What is value for money?

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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.

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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.

Why have so many people bought into the lie?

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The one thing in this world that really saddens me as how so many people have bought into the lie that we all need the fancy house and the fancy car, that we all need to work every hour we can, that we need to get big mortgages, finance options and loans so we can have everything we are told we should want.

The simple way to afford everything and not work yourself in to the ground is to buy everything you want. Yes that might sound strange but I am not kidding. If you don’t take out loans, finance, credit or leases, you never owe anybody anything and never have to worry about working to pay them off. When me and my wife want something we first make sure that we do want it and discuss why we want it, we then try and find it for the best price and then we pay for it up front which sometimes means saving up. Paying for everything up front also makes everything much cheaper.

Managing your finances

At the beginning of every month we look at the money coming in and then do our budget. We budget for all the expenses of the month and then with any leftover we decide what we want to do with it. This means we don’t go in to debt and we always know what we want and what we can afford, we never say “we are not sure if we can afford that or not.” Trying to raise the money you have coming in can be hard and out of your control but the money you spend is completely in your control and it is very easy to cut your bills. This month alone my wife and I were able to save hundreds by simply cancelling contracts, renegotiating contracts and changing providers.

Being a parent now myself I am seeing other parents being forced back to work to keep up with payments and the lifestyle they lead. I see so many children being looked after by grandparents now during the week as both parents are back at work full time before their child is even one. It seems to be a declining trend now in stay-at-home parents but I am so thankful that my wife is a stay-at-home mum. It was so important to us for our child to have one parent at home as we truly believe this is the best investment we can make in our child.

What really matters

Our child doesn’t care what house we live in, our child doesn’t care if her clothes are hand-me-downs, our child cares about our hugs, our smiles and our time. Time with our child is worth more than any amount of money to us or any possession we could buy.

Don’t let society and media tell you what you have to have or implant in your brain that you want something. Get what you truly want out of life, if you truly want to be at home to raise a family you will find a way to make it happen, it is never too late to make that change.

Marketing and publicity

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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

 

 

Get on the Bus

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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

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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.

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.