Today I have another post from Jon at The Money Shed, as his money saving and making blogs, like this one about how to make money online, are always popular. If you have any questions, leave a comment and Jon will get back to you.

There’s no doubt that online shopping is KING when it comes buying the products you want. There’s also no question that Amazon is the go to website for many people looking to buy things. With over 90% of UK Shoppers now using Amazon I don’t see things going back to how they used to be anymore!

I still remember in the late 90s when Amazon first appeared and had nothing but books for sale and even those took about 4-5 days to reach you!

Now you can buy anything from TVs and laptops to groceries and spa weekends! And with Amazon Prime available in most UK cities you can get whatever you need the very same day you order it!

But what can you do to help make things cheaper on Amazon for you?  Here are 3 top tips to make sure you are always getting what you want at the lowest price available on there!

Use a Discount Finder

Amazon is a website where you can spend a lot of time searching around and playing with filters to get the biggest discount on the products you want. But what if they could all be done before you head to the site, or better still, automatically!

There are some fantastic tools out there like The Money Shed’s Amazon Discount Finder which will let you choose which item you want and how much discount you are looking to get (the more the better!) and then will take you straight through to Amazon with those discounts already applied!

how to save money on Amazon

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Advertisement feature in association with CISI

Did you know that October 7-11th is Financial Planning Week? As part of the week, the CISI (Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment) is encouraging everyone to sign up for a FREE financial planning session.

Now before you switch off and think ‘oh that’s not for me because I don’t earn enough money’ then think again. Although typically financial planners do work with relatively wealthy clients, helping them manage their investments and savings, Financial Planning Week is for everybody. In fact, if you don’t currently have much in the way of savings or retirement plans then all the more reason to take up the offer of a free session.

I know that looking at your finances can be scary but financial planning is actually something I feel very strongly about as money has an impact on so many other areas of your life. In my twenties I spent a long time ignoring debts I had built up as a student and single parent, hoping they would go away, but you know what? They don’t. All that happens is that you get more and more stressed and worried about them. At some point you have to stare your finances right in the eye and remind them that YOU are in charge. Once you stop being afraid of money, that’s when you can start to feel more in control and make proper plans.

Feeling confident about your finances is incredibly empowering.

So how does the free financial planning session work and what can you expect?

The first step is looking at where you are right now. What plans do you already have in place? What savings or pensions, if any, do you have? This was covered in a few simple forms that I had to fill out before my session with Andrew and Sarah at Berry and Oak, so that they could have a picture of my situation before we spoke.

To be honest, even just this stage was really valuable as it forces you to take stock. I consider myself relatively well-prepared financially, but I still couldn’t tell you exactly what the terms are on my life assurance, or for how long my income protection insurance would pay out should I find myself unable to work. I wasn’t even completely on top of what my monthly income and expenditure was. Just taking an hour or so to fill out the forms gave me a much clearly idea of my current position, and made me feel much more confident, before I’d even spoken to Andrew and Sarah. I also checked my state pension online, which was much easier to do than I’d imagined and is really important as it tells you how much state pension you’re set to be entitled to.

TOP TIP from Andrew and Sarah: even if as a family you think you earn too much to be eligible for child benefit, claim it anyway and then pay it back as part of your tax return. If you’re a stay at home parent, your state pension only knows to take this into account by checking to see if you’ve been receiving child benefit, so if you stop claiming because your partner is earning too much, but you’re at home raising your family, then you could miss out.

Next you think about where you’d like to be, both in the short term and years down the line when you’re ready for retirement. It might seem like a long way away but the sooner you start thinking about it, the more you can get out of it. Because that’s the ultimate goal after all right? To be in a position to be able to spend more time doing what you love. Like taking amazing train journeys around the world. (I’ve never done this but always felt like I’d love it, especially if I had to solve a mystery on board.)

free financial planning session for financial planning week

Photo by Johannes Hofmann on Unsplash

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Today I have a guest post from Jon at The Money Shed. Jon’s written before for me on things like making money from home and matched betting – he’s all about getting stuff done and bringing in cash and is very knowledgeable. This post contains affiliate links.

When you decide to create a blog it can seem there is quite a high learning curve involved at times. What is WordPress? How do you install WordPress? What is self hosted? How will I link my domain name?

Maybe you just want a creative outlet for your writing, maybe you want to build a blog you can earn money from via paid sponsored posts or promoting affiliate links to your favourite online retailers.

Having your own self hosted blog comes with some HUGE advantages compared to going for one of the free options such as Blogger.

Advantages for going self hosted include :

  • Owning your own URL
  • Being able to receive better technical support
  • Having your data backed up
  • The ability to customise your blog more
  • You own ALL the content
  • The ability to monetise your blog
  • Being taken far more seriously by brands and their PRs.

Some people will have you believe that setting up a blog is quite a technically long winded process but actually it can be all done and dusted in 15 minutes. I’m going to break it down to just two simple steps and you’ll be up and running!

Now before we get going I am going to make the assumption that you already know the domain name you want for your blog. If you don’t then now is the time to give it some thought as you don’t want to fall into the same trap and everyone else when it comes to choosing your domain name. View Post

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In collaboration with PayPlan

Let’s think about the cost of single parenting shall we? There’s the relentless pressure of being solely responsible for bringing up children, self-neglect, money spent on treats to alleviate guilt over them not having two decent parents, helping them become independent, ultimate loss of sanity

I jest!

(Sort of.)

This post is actually more about the financial cost of being a single parent, inspired by research from PayPlan, a debt advice service, into the unfair costs of activities and days out for single parent families.

Generally you might think that being a single parent would be cheaper – there is only one of you after all – but the reality is that it’s anything but. For starters you still need pretty much the same sized house, and your bills are basically the same, save for the 25% discount on council tax. Your children need all the same stuff. The difference is though that you’re paying for it ALL BY YOURSELF.*

In my case I did save a fair bit of money after my last partner moved out, but that was more about his slapdash approach to his own (and therefore my) finances. He also wasn’t the father of either of my children (the scandal!) so probably not quite the same anyway.

In terms of days out specifically, it has definitely been my experience that you miss out on discounts as a single parent family, as ‘family tickets’ for things tend to be based on a family of two adults and multiple children. The research from Payplan, which is summarised in the infographic below, backs up my own experiences.

Now you might look at the results and think ‘Okay, fair enough though, if you’re going on ‘cost per adult’ then obviously it’s going to be more for single parents as you don’t have anyone to split it with’, but if you have a look further down in the infographic you’ll see that PayPlan has also worked it out on a cost per head basis. Under this way of working, single parents are STILL getting a raw deal – in every example the cost PER PERSON works out higher for single parents, because they don’t get to enjoy the discounts that result simply from being in a relationship.

It hardly seems fair does it? View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with hotukdeals

A few years ago now, back when I lived in Bristol, I had a boyfriend who was obsessed with hotukdeals.

I don’t just mean that he would check the site for offers before he bought something significant, I mean that he loved browsing, scrolling through the listings, just for fun. ‘Someone’s just found a half price patio set in an Asda in Doncaster!’ he would shout out, excitedly. It makes you wonder really how engaging I was as a girlfriend, but let’s brush over that.

He actually saved us a lot of money over the few years we lived together – or should I say hotukdeals did, because the beauty of the site is that you don’t actually do any of the research yourself, you just wait for other people to find the bargains, post about them, and then you swoop. Hotukdeals is a place for real consumers to share their stories, deals, vouchers. and tips. The purpose of the site is to encourage honest advice from genuine consumers, getting insight from other real people about hot deals and products.

There’s also an app, which is totally free and allows for on the go bargain hunting. You can also use the app to set keyword alerts, so if, for example, you’re after some LEGO for Christmas presents, you can get a notification as soon as a LEGO offer gets posted. I actually did a little project with them a couple of years ago, where I saved £527 on my Christmas shopping, so coupled with my obsessive boyfriend history I consider myself something of an expert.

When hotukdeals asked me then if I fancied using the site to discover some bargains for a garden makeover, I was PRIMED, ready to strike while the deal was hot. (Or, as it turned out in my case, while the half price barbecue was hot.) They’ve also given me two £50 vouchers to give away, so read on for more info on how to win those too.

My garden is one of my favourite bits of the house because it’s the area where I have made the most difference. The rest of the house was already redecorated and ready to go, but the garden was like a prison yard. I did a whole garden makeover post, complete with kitten in a wheelbarrow, if you want to check it out, and I’ve added a lot of plants along the way too. (It’s worth noting too that the plants from that second post are doing really well a year on – I’ve been really impressed with them.)

HotUKDeals garden offers

So I set about searching the garden section of hotukdeals for some garden bargains that would add to the tropical paradiseness of my garden.* View Post

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Advertisement feature in association with Hometree

boiler cover options

My house. IN MY DREAMS.

If you’ve been considering boiler cover and fancy a free £40 Amazon voucher then BOY OH BOY, you are in luck today.

When I bought my very first house in 2017 there were a lot of things I’d never had to think about before. A fricking great DEBT for a start obviously, that I won’t pay off until I’m about 143, but smaller things too.

Like the ROOF. When you live in a rented house, you never have to worry about the roof. It’s just sort of there, covering you, and if anything goes wrong with it then it’s someone else’s problem. Ditto the plumbing, wiring, sewerage, radiators – basically ALL OF THE THINGS.

Being very sensible and nearly 40 at the time, I realised that you probably can’t take the ‘satsuma on the dashboard‘ approach to owning a house, like I do with owning a car. I would need to think carefully about grown up things like insurance, having the number of a good electrician and where to put the gin cabinet.

I’ve always been a big believer in only insuring against things you couldn’t otherwise afford to pay for. Obviously there is stuff you HAVE to have, like buildings insurance, but I’ve never spent money on extended warranties for electrical appliances, or cancelling train tickets or anything like that, because I could afford the hit if I absolutely had to.

In my new house though I decided that there were some things that, having used all of my savings for my deposit, I wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for should anything go wrong.

For example, I now have pet insurance*, because I really never want to have to spend thousands of pounds on a teeny cat leg plaster cast. The boiler and central heating system also fell into this category.

Apart from anything else, I wouldn’t actually know what to DO, in a first response sort of a way, if the boiler broke down – who do you even call? How much is the call out fee? How does ADULTING WORK??

*takes deep breaths*

Besides, I’m a very big fan of being warm – I definitely didn’t want my boiler out of action. View Post

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I don’t often host guest posts, but my posts from Jon at The Money Shed about how to earn money online from home are always really popular, so he’s back today with a few more ideas for you.

make money online from home

So, you want more money in your life so you can do more things with the family or go on nice holidays to sunny places far, FAR outside the UK but getting ‘that money’ is where the catch is!

My name is Jon and I run a website called The Money Shed which is all about helping people to earn money online from home. I’ve run it for over 5+ years now and as the UK’s largest community website dedicated to earning from home I like to think I know what I’m talking about!

Now in the past I’ve written for Jo about everything from How to earn thousands of pounds doing Risk Free Matched Betting through to 4 ways you can earn money from home that don’t include surveys or click-sites! I know you’re keen to make money online, and while there definitely are strategies to increase your chances of winning at bingo if you like to have a bit of fun at the same time, there are plenty of other ways to make some cash.

Today I wanted to introduce three of the easiest ways you can earn money from home that require minimum investment time wise and MAXIMUM rewards and DON’T involve you even leaving the house!  View Post

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In association with Hoppy

There are quite a few areas of my life where I pride myself on managing to be Not Old. I know how to use social media, I don’t say THE YouTube and I even know who Logan Paul is. (Although I do not feel that my life is enriched by this.)

And then there are other things where I just feel CONFUSED, like I need a six-year-old to come round and explain it to me, like remote controls. Or politics. It’s a horrible feeling, because you know that deep down you are a smart and capable women, but your brain just won’t process whatever it is. You read about it, and the individual words make sense, but together it’s like a different language.

One of these areas of weakness for me is my broadband and TV subscription. We’ve been with Sky for about the last ten years, almost entirely because I am too scared to switch. It feels like so much has changed since I first had a TV. How would it even WORK if I didn’t have Sky anymore? Do you still use the dish? Do you have to have any kind of BOX? Do you need an aerial? If I switch broadband who do I have to tell and how long am I without the internet? Honestly, I’m completely hopeless. You should have seen me peering at the back of my television, looking baffled. It was pathetic.

My Sky contract expires at the beginning of December though, and I am determined to educate myself and stop paying more than I need. I just checked my bank and my last direct debit to Sky was £71 for TV, phone and broadband. HOW?? I don’t even have sports or films. It’s so embarrassing. I can’t even check the bill as I’ve forgotten my login details and am too scared to sort it out in case I accidentally sign up for box sets.

It was ideal timing then when I had an email from Hoppy, asking if I wanted to try out their services.

The main aim of Hoppy is to simplify your home management. In fact, Hoppy is the number one FREE home management site. Rather than having piles of paper everywhere and seemingly endless to do list – checking gas prices, getting the car booked for an MOT, finding someone to fix the leaky tap – Hoppy lets you store and manage all of your information and tasks in one place. It’s one site, where you can do everything from finding a reliable tradesperson to comparing mobile phone tariffs.

Hoppy home management

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In association with Gumtree

Today I want to set you a challenge.

I’m calling it the £147.06 Gumtree challenge, but you’re allowed to change the amount. (I’m nice like that.) My amount is £147.06 because that’s how much it is costing for me and Belle to fly from Bristol to Ireland to stay with my sister over Christmas. We’ve been every year since they moved there and although we have flight costs, petrol and car parking, I easily make it back, eating my way through the Bendicks Mints and assorted savoury nibbles.

Still, it’s a chunk of money, and it’s always nice NOT to have to spend chunks of money if you can help it, so when Gumtree asked if I was up for a money making challenge, it seemed like a good idea to set myself a goal. I love a good goal – the more specific the better, as you will know if you’ve read my new ‘50 things to do before you’re 50‘ list.

We apply the whole SMART goals thing to business a lot – specific, achievable targets with measurable time frames – but it makes a lot of sense in all areas of life really. Take these two examples:

‘Ergh, I could really do with a bit of extra cash, I should probably clear out the garage sometime.’

‘I want to sell enough of the unwanted stuff around my home to cover £147.06 of flight costs before Christmas’

I know which one makes ME want to sort through my garage more.

So where to start? The good news is that if you hoard an average amount of clutter, chances are you easily have £147.06 worth of unwanted stuff lying around the house, in your attic, or out in the garage. According to research carried out by Gumtree, households selling unwanted and unused items have made an average of £378 in the last year, and on average we’re potentially sitting on £881 per household – that’s not bad for a poke around the attic and an hour or so on Gumtree is it?

I was at a slight disadvantage starting the challenge as I’m one of those annoying people who says things like ‘Ooh, clearing out the wardrobe is just so relaxing!’ There is nothing more stressful for me than an untidy cupboard, so I’m already pretty streamlined. Still, in a way this proves the point even better – if I can find things to sell on Gumtree then anyone can.

I’ve actually used Gumtree quite a bit over the last few years. Scrolling back through my account I’ve sold all sorts – a fish tank, a pink ukulele, an air purifier, chests of drawers – I must have made over £400 altogether, which is a promising start to the £147.06 challenge. I’ve always found Gumtree very straightforward and quick to get things listed, especially because I’m of an age when online selling used to involve uploading photos, (slowly), to a PC, and going through a long and complicated listing process. Gumtree really isn’t like that.

Listing something to sell on Gumtree takes literally minutes and if you have a few things to sell then even better, as you can whizz through photos of everything all at once. I use the Gumtree app, which means you can take photos on your phone and add them directly to your product descriptions, write up a little blurb, and you’re good to go. When you take your photos, remember to take them in decent light and make them look as appealing as possible. This isn’t Tinder you know – we don’t need topless photos in dingy bathrooms.

The product description – a bit like a dating profile – is probably the bit that could benefit most from a little bit of thought. The temptation is to just list details about the product but, like any good salesperson, what you actually need to do is create an aspirational idea BEHIND the product, get people thinking about themselves using it. View Post

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In association with the Money Advice Service

Bringing up two children, mainly on my own, the first one in tow when I was just 17, hasn’t always been easy financially.

Over the years I’ve accumulated debts, worried about them, tried to ignore them, faced up to them, paid them off, eaten 9p noodles for dinner regularly and switched jobs so many times that I found myself with seven separate pension pots.

Let’s call it a journey. Things always sound sexier when you call them a journey don’t they?

My point is that over the years I’ve been poor and I’ve been less poor, but I’ve learnt lessons. Some of them big ones, some not so big. One of the most important financial lessons I’ve learnt is that the very worse thing you can do is to bury your head in the sand and pretend that you don’t need to think about finances.

Spoiler: YOU DO.

The good news though is that there is a lot of support and information out there, and once you start learning more about the financial matters that impact you and your family you can quickly feel much more in control – it can actually feel very empowering and is great for your mental health too.

This week – 12-18 November – is Talk Money Week, a new public awareness week from the Money Advice Service to help encourage people to have more open conversations about money. With this in mind, and to show you that money doesn’t need to be scary, I’ve put together a list of nine ideas for parents (and non-parents) that could save you money either right now this very second, or for years to come. All of these would make great starting points for discussions about money with family and friends.

Face up to your debt

If you’re struggling with debt at the moment chances are you’re doing your best to ignore the FACTS of the situation. When I was in debt in my mid-twenties, post single parent degree, it’s exactly what I did for a good couple of years and it is a guaranteed way to make yourself feel terrible. Not only that, it doesn’t do you any favours financially as interest just racks up and people get cross. It turns out that banks and credit card companies aren’t keen on being ignored.

If I could offer just one piece of advice it would be to take a deep breath, get all those letters out of the back of the drawer, and start making a plan for how you’re going to tackle it. You will find that if you are honest and communicative most lenders will want to help come to a manageable arrangement with you – far better for them to have you paying them back five pounds a month than nothing at all.

The Money Advice Service has loads of practical advice here on how to start tackling debt. I promise you won’t regret it. Do not just hold a book over your head and pretend the bills aren’t all falling down around you. (Definitely what this guy is doing.)

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny on Unsplash

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PROMOTION

I bought a house for the first time last year, not long before I turned 40. On the one hand it has made me feel far more secure than I ever have before, but with that has come a new sense of responsibility, and the knowledge that unless I manage my finances and my lifestyle carefully, there is always the risk of repossession.

It might sound dramatic, but I sometimes It can be easier than you think to find yourself in trouble, especially when you are self-employed like me. It only takes one thing to go wrong – an accident that prevents you from working maybe – and you can find yourself on a slippery financial slope.

If you ever should get to the stage where you think your home might be at risk of repossession, there are plenty of organisations who can help. Citizens Advice can offer advice on debt and if it’s appropriate for your circumstances, you might want to consider a a bridging or repossession loan from a company such as TIC Finance. Shelter can also offer specific advice about house repossession, including information about applying to a court for a court order to be changed.

They say though that prevention is better than a cure, so here are a few ideas for ways to avoid the risk of repossession in the first place. View Post

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In association with Post Office Money

A few weeks ago I had an email from Post Office Money.

They wanted to talk to me about my house, which I bought last summer, and a new online tool that they were working on – This Is My Home – looking at affordability of housing for first time buyers. Post Office Money were conducting some research into the saving and spending habits of first time buyers throughout the UK, but as well as finding out more about averages, they wanted to hear some individual stories that highlighted the challenges faced by first time buyers and the compromises that sometimes need to be made.

At the same time they wanted to show that it owning your own home IS achievable, even if you do happen to be single, self-employed and not keen on depriving yourself of treats. (Me.)

So…

My unlikely story of home ownership

By the time I got to about 35, I felt like I’d really missed my chance to get on the property ladder. I was living in Bristol at the time and house prices were through the roof, (pun intended). My rent was so high though that had no disposable income left to save – I was caught in the trap.

Mostly, I felt okay with it. When I was growing up we lived mainly in rented properties and moved house quite a bit, so I guess I was used to it. I convinced myself that owning a house wasn’t all that important – I just couldn’t see it ever happening, especially not when I was self-employed. (Everyone knows blogging isn’t a real job right?) I felt like I’d made my peace with always renting.

‘It’s great!’ I would say. ‘If anything goes wrong it’s not my responsibility to fix it!’

What I’ve learnt since buying my own house last year though is that owning a home comes with a lot more feelings than just responsibility. Having never owned a house or had such a massive debt, I thought it would feel overwhelming. I thought it would be a pressure, something always at the back of my mind. I even worried that I might resent the house, or feel trapped by it, given that I’m not used to the idea of living in one place for a long time.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. View Post

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