Category Archives: Finance

How to make the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last four or so years, you’ll be very aware of the shopping madness of Black Friday. With Christmas gift-buying currently burning a big hole on your to-do list, and ‘70% off‘ emails flooding your inbox, it’s very easy to go wild. But, if you don’t want to be left skint and full of regret on the morning of the 28th November when this current wave of sales is over and your house is full of stuff you don’t actually want very much, follow this guide to ensure you shop smart and make the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

But first…..

What is Black Friday?

Scheduled on the day after Thanksgiving in the US, it’s the retail industry’s way to boost sales by kicking off the Christmas shopping period early. Even though the UK doesn’t mark Thanksgiving, the craze has caught on here in a big way. Brands go gaga for it with some slashing prices over a week before. And we respond BIG TIME. According to a study by Voucher Codes and the Centre for Retail Research, Brits will spend £1.8 million per minute snapping up deals!

Where can I find the biggest Black Friday savings?

Every retailer worth its salt is running a Black Friday promotion but some will be far better than others. So, helpfully, a number of media titles have pulled together a list of the best ones:

The Mirror

The Guardian

The Radio Times

(They cover a lot of similar stuff with a few different points so it’s worth looking at all three.)

How will I know if it’s really a good deal?

Please, PLEASE, don’t get tricked into buying something just because the discount is huge. If you do find something that tempts you, do the following before you open that wallet:

  1. Do a quick google search to check the item isn’t cheaper elsewhere
  2. Also check that other retailers aren’t offering it at the same price indefinitely. If they are, then you don’t have to buy it during Black Friday and can give yourself a bit of thinking time to decide whether or not you really do want the item after all!
  3. Make sure you’re not buying a poor quality equivalent of something you do want just because it’s cheap. I.e. if you really want a new tv and there’s one available online at 70% off the RRP, check the reviews and star ratings as it may not be worth it.
  4. Check the returns policy or warranty offered by the retailer. Some retailers are better than others so if there’s only a small difference in price between the two, it’s still better going for a name you can trust should something go wrong.

How can I save even more?

I wouldn’t be a very good money blogger if I didn’t give you advice to make sure you save as much as you truly can. So here goes:

  • Set a budget and stick to it. Heck, why not go as far as putting the money you’ve allowed yourself to spend into one account and then giving all your credit cards to a partner or best friend for safe keeping until the 28th when the sales are over. You can only spend the money you have.
  • Cancel any evening plans you have for the 23rd and prep. Although many retailers have already started their sales, Amazon and John Lewis among others will kick off from midnight on Friday 24th, so do your research on Thursday night. Then arm yourself with coffee and stay up late to grab the bargains as they appear. Because once they’ve gone, they’ve gone.
  • As part of your Thursday night prep session, make a list of what you actually want and need. Then move some of those items onto a list for friends and family to buy you as Christmas presents (yup, you know you’ll get asked).  Then, armed with your list of what you can buy in the sales, ONLY buy what’s on the list. Do not deviate!
  • Before you put anything in your shopping basket, go to Quidco first in case you can acquire cashback on your purchases. Thousands of retailers offer cashback through Quidco so it’s a very worthwhile step to take! PLUS, if you sign up with the link above, you’ll be awarded £5 free in cash once you’ve earned your first £5 cashback! (For more information on how the process works, click here for my cashback guide.)

Any other advice?

  • Before pressing ‘Buy’, go through each item and check how likely you are to use it. If any of the following thoughts run through your head, put it back.
    • I’m sure I’ll find a use for it someday
    • Who cares if I’ll use it, it looks really cool
    • So what if I hadn’t heard of it before today, it gets a lot of good reviews
    • Oh god I shouldn’t be doing this but oh well you only live once!
  • Seriously. Don’t buy it.
  • Also check for discount codes before you buy anything. There may be a code for free delivery and returns. This will come in handy if you haven’t bothered to follow my previous point.
  • The best place to look is Voucher Codes. Last year, its team of deal hunters saved shoppers a staggering £780,000 over the Black Friday weekend.

And that’s my advice on how to make the most of Black Friday! Don’t go mad, I hope you get some lovely things and do comment below as I’d love to hear about them.

How to spend less on fashion but get more – In Store

Welcome to part 2 in the series of how to find all the best fashion deals! If you haven’t read part 1 yet – how to save money on fashion online, then go there now….and then come back here to read on about fashion offers in store. Thank you muchly 🙂

Anyhoo, I mentioned at the start of the series that it’s hard to put a figure on your monthly clothing spend. And that’s not just because we really don’t want to (eek!). It’s also because we don’t tend to go out on a regular basis for clothes. Instead, we buy when we need to replace items, or to restock our wardrobe during sales periods or at the start of a new season. Well, regardless of how often you purchase clothes and how much you spend, I’m sure you’d love to spend less.

So let’s crack on with tips on how to grab fashion offers in store!

Buying fashion in store

As easy as online shopping is, the downside is that you can’t see the item on the hanger. Nor can you touch the material or try it on to see how it fits you. Often those three factors can be huge in determining whether you buy something or not. So if you buy online, you run a huge risk that you’ll be dissatisfied with the item and have to return it. Annoying.  In fact, according to research by the BBC, 2/3rds of clothes bought online are returned.

And yet, we still buy clothes online because we know it’s so easy to find a bargain. But don’t think for one moment that deals can’t be found when shopping on the high street. There are loads of tricks to find fashion offers in store!

Have a plan

Browsing is dangerous. Yup. That’s a strange statement right there. But it is dangerous. If you enter a clothes shop with a open mind and money to burn, you’ll end up spending quite a lot.

So, the best way to keep a limit on your spending is to decide before you walk through the door what you intend to buy and stick to it.

And every time you’re tempted by something else, make a mental note to think about it again later and run through these questions:

  1. Do I need it? i.e. will I wear it lots and will it go with a lot of clothes I currently don’t wear but should?
  2. Will it suit me? Think in terms of colour, cut, style and age-wise
  3. How can I buy it more cheaply? Unless you can find a way of paying 50% of the full price for it, wait for the sale!

Vouchers

If you’re venturing out to the shops, you’ll know which retailers will be there, so before you leave, check online to see if there are any in store voucher codes available for those places. Just as you would search online for vouchers and codes to get a discount on your favourite retailers’ website, you can often apply most of these at the till in a store too. Always check terms and conditions before you do though.

In store cashback

My favourite cashback site, Quidco, has a great tool whereby you register your debit or credit cards securely on their site and then when you buy anything in store at places like Debenhams or Jojo Maman Bebe, you’ll automatically be credited with a percentage of your spend as cashback in your Quidco account! Just visit Quidco now and click on the Ways to Earn and High Street tabs.

For more info on how cashback sites work you can read my guide here.

Wait for sales

If you’re like me and patience is not one of your virtues then this will be a tough one. The thing to remember, however, is that sales take place a lot more frequently than they used to and you could save yourself as much as 60% of the full price.

If waiting seems too hard, sign up to the retailer’s mailing list (if it has one) as you may get advanced notice of when the sales are to start which at least means you have a date to focus on!

Buy quality over quantity

Technically this requires you spending more upfront rather than less, but you’ll realise the savings over the long term. Cheaper clothes are typically made with cheaper materials which don’t last very long and will need replacing fairly often. And more trips to the shops mean more temptation to buy other things! So if you’re buying items like white shirts (that you don’t want to go see-through very quickly) or a staple jumper (that shouldn’t stretch beyond your knees the first time you wear it), seek out a good quality version and see it as a long term investment.

Charity shops (particularly in wealthier areas!)

There is probably nowhere you’ll pick up a better bargain on a good brand name than a charity shop. Having volunteered in one as a teenager, I can assure you that the sorting process is incredibly thorough and it’s rare that anything other than a high quality brand, in nearly new condition or better, will get on to their shelves. So you can be sure that you’ll pick up something great and it will only cost you a few quid.

Even better, a fellow money blogger, ThriftyMum.com, recommended to me to visit charity shops located in wealthier areas as the stock is likely to be very high end!

Check out bargain retailers and supermarkets for basic items

Pants, t-shirts, basic jeans and kids clothes are always great items to buy from the supermarket. Stores like Asda and Sainsbury’s have some very good clothing brands under their belts and the prices are great. While they’re never going to be bang on trend, don’t underestimate these stores for the basic essentials.

Haggle

You may be surprised to hear that it’s not just at the market that you can haggle on the price of your purchase; major retailers will do it too. According to a survey conducted my Moneysavingexpert.com of its readers, it’s possible to successfully haggle for a cheaper price in TK MAXX, John Lewis, Debenhams, Clarks and M&S!

So go get your negotiation face on and see what you can achieve.

Shop with an honest friend

My final piece of advice on spending less on fashion in store is to take a friend with you who will be able to tell you straight if something suits you and is worth buying or not. Stores play a lot of tricks on customers in the changing rooms by using soft lighting and  flattering mirrors to make you think you look better than you do so get someone to give you honest feedback and it could end up saving you a fortune!

What was the last thing you bought in store? Would you try haggling?

 

Keeping food bills low in Spring and Summer

I don’t know about you but in warmer weather, I don’t really fancy heavy dishes like stews and cottage pies. They served me well in Autumn and Winter when I was cold and wanted something comforting. And because they’re so cheap to make in bulk and freeze multiple portions, I had them A LOT. If you’ve seen my post on meal planning, you’ll know why.

But now that the days are longer and it’s getting warmer, I’m craving fresher ingredients and lighter dishes for dinner. The question is how to do that without the food bills soaring?

Well, here’s my guide for meal planning and keeping food bills low in Spring and Summer.

Salads

It’s easy to plan meals in the summer months if you just have salad with everything but it’s not cheap. Particularly if you buy ready made boxes or ready washed salad leaves.

Instead, buy unwashed spinach or lettuce heads, and every other ingredient individually in its rawest form and do the work yourself.

Another way to save money on salads, is to go simple. It’s very easy to load up the salad bowl with every vegetable known to man but the best salads often have only 3-4 ingredients. My all time favourite is rocket, diced red apple and pine nuts. YUM.

Plan your meals

Aside from the price, the other downside of fresh ingredients is that they don’t last very long. So, plan your meals for the week so that you eat the same fresh ingredients on consecutive nights and you’ll avoid food wastage and spending extra money.

Find cheap alternatives to carbs

If mash is off the menu until September/October time, don’t use expensive bread to fill you up instead. A head of cauliflower seasoned and blitzed in the blender or couscous (which can be bought very cheaply in bulk from most supermarkets) are much more wallet-friendly options. Or just stick to your boiled potatoes or pasta but let them cool first. Isn’t it funny how some foods seem more summery when they’re served cold??

It’s possible to have a modest barbeque

If you’re fortunate to have a good barbeque, then you may want to use it to cook all your meals in the summer. That’s fine if you exercise some restraint and don’t roll out the obligatory bbq dishes of burgers, sausages, ribs and chicken legs EVERY TIME. Just go for one simple piece of meat per meal, with a simple salad. Yum.

Check your sauce cupboard

Before you go out and buy lots of salad dressings, barbeque sauces, vinaigrettes and marinades at great expense, check your cupboards. It’s likely you still have all of that stuff from last year and guess what, this stuff takes AGES to go off.

Cruise the bargain bin

Every supermarket has a yellow sticker ‘bit’ where the produce is just shy of the best by date so they need to flog it at a discount. Make sure you have a good rummage around there every time you visit the supermarket as you could find some fantastic fish or meat options and if you buy too many, they can always be chucked in the freezer for another day! Forget about keeping food bills low – this could cut them in half!

Grow your own

Quite possibly the best way of keeping food bills low is to get food by free by growing it yourself. Fortunately, April and May is actually a really good time of the year to start gardening! Would you believe that by buying a few seeds now, you could very soon have the following growing in your garden or on your kitchen window sill:

What are your guilty pleasures food-wise in Spring and Summer? I’d love to hear and maybe I can suggest a cheap alternative!

How to spend less on fashion but get more – online

I recently hosted a Twitter chat organised by the UK Money Bloggers community on how to save money on fashion. With over 100 financial experts in the group, you can only imagine how much helpful advice was flying about in 140 character form.

If you missed the twitter chat, and my radio interview on Share the next morning (HOW DARE YOU?!), don’t despair for there are plenty of ways to catch up! A full round up of the chat can be found here, and for the radio interview, just press play below!

But if you want more than that, and NEED a detailed guide on how to spend less on your fashion needs then read on!

But first…

How much do you think you spend on clothing each month? According to a recent survey by Ariel, the average Brit spends over £1,000 on new clothes every year. That’s £83.33 a month.

Maybe you splash the cash every week or perhaps you have a splurge at the end of every season to exploit the sales, and to get your mitts on the new trends?

Well whether you love clothes shopping or you hate it, you probably wish you didn’t spend so much on it. Wouldn’t it be great if you could learn how to bag a bargain every time?

In this series of posts, I’ll cover every which way of saving money in the clothing department but the first area of focus is fashion offers online!

Buying fashion online

In this fast-paced world of e-commerce, consumers have a lot of power. There is so much competition that retailers are bending over backwards to take our money. It’s true.

What this means is that it’s now possible to NEVER pay full price for any clothes you buy online.

1. Cashback

Before you visit a retailer’s website, visit a cashback site.  By logging on to Quidco or Topcashback first, and clicking through to the retailer you need from that site, when you buy something, your purchase will track through the cashback site and you’ll earn some money back on your purchase! It sounds complicated so read my foolproof guide on how cashback sites work.

2. Voucher codes sites

Similarly, check for voucher codes. There are so many sites to choose from so I recommend googling the retailer name followed by the phrase ‘voucher code’ and checking through the sites that come up for the best deal. You may find that a deal has just expired so be patient as it will be back!

3. Think beyond the brand

If you can’t find voucher codes or cashback on the brand you want to buy, think about which department stores or online sites sell it as one of a number of brands.  For example, Net-a-porter sells a wide range of designer brands and it offers cashback!

4. Share your data

Once you’ve made it to the retailer’s site, look out for pop ups or headers that mention discounts when you sign up to their mailing list or spend over a certain amount. All the retailers want in return is your email address and thats a small price to pay for a money saving offer. What’s more, they’re likely to email you with future offers so you can keep on saving! 

5. Be patient

It used to be the case that retailers only held sales on big calendar days like the 27th December and we’d all go to bed early on Boxing Day to get ready for shopping the next day. Nowadays, however, there are sales far more frequently. if you see something you really want to buy, save the link and check back a few weeks later and you may find it’s heavily reduced.

6. Discounted gift cards

I’m willing to bet that you have been given a gift card at some point and you didn’t use it. You either forgot it was in your wallet or the brand just wasn’t your cup of tea. Well, there’s a way to make money from that!

Zeek is a website where you can sell gift cards at a discount to get the money to spend on the brands you like PLUS you can buy other people’s gift cards at a reduced price! So go have a look and you may find your favourite brands on there.

7. Go second hand

Try Preloved and Ebay for incredibly well kept second hand clothing. You could get your hands on some fantastic brands that have barely been worn and spend very little.  If you don’t fancy shelling out on postage, you could check out local preloved groups on Facebook and go and pick them up yourself.

How’s that for a round of how to find the best fashion offers online? What techniques do you use?

And remember, if you fancy joining one of the UK Money Bloggers’ twitter chats one week, you can find us at #MondayMoneyUK every Monday at 8.30pm.

I’ll be back soon with the next in the series, covering fashion offers in-store!

Save or splurge: Red Fendi Sweater

I love clothes and one of the MANY reasons I try to be good with my money, and save up what I can, is so that I can spend it on filling my wardrobe. The question is…..do you buy cheap and plenty or do you go for fewer, but expensive items? It’s save or splurge time!

Regardless of whether you like to save or splurge, here is my guide to getting this very on-trend lovely little red embellished sweater from Fendi….or one just like it.

Fendi £730, netaporter

Splurge

If you want to splurge and buy the real thing, it’s currently available at net-a-porter. Off you go! Wait…what? You don’t have the funds yet? But you really want it? Ok well, follow the free 5 day FeastStyleThrive e-course and you’ll have made that money in no time.

All you need to do is enter your email address in the box below and the guide will be with you in a jiffy.

Oh and when you do come to buy it, make sure you sign up to cashback site Quidco first and click through to net-a-porter from there. The site is currently offering 3% cash back on all purchases which amounts to a £21.90 saving on this £730 jumper. Not bad eh?

Save

If you don’t want to splash out but want to be up to date with this season’s trends by wearing a jumper very much like this, then here is the solution.

Step 1. Purchase a simple and plain red jumper. Here are two very affordable options currently available on the high street.

Warehouse, £20
White Stuff at Zalando, £45.99

Step 2: Buy a few packs of flower buttons in black and white. The below are available at Etsy.

Etsy, £5.05 plus shipping for a pack of 6 black or 6 white

Step 3: Carefully stitch on the buttons along the neckline, 2-3cm from the top of the material.

Step 4: Don your on trend embellished red sweater with pride. It only cost you approx £60!

How to wear it

Now because I think this is quite a polished style of jumper, if you pair it with the wrong things you could look mumsy. And we don’t want that. The way to avoid that is to wear a cut on the bottom half that directs the eye away from the jumper. You don’t want all the attention on the bottom half, you just want a balance. So, avoid plain black trousers or jeans, blue denim and flat simple pumps. Instead, pair it with statement trousers in cigarette, flare or wide leg or a below the knee A-line or godet style skirt. And BIG statement shoes. It’s also important if you want to be on trend to wear red with red (or with pink) so keep that in mind too.

Now which option would you choose? Save or splurge?