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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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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Over the last few years I’ve started doing this thing whenever I travel anywhere of bringing Bee back some local currency as a present. (I buy myself tasteless fridge magnets, but that’s probably a whole post in of itself – a treat for another day.) Not only does this tradition mean I have a useful thing to do with leftover holiday money, but it also means that I am technically giving her cash, which she always likes.

(She has from time to time, when things have got desperate, thought about exchanging it all for pounds, but I think she’s been disappointed by the value of her Vietnamese Dong.)

compare foreign exchange rates

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Although this is a very lovely and thoughtful gift, it’s undermined by the fact that my approach to travel money generally is a bit backwards. In my head, people who order foreign currency in advance for trips are OLD PEOPLE who are just overthinking things. ‘Look at me,’ I think to myself, ‘getting cash out at an ATM and casually paying for things like souvenirs or fun times abroad on my card like a pro-traveller.’ Then I get home and realise that my bank charges me a fee AND a percentage on all non-sterling transactions and I realise what a doofus I am.

And then I forget about it until the next time I go abroad and the VERY SAME THING happens all over again.  If I ever do think to buy foreign currency in advance then I just go into the post office because I really don’t know how it works otherwise. Thinking about it I really don’t know where the cocky attitude has come from as I am clearly RUBBISH at the whole thing. View Post

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Fancy £15 off your next Dominos order? If you’re anything like me you’re already picturing the menu and thinking about using the discount as an excuse to treat yourself to four warm chocolate chip cookies. (If you have never had these then WHAT IS YOUR LIFE?)

My blog has always had a strong pizza vibe. One of the very first blog posts I ever wrote was called ‘Does Dominos deliver on Christmas Day?‘* and who can forget the Dominos versus Pizza Hut comparison post I did back in 2011?

If you want to see an example of top quality photography then you want to hit that baby UP. Talk about proud.

Today though I wanted to let you know about a Dominos offer being hosted by Quidco that gives new Quidco members a massive £15 cashback just for buying a pizza! 

dominos cashback offer voucher code

Quidco, in case you don’t already know, is the UK’s number one cashback and voucher code site. The theory is simple – you set up an account, go via Quidco any time you want to do any shopping, book a hotel, compare insurance prices etc, and you earn cashback. The cashback you earn can then be transferred into your bank, sent to you via PayPal or as an Amazon voucher. View Post

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In association with VoucherCodes

Today was a bit of a momentous occasion in our house. After 12 years of ‘I hate school, don’t make me go,’ Belle sat her very last GCSE exam.

*pours stiff gin*

It was a bit of a funny day in the end. I did think she might want to go out afterwards to celebrate, but when she got into the car outside school at about 3.30pm she just seemed exhausted.

‘Take me home’, she said ‘so I can get into bed.’ And there she sat, seemingly quite happy, eating Krave out of the box.

Luckily I had expected that she might not be feeling at her most sociable, so I decided to take her out to eat on Monday instead – a kind of last supper. Except it was lunchtime. And nobody got crucified. Otherwise it was EXACTLY the same.

We went to Zizzi as we had an exclusive 30% off mains offer from VoucherCodes.

prawn starter Zizzi VoucherCodes

(When you go to Zizzi, make sure you have this prawn starter. The flavour of the sauce is AMAZING.) View Post

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Post in association with NatWest

A couple of weeks ago I found myself sat alone at the bar of a members’ only club in London, sipping prosecco and feeling that heady mix of nervous and excited as I messaged my family WhatsApp group.

‘What are you doing in London?’ asked my sister Annabel.

‘I’m going to a speed dating session being run by NatWest to show how easily you can be emotionally vulnerable to online scams,’ I told her. ‘I was MADE for this.’

‘Do the other daters know,’ asked Annabel, ‘or is the assignment to go in and try and scam them?’

‘I think they have to scam ME,’ I said, ‘but I know there’s going to be ‘a twist’. A behavioural psychologist is going to be there. Maybe they just watch and laugh at how gullible I am??’

‘You’re going to get so scammed,’ she said.

‘I’m going to get scammed RIGHT UP,’ I agreed. ‘Hopefully someone will step in before I hand over any cash.’

tips to avoid being scammed

Because I wasn’t joking when I said I was made for this experiment. View Post

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energy saving tips

If I’d had a pound for every time I’ve said ‘you left your light on’ over the years then quite frankly I wouldn’t have to care about my energy bills, as I would be a millionaire.

Children leaving on lights drives me absolutely mad, as there is just no excuse for it. Think about it – it’s like the light itself is TELLING YOU YOU’VE LEFT IT ON.

It SHINES. In your face.

I don’t even know how it’s physically possible to leave a room and NOT notice that you’ve left the lights on. I can only conclude that children’s brains have a vital part missing from them until they reach some kind of magical age where they are able to SEE LIGHT.

Anyway.

This post isn’t meant to be me complaining, it’s about positive things you can do to save energy – not just to reduce your bills but also to ensure that you leave less of a mark on the world. I’ve recently bought my own house and so I’m in the lucky position now where I can think about bigger things I can do to reduce energy consumption. I’ve had my loft properly insulated for example, and I’ve got decent double glazing throughout.

Even if you don’t have the cash (or the enthusiasm) to tackle bigger projects, small changes you do can add up. Something as simple as comparing electricity providers can make a huge difference. If, for instance, you’re interested in finding the best Texas electricity suppliers, you can do your research and switch providers if you detect better deals.

Here are seven properly useful ideas I’ve had to help you create good energy habits in your home.

Get a smart meter

This is top of my list and an excellent first step to help you reduce energy consumption. With free smart meters, which allow you to monitor your energy usage in real time, in actual pounds and pence, it means you can see for yourself how much it costs to do specific things like boil a kettle or run a dishwasher and thus identify ways to cut back. There is something about having this information presented to you, seeing the energy and money tick away, that really helps to hammer the message home. View Post

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In association with Profile Pensions

Here’s a little known fact for you – I have a first class Economics degree and when I graduated I trained as an actuary. Yeah I know, I didn’t know what an actuary was either until I got the job, (it’s a lot of maths around pensions and insurance and risk), although I remember at the time reading somewhere that it was a job for ‘people who found accountancy too exciting’.

As you might well guess, it wasn’t really my dream job. What it does mean though is that I’m meant to know a bit about pensions.

What is it exactly about pensions that so many people find scary? Why do we bury our heads in the sand when it comes to long term finance? This attitude is particularly frustrating in the case of pensions as by the time you feel grown up enough to think about it, it’s TOO LATE. Okay, so it’s never too late exactly, but the younger you can start investing in a pension the better – money saved in your twenties is worth SO much more than in your forties. The state pension is currently only worth about £8,000 a year, so if you’re relying on this when you retire then you’re screwed. Sort out your pension NOW, however old you are.

Fortunately I did kind of twig this early on, (it would be a bit embarrassing if I hadn’t with the whole ‘working in pensions’ background), and I started paying into my first work pension scheme when I was 21. When I left that job to have Belle at 24 I took it upon myself to set up a stakeholder pension. I only paid in £60 a month initially, because I was on maternity leave and poor, but it has always been there, pottering along. Last year, when all the documents for my pensions could no longer fit into a lever arch file, I decided it was time to take action. I went through everything and it turned out, due to my flighty nature, that I had a total of seven pension pots from various jobs over the years.

Seven pensions is just a bit greedy isn’t it?

I went to an independent advisor, and they helped me streamline everything and transfer all seven into one pension pot. Just to reinforce the point about the earlier the better, that first pension that I paid into between the ages of 21 and 24? That’s now worth over £40,000. (Yeah, I know, I was surprised too.)

Is this making you think ‘Damn, I really should track down all my pensions and DO something with them?’

Good.

By the end of this post you are going to be digging that pretty little head of yours out of the sand and feeling excited about dealing with your pension situation. Well maybe not excited, unless you are a pension geek like me, but reassuringly positive at least. View Post

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Post is association with Admiral

tips to cut cost of Christmas

Does it feel like Christmas is getting more and more expensive every year?

It does to me. I bought the Christmas Radio Times this week, so I can go through and highlight all the films I want to watch, only for Belle to say ‘that’s on Netflix, that’s on Netflix.’. Do you know how much it cost??

FOUR POUNDS FIFTY! I was expecting it to be about 95p! That’s Christmas inflation for you.

However…

It’s NOT a given that Christmas has to cost you more every year if you’re prepared to do a bit of research and shop around, which is exactly what I’ve done in this post. I was challenged by Admiral to take the 1996 figures from their Cost of Christmas Index, and to see if I could beat them in 2017. It felt like a tough job, but I’m always up for a challenge, so I said ‘yes, bring it on.’

Here’s my shopping list at 1996 prices: View Post

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