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Bonfire night on a budget

calendar01 November 2014

Kate Martin's avatar Kate Martin

Bonfire night on a budget

November provides a brilliant opportunity for a party or a get together ­– and what better way to welcome the winter than by celebrating Guy Fawkes Night? It’s reasonable to shy away from hosting or seeing friends when you’re hard up, but ‘party’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘pricey’.

With that in mind, we have compiled a list of CAP’s top tips for bonfire night on a budget:

Choose your guests carefully: most people are more concerned about the opportunity to catch up with friends than on fancy food and fine wine. Equally, you don’t need a house full of people – just as long as the people you do invite will get along and have a good time.

Share the load: there is nothing wrong with asking your guests to bring an offering (be it food, drink or sparklers…), and if you can be specific about what you’d like them to bring, it takes away the pressure of coming up with an idea.

Make punch: booze is expensive, but mixing together cheap fruit juices and own-brand spirits makes a tasty and charming alternative to wine or beer. Check out the BBC website ( for more ideas. Then again, a more seasonal alternative might be to make some hot apple cider…

Keep the food simple: hot dogs and baked potatoes are a great way to keep the party food cheap and cheerful. Visit your supermarket and collect a stock of cheap bread rolls and tinned hot dogs, baking potatoes, and a heap of marshmallows for roasting around the bonfire. Pumpkins are also in great supply this time of year, so why not make some seasonal soup?

Collect your own wood: providing that your local park or meadows are not private, protected or managed, collecting fallen and broken pieces of wood from the ground is a cost-free way of having your own cheeky bonfire.

Old-school entertainment: Fireworks are pricey and over in the blink of an eye. Instead try some games that never grow old, like apple bobbing and skittles, or make your own piñata to keep the kids entertained.

Find a free display: A lot of places have a free bonfire and firework display. Check out what’s happening locally to you and get a bunch of friends together to enjoy the festivities. Veto the pub trip afterwards and suggest everyone brings a drink to enjoy back at your house. Pubs tend to be overcrowded anyway so it will be cheaper and more chilled.

Need some more help with budgeting? Go on a free CAP Money Course, click here to find one near you.

A response to Wonga writing off £220m of customer debts

calendar02 October 2014

Matt Barlow's avatar Matt Barlow

Christians Against Poverty welcomes the news that payday lender Wonga are writing off £220m of debts for 330,000 of the poorest people in the UK.

As highlighted by our recent client survey, 22% of our clients had taken out a payday loan before requesting our help. What concerned us was that 77% of these did so to pay for food and over half used their loan to pay for energy bills. Clients also told us that very little was asked about their income and expenditure before being granted the loan, so the knowledge that more is being done by Wonga to ensure checks are in place is reassuring.

For any of our clients who are eligible to have their debts cleared by Wonga, the average amount that will be cleared would be equivalent to them paying off four and a half months worth of debt. This will release a significant amount of pressure from them, especially as the majority of our clients are already on a low income.

CAP has been working with payday loan companies in recent years, looking together to improve lending practices to ensure better regulations and better care for vulnerable clients. We are pleased with this development and hope that these positive steps are reflected across the industry.

It’s great to hear that Wonga are re-addressing their responsibility to their customers. People who have suffered the consequences of being given credit when they couldn’t afford it will now see that written off, leaving them in a better position to find a way out of debt. We would urge anyone, whose debt is written off by Wonga, to seek any further help they need with budgeting and working their way completely out of debt.

We look forward to continuing to work together with payday lenders and the industry as more is done to protect those with the very least.

My Week Without…

calendar01 October 2014

Matt Barlow's avatar Matt Barlow

I can still remember the low point! I was in London and met a good friend for dinner. 'Let's go for a curry,' he said! 'Yep, let's do that.' I wasn't quite as enthusiastic. You'd think a curry washed down by a pint of lager with a mate would be a nice treat. But not when it fell slap bang in the middle of my Week Without. I had been sponsored by some generous/cruel friends to do a week without anything nice to drink (mint tea and water all week!), nothing but rice to eat for main meals, and no snacks. 

It was the most horrible sponsored event I have ever done. Every other sponsored event – a 24 hour poolathon, a massive abseil despite my fear of heights, and the gruelling 'Grand Depart' cycle challenge earlier this year – all of them had something good about them – an element of fun; an adrenalin rush. This one just felt rubbish. There was no upside, it was pure sacrifice and I can honestly say I didn't enjoy one moment of it.

But it reminded me that there are real people out there who would love a simple meal, yet can't even afford that. And when life felt rubbish and my choices limited, I reminded myself just how blessed I was the other 51 weeks of the year. It was worth it for those helped through the money I raised, and it was worth it to remind myself that life for so many people is hard, and I simply must stay committed to those people!

We actually had a nice evening at the curry house, as my friend tucked into a chicken jalfrezi and a pint of Cobra I watched on in envy and especially enjoyed it when the waiter asked if I'd like anything with my rice..... my response? 'Yep, go on I'll have an extra portion of rice.' Well, I didn't want to go hungry did I?

Week Without - do it! It will do you good.

I'm going to join in with Week Without!

Saving money on your energy bills

calendar01 October 2014

Kathy Freeman's avatar Kathy Freeman

Saving money on your energy bills

With the nights drawing in, we’re reminded that winter is just around the corner. So as you brace yourself for the cold weather, make sure it’s not your energy bills giving you the chills. Check out our top tips for saving money on fuel this winter.

1. Turn it down - Lowering your room temperature by just one degree can cut your bills by up to ten per cent, saving you around £65 per year. Adjust your heating to the lowest comfortable setting between 18°C and 21°C, and also check your water cylinder thermostat isn’t too high – aim for 60°C. Also, as 90 per cent of a washing machine’s energy is spent on heating the water, washing clothes at 30°C will dramatically really reduce your bills.

2. Turn it off – Whilst it’s easier to leave appliances on standby, switching them off at the socket can save you around £70 a year. Lights account for around 20 per cent of your electricity bill so remember to turn them off and use energy saving light bulbs – they also last ten times longer than ordinary bulbs.

3. Insulate – Draught proofing windows, doors, skirting boards etc. could save you up to £30 a year. Why not try making a draught excluder by stuffing the leg of an old pair of trousers with rice. Heat reflective panels behind radiators are an effective way to prevent precious heat escaping - pick up a roll of radiator reflective foil for less than ten pounds from your local DIY shop. And if you can’t afford double-glazing, there’s a special film you buy for your windows, attach with double-sided tape and fix with a hairdryer!

4. Switch – Some people save up to £200 a year switching supplier, so it’s worth checking you are on the cheapest tariff. Compare gas and electricity prices online at Avoid pre-payment meters if possible as they are more expensive, and pay by Direct Debit as this is up to six per cent cheaper than paying with other methods. Remember to provide suppliers with regular meter readings to prevent paying high estimates.

5. Bleed your radiators – If the top of the radiator feels cooler than the bottom, then you’ll need to get rid of the trapped air. If you don’t know how, check out

6. Energy-saving grants – There is plenty of help available from the Government, energy suppliers and local authorities for implementing energy saving measures. Visit the Government’s Energy Saving Trust (EST) for information on what grants are available and for more free advice about saving energy in your home

Bankruptcy Debt Trap - CAP’s campaign to help more people through DRO

calendar23 September 2014

Dawn Stobart's avatar Dawn Stobart

Bankruptcy Debt Trap - CAP’s campaign to help more people through DRO

It’s not every day that you get together with other organisations to campaign for change that could truly impact the lives of hundreds of people struggling in poverty across the UK. Just last month, I sat around a table in Parliament with key stakeholders in the industry to discuss proposed changes to the Insolvency Service.

It was exciting to hear that we were all united in our concerns for those on low incomes who struggle to afford bankruptcy fees, and to know that CAP’s recommendations will be a key consideration in the Government’s review process.

Like many people, you might be surprised to discover that it costs an individual £705* to go bankrupt, or double that if you are married and your debts are held jointly. You may think finding hundreds of pounds to escape debt is unjust, especially for clients who are on a low income. We think so, and that’s why we are campaigning for change.

We want to see more people able to access the Government’s lower cost alternative called a Debt Relief Order (DRO). This solution is available to people on a low income and with few assets, yet many of our clients narrowly miss out on qualifying for this because their debts are over the £15,000 threshold.

For these clients, the alternative is to save up for the bankruptcy fees, which would take years, so CAP helps by raising the money through our bursary fund and by applying for grants on their behalf. However, we estimate there are another 300,000 people in the UK who are in a similar position but without help. These people are simply too poor to go bankrupt.

CAP has been working together with the Insolvency body R3 and StepChange to input into the review of the DRO process. Our main recommendation is to raise the level of debt that can be processed through a DRO to £30,000. This simple change could mean that every day, approximately 465 individuals struggling with unmanageable debt and poverty will have access to a solution they have been previously excluded from.

Since the meeting, there has been real anticipation that change could be on the near horizon. Our next step is to respond the Insolvency Service’s call for evidence on 9 October. I am excited because I know CAP’s data represents some of the poorest and most vulnerable in society; it’s invaluable. It makes me proud to be a part of a charity that gives a voice to these people, and we are expecting real solutions to be made for them.

You can read our full report ‘Too poor to go bankrupt’ here.

*Fee for England & Wales (Northern Ireland = £645-670 and Scotland = £200).

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