Tag Archives: Money

On cash at Christmas

**’On cash at Christmas’ first appeared in Canton and Pontcanna Matters**

I don’t know about you but this time of year is when I start to panic a bit (ok, a lot) about how our finances will cope over the festive season. It’s particularly hard in these middle years of their childhood – too old to be fobbed off with large cardboard boxes containing not very much at all, too young to be sent out to earn a living to pay for their keep. (Note to self – eldest is 8 so can’t be too far away. Get in touch with the jobcentre to get him pre-registered).

So here’s a few tips to help you save money for the season of expensiveness:

  1. Save a little bit every month, from January. I’m actually cringing a bit as I write this because I never, ever manage to do it. I do start, but then there’s a holiday, or a birthday, or some other unforeseen event. But I swear 2014 will be the year!
  2. Start picking up stocking fillers as soon as the kids go back to school in September. It’s amazing how much all the little bits add up if you are getting them in one go, but a couple of items a week for a three months feels much less painful on the pocket. (There are somethings you’re best not to get in September. For instance satsumas. They go green. And chocolates. They just, er, go.)
  3. Sneak non-presents onto the present quota. Stuff like pencil cases which they need anyway, or pyjamas and slippers. The younger they are, the more of this devious behaviour you can get away with!
  4. Gumtree and eBay are your friends. Last year my daughter really wanted a pink desk (don’t judge me, I don’t do pink myself, but I seem to have spawned a girly girl.) All we could find in the shops was plastic, tacky and dressing table-like. But Gum Tree came to our rescue with a really good quality little desk, for next to nothing.
  5. Reconditioned electronic goods are much cheaper, but as far as the kids are concerned are brand new. My older kids are in iPod/DS territory this year – which is manageable if they’re reconditioned but crippling otherwise. It also makes the inevitable losing/breaking/spilling squash over them slightly more bearable when it happens – and you know it will…
  6. Food…it is so easy to get sucked into buying all sorts of delicious goodies on your way round the supermarket. And there’s nothing wrong with that – if you don’t end up throwing them away! Sure, it’s lovely to have eight different types of cheese in the house, but if your kids only eat common or garden cheddar, there’s a reasonable chance you wont get through it all. Plan your menus, work out your list, and stick to it!
  7. Food again…We are really lucky in Canton and Pontcanna with a wide range if indie shops. Buy your Christmas veggies from a greengrocer, and get your turkey from a butcher. Not only will you be supporting independent traders in our community, but you’ll save a shedload.
  8. if you are really strapped, check out Cardiff and Vale Credit Union’s current loan deal – borrow £500 for Christmas, make 12 monthly payments of £56, total repayable £550.38 AND you will have £120 in savings for next Christmas. More details at www.cardiffcu.com.

So there you go, the LearnerMother guide to surviving Christmas. You’re welcome!


On what’s been happening with the Cardiff Pound


Four months ago tomorrow, I wrote a blog post talking about how I had been playing with the idea of a local currency for a while, and how I wanted to take steps to get one set up here in Cardiff, to benefit local traders, local people, and in the longer term help us maintain/build our local economy. I was absolutely amazed by the interest the post generated, and excited to hear that so many people seemed supportive of the idea.

What’s happened since then? Well, not as much as I would have liked to be honest – the last few months have been horribly busy from a work point of view, and of course now I have a couple of weeks break between contracts, we are well into Summer Holiday mode – which in case anyone is reading this who doesn’t have kids, does NOT equate to ‘Summer Resting Period’.

But the Cardiff Pound idea has still been ticking over in the background, so I thought it would be useful to do a roundup of what HAS happened.

Firstly, I went and spent an afternoon with Stephen Clarke, one of the founders of the Bristol Pound. This was absolutely the best thing I could have done – Stephen talked me through the setup in Bristol, answered all the questions I had thought of plus a few more, and generally confirmed my opinion that a Cardiff Pound would bring a much needed boost to our city. He explained how the Bristol Pound works in partnership with the local Credit Union & the Council,  whilst retaining its independence as an organisation, and this seems to me to be a sensible model to follow. There’s also an opportunity to work with the Bristol Pound team on certain areas of the setup, though this is an area which we haven’t explored in detail yet.

I also went to see Lorraine, the Chief Exec of Cardiff and Vale Credit Union. It’s a busy time for the credit union – they have just completed an office move into Marland House, right in the centre of town, and they have ambitious plans to bring their (excellent) savings and loan products to many more people over the next year. Lorraine was very positive about the possibilities for partnership with a Cardiff Pound and we have agreed to continue exploring how we can work together.

There has also been a very warm response from our local Councillors – thanks in part to the press coverage of the Cardiff Pound idea, and also as a result of a Small Business drop in session in Castle Arcade, where I had the opportunity to bend people’s ears talk about the project. It seems that there is a real political will to take forward a currency for Cardiff, and Cllr Ashley Govier is organising a meeting to discuss the initiative in more detail in the near future – I’ll feed back on that after the event. I am very much hoping that discussions with the Council will result in us bringing the New Economics Foundation to Cardiff to share their considerable knowledge about local currencies and the different benefits they can bring, as well as the pitfalls to be aware of when setting one up.

Looking further ahead, I have also been trying to work out how we can make sure the Cardiff Pound becomes a currency that is present in all aspects of our local economy, and is not seen simply as a retail project. Mark Hooper, director of Indycube Ventures (which is a half million pound funding stream set up specifically to invest in local startups) came up with a fantastic solution – which is to offer a percentage of startup investment funding in Cardiff Pounds! This idea is in its early stages, but feels to me like an amazing opportunity to encourage business startups in all sectors to base themselves in Cardiff. And of course if other local funding providers were to follow suit, this could provide a massive boost for our startup scene.

What else? Well, as you’ll have seen at the top of the piece, we have a logo for the Cardiff Pound project! This is with MASSIVE thanks to Marc Thomas, Editor of Plastik Magazine and a freelance journalist. Marc designed this logo for free, as part of his commitment to do good work for charities and non-profits  – and I am really grateful to him for the time he put into this. The idea is that the logo will become the face of the project in its setup stages, before holding a city wide competition for the final design of the currency itself, once all the nuts and bolts are in place to launch. Thank you Marc!

I’ve also had help and advice from a whole bunch of people, especially Owen Derbyshire of 21 Communications, Christian of I Loves The Diff fame and Gwion Thorpe, a founding partner of the Siop y Bobl project – all of whom I hope will continue to bear with me and my somewhat scattergun approach over the next stage of the journey! And I’m really looking forward to meeting the group behind Cardiff Taffs in a couple of weeks to see how we can share knowledge and hopefully work together.

So – what’s next for the Cardiff Pound? Well, soon it’ll have a website all of its own instead of a corner of LearnerMother; and in the not too distant future, with help from Cardiff Council, an opportunity to work with the New Economics Foundation to refine our plans. The project needs to be set up as a Community Interest Company, and once that’s done then more formal partnerships can be worked out – and of course the small question of how to fund this project is still to be resolved. In the grand scheme of things it’s not a huge amount of money to find – £20K or so would probably break the back of the setup costs, however that’s assuming that everyone involved can work for free. I’m still chewing over how best to work out the money side of things, I’m sure a solution will appear somehow!

It’s fair to say that the Cardiff Pound is not moving as quickly as I would like at the moment. However, please do bear with me – everything has to be squeezed in around family and work which will necessarily mean that there are sometimes periods when things go quiet. Rest assured, the Cardiff Pound is very much alive and kicking, and in a shop near you, soon!

Thanks for reading – please do get in touch via comments or @cardiffpound – looking forward to hearing from you!





On the Cardiff Pound

It’s just over a week since the #ShopCardiff campaign ended, and I think everyone involved was extremely chuffed at how the idea caught the attention of retailers and – more importantly – local shoppers. In the end, the campaign, conceived by Arlein Media, the folk behind TweetCardiff, reached over 500,000 twitter accounts, was featured on BBC Radio Wales, ITV Wales, and covered in the local press, not to mention inspiring several posts on people’s experiences of shopping independently for a whole week, including these:




I was pretty taken aback by the enthusiasm for the #ShopCardiff challenge – and it has given me the push I need to do something which has been on my ‘one day’ list for a while – and that is to at least start the process of developing a local currency. There are a few local currencies in existence – the first and probably best known is the Totnes Pound, but there’s also the Brixton Pound, the Lewes Pound, the Stroud Pound and, most recently and just across the bridge, the Bristol Pound. I have been following the Bristol Pound for a while, and kept on thinking that I wished someone would do a similar thing here in Cardiff. Well, I’ve decided to stop wishing, and to get on with it!

I’ve chatted to a few people about this already, and there seems to be a real interest in taking it forward. Right now, the plan of action is to research what works well elsewhere, and put together a group of people who could potentially form a steering group. I’m also putting together a little surveymonkey, that I’ll be posting and pleading with you to fill in, probably in a couple of days…

In the meantime, I would be really grateful for any help people could throw my way. If anyone has direct experience of a local currency, I’d love to hear about it – the negatives as well as the positives. If you, or someone you know, would like to be involved, please give me a shout on email or @michelledavis – and if you don’t have time to be involved, but would support the idea of a local currency, please drop me a line too!

Thank you – looking forward to the day when we have our very own Cardiff Pound!