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Fixing the housing crisis

A couple of posts back I offered some essential ideas on how to go about seeing that the economy is repaired.  Naturally that is a large task so I could really only skirt around one particular issue, which I suppose could be summarised as making work pay, if I wished it to be in soundbite form.  Today I plan to offer a partial solution to the housing crisis that Britain is currently experiencing.  I say partial because, on the one hand, it is a very large housing crisis, on the other hand there are a number of other supplemental solutions which will also be of use in ensuring there is enough housing for people.

 

There are those who say that the housing crisis could be dramatically reduced by simply making sure that all the unused property is put into use.  There are derelict and condemned buildings all over the place, as well as commercial properties that are out of use where the land could be repurposed.  I don’t think that the problem could begin to be dealt with by derelict buildings alone, I also think that if we solved a lot of our other problems then we would need those commercial properties.  Once there are more homes so that fewer people are losing their wages by paying extortionate rents there could be a far greater ability for ordinary people to invest in making use of those commercial properties to supply goods that will become more affordable in the absence of extortionate rents.  Although there are obviously some economic advantages in employing people and buying materials for developing these sites it is an economic disaster to knock down and rebuild every few decades.  Not to mention those same people and materials could be far more efficiently by putting up extra buildings in previously unused locations.

 

Of course that is where the objections start to spring up.  It is the threat of new developments on previously unused locations.  That is what gets protestors building treehouses and digging tunnels.  Our biodiversity has suffered dramatically over the last few hundred years of the industrial revolution, sometimes fast enough for us to sit up and take notice, but usually so slowly that we don’t even realise it is happening.  Having grown up in Devon I am used to living in the countryside and walking through woodlands, or wading in rivers.  Devon is after all the countryside wilderness of England.  However if someone from Devon ever spends any time in Scotland it quickly becomes apparent that there is a homogeneity to the flora of Devon that is an obvious mark of humanity’s impact on the environment.

 

There are still areas in the south of England where the wilderness reigns.  If you leave the main roads and the towns, taking a route down narrow windy lanes, it is not long before you can find wild meadows full of masses of different plants and flowers.  Despite the time I spend in the countryside and my efforts to learn about obscure plants like Bugle, Jack in the Hedge, Stinkhorn mushrooms, etc, I was surprised to find a plant that I had simply never seen before growing in a field near my home.  When building houses it is obvious that plants will be replaced by buildings but as the lack of houses is damaging our ability to live happy productive lives we are left in little choice.  It must therefore be considered which places are most appropriate to avoid as much environmental damage as possible.  This includes how much extra pollution might result from increasing a local population and how much use of local infrastructure with its knock-on effects of diminishing the comfort of locals, increasing danger for other road users, raising costs of road repair, etc.

 

In addition to preventing these negative side effects of increased housing it is also reasonably important to upset as few people as possible.  I say reasonably because if one paid attention to the way in which modern politicians dealt with these issues one would think that nothing can be done if there is any danger that it might upset anyone whatsoever.  You might also look at what they achieve and think that nothing is done.  Politicians get into office and then when they leave office years later they realise they have squandered their opportunity and done almost none of the things they originally intended.  It is obvious that someone is going to get upset about almost everything, if only because there are some people who make a sport out of getting upset about things.  Some journalists make a career out of it, even though they don’t really care at all, usually because they are twisting the facts so much that the upsetting news bears little relation to reality.  Fortunately if you make a decisions based on logically avoiding as much damage as possible and increasing the greatest benefit possible then this becomes less of a problem.  Unfortunately decisions are often made according to the whims of corporate sponsors and other less than transparent inputs.

 

In order that extra housing complies with as many of the conditions I have mentioned above the most sensible place to put it is where it is closest to the main thoroughfares that provide routes to work for the people living in the housing.  If you put a housing estate on the quiet side of a town then that might be very pleasant for those living there, it might even command a higher price (pleasant for those selling the houses, or renting them out) but it will lead to massive amounts of traffic heading towards the best roads for commuting.  If the commuting roads of the residents are on the quiet side of town then very quickly the quiet side of town stops being so quiet; the quiet local roads become over congested and dangerous.  If the commuting roads are, as is more likely, on the busier side of town where the local dual carriageway/motorway is then anyone who needs to commute to the nearest large towns will first have to contribute to the morning clogging up of traffic in their own town’s rush hour before they hit the larger roads to make their commute.  Naturally the same applies for returning home in the evening, with the result that the town becomes busy, noisy, dusty, and polluted.  In this modern era it is probable that a large number of people will be seeking to travel on these larger roads.

 

If housing is put on the side of the town where the dual carriageway/motorway lies then this extra weight on the infrastructure of the town is avoided, possible with reduced need for the building of an additional bypass in the future.  Additionally placing housing estates near the roundabouts where access to these large routes can be made, will result in massive reduction in use of fossil fuels by commuters as they no longer need to sit in traffic jams to negotiate the narrow roads leading to the dual carriageways.  There will be economic benefit as more workers will be inclined to accept jobs at businesses that are now easier to reach because the commute will be shorter.  Those businesses will therefore find it much easier to find more suitable staff; they will not need to make do with the local pool of talent and the few who make the effort to go through an arduous commute, they will have the addition of the many who will be prepared to go through a far less arduous commute.

 

Environmentally we already see a benefit from reducing those fossil fuels but there is of course the problem of direct damage by building on the countryside.  The one thing that all access roads for dual carriageways and motorways have in common is that any such environmental damage has already been conducted during the twentieth century.  Protestors have already tried to stop these roads being built and having failed the countryside has been reduced to a shadow of its former self.  The trees have been cut down, bulldozers have churned up the rare flowers, badgers and deer have largely fled into more secluded country areas, litter is thrown daily from the windows of cars, and there is a lot of noise from passing vehicles.  People do not go to these places to enjoy the countryside anymore.  One might argue that they would also be less pleasant places to live but there are many people who already live alongside such roads and there are solutions such as fences and double glazing.

In addition it also reduces the potential cost of the homes, making them far more suitable for first time buyers, and far less suitable for farming.  Besides if we all got to live in the nicest places then there wouldn’t be any more nice places.  This way all those hidden country meadows remain intact.


To anyone that has read the previously mentioned blog on fixing the economy there will be obvious connections between the matter written here and the matter in that.  As I have said, that blog was not fully concluded because it is such a large subject.  This approach to solving the housing problems we face is another piece in the puzzle of how to make things better.  This approach is probably not suitable for all areas either.  It is likely that many local councils have already taken the opportunity to see that housing is built with easy access to the country’s main roads systems.  There are also many councils who are still having a great deal of difficulty in deciding where they should put homes to fill the quota being demanded from politicians above them.  There are areas of outstanding natural beauty where there are few options.  In some of those areas this is an options that may not have been considered, or may be being debated at present.  The solution written above is offered for those areas.

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How to avoid back pain when gardening. Why don’t people do this?

It recently occurred to me that there is a very easy way to avoid back pain when gardening which no one had ever thought to tell me.  After looking at a dozen or so websites I began to wonder if the idea had actually ever occurred to anyone else.  Despite spending what felt like a considerable length of time reading through the top search results on google I largely came across the same sort of advice, none of which included what now seems obvious to me.  It is almost as though the people giving advice had never actually done any gardening themselves.  Certainly the advice on offer is good advice but it seems as though everyone is just spouting the same wisdom that has been around for decades and no-one has made the link between gardening and modern techniques for preventing muscle damage.

 

The typical advice you will see is stuff that is worth doing along with the advice that I will offer you because any one piece of advice can always be helped by adding a little more positive advice.  Obviously you want to take a break when you get too worn otherwise you will find yourself doing more damage in the long run.  However, if you have a lot of space that needs digging or weeding then taking a break as often as you need might not be an option that you will appreciate.  Luckily I have worked out how to prolong the period before you are likely to be bothered by back pain.  In fact I have personally discovered that I end up having to stop out of exhaustion before the back pain gets to me, which feels like quite a feat considering how much my back used to hurt in the past.

 

Naturally you should make sure not to do your gardening without warming up first, and you should avoid letting cold breezes blow on your back.  So many times I have been absolutely fine until the point the wind blows and I have been hit by agony.  One tip that I particularly liked the look of is the use of a gardening apron that works something like a weight lifter’s belt to hold your back in shape.  I thought that was quite original.  Likewise I read a great deal of advice about bending knees when lifting and making sure to use the right size tools for your body shape, whether that be using a small spade or a long handled spade.  But nowhere did I see any mention of balance.

 

The way to avoid back pain when gardening that no one seems to have realised is to focus on maintaining a balance in the way you use your muscles.  Anyone who spends time in the gym working on weights knows the importance of balance.  In fact one of the main reasons that people progress to using weights instead of exercise machines is to maintain this sort of balance.  The problem with the machines is that they force you to continue exercising your muscles in a very rigid fixed manner whereas free weights allow your muscles to move in a far more natural way.  Gardening lies somewhere between these two.  On the one hand you are able to move in a manner which is far more natural as you are not tied into such a rigid pattern of motion as an exercise machine, but on the other hand people tend to enforce a repetitive pattern of motion on themselves anyway.  By escaping the repetitivity and lack of balance you will quickly find that instead of pulling your back out of place you will begin to pull it back into place.

 

My tendency when digging is to stand on my left leg and then use my right leg to push the spade into the ground.  I then apply pressure on the spade handle by pushing it down on my left hand side, before bracing and lifting the spade with the strength of my right arm whilst balancing the weight with my left arm.  Often the only additional advice that would be offered is to make sure that you do that lifting with the aid of your knees.  The problem with this is that after you have done a few dozen repetitions you start to feel your back aching and you have to stop for a break and stretch out your spine.  This is caused as you have some muscles getting tired more quickly than their corresponding muscles on the opposite side of your body.  My first thought was that this could be helped by exercising all your muscle groups in the gym.  That certainly helps to a degree because it does help to build up an energy store and create muscles that are far less easy to tire out, but most gardeners are too busy in the garden to waste time going to the gym.  It also does not prevent the imbalance that is the root of the problem, it merely delays it.

 

The technique that I developed was simply to swap my spade wielding hand every 5-10 repetitions.  When doing this I immediately found that I was exhausting both sides of my body at an equal rate.  This prevented the usual back pains because I no longer had one side with strong fresh muscles pulling on my spine and pelvis while the other side with tired worn out muscles was feeling to weak to pull back.  The sensation of making this swap felt unnatural at first.  As a right handed digger I had to try and teach my body a new trick.  It was a bit like learning to play pool or snooker with my left hand instead of my right hand, a trick that Ronnie O’Sullivan has used in the past and seemingly amazed the commentators with.  It immediately made a difference as it felt as though the aches were actually being pulled out of my be the usually troublesome opposing muscles.

 

Having tried this with digging I then decided that it would be a good idea to use the same technique with trowel weeding.  Many people overcome the problem of imbalance when weeding by putting both knees on the ground at the same time.  The difficulty this causes is that you then become far less mobile.  My tendency is to put my right knee on the ground so I started to alternate by putting my left knee on the ground.  Surprisingly this was far more difficult for me than alternating my digging stance.  When descending towards the ground my body tried to continue doing things as it always had and it we tricky adjusting the way in which I knelt whilst in descent.  As I became more adept at alternating my knees when weeding I began to discover the pain in my hips was far reduced as well as the pain in my knee and if I was picking up something I had unrooted with a spade or a fork I also found that the arm which continued to hold the spade/fork upright felt far less pain as well.


So it is as simple as that.  I am now far more able to dig for far longer without back pain.  In addition to reduced back pain I have also discovered that the energy I have available for digging is also increased due to using the abilities of twice the muscles.  It seems so obvious when you think about it but it is that initial habit of doing it in the one way that is hard to overcome.  It does feel unnatural when first trying it, a bit like juggling or rubbing your tummy whilst patting your head, but if you stick with it you will find that you will be able to do far more gardening work with far less effort.  You will feel far less back pain and you will no doubt be able to continue gardening into a far more advanced age.  This may also have knock on effects to maintain health into older age both through the exercise and the chance to continue eating your lovely homegrown greens.

An ethical way to invest in the most ruthless of moneymakers

It can be hard to make a living in modern Britain. Contrary to the prediction of Bertrand Russell we have not all been freed from the bonds of labour. The arrival of labour saving devices has not given us the freedom we expected. Robots apparently do not even threaten jobs, according to some reports each robot leads to the creation of three jobs for those who need them. Given that labour saving computers need constant attention to clean up viruses and malware and find solutions for the bloat of new updates this might not even seem surprising.
Mind you it is possible to buy your way out of the daily grind and thus leave your days open to pursue more fruitful ways of making a living. For the average person perhaps, the promised future in which machines would do our work for us has not arrived. For those who have the money to buy their tickets to freedom from hard work it is quite possible. Obviously a substantial amount of money would be needed to manage this, maybe a decade or two’s wages for most people. A lot of people have managed it. Sometimes they only succeeded because they inherited the requisite amount but others have worked their way into the position through their own cunning and ruthlessness. For some people the very act of buying one’s way out of work becomes a job in itself, even an obsession as they become wealthier and wealthier.
You may have worked out by now that it is the world of shares, stocks and financial trading to which I refer. If you can work out which businesses are going to be successful then you can become wealthy. If you can work out which ones will simply keep on a level then you can potentially bring in an income sufficient to keep afloat. For a lot of people who have to spend their days sweeping, building, digging, driving, painting, vending, etc, there is one obstacle that can prevent them making a living through this method. Aside from needing to learn the esoteric intricacies of entering the world of stocks and shares there are ethical considerations that many find hard to overcome.
Naturally one makes investments in order to earn money. A lot like the days when banks offered reasonable levels of interest except that the levels possible with a good investment can be far more interesting. In order to make money the investment must be in the sort of company that is likely to make more money and pay out dividends. With a free market in which regulation is kept to a minimum the more successful companies are also the most ruthless companies. They are the companies that don’t mind chopping down forests full of undiscovered creatures; they are the companies that don’t mind sourcing their products from unregulated factories where the age of the workers does not concern the owners, or the materials used might have been mined at terrible cost to the environment and the miners; they are the companies that see the law as a set of rough guide lines that can be interpreted in many ways, and if by chance that interpretation was incorrect the payment of a fine will be all the recompense necessary.
There are of course many successful companies that have far more ethical processes than these but those are the companies that must work extra hard to compete with the less ethical companies. The odds are that they will be paying their workers the lowest prices they can get away with and they will pay their taxes wherever is most convenient, as well as cutting costs by expecting their staff to do excellent jobs with old and malfunctioning equipment. Once again I may have painted a picture of a less than desirable company to hitch one’s ethical karma to.
Of course there are many flavours of business, but if a person wishes to buy shares in a company then the companies that are floated publically on the stock exchange do largely fit into these two categories, and for many people with the intelligence to work out where their money will get the best return these ethical shortcomings are unreconcilable. This is one of the reasons why many people never succeed in buying their way out of logging, farming, welding, bricklaying, fishing, etc. For these people the idea of sitting back and letting the money flow in from all these dubious business practices is as unacceptable as sitting in a bedsit on the dole waiting for junkies to come and buy heroin off them. Here we see a potential meeting of morals between the middle classes and the so called scroungers that Ian Duncan Smith is so intent on destroying.
For the people who are still earning their money without supplementation from shares it might seem as though they are the ones left behind by Bertrand Russell’s prediction. They look on the travesties conducted in the name of business and just hope that one day regulations will be put in place to prevent such practices and in the mean time they hope that perhaps consumers will choose companies with fewer ethical violations. They see the banks distorting markets and losing billions only to be bailed out by tax payer’s money and have little recourse beyond tutting and grumbling in the pub later. They would vote for a government that would sort it all out but the political parties have little difference between them and place GDP so high on their scale of priorities that they aren’t going to be the ones to sort it out unless a critical mass of public opinion forces them.
Getting such a critical mass of opinion in a nation is not an easy job for anyone. Pressure groups and charities work hard to force businesses to be more ethical and for governments to create better legislation, but it all blends together into the buzz of daily news. The political parties canvas to gain voters but as the last election showed no party can even gain a majority at present. Since then the political landscape has become even more fragmented. It is difficult to align the wishes of an entire nation so government ends up controlled by whoever has the loudest voices. These are media organisations with their own business interests which tread the delicate path between success and failure just as any other large business.
The solution to the problem of poor ethics in business for all those who have been trying to keep their hands and their morals clean, is the solution that goes immediately against their instinct. It is by investing in the very companies which have these terrible practices that they can guide them towards better ways of doing business. In day to day running of these companies the board of directors makes business decisions based upon rules that are set out in the Companies Acts. These rules suggest they ought to think about broader issues and their effect on their environment but only really so long as they don’t let it stand too badly in the way of returning maximum profit to the shareholder. However the secondary input that guides their decision making is the input of investors at any meetings they attend.
Given that the entire country proves to be problematic even for the Prime Minister to lead or control it makes sense that ordinary people would only be able to make the world better in smaller ways. Start with the world in front of you. At a certain point one begins to realise that doing the washing up or the vacuum cleaning is quite satisfying but makes no real long term impact on the world and the problems that afflict it. Conveniently if it is possible to save or raise even a small amount of cash it is possible to step into those companies that appear in the newspapers every day. Those things that people vote to change in elections can be changed from within the companies themselves. Admittedly it is still necessary to have the backing of many other like minded thinkers, but far fewer than in a public election. Alternatively simply raising enough money can give one investor the voting power of many.
Without the force of legislation there are few ways to change the behaviour of a company. Consumer action works to an extent but is often easily exhausted and difficult to affect by repairing company behaviour. Only by getting power inside a company itself can one be most assured of getting close to having a positive influence over the way that company conducts its business. By attending shareholder meetings one stands a far better chance of meeting other shareholders and of affecting their thought processes. The more shares a person owns and the more ruthless the company in which they have bought the shares, the more potential for good they can create in shareholder meetings. A side effect of this method of trying to make a better world is that those dividends are received by the people who are working hardest to prevent the companies in question from doing any further harm. That is the way to buy into Bertrand Russell’s prediction without breaking one’s moral principles.

Advice for modern business

A change of tack today.  I am sure I have begun posts before by reminding folk that I am not a fan or corporations.  However today I have advice for business.  I often don’t say anything to people because whatever I am thinking simply seems too obvious, I later discover that the point I would have made was actually never considered by the person with whom I am speaking.  It occurred to me today that the usual polemical debate going on between the two sides in this issue might be a sign that many people did not realise there is a middle path other than compromise.  Most business owners are simply too busy working to give deeper consideration to the environment in which they operate.  This is why there is a necessity for academics to have think tanks in which they address issues on economics, sociology, etc.  Today I therefore offer the following advice to the corporations of the world, and in fact anyone else who wishes to find a gap in the market.  If it is followed then the result should be profits, happy people, healthy world, and even a change in my opinions.

 

The main aim of modern business is to make profit. If it weren’t enough that this is the desire of the business owners and board it is also enshrined in law by the Companies Act.  When making decisions there is a set of priorities to which the decision makers must adhere.  When it comes to things that affect the environment and greater society there is little more than an optional footnote to consider.  If that weren’t enough to upset people even customer satisfaction ranks well below profit.

 

Naturally this rule is very easy to enforce.  People like profit.  People like profit to such an extent that it even blinds some of them to avenues by which they might obtain more profit.  Many of you will be aware of the psychology experiment where children were left alone in a room with a plate of sweets and the promise of being allowed two if they could resist the temptation to take one.  For those who do not know this experiment there were two ways in which the children approached the task.  Some of them distracted themselves, playing with toys or looking elsewhere.  Others obsessed on the cakes, staring at them until they could no longer take the tension and had to have one.  The ability to focus on other things turned out to be a valuable trait in later life.  Being able to consider long term benefit over short term benefit helps many people in business and also in their personal finances; imagine where we would all be if we could not prepare for our old age.  One of the theories put about concerning the demise of the Neanderthal was that it lacked our ability to think in the long term.  It always feels necessary to obsess on the bottom line in business, but this is what stops one thinking ahead.

 

It is a constant complaint read in the business press that thinking in the short term is a continual source of trouble, from businesses being ill prepared for the future to the entire financial collapse.  With larger businesses the fault is difficult to pinpoint as even when the managers care about the long term they have to balance this against a a multitude of smaller issues, the most obvious of which being that many of the little people can only make enough money to live a decent life if they throw away their ethics in pursuit of bonuses.  When I worked in retail I lived in a culture of customer service where the company insisted we believe in making the customer happy and at their ease at all times.  We also had to balance this against the company insisting we must always make more money and compete against other stores in an effort to achieve an unobtainable bonus that had the same chances of being won as the carbolic smoke ball company planned for their £100 reward.  It didn’t matter how ethical the company was because we weren’t permitted the luxury of our own ethics.  Nor did I believe the company’s ethics had been seriously developed.

 

The result was that our business did reasonably well but superficially skimming the web revealed that hundreds of people hated us, hated our stores, and even hated us approaching them.  The reason this continues is all down to profit; until the enmity is reflected in the bottom line none of the directors will think to do anything about it. Unfortunately at that point the share price starts diving into a horrible spiral from which many companies fail to recover.

 

The profit motive itself can be damaging to further profit. 

 

The biggest profits are those being made by banks and utilities, the two most hated types of organisation must be the same.  A lot of people are moving to building societies to escape the first, entire towns are going solar to escape the second. 

 

Goodwill can be difficult to get.  Obtaining new customers is traditionally reckoned to cost about five times as much as retaining old customers. At present though we are in the middle of a worldwide, highly publicised financial crisis. In addition to this we are more connected than ever.  People don’t even get out of bed before they have read the concerns of their friends and acquaintances.  Many of those concerns are about greedy companies, greedy politicians, corporate mismanagement, environmental disaster, extinction, etc.  Goodwill is rapidly ebbing, bad will is snowballing.  Groups manage to gather hundreds and thousands of signatures on anti corporate petitions in a matter of hours.  Perhaps these petitions aren’t as effective as the public are hoping, but how long will the public put up with that before upping their game.

 

This might all sound like bad news and negativity but many of the greatest entrepreneurs do not recognise such a thing as bad news, only untapped opportunity.  When people turn away from one paradigm in droves, they turn towards another.  Apple’s Tim Cooke recently told his shareholders that if they didn’t like Apple’s decisions then they had the option to sell their shares.  This was reported as being in reaction to disgruntlement over maintaining environmental standards that were not reflected in profit.  Tim said that Apple did not use profit as its main motivation.  In my opinion he meant that Apple did not use short term profit as its main motivation.  The respect he gained by making the statement will translate to future sales.

 

The only way to succeed in a competitive market is to stay one step ahead of the competition.  This is easily done in the current business environment.  Where there are a huge number of disgruntled customers the obvious course of action is to give them what they want.  The big reveal is that this isn’t being done because companies don’t know what they want; worse, they think they do know.  It is in general a race to the bottom in prices. In corporate philosophy this is the best method to ensure continually increasing profits.  That is not what the people ultimately want though.  Whilst it is easy to sell things when they are cheap and often things are horribly overpriced, there are other concerns about which people are bothered. The whole conspicuous consumption thing is built into us by our evolution but that does not mean it is beneficial for us in the modern world.  Some trees will keep growing taller until they collapse under their own weight when they are put in an indoor environment.  We will keep handing over cash for junk as long as it is at a good price because we have the built-in desire to consume and compete.  We are as likely to destroy ourselves as the tree because our evolutionary urges use as little thought as the tree despite our ability to think.

 

We are only just beginning to think at a wider angle.  We are only just beginning to focus in the long term.  This is a great opportunity for business because a broad field is about to open in which the fallen behemoths of the corporate world will lie, destroyed by their inability to adapt with the same flexibility as their customers.  When the public are unhappy then it is obvious their desires are not being met.  Wherever businesses are thinking about how to protect their future they should realise that if they have something people want then they are going to be in demand.   What people are now concerned about begins at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs; their safety is paramount, they need a healthy environment to live in; their family is important, they need to leave a world for their children; their health is important, they are beginning to learn that so many substances developed in recent years are damaging to health; their egos are important; they don’t wish to see that they are on the bottom rung of the social hierarchy while a minority sit in extravagant luxury at the top.  Ultimately their spiritual needs are of importance and these are not supplied by filling the world with Tarmac and burning the forests any more than any of their other needs.

 

If you think it is business as usual when the world is changing all around you and there is disgruntlement en masse then you are not going to be in business for long. If you learn to anticipate and recognise the turning of the tide before your competitors then you may be one of the heroes of the future world just as Henry Ford was one of the heroes of the past.  I am not going to patronise anyone by describing in easy to follow steps how to start a business for the changing world; some businesses will succeed and some will fail, the same as it has always been.  I just wish to point out that supply should meet demand and that the public is now demanding something that is being supplied by precious few entrepreneurs.  

Scrimping and Saving

 

 

I have had to start worrying about my money lately.  A couple of years ago I had a very well paid job that led to me living in a very expensive area with very high rent and spending a lot of money.  The problem was that my employer found the effect of paying out so much in wages was that he started to run out of money himself and my workplace closed down.  This left me in a similar position to my employer in that I started running out of money as well.  It was a little over a year ago that I found myself fairly penniless.  Luckily I managed to get a new job which may have been paying a lot less but was a job in which I could learn to organise myself.

 

During the last year I have been designing lessons in law most of the time and also doing some English teaching.  For the last few months they have had me working on a course of business skills.  It occurred to me that I am using a lot of brain power every day but I have not actually put all that much effort into escaping my financially disadvantaged situation.  This week I determined that I should put some more effort into trying to pull my finances together.  Luckily for me this is actually a lot easier than one would think.  It merely takes the effort of forming a plan and then following it through.

 

The first thing that I have had to do is take a look at the credit cards.  The banks kind of prompted me into this by offering me some interest free balance transfers.  The first bank to do so was Lloyds TSB.  They were willing to give me a substantial amount of Avios which unfortunately I could not get because I did not have enough space on my card to transfer the requisite amount of cash.  I ended up transferring as much as I could into interest free land.  Naturally there was a charge for this but luckily the charge is less than half what I will be saving by not having to pay interest for the next 6 months.  Shortly after taking this money off the more expensive card to put it into an interest free space the card from which I had removed the money offered me an interest free balance transfer as well.  I was unsure about this at first.  I wondered whether I would be transferring my already interest free money into an interest free account and paying the charge for nothing.  I found out that a new rule was introduced last year whereby a bank must always pay off the money that is attracting the highest interest rate in an account first.  So it seems that I would still have my interest free amount.

 

So I transferred an amount more than twice as large as my original transfer back into the account that I had just gone to so much trouble to remove debt from.  I may have paid quite a lot of money to do this shuffling but just like that I could look into the future of next year to see that I would have a couple of hundred pounds more in that time than I would have had if I had not made this effort.

 

Now I was started I realised that I should try and keep this momentum up.  What else could I save money on.  I checked my bank account and discovered that I was still paying insurance for the flat I moved out of over half a year ago.  I quickly put a stop to that.  I also discovered that my mobile broadband company was charging me not only for the contract I was currently using but also for the contract that I used to have before this one.  I have sent them an email and demanded that they stop doing so.   This got me to thinking that maybe I can save even more on mobile broadband.  At present my bill comes to over £30.  I realised I can combine them both into one with the 3 one plan which comes in about £7 – £8 cheaper.  Not only that but I could also get further discounts on that.  I went to a site:  http://www.topcashback.co.uk/ref/harrymonmouth .  At top cash back it is possible to get £100 cash back when you take out a contract with three.  So not only can I save money by taking out a new contract but I can also get paid to save money, thereby saving even more money.  The reason I have posted the link here is that as a member they will actually pay me to bring in more members.  Don’t worry it is a legitimate service, I have received £80 from them for taking out another very competitive SIM contract from o2 a few years ago

 

Following this I thought I must be able to go further.  The website:  www.moneysavingexpert.com has a huge number of money saving tips.  I decided that I should spend my reading time looking through that site and picking up tips.  For several years now I have been living on bargains and cheap deals without really putting in the effort but I have still been able to live above my means just through the luck of finding good deals.  I decided that I would start using the websites in an effort to find even better deals.

 

I have just been on to the Tesco website and bought my shopping from there.  Naturally I am far from being the only person to do so.  Tesco has a thriving online business but how many people do not realise how easy it is to save money there.  I skimmed though all the multibuy offers and half price deals and built up an amount of shopping so huge that it would have taken me 6-8 hours of shopping to get as there is no way I could carry it all on the bus in one go.  All those bus fares were reduced to only £3 for delivery for the cheapest slot.  After I had done a Google search for Tesco coupons I found a code that reduced the already low figure I had to pay by £10 again.

 

Of course I can’t escape spending money as much as I would wish.  For this last week I have been traveling an hour later from work and saving £20 a month just from the lower off peak fare.  The method I have been using to ensure I reach the tube station late enough for this discounted rate is by saving more than £20 per month again by walking to the station.  All the same I would like to be back on my bicycle soon but unfortunately the British Heart Foundation ride has left me with a repair bill of well over £100 for the bike.  Naturally I have been seeking lower prices again to do the repairs.  The trick is to not simply accept that the place you go for cheap prices is the cheapest place.  Normally I always look on ebay for cheap prices but surprisingly a lot of the things on ebay are not actually all that cheap.  Wiggle has always been a favourite for finding cheap sports equipment in the past but I have discovered that some of the best prices available are on Chain Reaction Cycles.

 

I am actually enjoying the efforts I am putting into saving money.  Adding myself to a lot of mailing lists that many people would think of as being spam sites is actually proving to be quite helpful.  My efforts are probably quite amateur compared to many money savers out there but even before I started this I was saving huge amounts of money compared to the people whom I meet every day.  I am going to put effort into this because I think that saving money is far easier than people imagine.  I still wish to sell off a lot of my belongings simply because they are cluttering my home but I am not all that sure that I actually need to sell these things off.  Now that I am actually trying I am quite surprised by how much money I have managed to save in just the last week already.

.  At top cash back it is possible to get £100 cash back when you take out a contract with three.  So not only can I save money by taking out a new contract but I can also get paid to save money, thereby saving even more money.  The reason I have posted the link here is that as a member they will actually pay me to bring in more members.  Don’t worry it is a legitimate service, I have received £80 from them for taking out another very competitive SIM contract from o2 a few years ago

 

Following this I thought I must be able to go further.  The website:  www.moneysavingexpert.com has a huge number of money saving tips.  I decided that I should spend my reading time looking through that site and picking up tips.  For several years now I have been living on bargains and cheap deals without really putting in the effort but I have still been able to live above my means just through the luck of finding good deals.  I decided that I would start using the websites in an effort to find even better deals.

 

I have just been on to the Tesco website and bought my shopping from there.  Naturally I am far from being the only person to do so.  Tesco has a thriving online business but how many people do not realise how easy it is to save money there.  I skimmed though all the multibuy offers and half price deals and built up an amount of shopping so huge that it would have taken me 6-8 hours of shopping to get as there is no way I could carry it all on the bus in one go.  All those bus fares were reduced to only £3 for delivery for the cheapest slot.  After I had done a Google search for Tesco coupons I found a code that reduced the already low figure I had to pay by £10 again.

 

Of course I can’t escape spending money as much as I would wish.  For this last week I have been traveling an hour later from work and saving £20 a month just from the lower off peak fare.  The method I have been using to ensure I reach the tube station late enough for this discounted rate is by saving more than £20 per month again by walking to the station.  All the same I would like to be back on my bicycle soon but unfortunately the British Heart Foundation ride has left me with a repair bill of well over £100 for the bike.  Naturally I have been seeking lower prices again to do the repairs.  The trick is to not simply accept that the place you go for cheap prices is the cheapest place.  Normally I always look on ebay for cheap prices but surprisingly a lot of the things on ebay are not actually all that cheap.  Wiggle has always been a favourite for finding cheap sports equipment in the past but I have discovered that some of the best prices available are on Chain Reaction Cycles.

 

I am actually enjoying the efforts I am putting into saving money.  Adding myself to a lot of mailing lists that many people would think of as being spam sites is actually proving to be quite helpful.  My efforts are probably quite amateur compared to many money savers out there but even before I started this I was saving huge amounts of money compared to the people whom I meet every day.  I am going to put effort into this because I think that saving money is far easier than people imagine.  I still wish to sell off a lot of my belongings simply because they are cluttering my home but I am not all that sure that I actually need to sell these things off.  Now that I am actually trying I am quite surprised by how much money I have managed to save in just the last week already.