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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).

Only four paydays to Christmas!

calendar16 September 2014

Maria Hubbard's avatar Maria Hubbard

Only four paydays to Christmas!

Whilst it’s a bit premature to start hanging tinsel around the tree, it is time to begin thinking about your Christmas budget. It may feel like Summer’s barely finished, but on 16 September, Christmas will be 100 days away – that’s only four pay packets to go! Be prepared – sit down, and start making a plan. It will only take a few hours of your time, but will make a huge difference when it comes to examining your bank balance.

Here are five top tips to help you get started:

1. Decide what you can afford to save: Set a budget and stick to it. Be realistic – whilst you may want to get your child the latest game station, it won’t be worth it if you can’t afford to treat your family for six months afterwards.Think about the long-term effects of your decisions and don’t put extra pressure on yourself. Christmas is already costly enough, without trying to provide a room packed with presents.

2. Pool together with relatives: If there is something special you are determined to give your child, ask others to get involved. Friends and family often struggle to know what to buy, and can spend hours searching the shops. Suggesting that they pool their money together and assist you in buying that dream gift is the perfect solution. Not only will they be content knowing they have bought something worthwhile, but your budget will also remain in tact. If you speak to them early, the likelihood is they will be keen to be part of this plan.

3. Buy in advance: Buying a few gifts in advance will also help to spread costs, saving you from that one, lump sum of money. Take advantage of any bargains you find, and save some cash before prices rise.

4: Be creative: For those who like to be creative, making home-made gifts is also a great idea. Your friends will appreciate the personal gesture and you’ll get to spend time doing something you love.

5: Separate savings: In addition to presents, Christmas is also full of fantastic food, glittering decorations and indulgent parties. When thinking about costs, consider everything you’re planning to do, whether it’s a trip to the ice-rink with the family or your annual work do. Saving separately for all occasions will enable you to know how much cash you have available and what’s left to spend.

Prioritise the things that are important to you, whether that’s a turkey roast or a trip to the panto, and cut costs in other places. Don’t let extra expenses take the merry out of Christmas this year. Start saving, set a budget and plan ahead.

For great advice on budgeting and saving, book yourself onto a free CAP Money Course today - click here to find one near you.

Peter’s story

calendar31 July 2014

John Kirkby's avatar John Kirkby

When Peter and his wife Asha went on a CAP Money course at their local church they made some life changing discoveries...

The CAP Money Course is running in over 850 churches across the UK - why not find out if there is one near you? Money affects everyone, everyday, so no matter how in control you think you are there is always more to learn! Search for a course near you and learn to budget, save and spend!

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