Archives for September 2009

Money, Thats What I Want

My name is Hayley Constantine, and I am in debt.

That might seem like a dramatic sentence to say, but lets face it – most of us have some sort of debt. It could be your overdraft that you occasionally drift into, the credit card you have “for emergencies” (of course, an emergency varies from person to person – a new dress might be vitally important to some people) and with so many of us going to university these days, its quite likely you have a bit of a student loan.

Most of the time, debt is easy to control. OK, so you might not understand what APR means, or exactly how much you have outstanding on that credit card without checking your balance, but keeping on top of the payments is reasonably easy, right?

Well, no. The real problem is when you have various forms of debt, all due on different days, all with different rates, and suddenly it seems to be starting to build up. A payment is missed, and then you get more fees to remind you to pay next time.

This is the situation I find myself in at the moment. Before I moved to Bristol, I took out loans to help pay for things like furniture, and to cover the month or so I expected to be out of work. I expected that I would be back in work quite quickly, and could easily cover a slightly larger monthly payment.
Of course, it didn’t work out like that. I was out of work for 5 months, which as well as being incredibly boring, meant that my money soon dwindled down. I struggled to find even the lowest paid temping jobs (because of course, moving at the start of summer means that all those students are looking for work at the same time) I ended up with more credit cards, another overdraft, all getting eaten away with the cost of just being somewhere.

There are two things you can do at this point. You can sit down, figure out what your budget is, work out how to repay everything, and be happy. Or you can bury your head in the sand, and pay off debts in a “fire fighting” way – you pay the minimum payments, but don’t really begin to pay off the actual debt.

Guess which I did. I’m embarrassed to say it as a finance graduate, but I had no idea how to set my own budgets. Setting a budget for a company, yeah, I can do that. Costing up projects – let me at a spreadsheet and I’ll knock something together. Tell me to work out how much I need to be paying off my debts each week/month? Couldn’t do it. There isn’t really a class at school or uni where you’re sat down and told “Right, this is how it works, this is how to work out how much you have to spend”.

Things got to a point where I have been scared to open certain envelopes because of what I think it contains. But I had had enough of not knowing what to do, and admitted the situation to the Wife. After a bit of scolding (and if you know Louise, you know that “a bit” is not actually the right thing to say. A complete bollocking, yeah, thats closer) we had worked out exactly what I owed, and whilst its nowhere near starting to pay things off, I feel a lot more positive about the situation.

My main account at the moment is with Natwest who are currently advertising their personal finance reviews. I’d been a bit scared to go along to one, but after discussing things with Louise, I realised that it would be a good idea to see what someone who deals with this sort of thing would say. Seriously, what a help that was! We went through the figures, and was told that although its not a great situation I’m in at the moment, it could be a hell of a lot worse. (Also, did you know that as well as the usual credit ratings that all banks have, your own bank has its own judgement on you? I was surprised to find out that Natwest thought I wasn’t all bad!)

I hope that by admitting all of this to you guys that I will be able to become more financially stable in the upcoming months (by saying something publicly, I can’t really back down!) but also that some of you realise that you’re not alone. Money is not something we normally talk about openly, which can make the problem seem a lot worse than it is, but its true about the old saying – A problem shared is a problem halved.

10 iPhone Apps

With more and more people now becoming iPhone (or iPod Touch) owners, I thought I would share which apps I use on a daily basis

pingPing – This is probably my current favourite app, and I’ve only been using it a few days! Its probably easiest to compare it to a text messaging service, except that its free (and whilst its in its trial period, the app is free as well). Its also been compared to BlackBerry Messenger (haven’t actually used it myself – would love a iPhone version, but its never going to happen is it?)
Yes, its got a few problems at the moment (messages not updating, and the odd wiggly text input bit) but I can live with those (well, maybe). If you’ve got Ping!, my id is hayles (well, of course!)
iTunes store link | Similar apps: AIM, eBuddy

echofonEchofon – I use Twitter a LOT (you know, if you hadn’t already worked that out?) and have tried out quite a few apps, but I keep going back to Twitterfon (recently renamed Echofon). Its a nice, easy to use app for Twitter and does pretty much everything I want to do on Twitter! It would be nice to have groups, but I can just use Brizzly if I want to catch up with those I’m following in that way. Theres also a free version so you can see if its what you want – if only some other apps did the same (Tweetie, I’m looking at you. I’m still annoyed I paid for you.)
iTunes store link(pro) | Similar apps: Tweetie, Twitterriffic

shakeitphotoShake It Photo – The iPhone 3G camera is pretty good, but not amazing. With an app like Shake It Photo, it can make the pictures look better. I’ve used this app quite a few times for pictures when blogging from my phone, just to make them look a bit neater!
iTunes store link

gearedGeared – I’m not really a games playing sort of girl (my fascination with games on mobile phones pretty much ended with Snake on my Nokia 3210) but Geared is one of those games I can just pick up and do one quick level whilst waiting for the bus. The only other game I even bother to play is Flight Control – it seems pretty simple at first, but then its really addictive and difficult!
iTunes store link | Similar apps: Flight Control

myo2My O2 – Pretty simple this, it’s an app from O2 where it tells you your remaining balance for minutes and texts. I had been using one that I paid for (Mobile Allowance), but this is a bit neater, and I like that its an official app.
iTunes store link

wordpressWordPress – This is a great app if you’re using WordPress to run your blog (I’m not sure if it works for wordpress.com hosted accounts, but it does work for self hosted sites like this one) Its a basic sort of app which allows you to update blog entries and pages, as well as approving comments (and marking others as spam).
iTunes store link

netaporterNet A Porter – I both love and hate this app. I love it because SHOES, PRETTY SHOES. I hate it because it reminds me that I can’t afford anything from net-a-porter.com.
iTunes store link | Similar apps: Nylon

aboutbatteryAbout Battery – This free app gives you a better indication about how much battery life you still have left. I’m always getting caught out by my battery life, and my iPhone seems to die at the most inconvenient times!
iTunes store link

facebookFacebook – You kinda have to include Facebook when talking about most used apps. I don’t really go on there much on my main computer as its so much easier to check details on the iPhone. The new version is a lot better – you can actually see events and that!
iTunes store link | Similar apps: LinkedIn

Review – Cosmo

Picture 2

For my other birthday meal, a few of us headed up to Cosmo on the Clifton Triangle. Cosmo opened up at the beginning of the year, but we hadn’t really had the chance to go there before. I’d never been to an “all you can eat” place before, so it was all a little strange to me. You pay the price for the meals at the beginning before you get shown to a table, then pay for drinks when they are brought to your table. Its quite a large restaurant, able to seat over 250 people apparently.

Picture 3

I have never seen so much prepared food just waiting to be eaten! The restaurant has 6 “live cooking stations” (where a chef stands all day and makes a certain food – sounds a bit dull to me!) – a teppanyaki hotplate, yakatori barbecue grill, dim sum bar, wok station, fresh noodle bar and freshly prepared sushi counter.They also had a section for curries, a section of Chinese food and also a counter full of side dish type things (rice, chips and for some reason mini cocktail sausages?) I haven’t even mentioned the desert section yet – a table full of fresh fruit, a bar of lots of mini deserts and of course the chocolate fountain.

The food was quite good, pretty much as you would expect really! The waiting on staff were efficient – perhaps a little too efficient – at clearing the plates from us: some of our party had barely finished by the time they were trying to collect the plates from us! We did have a small problem with getting drinks brought to us where someone forgot to actually send the order to the bar, but it was sorted out in the end.

The prices of the buffet vary depending on when you go, but we went on a Thursday evening which cost £12 each. I probably would go again, but I think it would be somewhere best to go to as a group rather than as a couple.

Website: www.cosmo-restaurant.com
Address: The Pavilion, Triangle West, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 1ET
Phone: 0117 934 0999
Opening Hours: Mon – Thur: 12pm – 3pm, 5.30pm – 10.30pm, Fri – Sat: 12pm – 3pm, 5.30pm – 11pm, Sun: 12pm – 10.30pm

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