Tag Archives: Personal Finance

Send My Bag

5 Oct www.sendmybag.com

You probably know all too well just how much ‘stuff’ you can take to University with you.  Most people are dropped off to Uni for the first time by their parents in a packed car that just about survives the journey from home to halls.  By the time Christmas rolls around, the amount of possessions you have seems to have miraculously doubled (it’s never just books) and you have to decide what to take home for the holidays.  January exams looming means the text books are a must, then there are the clothes, laptop, Christmas gifts…the list goes on.  You bundle it all into various suitcases and duffel bags, catch a cab to the station and somehow manage to catch the train.  Of course this is where the nightmare really begins; multiple heavy bags + train changes + delays + the odd bit of rain + cramped train carriages definitely does NOT equal a happy student.  Even worse than having to catch the train home with all that luggage is of course having to fly home.  Not uncommon now as the cost of domestic flights plummet.  However, the cheap airlines usually charge a minimum of £20 per bag with a weight limit of 20kg.  Definitely not conducive to student packing or budgets!

Sound all too familiar?

There is now another way to move your kit at the beginning or end of the semester, the year or even when you graduate!

Send My Bag costs £22 per bag or box (£19.80 when you send 3 or more bags) with 30kgs weight allowance per item.   If you hold that elusive NUS Extra card or have a UCAS application card then you qualify for further discounts when you provide your card number.   So what do you get for your money?  It is a student courier service that does all the hard work for you.  You can order delivery for just 48 hours after collection to any address in the UK.  They will accept boxes or suitcases and even sell a packing kit if you need supplies.

So who can save money?  Although designed for students, it is open to everyone; according to the FAQs, customers are even using them to move house.  For what it is, a personal courier service, it is good value.  If you are flying then it is definitely going to be cheaper than paying airline baggage costs and then having the hassle of dealing with your luggage at the airport.  If you are getting the train then it may not save you money but it will save you hassle and valuable time.

A brand new service that the company offer is the storage facility. It’s common for new graduates to have a limbo period over the summer of their graduation when they need to move out of their student digs but haven’t started at a new job.  Send My Bag offers to store the luggage you wish to send for 2 months at a meer £20 on top of the £22 you pay to send it.  It only takes a glance at some of the other storage companies out there to know that this is a competitive rate.   This could also be used by EU and International students whilst they go home for the summer as a good way of avoiding excess storage costs and is definitely easier as you don’t have to take the boxes to the storage facility yourself.

We can see the benefit for both students, young professionals and home-movers alike from both a money- and time-saving perspective.  However we haven’t been able to test any of the services ourselves yet, we would really like to review the service properly for you so hopefully we can decide on something to send to someone (apparently we aren’t allowed to send the cat) and then we’ll give you a proper consumer review!  In the meantime, let us know if you have used the service and what you thought.

Love

CSM

Cheap Eats: The rise of the Farmers’ Market

24 Sep

Good Evening!

Cheap Eats is today looking at the often overlooked Farmers’ Market.   A great place to save money and to support local communities as well as picking up unbeatable fresh fruit and vegetables.  It wasn’t long ago that supermarkets weren’t the giants they have become and it was much more routine to grab your fresh produce from markets and greengrocers.  The rise of the supermarket chain has done well to put a lot of these places out of business but still some survive,  and most notably Community Farmers’ Markets are becoming more popular and popping up all over the UK.

These Markets are one of CSM’s favourite things because the produce you can buy at the markets is so fresh and so tasty.   You will never be able to eat watery supermarket strawberries again once you compare them with a punnet of fresh flavoursome strawberries grown a few miles from your house with none of the excess chemicals and a tiny carbon footprint!

Not only does the food taste amazing,  it is a much more economical way of buying your produce,  it invariably lasts longer and the stall holder is usually up for a bit of good old fashioned haggling on the price.   You can pick the fruit and vegetables up, there is no excess packaging and definitely no shrink-wrap plastic!  You’ll also be surprised at how fun it is to wander around a sunny market on a Saturday morning – the produce stalls aren’t all that’s on offer, you’ll find people selling fresh local meat, dairy products, homemade bread, local wines and sometimes stall holders may be local jewellery makers or other craftsmen.

These markets are definitely a good way to pick up some well priced food that is really good quality.   Our tip would be to head near the end of the day when stall holders will be wanting to get rid of the produce they have left, an even better time to put your bartering skills to the test!

Look out for farmers’ markets in your town or city in local newspapers and community boards.   Ask around, local knowledge is gold!   You can also search online for markets in your areas, they may be weekly, fortnightly or even monthly and it’s worth noting the dates in your diary so you don’t forget!   Don’t forget to take a strong bag to cart your purchases home!

Some Students’ Unions are now setting up their own Fruit and Vegetable Co-Operatives, like this one at Cardiff University.   For a few pounds a week, you can take home a massive bag of local hand-picked fruit and veg.  A bargain, and your shopping done for you? Bonus!

Let us know how you get on, and where the markets are in your city – we would like to create a list to share where the best markets are around the UK.

Most Universities have started Freshers’ Week now,  so if you have just moved to University or are returning for yet another year – good luck!! Enjoy,  and take advantage of the great student deals that are bound to be on at the moment.

Love

CSM

Cheap Eats: Chilli Con Carne CSM style!

17 Sep

Evenin’ all!

It’s been a busy Friday for Clever Student Money but don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten you lovely lot!

It’s Cheap Eats time:

This week we are talking about cooking big!  One of the best ways we save both time and money is by cooking more than one portion at a time.   Sound counter productive?  Let us explain…

We think the best thing when you get home from a long day of lectures is being able to throw a meal in the microwave and have it ready in minutes, but we hate ready-meals and takeaway food with a passion.   As well as being seriously nutritionally unhealthy they aren’t a good way to keep your finances looking healthy either!  So our simple solution is tupperware…if you think that sounds like something your Mum would like then bear with us and keep reading!

All it takes is a little planning, a little time and a few single portion sized tupperware boxes!   When you are at the supermarket, a great way of saving money in the long run is by looking out for ‘family’ or ‘big value’ packs of meat.  You can also get great value by buying frozen mince in large bags.  You can then get home, cook up a storm and freeze individual portions in those notorious tupperware boxes ready for whacking in the microwave for a couple of minutes when you get peckish.   This principle works for casseroles, stews, most sauces and savoury mince.   In fact, it applies to most dishes!

Here is one of our favourite recipes that is filling, cheap and relatively quick to make.  It’s also uber healthy, low fat, low salt and high in protein!

Clever Student Money’s yummy Chilli Con Carne:

Ingredients:

500g Beef or Lamb mince (try to pick up a lean variety), for even lower fat try Turkey mince.

2 onions

4 mushrooms

2 cloves of garlic

1 can kidney beans

2 cans of chopped tomatoes

2 beef OXO cubes

Chilli Powder (choose your heat!)

A good splash of Lea and Perrins.

Chop the onion and mushroom up, crush or chop the garlic cloves as finely as you can.

Get your wok or frying pan on the heat, you can use a drop of oil if it isn’t non-stick.

Chuck in the mince meat and sprinkle the OXO cubes over it, add a generous sprinkle of chilli powder – give it a good stir so it doesn’t stick to the bottom (nb. If it’s pre-frozen you can cook it from frozen), after a minute or so get the onions and garlic in there as well.

Once the meat has mostly browned off and the onions are softening, add the tomatoes, kidney beans and mushrooms. Keep stirring!

If it is looking a bit dry; then depending on your tastes add either another can of tomatoes or a cup of water. Both will work but it depends how rich you like your sauce!

Now is the time to add a good slug of Lea and Perrins, stir and then taste the sauce.  Need more chilli?  A little bit of sugar? Get creative!

You now want to leave the chilli to simmer for at least another 10 minutes – not boiling, just simmering.

Keep popping back to stir it and make sure the heat isn’t too high under the pan as you don’t want it to burn at the bottom.

Done?  That wasn’t that hard now was it?

Depending on your appetite this will do about 4 portions.  If it’s dinnertime then serve a portion with a Jacket Potato, Rice or Pasta and leave the rest in the pan to cool down.

If you don’t want to eat any of it straight away then you can either switch the heat off and leave the Chilli in the pan to cool down, or you can pour it into the individual plastic pots ready to go into the freezer.   You can even just pop one portion in the fridge for tomorrow!   Once the chilli has cooled down then put the lids on the tupperware tightly and stack them in the freezer.  If you haven’t got any spare tupperware then you can use freezer bags – just be sure to seal them tightly to avoid leaks!

When you are ready to enjoy your self-made ready meals then simply grab one of the pots out of the freezer and bung it in the microwave! Chuck the Chilli over some rice, pasta or a comforting jacket potato. If you have used freezer bags then you’ll need to take it out of the freezer and put it in the fridge in the morning before you head out of the door.

Follow these defrosting guidelines if you’re not sure of the safest way to do it.   We don’t want any of you getting food poisoning! Always make sure the food is piping hot before you eat it.

To adapt this recipe:

Throw in a handful of frozen veg such as peas or peppers.

Take out the kidney beans and chilli to leave a basic spaghetti bolognese recipe.

Serve with Tacos, Sour cream, Guacomole and some grated cheese for a good meal to share with friends.

We hope you enjoy this yummy recipe…see you back here soon!

Love

CSM

Delectable discounts: On the High Street

16 Sep

Why hello again!

Two posts in one day – aren’t you the lucky ones?

This week’s edition of Delectable Discounts is all about shopping on the high street.

Most lovely high street shops offer student discounts usually between 10 and 20%. Now there is no point in writing a definitive list of who does and doesn’t offer discounts on the high street as it is liable to change. However one of the key players who does permanently offer a student discount is the Arcadia Group (Topshop, Topman, Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Wallis and Evans), in fact they currently have a 20% student discount offer on. They accept any student ID card as proof and off you go with a nice saving on some new clothes! Other places that offer discounts include; La Senza, Warehouse, New Look, Peacocks, Waterstones, Schuh, Miss Sixty, Staples, Game, Dune, Benetton, Milletts, Blacks annnnd Subway. This isn’t an exhaustive list but hopefully it gives you a good idea of where you can save on the high street.

We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again – If you don’t ask, you don’t get! Especially with local shops and independent stores, many of which are now flooding the high street. As well as helping the local economy, you’ll usually find great deals and better discounts as well. We’ve got into the habit of always asking if they do a student discount when we go to pay as you never know when a shop might change their mind!

Some high street shops are now switching to only offering their student discount to those students who present them with an NUS Extra card. We will cover this in an additional post it is the time of year that many students will be weighing up the pros and cons of paying the £11 for one. Keep an eye out for that in the next week!

Enjoy all that cheaper shopping!

Love

CSM

Student Finance: BBC Radio 4 Money Box Live

16 Sep

Good morning campers!

How are we all?

We have a treat for you today, not one but two posts are coming your way!!  The usual Thursday scoop of Delectable Discounts will arrive later on this afternoon but first we have to point out a great radio programme that aired yesterday afternoon on BBC Radio 4.

Money Box Live is a phone-in programme hosted by Paul Lewis and looks at different financial issues every week.  About this time every year, they have a student finance special. Yesterday it was the hot topic and they had representatives from Student Finance England, Kingston University, Student Finance in Scotland and the NUS.

It proved to be an interesting listen, of course there were plenty of worried students and parents phoning in to talk to the SFE rep.  There was some good advice given and good points raised.

If you’ve got time over the next few days, we would recommend listening to the show.  It is available on BBC iPlayer to listen again.

Enjoy!

CSM

BBC News – Where does coalition stand on university funding?

15 Sep

BBC News – Where does coalition stand on university funding?.

Whilst this won’t affect us right now (remember the Lib Dems campaign trail…student fees to be abolished with immediate effect?), it is still important to think about what is going to happen.  Surely this broken system can’t survive much longer?

What are your thoughts?

CSM

Student Loan Saga: Update

14 Sep

Happy Tuesday all!

We have a present for you today…

The next installment in the Student Finance England statistics is now available to view online.

According to the statistics, 75% of the live applications are prepared for payment, leaving (they seem to have managed to add up to 100 this time) 21% of applications awaiting further evidence and 4% in the hands of SFE, LEAs or local authorities.

Official statistics – SFEngland.

However, having spoken to several dissatisfied students (new and returning), most of the 21% whose application seemingly rests in their own hands are banging their heads against the wall in frustration.  One new student, is now submitting her parents’ financial information for the 3rd time despite having an older sister in the system (3rd year student) whose application has been processed with no issues.  This new student’s mother has been told that she only has one daughter at University despite the elder daughter’s application recognising the financial information from both her parents and the SFE have repeatedly asked for information that has been sent in before, numerous times.  The two daughters share the same parents, the same home address and the same surname.  As this student is starting at University in a matter of weeks, it is difficult for her to feel relaxed about a situation that is entirely the fault of a disorganised SFE.

The SFE refuse to admit that the system has once again failed and is disorganised, time-wasting and stressful for students, and parents, who have so much to do at this time of year

It has been brought to the attention of Clever Student Money that most LEAs have far too many students to process with very few staff, due to having to fund this centralised system from cuts in their own budgets and reduced staffing, however all LEAs have managed to maintain quick turnarounds and push the information through to SFE central office.  As all LEAs are up to date with their applications despite the strains put on them, it raises the issue of the combined figures reported by the SFE as this would suggest that the 29% of applications still pending are actually with the central SFE office.

Clever Student Money have even been told that Student Finance England are in such a mess, they even called a “Red alert” meeting with representatives from The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills recently.  News of what this entailed or what they discussed hasn’t reached us yet – we’ll keep our ear to the ground for more information.  But this is definitely not what we want to hear a matter of weeks before the first installments of student loans are due.

Like in the case of the new student we mentioned earlier, there are repeated cases where documents are being lost by the central unit after being scanned.  Amazingly, Students have also been sent documents that they shouldn’t have received, the worst of which included a claim sheet from an SFE employee for 52 hours of overtime for the month of May.   When this was pointed out to Clever Student Money, the question was raised of why staff were required to do 52 hours of overtime in May if these problems are arising due to late student applicants like they claim?

One student commented on our our previous blog post to tell us that her friend has even had tuition fee loans confirmed for two separate universities!  Completely bonkers!

We will keep you all updated as we hear more, in the meantime don’t forget to let us know your horror stories of dealing with Student Finance England!

Good Luck!!

Love

CSM

Delectable student discounts!

9 Sep

We love love LOVE saving money and the easiest way of saving money as a student is by flashing that wonderful piece of plastic.  Of course, we aren’t talking about credit cards, store cards or even loyalty cards….we are of course talking about Student ID cards.

Student ID cards are usually distributed by every University during Freshers’ Week as part of enrolment.  Ours have a lovely picture of us on (not quite that lovely as it was the morning after the night before…!), our course, a ‘Valid until:’ date, the NUS logo and clever techie bits to allow us access to libraries and our departments at University.  That’s all very nice, but the best bit is what happens when you show that card at shops nationwide (and sometimes even internationally).

‘Do you do a student discount?’ is asked at every shop, cafe and entertainment facility we go to.  A lot of the time, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’.  More and more places are cottoning on to the fact that by offering lovely students enticing discounts, more of said students will be entering their establishment more regularly.  Hooray for us, and hooray for them.  Happy smiles all round.

This series of blog posts, hitting your computer screens every Thursday, will be highlighting key student discounts that you can get.  Some of them are permament, some are temporary.

To begin with, we’ve picked out a few that are going to help you over the next few weeks.

These are for those computer lovers among you.  Going to University is a classic time to buy a laptop or just upgrade one that you have already.  It’s an expensive thing to do, but luckily some retailers do offer great discounts if you can prove you are a student.

The big electrical stores aren’t much help when it comes to offering student discounts, however we have discovered it is always worthwhile asking even if a discount isn’t officially offered as a lot of Managers have a certain amount of discretionary discount they can use.

In our experience, we have had much better results using local and independent computer shops which have given us free software or money off the laptop itself.  Hunt around your local area, you’ll be surprised what deals you can find!  Also worth a try, is checking with your University to see if they have a computer shop or any exclusive discounts  for their students.

Our key mantra is ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get!’

Apple UK have an Educational Store which has some great offers on their products.  However you usually have to prove your eligibility by using your university email address.  If you are a fresher and haven’t yet received an official email, then it is usually the first thing the Uni sort out for you so don’t panic!

Microsoft also have a UK Educational Store which again, you have to prove your eligibility to use but it works much in the same way as the Apple Store.  You can currently get Windows 7 Professional for just £30.  Massive savings to be had there!

Dell and Sony both offer direct student deals as well.

Another tip to save money on that all important laptop is to buy refurbished models.  It’s a great way to guarantee you are getting value for money and usually find a lot of software is thrown in as well.

On the subject of software, check out OpenSource software as a great alternative to buying things like Microsoft Office.  There are hundreds of articles singing the praises of OpenSource software, so we won’t say much about it, just that it is definitely worthwhile thinking about using that instead of spending your cash on other brands.  We use OpenOffice and love it!

Right, that’s it for today.

Up tomorrow: Cheap Eats!

Love

CSM

Useful sites: Student finance at guardian.co.uk

6 Sep

The Guardian has a selection of great articles on it’s Student finance site at the moment.  Take a look at the link given below, the articles range from talking about budgeting through to living in shared accommodation.  Well worth a flick through and probably a good one to bookmark and come back to later as well!

Student finance | Money | guardian.co.uk.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a new article and a selection of great student discounts!

Love CSM

Student Loans saga

5 Sep

There hasn’t been a September for several years that has seen nothing in the media about the student loan scheme.  Every year something seems to go wrong, whether it is applications not being processed quickly, applications being given the wrong funding or worse of all, no funding turning up at all.

This year is no different.  Once again, there are thousands of students who have received wrong or no information about their student loans.  First year students whose parents have submitted financial information, only to be told that Student Finance England (the main culprits of the mistakes it seems) don’t have any record of the information being sent.  Returning students have had loans cut by over £1000 because details haven’t been processed, and generally all students are left with a uneasy feeling and no confidence that the money will be paid on time if at all.

The latest press release from Student Finance England reads as follows:

“STUDENT FINANCE ENGLAND APPLICATION PROGRESS UPDATE – 30 AUGUST 2010

We would like to assure students that processing at Student Finance England is going well this year. There have been some reports in the media claiming that large numbers of students will not receive their funding at the start of term. We would urge the media and public to refer to our official statistics, which shows that this is not the case:

The latest statistics are from 26 August and will be updated every fortnight.

The statistics show that we have processed the majority of applications and they are ready for payment once students register at university.

We have put in place a process to ensure that even students applying just before the start of term can get the majority of their money. These students must apply online, prove their eligibility with their passport number, return their signed declaration form, and then register and attend university.

For further information please contact the Student Loans Company press office: 0141 306 2120.”

The statistics say that of 877,000 live application for student finance for the year 2010/2011, 71% (877,000) have been cleared and processed for payment.  Another 25% (218,000)  are ‘awaiting further evidence or signature from the applicant’ and then they quote 5% (40,000) of the applications are ‘currently with Student Finance England’.

As direct quotes from the statistics they have released, you’ll be as amused as us to notice that adds up to 101%.  Good omen? We don’t think so.

However, for 30% of the students who have applied for student finance, the applications have not been processed fully.  Without data about when these applications were made, we can’t comment fully on the productivity or competence of Student Finance England.  We don’t think it looks good that 2 weeks before most Freshers will be moving into their new University Accommodation, nearly a third of students don’t have guaranteed funding.

It’s bad enough that the current generation of students are coming out of University with around £21,000 in debt.  Couldn’t the government at least get a system that allowed the process to be significantly less stressful and definitely less time consuming?

We are really interested in researching the 2010 application delays further.  Please let us know your experiences at the email address: savvystudent@gmx.com or leave a comment on this blog.

The next press release from Student Finance England is due on the 9th December, with statistics to be valid as of 2nd September.  We will be watching with interest.

Hope you’re all enjoying a cosy weekend!

Love

CSM


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