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What’s Going To Be Your Word of the Year?

January 1, 2017 by

I’m one of those annoying losers that loves New Year. Every time January comes around, I feel inspired to start afresh, make resolutions, and be a better person than I was the year before. Continue Reading

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Is Dave Ramsey America’s Martin Lewis?

August 14, 2016 by

Ever since I started reading American personal finance blogs and listening to money saving podcasts, one name has cropped up on numerous occasions – Dave Ramsey.

For a long time, I automatically assumed he must be America’s answer to Martin Lewis. It seemed as though he’s built a reputation as one of the United States’ most influential people in terms of personal finance.

So yesterday I decided to sit down and properly digest some of his stuff. I’d heard so much about him from other people but nothing from him. With his own website, podcast, radio show, book, and Youtube channel, I decided to start out by watching his videos.

The first video I watched was about car finance and instantly I was impressed. Unlike our Martin Lewis, who’s clearly passionate about offering people judgement-free money advice and a sympathetic ear, Dave Ramsey instantly came across as a straight-talking, no nonsense grump who won’t take any excuses. And at first, I loved it.

But as I continued to watch his videos, I started to see just how brutal he can be. A sexist joke about how women ‘only like cars because they’re like big purses’ almost made me switch off, but I persevered. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Dave Ramsey:

Pro – He cuts to the chase and tells people like it is

Unlike Martin Lewis who always comes across as sympathetic and reassuring, Dave Ramsey isn’t afraid to speak his mind and tell you you’ve made a mistake. I like this about him.

After all, the concept of saving money is ever so simple. Spend less than you earn. It’s common sense. And yet so many people struggle to get a grip of their finances! Everyone knows how to save money but the problem is that very few actually put this knowledge into practice.

Rather than giving people a hug and feeling sorry for them, Dave cuts to the chase and tells people exactly what they need to hear, rather than what they want to hear. In his own words, he refuses to ‘endorse their stupidity’.

Con – He can be really rude and insulting

After watching a few episodes of The Dave Ramsey Show, I forced Jake to join me. We couldn’t help but laugh awkwardly every time he called someone ‘stupid’ and it wasn’t long before we invented The Dave Ramsey Drinking Game. Every time he yelled STOOPID, we’d take a sip.

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Some people need to be yelled at before they’ll actually get off their bum and make a change. And so I can see how Dave’s approach works for so many people. He’s like an angry drill sergeant or boot camp personal trainer, barking orders at you and telling you what a piece of shit you are.

But he calls people ‘stupid’ so often that I wonder whether this approach has alienated some supporters. There’s a big difference between calling a person stupid and simply pointing out that they’ve made a stupid decision.

We all make stupid money decisions from time to time but just because we all make stupid mistakes doesn’t mean we are stupid.

Pro – He forces people to take responsibility for their circumstances

Millions of people around the world are in debt. Although it’s often as a result of overspending and trying to keep up with the Kardashians, it can of course be out of our control. Some people land themselves in debt because their essential living costs are greater than their income.

But there’s no point in sitting back and blaming the government and the economy and everyone else for your financial problems. Even if it is their fault. Sure, you can complain, but get up and try to do something about it at the same time! Ultimately, it’s up to you to change your life. No one else cares as much about your money as you do.

Far too often people drive themselves into dire circumstances financially and look for other people to blame. But by taking responsibility for your choices past and present, you can gain control and feel empowered.

In one particular episode of The Dave Ramsey Show, a guest called Julie talks about how she paid off $165,000 in just 32 months. She told Ramsey: “You told me it was my fault and that was the most hope I’d ever had because if you can associate that your situation is indicative of previous poor decisions, then you can alter your behaviour for a different outcome. And that’s so hopeful because I wasn’t a victim anymore.” YES, JULIE! YES!

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Con – He doesn’t acknowledge that some people do have larger obstacles to overcome

Although I think it’s vital for each and every one of us to take responsibility for our lives and finances, I think it’s equally important to accept that some people need more help than others.

For example, Dave is strongly against taking out loans to fund cars. He says that under no circumstances should you get a car on finance. I do agree that if you can’t pay for a car in cash, you can’t afford it. It also bothers me when people are so desperate to impress others that they take out ridiculous loans so that they can drive a Mercedes.

But, I do think there are certain circumstances where financing a car is pretty much unavoidable. Most people can’t even afford to buy a used car. For these people, getting a cheap car on finance may make sense. In some cases, car finance could make it easier for a person to get a job or increase their salary.

Dave Ramsey refuses to accept that getting out of debt, saving money and building wealth is much more difficult to achieve for some people than it is for others. And this is incredibly frustrating.

Pro – His content appeals to those who don’t engage with their money

The fact that I managed to get Jake interested in The Dave Ramsey Show is absolutely brilliant. I’m definitely the saver in our relationship and although Jake’s not one to buy fancy clothes or cars on credit, he’s just not very engaged with his money. He just doesn’t pay attention to it – like a lot of people!

But when we watched a few episodes of Dave’s show together, he started to show an interest. It sparked money saving conversations that we don’t often have. And I obviously loved that.

We need more people to engage with their money and pay attention to it rather than sticking their head in the sand. Far too often, people in debt will lock themselves away and continue spending, ignoring the multitude of creditors pestering them for money.

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Con – His solutions aren’t as thorough as they could be

Martin Lewis’ Money Saving Expert is an absolute goldmine for money tips and advice. Dave Ramsey’s website isn’t quite so thorough. The way I see it, Dave’s approach is much more theory driven. He tells you which direction your life needs to go down and why, while Martin gives you everything you need to make more financially savvy choices.

Dave’s like: “You need to get your shit together. Here’s why!”

Martin’s like: “If you want to save money, here are a few ways you can do just that”

So is Dave Ramsey the US version of Martin Lewis?

Well, no. I was wrong. Although they’re both incredibly influential in their respective countries, Ramsey and Lewis are not alike at all.

But that doesn’t mean one is better than the other. Although I disagree with some of Dave Ramsey’s beliefs and approaches, I do think he has a lot of valuable advice that can help people get out of debt and build a wealthier future.

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1000 Reasons to Be Happy

February 12, 2016 by

Every night as I lie in bed waiting to fall asleep, I like to listen to a TED talk or two. Since I started doing this I’ve found myself adopting much more of a positive, cheerful and inquisitive outlook on life. There’s something about listening to a stranger talk about something they’re knowledgeable and passionate about for 15 minutes or less that fills me with optimism. Last night I watched a TED talk that really did push my happiness scale over the edge.

When Neil Pasricha’s wife left him and his friend committed suicide, he understandably went through a rough period of time. However, these experiences also forced Neil to  start looking for the positive things in life. It was then that he started his blog 1000 Awesome Things.

Created in 2008, 1000 Awesome Things is packed full of bubble wrap that’s crying out to be popped and descriptions of delicious-smelling bakeries. It’s overflowing with little anecdotes and tales that are sure to put a smile on your face and make you think “I love it when that happens!”

While I haven’t read through the whole list just yet, here are just a few of my favourite things I’ve spotted on there so far:

  • #997 Locking people out of the car and pretending to drive away
  • #995 Finding money you didn’t even know you lost
  • #938 Sweatpants aka track pants aka jogging pants
  • #935 Eating cookies like Cookie Monster
  • #905 Using all the different shampoos and soaps in someone else’s shower
  • #895 Getting something with actual handwriting on it in the mail
  • #876 Taking your bra off after wearing it for hours
  • #861 Not getting a hangover when you were expecting to get one
  • #860 When the vending machine gives you two things instead of one
  • #834 Building an amazing couch cushion fort
  • #828 Remembering what movie that guy is from
  • #820 Making it out of the bathroom at work before anyone realizes you made it smell that way
  • #808 Coming home after a long day to the smell of someone cooking dinner
  • #804 Gym pain

This list has also inspired me to start jotting down the things in my life that make me happy. Three have popped into  my head as I write this:

  • Spending a hot day riding my bike and having a picnic alone in the woods
  • Crying with laughter as I watch Jake do accents and impressions
  • Seeing the look of sheer happiness on my Dad’s face when he gets home from work….and greets my dog before anyone else

I think I definitely spend too much time focussing on the negative things in life and putting pressure on myself to make things better. But things are fine as they are! It’s time to start focussing on the positives.

Have you taken a look at 1000 Awesome Things yet? If so, which moments are in your top 10? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me at @CantSwingACat. 

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How Much Does it Cost to Own a Dog?

February 5, 2016 by

While everything included in this post was written by me and all suggestions are my own, this post was created on behalf Bob Martin in exchange for a selection of dog care products. Bob Martin recently launched a brand new website designed to make it easier for pet owners to purchase dog and cat healthcare necessities.

 

Ninety percent of people believe that owning a dog will cost less than £10,000 over the course of their pet’s lifetime, according to a survey by YouGov.

However, with everything from food to flea and worming treatments to take into account, in reality a dog is likely to cost its owner between £16,000 – £31,000 depending on its size and breed.

In September my parents purchased their first puppy (she’s called Molly and is a cross between a King Charles Cavalier and a Miniature Poodle) and in the months that have followed, the cost of owning a dog has come as somewhat of a surprise to me. I mean, I knew it’d be expensive, but there are so many more ongoing costs that I’d never considered before.

Best buds #dog #puppy #cavapoo #cavalier

 

Let’s look at the costs required and the various ways you can reduce the amount you spend on your pet:

How much does a dog cost?

When buying a dog or puppy, you have two main options:

Buy a puppy from a responsible breeder

The cost of buying a dog can vary significantly as it’s completely up to the breeder how much they charge. If you live in Manchester and you’d like to buy a Cavapoo puppy, you’ll be looking at anything from £300 to £900! Don’t always assume the cheapest dog is the best option. 

If you’re going to buy a dog from a breeder, I can’t emphasise how important it is to choose a breeder that is responsible and knows exactly what they’re doing. Responsible breeders will have a lot of costs to consider when deciding on how much to charge. After all, they will have had to feed and care for the puppy until it’s old enough to go to a forever home. They should also have paid for the puppy to have its first set of injections. 

If you buy a dog from an irresponsible breeder, you run the risk of buying a dog that could have a serious illness. You’re also contributing to an industry that severely mistreats dogs and puppies. To find out more ,take a look at this post I wrote a few months ago about our search for a puppy. We went to visit one breeder who, on reflection, we now believe had purchased the puppy from a puppy farm.

Rescue a dog or puppy

Rescue dogs are usually much cheaper to buy than those purchased from a breeder. You’ll often be charged a ‘rehoming fee’ which will depend on the rescue centre you select and the services they offer. If you rescue a dog from Battersea Dogs’ Home, for example, you’ll be charged a rehoming fee of £135 for dogs over the age of six months and £165 for puppies under the age of six months.

Depending on the home you choose, the dog may already be microchipped, vaccinated, and may have a collar, identification tag and lead too. In some cases the animal will have also been neutered.

Some rescue centres will also include pet insurance for a certain period of time to cover your pet in the event of any accidents or illnesses.

Have a good chat with the people who work in the rescue centre so you can find the perfect dog for your circumstances.

Molly's so fed up of waiting that she's decided to walk herself! #dog #puppy #cavapoo #newpuppy #newdog #cavalier #poodle

Equipment

I’d recommend purchasing the most essential pieces of dog equipment before you collect your new pet. You’ll need a crate, water bowl, food bowl, lead, collar, toys and poop scoop bags.

You’ll probably want to use separate towels for your dog. Rather than buying new ones for your dog, use some scruffy old towels you own already.

If you just buy the essentials and you’re careful not to go overboard, equipment costs are likely to be up to £200.

Shop around for the best deal and be sure to keep an eye out for discounts and promotional offers.

Health

Insurance

If your pet falls ill or is in an accident, the cost of vet bills can be significant. It can be worth purchasing pet insurance to protect yourself from large costs. However, most claims will require you to pay an excess fee. Be sure to check the insurance policy to make sure you’re covered for a wide range of issues that could occur. It could be worth looking for a pet insurer that does a ‘for life’ policy – this means you will be covered even if a condition arises in the future. Other policies could see your annual insurance costs rise in the event of any sudden issues.

Vaccines

Vaccines are essential. If you’ve bought your dog from a breeder, the dog should have had its first set of injections before you take it home at 8 weeks or older.

You will need to take a puppy for further vaccinations though, and it can cost between £20 to £50 to get your pet vaccinated. You can often save money by asking your vet if they do vaccinations for life.

Worming and flea treatments

Dogs require regular flea and worming treatments. The vets can do these treatments for you or you can buy the necessary products over-the-counter or online. One could argue that Bob Martin is the most well-known brand for flea and worming treatments and it has a wide range of products to help protect your pet from fleas, ticks and mites.

While the Bob Martin website may at first glance seem like your typical online pet retailer, you can in fact order prescription medicine for your pet through the site too. After getting a prescription from your vet, simply place the order through Bob Martin and it’ll be dispatched right away. 

Food

Food is one of the biggest pet ownership costs to take into account. The amount you spend will depend on the size of your dog and the type of food it eats. Food will usually cost between £15-£20 a month.

Switch to supermarket-branded foods to cut costs. Often,  the ingredients are very similar to those used in more well known brands such as Pedigree.

Make sure you’re not overfeeding your pet. Research the recommended daily allowance and split this into two or three servings for different points in the day.

Buy food in bulk. Like human food, it’s often cheaper to buy your dog food in bulk. However, there’s no need to fill your cupboards with boxes and boxes of the same foods. It’s not uncommon for dogs to get bored of eating the same food after a while. This could leave you with boxes of foods they won’t touch.

Elaine Pendlebury, senior veterinary surgeon at the PDSA says: “By bulk-buying and cutting back on food, treats, toys and other little extras, you could save as much as £500 a year for a Labrador-sized dog.”

Cutest dog in the world award

Hygiene

There’s no doubt about it, dogs can get pretty filthy. Bathing your dog after each walk is simply not practical. So I’d recommend purchasing some wipes to clean your dog’s feet when they come in from outside.

You’ll need shampoo to wash your dog’s fur and, depending on the breed of your dog, you may need a brush and comb to groom your them.

If you choose to trim your pet’s fur yourself, you may want to buy specialist scissors. However, you might decide to let an expert do this for you. Professional grooming costs will of course depend on where you go and the style you choose.

My dog Molly has a ‘puppy cut’ at a dog grooming place every few months and this costs £25.  You may be able to save money by choosing a mobile dog groomer or going to a dog grooming academy where people are learning how to be groomers.

Other

Microchipping

From April all dogs in the UK must be microchipped. This process tends to  cost between £15-£20. 

 

Have I missed anything? If so, let me know in the comments below!

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10 questions to ask the breeder before buying a dog

August 19, 2015 by

Over recent months my mum has been talking a lot about buying a dog for the first time. My brother and I spent most of our childhood begging for a puppy and so this is obviously an exciting time for us all.

With her heart pretty much set on a cross between a Cavalier King Charles and a miniature poodle (or something similar), we started looking at rescue dogs in our area. Finding a cavapoo puppy that needed a home proved difficult, and most of the dogs we saw were older and a different breed. As a result, we decided to look into giving a new dog a home instead and buying a dog from a breeder.

Last night mum spotted a breeder that was selling 9-week-old cavapoo puppies a short drive away. So, armed with a deposit, my dad drove us over to visit the dog. When we arrived, we were invited into the living room where we were immediately greeted by the adorable little puppy. She was so sweet and as soon as I sat down she started untying my shoelaces and playfully nibbling my fingers every time I stroked her. I was in love.

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(As you could probably have guessed, this is not the same dog we went to see)

But as my mum pulled a piece of paper out her pocket filled with questions for the breeder, alarm bells started to ring. When we asked to see the puppy’s mother, the breeder told us that she belongs to his Grandma who lives an hour away. The father, a stud dog, wouldn’t be meeting us either. Obviously meeting the father is less common, but it was worrying that the mother didn’t even belong to the breeder.

We were told that the puppy had three siblings that had already been sold. This may have been true, but the photos he showed us of the alleged dogs on his phone did little to ease our nerves. He also couldn’t provide us any documentation about the dog’s parents and had no information about any visits to the vets. We just couldn’t do it. But looking back we know we did the right thing. We’re also so relieved that we did our research before going to meet the breeder. If we hadn’t, we probably would have taken one look at the cute little dog and screamed “We’ll take it!”

As I sat there cuddling the little puppy, I felt sad that we weren’t taking it home but I knew it was the right thing to do. I also felt relieved that although the situation did seem a little bit suspicious, the dog didn’t appear to be mistreated. Of course, a 15 minute visit obviously can’t guarantee that these are the conditions the dog always lives in, nor can it prove the dog was given the love and attention it needed at an early age, but we didn’t feel guilty when we walked away.

I can understand why someone might buy a puppy after seeing it in awful conditions, but having researched the issue of dodgy dog breeding and puppy farms, I’ve realised that handing money over to these people is not the answer. Of course, the breeder we met may not have been up to anything dodgy at all, but I think we were right to be careful.

If you’ve already looked into adoption but you’ve decided to buy a dog from a breeder instead, here are a few questions you should ask before handing your money over:

How old is the puppy? Ideally, a puppy should not be taken away from its mother until it is 8 weeks old.

Are the puppy’s parents certified? If a dog is certified, this means a vet has tested it and declared it has no diseases

Can we meet the puppy’s parents? It’s widely recommended that you at least meet the puppy’s mother when you buy one from a breeder. This can help you gain an understanding of where the puppy has come from. If the breeder cannot show you the mother, walk away and consider buying from a different breeder.

Has the puppy socialised with other dogs and people? Puppies need love, care and attention from a very young age and as a result, socialisation is critical. Besides, if a breeder has left a puppy on its own for a long period of time, you should question why.

How long has it been away from its mother? (If the mother isn’t present)

Has it had any vaccinations? Different people will tell you different things, but according to the RSPCA, puppies typically need vaccinations at 8 and 10 weeks.  

Has it been dewormed? All puppies are born with worms and it is widely recommended that they are dewormed at a young age.

Has the puppy been to the vets? Even though your puppy is young, it’s vital that you know of any vet visits it has had.

Have the puppy’s parents had any illnesses? It’s also crucial that you are aware of any illnesses or diseases that your puppy’s parents might have had.

How long have you bred dogs for? This can give you an insight into how experienced the breeder is. If this is their first litter, there’s no reason to be alarmed, providing they meet other criteria and seem to be breeding their dogs responsibly.

The best breeders out there will probably ask you questions too. By asking you questions they can weigh up whether you’ll be a good fit for their dog and whether you’ll take good care of it.

It’s important not to let your heart overrule your head when buying a dog. It’s easy to just think “we’ll take it” because the dog is cute, but if you soon find out that it has any underlying medical conditions or has inherited an illness from its parents, you may end up with hefty vet bills and a broken heart. If you buy a dog from an irresponsible breeder, you’ll also be funding an industry that cares very little about the welfare of animals.

If, like me, you’re big on saving money and being frugal, buying the cheapest dog you can find may seem like the right option. But it really isn’t. By paying a little bit extra to buy your pet from a responsible breeder who has no interest in cutting costs, you’ll not also be doing the right thing for your new dog, but you may end up saving more money in the long run.

Photo credits:

Header image: Derek K. Miller

Cavapoo: Nicki Mannix