What is value for money?

Embed from Getty Images

In a lot of my life I come back to the question: What is value for money? Knowing the actual value of everything in your life and what you want is so important, but what is more important, is then knowing its value to you. Different things will have different values to different people, but that doesn’t make anyone’s value they have put on something right or wrong.

Value and cost aren’t always linked

The mindset we have to get out of, is that value and cost are linked. We need to get out of the mindset of expensive things either being value for money or not value for money, based on the price tag. When you are trying to save money you can get so wrapped up in things needing to be cheap and thinking that expensive things aren’t value for money. The price you pay is the transfer you make for something, but it has nothing to do with its value. Yes you can make good deals and bad deals on things but a good deal can be a bad deal, if you didn’t really value the thing you are getting.

In a sport I love at the moment ‘value for money’ is a big subject, the sport being football. In England we are getting ready for the end of the transfer market and already, in this shopping window spending records have been set. With every player purchased the first thing that is talked about is – if the player is worth the price a club has paid for them. So even before a player has kicked a ball for the team or had a chance to make a return on the investment the club have made in them, the purchase is judged.

Return on investment

Now in football players are purchased for silly money, so it is hard to see value for money in any of it but prices are still relative to what else is happening in those markets. The one thing I question though is – how many players actually make the club back the money they invested in them? There are lots of ways a player can make a club money, like prize money for trophies won and league positions obtained, merchandise sales from merchandise featuring their name or likeness, ticket sales from people who come specially to watch because of that player and so on. Regardless of their price, some players are better value than others and I wish we knew more about which players and deals actually were.

Money may be tight for you, but I encourage you this week to look at the value of things and not at the price. Are there things you are paying for, that actually have not enough value to you to be worth paying for? Could you be getting value by paying more for something, like buying a bigger box of washing powder that might make each wash cheaper and save you money long term or a brand of washing up liquid that is slightly more expensive but might last twice as long as the slightly cheaper one and so on and so on.

What to do if you really value time over money

Embed from Getty Images

I see so many people in my travels, who profess to not wanting to have to work so many hours and wanting more time for themselves, their families and to pursue their passions. I am here to say if you do really want these things, there is a way and it has nothing to do with a get rich quick scheme.

Choices

My wife and I made the choice that whilst our daughter is growing up, that one of us wouldn’t work and one would stay at home to raise her, as that is what we valued above everything else. We didn’t just profess to want it; we went out and did it.

We did it sensibly and now have more truly disposable income than we had when we had two salaries coming in and that is without promotions or pay rises. We just for the first time in our lives started to budget properly. You can find out about how we did it here:

https://adamsibley.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/budget/

One thing I think a lot us need to learn is how to be content with earning less. We need to get out of this culture of working just to spend money. Instead of working every hour, live the life you proclaim you want to by investing your time and not your money.

Do things unapologetically

If it is truly money that motivates you and you enjoy working, the pursuit of money and buying the latest things is nothing to be ashamed of, just own it. Just decide what you want and go after it unapologetically. Don’t fall in to this trap of thinking you have to say you either want more time with your family, or you want to do better in your career, if these are things which aren’t true to you.

Sadly in life it is very rare that you can actually have a family life and go after a career and riches, so decide which you want and go after it whole heartedly, as it is the only way you will truly get somewhere and be truly happy.

Nothing is forever

Just remember that nothing is forever and you can always change your mind, if you do have a change of heart just have the confidence to go with it and not deny it. Also life can be about seasons and just because you are prioritising money or family at the moment, that can all change in the future when situations change.

Save yourself rich

This week in the UK as part of George Osborne’s Budget, a new ISA called a “Lifetime ISA” was launched. The new ISA would enable you to get a 25% bonus on everything you saved up to £4000 a year. So you can get an extra £1000 per year in your account plus interest, from next April until you are 50. There are of course a few bits of small print, the big bits of which being that you only get these bonuses if you use the money towards a house purchase or your retirement.

My wife went through the numbers and projections last night and if we changed the way we saved and kept to the plan she made, we would have a very nice nest egg for retirement through this scheme. The thing about this new ISA is that I can’t think of any other savings method that is completely risk free that would give you a thousand pounds plus interest for a £4000 contribution.

What you save not what you earn

I am a big believer that life isn’t about how much you earn it is about what you spend and what you save. The amount of money you earn only makes you rich if you use it wisely. My wife and I make a great team for many reasons but one of them is because I am good at getting good deals and finding things for very cheap prices and she is great at saving, planning and budgeting. The combination between spending and saving is so important; if you do both well, you will have a great financial future.

I think when looking at savings, the important thing to do is to not look at the amount you are saving this month and how much money you make on your savings this month. You need to look at what the numbers look like if you keep saving that amount per month for 10 years, 20 years and so on. It is the numbers you will see then that will give you the incentive to keep on investing your small amounts every month. It’s like looking at your monthly direct debits, if you manage to get a new phone contract that is say £10 less a month than your current one it may not seem much, but if you look it over the two years of the contract that’s £240!

Working for you

Always make your money work the hardest it can for you – I hate this terminology but it is very true. Look at what savings options are open to you and pick the best ones for your needs. We are always being encouraged to shop around for best deals on insurances, energy and so on but it is also important that you shop around to find the best savings avenue for you.

Before this week I thought saving for retirement was impossible and that we would have very little but now with this new ISA and a plan I know in later life we will live a nice comfortable life.

Putting in the legwork

Embed from Getty Images

If you want to achieve anything in life you have to put in the legwork. If you aren’t willing to put the legwork you in aren’t going to achieve big things or get what you want. ‘Putting the legwork’ in can be applied to many areas of your life.

One thing I like doing is cutting our family bills and saving money, the only way I have been able to do this is to put the legwork in. If I just accepted all the quotes I found online for things and didn’t bother cancelling contracts I would still be paying a significant amount more for the services I still enjoy today.

Don’t accept quotes

Whenever I am in a renewal period for a service, instead of accepting the prices companies send me I ring them up. In this modern age no one seems to like phoning anyone, we all like the convenience of online but if you are willing to phone companies up, you can get better deals than are advertised.

Before I make a call I will do a quick bit of research to see what competitors are offering and keep that information to hand. I will then phone the company up and ask them if they are able to beat the deals their competitors are offering whilst at the same time mentioning the years of loyalty I have built up with the company. Doing this will normally result in the company offering you a deal, which is cheaper than those offered online.

Do it every time

One thing to remember though is to do this every time you are in renewal, don’t just settle for prices going back up and think well at least I got a good deal last year. Offers change all the time so make sure you are aware of what offers are out there and if the company you are with won’t match or better them, go somewhere else.

Sometimes it is good to go on to a rolling contract after your initial contract has ended. This means you can jump to an offer at any time. So say when you are in your renewal period, there aren’t any good deals out there; it might be worth waiting a month or two and then moving or then phoning up your current company to get a better deal. There is nothing worse than signing up to a contract only for a few days later to see a better deal somewhere else.

I hate being in those conversations with friends when someone tells you they are getting something for cheaper than I am whether that be a phone contract, TV or utilities. By following my advice hopefully you will be one of the people in conversations that can smugly say how cheaply they are getting something for.

Marketing and publicity

Embed from Getty Images

As we are now a month away from Christmas I am starting to try and ramp up the marketing and publicity of my book “unbreakable Bond”, to try and benefit from the extra retail spending that is going on.

I have a very small marketing budget and no marketing team for my book, so it’s just about me working hard and using the money wisely. I want to make sure that I get the most out of the fund that I have and get a great return on investment.

Free publicity

The first thing I am trying to do is get free publicity. This involves me emailing countless media outlets in the hope that one will pick it up and feature a piece on my book. After every piece of media there has been about my book, I have noticed a rise in sales so I feel it is worth investing my time in writing countless emails. I know most will come to nothing but that time investment is worth it for the one that does.

Next thing I am trying to do is to get dementia websites and member organisations to feature and talk about my book. This involves a lot of speculative emailing again, as well as sending copies of my book to these organisations in the hope they feature something on the book. This has worked quite well so far with a handful of dementia websites featuring the book. The brilliant thing about doing this is that it gives the book more credence when a respected dementia organisation talks about it, as it is like an endorsement.

Promotion

I try as much as I can to promote it for free online, posting links to buy the book on websites and posting about it on social media as often as I can. The great thing about this method is you never know who is reading what on social media and with the right people liking, commenting on or sharing something I post, it can help expand my audience greatly and get in front of people I wouldn’t have been able to reach without it.

The next plunge this month is to do paid for advertising on Facebook. I haven’t done this before, so I am bit cautious about how much to invest and how to tailor the advertising but I am excited to see how it goes. I think social media is such an important an accessible market now, that I need to have a good presence to get the book noticed.

My mission through all of this is just to get the book in as many hands as possible. For all those out there plugging away promoting something they have created, I salute you and for anyone with some money in their account I would ask you kindly to follow this link and buy the book.

http://www.unbreakablebond.co.uk/#!grab-a-copy/cqh1

 

 

Sale Season

Embed from Getty Images

For many years in the UK the sale season started on Boxing Day but in recent years the sale season has come early to the UK, with Black Friday triggering many pre-Christmas sales.

Spend

It used to be that people would use their Christmas money to snap up deals after Christmas and companies tried to encourage us to keep spending, even after all the money we had invested in Christmas. Now it seems that companies want us to spend more money before Christmas.

The thing I don’t like about pre-Christmas sales is that it encourages people to buy bigger gifts for others because they can get a certain item at a knock down price. Instead of buying something they want, it is all about getting them the highest value present whilst paying the least amount possible for it. The problem then comes is that if these pre-Christmas sales stop; the person you are buying for may still expect the same value gift as last year.

Do you really need it?

The other problem I have with sales is that it encourages us to buy things that we wouldn’t have dreamed of buying if they weren’t on sale. We think we are getting a bargain and making a great financial decision but in reality the best financial decision is to not buy it and keep your money in your wallet.

If you didn’t want a particular item before it was on sale you don’t need / want it now. You shouldn’t just want and buy things based on price. You should buy the things you want / need at the price you think they are worth. The price a shop puts on an item isn’t necessarily what you think it is worth or what it is worth to you. Always try and keep that figure in your head of what it is worth to you when you are going out to buy something, as just because it is on sale, it still might be more expensive than you think it is worth.

Turnover

Remember sales aren’t about the companies giving you a good offer; they are about the companies getting more money out of your pocket and shifting stock. The reason companies have sales is to get money out of you that they think they wouldn’t have if they didn’t have a sale, it is simply an exercise of them trying to increase their turnover and is not about them doing something nice for you.

I’m not against companies making money and I am not against people getting things at cheaper prices, I am just against the sale culture and how it feeds in to the material culture.

Get on the Bus

Embed from Getty Images

This week I have been getting the bus on my daily commute to and from work, so that my wife could have the car for a change as we are a one car family and she rarely gets the car.

We used to be a two-car family but we sold one of our cars last year, as it didn’t make sense financially any more to run two cars. I think cars cost so much to run regardless of how much you use them, especially in this country with Road Tax, M.O.T, repairs, wear and tear, insurance, break down cover etc.

If I took the cost of running the car over the year and worked out what it was a week I think the bus has been a much cheaper option than commuting by car. This week may have cost me more to get to work, because we still have the car but it did open my eyes to how much money we could save, by not running a car and just relying on public transport.

The price of convenience

I think we live in a society that wants convenience at any cost; we now pay for convenience without thinking of the long-term cost or if there is a cheaper way of doing things, because that would take time and not be convenient. I think we have brought in to a world where we think we have to have things, but if you take a step back, there are many things we could quite happily do with out and live without in life.

Long-term cost

Because we can get so many things on direct-debit and pay-monthly, we don’t stop to think at the long-term cost, because the monthly payment seems so small and manageable. I think the best thing to do when thinking of signing up for something which is pay monthly, is to look at how much it will cost over the year and then how much it will cost for the length of time that you think you will have it, whether it be a phone contract or a TV subscription. Once you have those figures, ask yourself what you could do with that money? And if what you are paying still seems worth it?

If I were you, when you look at things like this and decide not to take out the contract or the pay monthly deal I would then put whatever you were going to spend on it, in to savings and see what you can do with it.

I think all of us once in a while should give up a convenience and see what life is like, as I don’t think it will be as bad as you think it would be.

Life continues to teach me lessons

Embed from Getty Images

I don’t know if I am like you, but in my day-to-day life I see lessons in loads of things that happen to me. I think life and events can teach us so much, when things happen, some people see them as lessons and some don’t. I’m not saying we should over analyse everything that happens to us in life as that wouldn’t give anyone any space to experience anything or enjoy living, but I think when we can learn something we should try to.

My wife and I brought our house in November 2013. Shortly after this, the oven that was left in the house stopped working. We had someone out to look at repairing it, but they said it would be cheaper just to get a new one. Since that day we have improvised and lived without an oven. We had many things we wanted to do to the house at that time and the oven wasn’t the priority, so we didn’t get a new one.

Getting a deal

I have been in no rush to buy an oven and have not been stressing about finding one. Don’t get me wrong both my wife and I have wanted one but we weren’t about to just go out to the shop and buy the first one we saw. Skip forward to last week and I saw someone on Facebook clearing out a kitchen and selling a very nice oven, I put an offer in of £40 and then drove 12 miles to collect it in the car. The oven was then fitted this week, which only cost us £40 to remove the old one and fit the new one.

The oven we got was spotless and quite new. Instead of paying £400 – £500 to buy a new oven and get it fitted, we got a brilliant oven for £80. This last week it has been such a joy to use it and cook in it. The new oven has made cooking fun and now everyday we are trying to use it. I’m sure the novelty will wear off at some point, but for now we are loving life with an oven.

New and Now

This situation alone has taught me many things in life. We live in such an instant society that wants everything new; I think it is important that sometimes we learn what it is to live without something for a while, as I think it makes us appreciate something more when we get it. It’s taught me not to just go out and try to quickly fix a problem. There will be many times in life when you buy something when you wish you had waited that bit longer. I can point to many times when I have purchased things in the past, only to find them cheaper somewhere else or something better elsewhere.

Regardless of what your financial situation is in life, I think you should be sensible with your money. Even if I have money, I would rather get the most and the best I can for my money instead of just getting caught up in the fact that I have money. I believe there is a difference in spending money and using money, I always want to use money rather than spend it.

The Property Ladder

Embed from Getty Images

Two years ago my wife and I purchased a 3-bed house. It needed a lot of work doing to it, but the price was right for us and we were willing to do the work. For our first home we wanted a house, which wouldn’t stretch our budget and would be of a size that we weren’t going to outgrow quickly.

In our first two years we have fully plastered, carpeted and decorated all the 3 bedrooms, installed a whole new bathroom suite and redecorated our lounge. On top of this we have fixed plumbing, electrical and lighting issues. On the outside we have gone about getting the gardens under control and this now just leaves us with the hallway and kitchen to update.

Adding value

It has been hard work but fun work. I think we have added some real value to the property in the process and should easily be able to sell it for higher than the price we purchased it for. Now we are getting to the end of the renovation period my wife and I are taking stock and looking at what the long-term future holds.

Through this process my thoughts on houses have changed. The types of properties I would be willing to live in have changed, as have the areas. I think being in the house ownership game really teaches you a lot and really gets you thinking about the type of property you want to live in.

Window-shopping

One thing I have become addicted to is checking websites like RightMove (http://www.rightmove.co.uk/) and Zoopla (http://www.zoopla.co.uk/) a lot to see what properties are out there. I spend a lot of time comparing the properties to what we have and seeing what we could afford. I feel sorry for the homeowners advertising their houses through these sites, as I must give their pages a lot of views but never arrange a viewing and I don’t think I am the only one who does this.

When looking at properties I have started looking at floor plans in greater detail as I think these are key. Not only has this changed, but my lists of what I consider to be pros and cons have changed also. Unless you build a house yourself I don’t think there are many, if any perfect houses out there for you, so its being able to know when a house ticks a lot of your wants and what negatives you can live with. If you are trying to search for a perfect house, you may be searching for some time.

You get what you pay for

With houses you get what you pay for in most cases. If a house seems cheap, there has to be a problem with it somewhere. My main word of advice would be, to take someone with you when you view a house your interested in, that knows about the building trade and whilst you are there be ready to take your time and check everything out thoroughly.

House ownership is a big responsibility, but I find it so rewarding and I am so glad to be on the property ladder, we may be on one of the lower rungs now but I am determined for our family to keep climbing up it.

Being Thrifty

I think since the economic crash we have become a thriftier world. Finances now seem to dictate a lot of our decisions, from where we eat, to what we buy and to what we go without. I personally think this attitude change was long overdue and if we can keep this mindset when we are next in an economic boom period we will be able to do even more with our money than we were before.

One thing I have loved is the rise of groups on Facebook where for free you can list your unwanted items to people in your local area for sale or to give away. My wife and I have taken advantage of these groups to buy things or get things for free and think that it is brilliant. I love how it encourages people to buy second hand at a fraction of the price that you would have to shell out to get it new.

I also like the voucher deals and promotions that restaurants are doing to get people in the door. With so many choices out there and eating out seen as a luxury thing to do, my advice would always be to shop around and check online for deals.

A good trick that my wife and I do is if we want something we will set a budget for what we can afford and are willing to pay, then after we have set that we will try our hardest to get it for less. The key thing is don’t rush in to buying anything, as if you do you will probably see it cheaper or see something better after you have brought the item. Research what it is you actually want and then work hard to find it for the lowest price, don’t just buy something that is kind of like what you want because it is cheap, as regardless of how cheap it was it is still money wasted.

The key for me is not cluttering up your life or your home with things you don’t need. Anything that you don’t use or need, can you sell it? That item taking up space in your house could be money in your pocket. Ask yourself do you really need that thing you are looking at online? Acquiring clutter will only hold you back financially and emotionally so do your best where you can to free your life from it!

I think being thrifty can teach us a lot of life lessons. I think it is important in all areas of life to really focus on the things you want to do and achieve. It is only by doing this that we have a chance to succeed. Think of your time and energy like currency. Is what you are doing now really helping you be happy and get where you want to be in life? Like setting a budget, have you set goals? Invest in yourself and you will make all the currencies at your disposal achieve so much more.