6 ways to cut your household bills

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the old adage “look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”. For one, I prefer to advocate big savings over little ones. Major changes like down-sizing your home, relocating to a cheaper part of the country, or swapping your car for a pushbike, will make much more difference to your bank balance and your overall wellbeing than a string of minor life tweaks. The way I see it, choosing NOT to go on a £3,000 luxury holiday is like getting 3 years worth of FREE energy, or 10 years car insurance!

But – and it’s a big but – the sheer practice of habitually making successive small enhancements to your routine and to your budget, like changing your energy supplier or turning down your thermostat by one degree, is an amazing discipline to have. It helps you adopt an ‘always-on’ 100% frugal consciousness and keeps you at arm’s length from life’s constant stream of rampant consumerism.

I’ve shortlisted my 6 favourite bill-trimmers, none of which are as dramatic as moving home or selling the gas-guzzler! They’re all super-easy to implement and can collectively save you a nice little chunk of cash, every day.

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1. Buy tube heaters

The cheapest way I’ve found to heat a room. Leave one of these on as long as you like and it’ll keep a room warm for as little as 4p an hour. Much cheaper than electric convector heaters or halogens. One tube heater alone is not going to heat the whole house, or give you a roaring glow in the depths of winter, but they are perfect for those chilly spring and autumn months, or when you just need to keep one room nice and cosy. Hide them under the sofa if you don’t like the aesthetic appearance – I know some people find them visually offensive.

2. Get a wood-burner – and pick your fuel carefully

Ahhh, our new energy bill saviour. We’ve forked out £1200 to have a Firefox 8.1 woodburner installed but it’s paying back handsomely. We have a small-ish 2-bed cottage and it warms the whole house in no time. We have it going all day in the winter months when we’re both at home and light a small fire of an evening when outside temperatures are more in the region of 5-10C. I find coal is the cheaper fuel to run overall while wood is useful for getting the heat going quickly or for shorter periods. Having both options – ie, a multi-fuel stove – is important. Based on initial estimates I’d say our gas bill will be around 30% lower. And as we both work from home self-employed we can claim a portion of it back on our tax return forms.

3. Buy in bulk, make in bulk

Discovering Muscle Food was a watershed moment for me. We get 3 months’ worth of high-quality meat for around £60. Package it up and stick it in the freezer on the day of delivery and you’ll notice your weekly shop from then on is a damn sight cheaper. It also helps you plan meals better, which means less waste and gets you seeking out interesting new recipes. (“Hmm… What could I do with those chicken breasts tonight?”)

Similarly, you can buy big bags of rice, pasta, oil, flour, potatoes, frozen veg – the staples we all need – at exceptionally low prices. Sign up for supermarket alerts and voucher codes and you’ll soon see that you can also get great deals when bulk-buying luxury items like sauces, cheese, or even wine.

4. Create your own cleaning products

Big-brand cleaning products can cost a fortune. I shudder to think we live in an age where there’s a fashion for lemon-tinged bleach and rose-thorned purifiers. Insane. You don’t need any of this stuff. You can make all your own liquids, lotions and potions for pennies.

Vinegar and a few drops of essential oils in a spray bottle is all you need for your everyday household cleaner. Hydrogen peroxide can be a good, cheap alternative to carpet stain remover. For a powerful non-toxic oven cleaner you could try mixing up some borax, vinegar, baking soda and boiling water. (Note – before creating your own, please research the portions and mixture methods carefully.)

5. Re-sell your energy

If you generate your own energy through solar panels you can cut your bills by around 25-50% and sell any surplus energy back to the grid. The initial outlay is still quite high, which is why I’ve not yet done this one myself but the the costs are coming down all the time and the resale prices are going up so a 15-year break-even point, as it is now, should tumble to 5-10 years reasonably soon.

6. Live by day, sleep by night

Rise with the larks! Enjoy the world in daylight when its warmer, more colourful and altogether more beautiful. And when night comes, bunker in under a blanket and go to bed early during those long dark winter months. Get your house working to the same routine too. Turn off all your power-points when you turn in for the night.

Peas in a pod: The DNA of a financially independent frugal warrior

On my journey towards financial independence (FI) I’ve soaked a lot of great content – books, blogs, podcasts and the like. They’ve helped me along the path. The best of them have become dear friends, or sharp tools to my armoury, or new ingredients for my melting pot of ambition. And the more I have read and absorbed, the more commonality I have noticed in the authors and creators of this content.

I’ve concluded that FI-seekers are a rare breed that share some striking similarities in the way they value life and approach a challenge. Here, I’m going to deconstruct that DNA, the make-up of your typical FI-seeker, as best I can. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Do you agree with these common traits, or not? And do they reflect your own life values?

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Time not money

I believe the classic FI persona upholds one core principle over all others – life is NOT about money. It is about time.

Perversely, while eagerly sniffing out ways to cut our spending and accrue wealth, FI-seekers are actually not that interested in money at all. Far from it. The focus on our finances is a necessity we must go through in order to achieve our true desire, which is to have more time, and more importantly, more quality time – the time to do what we want, to devote to things other than work and chores and simply ‘getting by’ in life.

Investment style

The vast majority of FI-ers / early retirees / call-it-what-you-will, discover one single truth about sensible investing and that is to adopt a passive, diverse approach to portfolio management.

Passive, diverse investing is where you establish a strategic long-term mix of investments – eg, 60% global stocks, 40% corporate bonds and gilts – invest your money across indexes, such as the FTSE100, and then stick to this portfolio mix as the financial markets ebb and flow, knowing it is likely to give you decent, reliable long-term returns. You’re simply tracking the markets. The flip side to this is active investing, where you research individual industries and companies and trade stocks frequently in an attempt to beat the market.

Active investing is dying on its arse. Over the last 10 years, 83% of actively managed investment funds in the US have failed to beat their target benchmarks. Nearly half of them have folded within that 10-year period. With the advent of technology and low-cost index-tracking investment tools, things are getting even worse for the active investors.

Active investors are greedy. Passive investors are smart. FI-ers tend to learn this quite quickly and keep a large proportion of their investments in a passive style.

Liberty

We want control, we want choice, we want freedom. As I said, it’s high-quality time that gives you that freedom and money is simply an enabler. But we stand for more than just that. We believe in equality for all, creative expression, clean air and long walks, learning, loving and free-living. We think a lot. You could say we’re a little bit hippy!

But that’s not to say we’re wild or flagrantly spontaneous. As a companion to this desire for ‘liberty’, FI-seekers also have a strong river of analysis and science coursing through their veins. We’re measured, considered open-book libertarians, not afraid to ask questions or push the boundaries, but often do so after much research and within our quiet realms of self-knowing.

Morality

I have found that many FI-seekers have very specific moral standards. They may not jump up and down and scream about it, demanding others live by these same measures – quite the contrary, in fact; FI-seekers are generally more concerned with how they and their immediate circle behave – but they believe vehemently in respect. It is morally important to FI-seekers that they show respect to others and trust others to display the same level of respect in return.

On a macro level, we hope and dream that the world can one day embrace greater levels of moral decency and do away with the greed, hate and anger that’s chewing it up.

Family

While those lofty global aspirations are held dear in our heart, they are not as dear to us as our immediate family and network of close friends. Because we appreciate the importance of high-quality time, we want to spend that time with those closest to us, the ones we love the most. We cherish and protect our family at all costs. We create an environment of warmth, sharing and support.

Bravery

FI-seekers don’t tow the line. We don’t simply take what we’re given in life, say thanks and move on. We want more. And to look for more, to swim against the tide, you need bravery. We never say never, we experiment and try new things, we ask searching questions, we call time on bluff talk, we don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, and we will take (considered) risks as we strive for a new, better way of being.

Individuality

The most important trait of all.

A few years ago, when I first became intrigued by the concept of early retirement, I found a very emotional attachment to some writers in the field. They inspired me. The book Your Money Or Your Life blew me away. I was hooked and excited about potentially making a significant life change, stepping off the traditional conveyor belt of work and taxes. At the start of that journey I was desperately looking for allies – a champion, a success story, a teacher. I was looking for more and more clues as to how I could unlock my own little life conundrum. I would latch on to any glimmer or comfort that I was doing the right thing. And I ended up feeling a real sense of fandom towards certain academics and bloggers.

But over time, this has waned. I’ve come to realise that, while I think we share many similar characteristics, the biggest and most important commonality among FI-seekers is, strangely enough, the fact we are all different. It’s our individuality and our spirit and determination for being unique that truly defines us. We have the verve to take the plunge and stick to our guns.

At the end of the day, we don’t need to follow others, or have heroes. We’re writing our own story, each and every one of us. Every day.

A 5-point strategy for helping people manage their money better

We have a huge problem. As a nation, we have an extremely low level of education when it comes to money, below the global average according to some reports, and it’s screwing up our health, life and wellbeing. Did you know that only 38% of UK adults know what inflation is? And that one in four students do not consider a loan or bank overdraft as debt? It’s time to take drastic action. I present to you my five-point plan.

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1. Don’t focus on anyone aged over 65

Sorry, controversial I know, but by the time you’re 65 you’ve pretty much made all your money mistakes. You can’t exactly switch career or accelerate your retirement plan. The best you can hope for is to be smarter with what you’ve got, improve your budgeting skills and maybe down-size to free up some money from your home, but you’ll know all this already. Whatever we come up with by way of an education plan will help all age groups, but to prioritise, let’s zone in on the core of the problem and save future generations from committing the same catalogue of errors…

2. Go back to school

It’s never too early to start teaching our bright young things the importance of managing money and living well for less. In fact, the sooner the better. Toddlers should be counting pennies not chickens, early teens must have a good grasp of income, bills, mortgages and tax returns, and by the time they’re 16 everyone should have a decent understanding of macro-economics – inflation, GDP, interest rates, foreign exchange and investments.

3. Create pioneers

It’s hard to spread the word alone, or for a government department to enforce change like a frowning school teacher. We need to work from the inside out. So, first of all, let’s create pioneers and champions who will advocate and educate on the ground in their immediate environment.

All local communities – schools, churches, sports clubs, charities, companies, political committees, hobby groups – they all have some kind of financial representation, someone who does the accounts or sets up the taxable status and manages the inflows and outgoings.

These people are gold dust and should double up as living-breathing finance gurus to whom we can all put our everyday money questions and conundrums. They’ll be rewarded handsomely by the government for their efforts and others in these groups will aspire to become a financial guru themselves and earn an extra income.

4. Keep it simple, keep it real

There’s so much crazy jargon around when it comes to money, it’s no wonder our knowledge is so low. The whole thing is a bore, a turn-off at best; a cumbersome, patronising beast at worst. So let’s not talk about ‘financial literacy’ as the industry so loves to do, let’s talk about ‘money knowledge’.

From there we need to create nudges and money rules for people that are a true reflection of their lives. There’s no point telling someone to save now for their pension in 30 years time when they have a 3-year-old to feed and energy bills to pay and it’s still 2 weeks until payday when they can hopefully pay off a slither of their mounting debt. Give them tips and tricks to help make the weekly shop go that little bit further. A brilliant recipe for sausage casserole that serves 10 portions at 30p each, for instance, is far more likely to get them engaged and kick-start some conscious thinking to help plan their spending in a smart, meaningful way.

5. Go on tour

Now is not the time for a government-led TV and poster campaign. It’s no good projecting these messages from an ivory tour and hoping they’ll land. That is so 1960s and simply not relevant to the modern day. We need the right messages to be out there, on the streets, all day every day.

All employers should be encouraged and incentivised to have lunchtime drop-in sessions in the workplace and post useful money tips in emails or on screen-savers and exciting desktop visuals. Shop receipts are the perfect time and place to remind people how much they just spent (or saved) as a proportion of their income and life budget. All this data can be seamlessly absorbed into an app that displays a constant reminder of how well you’re doing on a scale of 1 to 100, by the day, the week, the year and even over your entire life.

One final point… Knowing ‘how well’ you’re doing with money should never be related to how much you’re earning. That would simply exclude the lower earners altogether and give the high earners an undeserved pat on the back for their ego but very little else. It’s a fallacy anyway. Most millionaires are actually plain awful with money. Low-income groups and the self-employed are far better with their finances and plan long term for an easier life, without seeking out short-term windfalls.

It’s all about increasing your money skills, not your income. That way, it’s a badge of honour that anyone and everyone can wear.

 

Wonga is evil and its senior employees are Satan’s minions 

I know a guy on the board at Wonga. He’s a good, solid businessman; an experienced blue-chip director with an impressive corporate track record. So why on earth is he at Wonga? I’ve been asking myself this every time I’ve seen him squirm in the media trying desperately to defend the operating model he presides over.

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I wish him no harm. He’s a good bloke – as much as I know of him. But I don’t get it and can’t help but think he is an integral part of the destructive and downright evil industry of which Wonga is the undisputed front runner. So I must admit I was delighted to read that the famous payday lender has been fined £30m and is considering an entire rebrand to relaunch the business following a catastrophic array of commercial disasters.

What Wonga do is plain wrong. Luring poverty-line families into spiralling, crippling debt with cheery, comical advertising and enough small print to drown a cat is an act of malice. What kind of sick people actually want to do that?

Crumbs of discomfort

I don’t care that they’ve been functioning within the law – thankfully the law is at last changing and taking a firm grip around the neck of Wonga and other like-minded (or mindless) loan firms – the truth is, you need a heart of stone to execute a business idea like that. Time and time again. And grow a huge business that is dependent on mis-communication, deceit, trickery and the financial desperation of millions of people.

I believe those that choose to work for them are therefore little better too. Now note I said “choose” to work there. Don’t get me wrong. Many people need any job they can get and I wouldn’t expect someone seeking out a £16k call centre job to help support their family and keep them in clothes and housing to turn down a job offer from the likes of Wonga. Needs must. But let’s go back to my man on the board…

Big bucks

This is a guy who was earning £400k in his previous role – I worked at the same company at the time, though sadly I was on only a fraction of his earnings. He amassed the same again in benefits, bonuses and pension payments. He left that job to go to Wonga, receiving a similar package.

He is clearly a commercial heavyweight. He could have walked into a whole host of great and glamorous roles. So why “choose” Wonga?

A former colleague suggested to me he had aspirations to clean up the business, turn it around and shape it into something sparkly, worthy and new. I don’t buy that at all. You can’t polish a turd, as the saying goes. In the core proposition of aggressive lending there are no ethics, or vague degrees of godliness.

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Cleaning job

I work in a part of the financial services arena that is far more stringently regulated and for a new innovative company that is honest, transparent and on the side of the customer. We face enormous pressure and interference at times from the governance of the industry regulator, the FCA.

It astonishes me that they are remotely concerned with triple checking the education logs of our ground level staff when there are issues like Wonga to confront. It’s akin to the age-old gripe of policemen pounding out needless paperwork for a petty theft when they could be pounding the streets hunting muggers and murderers.

As for the future of the industry, I hope the FCA moves a damn sight quicker than it normally does and stamps out the treacherous practices that still persist – for good. They are polluting and infecting the heart of our nation. And I would love to see high profile senior execs and board leaders from the financial industry – and beyond – make a public stand against such businesses to heap pressure on the government and the governance body to act once and for all.

Hey, leave our homes alone!

So the Tories are looking to scrap inheritance tax on homes worth less than £1m. While I applaud the move to culling this obscure, unfair tax for most, I find it despicable it’s still being enforced at all. I don’t care what you level of wealth you’re looking at – it’s an outdated, strange concept to me.

It shouldn’t be just property either. Why not kill tax on all forms of wealth inheritance?

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Chancellor George Osborne has talked frequently of his plans to remove family homes worth up to £1m from inheritance tax which, as George says, “supports the basic human instinct to provide for your children”.

Stand and deliver

I couldn’t agree more. But why only on homes worth up to £1m? I don’t see it as something that can possibly be waived for one group and not another. It is a moral, ethical stance. You simply shouldn’t have to burden your kids with tax on anything you choose to pass on to them.

We live in an age where we are punished – or our living beneficiaries are punished – for inheriting the wealth we have worked so hard to acquire and accumulate while we’ve been alive.

You Cam talk

Prime Minister David Cameron seems to agree: “You want to know that even after you’re gone, when you’re not on the phone and not physically there, you can still provide for them. That wish to pass something on is about the most basic, human and natural instinct there is.”

But only up to a certain value, right Dave? Sorry, I don’t buy that one iota. I’m all for the fair sharing of wealth and anyone with a £1m home is no doubt pretty well off but you can’t say it’s a fundamental human right and then qualify who it will be applied to. That’s bizarre and discriminatory.

Pension chaos on the horizon

This, coupled with the new pension freedoms, is going to cause havoc. Anyone sitting on a half-decent pension pot is now broadly-speaking faced with two options:

1) Play safe and trade in your pension for a guaranteed regular income (an annuity) but know you’re unlikely to get full value from all your many years’ savings; or

2) Aim to eek out as much value as you can from your pension pot by spending it in your retirement so you don’t die sitting on a hefty chunk of cash that your family could be heavily taxed on when they inherit it.

Spend, spend, spend!

The big danger is that the majority plump for the latter. And while death and taxes are certainly the only two certainties in this world, as the old adage goes, you can never be certain WHEN you will leave this earth. I foresee a lot of people burning their pension pots dry in 20 years and then they happen to live another 20. Who’s going to pay for it? It will clog up government schemes to house and keep these people in their final years.

At the other end of the spectrum, those paying inheritance tax when their parents pass on, will not be able to sustain and pay for the millions living out those remaining years in abject poverty and utter misery.

One tax for all

It’s not a particularly cheery thought, I grant you. And there’s no easy solution. But I believe there is one way of making things much easier for people to understand, and to give everyone clearer responsibility for mapping out their finances. Have just one tax. Income tax.

Continue a graduated system of income tax, where those earning more pay more on higher amounts, and by all means increase the actual percentages, but keep it to just one tax. There’s no need for separate inheritance tax, VAT, or stamp duty when you buy a house – why on earth should you be effectively punished for that too? And there’s no need for national insurance.

As you earn your money you plan to accrue a certain amount that will see you through life and if you know anything you have left when you die will go to your offspring completely free of tax then you’ll not suffer that anxious dilemma of do I / don’t I spend the loot and get my money’s worth.

Killing the kids: Does cheap food cause obesity?

It’s a common household scene: You’ve just picked the kids up from school. You’re knackered from working your ass off all day and they’re running around like headless chickens, crawling up the wall and demanding “what’s for tea?”

You want to give them a healthy, balanced diet. Fish, fresh vegetables and rice. But you know that’s going to go down like a lead balloon. And quite frankly, you can do without the hassle after the day you’ve just had.

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Easy street

So you go for the soft option, the far more pleasant episode, which is to grab something quick, easy and kid-friendly from the freezer. Pizza, or chicken nuggets. Micro-chips on the side. Ketchup-a-go-go. And chocolate ice cream for afters.

They’re happy. You’re happy. And that’s great. But what happens when your child starts plumping up at an early age? Do you put it down to ‘puppy fat’ or simply a growth phase they’re going through? Or do you revolutionise your weekly food shop and radically revamp the family’s eating habits?

Fat facts

The facts and figures about child obesity are well-versed. It’s become a weekly column filler for most national newspapers in recent years. And no wonder when you consider some of the findings from the multiple strands of research rattling about:

  • The percentage of children aged 6–11 in the US who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to 18% in 2012. Similarly, the percentage of adolescents aged 12–19 years who were obese increased from 5% to nearly 21% over the same period.
  • Childhood obesity in developed countries has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

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Defining the fine lines

Overweight is described as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is having excess body fat.

Quite simply, being overweight or obese is the result of ‘caloric imbalance’. That means too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed. It’s affected by various genetic, behavioural and environmental factors. But how do you control it? And who’s to blame for this crazy escalation in obesity rates?

Charity begins at home

An interesting report out recently highlighted that parents are failing to spot the early signs of obesity in their own kids. You have to wonder why that is. Do they see them as perfect specimens, the untarnished produce of their own loins that could never possibly have any kind of defect? I doubt it. I’d hazard a guess that applies to a very small percentage.

So what is it? Do parents see the signs but not know how to confront it? I’d say a large proportion are in that very predicament. I mean, it’s not easy, right? You don’t want to suggest to your child, who may be going through various growing pains, self-doubts and schooling issues as it is, that they are physically unattractive. That’s the way it will be perceived. The inherent health dangers will be a secondary concern to them – at best.

Fractional health service

Another cause, I would argue, is that there are actually many families out there who don’t have the budget and the lifestyle to create a healthy, balanced family diet.

The counter-argument is that every parent should have the foresight, will and energy to seek out fresh, healthy produce and that such produce is very affordable if you only make the effort to find the right markets and farm shops. I get the first part. I categorically do not concur with the second.

healthy kid

Supermarkets in a lot of regions these days put astronomical prices on good quality, healthy food items and cut their profits on things like booze and sub-standard ready-meals as a loss-leader.

Meal deals

I bought a papaya in Sainsburys the other day. I was astonished at the price. One papaya. £2. Mixed with a few other fruit items and layered in natural yoghurt, that dessert worked out at nearly £3.50 per portion.

At the same time a bag of brilliant green spinach cost me £1.80. If I want nice lean chicken to go with it it’ll set me back nearly £3 a portion. Plus £1 each or more for a few stems of asparagus. Before you know it the main meal is coming in at more than a fiver each. Fruit juice on top of that to wash it down and you’re fast approaching £10 for a decent, organic and succulent evening meal. And it takes time to prepare.

If you’re on a tight budget that’s simply not affordable. So no wonder vast armies of UK households look for bargains and end up with 2-for-1 jumbo-sized bags of chips, big boxes of 30%-free mini sausages and 20-packet sacks of monster munch on special offer.

Turning the corner

The issue is cultural. It’s widespread and reflective of the economic times we live in. It’s easy to blame parents. It’s harder to look within the fabric of our society and the global financial markets that have engendered such poverty in the modern era.

There are signs that we have reached a plateau in child obesity rates. Earlier this year researchers examined trends in child and adolescent rates of overweight and obesity using electronic GP records from 1994 to 2013.

The data shows there was a significant increase in child and adolescent overweight and obesity rates every year during the first decade from 1994 to 2003. But overall, annual rates did not increase significantly during the second decade, 2004 to 2013.

The fact this coincides with an escape from the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis may not be… well, coincidental.

Pet insurance: The cost of keeping cats

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We bought two cats last summer. Gorgeous things they are. Maine coons. A very different kind of breed to your run-of-the-mill moggie. They’re incredibly affectionate, almost dog-like in the way they follow you round the house, come running when you call them and go to great lengths to nuzzle up tight during the night. As Charles Dickens said, “What greater love than the love of a cat?”

To be honest, they were much more expensive than I’d bargained for, but my partner was achingly-keen to have them and so we stumped up £200 each for the little blighters. That seemed like a hefty amount at the time but it soon nearly doubled when we took them to the vets. £100 each to be registered and have their first set of injections.

We’d had cats when I was young at home but I had little to no responsibility for their health and wellbeing, so, knowing practically nothing about the ins and outs of cat care, I immediately plunged into online research. It was more complicated than I thought.

Feline the cost
The innoculations (against enteritis, herpes, calicivirus and leukaemia!) were understandable enough, though I was surprised we needed a couple of visits. The worming tablets, too. Yes, I remember now my mother desperately wretling to keep the cat’s mouth open while dropping the crumbs of a small pill down its snaking neck. I remember too the ointment for fleas which is dropped on to the back of the neck, though again, I thought this was a one-off, not a monthly ongoing event.

bills

Next up, the big chop. Neutering. That will surely cost the earth? Not so bad in fact. £50 each. Now we can finally let them out, right? Apprantly not. They need to be microchipped first. This was definitely a new one on me but makes good sense and was only around £30 per cat. But the total cost in the first few months had shot up to around £1,000 by now and that’s before the cat food (£200 – we experiemtned with many different types) and cat toys (£400 – we went a little overboard on the indoor tree-houses).

To be sure, insure
On the latest trip to the vet I think he could sense my anxiety at the mounting costs. “This is it now, right? We don’t need to come back again for anything?” I asked him hopefully. “All done. Just bring them back for their check-ups or if you think they’ve developed an illness.” My eyes darted about my face. I hadn’t thought of them getting ill. What if they get ill? There’s no NHS for cats, is there? “You might want to think about pet insurance,” added the vet.

Oh great, I thought. Here comes the hard sell. Thankfully our local vet is a small independent business and he was refreshingly honest. He told us that some pet insurance companies are a complete rip off. “We hear lots of stories where pet owners are waiting months on end for the insurer to cough up and sometimes never do. Quite often it’s the bigger so-called reputable insurers too.”

>cat and dog

Cat remedies
He gave us a couple of names to research. I was amazed at the cost and the difference in cost between the range of pet-care plans available. It was £12 per month for a very basic plan but it insticntively felt like a lot of potential ailments weren’t covered – no doubt an intentional part of the marketing spiel. At the other end of the spectrum, the luxury level of pet insurance, you could pay £28 per month which would give you cover for all manner of treatments and remedies, including acupuncture no less!

As with all three-tier options, the majority of us hone in on the middle one. Mid-range feels good, not too stingey on the cats and not too expensive on our wallet. The Classic pet-plan was £20 per month. It still seemed an awful lot. For two cats that’s £500 a year. It’s more than our car insurance, double our buildings insurance and 10 times our travel insurance. Do cats really get I’ll that often?

Risky business
The nagging in my head tells me I shouldn’t take the chance. A quick google reveals horror stories of pets needing medial treatment for months on end with their owners struggling to pay off thousands of pounds in bills.

Utimately – for now at least – we have decided not too get insurance. Fingers crossed we won’t need to fork out for expensive trips to the vet ovr the coming years. It feels that assigning a budget of £500 a year for the occasions we will need to get them seen to is a substantial contingency pot. I’d be surprised if we need to shell out more than that, but we will see how it goes.

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