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.

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.


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.

Unforgettable summer adventures: budget-friendly activities for kids in the UK

Summer in the UK offers a plethora of opportunities for children to have fun and make lasting memories without breaking the bank. Engaging in low-cost activities not only keeps the little ones entertained but also helps them explore the wonders of nature and develop new skills. Here are six fantastic budget-friendly summer activities for kids in the UK.

Picnics and nature walks

Picnics in local parks or scenic spots can be a delightful way for kids to spend their summer days. Pack a homemade lunch, grab a blanket, and head to a nearby green space. Many parks offer playgrounds, which provide a great chance for children to socialise and enjoy outdoor games. Nature walks are also an excellent addition to picnics, where children can explore the wonders of the countryside, appreciate wildlife, and learn about the environment. Spending time outdoors encourages physical activity and fosters a love for nature.

Arts and crafts

Unleash your child’s creativity through arts and crafts projects. Craft supplies can be inexpensive, and you can often find great deals at discount stores or online. Engaging in DIY activities like making friendship bracelets, painting, or creating colorful collages not only enhances their artistic skills but also keeps them occupied for hours. You can find many crafting ideas online, making it easy to find projects that match your child’s interests.

Library visits and reading challenges

Local libraries are a treasure trove of free entertainment and learning opportunities. Many libraries host summer reading challenges, where children can participate in activities and win small rewards for completing books. Reading not only stimulates the imagination but also improves language skills and cognitive development. Encourage your child to explore various genres and discover the joy of books.
Local Community Events and Workshops
Keep an eye out for free or low-cost community events and workshops organized during the summer. Many towns and cities host outdoor concerts, movie nights, art exhibits, and educational workshops for children. These events provide excellent opportunities for kids to socialise, discover new interests, and engage in community life.

Outdoor sports and games

Organise a day of outdoor sports and games with your child and their friends. Sports like football, basketball, or cricket require minimal equipment and can be played in local parks or open spaces. You can also introduce them to traditional British games like rounders or British Bulldog. These activities not only keep them physically active but also promote teamwork and friendly competition. Moreover, they’re a great way to encourage children to spend time outdoors, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.

Fruit picking and homemade treats

During the summer months, many farms across the UK offer fruit picking opportunities, where children can pick their own strawberries, raspberries, or other seasonal fruits. Fruit picking is an enjoyable and educational activity, teaching kids about agriculture and the origins of their food. After the fruit-picking adventure, bring the harvest home and involve your child in making homemade treats like fruit jams, smoothies, or fruit salads. It’s a delicious way to spend quality time together and savour the flavours of summer.

DIY science experiments

Foster your child’s curiosity and love for learning by conducting DIY science experiments at home. You can find numerous simple and safe experiments online using household items. From creating volcano eruptions with baking soda and vinegar to making colourful slime, these experiments are not only entertaining but also educational. Your child will be thrilled to discover the wonders of science while having a blast at the same time.

Summer in the UK doesn’t have to be expensive to be enjoyable for kids. With a little creativity and enthusiasm, you can provide your child with a summer filled with exciting adventures and valuable experiences. Engaging in outdoor activities like picnics, nature walks, and sports encourages them to stay active and explore the beauty of the world around them. Meanwhile, arts and crafts, library visits, and DIY science experiments stimulate their creativity and foster a love for learning. And let’s not forget about the joy of fruit picking and creating homemade treats. So, make the most of the sunny days, embark on new adventures, and create treasured memories with your kids without putting a strain on your budget. Happy summer!

What is a Share Account?

A share account is a type of savings account offered by credit unions. It is the primary account that credit union members open to become part of the cooperative. When you open a share account, you become a member-owner of the credit union, holding a share of ownership in the institution.

The term “share” reflects the cooperative nature of credit unions, where members collectively own and govern the institution. Instead of being just a customer, you have a say in the credit union’s decisions, typically exercised through voting in board elections and participating in annual meetings.

Earnings in a share account are called “dividends,” emphasising the cooperative aspect of credit unions. These dividends represent your share of the credit union’s profits, which are shared among the member-owners.

A share account serves as a foundational step for accessing various financial services and benefits offered by the credit union. Additionally, it provides a secure place to save money, and deposits in share accounts are often insured up to a certain limit by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

Overall, a share account in a credit union is not just a savings account; it symbolises membership and ownership in a cooperative financial institution where members work together for their mutual benefit and financial well-being.

4 fun and creative ways to teach children the art of saving money

Teaching children the importance of saving money is a valuable life lesson that will benefit them for years to come. While the concept of saving may seem dull or complex to young minds, it doesn’t have to be! In this article, we’ll explore four fun and creative ways to introduce the idea of saving money to children. These activities will not only make learning about money engaging but also help instil good financial habits early on.

The saving jar challenge:
Transform the act of saving money into an exciting game by introducing the Saving Jar Challenge. Provide your child with a transparent jar and colourful stickers or markers. Set a specific goal together, such as saving for a new toy, a family outing, or even a future vacation. Encourage your child to save spare change or small amounts of money regularly and celebrate their progress by adding stickers or colouring the jar each time they reach a milestone. This visual representation of their savings will motivate them to continue saving and watch their money grow.

Reward-based savings:

Create a reward system that encourages saving by offering small incentives for reaching specific savings milestones. For instance, you could offer to match a percentage of the amount they save or provide rewards for achieving certain targets. Let your child be involved in setting their goals and selecting the rewards they desire. This approach helps them understand the value of delayed gratification and instills the habit of saving for something they truly want.

Entrepreneurial ventures:

Spark your child’s creativity and entrepreneurial spirit by encouraging them to start a small business or offer services to earn money. Depending on their age and interests, they could set up a lemonade stand, offer pet-sitting services, or even create handmade crafts to sell. This hands-on experience will teach them the value of hard work, money management, and the satisfaction of earning their own income. Encourage them to allocate a portion of their earnings towards savings, emphasizing the importance of setting aside money for the future.

Interactive budgeting:

Introduce your child to the concept of budgeting through interactive activities. Create a mock budget with different categories such as savings, spending, and giving. Use play money or an online budgeting tool specifically designed for children to allocate funds to each category. Engage them in discussions about prioritizing needs over wants and making thoughtful financial decisions. As they get older, involve them in real-life budgeting discussions, such as planning for a family vacation or managing monthly household expenses. This practical approach will empower them with essential money management skills.

Teaching children about saving money doesn’t have to be a boring or overwhelming task. By using creative and interactive methods, parents and educators can make financial education enjoyable and memorable. The four ideas mentioned above – the Saving Jar Challenge, reward-based savings, entrepreneurial ventures, and interactive budgeting – provide children with practical experiences that foster a positive attitude towards money and saving. By instilling these skills early on, we can empower our children to become financially responsible adults in the future.

Additionally, consider opening a Junior Savings Account to help them develop good financial habits from an early age.

A guide to raising financially savvy children

Teaching children about money management from a young age sets them up for a lifetime of financial success. By instilling good habits early on, you can help them develop the skills they need to make smart financial decisions. In this guide, we’ll explore practical tips to help your children become financially savvy.

Start with the basics:
Introduce the concept of money: Teach children about the different coins and bills, their values, and what they can purchase with them.

Saving: Encourage them to save money by providing a piggy bank or a savings jar. Teach them to set goals and allocate a portion of their allowance or gifts to savings.

Money Management:

Budgeting: Teach your children about budgeting by involving them in household budget discussions. Show them how to allocate money for different expenses, such as groceries, bills, and savings.

Needs vs. wants: Help children understand the difference between needs and wants. Encourage them to prioritise their spending on essentials and save for items they desire.

Earning and entrepreneurship:

Allowance: Consider giving your children an age-appropriate allowance tied to chores or tasks. This helps them learn the value of work and earning money.

Entrepreneurial skills: Encourage children to explore their entrepreneurial side by helping them start small businesses, such as a lemonade stand or a handmade crafts store. This teaches them about money, customer service, and responsibility.

Banking and Saving:

Open a Junior Savings Account: When your child is ready, open a Hertsavers Junior Savings Account. Teach them how to deposit money, track their balance, and the benefits of earning interest.

Saving goals: Help your children set savings goals for short-term and long-term purchases. This can teach them patience and delayed gratification.

Smart spending:

Comparison shopping: Teach children to compare prices and quality before making a purchase. Show them how to research and make informed decisions.

Needs before wants: Encourage children to think critically before making impulse purchases. Help them distinguish between essential needs and unnecessary wants.

Giving back:

Philanthropy: Teach children the importance of giving back to their community. Encourage them to donate a portion of their money or volunteer for charitable causes they care about.

By following these tips, you can help your children become financially savvy individuals. Remember, financial education is an ongoing process, so continue to reinforce these principles and provide opportunities for your children to practice their money management skills. Empowering them with financial knowledge at a young age will set them up for a brighter future.

Mindful money management: cultivating a healthy relationship with finances

In today’s fast-paced world, managing our finances can often feel overwhelming and stressful. However, by adopting a mindful approach to money management, we can cultivate a healthier relationship with our finances and achieve long-term financial well-being. As a credit union, we understand the importance of empowering our members to make informed financial decisions. In this article, we will explore the concept of mindful money management and provide practical tips from a credit union perspective to help you achieve financial stability and peace of mind.

Understanding mindful money management

Mindful money management involves being conscious and intentional about how we earn, spend, save, and invest our money. It requires us to develop awareness of our financial goals, values, and behaviors. By practicing mindfulness, we can make informed decisions and align our financial choices with our long-term aspirations.

From a credit union perspective, we believe that financial well-being extends beyond the numbers. It encompasses a holistic approach that considers both the short-term financial goals and the long-term financial security of our members. By fostering mindfulness in money management, we aim to empower individuals to make sound financial decisions and build a solid foundation for their future.

Cultivating mindful spending habits

One key aspect of mindful money management is developing mindful spending habits. It involves consciously evaluating our needs versus wants and making thoughtful spending choices that align with our values and goals. As a credit union, we encourage our members to track their expenses, create budgets, and regularly review their spending patterns.

By practicing mindful spending, we can avoid impulsive purchases and focus on what truly matters to us. This approach helps us prioritize savings, reduce unnecessary debt, and build financial resilience. Additionally, we encourage our members to consider the environmental and social impact of their spending decisions, supporting sustainable businesses and ethical practices.

Building a strong savings culture

Mindful money management also emphasizes the importance of cultivating a strong savings culture. Saving money provides a sense of security and allows us to achieve our financial goals. As a credit union, we offer a range of savings accounts and tools to assist our members in developing healthy saving habits.
By setting realistic savings goals, automating savings contributions, and regularly reviewing progress, individuals can develop a disciplined savings routine. We advocate for building emergency funds to handle unexpected expenses and encourage our members to save for long-term goals such as education, homeownership, or retirement. By adopting a mindful approach to saving, we can develop financial resilience and reduce financial stress.

Seeking knowledge and guidance

Mindful money management involves continuously seeking knowledge and guidance to make informed financial decisions. As a credit union, we provide educational resources, workshops, and personalized financial advice to our members. We believe in empowering individuals with the tools and information needed to navigate complex financial landscapes confidently.

By expanding our financial literacy, we can understand concepts such as investing, debt management, and retirement planning. Seeking professional guidance from financial advisors can provide valuable insights tailored to our unique circumstances. Additionally, being mindful of our credit scores and maintaining good financial health enables us to access better loan rates and financial opportunities.

Adopting a mindful approach to money management allows us to cultivate a healthy relationship with our finances. By being intentional, informed, and disciplined in our financial decisions, we can achieve long-term financial stability and peace of mind. As a credit union, we are committed to supporting our members on their financial journeys, providing the resources and guidance necessary for their success. Remember, mindful money management is a continuous practice that can transform your relationship with money and pave the way for a brighter financial future.

The dangers of borrowing from a loan shark

From the ‘IMLT 2022 Support Report’ that has been put together by The England Illegal Money Lending Team (IMLT), household bills continues to be the main reason for borrowing (this has always been the case).

In the same report, 79% owed money to other lenders besides the loan shark, of which 39% were priority creditors.Average total debt excluding the loan shark was £8,624.

Falling prey of loan sharks

  • 24% of clients borrowed £500 or less
  • Median amount borrowed – £500
  • Median amount repaid – £4,500
  • The lowest amount borrowed was £90 for householdfood/bills
  • The highest amount borrowed was £60,000 for medicalexpenses

Just as there is no typical loan shark, there is no typical loan either, apart from it is very rare that a borrower will repay less than double the amount borrowed.

One client borrowed £500 for household bills and has been making payments for three years, they have repaid £18,000 so far and still owe £500!

Another borrowed £300 and had repaid £100,000 in total.

Some of the ways that loan sharks make you pay:

If a borrower can’t pay here are some ways that loan sharks force their victims to pay:

  • Borrower forced to start dealing drugs to pay back the loan
  • The lender threatened to go to borrower’s place of work and tell people about
    them not paying. This is making the victim stressed because they have people
    that work under them and do not want to be disgraced and embarrassed in
    front of colleagues.

If you are in need financial help, reach out to a credit union that provide ethical saving and borrowing products.


Kelly’s story:

“She seemed nice at first, helping me out, but after a whileI got to know the real person. Initially I borrowed £100 for household bills and had to repay £325. Once I’d paid it back I was left short so had to borrow again. This continued until I was repaying £2,000 a month! She was taking all my wages, child benefit and universal credit. I’d be lucky if I was left with £5 for
food for myself and my family.

I eventually spoke to a housing officer about the situation and they asked if they could put me in touch with the Stop Loan Sharks Team. I was nervous but agreed. The Team worked out that I’d borrowed approximately £2,500 in total and repaid over £26,000! The Stop Loan Sharks Team supported me from day one – I now feel like I’ve had the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. I’ve finally got my lifeback.”

Bee’s story:

“I heard the devastating news that my mother was seriously ill and I had to travel to see her before she passed away. I asked someone I knew if they had any idea where I could borrow some money. She said that her boyfriend could lend me the cash I needed. I visited him and received £3,000.

After my mother’s funeral I returned and started repaying £600 per month back; I hadn’t realised that although I was paying £600 each time, the balance wasn’t decreasing. Occasionally I was a few days late paying. The boyfriend was very scary and said that he would charge me an extra £20 per day as a penalty fee. The couple came and knocked my door every day
demanding payment, over 7 months I paid back more than £4,000.

I was very stressed and didn’t leave my home for over two months; I couldn’t sleep. I sold jewellery that was very precious to me – given to me by my late husband and I still owed £3,000.

I was so glad I called the Loan Shark Team. I’d recommend to anyone in trouble to do so – then you’ll be safe. I feel I’ve got my lifeback.”

Do you know anyone who has fallen victim of a loan shark? Contact the ‘Stop Loan Sharks’ team by calling 0300 555 2222 or visit our website: www.stoploansharks.co.uk for help and advice.

Seven ways to spring clean your finances

Spring cleaning isn’t just for your home – it’s also a great time to tidy up your finances. At Hertsavers, we understand the importance of financial health and have put together some tips to help you spring clean your finances.

  1. Review your budget
    Start by reviewing your budget. This means looking at your income, expenses and debts. Make sure your expenses are in line with your income and that you’re not overspending in any areas. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, consider cutting back on non-essential expenses.
  2. Check your credit report
    Your credit report is an important document that shows your credit history. It’s used by lenders to assess your creditworthiness when you apply for loans, credit cards or other financial products. Check your credit report for any errors or inaccuracies that could be affecting your credit score. If you find any mistakes, contact the credit reference agency to have them corrected.
  3. Review your savings
    If you have savings, review your accounts to make sure you’re getting the best interest rate. Consider moving your money to a savings account with a higher rate of interest. If you don’t have any savings, now is the time to start. Even a small amount saved each month can make a big difference over time.
  4. Consolidate debt
    If you have multiple debts, consider consolidating them into one loan. This can simplify your finances and make it easier to manage your repayments. You may also be able to get a lower interest rate, which could save you money in the long run.
  5. Shop around for financial products
    When it comes to financial products like loans, credit cards and savings accounts, it pays to shop around. Compare interest rates, fees and features to find the best product for your needs. Credit unions are a great place to start, as they often offer lower interest rates and more flexible repayment terms than traditional banks.
  6. Set financial goals
    Setting financial goals can help you stay on track and motivated. Whether it’s saving for a down payment on a house, paying off debt or building an emergency fund, having a clear goal in mind can make it easier to stay focused and disciplined.
  7. Seek professional advice
    If you’re struggling with your finances or need help setting financial goals, consider seeking professional advice. A financial advisor or credit counsellor can provide guidance and support to help you get your finances in order.

In conclusion, spring cleaning your finances is a great way to get your financial house in order. By reviewing your budget, checking your credit report, reviewing your savings, consolidating debt, shopping around for financial products, setting financial goals and seeking professional advice, you can take control of your finances and achieve financial stability.