I’m a lot happier – and warmer – now our heating is back working. It’s amazing how you take these things for granted when they’re running smoothly. My mother rang this morning and told me off for not remembering to get it serviced this year – she is quite right though. I hang my head in shame for that and all the clutter in the cupboard. Sadly most of it is rubbish and, unlike Christine suggested, not worth selling on ebay to claw back some cash. The £75 bill wasn’t exactly a frugal success but I was relieved it wasn’t a new boiler we had to pay for.
We got our council tax bill last week too and it didn’t exactly put a smile on my face. Our local authority is raising council tax by 4.3 per cent, way above the consumer prices index, – 2.5 per cent in February – and just above the retail price index, which was 4.1 per cent last month. I guess we should be grateful it’s not as high as 5 per cent as some councils have raised theirs by.
Fortunately, while the hike won’t help our attempts to be frugal, we can afford to absorb the extra costs. But what about people out there who are already teetering on the edge of financial difficulty, with energy and other bills soaring? And it’s hard to see what the benefits are of all this increased council spending. OK, I have noticed a few extra bobbies on the beat in our neighbourhood attempting to keep the hoodies at bay, but I don’t feel that services have really improved by 4.3 per cent. What’s more, according to the Times Online, the council tax burden has doubled since Labour came to power in 1997. Maybe it’s about time these councils – and Alistair Darling! – started being frugal themselves. That is – saving money on unnecessary spending rather than cutting back on essential services for the elderly and disabled.
After all, it looks as though we’re in for some belt-tightening. For a while I’ve personally dismissed some of the tabloid headlines about the credit crunch as just scare-mongering and, of course, trying to sell papers. But it does seem that the credit problems and lack of economic confidence are really beginning to be felt by the man on the street.
The workmen I had round yesterday to fix the boiler said that for the first time in years they have begun to notice that work is slow and hard to come by. And apparently work for a local firm that they know which employs 20 workers has dried up altogether. Another workman I know told me that last week he had no work on but luckily things are better this week. Customers are thinking twice about spending money on repairs or services unless they are really necessary.
A financial whiz kid I know told me that right now the best thing people can do is – if they’re lucky enough to have them – use their savings to pay off any debts they have. Of course, that’s all very well if you have any! Luckily I paid off my credit card recently and avoid using it if I can, although annoyingly my paypal account is linked to it.
Anyway – if you’re feeling sore about your council tax bill check out this nifty guide on Martin Lewis’ Moneysavingexpert.com site which helps you to check if your council tax band is correct. It’s probably worth checking with your neighbours to see if they are in a different band to you, although the risk is that the council could decide you should be in a higher band. I’m going to check with my neighbours, although as a C I think it’s unlikely we’ll be in a lower band.
As the cost of living rises, it’s clear we still need your thrifty tips coming! I got some good ones from this American website today. The tip about putting salt into a carton of milk to keep it fresh longer is really useful – I’m going to try that out. Oh, and the message from a user asking whether she should get a Mohawk haircut made my day!