Festive frugality: savvy tips for a stress-free Christmas

Preparing for Christmas can be overwhelming, but planning ahead can alleviate stress and financial strain. Here are some tips to get ready for the festive season:

Gift giving

  • DIY Personalised gifts: Create customised gifts like photo albums, handmade crafts, or personalized items, adding a unique touch.
  • Experiences over material gifts: Instead of physical presents, consider gifting experiences like a spa day, concert tickets, or a cooking class.
  • Regifting or swapping: Organise a gift swap event where everyone brings a wrapped, unwanted item to exchange, promoting a more eco-friendly and cost-effective approach.

Decorations and festive touches

  • Upcycle decorations: Craft new decorations from recycled materials or transform old items to give them a festive makeover.
  • Host a decoration swap: Arrange a gathering for friends or neighbours to exchange decorations they no longer need, giving everyone a chance to refresh their holiday decor for free.
  • DIY holiday décor workshops: Host or attend workshops to create your own ornaments or decorations, adding a personal touch to your home.

Community involvement and giving back

  • Volunteer together: Spend time volunteering at local shelters, food banks, or community centres as a way to bond and spread holiday cheer while giving back.
  • Charity donations: Instead of physical gifts, donate to a charity on behalf of friends or family members who appreciate such gestures.
  • Create care packages: Assemble care packages for those in need, including essentials like warm clothing, toiletries, and non-perishable food items.

Traditions and celebrations

  • Host potluck dinners or parties: Organise gatherings where everyone brings a dish, reducing the burden on the host and promoting a sense of togetherness.
  • Family activity nights: Plan game nights, storytelling sessions, or holiday-themed movie marathons to create lasting memories without spending much.
  • Create a time capsule: Encourage family members to contribute items or messages to a time capsule to be opened in future years, commemorating the holiday season.

Environmentally friendly approaches

  • Minimalist gift wrapping: Use eco-friendly wrapping alternatives like recycled paper, fabric, or reusable gift bags.
  • Plant a tree in celebration: Instead of a traditional tree, consider planting a tree or donating to tree-planting initiatives as a symbol of celebration.
  • Energy-efficient celebrations: Switch to LED lights or candles for decoration to reduce energy consumption during the festive season.

What is an emergency fund?

An emergency fund is a savings account that you set aside to cover unexpected expenses. These expenses can be anything from a car repair to a job loss to a medical emergency. Having an emergency fund can help you avoid going into debt or having to sell your belongings to cover these expenses.

How much should I save in an emergency fund?

A general rule of thumb is to save 3-6 months of living expenses in your emergency fund. This means that if you lose your job, you will have enough money to cover your rent, food, and other essential expenses for 3-6 months. However, the amount you need to save may vary depending on your individual circumstances. For example, if you have a lot of debt or have a high risk of losing your job, you may need to save more than 6 months of living expenses.

Where should I keep my emergency fund?

Your emergency fund should be kept in a separate savings account that is easy to access but not so easy to access that you will be tempted to use the money for everyday expenses.

How do I build an emergency fund?

The best way to build an emergency fund is to start saving small amounts of money on a regular basis. You can set up an automatic transfer from your checking account to your savings account, or you can make a point of saving cash every day or week. Even small amounts of money can add up over time.

Here are some tips for building an emergency fund:

  • Create a budget and track your expenses so you can see where your money is going.
  • Cut back on unnecessary expenses.
  • Set realistic savings goals.
  • Get a side hustle or sell unused items to make extra money.

Benefits of having an emergency fund:

  • Peace of mind: Knowing that you have an emergency fund can give you peace of mind and reduce stress.
  • Avoid debt: An emergency fund can help you avoid going into debt to cover unexpected expenses.
  • Better financial decisions: Having an emergency fund can help you make better financial decisions, such as saving for a down payment on a house or retirement.

Here are some examples of how an emergency fund can be used:

  • To cover the cost of a car repair
  • To pay for a medical emergency
  • To cover your expenses if you lose your job
  • To make a deductible on your insurance

An emergency fund is an essential part of any financial plan. By saving for an emergency fund, you can protect yourself from the unexpected and improve your overall financial security.

Don’t fall into the clutches of a loan shark this Christmas

Christmas is coming – a time of parties, presents, good food and family celebrations. But for many it also brings immense stress, worry and financial pressure.

Loan sharks recognise this and it can be a time of year when they take advantage of the most vulnerable by pretending that they are helping out in a time of need.

The England Illegal Money Lending Team, which works in partnership with trading standards authorities to investigate and prosecute illegal lenders and support victims, is warning people that however tempting that offer of a cash loan might be and however friendly someone might seem, be aware that there could be a loan shark lurking beneath the surface.

Illegal money lenders are masters of deception, they are not always easy to spot. They could be a neighbour who always stops to chat, a parent who you know from the school gate, a popular work colleague, even a long-standing family friend. In the first half of 2023, 56 per cent of the people supported by the IMLT said they thought they were borrowing from a friend.

And victims often aren’t aware that they have borrowed from a loan shark until it’s too late. Things can quickly turn nasty as they demand extortionate repayments and issue threats of violence when you can’t pay.

There are warning signs to look out for which may all indicate that someone is a loan shark.

They include:

– Being given no paperwork or details about the loan

– The lender demanding repayments that add up to much more than you initially borrowed

– Being intimidated or threatened by the lender if you struggle to pay

– The lender demanding you hand over items like bank cards or a passport until you can pay

If you do need to access affordable credit, the IMLT advises people to contact their nearest credit union, which offer an alternative, ethical and safe way of borrowing for people who may have been refused credit elsewhere. Visit www.findyourcreditunion.co.uk to find one nearest to you.

If you think you have been snared by a loan shark, get in touch with the IMLT as soon as possible in complete confidence. Their specialist officers can offer advice and support and investigate the illegal lender.

To get in touch:

– Call the 24/7 confidential hotline 0300 555 2222

– Text a report to 07860 022116

– Join a live chat on the website www.stoploansharks.co.uk (available Monday to Friday 9 to 5)

– E-mail reportaloanshark@stoploansharks.gov.uk

– Private message on www.facebook.com/stoploansharksproject

Remember you have done nothing wrong if you have borrowed from a loan shark. It is the lender who has committed a crime.

Make sure you’re not inviting a loan shark into your life this Christmas.


‘Do One Thing’ for financial wellbeing: Talk Money Week 2023

This year, Hertsavers Credit Union is excited to participate in #TalkMoney Week, an initiative encouraging individuals, stakeholders, partners, organisations, and businesses across the UK to inspire financial wellbeing by doing one thing. We believe that it’s the small steps that count, and we want to make some noise about it.

Our goal is simple: get everyone talking about money together.

1. Review your budget

Start with the basics by reviewing your budget. This is a small but powerful step in understanding your financial health. Take a closer look at your income and expenses to identify areas where you can save more.

2. Save automatically

Setting up automatic transfers from your checking account to a savings or investment account can make a significant difference. It’s an easy way to ensure you’re consistently saving for a rainy day or future goals.

3. Address your pension

Checking the address on your pension might sound minor, but it’s crucial. Ensuring that your pension information is up to date can prevent issues down the road and secure your financial future.

4. Talk to your children about money

Start financial education early by discussing pocket money and financial responsibility with your children. Teaching them good money habits from a young age can set them up for a more secure future.

5. Use financial tools and calculators

Take advantage of the free tools and calculators available on the MoneyHelper website. Whether you’re planning for retirement, managing debt, or setting savings goals, these tools can provide valuable insights.

6. Review subscriptions

Take a few minutes to go through your monthly subscriptions and cancel any that you no longer use or need. This can free up extra funds.

7. Shop with a list

Before going grocery shopping, create a shopping list and stick to it. This simple step can help you avoid impulse purchases and save money.

8. Negotiate bills

Contact your service providers, such as internet or cable companies, and negotiate for better rates. You might be able to lower your monthly bills.

9. Set up an emergency fund

If you don’t already have one, establish an emergency fund with a small initial contribution. Even a modest fund can provide peace of mind during unexpected financial challenges.

10. Sell unused items

Declutter your home and sell items you no longer need online or at a garage sale. The extra cash can be a great boost to your finances.

11. Plan meals

Plan your meals for the week, reducing the need for takeout or dining out. Cooking at home is not only cost-effective but often healthier too.

Why it matters

Talking about money may seem intimidating, but it’s essential. When we share our financial experiences, we make better decisions, strengthen relationships, and reduce stress. These small actions collectively create a financially educated and resilient community.

Financial wellbeing is about more than just money; it’s about peace of mind, opportunities, and security for yourself and your loved ones. By participating in #TalkMoney Week and doing one thing to improve your financial situation, you’re taking a meaningful step towards a brighter financial future.

Celebrating 75 years of credit unions: a brief history

International Credit Union Day (ICU Day), celebrated on October 19, 2023, marks the culmination of our 75-year journey within the credit union movement. This day serves as a global platform, fostering awareness of the incredible work undertaken by credit unions and financial cooperatives worldwide. It also provides our members with a unique opportunity to become more engaged.

The roots of the credit union movement extend back to 1894, with the establishment of The First Savings Bank in Tottenham. Even earlier, in 1844, The Rochdale Pioneers, a collective of Lancashire weavers, sowed the seeds of cooperative values. These principles, including voluntary membership, one member one vote, and profit-sharing, remain the foundation of today’s cooperative movement.

As we reflect on the journey of the credit union movement, it’s evident how these principles have endured and evolved. In 1934, President Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act, laying the groundwork for the movement’s expansion in the United States. The UK, too, witnessed significant growth, with the formation of the Derry City Credit Union in Northern Ireland during the 1960s.

The 1970s marked the birth of numerous credit unions in England, including the pioneering employee credit union, The Pitney Bowes Credit Union. In 1979, The Credit Union Act was enacted, the very legislation that continues to govern credit unions today.

Subsequent decades, particularly the 1980s and 1990s, saw sustained growth, with 258 registered credit unions in Great Britain by 1990, boasting combined assets of approximately £12.3 million. The transformation of the Credit Union League of Great Britain into the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd (ABCUL) in 1981 was another significant milestone, a body to which Thamesbank proudly belongs.

In 2002, the Financial Services Authority assumed the role of regulator for credit unions, succeeding the Registry of Friendly Societies. This change marked a crucial moment in the movement’s history.

Today, as we celebrate International Credit Union Day, we remain steadfast in our commitment to the financial well-being of our members. Our dedication to providing financial education and support remains unwavering, and we eagerly anticipate future growth and assistance. The history of the credit union movement is a testament to the enduring strength of cooperation and financial inclusion.

Individual Voluntary Arrangement

What is an IVA?

An IVA, or Individual Voluntary Arrangement, is a formal agreement legally binding both you and your creditors. It’s court-approved, ensuring creditor compliance.

Advantages of an IVA:

  • Halts interest accrual and creditor pursuit.
  • Flexibility to include diverse debts.
  • Offers a structured repayment scheme tailored to your financial capacity.
  • Typically spans 5 to 6 years for monthly payments.

Disadvantages of an IVA:

  • Involves considerable setup fees.
  • May not be optimal for debts under £10,000.
  • Windfalls, like inheritances, might be utilized to settle debts.
  • Creditors can claim pre-IVA owed funds even after its conclusion.

Caution regarding Debt Management Companies:

  • Debt management companies provide debt assistance but often charge additional fees.
  • Opting for an insolvency practitioner independently can be a more cost-effective approach.
  • Always ascertain the fees charged by any debt management company before engaging their services.

In essence, an IVA is a powerful debt management tool, putting a halt to interest and creditor pressure. However, it does entail significant setup costs, making it less suitable for smaller debts. Considering an IVA warrants careful evaluation of its benefits and drawbacks. Additionally, exercise caution when dealing with debt management companies to prevent unnecessary expenses.

Please note that as a Credit Union we encourage you to contact your creditors and try to agree a solution within your budget before going down a route that could affect you for many years to come.

For more information, visit the Citizens Advice website.

The benefits of the Hertsavers Salary Saving Scheme

Hertsavers is encouraging its members to join the Salary Saving Scheme, a mutually beneficial program for employers and employees alike.

If you work with East Herts DC; Broxbourne DC; B3 Living; Abbeyfield Care; Herts Urgent Care, you can join Hertsavers Salary Saving Scheme.

Below are the benefits of Hertsavers’ Salary Saving Scheme.

Benefits to employers

  • Improved employee morale and productivity. Employees who are financially stable are more likely to be happy and productive at work.
  • Reduced absenteeism. Employees who are struggling with financial problems are more likely to miss work due to stress or illness.
  • Increased employee loyalty. Employees who feel valued and supported by their employer are more likely to stay with the company.
  • Positive public relations. Participating in the Salary Saving Scheme shows that your company is committed to supporting its employees and the local community.

Benefits to employees

  • Easy and convenient way to save money. Employees can choose to have a fixed amount of money deducted from their paycheck each month and deposited into their Hertsavers savings account.
  • Competitive interest rates. Hertsavers offers competitive interest rates on savings accounts, so employees can grow their savings faster.
  • Access to affordable loans. Hertsavers members can also access affordable loans, which can be helpful for unexpected expenses or consolidating debt.
  • Financial security and peace of mind. Knowing that they have a savings cushion to fall back on can give employees peace of mind and help them focus on their work.

How to join the Hertsavers Salary Saving Scheme

If you are interested in joining the Hertsavers Salary Saving Scheme, simply contact your employer and ask them to set up payroll deduction for you. You can also visit the Hertsavers website or contact Hertsavers today via email on office@hertsavers.co.uk.

Hertsavers is committed to helping its members achieve their financial goals. The Salary Saving Scheme is a great way for employees to save money and build financial security.

Additional information

In addition to the benefits listed above, the Hertsavers Salary Saving Scheme can also help employees to:

  • Reach their financial goals faster, such as saving for a down payment on a house or retirement.
  • Reduce their reliance on credit cards and other high-interest debt.
  • Build a good credit history.
  • Teach their children about the importance of saving money.

Apply now.

The No-Spend Challenge: a fun and rewarding way to save money

What is the no-spend challenge?

The no-spend challenge is a financial challenge where you commit to not spending any money on non-essential items for a set period of time. This could be a week, a month, or even a year, depending on your goals and financial situation.

The goal of the no-spend challenge is to help you save money, reduce your debt, and become more mindful of your spending habits. It can also be a great way to declutter your life and focus on the things that are most important to you.

How to do the no-spend challenge

If you’re interested in trying the no-spend challenge, here are a few tips to help you get started:

  1. Set a goal. What do you want to achieve with your no-spend challenge? Do you want to save money for a down payment on a house? Pay off your credit card debt? Build your emergency fund? Once you know your goal, you’ll be more motivated to stick with the challenge.
  2. Choose a time frame. How long do you want to commit to the no-spend challenge? If you’re new to this, it’s best to start with a shorter time period, such as a week or two. As you become more comfortable, you can gradually increase the time frame.
  3. Make a list of exceptions. What expenses are essential and cannot be avoided? This may include things like rent, utilities, groceries, and transportation. You may also want to include expenses for things like childcare, medication, and debt payments.
  4. Plan ahead. Once you know what expenses you have, you can start planning ahead for your no-spend challenge. This means meal planning, creating a budget, and finding free or low-cost activities to do.
  5. Track your progress. It’s helpful to track your progress during the no-spend challenge. This will help you stay motivated and see how much money you’re saving. You can use a simple spreadsheet or a budgeting app to track your spending.

No-spend challenge ideas

Here are a few ideas for activities you can do during the no-spend challenge:

  • Cook at home. Eating out is one of the biggest expenses for many people. Save money by cooking at home instead.
  • Borrow books and movies from the library. Instead of buying new books and movies, borrow them from the library for free.
  • Go for walks or bike rides. This is a great way to get exercise and fresh air without spending any money.
  • Visit free museums and attractions. Many cities have free museums, parks, and other attractions. Do some research to find what’s available in your area.
  • Have game nights with friends and family. Instead of going out, invite your friends and family over for a game night. You can play board games, card games, or video games.
  • Volunteer your time. Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and meet new people. It’s also a great way to get out of the house and stay active without spending any money.

Tips for success

Here are a few tips to help you succeed with your no-spend challenge:

  • Tell your friends and family. Letting your friends and family know about your no-spend challenge will help you stay accountable. They can also offer support and encouragement.
  • Avoid temptation. If you know you’re likely to be tempted to spend money, avoid those situations. For example, if you love to shop, don’t go to the mall during your no-spend challenge.
  • Find creative ways to have fun. There are many ways to have fun without spending money. Get creative and find activities that you enjoy that don’t involve spending money.
  • Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you slip up and spend money during your no-spend challenge, don’t beat yourself up about it. Just pick yourself up and start again.

The no-spend challenge is a great way to save money, reduce your debt, and become more mindful of your spending habits. It can also be a great way to declutter your life and focus on the things that are most important to you. If you’re interested in trying the no-spend challenge, follow the tips above to get started.

Parent’s guide to financial wellness during back-to-school season

As the back-to-school season approaches, it’s time to prepare for the whirlwind of expenses that come with it. From uniforms to school trips, the financial strain can be overwhelming. But fear not, because in this guide, we’re going to help you navigate the back-to-school season with your financial wellness intact. Let’s dive in!

Create a budget game plan: Start by assessing your overall financial situation. Take a close look at your income, expenses, and any savings you might have. Once you have a clear picture, set a realistic budget for back-to-school expenses. List out all potential costs, including school supplies, clothing and extracurricular activities. Having a budget will help you allocate funds appropriately and avoid overspending.

Shop smart and early: Avoid the last-minute rush that can lead to impulse purchases. Begin your back-to-school shopping early to take advantage of sales, discounts, and promotions. Compare prices, and consider buying in bulk to save on essentials like notebooks, pens, and calculators. Shopping strategically can significantly reduce your expenses.

Prioritise needs over wants: It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of new trends and styles, but prioritise needs over wants. Focus on essential items first, like school uniforms, stationery, and required textbooks. If your budget allows, then consider splurging on a few extras.

Explore second-hand options: Don’t underestimate the value of second-hand items. Check out thrift stores, online marketplaces, and community groups for gently used school supplies, uniforms, and even electronics. This can be a budget-friendly way to get what your kids need without breaking the bank.

Utilise school resources: Schools often provide resources like book rental programs or free school supplies for families in need. Don’t hesitate to inquire about such offerings, as they can significantly alleviate your financial burden.

Review your financial goals: The back-to-school season is an excellent time to revisit your long-term financial goals. Reflect on your savings, investments, and any outstanding debts. Adjust your financial plan to accommodate the additional expenses while staying on track with your objectives.

Involve your kids: Use the back-to-school season as an opportunity to teach your children about money management. Involve them in creating the budget, comparing prices, and making spending decisions. This hands-on experience can impart valuable financial skills.

Build an emergency fund: Alongside back-to-school expenses, consider building or bolstering an emergency fund. Life is full of unexpected twists, and having a safety net can provide peace of mind during financially challenging times.

Remember, the key to maintaining financial wellness during the back-to-school season is thoughtful planning and informed decision-making. By implementing these strategies, you can navigate this season with confidence, ensuring that your children’s education doesn’t compromise your financial stability.

If you need help with your finances, why not consider a Child Benefit Loan and Savings Plan from Hertsavers?

Here’s to a successful and stress-free back-to-school journey!

Tips for planning for the school holidays

Term breaks are the perfect time for families to create wonderful memories together. But let’s face it, financial stress can sometimes put a damper on those plans. Don’t worry… Here are some holiday planning tips to help you make the most of your family time without breaking the bank.

1. Plan ahead: The key to stress-free holidays is planning. As soon as the term starts, start setting aside a small amount each week. It adds up over time and makes paying for the holiday expenses a lot smoother.

2. Create a budget: Set a budget for your term break and stick to it. List out all the expenses, including accommodation, transportation, activities, and meals. This will help you avoid overspending and focus on what truly matters.

3. DIY fun: Get creative with your holiday activities. DIY crafts, picnics and nature walks are not only enjoyable but also cost-effective. Quality time doesn’t always have to come with a hefty price tag.

4. Travel smart: If you’re planning a trip, be on the lookout for deals and discounts on flights and accommodations. Consider travelling during off-peak times when prices are more wallet-friendly.

5. Pack snacks: Packing snacks and drinks can save you a significant amount, especially if you’re travelling with kids. It also helps curb those impulse buys that tend to sneak up on us.

6. Hertsavers to the rescue: Now, let’s talk about how Hertsavers Credit Union can be your holiday hero. They offer a variety of savings accounts, including the Holiday Savings Account. It’s like a dedicated piggy bank for your vacations. Setting up automatic transfers to this account ensures you’re always prepared for that well-deserved break.

7. Child Benefits Loan: Hertsavers has your back when unexpected expenses pop up. Their Child Benefits Loan provides a quick and affordable solution to cover those surprise costs without ruining your vacation plans.

Remember, holidays are all about creating cherished memories with your loved ones. With smart planning, a solid budget, and the support of Hertsavers Credit Union, you can enjoy your term breaks to the fullest without worrying about financial stress. So, go ahead and start packing for that unforgettable adventure.