Monday, 31 December 2007

New Year’s resolutions are doomed to fail. That’s because they’re usually said without conviction, in too general terms and often under the influence of alcohol. The best resolution for 2008 would be just to expand your world, embracing the Do Something Different philosophy that underlies Sheconomics (and it’s sister the No Diet Diet). It just involves a resolution to make a small, achievable change every day.

So if you like…. You could try…..

Fiction............... Non-fiction
Running............... Walking
City............... Country
New............... Second-hand
Listening............... Talking
Thinking ............... Chilling
Serious............... Trivia
Noise............... Silence
Brilliance............... Candle-light
Attention ............... Being in the background
Home............... Exploring
Safety............... Risk-taking
Hoarding............... De-cluttering
Buying............... Giving away
Secrets............... Revealing
Boozing............... Juicing
Bingeing............... Nibbling
Arguing............... Agreeing
Cuddling............... Being cuddled
Moaning ............... Smiling
Pessimism ............... Optimism
Colour............... Black & white
Neat ............... Rough
Tradition ............... Radicalism

We’re perhaps all too guilty of retreating into our comfort zones and, by definition, into ourselves. And people who are wrapped up in themselves, says A C Grayling (my current guru!) make very small packages.
Here’s to an expanded self and bigger worlds in 2008.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

Estimates vary, according to different sources, but it seems that over £1 billion was spent on unwanted Christmas presents this season. That’s more than the national debt of a small nation splashed out on fluffy slippers, novelty soaps and nasty tat. According to the economist Waldfogel (who’s as enthusiastic about Christmas spending as the Pope at an Anne Summers party) gift-giving only works if you can give someone exactly what they would have bought themselves. Since most presents fall a whole bath-salts-with-matching-flannel short of this mark, the result is a gift worth between only a tenth and a third than it actually cost! I’m really keen to research this and to find out what people really feel about getting gifts that peeve rather than please. Even more interesting, how do we really know if people like what we give them? What does ‘just what I always wanted’ really mean, if it’s said through gritted teeth or while trying to suppress a gagging reflex?
Here’s my survey into gift receiving and giving – give it a go!
Click Here to take survey

Sunday, 23 December 2007

If you’re last-minute shopping today, remember gift-vouchers really are the last resort of the imaginatively challenged. However seriously stuck for ideas you are, just don’t kid yourself your teenage niece would like a Homebase voucher. According to research, £3 billion gets spent every year on vouchers in the UK. And 15% of them never get redeemed. That’s a whopping….well, a whopping amount (it’s too early for maths). It seems that some gift-vouchers are for life and not just for Christmas, as they get left in drawers to collect fluff and silently drift by their expiry date. Others get resold on internet auction sites for less than their face value. If my kids received gift tokens when they were younger, I’d always end up buying them off them. But I didn’t have the heart to negotiate a 15% discount.
Happy Christmas.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Hoorah for the lovely Liz this week who made me a Christmas present.

How much more valuable is it to give of our time and talent than to pluck an item from a shop shelf? I wonder how much time goes into the home-made present…and how much time goes into the shop-bought one? I’ll certainly value her gift more than many others I’ll receive … and hope to learn an anti-consumerism lesson from it too.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

I’ve been having a bit of a rant on the radio this week about the commercialization of children’s Christmas. We know they’re after our money –I’m talking about advertisers here. But our research showed that kids think that nice man on the telly, extolling the virtues of the latest tamawotsit, has their interests at heart. That’s why they’ll believe whatever the ads tell them and are ready prey for marketers. Never was this more apparent than in the letters to Santa that we analysed. When 6-year-old kids write in their Santa list ‘available from all good toy stores’ and ‘only £19.99 from Argos’ you know that the training of the next generation of consumers is underway with a vengeance. The government’s Children’s Plan announced this week talks about educating children about television advertising. All very commendable but what about educating them about the ‘off’ button?

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

What oh what is the point of store cards? Next time the shop assistant asks if you'd like one, just offer to have the letters m-u-g tattooed on your forehead at the same time. Because their interest rates are so astronomical they really should be morally outlawed. Some charge as much as 30% interest.

People in the UK are expected to dole out an average of £863 each this Christmas.

If they whack this on a store card the interest alone will be at least £179 during 2008, if they make only the minimum repayments each month. On a credit card (the lesser of the evils) they would face an interest bill of £123 - again making only the minimum repayments.

Some shoppers might argue that the store card is the only way they can treat a loved one with that special gift this Christmas. Who do you know that cares for you so little they'd want you to go into this much debt for them?

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Shopping as therapy?

Our survey for Sheconomics tells us so far that more than half of the women who responded hit the shops when life is getting them down.

Yet research from the mental health charity MIND ( suggests this will only make them feel worse and that walking is a better mood-lifter than shopping. They found that people were 22% more depressed after visiting a shopping centre. After going walking however, they were 71% less depressed. Walking also boosted self-esteem, whereas the shopping centre sapped people's self-esteem along with their cash. All good reason to grab your hiking boots and not your store cards when life's not going the way you want it.

Or, to quote Janet Street Porter, Shopping: The loser's route to happiness

Monday, 3 December 2007

Hands up if you know your own credit card number off by heart.

If so, you’ve probably been typing it into your computer at an RSI-inducing rate today, along with millions of other people.

Mega Monday - as the press are calling today - is the day when most people will do their Christmas shopping on-line. Apparently shoppers have been disappointed by their foray into the high street at the weekend and are turning to the Internet for pressie solutions. Why did they bother getting off the sofa in the first place, one wonders? The internet is usually cheaper, offers more choice and the only parking place you need to find is for your own bottom.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

How much of our life is planned and how much do we just 'let happen'? My fantastic friend Jessica phoned me the other day and suggested we have a special pre-Christmas get-together. Cool, I thought.
But Jessica's no ordinary girl and I knew it wouldn't be an ordinary lunch or dinner outing.
'Let's do some reflecting on what's gone well this year and what we want to go well next year and how we're going to make it happen' she chirped excitedly. 'Round your house, bottle of wine, I'll bring nibbles'.
Fantastic. Planning, in any shape or form - whether its financial, family or life planning- injects life with excitement, meaning and a sense of purpose. I also know that good things happen to people who make them happen - and Jessica's one of those people (I'll even give her a plug here - go to

Friday, 30 November 2007


Yesterday we heard that Headline are going to publish Sheconomics, the book.
We're thrilled to be working with publishers who are so passionate and enthusiastic about getting the Sheconomics message out there. Putting all we know from the worlds of psychology and finance into a fun and funky book just for women is right up our street!
Coming to a bookshop somewhere up your street in January 2009 - we'll keep you posted!
Karen and Simonne

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

I doubled the value of my car this morning – just by filling it up with petrol. I really should heed Simonne’s advice and shop around more. This is what she suggests:
“With petrol prices breaking the £1 threshold at some garages, it’s still possible to buy a litre for under £1 if you know where to look. But you don’t need to rack up the miles to find the best deal – you can do your research from the comfort of your desk by checking out Just type in your postcode to find the garages selling the cheapest petrol in your area. The website also gives you useful information on environmentally friendly and cheaper ways of traveling such as green cars, green fuel, lift sharing and cycling to work schemes.”

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Is having BUY NOTHING DAY (24th Nov) a month before Christmas good timing?
Certainly, if it stops women buying flashing Santa earrings.
I did my own twist on it and had a DO NOTHING DAY, which was very rewarding. I stuck to both BND creeds, i.e. Shop Less and Live More. As we toasted crumpets by the open fire in the darkness of the late afternoon I reflected on how the really good things in life do come free (or in packs of 6 for 49p).
(Also The Times kindly made my rant to the Body and Soul section their Star Letter, so I was in profit with my prize of £50 worth of organic products).
See what others got up to on

Friday, 23 November 2007

I know tons of women swear they owe their youthful looks to Estee Lauder or Crème de la Mer, despite the £100 plus price tags.
So I was shocked to see a pile of these products on a table just before going through security at Luton airport recently. Yes, all these jars of youthful promise had been confiscated.
Couldn’t their owners have force them into a 100ml plastic bottle?
Or found the nerve to swallow them and retrieve them – er, at the other end?
The table was groaning with over a grand’s worth of stuff and I couldn’t help musing about what’s done with it all. Then I noticed that the security staff all had suspiciously smooth and wrinkle-free complexions…..

Thursday, 22 November 2007

From Simonne: Statement sleuth

Know that thrill of finding money down the back of the sofa, or a tenner in a pocket of an old jacket? Scrutinising your own bank statement each month can be just as fruitful! AND it only takes five minutes. You might even discover enough money to pay off your credit card debt.
This is what happened to two of my clients recently. They hadn’t checked their statements in years, but when they did, they each noticed that two direct debits were going out to a utility provider each month, instead of one. Following this up, they were amazed by how much they’d overpaid. One of them got £600 back, and the other received £1,300.
So next time a statement drops through the letterbox, have a good look at it before you file it away – you never know what you might find.
Simonne, Wise Monkey Financial Coaching.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Did you know today is My Budget Day?
An initiative led by insurers AXA is urging employers to give everyone an hour off today to take control of their money. The time people normally spend is an average 22 minutes a month.
Axa lead the way by giving their 12,000 employees an hour every month to review their finances. They reckon it saves people an average of £1,300 a year.
It’s all about giving staff access to financial advice and allowing them to down tools for an hour during the working day – presumably not to nip out to the shops....
More at

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

An estimated 2 million people pay a monthly gym membership fee yet visit less than four times a year!
Today I heard about the Green Gym. It’s a great idea – a charity that gets groups of people together to work on outdoor environmental and conservation projects.
After some warm up exercises, volunteers get stuck in to digging, planting, cutting back or shifting at their own pace. All good muscle-stretching and strength-building stuff - and no need to look ridiculous in lycra or watch yourself in a mirror.
Saving money and saving the environment whilst getting fit sounds like a triple whammy to me. Have a peek at

Monday, 19 November 2007

Talked to a girl yesterday who's in debt but considers spending about £40 a month on her nails as 'money well spent'. Looking good is important to her and to her job. Her nail extensions require about 90 minutes maintenance each month too. She doesn't have time to sort out her finances though - and she's not alone. Apparently people spend on average just 22 minutes a month on money management, it could be less for women.
Surely we're not all too busy spending time on 'nail', 'hair' or 'wardrobe' management'?

Thursday, 15 November 2007

When talking about money lots of women voluntarily mention their relationship with food. Through our survey, women have talked about ‘binge spending’ or having ‘shopping bulimia’. Of course, food and money are both part of the brain’s reward system so perhaps it’s hardly surprising that they’re related. There's also research that shows that women who diet are more likely to make impulse purchases. The scientists say it’s because restricting your food intake uses up all your restraining power, so you’re less able to resist temptation in the shops.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Some wise words from Simonne about Christmas.......

I read today that there are only 43 days until Christmas. How did that happen?
Wasn’t it summer just a couple of weeks ago?

Here are some tips to help you manage your Christmas finances:

* Talk honestly to your kids about what you can afford. It will help
them in the future if they don’t associate Christmas with a huge amount of
* Agree a capped price for presents with your friends and family or
get together in advance and draw a name out of a hat and buy a present for
only that person.
* Make a list of what you need to buy before you go shopping and draw
up a budget.
* Shop gradually over the forthcoming weeks. Don’t leave it until the
last minute.
* Check out offers from online retailers. Do a price comparison by
visiting one of the comparison websites like and consider buying new or used items cheaply through eBay.
* Leave home without your credit cards and take only the amount of
cash you’re planning to spend. Having to use cash will make you think before
you buy something.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Funny how talking about money can bring all kinds of emotions to the surface.

This week I was told a story by a lovely lady who’s been a successful businesswoman and brilliant fundraiser. Yet to get on in life she had to tackle a huge fear of asking for money. The fear stemmed from when, as a young woman, she asked her dad for a small emergency loan. He’d handed over the money - together with a contract for her to sign detailing the terms of repayment and interest rate! She said that for a long while afterwards she avoided all situations that involved asking for money.

Then the anger at the way her father had used his power took hold and she vowed never to feel that way again. She now regularly extracts large sums of money from people for a very worthy cause. A great example of how fear can be deactivated and how we don’t have to be prisoners of our past experiences.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Stories about people who reject consumerism seem to crop up all over the place. The Compact group came from an idea of a bunch of friends at a San Francisco dinner party who vowed not to buy anything new for a year. The idea spread and there are now 3,000 Compact followers across the world, all shopping in second hand shops, sharing their skills and giving creative home-made presents.

Today Penny Hancock of the Independent writes about her one-woman attempt to survive a year without buying clothes. Interestingly, within a month she’d saved £650 and a year on is still looking well-dressed in stuff she’d forgotten she had or has revamped, repaired or even dyed. If she had a hat I’m sure she’d take it off to one of our survey respondents who wrote:

“I certainly do not feel I deprive myself of luxuries or treats. My treats are my trips. I just earn enough to do that and do not want for more. I couldn't care less for designer labels or the latest hi-tech gadgets (what's an iPod?) to 'fit the mould'. I value my uniqueness. Nature is my source of comfort. NOT material goods - never ever ever. If I were to double my income, I'd only give more away... I feel I already have everything I could possibly need with good health and good friends”.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

There are loads of things that make weekends special, i'd count the weekend newspapers among them.
Sometimes I come across things that surprise me (that fact that Ken Dodd has a stalker), whilst other news items verge on the blinking obvious.
This weekend for example we’re told that we eat more chickens than ducks in the UK. Hardly a shocker to anyone who’s observed the notable absence of Kentucky Fried Duck outlets.
Another was the ‘news’ that people in debt often experience stress and worry. Again, not exactly gob-smacking news but serious nonetheless. Being in debt threatens long-term health and relationships.
Vivienne Parry in the Times on Saturday said “Debt is a modern fact of life but to avoid our health being damaged we need to be open and honest about it….[this] will ensure that we get help early and avoid those two fatal mistakes, hoping it will go away if we ignore it and getting into more debt to solve it.” We know this is something women, in particular, struggle with.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Clearly not all women are over-spending. By the year 2020 there will be more female than male millionaires (53% to 47%). So some women are doing all the right things when it comes to money.

For those of us who suspect we won’t be giving the men a run for their money in 2020 and wonder how it’s done, Thomas Stanley’s book. Millionaire Woman Next Door is a gem.

Goals, he says, are all-important. Here’s one question he asked:
Seems a tough one but apparently most of the women millionaires he questioned answered ‘Yes’.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

October 31st 2007

The response to our survey has been fantastic. Not only have over 200 women completed the questionnaire (following the link from but a huge number have added their own personal stories. The honesty and frankness of these women is heartwarming. Many tell of struggles with finance and debt and of trying to overcome the urge to splurge. A lot of 'compensatory consumption' seems to go on too, but these women never lose their sense of humour.
Here's one example
“I only shop for shoes when I am overweight as I do not have to face the fact that I may have gone up dress size as shoes always stay the same size - I have over 150 pairs of shoes, so I must have been overweight a lot.”