My Foolish Guide To Shopping And Saving!
Sex And The City fans might find themselves more tempted than ever to spend, once they've seen the fabulous outfits featured in the film. But what's the smartest way to shop?
This article was originally sent out as part of The Fool's Summer Lolly email series.
Billed as the "romantic comedy of the decade", the Sex And The City film is already one of this summer's biggest box office successes. Featuring an array of outlandish outfits and fabulous footwear, it's a story in which clothes and accessories garner as many sighs as the handsome hero.
Whatever you think of the movie, and whether you loved or loathed the series, it's impossible to deny that shopping is presented as the ultimate hobby by both.
And when the sun's shining and the shops are full of shiny new stuff, who are we to argue?
However, while Carrie Bradshaw's seemingly bottomless bank account can stretch to splurges at Chanel and a new pair of Manolos each month, our real-life balances may not be so buoyant...
"I've spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live?"
According to recent research by Friends Provident, a worrying number of UK women over-spend, trying to emulate their on-screen idols. Its report claims that "the SATC generation" would rather splash their salaries on looking stylish than put money into a retirement plan.
Of the women surveyed, 27% confessed to owning at least 30 pairs of shoes. Conversely, a lowly 23% have a pension.
Meanwhile, although 36% of respondents said they spent £50 or more per month on new clothes and accessories, a whopping 41% admitted that they'd saved less than £200 in the past twelve months.
In one famous episode of SATC, Carrie Bradshaw realises the error of her financial ways when she faces being turned out of her apartment. During this epiphany, she declares: "I've spent $40,000 on shoes and I have no place to live? I will literally be the old woman who lived in her shoes."
Of course, being fictional, Carrie's situation rapidly resolves itself -- but her real-life counterparts may not be so lucky.
Budget Better Than Bradshaw!
Unlike Carrie and co., people in the real world need to budget if they want to stay in the black.
In fact, keeping track of your spending and taking control of debts is vital for achieving the kind of contentment SATC's characters enjoy.
Using the Fool's Statement Of Affairs Calculator is a great way to get started if you're new to budgeting. Step two is to cut the cost of any debts you're paying off.
Would-be Carries are likely to owe money on credit cards, which typically charge around 16% APR on outstanding balances.
This card is the market-leader. It offers 0% on both balance transfers and new purchases until 1 September 2009 - that's a whopping 14-and-a-half months - although it does come with a 3% balance transfer fee. However, it's worth remembering that you must have an almost spotless credit history to be accepted for this card -- so it's not a good idea to apply unless you're fairly sure you'll get it.
On the other hand, a lifetime balance transfer credit card could be a good choice. At the moment, the Barclaycard Platinum Long Term BT Mastercard/Visa offers a rate of 6.5%, which will last until the debt moved to the card is completely cleared.
It's crucial to remember, though, that you should never spend on a card once you've transferred a balance to it. If you do, you'll be caught out by the dreaded negative repayment hierarchy!
Cash And Carrie?
If you don't have debts to pay off and are a keen shopper, are you making the most of your purchasing power?
Using cash or a debit card may not be the best way to pay for your little luxuries, as neither offers the same benefits as a cashback credit card.
As long as you pay off the balance of a cashback credit card in full every month, you'll incur no interest on the sum you spend. However, you will earn money back for every pound you put on your plastic -- so you could amass a tidy sum by the end of the year.
Using a card such as the American Express Platinum MoneyBack card could be a good move for big spenders. It offers 5% cashback for the first 3 months on spending of up to £4000.
Alternatively, if you're likely to spend just a few hundred pounds per month, the Capital One Cashback with World Mastercard could be a better choice. It offers 4% cashback on up to £1500 per month until 1 September 2008.
Also, don't forget that when you buy anything costing between £100 and £30,000 on your credit card, you are protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means that, if the item you buy is damaged, faulty, does not arrive or does not meet its description, your lender must refund your money if the retailer does not.
Sex Up Your Savings
Finally, if you have more shoes than savings, now might be a good time to try and redress that balance.
With the economy uncertain and the credit crunch biting, real-life Carries need to begin building up a cash cushion they can fall on in emergencies.
If you're just starting to save, choosing a clever cash ISA is the smartest way to stash your cash. Alternatively, you can make sure you're getting the best return on money you've already got squirreled away by comparing the interest rates that savings accounts offer.
SATC lifestyles might seem easy on screen, but being stylish and solvent takes a little more effort in reality.
Hopefully, some of these tips will see you on your way to having fewer debts, more savings -- and, yes, maybe some more shoes -- this summer!