Take the plunge and cancel direct debits

I once had a gym membership. It cost me about £60 a month. I did make an effort to go swimming a couple of times a week but to be honest the decision to ditch the gym was one of my better ideas. Firstly, swimming doesn’t make you lose weight – there were some really enormous people swimming loads of...
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Now zero-hours contract staff can get a mortgage

The days of everyone of working age being an employee has long gone. I spent years as an employee and while I miss the regular income, the holiday pay, sickness benefit and pension scheme (not to mention the gossip in the ladies’ loo, which at one newspaper I worked out was usually full of women cry...
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Feeling ill? Time to write a will

One thing no-one tells you about being a parent is that you'll get every illness your child picks up at school – but you'll have it much worse than they do. While the boy suffered for a day at most with the latest sickness bug doing the rounds, I’ve now had it for three days. Obviously I know it’s n...
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Pets: an expensive hobby

Cruft’s Dog Show is on at the moment. It’s the most unintentionally funny programme on TV (hidden away on More 4 or somewhere) what with bouffant-ed poodles, eccentric owners and dancing dogs - seriously. I love dogs but, despite living in the country and needing the dog walking exercise, I'm not go...
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What the Budget means for skinted and minted mums

Both Minted and I bear the scars of years of doing Budget Day reporting at national newspapers: frankly usually a long, boring day interspersed with panicked ring-arounds tracking down someone – anyone – affected by whatever obscure measure the Chancellor of the day has thrown into the mix unexpecte...
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Email scam from the taxman – and the DVLA

  Here’s a surprise. Another week, another two scams. The first is a text message urging me to phone the DVLA as a matter of urgency: yeah, right. The second claimed to be from HMRC. Headed ‘pending tax repayment’ it said in rather clunky English than I was ‘eligible to receive a tax refund of ...
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Good housekeeping? Try good bookkeeping.

I’m sure you saw the story this week in which Good Housekeeping magazine named the household tasks you should do and at what frequencies: so, wash up every day, clean the bath once a week etc. There have been plenty of predictable comments – along the line of ‘I’m too busy/bohemian/intellectual to b...
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Free childcare – is it child’s play?

It’s been many years since my son was an ankle biter and needed childcare. But I can still feel pent-up anger from the experience. Once he started (state) nursery school at three, all I needed was a few hours’ care a day to meet the gap between the end of nursery and my getting home from work. Yet I...
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Keep PIN away from your partner for happy marriage

Following on from my tussle with the cybercrooks last week, my bank account is now safe (fingers crossed) as is everything else (toes crossed). I’ve changed passwords and PINs. I’ve told the boy he is never going to be able to buy any Fifa points on the tablet ever again. Then I tried a modest onlin...
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The politics of a birthday party: it's not child's play

Here’s this week’s moral dilemma. The boy is 11 next month. Last year he didn’t have a party. This year he wants one. I am in denial about this as although obviously I know when his birthday is (I was there, after all) it has kind of crept up on me this year. Also, I had hoped he had grown out of th...
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Cyber crime: now I'm a victim

Three days ago, I got an odd email. It looked like the usual iTunes bill – but it was for a monthly subscription to a pre-school games site that we have never had. So I contacted Apple and it said there was no such transaction and not to worry. The dodgy email didn’t have a click through on it and I...
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If the NHS is sick, do I need medical insurance?

Ask Britons what they are proud of and what beats the Queen, the beautiful countryside/heritage? The good old NHS. But this national treasure is crumbling, the victim of years of badly applied sticking plasters rather than proper investment. The BBC (another institution loved by Britons but less so ...
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Premium bonds: worth a punt?

National Savings & Investments, the government’s own savings bank, is safe, steady and unexciting. Correct? Well, possibly – that is, unless you’ve got Premium Bonds. Think: you could win £1 million! And you don’t need to risk your stake – you can get your money back at any time. What could poss...
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Saving on energy bills: it's an obsession

Obviously I have too much time on my hands but I’ve become somewhat obsessed with a little gizmo. When my smart meter was fitted last year the nice man who did it gave me this gadget which shows how much gas and electricity we're using. It sets a daily target which is 10% below the level it was last...
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Good grief: not a change for the better

I was widowed nearly eight years ago when our son was just three. Yes, tragic, I know. I’m over it now – time, therapy and just plain getting on with it, really. When my husband died I got a Bereavement Payment from the government – £2,000. Sensibly it went towards the funeral. But what was more use...
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Free cash machine but for how long?

A bunch of banking bigwigs are having a pow-wow in London today – and what they decide could have a noticeable effect on my day-to-day finances. Here’s why. The special committee is discussing what are called interchange fees on cash machine withdrawals. These charges are levied on your bank every t...
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HSBC bank branch closures: why it matters

I think we’re getting another card shop: or maybe a hairdressers, charity shop or estate agents. Since we moved down here six years ago, the number of banks in the high street has halved. What was Barclays is now an estate agent and the old HSBC branch is empty: no doubt it will soon be selling scen...
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How to save money on birthday cards

The first three months of the year is peak kids’ birthdays down here. And, with birthdays, comes parties and with parties, massive expense for the parents of the party boy/girl. The cost for attendees’ parents is obviously less, but it can still mount up. For the first party of the year, I sneakily ...
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Brexit: the boy's got the blues

After ‘accidentally’ breaking the boy’s copy of Now 95, I can now listen to the Today programme on the school run. Having an angry Welshman harangue a politician keeps me on my toes on the country roads. And there’s an extra advantage: the 10 year old has by osmosis picked up a reasonable grasp of c...
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Snow joke: it's in my DNA

Two inches of snow: brilliant. Yes, our road is icy but I have a four wheel drive car. And the school is open. Shame I have to have heating on, but the cats sharpen their claws every time I approach the thermostat to turn it down. I do love cold weather. And now I know why: it’s in my genes Like mos...
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