Wednesday, 20 November 2013

How to save money on your holiday

Going on holiday can be a big expense, especially when things are tight. But here at Ashley Park Financial Solutions, we think that getting away from it all can be the perfect way to relax and unwind, leaving your troubles behind you. So if you’re struggling to figure out how to pay for a holiday next year, we’ve got some great advice that should see you towards the perfect break.

If you’re thinking about a summer holiday, start planning now. With Christmas and the New Year coming up, you’ll need to keep a careful eye on your finances to make sure you have enough to see you through. If you’re thinking about a big family holiday in the warm weather, it might be a good idea to scale down your Christmas plans and add the savings to your holiday fund. For families with children, you can explain that the holiday will count as part of their Christmas gift.

Think about destinations you might be interested and do your research early, so you know exactly how much it’s likely to cost and where you’ll get the best value for money. Remember, the further you decide to go, the more expensive the holiday will be. You might like to consider a staycation and holiday here in the UK. There are some fantastic attractions right on your doorstep for a fraction of the price.

If the draw of somewhere overseas is too strong though, choose somewhere with a good exchange rate. Also, don’t buy your spending money from the airports, stations or hotels because it’s likely you’ll end up paying commission. Buy in advance from somewhere like the Post Office.

Be flexible over your dates. Try to avoid peak seasons, because holidays are almost always more expensive during those times. If you have children, obviously school holidays hit all peak payment times, so perhaps think about taking them out of school at a different time. You shouldn’t really do this more than once though, and you need to make it really clear to the kids that they’ll have to catch up on the work they miss.

Go for discount airlines and book online to avoid agency fees. Book as far in advance as possible to get the cheapest deals. If you can, fly mid-week (Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) when the prices are much more reasonable – the weekends are very popular so usually the cost goes up accordingly.

Look out for good package deals, as it’s usually cheaper to buy everything together. To really save on your accommodation, consider going for a hostel options, or even a holiday home. If you favour the latter, it means you can cook your own meals instead of eating out every night and even do your own laundry if you need to. You might even want to check out house swap programmes, where you go and stay in someone else’s house while they stay in yours – what a great way to get to know the community you’re visiting!

For more great money saving tips, be sure to find us on Twitter and Facebook

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Money Saving Tips for Students from Ashley Park Financial Solutions

Anyone considering higher education now will have to be very careful about their spending patterns to make sure they avoid falling into unnecessary debt. Now that Fresher’s Week is out of the way, you might be looking at your bank balance and wondering how you’ll make it through to January, and you’re not alone!

But don’t worry too much; Ashley Park Financial Solutions have put together some money saving tips that should keep your bills in check.

Sample sales events
Most students are keen to keep their wardrobes well-stocked with so many different occasions to consider. With various clubs and societies, sports teams, nights out and end of term balls, some people may find themselves struggling to pay for it all. But! If you can bring yourself to get out of bed early and join the queue, a sample sale could be perfect for you. You can find some amazing bargains, often with up to 70% off.

Designer brands like Reiss and Paul Smith often run events from their warehouses to sell off-season clothing. Though most events happen in London, it’s a good idea to check out what’s going on in your local area.

Keep up with your favourite brands online
Following your favourite retailers online can prove to be very fruitful. With everyone vying for your attention, lots of companies are offering incentives to gain custom. Sign up to newsletters and follow companies on Facebook or Twitter to stay abreast of any on-the-day offers.

Shop in the sales
You’re a student, which means you can get away with being off-season when it comes to your wardrobe, and it’s okay to set up camp in the “whoopsie” aisle of the supermarket. You’ll certainly appreciate a 10p bread roll if it means you can buy an extra pint at the weekend. And remember where possible, buy unbranded foods! For the most part they taste the same but come with a much lower price tag.

Avoid big cash blowouts
Though it might be tempting to splurge when your loan comes in, don’t do it! Save towards the end of term and celebrate then instead.

Get the best deal on your overdraft
If you’re going to allow yourself an overdraft, make sure it’s at 0% interest. Try not to go anywhere near the overdraft limit because if you do go over it the charges are huge and you’ll end up in a vicious cycle as you try to pay them back. Also, don’t choose your bank based on who offers the best free gift at sign up! These are just gimmicks. Look into who has the best banking deals for you.

Invest in a Student Discount Card
These days you need an NUS Extra card to indulge in money-off at certain stores. It costs £12 per year, but over 160 retailers offer discount with it, and these savings can really add up. It also includes 10% off groceries at the Co-Op, so if for example you spend at least £120 there in a year, you’ll more than make your money back (and trust us, you’ll certainly spend on groceries!).

Look at free computer software
Instead of MS Office you can download LibreOffice, which you can use for documents, presentations, spreadsheets and databases. And anyone in need of image editing software that can’t afford Photoshop might like to try Gimp, another free-to-download program that offers fairly advanced tools and great add-ons.

Get a 16-25 railcard
You’ll get a third off rail travel, which can make going home for the weekend that bit less painful. If you’re a mature student never fear! You can still get a student railcard if you take along proof of your course. Railcards currently cost £30 and can be purchased online or at your local train station.

Not that we’re going to encourage binge drinking in any way, but if you’re planning a night out, enjoy a few drinks before you leave the house to save paying for booze in the pub.

Check out our previous blog for more general budgeting tips, or visit our website for details of our services. Feel free to follow us on Twitter for regular updates!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Ashley Park Financial Solutions: Things to do on a Money-Free Weekend

If you’re trying to live a little more frugally, it can be difficult to find fun things to do that are within your budget. The team at Ashley Park Financial Solutions have come up with a few ideas that will help you to enjoy a few money-free weekends as you try to get your financial situation in order.

On these specified “money-free” weekends, you might want to go absolutely money-free to really try and cut costs. So that means no popping to the shops to buy extra food; no spending on entertainment; no sending messages or making calls that aren’t included in your monthly plan etc. It’s entirely up to you. But hopefully you’ll find a few things that appeal to you amongst our options!

Local Community Events
Often there are free events going on in your local area, including galas, fetes and markets, which can be a great way to while away a few hours enjoying some of the entertainment on offer.

Visit the Library
While most people only imagine books at the library, nowadays you can get your hands on some top DVDs, often with a lot of new releases thrown in. You can also find story time events for the kids, film nights and book groups into the bargain, all usually free.

Community Sports
Instead of paying for sports on Sky, why not head down to one of the local games to get your fix? It’s much more exciting to be involved in the atmosphere of a real game, and you might even decide to sign up for training yourself!

Board Games
This might sound a little old hat, but can be a great way to bring the family together and will challenge the old brain box a lot more than vegging out in front of the television.

Home Baking
Often people already have everything they need in the cupboards to whip up a quick batch of buns. And if you have kids, it can be a great way to get them involved with cooking and keep them busy for a few hours.

Sort out your Media Collection
Over the years we all seem to amass a huge collection of media “stuff”. You could use a money-free weekend to sort through all your old DVDs and CDs then take them to somewhere like Cex, where you might even make some cash.

Go out Walking
Fresh air and exercise are free to everyone and heading out for a walk in the wilds can be a fantastic way to relax. You can take a packed lunch and make a day of it.

Head to a Free Museum
Many bigger cities have free access to museums and heritage attractions, which can be a great day out for the whole family. And if you’re thinking of heading to a National Trust venue, remember that while it may cost money to get into the attached building, the grounds are free to roam around and often have a play park for the children to enjoy.

Tidy the House!
Boring as it might sound, a money-free weekend can be the perfect time to get the house looking spick and span.

There are tons of places around the country that are always looking for volunteers to help out. Countless hospitals and nursing homes need visitors to provide long-term patients and residents with much needed respite. It can be really rewarding for both parties. And don’t worry too much about CRB check costs; a lot of institutes offer to pay for their volunteers to get the accreditation.

Obviously everyone is different so we understand that these activities may not appeal to all personalities. If you have any suggestions, we’d love to hear from you on our Twitter of Facebook pages so that we can share them with everyone.