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“CAP is unsurpassed when it comes to the debt help they give people across the country. There’s nothing better to start you on the path to having more money in your pocket.” Martin Lewis, Money Saving Expert


have just completed a course in money management and found it to be a most positive, empowering and life changing experience.

Whilst Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is primarily known for reaching out and giving practical help to people finding themselves in financial crisis and poverty, there is another side to this and I think that for me I have learned a personal lesson in money management which I believe nearly everyone would benefit from.

As designed by CAP Money, I attended three weekly sessions of about two hours each where I learned three practical approaches: How to structure my monthly budgeting using a spreadsheet; the future planning of my expenditure in relation to my income and how to live from week to week using cash.

Highly capable CAP advisers facilitated the sessions which introduce the topics in stages. The modes of learning were a mixture of presentations, CAP created DVD’s, participation in small group discussions and working on our own accounts individually at home.

Whilst all I have mentioned so far may seem pretty obvious to you the reader, putting it into practice for me raised some true reflections, and possibly explained why I had been making financial budgeting mistakes for the best part of my life (and that’s more than a couple of decades!). I realised through my learning that there is an important psychology to our money management.

The confidential group discussions provided a safe but transparent environment in which to share discussions on money and this enabled me to realise I was not alone in my mistakes. This aspect was really reassuring as money is often a mystery and not normally a shared topic of conversation. It was enlightening to gather other’s perspectives, which highlighted to me that as a child, I had not had the best role model in good money management.

32 Envoy Winter 2011

Having a bank account and/or savings as a child introduces the essential concept of budgeting and handling money at an early age, an education that many of you may have been lucky to receive, but not me. For example, it is truly important to acknowledge the concept of saving first and savouring the reward rather than to buy first and then to fall into debt!

The practical experience of understanding the in and out flow budgeting with spreadsheets also brought for me a newly built confidence. I found that as a result I was able to negotiate with service providers. Examples include, me challenging my bank on their extortionate build up of bank charges and my search for energy companies to get better, and more appropriate, utility deals.

I think the most powerful learning for me was the use of a set amount of cash in my wallet each week. This provided me with a new emphasis on the meaning of money; the constant use of credit cards really disables that perspective and experience.

Whilst I used to always be running out of money at the end of my salaried month, I now find I can save, and since the course I have been in credit (amazing). I also now have savings assigned for unexpected emergencies, the wear and tear of household goods and even for new treats.

I was blessed with this amazing and uplifting experience, and would highly recommend attending the course.

CAP’s Chief Executive, Matt Barlow, said: “These are difficult times and the temptation is to say, ‘at least we’ll have a great Christmas’ and spend what we haven’t got. The New Year is full of uncertainty: job losses, benefit changes, energy bills are rising and we don’t know what interest rates will do. If we were ever going to get our spending under control – it should be now.”

CAP’s Top Tips for Avoiding Festive Debt 1. Make a list and be realistic. Paying in cash may help you keep control. Let your children

see your careful planning – you’ll be teaching them a valuable lesson.

2. If things are tight don’t be afraid to say so to family members. You’ll probably all be in the same boat and it may lead to a happier Christmas for them too! 3. See if relatives will club together to buy children what they would like, rather than individually over indulging them. 4. Buy fewer presents and cheaper trimmings like paper chains. They add to the fun without costing very much.

5. Never take out a Christmas loan! The consequences could be disastrous. 6. Give ironing or baby-sitting vouchers or make presents. Homemade biscuits/sweets make lovely gifts and show you’ve spent time and care.

7. Remember – you can’t buy love. Don’t feel guilty if you can’t afford the latest present for your children. Your love and affection will last longer in the memory than any toy will. 8. Don’t fall into the trap of reciprocal gift giving and don’t buy out of obligation. 9. Don’t overspend in the sales, no matter how good the bargain is. Make a budget and if possible, leave the credit cards at home. 10. Enjoy all the low cost things – the lights in town, get togethers, making mince pies, playing family board games, seeing the school nativity – and have a very Happy Christmas!

To find out more about CAP Money courses go to: CAP also helps anyone in debt, go to: or call 0800 328 0006 

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