You’re a successful blogger, how do you do it and what do you blog about?
I blog about debt and credit ratings, posting two or three articles a week. I cover general debt / budgeting advice for people with money problems or questions. I also look at what’s new and changing in the debt advice world – those articles are mainly of interest to other debt advisers.
Why have you created your blog?
I am an adviser at Citizens Advice so this is a subject I am professionally qualified to write about. But my aim is for a personal approach, answering some of the real questions people have and talking about how making debt decisions isn’t easy – and to do this using plain English and a what I hope is a friendly, common sense approach.
How do you decide what to write about?
I have a list of debt topics I haven’t yet covered and once a month I try to tackle one of those to “fill in the gaps”. Last month that was gambling, which often causes big debt problems. But most of the ideas come from news stories and from reader’s questions. So when someone asked in a comment on a post if she could pay off her overdraft in instalments, I wrote a post answering it.
Top tips for saving money?
Meal plan, putting the meals where you need fresh food near the start of the week and having more store cupboard meals at the end. It only takes a few minutes to write out a list of for the week. That makes it quicker to shop as you know what you need. You never have to opt for a takeaway as you have the ingredients. And you waste less food. It doesn’t just save money, it also reduces your stress if you have a busy life.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Cooking, reading, walking my springer spaniel. My children are now 24 and 22, and it’s a real pleasure sharing a good meal with them.
How do you save money?
I try to avoid shopping and reading women’s magazines!
What financial mistakes do you think most people make?
When people end a contract, they don’t put this in writing and make sure they have paid the final amount.
This often happens if you move – you think you have paid the last water bill, but there may be another one, often very small, to finally end the account. And it’s very common when a mobile contract ends – you cancel your direct debit as you think you have paid it all. This may sound minor, but sometimes people find out later they have defaults or even a CCJ on their credit account, perhaps for a small amount of money but it can still wreck their mortgage application.
What’s the most extravagant thing you’ve ever bought?
I bought a new car a couple of years ago. I know how much you can save by buying a second hand one, but I hate everything to do with cars so I wanted the least chance of any problems for as long as possible. I kept my previous car for 14 years and I’m hoping this one lasts as long!
One bad financial habit you’d like to kick?
Leaving my tax form until the last day. It’s so stupid…
What’s in your wallet?
About £20 in cash. 1 debit card and two credit cards –an Amex card because of the good cashback but not all places take them so I have a second one. Loyalty cards: Sainsburys, my lovely local bakers. Driving license. National Trust membership card. A few shop receipts and posting receipts I can probably throw away.
So nothing very interesting! For years I kept a pressed eidelweiss (cue Sound of Music moment) given to me by an ex boyfriend, but that wallet was stolen 🙁
What does your ideal lifestyle does look like?
It would be nice to live in the countryside or by the sea. My dog would like a house with a large garden and a pond. But I’ve lived in central London for 30 years and this is where my roots are, so I don’t think I will be moving.
What is your most popular post to date?
That’s easy – I wrote a post in late 2015 about how people can ask for a refund of the interest they paid on payday loans, with a template letter to use. 18 months later thousands of people have done this and got a lot of money! Sometimes the lenders settle the complaint straight away, but if they don’t you can go to the Financial Ombudsman who is upholding many of these claims.