Thursday, 23 December 2010






1. How much does the average adult plan to spend on Christmas gifts this year?

a)   £170
b)   £295
c)   £391

2. Who spends more at Christmas? 
a) Men
b) Women
c) They spend about the same?

3. Why did Phil Kunz, from Utah USA, receive 117 Christmas cards from people he didn’t know in 1975?
a) He had amnesia and no longer remembered any of his friends’ names
b) He had been on local radio bemoaning the fact that he was lonely and wasn’t expecting any cards
c) He had sent 578 cards to strangers in an experiment on reciprocity and 117 people had sent him one back 

4. When people were asked people how much they would be prepared to pay for gifts they’d been given at Christmas, how much did they say:
a) The same amount that the gifts had cost
b) 20% more than the gifts had cost
c) 20% less than the gifts had cost

 5. A Christmas card and envelope together cost £1.10. The card costs £1 more than the envelope. How much does the envelop cost?
a) 10p
b) 5p
c) 1p

6. Last Christmas what percentage of people surveyed said they disliked all the gifts they had received?
a) 5%
b) 15%
c) 30%

7. What percentage of women will pretend to like a gift they get?
a) 69%
b) 79%
c) 89%

8. What percentage of men will pretend to like a gift they get?
 a) 69%
b) 79%
c) 89%

9. What percentage of people thinks it’s OK to re-gift bad presents
a) 35%
b) 50%
c) 65%

10. What type of gift are we most likely to get wrong?
a) Gadgets

b) Clothing

c) Jewellery

11. On average how much do parents spend on their child’s Christmas presents?

a) £90
b) £170
c) £255

12. What percentage of women say Christmas is most stressful time of year?

a) 48%
b) 58%
c) 68%

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

The future's bright. The future's orange or banana... but not chocolate.

You know you’re into the festive season when you find yourself sitting down to a meal you ordered back in September. 
Often at one of those works ‘dos’ where the restaurant needed the order for your table of 68 people ahead of time.
And you find yourself wistfully wondering ‘Why?’.
Why did I think I would want steamed fish and a side salad, you wonder, as you eye up the juicy roasts, mountains of potatoes and pillow-size yorkshire puds arriving at other tables.
mmm...wish I'd ordered what they've got...
Here's the reason. We all have really good intentions for our future behaviour. But we’re less sensible when it comes to present, on-the-spot desires. That’s the Jekyll and Hyde nature of our Future Self and our Present Self (and the dilemma in the story of Ulysses and the Sirens if you want to get all mythological).

Would you choose a healthy snack or junk food for yourself next week?
In a psychology experiment carried out by Leeds University Business School in 1998 experimenters asked people what snack they would like to have in a week’s time - a banana or a chocolate bar. Most people made a banana their advance choice.

The following week the experimenters returned and offered the same people a snack to have straight away. No mention was made of their previous choice. Most people, especially women, opted for the chocolate.

People are saying ‘at the moment of consumption I can’t resist vices
But some time in the future I’ll have what’s good for me’.

We have difficulty delaying gratification because pleasure-seeking is such a strong motivator of human behaviour. We’re much better at exercising self-control when thinking about the future. But not so good at the moment of choice. 

That’s why we join gyms we don’t go to, and think we will eat healthier food in the future. It’s why half of all people surveyed last year said they would go to church, whereas in fact 90% stayed on the sofa. And why we don't care for the planet as much as we should.
So next time you want to make a sensible economic decision, try to make it ahead of time. 
Because prescriptive savings programmes, like Save More Tomorrow (devised by behaviour economist Richard Thaler and adopted by firms like AXA) are a brilliant idea. 

They capitalise on this natural human tendency by getting people to decide in advance to allocate a portion of their future salary increases towards their retirement savings. 
Consider which you would do:
a) Commit now to putting 10% of a future pay rise towards additional pension or mortgage payments?
b) When you get your next pay rise will you then make those additional contributions?

Healthy diet and healthy finance decisions have a lot in common! Pass me the chocolate.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Bartering for Business

This month we're thrilled to bring you this guest blog from Sam Pearce (left) founder of Mum’s The Boss, an award-winning support network for mums in business.

If you are in business your aim should be to sell your product or service and to make money. But there are times in the lifecycle of a business when bartering can be of enormous help.  

The concept of money as a unit of purchasing power is something which has evolved over the years and is now accepted as the norm. However bartering still goes on in communities where cash is not available, such as prisons (where cigarettes form the basic unit of currency) or the school playground (where children regularly swap or trade the contents of their lunch box). Early civilizations relied on the exchange of goods and services to survive.
As a small business owner, cash flow can make or break a business. Bartering comes into its own whenever cash flow is tight, particularly when trying to get a new business off the ground and later when a business is going through a process of rapid growth.
The importance of a support network
Top of your to-do list, as a business owner, should be to build a support network. This can include family, friends, social networking sites, business forums, a business coach or mentor, mums in the school playground, face to face networking – it all counts. People often view ‘networking’ as a means of attracting clients and generating sales. But your support network can be just as crucial when it comes to sourcing suppliers, partners and other business owners to collaborate with.
Here are just a few examples of ways you can utilise your support network when cash is tight:
  • How a new business can benefit: 
1.     Setting up a professional infrastructure. When you are a new business you want to hit the ground running – this might mean having a website, business cards, promotional materials, a logo, etc. The problem is, you probably don’t have the cash available to pay for all of this upfront, and you don’t quite have the skills to do it yourself. So now is a good time to barter some of your product or time to get a really professional image right from the start.  
2.     Building up a portfolio. When you are a new service provider you have the chicken and egg problem of needing clients but having no evidence to support what you do, save perhaps some qualifications. This may be the time to barter some of your product or time in return for testimonials, a design portfolio or ‘Clients’ listing. 
3.     Getting yourself seen. Advertising is a costly business, which is why business owners invest so much of their precious time networking. However, sometimes you just need to get your business in front of people. Can you barter some time or product to get some promotional material produced or for free advertising or advertorial content?
  • How a growing business can benefit:
1.     Upgrading your infrastructure. If your business is growing quickly you may find yourself outgrowing your website, your premises or your brand. In order to capitalise on your success and your momentum it is often necessary to make large upward strides before you can afford to pay for them. Now may be the time to barter for a new website with added functionality or some help fine-tuning and developing your brand.
2.     Getting the support you need. Or it may be a case that you lack the confidence or knowledge to take your business to its full potential. This may be the time to barter for some coaching. Sometimes a small amount of fresh input at the right time can make all the difference. 
3.     Outsourcing, freeing you up to do what you do best. You’re in a time/money trap where you can’t yet afford to outsource, but you need more time to grow your business. If you can barter with a couple of suppliers to outsource your admin, book-keeping, PR, etc, it can free you up to get on with the important business of making more money so you can then start to pay these suppliers. 
  • How to barter successfully
Our business would never have got off the starting blocks without bartering. We have bartered yearly memberships in return for a new website from a fledgling web designer and free advertising in magazines; offered free advertising on our website in return for sponsorship, discounted venue rates and a virtual tenancy with a business incubation unit; and received free business books in return for reviews;  the list goes on.   Successful bartering depends largely on the quality of the relationships you build. To barter effectively for your business you should:
·       Build genuine, strong relationships with people before you need their help
·       Be generous – if you’ve helped someone out they are much more likely to help you in return at a later date
·       Be honest about what you need and what you are prepared to offer in return
·       Highlight the benefits to both parties
·       Always keep your side of the bargain
·       Don’t be afraid to ask – but give people the option to say no and still remain friends!

Whether your business provides a product or a service, remember you always have your own personal unit of currency available at your disposal. As long as both parties are happy with the deal, the ‘monetary’ value of the exchange is irrelevant.  And don’t underestimate what you have to offer – just because it’s not ‘hard cash’ doesn’t mean it’s not exactly what someone else is looking for.

Mum’s The Boss provides online business resources on its  blog and runs face-to-face child-friendly networking groups across 6 counties. 

Thanks for some great advice Sam. 
Check out her fabulous website 

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Savvy-nomics rules this yule!

Will the festive season knock the stuffing out of your budget this year? 
Is it going to be a blow-out Christmas, or will you be sipping Lambrini instead of Laurent-Perrier on the 25th?

According to new research UK shoppers are going to rein in their spending this Christmas, spending on average £26 less per head than last year.
It seems austerity messages have hit home and people are thinking about how to make their money go further. Does that sound familiar to you?

The CFEB’s survey says we’re more savvy this year than we were five years ago:
  • ·      Nearly twice as many of us (37%) now set a Christmas budget and intend to stick to it (up from 19% in 2005)
  • ·      6 out of ten people will post cards earlier to cash in on cheaper 2nd class postage rates (up from 40% in 2005)
  • ·      Twice as many of us (16%) are happy to source second-hand items as gifts (up from 8% in 2005)
  • ·      More than half of us (54%) say we’ll cut back on the food budget by buying supermarket’s own brands (up from 25% in 2005)

This is great news and should mean that Santa's the only one who'll be starting 2011 in the red. 
Although a worrying 34% of people say they will fund Christmas from their December pay packet. 
Then they've still got another long month to get through before the next pay day. 
And…er…no they haven’t done anything so far this year to help spread the cost.

So, while I'm not saying ho ho ho to those who intend to have a no frills, fully paid up Christmas I'm reminded of psychological research showing that intentions don't always translate into reality. 
Will those good intentions melt away when the jingle bells and seasonal smells of the festive stores seduce us into slipping extra boxes of baubles and novelty socks into the basket?  

Will we be overcome with guilt at the paucity of the present pile and nip out for another singing fish at the last minute? 
Might we even risk buying things people don't need with money we don't have?
It’s the unplanned, impulsive purchases that can trip us up and, as sheconomics research shows, women are especially likely to get overwhelmed by the urge to splurge.
Check out the cheery CFEB Christmas website

Luckily the Consumer Finance Education Body has some great tips on its Christmas website launched today. There is a Christmas cut-back calculator to work out where you can release cash from other expenses to cover the seasonal spend. Plus they’ve got lots more Christmas tips and really accessible, useful (and free) financial advice.

Check out their tips now and be a savvy spender this Christmas.