Quantify your assets: Getting thrifty with the Council Tax
I am not going to tell you how to reduce your Council Tax payments – although you may find the advice on Money Saving Expert helps you do just that – but being thrifty is as much about getting your money’s worth from what you buy as it is about avoiding paying more than you need to. I have been looking at the amount of our budget we set aside each month for Council Tax payments and this month I began to wonder… I pay Council Tax each month and just accept it as one of our unquestionable debits. But what if I considered it an asset instead? What do I have to show for all that spending?
Council Tax is used to top up local spending on a variety of areas. I googled “what does my Glasgow City council tax pay for?” to get a list of these and then looked them up on the council website and its arms-length Glasgow Life website for more detail. It turns out I am wasting my money because every time the Tartan Family paid to go to softplay, etc, we could have been doing all sorts of things we had already paid for with our Council Tax. Next time we are stuck for something to do we could
- Download a huge range of popular magazines in electronic format through the Public Library service. Here in the Tartan House we spend close to £25 a month (!) on magazines and comics: this could save us a fortune over a year.
- Start a bookgroup – or join one of the many existing ones in venues across the city. The library service provides advice on setting up a group and free sets of books through their Books To Go scheme
- Attend a book festival or take Tartanboy to Scotland’s first children’s book festival, Wee Write.
- Borrow DVDs and audiobook/music CDs.
- Use a searchable online database to find out what is on in any of Glasgow’s 8 free museums and art galleries on any given date. So on a rainy Sunday I could put in the day’s date, type Family in the Activity Type box and immediately get a list of indoor activities to entertain and educate the Tartanweans.
- Go behind the scenes at the museum. The museum service does not have nearly enough space to display all its holdings, so it uses a central Resource Centre to archive all the undisplayed artefacts. This I knew already – I always pictured it as being exactly like the one at the end of Raiders Of The Lost Ark. What I didn’t know was that it is actually open to the public, with regular Family Days as well as a very varied programme of tours focussing on specific parts of the collection.
- join the waiting list for an allotment. Exercise, fun with the kids, time outdoors, a change of pace, new allotmenteer friends, and even free fruit and veg… it is a long waiting list though and I suspect the Tartanweans would be Tartanteens by the time I got a plot.
- download a range of leaflets about the Parks Heritage Trails and visit any of the city’s 90+ parks. I had never even heard of some of them and there are a dozen of the largest ones in which I have never once set foot. There are big country parks, formal gardens and little urban parks, at least one of which hosts the remains of a graveyard and a modern orchard; parks with skateboard rinks, tennis courts, playing fields, bowling greens, mountain bike trails and adventure playgrounds; parks with ponds, fountains, lakes and rivers; parks with art galleries, museums, historic buildings, sculptures and a grove of ancient, fossilised tree trunks; parks where squirrels perch on your shoulder and parks with shaggy Highland Cattle and huge shire horses, not to mention the City of the Dead, Glasgow’s Necropolis, burial place of the city’s historical rich and famous right beside the medieval cathedral.
That’s a lot of free family fun to keep us entertained and I haven’t even mentioned the free swimming at 11 pools to which the kids are entitled, the competitively priced gymnastics, swimming, tennis, badminton, football and parkour lessons at council venues, or more than a thousand fitness classes for adults each week and the gyms – because we are already taking advantage of them through Tartanboy’s Glasgow Kidzcard and my Glasgow Club membership.
Our Council Tax also pays for lots of services that we don’t need/want but that other people do, because the Council Tax is not just an asset to maximise, it’s a way of sharing with other people in my city, and sharing makes people happy. I have not found a thrifty way to reduce my Council Tax but, as I added Council Tax to my budget this month, thinking about all the good it will do me and mine, and the benefit other people will derive from it too, I found myself smiling. I want to hold onto that attitude so I am making this an annual habit: once a year, check that you are making the most of your Council Tax payments. What could you do with yours?