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You can volunteer your time, no matter how much time you have

calendar06 June 2018

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

You can volunteer your time, no matter how much time you have

It’s Volunteers’ Week, the time of year where we celebrate all the amazing things volunteers do for charities by giving their time to help and hopefully inspiring people to do the same.

As a volunteer myself, I can tell you it’s a hugely worthwhile and fulfilling thing to do. You learn, you develop your skills, you do your bit to help others, and you make a difference. And it's something you can do with whatever time you have, whether it’s the odd evening here and there or several months! There are lots of charities that would love to have you on board, both in the UK and abroad, and, of course, here at CAP.

If you have between two hours and two days a week free

Maybe you work and don’t have much time to spare. That’s OK – provided you can volunteer regularly and reliably, most charities will appreciate any time you can offer. Trussell Trust are always in need of volunteers to help out in their network of foodbanks, and there are lots of different roles available. Read more here.

If you have an evening free each week

Would you be up for getting involved with evening groups run through your local church? Well, there are CAP Money Courses, Job Clubs, Life Skills groups and Fresh Start groups going on up and down the country, many of which run in the evening. Click here to find your nearest group service and use the contact details to find out more about volunteering opportunities.

If you’re really stretched for time

If your schedule is packed and you’re not able to make a regular commitment, you could still do your bit by raising money for charity. Offer your time and skills to run an event (such as a coffee morning, bake sale or sponsored cycle) and raise funds to make a big difference in people’s lives. Head here to sign up to do something extraordinary and raise money for CAP.

I have several months and want to go abroad

Anyone who has volunteered abroad will likely tell you what a life changing experience it can be. Tearfund offers placements overseas ranging from two weeks to six months long in various countries. Click here for details.

I have several months and want to stay in the UK

We have just the thing for you! If you’re passionate about seeing an end to UK poverty and would love to get an insight into the workings of an award-winning charity, why not join us in Bradford for one of our placements? The CAP Internship is a paid, year-long placement starting from September, where you work within a team at CAP HQ that fits your skills and ambitions, and build your individual skill set through sessions from high level leaders, all while contributing to the charity in a powerful way. Engage is a shorter placement, lasting for four weeks over the summer, where you gain charity experience and help out in the CAP café at New Wine. Click here to apply for the CAP Internship and here for Engage.

Making technology work for us: the best apps for money management

calendar24 May 2018

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Making technology work for us: the best apps for money management

What’s the best way to find out which are the most useful budgeting apps on the market? Well, as we’re all pretty excited about money management at CAP, we asked our 300 staff and our 11,000 Twitter followers which they like and why.

Unsurprisingly at CAP HQ, most of us use and love the CAP Money* budgeting system to keep our own finances under control so we wanted to know which apps were good at supporting that kind of thinking.

CAP Money Online allows you to break down your budget each month into categories and sub-categories so you can sort your money into three accounts: Regular Payments, Cash Account and Savings Account. This means you always have your essential bills covered and know what you have left to spend and save for the future.

Monzo

Monzo received a lot of love at CAP HQ, and also won our Twitter poll with a massive 59% of the votes. It works like a normal online bank but it definitely has a few extra tricks up its sleeve. Open a current account and you’ll receive your Monzo card, with which you can load up and then pay for everyday spending, as well as take out cash from a cashpoint. It’s great for spending abroad too.

The app gives you real-time spending updates and automatically puts your spend into different categories so you can see where your money is going. For example, it recognises that you’ve filled up at a petrol station and immediately puts that spend into ‘travel’. It also allows you to set monthly spending targets by splitting up your money into different ‘pots’. This means you know what you have to spend and when you’re needing to rein it in.

Another genius feature is the ability to freeze your account immediately from your phone if you lose your card (and instantly ‘defrost’ if you find it in your other jacket pocket).

Monzo was also the first bank to respond to the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute’s challenges over gambling, allowing you to block your account from being used to gamble online.

Goodbudget

Budgeting software apps like Goodbudget are set up around the idea of dividing your budget into different categories at the beginning of each month, which gels beautifully with the CAP Money system.

You have to limit yourself to ten ‘envelopes’, unless you’re willing to spend around £4.50 a month or £37.50 a year to upgrade to a Plus account. However, Goodbudget also offers a way of linking your account to multiple phones and to your computer (if you prefer). This means everyone in the household budget gets updates and knows what money is coming out and where it’s going.

Pete, on Twitter, told us, ‘I’ve used @goodbudget for years with the CAP Money system. Envelopes for cash and savings accounts in your phone and syncing with your partner. It’s intuitive, visual & brilliant.’

Yolt

Yolt came up as another popular app with our Twitter followers. You can use it to synchronise your existing online bank accounts. If you want to plan your spending without opening up a new account with an online bank, or if you want to pick and choose where you keep your money, Yolt could be a great way to go. From a CAP Money point of view, if you have your regular payments going out of one bank, and your cash in another, Yolt can bring it all together and chart your spending to keep you on track.

Fudget

Fudget is a simple way to keep track of your expenditure. It allows you to make a list of incomings and expenses. You can prioritise your spending and plan ahead. You can add and reorder which you deal with first, and once you’ve paid off one of your expenses you can either tick it off, or repeat it if it’s something you spend money on regularly.

Danny, from our team at CAP HQ, says Fudget is his favourite, ‘I use it alongside CAP Money to keep a record of all my expenditure outside of my Direct Debits.’

Wally Lite

Wally tracks your daily budget, giving you a single number to focus on throughout the day. You can add space for income (which would be the same as your monthly cash allowance), and the app will track how much of your money is left. You can organise your spending into categories and sub-categories and even has the handy ability to track your net worth and cash flow.

Money Dashboard

Money Dashboard came third on our Twitter poll, winning 12% of the vote. It holds the title of Best Personal Finance App of 2017 and 2018. So, what’s it got to offer?

Essentially, it puts all your accounts, savings and cards in one place, giving you instant access to all at once. This gives you a true view of your finances at a glance and shows you exactly what you’re spending on.

The graphs are wonderfully clear, showing you just how close to busting your budget for say, takeaways, really is… and yes, ultimately that’s a good thing (for both your waistline and your bank balance!) Joining everything together in one app seems very user-friendly.

One fan is Laurence, from CAP’s IT department. He uses Money Dashboard alongside his CAP Money budget and, as the IT department know everything, that’s as good a recommendation as you can get.

Revolut

This is a card which can work straight from your phone, so you don’t even need to order a piece of plastic – and that’s got to be good news for the environment. You can upload money to the ‘card’ and spend it anywhere in the world. You’ll never have to use a bureau de change again (as long as you remember to pack your charger and the correct travel socket).

Angie, from CAP’s Finance department, described it as a prepaid Mastercard with a money management app, saying, ‘I got it initially for using abroad but now I use it every day, transferring my weekly cash to it. The app tracks your spend by type and gives you great info on where your money has gone. You can turn contactless on and off and use it to transfer money to friends and family (or do a bank transfer). You can also choose to round up your transactions and ’save’ your small change in a vault for a particular purpose.’

Cleo

If you’re not the most numerical person and find it hard to make sense of a spreadsheet, meet Cleo, she’s new on the block. She’s like Siri’s answer to finance.

Once you have the app, you can ask her anything about your spending or saving in a text format and she’ll answer in words rather than graphs. For example, you say, ‘Hey Cleo, I need to save some money’ and she’ll text you back with, ‘Sure, how much and what for?’ or you could say, ‘Hey Cleo, how much did I spend on coffee last month?’ and she’ll tell you.

How very matey! Perhaps the encouragement you need to stick to the budget?

*Not done a CAP Money Course yet? What are you waiting for?! Find your nearest here.

How I paid off more than £10k of debt in a year

calendar14 May 2018

Lynn James's avatar Lynn James

How I paid off more than £10k of debt in a year

Back in January this year I was asked to be a guest on BBC4 Money Box. I was invited on to talk about credit card debt and what having that meant for me. They wanted a personal story to get into the nitty gritty of why people are getting into so much debt. One of my fellow guests was Daniel Kelly from Christians Against Poverty, and I got to learn about what they did to help people. It was my pleasure to write a post for CAP after such an insightful radio show.

My story

April 2017 was my crisis month, the month I added up all my credits cards and faced the total. I remember previously burying my head in the sand for a few months, desperate to celebrate my 40th birthday in style with a party and a nice holiday to Las Vegas. I wasn’t going to let lack of money stop me from celebrating this big milestone.

I had started my own business, Mrs Mummypenny, during 2015 and needed some finance to fund the business in the first year of trading, that went onto a consumer credit card. We went on a family holiday to Spain during 2016. All these events combined culminated in a total debt of £16k. A scary big number that, to be honest, felt too big to face when I added it all up.

I had taken redundancy in 2015 and found it difficult to adjust to a life where I had to spend less money. If we had cut back straight away and adjusted our life to a lower income we would not have found ourselves in this mess. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

The amount of £16k really did feel like the biggest mountain to climb and a real stress and weight on my shoulders. I thought about it several times a day. But I had belief that it could be paid off. If I kept chipping away using the strategies to be described, then I would be able to get that debt down to nothing.

Something shifted in my financial brain. I no longer wanted to live life with a constant credit card bill and monthly repayments, as I had done for my entire adult life. I wanted freedom from debt and I wanted to start saving. How good would it feel to pay for bigger things before we got them? How amazing would it feel to have an emergency safety net of funds just in case the boiler breaks down, or the roof suddenly starts leaking.

These were the stages I went through to start the process of repayment of the debt.

Move the debt to as cheap an interest rate as possible

The first task was to refinance the debt to ensure as much of it was on 0% credit cards for as long as possible. Most of the debt was moved to a 0% credit card, I was fortunate to still have a strong credit rating. I had one balance of £2k on an interest paying card, it was priority number one to clear this card first.

Saving money mission

We went back to basics with our monthly budget, I recommend everyone does this every few months. Everything we spent money on was written down and then I went through every line to strip it back. I looked at everything from our energy, mobile phones, broadband, TV packages, insurances to mortgage. Pots of money were set aside for all those non-monthly irregular bills, car servicing, school trips, haircuts, dentist. Every single direct debit was questioned if it was an essential. Savings were cancelled, charity donations were cancelled, Netflix gone, non-essential insurance was gone.

Food spend

Our food spend was too high, despite having already shifting our grocery shop from Tesco to Aldi a year prior to this crisis point. This had already saved us £40 per week. The takeaways had to stop, and my focus shifted to good old-fashioned home cooking. Takeaways were costing around £30 each time so you can see how easily the cost would add up, five per month was £150. We would always make sure there was easy to cook food in the freezer, like pizzas for days like those. Meal planning is a great idea to plan for the week and then write your shopping list afterwards. Go through your freezer regularly to see what food can be used up.

No-spend months

We had two months during 2017 where we had no spend months. A no spend month means no spending on anything non-essential, groceries, petrol, business travel were still allowed. Not allowed were nights out with friends, no café coffees, no days out with the children that cost money, no bacon butties for breakfast at football. It’s tough to do it but honestly give it a try and you will be surprised at how much you save. Each month we did it we saved an extra £300 per month.

Keep a spending diary

This is such a way to get in control of your spending and you will be surprised at all the little things you forget about that add up. At the end of each day I write down what I spend in a notebook and reflect each week on what I won’t spend the money on the following week. I write everything in here, from petrol and groceries to coffee, lunch, parking, magazines. It helps you to be mindful of what you are spending.

Making my business work harder

I run a website, Mrs Mummypenny, where I write about money. I write about debt, savings, pensions, investments, budgeting. Everything money, but written in a simple, easy to understand way. By 2017, my business had been trading for two years and has turned that magic point where I started to make decent money. I worked hard to earn more income than I needed to pay the monthly bills. This extra income was split 50% into the creation of an emergency fund and 50% into my debt repayment. Once my emergency fund had reached a couple of months’ worth of safety net, I started pouring more money into debt repayment. I was able to pay off bigger chunks.

Declutter and sell as much stuff as possible

This is not my favourite thing to do but it’s so worth it. Make money from all the clutter sat around your house. I sold some branded clothes that no longer fitted and made around £300. I sold off a few bits from the garage, lawn mower, hedge strimmer for another £100. I sold some unused kitchen equipment for another £100.

Mystery shopping

I did many mystery shopping assignments and earned a few hundred from them. I mystery shopped at the big supermarkets, banks and gyms, sometimes a few a day. I even did a spa mystery shop (my favourite, a free day at the spa including treatment and I was paid!) This made me around £500 over a few months.

An update to the debt story

One year later, May 2018, and I have £5,000 left to repay. I am so proud of what I have achieved to repay this debt and to have cleared more than £10k. But its been hard, or maybe its been different. We have focused on treating the boys with things that are free or cheaper, trips to the park, baking cookies at home, creating adventures in the garden. But it will all be worth it when that debt is gone.

You can follow me, Mrs Mummypenny on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram here.

Lynn James is a personal finance blogger living in Hertfordshire with her husband and three young boys. She is the founder of Mrs Mummypenny, a personal finance and lifestyle blog. Her content focuses on healthy wealth, body and mind. She spent most of her career until 2015 in the corporate world working for companies like Tesco, HSBC and EE.

Martin Lewis visits CAP

calendar10 May 2018

Marianne Clough's avatar Marianne Clough

Martin Lewis visits CAP

Huge cheers greeted Martin Lewis as he visited CAP HQ for the first time this week.

As one of the charity’s most outspoken and supportive advocates, for many years, it was a real treat for everyone working here to say thank you and hear from him in person.

Martin addressed staff saying: ‘I’m delighted to be among true life savers. People think when you talk about saving lives and money they think it’s hyperbole, it’s exaggeration but finance is not some arcane bit of the accounts. It affects the roof over your head, it affects your relationships and whether you can talk and look after your children. It’s one of the biggest causes of suicide and divorce in this country.’

IFrame

‘Christians Against Poverty isn’t about helping Christians, it’s about helping people. The drive, the reason you do it, is your Christianity and your faith and I will never knock that. I think that’s right. The most important thing is the enormous number of results, and every time I mention Christians Against Poverty, I get people who tell me how it’s changed their lives.

‘I, not as a member of your faith, will continue to support you with every ounce of being that I have because you are doing good. I don’t care whether you wear a Christian hat, a Jewish hat, a agnostic hat or a secular hat. If you are doing good, you should be lauded and supported, acclaimed and applaused and I will do all of those things.’

CAP Founder John Kirkby presented him with an engraved harmonica so he could join in the next debt free celebration, which came during the tour of the offices and he recorded a message of encouragement to the clients in question who had paid off their debts over several years of hard work and determination.

Touring the offices, Martin was able to meet Catherine, someone who had been living in real adversity for years when she saw his recommendation of CAP on TV.

Catherine’s life has now changed completely and, while she works to pay off what she owes, she has herself begun working at our head offices in Bradford answering calls from new clients ringing for help.

She said: ‘It was amazing to just be able to say thank you to him. That’s all I wanted to do and to show him what a difference he makes to people who are living like I was. He is a great friend to CAP and I can honestly say he saved my life.’

Chief Executive Matt Barlow said: ‘It was fantastic to hear from Martin about the policy-changing work he is doing especially in the areas of debt and mental health and it meant a lot to all of the staff here to hear his encouragement to us.’

Five ways to be a community builder

calendar04 May 2018

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Five ways to be a community builder

Right now, there are people living just a stone’s throw from you for whom poverty has trapped them in a prison of isolation and loneliness. At CAP, we’re working hard to break this isolation and show people that they’re not alone, no matter how desperate their situation may feel.

You can play your part too. Whether you’ve got ten hours or ten minutes, you can be a community builder and help break the grip of poverty and isolation in your area.

I have half an hour or less per week
Check in with someone you haven’t heard from in a while
Even if you’re really busy and don’t have much time to spare, you can do your bit to beat isolation by ringing or messaging a friend or relative that you’ve lost touch with and listening to what’s going on in their life. Never underestimate the power of a text message asking, ‘How’s it going?’ – it shows you’re thinking about them and that you care. Offer to pray for them and let them know that they’re loved, valued and not alone. It might be helpful to set a reminder on your phone to check in now and again if you’ve got lots going on!

I have an hour per week
Set up a prayer group or chain
Get a group of people together from your church to commit to praying for the isolated and lonely in your community. You could meet regularly every week, after your Sunday service or one evening. If you’re strapped for time, perhaps set up a text message chain or Whatsapp group to remind people to pray and communicate any specific prayer requests.

If you have a CAP service set up in your church, be sure to pray for the frontline workers. Whether it’s a Debt Help team visiting a client’s house, or a Job Club, Fresh Start or Like Skills team meeting with group members, they have a unique and powerful opportunity to smash down the walls of isolation in these people’s lives and even invite them to join your church community.

I have three hours or more per week
Volunteer for your local CAP service
If your church has a CAP Debt Centre, you could become a befriender (accompanying the Debt Coach on client home visits). Not only will you be a massive help to the Debt Centre team, but you’ll be in a position to offer the client invaluable support and friendship. Take them out for a coffee, invite them to church events, or just be ready on the end of the phone when they call – it’s that simple!

If your church runs a Job Club, Life Skills or Fresh Start, more volunteers means more time for the group manager and coach to spend one-on-one with group members, supporting and coaching them. Again, this is a really easy way to help break isolation and build community in your area – all you need to do is show up!

Type your postcode into the search bar at the top of this page to find your local centre and details for getting in touch.

I have one evening per week
Bless your neighbours
How well do you know the people that live next door to you? As Brits, we’re used to keeping ourselves to ourselves and may never really get to know our neighbours. Stepping out of your comfort zone to break the ice is a great way to build community. Pop round with some baked goods or a hot meal and get chatting. You never know, they could be a single parent family, battling an illness or going through any number of struggles, and your small gift could be the most relieving end to a hectic, stressful day for them.

Once you feel you know them well enough, you could even invite them to church and introduce them to a new community there too.

I have one afternoon per week
Remember the elderly
According to Age UK, 3.6 million older people live alone in the UK, and 1.9 million feel invisible or ignored. Could you pay a visit to an elderly neighbour or relative? A cuppa and a chat could be enough to brighten their whole week. If they struggle to get out and about, could you help them with a food shop? You could make this a weekly commitment and really change their life.

CAP is drawing thousands into the restoring community of the local church. All of our poverty relief services are delivered face-to-face, ensuring that vital community link is forged and isolation is wiped out. Your financial support will allow us to answer more cries for help and show poverty that it has no right to lock anyone up alone. Click here to donate.

Got another community building idea to share? Leave us a comment below - we'd love to hear it.

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