It pays to keep informed – my new best friend Martin, and the 365 day penny challenge!

Apparently today Sun 17th Jan is also known as ‘Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day’ because of the number of people who give up on their good intentions at this point in January. I’m pleased to report that I’m still feeling hugely motivated about taking control of my finances, and for that I’m giving at least partial credit to this blog. Somehow the process of writing is an incentive in itself and, combined with the knowledge that I will be writing again in a week, I’m in effect giving myself a series of short weekly deadlines.

Martin’s Money Tips – get signed up!

Since my decision to properly start taking control of my money a whole two weeks ago, I have signed up to receive emails from a small number of finance blogs. One of these is ‘Martin’s Money Tips’, Martin being Martin Lewis from I’ve used the site before, and have seen him on TV giving advice about different finance topics. He’s probably the closest we have to a personal finance ‘celebrity’ in the UK, if such a thing exists!  However, despite his high profile, it’s only now I’ve had any interest in signing up to receive yet more email into my inbox. However, I have seen the light! In just two emails, I’m better off financially.

Martin part 1… Talk Talk

His first email I read late on a Wednesday, when I discovered that the deadline for Talk Talk customers to claim a free upgrade due to last year’s cyber-attack had been extended until …the very next day! You would think being a Talk Talk customer that I would have known about the free upgrade, but you would be wrong. A late-night scramble to find my Talk Talk paperwork (I have discovered I don’t seem to have hardly any), and to log into my account online (unable to do so because the customer account part of the site is still down, also I couldn’t find user names or passwords), is evidence that I’m not quite as organised as I need to be. Fortunately, I was able to ring the next day, the very last day it was on offer, to pick my free upgrade, and I am now the happy owner of free mobile calls from my landline for the next year. I have absolutely no idea at present how much of a saving this is, as their I can’t yet view any of my bills online. But I’m thrilled to bits that following just one phone call I have saved myself some money for the rest of the year.

Martin part 2…Barclays

Imagine my joy when, as a Barclays’ customer, I read about Barclays’ Blue Rewards scheme in Martin’s second email! You pay £3 per month, and so long as you meet certain criteria – you bank online / by mobile with them, have £800 paid into your account each month, and have a minimum of 2 direct debits per month coming out of the account – they give you £7 per month. So they’re basically giving you £4 per month, along with rewards such as discounts for shopping online with particular retailers. Martin was highlighting the fact that if you sign up to the scheme before the end of January Barclays are offering double rewards for the month. I hunted through the terms and conditions, you can cancel at any point, and there don’t seem to be any catches. So although I worry banks might be able to use customer numbers for reward schemes like this as evidence that we would accept the end of free personal banking, it also seems silly to turn down earning £48 a year (and £55 for me this year as I’ll get the extra £7 for double-rewards January) on my no-interest paying current account.

The 365-day penny challenge

Forgetting about my new best friend Martin for a moment, I also heard this week of the 365-day penny challenge. It seems it’s been around for a few years now, and the idea is to save increasing penny amounts on a daily basis, starting with 1p on 1 Jan, and increasing by a penny every day. So you save 2p on 2 Jan, 3p on 3 Jan and so on…and this builds up to a whopping £671.61 over the course of this year!  Thinking back to last week’s blog, this could be a fantastic way of saving up for Xmas. There is a great website I’ve discovered called The Skint Dad Blog which has an excellent pdf calendar for you to print off showing exactly how much to save each day, including a reverse version where you start with the expensive week (it would be £25.41 in the last week of December for example) and work towards the cheapest week at Xmas.  My husband who always has lots of loose change has decided to try this, but I’m going to wait until the end of my frugal January. Once I’ve properly worked out what sort of a budget I could realistically expect to stick to over the year, hopefully I’ll find that I can save a regular amount each month, alongside maybe some spare coins too.

Keep informed

Signing up for the email newsletters, and starting to look around for ideas from other people, has shown me a couple of things. Firstly, that you can’t rely on the companies themselves to notify you of their best offers and deals. Secondly, that I probably haven’t been paying attention, even if they do! It might have been luck that both of Martin’s emails happened to contain information that was relevant to me, and I might find that I read lots more before another one is as useful. However, it’s only because I’ve started to actively think about my money that I think the information actually registered with me, and more importantly that I decided to look into the offers in more detail and do something about it.

I feel totally chuffed that in just a couple of weeks I’ve in effect earned myself £55 this year from my current account, and have saved myself an as-yet-unknown amount of money from my landline calls to mobiles.

So get yourself signed up for Martin’s Money Tips if you’re not already, and start paying attention to news around you that is relevant to your finances.

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