How To Save Hundreds Of Pounds In Minutes

If you’ve got a baby and a new business you need every spare penny.

You could look at every single purchase you make and try to get it cheaper, but this takes time and all that penny pinching can get depressing. Why not be smart with your time and your money by finding ways of saving the most money in the least time?

1. Change tariff and save a wad of cash

I just found out we could save £25 a month on our gas and electricity by switching to a different tariff without changing my supplier. It took me about 3 minutes on the web to find that out, I can’t believe I didn’t do it months ago.

Money saved: £300 per year

Time taken: 3 minutes

2. Insurance just got more interesting

When your house or car insurance is up for renewal, phone up the insurance company and ask if you can get a better deal. I’ve saved £100 off our house insurance twice in the last two years, again without moving companies. It’s far easier for an insurance company to retain you than it is to get a new customer to replace you. So they’ll usually give you a discount if you ask nicely.

You’ll probably save a bit more by going to a price comparison website, but if you’re pushed for time this is a great alternative.

Money saved: £100 per year

Time taken: 3 minutes

3. Don’t forget the loyalty card

I used to think that loyalty cards were a waste of time, but it really does all add up. Despite being on a fairly tight budget (going on maternity leave twice in two years does that to you), we still make about £150 per year on loyalty cards, almost all of our points come from the basics like toiletries and the weekly food shop.

Money saved: £150 per year

Time taken: about 3 seconds longer at the till

4. Get a credit card to suit your spending style

If you’ve got an outstanding balance, get the lowest interest rate you can. If you pay off your credit card balance every month, get a card that pays you points or cashback when you use it. We do both – we have a low interest card with an interest free period for our outstanding balance and a points card that we pay off every month. You need a bit of self-discipline to do this, though.

Money saved: anywhere from £50 per year if you use a points card to £100s if you lower your interest rate

Time taken: 10 minutes to apply for a new credit card

5. Cook like you’re takeaway

We used to grab takeaways on a regular basis because we were tired and lazy. I don’t mind the occasional takeaway if we’ve got a burning desire for a decent curry, but if it’s down to laziness, it can be an expensive habit.

Why do you get takeaways?

If it’s because you’re hungry and the fridge is empty, try cooking a double portion and freezing ahead for a day when you’ve not got time to shop or cook. Cooking double takes the same time as cooking a single portion.

If you love the food, see if you can get a cheaper but  quick alternative. You can throw together a chinese dish in minutes using a pack of pre-prepared vegetables, a pack of pre-sliced chicken, a jar of stir fry sauce and some dried noodles. If pizza is your thing, you can keep pizza bases in your freezer (find them in the supermarket with the chilled pizza),  plus  grated mozzarella, pepperoni and a jar of passata. Much cheaper, takes minutes to prepare, tastes good and it’s healthier too.

Money saved:  £15 per week on a takeaway = £780 per year

Time taken: if you’ve planned ahead, this is actually faster than going out for a takeaway

6. Go for supermarket own brands

You won’t even notice the difference. And if you do, switch back to the non-own brand for just that item.

Money saved:  £15 per weekly grocery shop = £780 per year

Time taken: 0 minutes

Do you have any tips that save money in minutes?  Drop me a comment!

Becoming a Coach: Is it a Good Business Idea?

In the last of my three posts on coaching, I'm considering this question: is becoming a coach is a good idea?

As you may have read in my post the F word, I trained for three years with respected coach training company Coach U. Despite working my socks off for those three years and already being a freelance trainer,  I was unable to get a coaching business off the ground.

I'm not alone. If you're thinking of becoming a coach, you'll want to read this blog post  'I've got my coaching qualifications, now what?' by successful business coach Heather Townsend, which starts with:

"I heard yesterday that from a class of 22 coaches, from a big respected coaching training provider, two years after graduating only eight were still pursuing a coaching career. Out of those eight, most people were scrabbling around for clients, and no-one had cracked how to earn a six-figure income as a coach."

So what's going wrong? Heather says that you need a relationship and a trusted brand to get clients and I completely agree. But there are other hurdles faced by new coaches that are rarely mentioned in the coaching community.

1. There is a huge number of trained coaches out there

Listening professions are popular,  because it's  a wonderful feeling to be able to help others and understanding how another person ticks is fascinating. Similar professions such as counselling and psychology also have more trained practitioners than there is work out there.

Unlike the other listening professions, coach training isn't a academic qualification, so entry onto a course is virtually guaranteed if you have the money to pay for it. Hence there are so many coaches out there.

2. It's a difficult service to sell

Ten years ago people would have said "So you're a coach? What's a coach?" because it was so new. Following many television programmes and magazine articles, people are familiar with the term  'life coach' but still don't really understand what coaching is. TV and magazines cannot demonstrate the intense listening and skill involved, so what you see being delivered are advice and quick solutions. "So you have a problem with over-spending? Sounds like it's because your parents split up when you were a child".

Even if people understand the value of the coaching process, one-to-one coaching is an expensive service to buy. This limits who is able to afford it. It also means that prospective clients  need to trust that you will really deliver the goods before they part with that much cash.  Which takes us back to Heather's point about building a relationship.

So what are 'the goods' when it comes to coaching? You'll hear coaches using phrases like 'fulfilling potential'   (true enough), but if I offered to help you fulfil your potential, would you give me several hundred pounds a month to help you do it? Not very convincing, is it? Now if I offered you a personal development course with a list of lessons, aims and objectives and explained that if you did all the homework I set, you would almost certainly get a pay rise of a few thousand pounds a year, would you be more inclined to get out your credit card?

My point is not that training is better than coaching – you could achieve similar objectives with both. Just that with coaching it's hard to explain what you're going to do and what your client will get for their money, let alone get them to buy. As most newly trained coaches have no business or marketing experience, this is a big problem.

3. There isn't much demand

Coach training providers will tell you that the potential for coaching is huge because everyone wants to be happier and more successful. The problem is that you can get the same kind of  'stuff' as is covered by coaching in other formats – TV, magazines, self help books, websites and so on. And all for a tiny fraction of the cost or for free. Not only do most people not have the money to pay for one-to-one coaching, they don't see the need. And as I said, explaining the benefits is very difficult.

A friend may ask you if you know a good plumber or accountant. But have you ever been asked if you know a good life coach?

You could try to create a demand, but that's an uphill struggle compared with giving clients what they actually want.

It sounds rather bleak doesn't it?

It's not impossible, just very tough. Hard work and being good at coaching are not enough.

There are successful coaches out there and this is how you could join them:

  • If you have a strong human resources, learning and development or senior management background, you could use your network and reputation to build a corporate coaching business.
  • If you have a marketing or PR background, you have an advantage as you know how to reach potential customers and convince them to buy your service. Plus businesses will always want to know how to get more customers, so you have knowledge to share.
  • You could coach people on your field of expertise e.g. a writing coach, weight loss coach, marketing coach. Providing there are enough people who are interested in that subject and they want to pay you.
  • If you have a lifestyle or attitude that people aspire to e.g. you made a fortune and retired before you were 40 or you have a spiritual or philosophical outlook that others want. This is a tough one, as you've either got that something special or you haven't.
  • You are already a successful consultant and add coaching as another technique in your toolkit.

It's rare to find a coach who has had a complete career change. Most have added it on to skills, experience or a business they already had. In other words, they already had marketable skills before they became coaches. Coaching is just another way of delivering their expertise.

Got any thoughts on this? Let me know what you think.

Business Ideas for Mums – Life and Business Coaching

Tell me more…

A coach listens intently to understand what is important to her client and what may be holding her back. The coach helps the client to define her goals, then works with the client to make sure she takes the steps to achieve those goals.

What are the benefits?

  • You can choose how many hours you work
  • You can work from home by phone
  • You can branch out into other areas such as writing and running workshops

Things to consider…

  • Coaching is a difficult service to sell, especially if you have no experience in marketing. It's not easy to describe what the client will get or what the end result will be. If you decide to begin a coaching business, allow for a lot (often more than 50%) of your time to be spent on marketing in the first few years.
  • The good news is that you can work over the phone from anywhere. The bad news is that you're competing with every other coach in the world who can do the same! It's highly unlikely that you'll be able to build a business as a general coach – you will need to specialise. When choosing your specialism, make sure you pick one with clients that can afford to pay for your services.  For example, people who have just lost their jobs may need your services, but they probably won't have the money to pay for you.
  • You are much more likely to succeed in business coaching if you already have a background in business. Some coaches argue that the core of coaching is the listening, and that you don't need business experience to do this. However, experience in your specialist area will give you credibility in the eyes of your clients and make it easier for you to understand them.
  • Before paying for a coach training course, investigate the training provider and course thoroughly.  While many are  reputable, there is nothing to stop anyone starting a coach training company, so it pays to do your homework. Courses come in a variety of lengths and prices, so weigh up exactly what you want from a course and if you're getting value for money. Ask to speak to recent students who have succesful coaching businesses.

Further information

  • Examples of coaches who have specialisms

www.thedivorcedoctor.co.uk (relationship coaching)

www.candocanbe.com – (marketing coaching for small business owners).

  • Some coach training organisations (there are others)

Noble Manhattan

The Coaching Academy

Coach Training Institute

Coach U (I trained with Coach U)

  • Coaching information and resources

Coachville – resources for coaches, some free.

Lifecoach Directory – aimed at people looking for a life coach, but check out the FAQ page for helpful description of what coaches do, plus the  experience and qualifications they need.

New Coach Connection – a Yahoo group supporting new coaches.

 

Not convinced that life or business coaching is for you? Take a look at other business ideas for mums.

 


Is there a market for my business idea?

This is a question that I’ve asked myself over and over again for the past eighteen months. I’ve had around ten different ideas in that time and this question has been on my mind for all of them.

It took me a while to realise that nobody can answer my question.  I just had to get out there and find out for myself. Fortunately it’s never been easier or cheaper to research a business idea. In fact I did it for free using Survey Monkey, a free blog from wordpress.com and a few posts on relevant internet forums.

You can read more about this approach at Hire My Parents – Is my business idea a good idea?

 

What Makes a Really Good Business Blog Post?

This week I’ve hosted the first Business Mum’s Blog Carnival. It’s been fantastic to make contact with so many enterprising mums and read their blogs. Along the way I’ve been asking myself “What makes a really good business blog post?” so that I can improve my own writing. Here’s what I’ve found:

It’s got to ‘add value’ in some way

It needs to be interesting, useful, funny, express an opinion or whatever. As long as your readers have a reason to come to your blog. It’s got to be for them and not all about you. It might not be possible to do this in every post, but if people have got a reason to go to your blog, you can tell them about your new product once they are there.

A blog that is just a sales pitch might keep the search engines happy with a stream of regular fresh content, but it won’t keep customers on your site or encourage them to come back.

It needs to have an objective

If you’ve got a personal blog, you can write about anything that takes your fancy. It doesn’t matter if your only reader is your mum!

When writing for a business blog, you’re writing with a purpose. Top of the list is to bring visitors to your blog, but what are your other objectives? Do you want to build a relationship with your customers? Demonstrate your expertise? Tell them about new products? Get them to join your mailing list?

It’s got to be easy to read

To quote Matthew Stibbe in ’30 Days To Better Business Writing’  (downloadable from badlanguage.net) “You have no right to your readers’ time. They are already as busy as you are”. Keep it simple, direct and relevant. Avoid grammar, punctuation and spelling errors.

Writing for the web is different from writing for print. People scan rather than read every word, so keep paragraphs and sentences short. Use subheadings and bullet points to break up large chunks of text.

It doesn’t have to be a long post

The post should only be as long as it needs to be to get your points across. We all have short attention spans when reading web pages, clicking off to the next page after just seconds. if you write a long post, what are the chances of readers actually reading right to the bottom anyway?

So there you go – all I need to do now is to follow my own advice! My challenge is keeping my sentences short. (I’ve been trying hard in this post, can you tell?) If you have any more tips, please do drop me a comment.