The Five Thousand Pound Coffee Cup

  The Five Thousand Pound Coffee Cup     This isn’t the story of the latest discovery on the Antiques Roadshow where a vaguely cup shaped item that was bought at a jumble sale for 25p in 1972 or was given to ‘nana’ by an oriental gentleman sometime back in the 1930s turns out to be genuine Qing dynasty and gets the startled owner straight on the phone to Sotherby’s. Rather it is a is the story of a stainless steel insulated mug that was bought five years ago for the princely sum of £1.99 which despite having no historic or cultural significance, (although almost certainly ‘Made in China’), turns out has been worth £5000 to me.   Let the train take the strain I commute to work in Gloucester from Birmingham by train, it’s an early start but after five years I am pretty well organised in the mornings. The journey is only forty-six minutes, I have had my breakfast. I do not need a cup of tea on the train. Why then does the sound of the trolley provoke the Pavlovian response – I’m thirsty, I cannot possibly wait for a hot drink until I get to the office. So here’s where the coffee mug comes in. A cup of CrossCountry coffee is £2.30, which makes it £4.60 a day (yes, I get the same cravings on the way home). Even after allowing for annual leave, bank holidays and various work related excursions, that’s potentially 440 cuppas a year – at a whopping £1000 give or take a cup. I appreciate that it isn’t as simple a...

So long Wonga, you won’t be missed

The news that Wonga have gone into administration will be a cause for rejoicing across the country. Not least in Lambeth Palace, as Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury must be able to take some of the credit for the collapse, His high profile intervention precipitated the beginning of the end for the notorious payday lenders, heralding a catalogue of investigations into inadequate procedures of assessing affordability and unethical debt recovery topped off with government legislation capping extortionate interest rates. The King is dead, long live the King Unfortunately it may be a case of ‘the King is dead, long live the King’ as a quick google search will provide a list of the top forty payday lenders. While Wonga may no longer be top of the pops there are plenty of ‘short term lenders’ as the payday operatives prefer to be called, still out there offering loans at four-figure interest rates to tide you over for a couple of weeks. Because that was always the argument in defence of the payday loan. That they were designed to be a solution to a temporary cash flow problem such as starting a new job, waiting for a refund of a rental bond, or a cheque to clear. Yes, they were expensive but surely, they reasoned, it was better to borrow £300 and repay £375 than to bounce a direct debit and incur bank charges and/or default on your mortgage (and suffer the consequences that might damage your credit score and future credit worthiness). For many people financial shortages caused by changing jobs or moving house are few and far between, so...

GDPR

Money For Nothing? Back in 1987 I bought my first ‘grown up’ music system, a JVC midi hi-fi complete with turntable, FM radio, cassette recorder, bass and treble amplifiers and the latest gadget, a CD player. There was only problem, I had a stack of vinyl, boxes and boxes of cassettes and a grand total of one CD (before you ask…it wasn’t ‘Brothers in Arms’), which seemed a waste of my brand new toy. The difficulty was CDs were expensive £12-£15 each compared with a fiver for a vinyl album and I wasn’t particularly well off. So here is my confession, I fell for the tempting introductory offer of three CDs for £1 each from Britannia Music Club. This post isn’t going to be a piece about the pitfalls of signing up to something without reading the small print. Yes, I did end up with CDs I would never have bought otherwise. No, I didn’t always get round to sending them back. Yes, I did have problems cancelling my membership. No, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.   Coincidence? The universe is rarely so lazy So what has prompted this trip down Memory Lane? Well, spending the last few weeks completing Churches’ Mutual’s GDPR audit reminded me that, probably due to my atrocious handwriting, for the whole time I was with them Britannia Music Club thought my first name was Milary. For years afterwards I regularly received offers from book clubs, collectable figurines, home shopping catalogues, handmade rugs, credit cards, loans, life insurance schemes, you name it, all addressed to me with the very same typo. Coincidence? The universe...

Fairtrade Finance?

 Does it Really Taste Funny? I have just finished reading one of last year’s Christmas presents, a bestselling book, at least in church circles, by a former journalist in pursuit of fatherhood with both a lower and upper case F. I did enjoy the book, probably for all the wrong reasons but I was a little surprised that he considered having to drink fair trade tea as one of the many challenges he was faced with on the journey to becoming reverend. Why a challenge? Well apparently “fair trade tea always tastes funny”. From the author’s biography it would appear that the offending cuppa was consumed in February 2010, a mere eight years ago. Really? Has Fairtrade tea come such a long way since then? After all that purveyor of all fine comestibles, M&S, have had branded fair trade tea since 2006, and now Fairtrade, tea included, is as mainstream as sliced bread.   ‘Weekly Shop’ v ‘Good Deed of the Day’ I think I first became aware of Fair Trade in the late 1970s. Back then shopping Fairtrade was still a quirky lifestyle choice, goods were limited, premium priced and vaguely substandard involving purchases that were less of the ‘weekly shop’ and more of the ‘good deed of the day’ variety. Only available in Oxfam, or a volunteer run table at the back of church which often resulted in swapping one moral dilemma for another – buying fair trade versus shopping on Sundays. From my own memories of Cranmer Hall in 2002 the Divine Bars hung around the tea breaks for months until they were eventually sold off...

What Could You Give Up For Lent?

     It’s that time of the year again when various treasured eating habits or hobbies are forsaken in the cause of self- sacrifice or a simpler lifestyle. While the clash with Valentine’s Day this year may have compensated shopkeepers in the sales of chocolate, many of us, whether we have a strong religious affiliation or not, will attempt in the season of Lent to make changes in our life style that improve us, whether physically, mentally or spiritually. Lent is a time for self-examination of the things that motivate us and make us tick. It can also lead to permanent changes. Many years ago my teenage self gave up sugar in tea for Lent. It was horrible. On Easter Sunday morning my lovely Mum brought me a cup of tea in bed with two sugars. It was horrible!  So what would you like to give up for Lent?  How about Anxiety? Resentment? Anger? Frustration? Shame? Embarrassment? Or Fear?  Or maybe Insomnia? Headaches? Indigestion? High Blood Pressure? Or Stress?  The above are all physical and emotional symptoms of our relationship with money, particularly when that relationship is strained or going wrong.  The hardest part of getting our finances back on track is changing our mind-set and learning to think differently about money. It takes willpower to say no to things we can’t afford, to stop trying to do everything and to start building a nest egg or clearing down credit cards.  Developing that mind set can take time, and I’ve noticed that when people are in a bad relationship with their money, they tend to say the same things:  ...

Overdraft? Under control?

Overdraft? Under Control? Back in 2011 I was interviewed for a local paper for a piece on affordable credit. It was around the time when community credit unions were becoming more widely known about and it seemed a good way to promote the services we offered. After the usual questions the journalist put her pen down and rather sheepishly mentioned her own £1500 overdraft, “How much” she asked “would a loan for the same amount be?” I did some quick calculations and told her that a loan over eighteen months would be around £100 per month. She was horrified “But my overdraft only costs me £35 a month!” I tried to explain to her that the credit union loan was for a fixed term, at a fixed rate of interest and with fixed terms and conditions, whereas, if she never tackled the balance, her overdraft would continue to cost her at least £35 per month indefinitely. She wasn’t having any of it! We parted company, leaving me with the realisation that, on the whole, for those who have one, overdrafts no longer register in their consciousness as a debt.   Long term debt & short term costs Fast forward to December 2017 and the level of indebtedness caused by overdrafts is well on the radar of the Financial Conduct Authority and the feature of a report publish by debt charity Step Change. Understandably so, an estimated 13 million account holders went into overdraft during the last twelve months. Because overdrafts are considered short term borrowing, there is a tendency to think about them in a ‘short-term’ way. The charges...