Time to find out what everyone's doing to make extra savings and investments, other than by being frugal with the household shopping, being economical with energy use and quitting spending on non-essentials. Are you debt free? Is your financial future secure? Have you protected your 'cyberdosh'?

Top Cashback savings

Here at NYK Media HQ, we run annual money saving challenges (see Frugal Forums) and also regular money making ones, like the frugaleur or cyberdosh micro-business challenges, but what is everyone actually doing by way of investing in their own futures? Can frugaleurs AFFORD to invest, as by its very nature, investment can reduce savings as well as increase them.

In 2008, my challenge was to earn an extra £15 per month (not quite 50p per day) and save it into a 10-year, tax-free savings bond with life assurance attached. That's £15 per month, every month for 10 years - a total of £1,800 paid out for a guarantee of only £1,500 life assurance or around £1,500 cash back at the end of it. If I remember correctly, there was cash back award of around £45 plus, I think, some Marks & Spencer shopping vouchers, but is it really worth it? At the moment, the £25 'Scottish Bond' from Scottish Widows is offering £50 cash back plus a £25 'My Rewards Card' when you have paid a minimum of 2 monthly instalments into your plan. But then you are paying £25 a month for 10 years in the hope of getting your £3,000 back - no guarantees

At the time, being guaranteed £1,500 of death benefits appealed to me, as I had nothing set aside for that eventuality and it's one that I know can break family finances and create horrible psychological scarring for those guilt-ridden at not being able to afford to bury family members lost suddenly and unexpectedly. So I went with the £15/month and have kept it up, now paying it from my basic £4,000 per year budget, as prices on other things have reduced and I no longer have rent to pay. However... I may not get back what I put in after the 10 years - that's the risk we take with investments. For me, the little bit extra peace of mind was worth it and I still have the £1500 guaranteed lump sum due back in May 2018.

Back in 2002, I began learning a bit more about trading from home on the stock market and had some fun for a few years doing that while being in what I considered to be a fairly well-paid job. (It was about £7 per hour and that was a huge amount of money to me back then, even allowing for £500+ a month rent, and still is to this day.) In all these years, I have continued to live on £4,000 per year and save everything else that was left after household bills and clearing debts. When rent became obsolete (on accounts of buying a small house for cash) I still continued to live on £4,000 per year, regardless of my income. Can you see the potential for savings when it costs £4,000 to run a household of 3 when all 3 are earning at least minimum wage each year?

The moral of this tale is that once you have learned to live on little and achieved your debt free status, there is no need to change your frugal routine just because your income doubles, trebles or quadruples, your household running costs drop, or a combination of both. While I had children home paying 'dig money' it all got saved, so when they finally moved into their own places, the drop in my household income didn't affect the budget at all, it simply meant the household running costs dropped slightly and the regular savings amounts were reduced.

Now what? I have a £4,000 + council tax annual budget but real costs are much less than that because I share the house and bills. I'm not money-orientated in a way that I wish for vast financial wealth - but the thrill of investments, even the most microscopic of them, is worth pursuing. It's what being a frugal entrepreneur is all about - playing a game of chance that can improve your future financial prospects while still being aware of the potential for it all to go wrong at any minute. If we can weather our money storms, then we can learn from our own experiences that enable us to make better-informed guesses at what's right for us in the future. If we need to do it penny by penny, then so be it... the pounds will take care of themselves as long as we aren't foolish in spending our savings.

I want to be Shona Prophett by the end of 2016, so it's time to up the ante and make a few more decisions about what's going to be hot and what's not!

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