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Love languages: find your perfect gift on a budget

calendar08 February 2018

Maisie Pollard's avatar Maisie Pollard

Love languages: find your perfect gift on a budget

When money’s tight, commercial holidays like Valentine’s Day can leave you feeling unnecessarily under pressure. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t get to celebrate though and there are plenty of ways to express your love to your partner without spending more than you can afford. It all starts with the love languages – by getting in touch with your partner’s, you can identify which gift idea suits you both best.

According to Dr. Gary Chapman in his book The Five Love Languages, there are five different ways to communicate with your partner to show love. These are:

Quality time

For some people, spending quality time with their family and friends can be the biggest factor to a successful relationship. And spending time doesn’t necessarily mean spending money.

Instead of breaking the bank for a meal in an expensive restaurant, how about a romantic dinner for you and your partner at home? If you don’t want to prepare or cook a meal yourself, you could order food in from your partner’s favourite takeaway or head to the supermarket – for example, M&S is offering a Valentine’s Day dinner for two including a starter, main, side dish, dessert, chocolates and a bottle of wine for £20. This can be a cheaper substitute to a restaurant while still showing that you care and want to be in each other’s company. Get the kids to go to sleep first and it’ll be even better!

If it's a friend or family member you want to treat, simply make time for them in your schedule. If their love language is quality time, they'll value that so much more than anything you could buy.

Words of affirmation

For those whose love language is words of affirmation, a kind, encouraging comment means more than anything else. If this is the case for your partner, you don’t need to spend much at all to tell them how much care. Grab a card and list the reasons why you love them and what makes them special. It’s an inexpensive idea, but will make them feel really appreciated. If you’ve got kids, get them to write in it too, showing your partner how much you all value them. This could work just as well for a friend or family member too.

Receiving gifts

You might find that receiving gifts is your partner’s love language. Don’t panic – that doesn’t mean you need to go splashing the cash, nor does it mean that your partner is materialistic. Usually it’s more about the act than the gift itself; the fact that you’ve taken the time to consider a gift they’ll really appreciate.

An idea for a film enthusiast is to grab a box or basket, fill it with your partner’s favourite snacks and a couple of DVDs and there you have it: a movie night for two! You could even involve the kids by getting them to make some personalised movie tickets.

Alternatively, head to the charity shops and see what you can dig out. From clothes and jewellery to games and houseware, you might be surprised at the stuff you can find in pretty good nick. It’ll cost you a fraction of the price of something new and, hey, nobody needs to know a thing…

Acts of service

For those who favour acts of service, actions speak louder than words. If that sounds like your partner, it’s all about rolling up your sleeves and lending a hand! You could help around the house with cooking, cleaning or washing, take the kids out to give your partner a rest, make a start on that job you've been putting off, or make lunch for them to take to work.

Maybe it's a friend who needs some love this week. Why not offer to give them a lift somewhere to give them a rest from driving or offer to babysit one evening? Maybe it's a busy colleague. If their love language is acts of service, a cuppa will go a long way.

Physical touch

For some people, it’s physical touch that has them feeling the love. Now, this doesn’t have to be intimate - something as simple as going for a walk and holding hands or snuggling on the sofa could be enough to show your affection. Often it’s the smallest things that can be most valuable and thoughtful, and even better, it doesn’t cost you a penny!

To discover your love language, take the free online test here. And whether you decide to celebrate Valentine’s Day or not, we hope you feel as valued and loved as you truly are.

Less plastic, more joy

calendar01 February 2018

Joseph Allison's avatar Joseph Allison

Less plastic, more joy

If you watched the fabulous Blue Planet last year, you'll have been left in no doubt that plastic is a huge problem for our planet. It’s not just the ocean that’s affected; every piece of plastic waste has to be disposed of somehow, so if recycling isn’t an option, it’s landfill or being dumped in the sea.

Supermarkets are not the only culprit, but they do offer many examples of the unnecessary use of plastics. Packaging items that come with a natural, God-given covering highlights an over-reliance on plastic – bananas, avocados, oranges, even coconuts can all come wrapped in layers of film. With at least one major supermarket aiming to go plastic free, there are obviously alternatives available.

If you love to recycle or just want to cut down on your plastic footprint, there are ways you can save the planet that don’t cost the earth:

  • Rather than using individually wrapped washing machine tablets, go for a big cardboard box of laundry powder. The cardboard is easy to recycle and buying in bulk will save you money.
  • When you think that bottle in the shower is empty, it’s not, there are still a few washes left inside. Just cut off the top with sharp scissors and make sure not a drop goes to waste. Even better, try a shampoo bar, available with minimal packaging and just as effective.
  • Buying in bulk can be a big cost up front before you get the longer term savings. If you have like-minded friends or family, you could club money together, bulk buy, then share out the purchase – this gets round the problem of storing bulk buys too.
  • Paying 5p for plastic shopping bags has become a part of everyone’s life by now but what about when you leave your ‘bags for life’ at home? All it takes is a bit of organisation – leave one in the car, get one that folds up to keep in your coat pocket or handbag, then you’ll never be caught short again. 
  • We have an over-reliance on disposable, one-use products. If we go back just a few years, products that fulfilled the same function but can be washed and reused are still available. This covers, nappies, face wipes, razors and sanitary products.
  • Think about all the straws and plastic cups you’ve used since you were a kid. Maybe it’s progressed into disposable coffee cups with a plastic lid. There’s a quick fix for this: use a water bottle from home, a hot cup or a thermos flask. Increasingly, outlets will provide your drink of choice in your own cup or you can be really thifty and make your drink-to-go at home before you leave.
  • While we're thinking about food-to-go, how about reusable sandwich bags? Instead of clingfilm or a fresh plastic bag everyday get a cute cotton bag with a wipe clean liner.

It may be because you love creation; it may be because you hate waste. There are many ways that your small changes can make a big difference and help protect our environment for the years to come.

Student loans: how to get by on a budget

calendar24 January 2018

Maisie Pollard's avatar Maisie Pollard

Student loans: how to get by on a budget

Finally, the moment you've been waiting for has arrived - your student loan has just reached your bank account. It’s an incredible feeling of relief if you’ve been waiting for the money to arrive so you can pay off your overdraft from the first term, or if you’ve generally just been short of cash for the past few weeks.

This is the reality for the majority of students living across the UK, and may be the case for you. The student finance site, Save The Student, found in their National Student Money Survey 2016 that 80% of students recorded that they ‘worry about having enough cash to get by’. Even with a lump sum of money like a student loan, it can be difficult to know how to save because you have rent, books, phone bills, travel expenses and the fun stuff to pay for. Let’s be honest, most students will having nothing left by their next payment in May.

So, how can you avoid this? Here’s one top tip every student can use to prevent going into that overdraft…

Create a budget!

This is so important. An easy way to do this is to make a spreadsheet for yourself and work out how much money you have each month until your next loan payout. For example, if you get a £2,000 loan in January, and your next loan is paid to you in May, this would leave you with £500 per month to live off. You can break this down further; take off your monthly spending on things like bus/train fare, rent and phone bills. You can then divide this total amount by the amount of weeks within the month, and it would leave you with your weekly spending on things like food and socialising.

This budgeting plan can be really helpful; you can still enjoy your newfound freedom with your friends and all that student life brings, while understanding how far your budget will stretch. UCAS reports that ‘budgeting can be key when it comes to keeping tabs on your money, so you know exactly what’s coming in and what’s going out’.

There are lots of great ways of saving whilst you study, these can include:

  • Buying second-hand textbooks instead of more expensive brand-new copies
  • Searching for cheaper deals on phone bills, food vouchers, and finding student discounts
  • Looking to see if your university has any deals or freebies that they’re giving away – universities value your opinion and your student’s union can often run discussion groups or surveys on how to make student life better, in exchange for vouchers
  • Choosing your student bank with a reward that would suit you; for example, Santander offers a 16-25 railcard, saving you a third on certain rail travel, which can be beneficial if you live at home and commute to your place of study, or if you live away and like to return to your home comforts
  • Finding a part-time job at university that would suit your timetable and schedule, whilst still leaving time for studying
  • Finding the cheapest place to buy your weekly food shop – you can go online and compare whether your food will cost less at an alternative supermarket
  • If you live away from home, find out whether accommodation is cheaper on the outskirts of your university town or city; it maybe cheaper to commute into lectures than to live in more expensive, centrally located accommodation

There is further support available for you with Christians Against Poverty. The CAP Money Course is free to join, you don’t have to be a Christian, and it gives you the skills to have a focused plan and weekly budget, preventing debt and using your overdraft. One in four students surveyed in the National Student’s Money Survey admitted that they’d ‘never budgeted before in their lives’ so this course is an essential tool. You can find your nearest course here.

Spending time studying, often living away from home for the first time, is an amazing opportunity. By keeping a careful watch on your budget, you can still have a great time and develop some great life skills for when you start to earn a salary. If you're worried that your debt is becoming unmanageable, don't keep it to yourself. Talk to your parents, your personal tutor or give CAP a call. We're here to help.

Help from unexpected places

calendar16 January 2018

Kiri Saunders's avatar Kiri Saunders

Help from unexpected places

Working together to change the finance industry

For many people receiving help from us, when it comes to some of the wider issues that affect their situation, their voice is not heard. The job of CAP’s External Affairs team is to speak up for the UK’s poorest, in government, to the credit industry, utilities companies and the enforcement sector, in order to influence change.

Since the External Affairs team has been in existence, CAP has built relationships with external organisations in order to speak on behalf of the people we help. Of note, the relationship between the enforcement industry and CAP has grown from strength to strength and has created many positive outcomes as a result. Despite the industry having many negative connotations, we recognise that enforcement agencies do not want to push people into further financial hardship. In fact, these agencies, like us, are in a privileged position to identify vulnerability because they too are entering people’s homes. 

There can be a powerful positive impact when organisations, such as enforcement agencies, work together with debt advisers, helping to secure the right outcome. When partnership is done well it catches those who may have fallen through the net, acting as the last opportunity to offer the help and support vulnerable people need.

One example of a working relationship is that which we’ve developed with enforcement agency Phoenix over recent years. It has helped ensure that their agents are trained to recognise and help those in poverty. One of Phoenix’s team, Jamie Upchurch, said:

‘The majority of those who can’t pay their debt genuinely want to and our relationships with organisations like CAP help facilitate vital assistance and solutions for those who are vulnerable. I recently visited a single mother, who had no assets inside her property and was struggling to feed her children. I managed to facilitate a three-way call with CAP who set an appointment for a centre manager to visit her property. I placed the case on hold until CAP contacted my office with an affordable offer of payment, which was accepted. The lady has never defaulted on her arrangement with us.’

We’ve also been able to set up a password process between enforcement agencies and CAP caseworkers. This password allows the enforcement agent to know that their customer is working with CAP and they will halt collection until CAP are able to create a repayment plan.

Another example of partnerships working well is CAP client Mark, who featured in last year’s Client report. Mark was visited by his mortgage provider’s field team, who found him in extreme poverty and his home in severe disrepair. The field team referred him to CAP, and with our help Mark was able to rebuild his life and resolve his debt situation. To read more about Mark’s story, take a look at our Client report.

We’re always looking at ways to build and develop partnerships, including with the enforcement sector, helping to provide clients with forbearance and space to sort out a situation. Throughout the industry there are many examples of partnerships creating good practice and better outcomes for clients, but there is always room for improvement. CAP has contributed to the Taking control report, which highlights the fundamental issues and rogue practices that still take place in the industry today, calling for more regulation in the sector. We’ve been able to provide a unique voice in discussions, speaking on behalf of our clients in order to get the best outcomes for the people we help.

Frying pans at the ready - it’s the Flipping Marvellous Pancake Party!

calendar11 January 2018

Gemma Pask's avatar Gemma Pask

Frying pans at the ready - it’s the Flipping Marvellous Pancake Party!

Well, isn’t this exciting? This year we want you to join us to put the ‘fun’ in ‘fundraising’ by hosting a Flipping Marvellous Pancake Party!

On Shrove Tuesday (that’s 13 February 2018) churches, home groups, families, friends and co-workers across the UK will be getting together to enjoy plates full of pancakes, tip top toppings and an all-round great time, all with the aim of raising money for CAP. Every pancake flipped and pound raised will help to free people from the crushing weight of poverty – that's what it's all about.

Fancy getting in the mix? Of course you do! Well, here’s the good news – hosting a pancake party is easy peasy lemon squeezy. First, sign up here to order your free, fun-filled resource pack, which includes everything you need to plan and pull off the perfect pancake party. There are posters and invitations to promote your event, stickers and photo props for you and your guests to enjoy, material to help you get those funds stacking up, a handy guidebook full of fun ideas and tips, plus more!

We recommend making the most of Shrove Tuesday, but feel free to choose a different day if it works better for you. You can also host your event wherever you think is best, whether that’s your church hall, at home, in your office… as long as there’s a kitchen, you’ll be cooking on gas.

We’re so excited to see how your event ‘pans’ out, so don’t forget to spread the word and share your pics on Facebook and Twitter. Just include #pancakeparty18 to join in the fun.

So grab your whisk, stock up on flour, eggs and milk, and together let’s go flat out to end UK poverty!

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