Does Money Matter to You?

Moray Money questionnaire

January is infamous as the most depressing month of the year – Christmas glitz soon-forgotten in the large pile of intimidating bills that need to be paid.  However, a team from Moray College are aiming to blow away the “blues” by entering the national “MoneyforLife” challenge. 

You can find out much more about this online, but basically the competition is set-up by Lloyds Banking Group to find the most innovative ways volunteers can devise to improve their own money management skills and those of their communities.  From budget fashion shows to the perfect recipes for “skinny” meals (costing pence, not pounds!), there have been many entrants since the challenge was set-up.

But “Moray’s Money” are seeking to get back to basics.  After thoroughly researching the problems, the next step will be to recommend possible solutions and then create a comprehensive, eight-hour course covering all that students need to know.  From spotting supermarket dud deals to planning for a future pension, this will be designed as a one-stop shop to prepare clients for the rest of their lives. There will be displays around the College showcasing what has been discovered and an opportunity for banks to offers their services direct to students at a special open day on the 5th March 2013.

The goal is to equip individuals to make sound financial choices, working through the challenges together and making sure that, after leaving, students understand exactly which websites and options to use thereafter.  Rather than being savaged by loan sharks, they should be able to size-up all the fish in the pond and swim on the back of a dolphin who plays fair!

Have you suffered from debt and made the wrong choices? Did you find information and support easy to find? Do you think there is enough information available? Do you think that what is out there is confusing? Whatever your experiences, good and bad, we would love to hear from you… We’ll present whatever we find out on a specially moderated Facebook page to ensure that only the most helpful links and comments are displayed.

We’ll present whatever we find out on a specially moderated Facebook page to ensure that only the most helpful links and comments are displayed.  You can contact us at Joyce.Cartwright@moray.uhi.ac.uk, leave a phone message at 01343 576 000 or post on our website, www.facebook.com/MoraysMoney.  Lastly, we’ve a little questionnaire you can try.  Download the Word document, fill in the questions as best you can and then just email it to Stephen.Duff.Moray@uhi.ac.uk.  The online version is easiest to use in this way but the straightforward questionnaire is designed to be printed out. Simples!  Thank you.

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Know your body

So, awoke last morning and felt very strange – a little bit feverish to be honest. I’d slept pretty well, but the previous night’s evening meal was polished off with a couple of fizzy glasses.
I’d previously resolved against these sugars and additives, one reason being that I don’t like the “unnatural high” and another being this article:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/feb/01/tax-regulate-sugar-alcohol-tobacco
which basically pinpoints the toxicity of sugar and its role in obesity and certain types of liver disease. Sadly, my convictions sometimes falter, especially when so much – from litter on the streets to student behaviour in class – seems against them.
Anyway, I was urged to take a paracetamol, which seemed to provide a temporary energy boost, or is that the placebo effect? Or maybe, just forcing myself to go into work and start being constructive was the best tonic of all?
Anyway, by the afternoon, I’d sore shoulders, a runny nose and sneezes, but otherwise felt good. Now, I listened to these and made sure I didn’t overdo things, but the amazing thing was by evening – after a good meal and a bit of rest – I was feeling fighting fit.
The body is wonderfully designed. I read recently that drug holidays are beating cancer in mice – scientists are always discovering more about how we work
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-20956179
Maybe, we’d learn even faster if we all listened to our bodies a little more, took advice from other people and keep respecting the experts. I think they’ll uncover more, if we just give them a chance.

Bin it in my Bucket (TM) Stickers

Bin it in my Bucket stickers

Nearly one year ago, I was profoundly moved by the amount of litter spoiling Elgin, which I saw every day on my walk to work at Moray College.  I was so overwhelmed by the desperate need and dismayed by the fact that, despite living in a supposed advanced and liberal democracy where the golden rule (“treat others as you would like to be…”) allegedly prevails, some people still drop all kinds of nonsense around our shared spaces.

But I knew I must take action.  So, the journey started with a small step – picking-up litter that I didn’t drop.  A lot of the stuff.  I hoped this would set a good example and eventually (around June last year) realised the importance of linking-up with others.  Hence why I support the wonderful work of SPICE.

I’ve always wanted to do more and realised that the availability of bins is a significant piece to helping solve the puzzle.  Whilst I personally would support less rushing around and restricted shop opening hours, which would also work to reduce the problem, I cannot impose that culture shift on others.  Sadly, there’s no money to buy and service more lamp-post bins and education efforts take time to filter through, but we do have a not-so-secret weapon.

We all have green buckets.  If you’re like me, there’s still extra space, even with fortnightly collections.  So, I’m going to attach a piece of paper to my bin with sellotape, which will simply say: “Feel free to bin it in my bucket!”  I’ll strategically position my wheelie bin at the edge of my property, where there is convenient space and easy access by passers-by from the pavement.  Come March 2013 – when purple and blue bins are rolled out across Elgin – I’ll have more options (of the recycling variety) to add.

Obviously, I’ll need to watch out for high winds and potential misuse, but nothing ventured…  I’d rather have my bin a bit fuller, than my street covered in litter.  I’ve already decorated my bin with colourful “Loony Toons” and nature stickers to enhance their appearance.  In work, I’ve been able to set-up a number of purple bins to start collecting more metal cans and plastic bottles.  I’m also aiming, from September 2013, to be helping deliver courses where students are actually designing, making and servicing proper “on-the-go” recycling bins that can go in particular “problem” areas.

So, that’s some of my plans for the New Year.  Can you help?  I’ve created some sample posters, which can be downloaded from excalibrate.wordpress.com, or collected at the Moray College main reception.  I hope you’ll join in because together we can do so much more.  Thanks in advance for those who lend a trusty hand, or should I say thoughtfully fit-out a community bin!

Please note that again the trade marking is just so – if I ever see something similar being flogged elsewhere for financial profit – then I can fairly claim that it was dreamed up here first and should have some stake in the venture.

Bus hoppers to caring citizens

I was speaking to a pensioner in church yesterday and he revealed that some elderly people use their bus pass to travel between Elgin, Keith and Forres just for something to do during the day. Apparently, this costs the taxpayer the bus fare plus 25% in administration.
This is a time of austerity and such a frivolous, universal benefit seems in drastic need of reviewing. Could the money not be put into the basic state pension with the taxation system helping this to be targeted as efficiently as possible? Looking forward, the situation will only become worse as savvier, less scrupulous people reach 60 and work out how they can “maximize” free bus travel.
Clearly, there is another issue here in that we have a large portion of the population who are lacking in purpose and useful outlets for their energies. Would it be possible for governments to encourage/incentivise nurseries and play schemes to set-up initiatives where over 60s can provide (grand)parental one-2-one care/interactions with 3 – 7 year olds, under supervision? Child Protection concerns could be assuaged by stressing that these volunteers are never alone with kids and always have a trained, paid worker on hand if any difficulties arise. The advantages include:
– breaking down the ‘generation gap’, enabling young and old to socialise together and understand one another
– health for over-60s as they would be more mentally and physically active
– combating negative feelings of isolation and uselessness, which can be a real challenge for some who reach retirement age
– learning for kids as they would have much more adult input and people actually talking with them
– passing on skills, such as basic DIY, and introducing pensioners (in a friendly setting) to the world of ICT
By giving individuals more opportunities to be genuinely productive and contribute to raising the next generation, government can create a win-win situation for everyone. Instead of just seeing pensioners as an audience for the Nativity Play, we should endeavour to make space for more positive interactions to flourish.
Currently, church play groups provide a great service to new families and also represent communities where everyone, whatever their age, can come together beneficially. I believe there is much we can learn from the example and legacy of Christ Jesus.