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...

Churches’ Mutual – An International Credit Union

Churches’ Mutual – An International Credit Union Over the past three years of commuting from Birmingham to Gloucester, Morning Prayer courtesy of the Church of England’s Daily Prayer App has become a regular feature (along with – before you get the wrong idea – talking, snoozing, breakfast, bemoaning the state of public transport and, of course, catching up with a bit of work), and I have learnt a few things too. According to the lectionary 19th September is the day we in the Anglican Church commemorate Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury, 668-690. I have to confess my first thought when I read this was the not very spiritual “Well, matey, you were a long way from home”. I’m not that knowledgeable on Middle Eastern geography, but as a result of a rather more famous early Christian originally from Tarsus I know Theodore started life in what is now Turkey.   I shouldn’t be surprised, the Christian journey has always been for many a physical as well as a spiritual one. Of the early saints who brought the faith to these shores, St. Ninian was a Briton who arrived in Scotland via Rome, St. Aiden was Irish and St. Cuthbert was born in Dunbar. In England, St. Augustine, who established the Archbishopric at Canterbury was… best described as an Italian (had Italy existed at the time). So it has gone on through the centuries that the life of the Church in Britain has been enriched through the ministry of people from all over the world.   The third Thursday in October is International Credit Union Day The day when...

Just Seventeen

Ash Wednesday, the start of the penitential season and a period of self-denial is hardly the most appropriate time to be thinking about buying a car. But by falling on the 1st March this year, Ash Wednesday coincided with the launch of the ‘17’ registration plate and a new round of cars available to buy. There’s nothing quite like a new car, the smell, the novelty of having 3 miles on the clock and, in my case, kangaroo hopping down the Alum Rock Road in search of the elusive second gear! But unless you have a few thousand stashed away in your sock drawer then you, along with around 80% of all car buyers, have to negotiate the many and varied ways of securing a car on credit. Almost every car dealer will offer you car finance – it’s a big source of profit for them – and the choice can be confusing.  A few years ago car finance automatically meant hire purchase but now there are a number of different ways, personal loans, leasing, and even credit cards to help you drive away your dream car but I’m just going to look at one of them; the most popular, and the one with the most pitfalls. The Personal Contract Plan – Often advertised with headline monthly repayments that seem almost giveaway. The PCP has three components: the deposit – the percentage value that you can afford to put down the monthly repayment – determined by the size of the deposit and the cost of the finance (typically between 7% and 14% APR) the final lump sum (balloon payment) – the amount...

The Little Red Book

I was stocking up on stationery a couple of weeks ago when I was side-tracked by a display of familiar little red books. No, not the Little Red Book (or, to give its full title, Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong) which has somewhat surprisingly managed to get a name check in the Chancellor’s autumn statement two years running but rather little red Cash books like the one illustrated. Back when I worked in money advice we were often left baffled by clients who on paper appeared to have ample income to cover their expenses and yet in practice were consistently in default with accounts and found budgets impossible to adhere to. As a last resort we would issue them with a little red cash book (10 for £1.00 from City Supplies) with the instruction to come back to us in a month’s time with every penny (yes, every penny) they had spent written down. We had mixed results, while some clients managed to successfully record most of their expenditure just as many lost track after a few days, or even lost the little red book. Our most memorable failure however, was the client who replaced her Silvine cash book (price 10p) with a limited edition green silk bound Moleskine notebook (price £10) because the book we had given her “looked cheap”. Was it easier or harder to keep tabs on spending then? Back before contactless, small purchases required cash in your hand or you risked the hostile glares of fellow shoppers as you paid for a Mars Bar or a packet of crisps with a debit card and had to sign! Now...