How to give your family and your wallet a holiday

As the school holiday season approaches many of us turn our thoughts to warmer climes and getting away from it all. But with a long heatwave predicted for the UK how about holidaying here, supporting the UK economy and catch some good deals along the way. Some money bloggers reveal the best ways to save money for essentials or the treats!Trees and grassUse the Tourist Information UK website for ideas of where to go.

Booking

Emma Bradley from Mums Savvy Savings advises that as well as picking up the ‘phone to negotiate the best prices, we should book breaks away using cashback sites. For example, Topcashback* is currently giving up to 5% in cashback for Haven holidays and up to 6% for Park Holidays and up to 12% for hotel chains and booking sites. Andrew Young from Capital Matters goes further, advising that you shouldn’t just check comparison and cashback sites, but check your credit cards too. Amex, for example, offer quite generous cashback amounts on certain travel purchasing. And you can use this on top of normal comparison/cashback discounts if you just use the card and meet the requirements.

Other credit cards give cashback for any purchases too. Reward points for supermarket shopping and credit cards can be used to make huge savings on holiday flights, ferries and hotels.

Friends and Family

Family Budgeting blogger Becky Goddard-Hill believes you get the best of everything if you involve your friends around the country! Visiting and reciprocating will not just give you a meal and a room for the night but you get to catch up with old pals, introduce their kids to yours and find the best top tips for fun in the local area. Jane Wallace from Skinted Minted Mum chips in that you can share the babysitting and not have to pay for the service! She adds “Relatives are good for this too. If children have friends on site it makes rainy days less boring and less expensive finding something to do.”

If you normally buy each other Christmas presents then use the visits to include meals out, tickets etc. which can be part of the holiday but can also be your Christmas present giving sorted!

Hotels/Guest houses

Lady Janey Jane Hanson provides some crafty ways for saving even after paying for a hotel. “Take your own champagne/alcohol miniatures/chocolates/cakes and balloons for any special occasions. These types of things are so expensive when the hotel provides them. The same with breakfasts. If you have to pay extra for breakfast, try to take your own juices, pasties, cereal pots or bars and fruit, especially if just staying overnight.”

Michelle Bailey from Time and Pence adds “Take an electric coolbox to keep in your room. Perfect to keep snacks and drinks fresh and cool and will save you a fortune!”

If you get complimentary toiletries and don’t use them, take them, as they are provided as part of your stay! You can always donate them to a foodbank or charity.Tress small tentHow to prevent problems when booking a holiday let (plus what to do when things go wrong)

Be prepared and do your research

Jennifer Dixon from My Mummy Pennies suggests you “Check out the local council website for the area in which you’ll be staying. They will usually list free events and activities that you can attend with the children rather than paying out for theme parks and attractions.”

Ask around and search the Internet for forums, reviews and recommendations for lesser known and cheaper alternatives to popular destinations such as Center Parcs.

Travelling

Kaya La Roche from the artfully named Earning by the Sea lives in Margate and often takes the family on a camping holiday in Whitstable which is less than 20 miles away! “Why spend your time travelling when you can spend that time enjoying the change of scenery?”, she questions, continuing “Other people holiday in Whitstable why shouldn’t we?! We get a swimming pool, clubhouse, beautiful beaches and the full holiday experience with none of the travel costs, or long travel times in the car with kids!”

The Money Whisperer Emma Maslin loads up the car with items to save money on holidays. She has a plug-in coolbox for picnics, takes disposable BBQs and loads the bikes on the bike rack, so there are no hire costs when they get there. She takes an inflatable dinghy, boogie boards and sandcastle-making equipment (!) so she doesn’t have the children pleading to buy things at the expensive beachfront shops.

Don’t forget to fill up the car with fuel near your home because service stations on motorways or in the countryside can be hugely more expensive! You can use the site Petrol Prices to plan where to fill up on long journeys.

Camping

Charlotte Jessop from Looking After Your Pennies and her family are big fans of camping. They choose camp sites that have access to lakes and rivers so they can swim, row and cycle with beautiful scenery. They go to sites where they are allowed to make fires, have barbecues and cook all their own food. “It all helps to keep the kids entertained AND the cost low”, she enthuses.

Hayley Muncey from Miss Many Pennies finds booking a lodge/holiday cottage/mobile home ideal. “It gives you more room for the kids to play, saves on eating out and you can also buy boxes of ice-creams to pop in the freezer. That way the kids still get the treat but for a fraction of the cost of buying individual ones!”

Your Money Sorted blogger Eileen Adamson agrees. “We have had some amazing, fun holidays staying in static caravans all over the country. Choose a gorgeous area and you have a fantastic base for exploring, and you can use as much or as little of the site’s facilities as you choose.”

House sitting/swappingHouse at top of picture, house at bottom "House sitting, swaps and other ideas for saving money on holidays

Catherine Morgan from The Money Panel got a weekend away last year in Norfolk by house swapping with another family. Catherine filled up their fridge and the house swappers filled up theirs in return.

Tim Mitchell who writes the Money Engineer, has house sat twice for his parents while they went on holiday. There were several National Trust owned places near them so they became NT members in those two years and so had lots of discounted days out.

Your rights

Well, it wouldn’t be my blog if I didn’t write something up on your rights would it?!

“You have a contract with any trader to whom you have given money. So, if you hire a caravan, book a campsite or hotel they must be as described, of satisfactory quality and where a service is provided, must be carried out with reasonable skill and care. The Consumer Rights Act 2015 gives you this protection. If the trader is in breach you will be entitled to a full or partial refund, depending on what went wrong.”

See All you need to know about booking/complaining about holidays/flights for more posts on how to save money on holidays and your rights.

Travelling abroad money saving tips

Complaining in hotels was covered on Rip Off Britain:

Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For information, stories, advice, consumer rights and template letters GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

 

* tell a friend link. So I’ll make a few pennies if you click on that link and sign up. Then you need to get your own link and make a few pennies when people sign up using your link!

 

 

How to make sure your wedding goes royally well…

The Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle takes place on Saturday 19th May.

We can be sure that there will be no shortage of people involved in the planning and that there will be no scrimping and saving to put on the wedding of the year. The wedding planning website Bridebook.co.uk puts the cost (without security and the honeymoon) at some £1,969,873. By comparison, the national average spend on a wedding is still a staggering £17,913.

What if you are planning to get married and you don’t have these resources but still want to reduce the risk of things going wrong, as well as ensuring you can get the best of what you can afford? Four  money bloggers and I take a look at how you can save money and make sure the big day still goes well.

You could take a leaf out of the royal couple’s book and invite people and tell them to bring their own food! (Those members of the public with a golden ticket). But perhaps more useful ideas are shared below.

Venue

Harry and Meghan will tie the knot on a Saturday at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, which is out of reach of the average bride and groom But Fiona Elizabeth Hawkes from the blog Savvy in Somerset provides some great tips on how you can still get married somewhere special.

 

  1. Try going for midweek or a Sunday service for a cheaper deal. Most weddings are booked for Saturdays and reserved over a year in advance, so family members shouldn’t get have trouble booking time off work that far ahead.church pews
  2. Alternatively, if you’re feeling brave, leave it right up until the last minute – venues often have massive discounts if you book 6-8 weeks in advance.
  3. Look for smaller quirky venues that don’t normally host weddings – there will be less of a premium than a regular venue.
  4. Have a celebrant or friend marry you on the day, rather than a vicar or registrar and do a cheap 2+2 ceremony at registry office before or after the big day.

Flowers 
photo of Emma Maslin

If your budget doesn’t quite bloom to involving floral bouquet creations from The Crown Estate and Windsor Great Park, Emma Maslin from The Money Whisperer has some suggestions:

 

  1. Ask your florist and venue about moving arrangements between the ceremony and the reception. For example, ceremony aisle ends can be tied to back of top table chairs, signing the register flowers can be used on the top table, etc.
  2. Consider where you want the most impact and focus the money there. If people are looking at the brides amazing bouquet they won’t care that the flower girls have wands wrapped in ribbon instead of their own bouquets.pink background strip 3 boxes variety of flowers boquets
  3. Seasonal flowers will be cheaper, so ask what is going to be in season for the date of your wedding, rather than going with your first choice of flowers.

The dress The name of Meghan’s dress designer is still under wraps, but Kaya La Roche from Earning by the Sea dismisses the need for you to fork out a huge sum of money for a dress you will only wear once. Here she suggests some ways you canbe stylish without the designer price tag:

 

  1. Buy a second-hand dress, you can get dresses that have never actually been worn if a wedding has been cancelled, and even if they have been worn it’s usually only once!)
  2. Ask family if there is one that can be handed down to you and add personal touches to make it your own.
  3. Buy a dress that wasn’t designed to be a traditional wedding dress from a boutique, as some beautiful designs are available at a fraction of the cost.

Catering
Harry, Meghan and guests will be tucking into something that most of us probably won’t even be able to pronounce, even less be able to afford. (Their cake is being made by Claire Ptak at Violet Bakery and prices on her website show a wedding cake for 150 people is £784.80. The royal wedding guest list is 4,040 people, tasty work if you can get it).

photo Faith Archer

 

But Faith Archer from the aptly named blog Much More With Less cooks up some ideas:

 

  1. Food and drink can be a massive part of your wedding budget. Think about what’s really important to you:fabulous food, in which case you might
    want to invite few guests to a more intimate wedding, or feeding hordes of friends and family in a lower cost way, with perhaps a buffet or hog roast.
  2. Get married late afternoon 3pm and focus funds on just one meal late afternoon rather than catering for lunch and early evening.
  3. If you aren’t bothered about a fancy wedding cake, get a local bakery to whip up a delicious cake and use fresh flowers to decorate it.
  4. Check with the venue if you can bring your own booze, as even if you pay corkage, it could work out cheaper.Tables of plates and glasses big plate in middle with salmon and dressing

Honeymoon
Save on any holiday! See Don’t get blue this Monday, get away from it all… 

Lots of other  money bloggers and I  joined forces to give you 15 tips on saving money when choosing and booking holidays! We look at turning the tables and playing the travel companies at their own game, so you can save money when you book your trip away whether here or abroad. Good huh?

Preventing Problems
I see a lot of people who have some bad memories of what should have been the best day of their lives. Whilst you may want to save money, be careful of how you do it:

  1. It may be tempting to ask a friend to take your wedding photos or make your cake but that could quickly give rise to problems. Will you get your money back if something goes wrong with the cake? What will happen to the friendship if the photos are shaky and blurred?
  2. Don’t rely on review sites, including those on social media sites, they could all be false. Try and get personal recommendations of services where you can.
  3. Discuss in detail what you want and what can be provided with service/product providers. Put ALL agreements in writing. Deadlines, costs, detailed descriptions and even a picture (such as for a cake), if appropriate.

wedding cake groom and bride with white frill round them flower either side

  1. Your rights
    What if you have done absolutely everything possible to prepare for the big day but something still goes wrong? I’m on hand to ensure that you don’t get fobbed off!
  1. Under the Consumer Rights Act you are entitled to services carried out with reasonable skill and care. So, if your hairdresser cancels or the cars are motorbikes, you can claim redress and, if applicable, any consequential loss. (e.g. having to pay extra for another caterer, etc).
  2. Under this Act, all products must be as described, of satisfactory quality and free from faults. So, if your cake was burnt or half the flowers were dead you can claim a partial or full refund, depending on whether you still used them.
  3. Collate your evidence. Take photos or video, and include this with details of what was agreed compared to what happened. Put your complaint in writing, being assertive but polite.
  4. Be objective, set a deadline for when you expect a response and what you will do if you not receive an acceptable response, such as going to the Small Claims Court.

Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

If you do have any issues with good or services see Top 20 Tips on how to complain effectively.

Get the book How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

 

I’m taking part in the Monday Money linky with Lynn from Mrs Mummy PennyFaith from Much More With Less and Emma from EmmaDrew.Info go see them for more money saving ideas!

 

 

Government and regulators continue to fail on resolving consumer disputes

The Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) system for resolving consumer complaints is broken and in danger of collapse. This is one of the conclusions of a damning new report released today. The report reveals that Government bodies have not heeded the warnings of an earlier report and that regulators have been complicit in making the situation even worse.

Ombudsman Omnishambles The UK ADR landscape 20 months on...The report, “More Ombudsman Omnishambles – 20 months on“, written by consumer campaigners Helen Dewdney and Marcus Williamson, follows on from their June 2016 report that exposed serious failings in the UK ADR system.

The original report highlighted the failings of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Ombudsman Association (OA) in their approvals and oversight of organisations providing alternative dispute resolution for consumers and business.

In February 2018 the Government announced that it was seeking to reduce the number of ADR providers in property to one because of consumer confusion. Despite this, the CTSI continues to approve providers in all sectors, significantly complicating the situation for consumers. For example, South Yorkshire Trading Standards and Kent County Council have already been approved for ADR in retail sectors which are already well covered. In addition, the CTSI is failing to deal with one particular provider which was previously known as The Retail Ombudsman (Consumer Dispute Resolution Limited) and which continues to provide ADR services in a variety of sectors. (RetailADR, AviationADR, UtilitiesADR, CommsADR)

The report demonstrates how the CTSI and the CAA are not verifying information given by providers in their annual reports and in the media. In order for an ADR provider to be an Ombudsman, it must meet certain standards and be a member of the Ombudsman Association. The report highlights that the Ombudsman Association has higher standards for approving an ADR provider (see minutes in report). These include not accepting organisations which have poor governance and corporate control and which provide misleading information.

The authors of both reports, Marcus Williamson and Helen Dewdney, are appalled at what they have discovered during this research. Dewdney says “Consumers are confused by the whole ADR sector. Public money – and consumers’ time – is being wasted because of inadequate monitoring and the approval of organisations which shouldn’t be providing services to the public or which simply aren’t necessary.”

The new report makes a total of 13 recommendations. These include:

· ADR providers should all work towards the higher “Ombudsman” status.
· There should be no new entrants to an ADR sector which already has a
well-established and properly functioning scheme.
· Approval bodies should have access to case management systems to check figures
as part of annual reviews.
· Reviews and reports by ADR providers should all be verified by a chartered
statistician.
· There should be a central portal which signposts consumers to the correct ADR
scheme, funded by the schemes, to reduce confusion for consumers.More Ombudsman Omnishambles crowds of people

About the authors
Helen Dewdney is “The Complaining Cow”, a consumer campaigner, author and broadcaster who blogs here http://www.thecomplainingcow.co.uk She is the author of the consumer advice book How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! 

Marcus Williamson is a journalist and campaigner with a background in the Information Technology sector. In 2010 he established the website http://CEOemail.com which now helps more than 10,000 people every day to resolve consumer issues by escalating them to the individuals who can make a difference, the CEOs and MDs of companies and other organisations.

Credit card fee changes: The hidden impact on small businesses & consumers

Press release

Companies will no longer be able to charge fees for using credit cards, following the implementation of a new EU directive.

credit card twiddlytwaddlytwoo.co.uk

Since April 2013 traders have not been able to charge consumers fees that exceed the cost for using a particular method of payment. However, from 13 January 2018 companies will no longer be able to charge any fees for the use of credit or debit cards. This includes payment methods such as Apple Pay and PayPal, too. The change also applies to Government departments and local councils. So, for example, DVLA will no longer charge you a fee for paying by credit card when you renew your road tax.

(Be aware though, that although the Law covers the EU and therefore there should be no charges for credit card payments anywhere within it, the UK Government extended it to Paypal etc. So if using PayPal or similar then you will need to check with the country as to whether they also applied this extension.

Is this good news for consumers? Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results! thinks so. (That’s me that is).

She asks “Who isn’t annoyed when they have to pay a fee for paying for their car tax or to Ryanair for booking their flight?” Dewdney is emphatic that traders have had long enough to know this change has been coming to be able to plan and not pass increases in costs to consumers. “That goes for those Government departments, too, so there should certainly not be an increase in council tax fees and road tax to cover the supposed ‘loss’, thank you very much!”

She adds “Used wisely, many people pay by credit cards to defer payment and also to get cashback rewards!”

Scrapping the credit card payment charge on picture of card reader

However, not everyone welcomes the changes. David Taylor, who blogs at Thinking Thrifty and runs a café, fears that with no charge it’ll encourage card payments even further for really small amounts. He is considering not taking credit card payments any more, admitting that he will lose some custom “but if that custom is making me a loss, ironically, I can’t afford the custom anyway.”

The Federation of Small Businesses believes that David is not alone saying “many small firms will struggle to absorb the costs associated with card payments”.

Not all small businesses agree though:

Richard Allen of Reflections Detailing – a car restorer – has never charged a fee for using credit cards. He says “It’s just a cost of doing business and in the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty small cost. I didn’t know it was coming though. But actually it costs me more to handle cash in any case!” He notes that credit card transactions incur a fee of 2.389%, debit card transactions 0.495% and cash 2%. Every card transaction also has a 5p authorisation fee. No company ever charged for handling cash!”

Then there’s places like Just Each which had a 50p credit card  charge. They have had to scrap that and have introduced a 50p service charge for all transactions. Keep and eye out for those and come back here and tell us so we can have a rogue’s gallery!

The Taxman cometh
The HMRC has received criticism for abolishing credit card payments. A spokesperson for the HMRC said “We will no longer be accepting personal credit card payments from 13 January as new rules mean that we can no longer pass on what our bank charge for processing a credit card payment. It would be unfair to expect other taxpayers to pick up this cost. There are a range of ways for people to pay us depending on the type of tax being paid, including debit cards, Direct Debit, Faster Payment and BACS.”

Dewdney believes that people should put money aside as they earn it to pay their tax. “However”, she argues, “for some people less able to plan financially, or who suddenly find themselves in a difficult financial situation, the short notice (announced a few weeks before Christmas and nowhere on the HMRC website) will be very unhelpful.”

If you are struggling to pay your tax see Debt Camel’s 10 things you should know if you can’t pay your tax bill

Open banking changes
The arguments for and against the banning of charges are only part of the bigger picture. The ban comes in on the same day as the introduction of Open Banking which could potentially bring greater benefits for consumers.

Sara Williams is a Citizen’s Advice advisor and UK Money Blogger of the Year 2017 for Debt Camel, covering debt and credit ratings. She says that large retailers may try to bypass the current payment mechanisms and provide payment apps directly to customers. “Getting rid of charges for using cards will be generally good for consumers.” But she warns consumers to “Look out for side-effects. Card companies may reduce their charges to business and cash back credit cards may disappear as a result.”

Seen a business charging the fee?
Complain! Obviously! Write in the first instance claiming the fee back if you have already paid it. Use the Top 20 Tips for effective complaining. You can also report the company to Trading Standards and let us know about in the comments below too!

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

For more information, guidance, advice, tips and templates on complaining effectively GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!

What to do with the ghost of Christmas Present?

Have you received an unwanted present? What do you do now?

See Christmas presents, returns – your rights.  If you can’t ask the present giver for the receipt, or you don’t know where the item was bought and there is no way of returning the item you got for Christmas, what can you do with it?

Four money bloggers take a look at what you could do:

Helen Dewdney

 

Helen Dewdney The Complaining Cow and author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide (that’s me that is!)

 

photo of Faith Archer

 

 

Faith Archer of Much More with Less

 

photo of Emily

 

Emily Rowley of A Thrifty Fox

 

 

photo of Hollie

 

Hollie Gregersen of Thrifty Mum

 

 

1) Regift – we bloggers say first, of course! But make a note of who gave it to you, so you don’t give it back! (Although my mother once gave a little book of friendship to someone. She even handwrote a message on the first page. the woman gave the book back to her with the page torn out! I kid you not!) Keep them with the bargains that you buy throughout the year as gifts for various people and events!

2) Recycle – (e.g. clothes bank) they also suggest.

3) Donate to charity – I like to donate unwanted items and there’s more than the obvious charity shop. Towels, duvets and bed linen can be donated to a homeless charity or pet rescue (many places won’t take duvets but pet rescues will take for making into dog beds!) Look at Freecycle too. There are 5,314 groups with 9,140,031 members around the world, and local to you. Run by volunteers it enables people to donate to local people who will give your item a loving home and keep things out of landfill as people find different uses for similar items!

4) Fundraisers – Donate for a tombola or raffle, such as your child’s school. All PTAs welcome good raffle prizes! If there are lots of small gifts suitable for children, consider keeping them for next year and making up a box for next year’s shoebox appeal.

5) Foodbanks – If not Christmassy and has a good “eat by” date on it, give to your local foodbank. Many are grateful for toiletries too. And don’t forget to donate to the foodbank throughout the year. Ideas of how to help at very low cost here.

6) Upcycle – Faith suggests using hampers as very useful storage boxes or bins, as examples.

7) Sell – Faith also recommends selling on auction sites or car boot as the item is, or upcycled to make more money! And to sell free of charges, try a garage sale, Facebook Marketplace/local groups or Gumtree. Zeek (that’s an affiliate link so if you use it and register at no cost then you and I should both get a payment!) is a marketplace website/app where gift cards can be bought and sold.  Sellers can set their own price and the bigger the discount, the faster the voucher sells. See Looking a Gift Card in the mouth? for more information about gift cards and what to look out for.

8) Rent – Faith adds that renting is growing in popularity. Some people are now hiring out a range of things, such as baby items, power tools and clothes. Look into doing it yourself or join in with existing budding entrepreneurs!

9) Council – Emma advises checking with your local council social services department, as many will redistribute toys to a toy library or homeware to a family in need.

10) Swap or swish – These are great, enthuses Hollie! This is where you can take good condition clothes and jewellery and swap. Organise an event yourself or search online to find a local one. Multi Coloured Swap Shop is back for adults!

Another idea: Perhaps this year is the year that you have a chat with people about reducing the present buying next time?!