Kicking off the Young Money Book Club with a competition

To help Young Money readers brush up on their financial know-how, I’m bringing you an infrequent column on suggested reading material on all things financial…to kick off the Young Money Book Club, here are the details for a competition for the under 35s with big ideas to share

Iona bain

Not everybody has got the relentless drive to become a world famous investment guru like Warren Buffett but I’m a firm believer in self improvement when it comes to finances. Anybody can get wise to the importance of money management.

I gave a speech at the national final of the Money for Life challenge in the O2 Indigo a couple of months ago. It was the culmination of a novel initiative that challenged all kinds of young people, regardless of their background or skills, to devise innovative schemes within their communities that fostered financial savviness. The results were beyond heartening. Many, if not all of the entrants, overcame one form of adversity or another to plough all their energies into these schemes, which ranged from budget cookery clubs to anti payday loan groups. Those I saw during the judging process at the English grand final came from modest backgrounds where financial acumen was not necessarily held up as an essential life skill worth having and promoting.


The entrants tangibly demonstrated how much their efforts had made a difference in their local area and in their own lives. Moreover, their impact was not restricted to higher levels of financial literacy. They had multiple benefits that I hadn’t even considered as part and parcel of better financial management – some schemes espoused the health benefits and economies of giving up smoking while others encouraged recycling, higher community involvement and greater care for the environment.

In my speech, I said the following: “None of us are born with an innate sense of money management . People may think they are “useless” with money but it isn’t a personality trait. Okay, some people have a mathematical brain or have always had good willpower. Others may be better organised or more cautious than others. Good for them. All these characteristics do help, but I’m personally not lucky enough to have been born with all of them…and it doesn’t mean those of us may struggle with these things should give up and go home.”

One way that young minds can sharpen up their financial acumen is to read books on the subject. Yet there appears to be a dearth of economic and financial tomes written by young people, for young people.

A competition launched by the FT recently could help to change that. If you have a big idea that could help us all change the way we view the economy or financial sector, read on:

The Financial Times and McKinsey & Company, organisers of the Business Book of the Year Award, want to encourage young authors to tackle emerging business themes. They hope to unearth new talent and encourage writers to research ideas that could fill future business books of the year. A prize of £15,000 will be given for the best book proposal.

The Bracken Bower Prize is named after Brendan Bracken who was chairman of the FT from 1945 to 1958 and Marvin Bower, managing director of McKinsey from 1950 to 1967, who were instrumental in laying the foundations for the present day success of the two institutions. This prize honours their legacy but also opens a new chapter by encouraging young writers and researchers to identify and analyse the business trends of the future.

The inaugural prize will be awarded to the best proposal for a book about the challenges and opportunities of growth. The main theme of the proposed work should be forward-looking. In the spirit of the Business Book of the Year, the proposed book should aim to provide a compelling and enjoyable insight into future trends in business, economics, finance or management. The judges will favour authors who write with knowledge, creativity, originality and style and whose proposed books promise to break new ground, or examine pressing business challenges in original ways.

Only writers who are under 35 on November 11 2014 (the day the prize will be awarded) are eligible. They can be a published author, but the proposal itself must be original and must not have been previously submitted to a publisher.

The judging panel for 2014 comprises:

Vindi Banga, partner, Clayton Dubilier & Rice

Lynda Gratton, professor, London Business School

Jorma Ollila, chairman, Royal Dutch Shell and Outokumpu

Dame Gail Rebuck, chair, Penguin Random House, UK

The proposal should be no longer than 5,000 words – an essay or an article that conveys the argument, scope and style of the proposed book – and must include a description of how the finished work would be structured, for example, a list of chapter headings and a short bullet-point description of each chapter. In addition entrants should submit a biography, emphasising why they are qualified to write a book on this topic. The best proposals will be published on

The organisers cannot guarantee publication of any book by the winners or runners-up. The finalists will be invited to the November 11 dinner where the Bracken Bower Prize will be awarded alongside the Business Book of the Year Award, in front of an audience of publishers, agents, authors and business figures. Once the finalists’ entries appear on, authors will be free to solicit or accept offers from publishers. The closing date for entries is 5pm (BST) on September 30th 2014.

Full rules for The Bracken Bower prize are available at

If you prefer to read rather than write, keep checking for my picks on interesting, intriguing and downright brilliant financial


Leave a Comment

Filed under Books, Personal Finance

How can we expect young people to take financial responsibility when…

My column for Financial Adviser

“Iona Bain, a voice not unfamiliar to FA readers, is one of the most perceptive and intelligent in the retail financial space…”

A powerful perception has taken root in the British psyche, and it will take a lot for it to die any time soon. When things go wrong in financial services, the guilty do not get punished..

They may get fined, slapped on the wrists, even forced out of their jobs. But most stay where they are or ride off into the sunset having been rescued by the state, none the wiser, a bit richer and with plenty of opportunities to keep climbing the greasy pole.

Having recently finished Ian Fraser’s book, Shredded: Inside RBS, the Bank that Broke Britain, I don’t think I have ever read such a perfect morality tale for our times. Praised by the FT as “monumental”, it is bound to infuriate those who crave payback following our crippling fin­ancial crash. Fred Goodwin played a huge role in bringing an historic institution to its knees, only to walk off with a £324,500 pension, a £5m tax-free lump sum and past bon­uses. He was not the only one.

According to Mr Fraser, chief executive of RBS subsidiary Citizens Financial, Larry Fish, broke UK records with a pension worth £16.88m, while Gordon Pell, RBS’s ex-chairman of retail markets, got £9.83m.

How can this perverse outcome occur within a Darwinian economic model, which dictates that Goodwin et al should now either be behind bars or frequenting food banks?


Leave a Comment

Filed under Economy, Pensions & Retirement, Politics, Savings Accounts

Dating on a budget? My top free picnic spots chosen for

Iona Bain, author of ‘Young Money Blog’ – a personal finance blog for young people – shares her favourite UK spots for a cheap, romantic picnic date.

If you’re going on a hot date this summer, make it even hotter by suggesting a summer picnic. After all, why swelter in a restaurant or blow your wages on a lavish night out when you could be soaking up the rays, sharing delicious food and keeping some money in your pocket for a rainy day?
The beauty about romantic picnics is that they are an easy and cheap way to show you’re thoughtful, intrepid and enjoy the finer things in life. There is no better way to woo on a budget without your newest admirer ever suspecting. The most extravagant date in the world can’t beat a blissful afternoon in beautiful surroundings, really getting to know that special someone. If you need some inspiration, here is my pick of the UK’s most romantic picnic spots…



Leave a Comment

Filed under Consumer Affairs, Leisure

Does the financial sector REALLY care about young people?

Is the financial sector prepared to embark on a charm offensive to win over customers under 30 and, just as importantly, their families? Experts now believe such a move could not only lead to a more useful industry for hard-pressed youngsters but also help to put strained institutions back on track

by iona bain

Ian Fraser, whose latest book brilliantly charts the rise and fall of Royal Bank of Scotland, has been one of the first to make this bold proposal. Writing in “Shredded”, Mr Fraser suggests that RBS chief executive Ross McEwan, who has the unenviable task of restoring the bank to profitability, should tap into technology to ensure that cost-cutting does not fatally undermine customer relationships. He wrote: “The only way in which McEwan can improve customer service while cutting costs is if the bank can develop state-of-the-art mobile apps and online transactional platforms, on a par with the sort of things already available from the likes of Amazon, Google and PayPal. That way McEwan might be able to secure the loyalty of sufficient numbers of younger consumers to take the sting out of branch closures and downsizing.”

Indeed, more than six in ten 18-30 year olds said they would like to contact their banks using mobile messaging banking apps. One in six of the so-called Hollyoaks generation has never visited their physical bank, while seven in 10 never call their financial services provider, with slow customer service named the top reason for hanging up on call centre helplines. This is according to recent research from Intelligent Environments, a financial services software provider, which is now urging the financial sector to reconnect with the 18-30s and bring customer service channels into the 21st century. David Webber, managing director of Intelligent Environments, says: “With the majority of Britons now managing their finances online, and bank branches rapidly disappearing from our high street, why should customer service channels remain stuck in the 1960s?”

There are signs that banks and insurers are starting to grasp the significance of technology and its potential to draw in young customers. Online banking has been a much-welcomed innovation and a number of developments tied to mobile banking have genuinely worked in the younger consumer’s favour. Take current account alerts which tell heavy spenders when their balances are running low. This could be helping thousands of people to avoid nasty overdraft charges.

Furthermore, websites and apps can be incredibly effective channels in the growing campaign to boost young people’s knowledge of and engagement with financial affairs. Imagine the potential for the industry to gain the loyalty and trust of young customers through thoughtful involvement with financial education.

But do most institutions understand, or even accept, the power of the young pound? I am not convinced. I can count the number of banking, insurance and investment products devised to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing young people and their families on the fingers of one hand. Seldom do institutions launch large–scale, compelling initiatives to attract and maintain a young customer base, even on issues that the industry obsesses about internally – the protection gap, the need for workers to save into pensions, the nation’s wafer-thin savings buffer.

Recently, I was invited to speak at one of the big four banks on the topic of technology and how it can provide the sector with a direct route to the younger generation. The main argument I put forward was not particularly controversial; payday lenders and other alternative providers could swallow up market share, perhaps with detrimental consequences, unless the big players stepped up to the plate and promoted better options for young people. I was somewhat bemused by the nonchalant reaction I received. Senior figures in the bank’s digital division effectively shrugged their shoulders and abdicated all responsibility for developing youth-friendly services and products, saying it was down to us to design the kind of virtual banking industry we want to use. They also cited commercial pressures as a stumbling block for these reforms, which is more understandable but still frustrating. So why are institutions even contemplating the young agenda?

I think it is because they know, deep down, that they must take their societal obligations seriously in the wake of the financial crisis. A steady stream of data shows that the under 30s have been hit hardest by the recession, with new research from the Institute of Fiscal Studies this month stating the case most powerfully. This suggests that society may be storing up a personal finance crisis of epic proportions unless more is done to help young people today. Financial institutions which reinforce positive financial habits, such as long-term saving, are bound to make households of the future – and their own bottom lines – more secure. Let’s hope this realisation catches on sooner rather than later.

Photos courtesy of

The Jack Petchey Foundation

The Parent Normal Blog

Leave a Comment

Filed under Consumer Affairs, Economy, Technology

How much do students rely on payday loans and how they can get out of a debt spiral?

Thousands of students could be directed to payday lenders by a growing pack of online brokers based overseas, as a new report warns that undergraduates are becoming resigned to debt.


The National Union of Students has stepped up its campaign to prevent payday lenders from advertising on campuses across Britain after its own research found a “worrying” number of undergraduates are applying for short-term loans, which typically charge at least 1,000 per cent in APR interest.

The research with accommodation group Unite published earlier this month found: “Rather than a two-way split between those who see debt as a problem versus those who do not, a third approach is apparent in which some students are merely resigned to the inevitability of debt.”

NUS Scotland has a campaign to encourage students to make their universities “shark-free zones”, claiming that some payday lenders are “targeting students specifically”.

Dundee and Heriot-Watt are among universities which have taken steps to limit payday lenders’ access to students.

However, debt charities warn that students are unavoidably at risk online, where typing “student loans” into a search engine produces multiple results for websites that claim to offer “quick approval” for loans, even if the applicant is unemployed.

Many of these sites are actually payday loan brokers, which use search engine optimisation to appear in results for common inquiries. The websites, often based abroad, then pass on customer details to actual payday lenders, receiving referral fees of at least pound(s)50 in the process.

Clues include descriptions in poor English and offers which seem too good to be true, including no credit checks or application fees.

David Rodger, chief executive of the Debt Foundation, said: “While this is a rampant online problem, it is effectively hidden from most people because you have to do the initial search for a payday loan, unlike the more upfront marketing efforts of mainstream online and high street payday lenders.

Borrowers find themselves passed on to different companies and end up not even understanding who they are borrowing from, let alone what the terms are or how much it’s going to cost them if they are late with their repayments.”

He added: “Because these are simply marketing sites, they pop up and quickly disappear, making them difficult to track, let alone regulate, and leaving huge amounts of distress in their wake.”

An “alternative” payday lender for students, Smart Pig, started by a group of undergraduates concerned at how they were being treated by the sector, says its “pricing, loan terms, tangible ethical safeguards and internal procedures mean our company works very differently from typical payday loan companies”.

It cites a 10-day penalty-free grace period if payments are delayed and a safety net whereby students never pay more than half of what they borrow in interest, as well as a ban on controversial “rollovers”.

Although a small minority — 2 per cent — of students have admitted receiving payday loans or “doorstep cash” in the past year, this could represent up to 46,000 undergraduates if the findings were replicated nationwide.

Previous research carried out by the NUS also found that 10 per cent of college students aged 19 and over had taken out “high risk credit”, with vulnerable students particularly drawn to payday loans.

There are plenty of free and independent sources of debt advice, like Glasgow-based Debt Support Trust, that anyone in payday loan trouble should consult before going any further.

Earlier this month the Competition and Markets Authority published its own probe into the sector.

It recommended that so-called lead generators explicitly disclose their business model, and said it was drawing up plans for a price comparison site for payday lenders.


Leave a Comment

Filed under Payday loans, Personal Finance, Student Finance

The campaign for credit unions is gathering pace…

Iona Bain

I’m not one for flashy infographics but one of the biggest forces for good in our society has to be the good old credit union, so happy to share this factsheet in order to fight the good fight. Many thanks to Credit Unions Wales for sending this to me and please do get in touch if you’ve had a positive experience of working with a credit union. ionabain[at]

Finally, please read a recent industry report I wrote about the Credit Unions campaign that’s gathering pace in Wales.

Ib x

Credit Unions Infographic FINAL

A former financial adviser has joined a fast-growing campaign to raise the profile of credit unions in Wales.

Alistair Wilkinson, manager of the Gwynedd and Anglesey branches of the North Wales Credit Union, said the movement was now harnessing innovative products and “methods of distribution”.

He said this was notably by increasing NWCU’s online presence, to overcome restrictions laid down in the Credit Unions Act of 1979 and a lack of awareness among the population.

Mr Wilkinson, who left financial advice eight years ago, has been at NWCU for four years.

He said although credit unions had a long way to go, the sector’s biggest credit unions were starting to benefit from “significant” investment from the department for work and pensions, providing access to enhanced IT and a more efficient, centralised system.

He added: “Credit Unions have a commitment to putting their members first. They have struggled to compete with banks, building societies and other co-operatives due to restrictions in the Credit Unions Act, but the sector is starting to develop a far wider range of products and services, and it is a very exciting time to be involved.”


Hector Sants, the former chief executive of the disbanded FSA, is now heading up the taskforce aimed at establishing a network of credit unions in various churches throughout England. The taskforce was commissioned by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as a means of challenging payday lenders such as Wonga.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Payday loans, Savings Accounts

Why grandparents can be a financial lifeline for the younger generation…

By Iona Bain

When I started my blog three years ago, nobody was really talking about how the downturn would affect young people. I remember reading the occasional newspaper column that highlighted the toxic economic environment ahead of us. I remember hearing my friends whisper about insecure jobs, meagre wages, the crippling rent they had to pay.

I even heard about cases where children were flying back to the nest, just when they should have been finding their way in the world, with their parents quietly topping up their savings and income. But by and large, we were ignored by politicians and the media. Even our extended networks of older friends and family did not necessarily grasp how tough things were going to get.

How things change. Now, it seems like I cannot open a newspaper, turn on the radio or TV, even have a meaningful conversation in daily life without the younger generation’s woes cropping up at some point.

But with that increased level of discussion comes a dangerous sense of detachment. We all become hardened to the brutal reality. I wonder whether constantly writing about the subject meant I had become inured to young people’s financial plight, accepting the bleak outlook as though it was a part of 21st century life.

A letter recently published in the Independent shook me out of my lethargy. A concerned reader pointed out how a young person they knew would be worse off if they accepted a job pegged just above the minimum wage than if they went on the dole. This followed a period where said young person was living in a dilapidated flat on a meagre income, desperate to be independent but unable to find a viable job in an area of high unemployment.

This letter would have been totally heartbreaking were it not for one silver lining when the reader confessed that they continue to subsidise him from their pension.

For the reader was a concerned grandparent, well and truly stepping up to the plate. Faced with a perverse scenario that made it more economical to remain unemployed than enter the workplace, this young man was forced to accept extra money from his grandparents when he should have been completely self-sufficient. If he didn’t accept that lifeline, he would only have £9 a week for his expenses outside of bills and housing costs.

The kindness of his grandparents touched me beyond words. But this is often par for the course with the older generation. Research from pension provider Partnership showed that grandparents provided over £2.83bn in financial support last year. Most have given cash directly (64 per cent of those surveyed for the research) but 14 per cent had also given money to their own children to spend on the youngest members of the family.

Grandparents are often prepared to babysit when necessary, spending an average of £380 whilst looking after youngsters each year according to a study by (Only 3 per cent actually insist on charging for these services, clearly thinking their generosity is being outrageously exploited by parents desperate to have a night off!)

Nonetheless, this tangible, day-to-day help is only the tip of the iceberg. Grandparents make hefty contributions to investment vehicles on behalf of young beneficiaries that go largely undocumented – and uncelebrated. In 2012 alone, British grandparents saved £2.4bn, putting away an average of £154 each, according to JP Morgan Asset Management. Furthermore, 14 per cent of students’ grandparents are helping to fund university education – not an insignificant sum today.

I do not observe a culture which venerates that much-needed system of familial support. We collectively place far too much emphasis on what policymakers can do for us.

Hopefully this will change over time as we realise just how much we can change the lives of people around us, and that small financial contributions can make a huge difference to youngsters’ future.

Many grandparents have lived through grim economic times but may have attained a great degree of financial security that puts them in an excellent position to help out the younger generation, both practically and emotionally.

Some of our elders might continue to say that, compared to their years of hard toil and low living standards, the youth of today have never had it so good – that is, if you believe the stereotype. Looking at the compassionate and helpful grandparents of today, I think that caricature has had its day.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Economy, Investments, Savings Accounts, Student Finance

How young people can avoid a toxic debt trap

In association with Wilson Field

By Iona Bain

We may be finally pulling out of a painful recession, but are we turbocharging the recovery with worrying levels of debt? Forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility seem to suggest so, with household debt at its highest level since 2009.

Spending on credit cards and debit cards also passed the £500bn mark for the first time ever in 2014, according to the UK Cards Association.

Ouch – nearly half a trillion spent on plastic a year? The figures don’t indicate how much young people contribute to this credit bonanza but surely generation Y lack the means to spend like there’s no tomorrow?


Research by the debt charity Step Change found a third of adults seeking debt advice were under the age of 25 in 2012. Furthermore, almost half of 18 to 30 year olds in the UK have no savings safety net, statistics from Intelligent Environments have shown.

That means plenty of youngsters living on the edge, with a small crisis liable to tip them over into full-blown debt. So how can YOU avoid this trap? Young Money Blog has some ideas…

DON’T take a credit card out too soon

. Trust me, it isn’t necessary if you learn how to spend within your means. Yes, having one can help build up a decent credit score but all in good time. Too many people accept those tempting offers (like I get in the post) to apply for credit cards, even if they have the potential to fall behind on repayments. Students in particular have no good reason to use one if they can get a decent FREE overdraft on their student account. Which brings me onto tip no.2…

Even if you are lucky enough to have a free overdraft (like me), watch it like a hawk

It can be a useful facility when used responsibly BUT even the UK’s official financial watchdog (the FCA) has warned that overdrafts can be hard to compare on costs, saying it will now investigate this murky area. Veering beyond the limits of your current account allowance or free overdraft can result in hefty charges that vary wildly from bank to bank. Moreover, these charges mount up by the DAY. If you don’t trust yourself, why not steer clear of overdrafts altogether and use a bank that sends you texts when you’re near your current account limit?

Avoid payday loans like the plague.

If you urgently require money in a matter of hours (usually it is the lender’s quick loan approval time that appeals most), that is a sign that you need a more long-term plan to get your finances in order.

If you have fallen into serious debt, always prioritise paying your bills, rent and living costs, not to mention a mortgage if you have one

If that means you can no longer meet short-term loan repayments, you can apply to cancel the Continuous Payment Authority on your bank account. Step Change has very helpful advice on how to do this.

Go budget!

For milder debt cases, it can simply be a question of cutting back, putting together a budget – there are plenty of tools and templates online – and committing to regular repayments, all the while learning where you went wrong the last time (did you overshoot your budget? Were the repayments actually unaffordable? Did a credit facility tempt you to spend unnecessarily?)

Get to know your different interest rates

APR is the most commonly used measure but make sure you compare like with like if you’re looking to borrow.

Don’t follow the minimum repayment rule on credit cards …

…if at all possible, or you may be stuck with that unpaid balance till you’re old and grey!

Keep store cards at arm’s length

The amount you owe could escalate unless you understand when the interest free period ends and are certain you can repay the debt in full and in time.

Save, save, save

Pop any extra money left in your current account before payday in a savings account. Go for an Isa so your interest doesn’t get taxed. If you don’t have enough to save even £10 or £20 a month, revisit your budget, see where you can economise and rein in that spending!

Dip into your savings if you have a crisis,

Think about it – what would you do if you had a broken down washing machine or failed MOT? A rough rule of thumb is to have three months’ worth of income stashed away, so start saving today to make it happen!

In association with Wilson Field – many thanks to them for making this post happen.
Please get in touch if you’re reputable and interested in working with the Young Money Blog – ionabain[at]

1 Comment

Filed under Consumer Affairs, Loans, Payday loans

Food for thought: how to stop waste in Food Bank Britain

The Young Money Blog is embarking on a campaign to keep a lid on food costs and wastage. So many young people can play their part in making the most of what they’ve got in the cupboard – so ready, steady, cook!

Food banks, and the increasing need for them in Modern Britain, should serve as a wake-up call for wasteful spenders and cookers everywhere. It’s time to get more people, young and old, thinking far more carefully about how they buy and prepare food as the scale of food bank reliance hits home.


Kensington and Chelsea; widely considered to be one of the most affluent areas in the whole of Britain. It comes out smelling of roses in all kinds of research looking at house prices, life expectancy and other reliable measures of social progress.

Yet 794 residents in this postcode went to the local food bank, St Lukes Church, in the last financial year. How has this happened?

Statistics showing an increasing reliance on food banks have sparked controversy. Some commentators in the Daily Mail and the Telegraph point out that food banks are a relatively recent development and that as the years go by, charities like the Trussell Trust – the 17 year old charity overseeing a national food bank network – become more adept at getting the message out to those most in need. Iain Duncan Smith, the minister overseeing a comprehensive package of welfare reforms, has most notably accused the charity of making a tenuous link between food poverty and his policies in order to raise its own profile.

There is a grain of truth in the argument that demand for food banks will inevitably rise as more desperate families find out about this last resort, as it was described in a government-commissioned report last year. (Incidentally, that acknowledged that there may have be a correlation between a shrinking welfare budget and rising food bank usage, but this could not be proved.)

There has been a 54 per cent rise in food bank usage reported over the last year by Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and the Trussell Trust. Does this mean that food bank campaigners overstate the extent of food poverty, which may have always been a fact of life in Britain?

Possibly, but let’s look at some of the present day factors that have fuelled dependency on food banks.

One place to start is a harrowing Dispatches documentary which aired last night on Channel 4. It looked at three different families struggling to afford food in Suffolk, Hull and Fulham – right in the heart of Britain’s wealthiest neighbourhood.

The documentary seeks to dispel various fears about foodbank usage – namely that a great swathe of clients are completely out of work and on benefits, or that income in some households is being spent on non-essential items. It was also clear that food banks are a source of shame for clients, who were talented cooks (even qualified chefs) who wanted to give their children nutritious meals. Some had also sought help from family and friends before turning to the food bank.

The documentary did not touch on contentious accusations that certain food banks have not been wise to those abusing its resources. Indeed, a recent BBC1 documentary about food banks alighted upon one individual who had mislead the authorities about his real needs, and volunteers who spoke to the Daily Mail attested to others who “play the system”, gaining the requisite vouchers from many different sources to maintain continuous access to this lifeline.

However, the documentary highlighted genuinely desperate, hardworking families, often forced into a nightmarish scenario where parents go without food to feed their kids or are forced to make a choice between heating and eating. It makes you wonder what might happen to some of these families if they didn’t have food banks – perhaps there would be a corresponding rise in homeless people (and children) which would make us stop in our tracks.

The programme hinted at the modern factors that could be driving food poverty – intractable labour market issues (particularly up North), illness in the family which forces the breadwinner to give up work or places parental responsibilities elsewhere, changes to disability allowance and zero hours contracts which do not supply an adequate income. Perhaps the overriding problem is that work is simply not available in some areas and many low-skilled or contract-based jobs are not paying enough to help employees keep up with housing, energy and food costs. All these are deep scars on our economic landscape – how to heal them is a matter for another day.

But what can young people do to turn back the tide of Food Bank Britain?

If you’re feeling too pinched to offer up donations to food banks, you can try volunteering for shifts, which involve packaging up goods and giving them to clients. But sadly, the foodbanks I have come across are only during the week, which is tricky for those who haven’t embraced the homeworking/freelance revolution and need to work Mon – Fri.

What about doing your bit to minimise or even eradicate food wastage?

Kerry McCarthy is a Labour MP who is proposing a parliamentary bill to get supermarkets to donate unwanted food to those in need. She has some sobering words – and statistics – to share with us:

The amount of food wasted in the UK is a scandal. Reducing food waste needs to be addressed urgently and as a growing environmental priority. In the EU, up to 50% of edible and healthy food gets wasted and is set to rise by 40% by 2020 if no action is taken. By creating a surplus of – uneaten – food, the global food industry is adding pressure on scarce land and resources, contributing to deforestation, needlessly adding to global greenhouse gas emissions and helping to drive up global food prices. Government policy focuses on enforcing the ‘waste hierarchy’ further down the pyramid, benefiting slightly environmentally better methods of disposal (such as anaerobic digestion and composting) ahead of landfill. But there is no government incentive for diverting surplus food from disposal and to those levels higher up the food waste pyramid – for human consumption, and where unfit for human consumption, livestock feed.

What about Roger Aitken, co-founder of the Oxford Food Bank? This is what he had to say in the Telegraph:

The statistics for waste are staggering – and an affront to common sense and human decency. In Britain, 15 million tons of food is wasted annually. Nearly half is thown away by us in our own homes, but farmers, manufacturers and retailers account for the rest. Collecting store-cupboard groceries and giving them away to families is a decent thing to do. The Trussell Trust will get a stockpile of food to give to poor families. However, when people buy groceries to donate to food banks, they also increase supermarket sales. And while shoppers are encouraged to buy a bit more to help the needy, around the back of every store, every day, good food will be thrown away. If the big grocery chains are sincere about wanting to combat food poverty and serious about reducing food waste, does the Oxford project not offer a compelling solution? The equation really is this simple: food poverty plus food waste can cancel each other out. All that’s needed is to match need with surplus.


Next time you reach for the takeaway menu, or are poised to throw slightly out-of-date vegetables in the bin, ask yourself one simple question:


That is the question we will be answering in a second blog post next week. I’ll also be talking about the wonders of the peasant diet, how a blender could be the best kitchen investment you make and why Ready, Steady, Cook – NOT MASTERCHEF – should be dominating the airwaves.


Filed under Consumer Affairs, Economy, Food, Shopping

Two tips that will save you HUNDREDS on your train tickets

Forget the glitzy adverts, the promise that you can buy ‘cheap’ train tickets…cut through the commotion and check out these tips that could save you hundreds on your train tickets


What did we do before the advent of online booking? It makes it SO much easier to book that much-needed getaway, even if it’s just a short jaunt across the country on a train.

The cost of train tickets has become a real financial bugbear, however, with young people bemoaning the cost of travelling to work, going home to see family and friends or taking a staycation, even if they have a 16-25 Young Persons Railcard in tow.

Colleagues and friends of mine have been booking rail tickets left right and centre for the great Bank Holiday getaway. But they’ve been pouring money down the drain by using a seemingly quick and easy service, offered by a well-known company that advertises itself profusely.

Why is it such a racket? Well, it charges booking fees and doesn’t even give you the full run-down of available train journeys! How bad is that?

I also met someone on Wednesday who had to pay for a whole new ticket when this particular booking company failed to provide a booking number, necessary to access your tickets at the station.

Meanwhile, the East Coast booking service, available online, is cheaper and has a more comprehensive choice of train journeys (not just on East Coast, I hasten to add).

FURTHERMORE, you can collect loyalty points as you book journeys, which very quickly add up…you may well be entitled to big savings or even free trips, as I have been, should you use the service frequently enough.

However, neither the booking service nor the loyalty scheme is well advertised, so my peers have been missing out on bargains…even in first class! Yep, if you book far enough in advance (six weeks is ideal), you can find first class tickets that are even cheaper than standard fares.

So, take it from me, it pays to look around for a better booking service.

But don’t forget that if you’re fast approaching your 25th birthday, take the time out to visit your local train station and RENEW YOUR RAILCARD FOR ANOTHER YEAR!

Even if it means getting a new card before your old one expires, the savings will be well worth it. You’ll have a whole extra year to get the most out of this fantastic little card.

This is exactly what I did when I celebrated my 26th birthday recently…so we may be getting older but hopefully, we’re also getting a bit wiser!

Please find my previous post about train tickets for more info about how YOU can save a bundle.


Filed under Bargain hunting, Consumer Affairs, Tickets, Train travel