Last week, I was invited to Giffgaff’s Game Plan event which was held at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead. The event was to introduce Giffgaff’s financial service, Giffgaff Game Plan as well as offering money advice from some rather successful money bloggers. The Life Goals workshop included three topics: Bad Credit, Mortgages and Everyday Saving. It was something completely different to what I am usually used to but I thought it would be super helpful and it exceeded my expectations.

The first workshop I attended was Bad Credit ran by successful money nerd Miss Thrifty who started her blog in 2008. Her session was extremely informative. Personally, I know that I have a really bad credit rating so I knew as soon as I was invited to the event that this is the workshop that I definitely wanted to go to. Within the session, she explained a bit about credit scores, some helpful tips for maintaining a good credit score and ways in which you can repair your score.

So for those of you who are unsure what a Credit Score is, it’s for lenders to evaluate whether we, as customers, are likely to be a good customer. The Credit Reference Agencies (CRA) usually have a number that represents as good or excellent however lenders don’t usually use the scores but are more interested in the report that you have. Lenders require a credit report if you are applying for a mortgage or rental agency, utility bills, insurance, phone contracts or loaning something out. I had to have one done when applying for my New Look Store Card.

There are three main CRAs that you can use to check your credit score, these are: Experian which 76% of lenders use, Equifax which 54% of lenders use and Transunion (credit karma draws records from) which 30% of lenders use. Some lenders tend to use multiple CRAs to check your credit score which you can find more information on the Money Saving Expert website. Miss Thrifty explained that it would be helpful to get your score from each of the agencies and that it should be quick and easy and you shouldn’t have to pay. If you are a Barclaycard user, you can access your Experian Credit Report for free via the app. Credit Expert do offer a monthly subscription which may be helpful when your are applying for a mortgage or if you are a victim of identity theft. ClearScore is another useful website to use as it gives you more data about your spending and borrowing, as well as being free.

So what are Miss Thirfty‘s top tips to rebuild and repair your credit score?

  • Pay your bills on time – never miss a payment! I have wrote down in a notebook when a bill is due to be paid and tick it off every month when I’ve paid it. It’s an easy way to keep track of when you’re paying it as well as the expenditure that you have.
  • Register to vote. If your ineligible, send all three Credit Reference Agencies proof of your residency.
  • DON’T TAKE OUT PAYDAY LOANS! It screams to lenders that you are desperate for money which is not what you want.
  • If you rent, opt into the Rental Exchange Scheme. It’s an incentive brought in from Experian where you pay them your rent money then they pay it to the landlord.
  • Make purchases on your credit card however don’t use more than 25% and pay it off the following month. You can use a credit rebuild card to help build up your credit score.
  • Understand the difference between a hard search and a soft search. A hard search is one done by the lenders which will leave a footprint on your credit report whereas a soft search doesn’t leave a mark. It can usually be an enquiry on compare websites such as compare the market.
  • Schedule your applications. It’s best to not apply for too much within a six month time frame, no more than one or two applications.
  • Finally, keep an eye on your credit file. It takes time to rebuild your credit score so you do have to be patient. It won’t be a quick fix!

The other workshop that I was interested in attending was Everyday Savings. Now if you know me, I am rubbish when it comes to budgeting and spending. If I see, a new outfit in New Look or River Island then I will go in and buy it because I feel as though I need it. I struggle to save any money because of the high bills that I have coming out every month so by the end, I am usually using the £50 that I put in my savings account at the start of the month.

This session was ran by Eileen Adamson, a financial coach and PE teacher as well as money blogger based in Scotland. She is passionate about encouraging people to talk about money and why it matters. She wants people like myself and you to feel confident and in control of our money. Her session was very motivating and interactive with little games to help us along the way.

Not only did Eileen get us talking about what gets in the way of saving money and why it matters but what it means to us individually. It could be something as simple as retirement or dreams of going travelling or buying your own house. She explained that if you had a credit card with a maximum of £2,000 at 17.9% and you paid the minimum payment every month then it would take you 24yrs to pay it off as well as paying an extra £2,580 in interest. Now if you paid a fixed payment of £60 per month, it would take you 3yrs and 9months to pay it off with £698 interest. I was so surprised with these figures that it has encouraged me to save money. After the event, I transferred the £50 that I usually save back into my savings account and I know it has only been a week but it is still in there.

So what are Elieen‘s money advice saving tips?

  • Meal plan! You can save up to £800 a year just from planning your meals. For someone who likes to be organised, it’s surprising to know that I find it difficult to plan meals but I’ve started this week and realised how much money I actually spend on eating out because I don’t have a meal plan.
  • Haggling can save you up to £725 per year. Firstly, research on comparison sites for the best deals and then get in touch with your current provider via the online chat or email/phone. Make sure you remain polite. If you are unsure, just state you’ll think about it and try again in a week’s time. If that still doesn’t work you could always be passed through to the Retentions Team as they want to keep you.  My phone contract runs out later this month. I’ve been with O2 for four years so I believe I have room to haggle my way into receiving some money off. I was thinking of trying this technique so I’ll let you know how I get on.
  • Do you have a long commute to work, university or college? Market research websites are great for earning money just from completing surveys. There are so many sites on the internet that offers this however there is a list of them on the Save the Student website.
  • TopCashback and Quidco are affiliate marketing websites that give you a percentage of your money back when you buy something with retailers. For example, when I brought my Canon 77D I sent an image of my receipt to the cash back provider and they gave me £80 back which I paid towards my camera.
  • Fiverr is a handy little website if you have some spare time and have a skill that’s worth sharing. It takes minutes to set up and you can earn money from simply sharing your skill with others.
  • Simply analyse you’re spending. There are so many apps and websites but you could also write everything down. Personally, I heavily rely on my banking app to see where my money goes but at the moment I am also trying to write down my expenses for the month in my notebook too.
  • Finally, Plum & Chip. The majority of you are probably wondering what the hell these are because I know I was struggling when it was mentioned. Plum is a read only application via Facebook Messenger whereas Chip is an app that you can download on your phone. Both applications take money without you even noticing to help you save money. You can withdraw that money whenever you need to but the best thing is you don’t even notice it. It’s definitely something that I am going to take a look into when I have some regular money coming in.

Overall, I really enjoyed the event. I gained so much out of it that it was definitely worth going, it wasn’t just the nice cheesecakes either. Unfortunately I didn’t really get many images because I was trying to take in all the information however there was a photographer on the night. The sessions I attended were very informative and both Eileen and Miss Thrifty were enthusiastic about what they were talking about. I highly recommend checking out Giffgaff’s Game Plan as you can easily check you credit score, access your credit report, compare loans, credit cards and insurance, and learn some handy money tips from experts.

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