picnic towel or deck chair and lie back with a book (just don’t forget the sun cream!) Pour yourself something cool and you can feel like you’re living it up when you’re no further than your back yard. Bliss!

What do you love about summer? Drop us a comment below and let us know!

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