Posts Tagged ‘Save money’

#13 Grey

In Down and Out, midlife on November 25, 2009 at 2:53 pm

When the whole recession thing started to trickle down to street level, I asked a stylist friend who cuts hair how she was faring. Was she losing clients? ‘Oh no! My ladies say that they’d rather go without food than not have their hair done.’

Personally I’d rather shave my head than forgo good food, and yet I find myself at a follicle crossroads. One word: grey. It is seeping in from the temples and springing from the parting and there is little I can do to stem the tide. The image in the mirror has become a spiteful reminder of my slide towards middle age and anonymity.

In the past, the occasional £75+ to obliterate it with warm chestnut or camouflage it with highlights kept me in blissful denial, but now I can’t imagine ever having that much spare cash again. And even if I did, I’d probably spend it on cheese.

It seems unfair that a man with grey hair is seen as distinguished, even desirable, yet for women it’s still something of a social taboo. (When is a woman ever referred to as a ‘silver fox’?) But then, men are also allowed to be old; women aren’t.

But if men like my husband can make male-pattern baldness cool by teaming a No1 cut with a Cos shirt and APC jeans, then perhaps women can make grey a fashion statement.

First we need role models, of which there turn out to be depressingly few. After wracking my brains, all I’ve managed to come up with is: Jamie Lee Curtis; Susan Sontag; Indira Gandhi; fashion designer Helen Storey (she was big in about 1990); Vanessa Redgrave; Rogue out of X-men; Alexandra Cabot from 1970s Hanna-Barbera animation series Josie and the Pussycats (see above); and Dame Judi Dench. A motley crew only able to carry it off either by having been already revered in their field when they lost their melanin, or being cartoon characters.

Far more numerous are the women who I refuse to believe aren’t grey: I give you Madonna, Arlene Phillips, Elizabeth Taylor, Dame Shirley Bassey…

Perhaps we can take heart instead from a New Scientist article which claims grey hair can protect against cancer.

Or this beautiful illustration published in Bronwen Meredith’s “Vogue Body and Beauty Book” 1977 entitled The Beauty of Grey Hair, 1920s. The caption reads:

C.R., The Beauty of Grey Hair, 1920s by Gatochy.
‘Thanks to her sophisticated charm, a carefully picked wardrobe and assiduous care the grey haired woman can be charming. Pity the poor deluded woman who weeps over her jet black hair, because she didn’t realize gray hair is much more distinguished. The pot of hair dye did its job — and deprived her of her greatest beauty.’

If only. Pixie Geldof may have flirted with grey at the Elle Style Awards, but until someone persuades Kate Moss to appear at Glastonbury with a prominent grey streak, or Madonna to go au naturel, women will continue to spend a fortune on (self) deception. Or, when they’re broke, simply avoid mirrors.

#5 Avoid buying stuff

In Save cash, White collar denial on October 17, 2009 at 11:29 pm

This week, I’ve avoided buying: Read the rest of this entry »

#4 Downshift your supermarket

In Food & Drink, Save cash on October 17, 2009 at 11:11 pm

It’s what everyone’s doing these days. Read the rest of this entry »

#3 Avoid paying tax

In Homeworking on October 13, 2009 at 4:52 pm

Of course, if you aren’t earning any money, there’s nothing to pay tax on. Indeed, they might end up paying you. More likely, you’ll find yourself in that time-warp scenario where you end up paying back money they gave you one year when you were poor because the next year, you weren’t, even though the year after, when they actually ask you to pay, you’re poor again. It’s why I haven’t re-registered for the Working Families Tax Credit – they’re just waiting to catch you out.

Perhaps you actually listened to your accountant when they told you to put aside a certain percentage of everything you’ve earnt each time you earnt it so that you could not only be sure of having the funds to pay your tax but, in more buoyant times, might even have earnt some interest on the savings account, thus financing a nice little holiday at the end of it as a reward for being one of the most anal people on the planet.

No, of course you didn’t. No one does. Just as no one actually fills in their tax return on the 7th of April while it’s all fresh in their mind and they still know where their receipts are. Not even if they don’t have any actual paid work to get in the way of such administrative tasks. We all avoid even thinking about paying tax until we actually have to. It’s human nature. But, at the end of this month, we can avoid it no longer. At least if we want to submit an old fashioned paper form.

This year many people have ditched the accountant we can no longer afford and are flying solo, threatening to crash the Inland Revenue website with our simultaneous eleventh-hour panic requests for forms and facts. A virtual flash-mob of the self-employed. Or a mass Hallowe’en party – the date can hardly be coincidental. One of the most frightening prospects of the year arranged to coincide with the a Celtic festival originally symbolising the end of summer and the onset of winter, and a time when evil spirits are thought to be especially active. Winter. Evil spirits. Indeed. One can almost hear the ghoulish cackling of low-grade civil servants that must echo around the offices of IR Salford at this time of year. The added frisson of the postal strike will, for anyone who doesn’t live near their local tax office or even know where it is, add an extra chill. Plus the 31st is a Saturday. And no, the IR don’t care and aren’t accepting late forms unless you can really argue your case on appeal. (You can buy yourself three more months by filing online at https://online.hmrc.gov.uk… but even then you have to wait for them to post you a  User ID and Activation PIN to arrive.) Luckily personal finance journalists are grinding out advice for the rest of us saps. You can have your hand held at, for instance, www.telegraph.co.uk or news.bbc.co.uk

However many articles you read, the question of what you can actually claim against tax is never properly resolved. Some would urge caution at even claiming for a proportion of your household utility bills; others say go for anything you think you can get away with. The Guardian says meals away from home when you’re out on a job are fair game; my (ex-)accountant says otherwise. As with my approach to the similarly broad spectrum of advice given on how much wine it’s OK to drink while pregnant, I’m cherry picking whichever bit suits my needs at any particular time.

But what happens when remuneration no longer takes a monetary form? Magazines, newspapers and websites have become increasingly reluctant to cough up hard cash, and instead see what you’ll do in exchange for a few treats; this summer I’ve traded time and skills in exchange for free books, audioCDs, food and alcohol. Add to this mutually beneficial arrangements involving babysitting, house swaps, and passing on cast-offs, and it all starts to look very un-capitalist. Totting this up so far, next year I’ll probably owe the Revenue the sleeve of a school sweatshirt, a lift to trampolining, the Central London section of a Time Out guide book, and an organic pork pie.

I wonder if I can pay that online…

#1 Make yourself feel popular

In Jobseeking, Save cash on October 4, 2009 at 11:25 pm

If you no longer have the status of a jobtitle, you may be missing all of those emails you used to get. Signing up to job alerts can guarantee you several emails every day. Very few of them will be useful, but that muffled ‘ping’ will fill your heart with hope and offer the illusion that someone, somewhere still cares. Here’s a few I’ve signed up to so far:

womenlikeus.org.uk – a great organisation dedicated to helping women either get back to work after time off for childrearing, or find part-time work commensurate with their skills and training.

guardianjobs.co.uk – alerts every time a job is advertised on their website that fits your specified requirements. Frequency: surprisingly frequent.

gorkanapr.com – meteoric rise to indispensible status among journalists. Features details of all media moves, however trivial, with job alerts on Friday. Essential for knowing who to send your feature ideas to, new appointees to suck up to, and what to gossip about. Currently freelances promoting themselves outnumber bona fide appointments, with at lest one former London Paper employee in the (forcibly) freelance section every day. Job alerts are essential reading with big name titles advertising here, but beware the online section – there have been times when 50% of their ‘jobs’ were for unpaid contributions.

journalism.co.uk – journo jobs and professional tips. Frequency: daily, but it feels like more.

essentialwriters.com – fledgling site for tips, jobs, support and information exchange for journalists, novelists and anyone who writes.

bbc.co.uk/languages/spanish/mividaloca – brilliant online Spanish course with BAFTA award-winning drama. Worth watching even if you don’t actually want to learn Spanish. Frequency: weekly alerts, two lessons a week. Toatl length 12 weeks, but you can speed up if you want.

VoucherCodes.co.uk – lists of special offers, often featuring 2-4-1 at Gourmet Burger Kitchen or 12% off at Boden. Frequency: weekly.

Also http://www.vouchercodes.eu/ as recommended by a reader.

Be More – quirky things to do in the Borough of Lewisham. Like bat walks, ukulele troupes, gardening as workout, pedal powered cinemas, and, as they say, more. Frequency: weekly.

lovefoodlovedrink.co.uk foodie news and events. Frequency: weekly.

food4media.com – food & drink news direct from the PRs. Frequency: customisable.

And some jobs websites to check regularly:

www.london.gov.uk/gla/jobs – jobs at Boris’ house. If you’re quick there’s still a job going as PA to the BNP Assembly member. Salary £27,001 pa. You’d need to pay me a lot more than that to spend time in Richard Barnbrook’s company. All the applicants will probably be G2 journalists writing stunt stories.

www.london2012.com/get-involved/work-for-2012 – from builders to meets and greeters.

www.jobsatsouthwark.co.uk – vacancies at the local council. Most jobs are for social workers.

www.artshub.co.uk – UK jobs in all area of the arts.

www.london-jobs-online.co.uk – jobs. in london. listed online.

www.thebookseller.com – bluechip publishing jobs.

www.careermovesgroup.co.uk/publishing – publishing jobs via the agency Publishing Moves.

www.jobcentreplus.gov.uk – actually, you may find yourself woefully underqualified for even the most menial of these. I did.

Clearly there is still room in my in tray. Please feel free to suggest more to clog it up.