Thursday, 18 June 2015

Quick update!

It has been a while!

The latest thrifty things:

1) I realised I didn't have my mobile phone network emails switched on - so I wasn't receiving a monthly overview of my best plan. I use giffgaff, which is PAYG but have the option of contract-like packages you can buy. I was on £5 a month, which gave me 60 minutes, 300 texts and I think 20mb of data. I have a smartphone but I mostly stick to wi-fi - either personal or many shops & cafes have their own you can use, so data is not a big must-have for me. After turning on the emails and receiving the first one, it turns out I am not using enough of the minutes, texts or data to make it worthwhile to actually pay for a package - the costs of giffgaff without having a goodybag are cheaper than other networks anyway, and I was using less than £5 a month. So I switched off my goodybag, topped up and now £10 lasts me 3 months instead of 2. Small changes, but over the course of the year I save £20. It helps that my sister and my mum are both on giffgaff, so all texts and calls to them are free. If my boyfriend would switch, I would probably be using even less! I also got £10 in cashback from giffgaff, for introducing my sister and mum - this used to be applied as credit, but you can now get paid to Paypal. If you want to join giffgaff and want to thank me for the heads up, my personal sim page is https://www.giffgaff.com/orders/affiliate/8ofspades - I get £5 for an activated sim card (I do not see your details).

2) My gifted-to-me, smashed-screen iPhone 4 was slowly dying and I had a bit more cash a couple of months ago so I splashed out on a new smartphone. I've been happy with the Nexus 7 tablet I was lucky enough to be given a couple of years ago, so I was happy with the idea of having an Android phone. I was eying up the Moto G 2nd Gen, which was retailing at about £145 (now £135 on Amazon) but ended up going for the Huawei Honor 4x - not really sure why (possibly that the model included 4g and a dual sim slot, or maybe the 13mp camera), but I'm happy with the phone. I was worried about switching from an iPhone to a budget smartphone, but honestly - I'm happier with it than the iPhone. Which brings me to..


2.1) Google Opinion Rewards - if you have an android device, download this app from the store! The surveys you get sent take under a minute (usually being 2 or 3 questions at most) and you get Play store credit as a reward - this can be used on apps, music, books, films, tv shows etc. So far I have earned £22.05 - credit which took hardly anything to earn and which stopped me from feeling bitter as I saw the costs of the theory test and hazard perception apps. I've also purchased songs and a book.


3) More smartphone related savings - the app 'Zeek' is a marketplace for buying and selling giftcards. It is only for selected retailers, but there's still a fairly decent selection on there - Sainsbury's, Marks & Spencers, Primark, Amazon etc. All of the giftcards are offered at less than face value - some only 4% but there are some listed for 32% off. I was dubious at first, but I read that all of the codes are checked at the time of listing and I had a £5 off voucher, so I decided to give it a try. My boyfriend and I are making more of an effort to have monthly date nights, and I'm aware my nights will be restricted by my lower income, so I want to do what I can. I figured, buying giftcards for restaurants when I have money is a good way of 'saving' for the date night without having money available to spend in moments of weakness. If I can get giftcards with money off, then that's a bonus.
So I purchased a £28 giftcard for Zizzi's - our favourite italian chain. It was listed as £23, so with the £5 voucher I saved a total of £10. I paid with Paypal and the voucher arrived a couple of days later by recorded post, in a smart Zeek card.
The good thing about buying gift cards is most places treat them like cash - if you get a discount voucher, often you can't use it with other offers, but with a gift card you can. Zizzi's frequently have offers such as 30% off food Mon-Thurs, so I'm hoping we'll save even more. It ties in nicely with the Meerkat Movies 2-for-1 cinema on Tuesdays & Wednesdays offer I also signed up for (which cost £2.03 for a year!)
If you want to sign up to Zeek and save an extra £5 (and help me out on my date night savings - I get £5 too!) you can use the discount code '2cono7' (don't worry, I won't get to see any of your details - just a promo credit).

4) Qmee is an extension for your desktop/laptop browser that allows you to earn money from your Google, eBay or Amazon searches. Each time you do a search that has relevant results, Qmee pops up a sidebar with sponsored links - you get up to 6p per link you click (actual cost is stated next to the link). It's easy and fairly unobtrusive. It's not a big earner but I leave it until I get near £1 and then cashout to Paypal. So far I've earned £9.54 over the course of a year, for barely any effort. If you want to sign up through my referral, use this link: http://qm.ee/B0B75110 (I get 50p for each sign up, again no details shared).

And I've pretty much given up with survey sites like Valued Opinions - it is too much time and effort for some of the surveys with too little reward - many of the surveys that used to be £1 are now 75p and the rewards used to be claimed at £10 but now you have a 50p fee so you can't claim until £10.50. I still do the quick 50p surveys, but on the whole, it just wasn't worth it.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Thrifty Fashion Habits

Some things I have found useful when it comes to dealing with my wardrobe and shopping for clothing.

1) Develop a style - possibly the most important tip ever.
  • what shapes do you feel look best on you? 
  • what fabrics do you feel best in?
  • what colours do you like to wear the most?
  • what items do you feel most comfortable in (skirts/jeans/dresses/leggings etc.)
-
  • make a scrapbook (pinterest is good for this) of styles you like - only those that you would wear and fit the answers to the questions above. It is no good pinning pictures of tight leather skirts just because you like them on other people, if you feel uncomfortable in them and do not feel they suit you or if you don't have the confidence to actually wear it. 
  • go through your wardrobe and remove everything that is not 'your style' 
  • go through what is left and remove what doesn't fit (keep it in storage if your weight fluctuates and it is honestly likely to fit again)
  • only buy what is your style.
Having a good clear idea of your style can really help prevent bad purchases - clothes you realise you will never wear (you were just 'feeling like you needed more yellow' on that day), clothes that don't look right (it doesn't matter how good they look on other people, low rise jeans will NEVER suit me. They may even fit me in the changing room just fine, but once I start walking around, I just know I'm going to reveal far too much due to my high hips preventing them from staying up) and clothes that go with nothing else you own. Instead, you will have a wardrobe filled with things you love, feel comfortable in and hopefully match at least one other thing in your wardrobe. Getting dressed will be easier. Shopping will be easier. You won't end up with a bunch of mis-matched stuff, regret purchases or bin bags full of clothes waiting to find a new home (for a fraction of the cost you paid for them). 
If you think you have a style but still struggle to find something to wear, try developing it some more..

2) Try it on before you buy (unless you are buying online or buying a duplicate of something you know fits - i.e. if you live in leggings like I do and buy the exact same style, or you are buying jeans to replace worn out ones)

3) Keep it simple. Having a simpler wardrobe makes it easier to mix and match clothing and you can jazz it up with accessories to achieve the look you desire.

4) Learn how to care for your clothing
  • wear the right clothes for the job (i.e. housework, sports, diy etc.)
  • protect your clothes appropriately (always use an apron when doing messy work, use a napkin when eating) - this saves clothes from so many stains. prevention is always better!
  • wash your clothing according to the label (although cool washes are usually better than hot or warm for both fabric and wallet, unless there are stain/smell reasons to choose otherwise)
  • treat stains immediately (cold processed bar soap {even hand soap}, cold water and scrubbing {if the material is not delicate} can do most stains. for more specific stains/fabrics, refer to a book like this one, or search the net). always rinse blood stains in pure cold water and just scrub lightly - using hot water/products will set the stain.
  • hang clothes to dry instead of using a dryer.
  • only wash clothes when necessary - i.e. if they smell or have gotten dirty. airing, especially in the sun/fresh air, can help extend the wearing period (rather than leaving in a heap on the floor).
  • use washing bags for delicate items - these net bags can stop long stretchy t-shirts from getting wrapped around the other washing and stretching out, it can stop bras from being caught up, silk from getting snagged etc. a pillowcase can also work, if you do not want to buy a net bag. old tights are useful for smaller items.
  • hand wash very delicate items
  • use less soap. unless very dirty. strong detergent can reduce the life of fabrics, even if just a little.
  • repair clothes quickly. sew buttons/holes back on asap to avoid further damage or looking scruffy. small nicks in tights/mesh materials can be 'sealed' with a small dab of clear nail polish.
  • store clothes properly. I used to think it was silly to store winter clothes, but actually, folding up my unneeded winter coats, packing them carefully with lavender bags in a storage bag and putting them under the bed helps keep them in better condition than them sitting out gathering dust on the hanger, waiting for the colder months. keep out some lighter warm gear for cooler summer nights, and put the rest away (and vice versa for winter).
  • use a de-bobbler on jumpers to keep them looking good. if you have a lot of jumpers, an electric one which shaves the bobbles off will probably be a wise investment, as it pulls the fabric less than the manual shavers 
  • use the right hangers - too long hangers will create odd bumps in the shoulders of your tops/dresses
  • unbutton buttons to wash, but fasten zips - this puts the least strain on the button/zip and the fabric/stitching.
  • keep lavender bags or cedar wood amongst wool and silk items to prevent moth damage - even if you think you don't need it.
  • don't overfill your washing machine - this causes higher wear and tear for both clothes and machine.
  • wash colours and whites separate and keep pales out of dark washes to avoid colours leaking or fading.
  • learn how to darn socks, fix holes, attach buttons.
  • if you have the sewing skills, learn how to adjust clothing so it fits/hangs better.
  • reuse fabric when clothing is done
  • learn how to unshrink clothing (although it will never quite be the same again, so best to do your best to avoid it in the first place by washing cooler/gentler if you are unsure)
  • dye faded or horrible coloured clothing to suit your style, if possible.
  • keep shoes that are not worn often in boxes or shoe bags to protect them from the atmosphere (use those little silica gel pouches to keep them free from moisture, and place lavender bags in the box to keep them smelling nicer).
  • polish leather shoes often, wash trainers occasionally and waterproof shoes as necessary.
  • visit a cobbler for any shoe-related repairs as soon as they start to need it, to prevent needing to replace the shoe entirely. 
5) Keep a few of the essentials - if you live in jeans, owning just one pair (or one pair you love) will see that pair being worn and washed over and over and over. Having a few, or even just a couple, will double the lifespan of both pairs. And you won't have to panic about finding the same style/fit if it wears out the next season.

6) Find the cheapest way to get what you want.

  • Out of season ebay for wool clothing in the summer and summer clothing in the winter is even cheaper, although there is less choice. It is difficult to buy without trying on, but if you know which shapes and styles suit you, browse in and around your size and ask for measurements before bidding, if you can. 
  • Car boot sales, charity shops and jumble sales are also good. 
  • Cheapo shops are good for some things but not others. I buy basic tank tops from Primark (after trying on - all their clothing varies in size-fit) for a few pounds and I buy leggings from ebay - M&S seconds that I can see no problem with, are a fraction of the RRP, feel and fit comfortably and last well. 
  • If you have a specific ebay search term that doesn't draw too many results (after being narrowed by your size range etc.) - save that search and ask it to notify you whenever there are new results (only if you need that item/can afford to buy, otherwise it's just unnecessary temptation).
  • Use cashback sites and loyalty schemes. Ebay can now be linked up to your nectar card to earn points on your purchases - points which can be used to buy clothing or food from Sainsburys. Many high street retailers offer cashback through sites like Quidco when shopping online. Some, like Debenhams, even offer cashback through Quidco when you use a registered payment card to purchase items in their bricks and mortar stores. 
  • If you are not at risk of impulsiveness and debt, use a cashback credit card and always pay back in full. 
  • Go to clothes swaps with the clothes you discarded as not your style.
  • Only shop in places you can afford at the time of shopping. Unless you have really good will power. 
  • Keep a list of things to look out for. Whenever you have more money to spend on clothes, go searching in the places that suit your price range for the items you need. Only detour from the list if you find something you really love for a really good price.
  • If you're browsing on ebay, or a clothing site which has the function, refine your search results by price to avoid over-spending.
7) Keep only a small selection of clothing. If you don't go out in the evening that often, keep only one outfit for that purpose or, even better, have an outfit that can be worn during the day or 'jazzed up' with heels and accessories for the evening. Have clothes that are practical to your climate and lifestyle. If you really need a dress for a one-off party or a similar situation - buy cheap, buy second hand, buy wisely and then sell on. Don't hold on to what you don't need.

8) Put off purchases. Make sure you really want/need it and can afford it and avoid impulse buying.

9) If you are not too restricted by budget (or have minimised your spending by refining your style) - do not feel bad about spending a little more for quality. But only if it fits your style and is worn often. Use the 'cost per wear' formula to work out how much it will really cost you - a £90 evening dress worn once will cost you £90 per wear, or worn twice it will cost you £45 per wear. So evening wear is not worth splashing out on if you have a budget to think of, unless you are certain you can get the money back from reselling (and you know you would make the effort to do so).
If you spend £15 on a pair of boots that last a month and a half (45 days of wear), the cost per wear would be around 33p.
If you spend £90 on a pair of boots that last you a year (365 days of wear), the CPW would be 24p.

11) Don't focus on brands/labels/shops. Not if you're on a budget. There's no point. You can get nice, good quality clothing from a whole host of places. I got some cheapo pj bottoms from Primark for £3 for winter and they lasted much much better (still going) in comparison to a similar set that I got for Christmas which had come from John Lewis for £40 - which are now bobbled and wearing very thin. Some stuff I have gotten from Primark has been useless. Some brand names have been useless. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any consistency in clothing quality (or, a lot of the time, clothing size).

For inspiration, my style board is here.

Friday, 8 November 2013

For those with an iPhone - earning extra, freebies & savings

I am lucky enough to own an iPhone 4, thanks to my brother-in-law who is both wonderfully generous, as well as requiring my internet-savvy services every now and then. As a result, he donates to me his old iPhone whenever he gets an upgrade. I could probably sell the phone and pay off a chunk of debts or live a little better for a few weeks, but I know it would upset my brother-in-law and I do quite like having a smart phone anyway. So, I try to put it to work as much as possible.

Thanks to From Aldi to Harrods and 10 Ways to Save Money as a Student for most of these tips - I'm merely documenting what I have managed to earn from them.

#1 AppTrailers 


AppTrailers is an app which allows you to earn points by watching the trailers for new apps, movies and user-submitted videos. The minimum cash out is 500 points which is the equivalent of $0.50 (currently £0.31 according to xe.com, although Paypal conversion rates may vary). There are a few options for gift cards, or you can spend your points on 'scratch cards' for the chance to win more points, but I choose the Paypal option. Just make sure the email you use to sign up is the same as on your Paypal account, and I recommend cashing out frequently as sometimes there are errors in the app and I can imagine it must be quite disappointing to get to a decent total only to lose it (although I have only experienced this once and, luckily for me, my points reappeared the next day)

How I earn points:

1) Watching AppTrailers - there are always trailers (usually one is the first, in blue) that allows you to watch it multiple times for a low number of points (currently 5 points at the time of writing this). The trailer is split into two parts - the first part is an ad and the second part is the trailer. You can't skip the ad (this is how Apptrailers makes its money) however, you can skip the trailer! The trailer loads briefly after the ad has finished, at which point a 'done' button appears briefly in the top left corner. If you miss it, just tap the centre of the video for it to reappear.
If you're desperate, you can rewatch this ad (on silent, while only keeping half an eye on it while you're doing something else) over and over to make some decent points.

However, the main trailers I watch now are the new trailers, which appear every few days with the point total in yellow. These, you can only watch once to get the points (although you can re-watch the trailer as much as you like, you only get one set of points). Often the points for these are 100+ although sometimes you get yellow points of 5 or 10. Several of these 100+ points and you easily have over your 500 points.

2) Testing apps & leaving a comment - If you download the (free) apps from the AppTrailers app section, and play for a few minutes, a little pop-up will appear asking you to leave a tip (basically, comment) on the app trailer. Do this for 4 apps and you get 1000 points. It can be frustrating because sometimes it won't register that you have downloaded the app and played around with it but, for me, more often than not it makes up for it by registering that I've downloaded and played an app that I've only just clicked the link on. Swings and roundabouts. The 'tips' can just be short, see what other people are writing for an idea.

3) Daily free scratchcard - this appears in the redeem section every day at 8am-ish. There's a 1 in 2 chance of winning up to 20 points. I try to make sure I do this every day, even if I can't be bothered to do anything else, as the points add up and when you spot a video for 100+ points, you can make $0.50 without even noticing it. I don't think the scratch cards you buy with points are worth it. The odds are against you and, although I only ever gamble with the 10 point card, I lose more than I win.

So it sounds like it might not be worth it, but actually, I find this less effort than filling in surveys and so far I have made ~£26 since mid-July. Checkout my Paypal statement:


and that is just 1 page out of 2. Obviously I like the fact you can cash out at quite a low point.Often I save the funds in my Paypal and use them to pay off ebay or etsy fees, so they don't have to come out of my bank account.
Conversion can be done using Paypal, if it's not already set to auto-convert.


 #2 Qustodian * This is a referral link.

Qustodian is an app that gives you an inbox and messages related to your interests. You get maybe 2-3 messages a day and each message pays 2p - 8p. The messages I get tend to be about music (new albums or tracks), new gadgets, waitrose recipes every week and other things I don't find too intrusive. You get paid just for opening up the message. Cash out is at £10 and I have yet to reach it yet, it is a very slow earner. However, it's non intrusive, and I actually kind of like some of the messages. I'm a definite fan of the recipes and have even discovered some new songs I like.

#3 O2 Priority Moments - Freebies/Money off

For this one you need either an unlocked iPhone, or an iPhone locked to o2. If you're on O2, great - you have everything you need to just download the app and start using it. If not, you need to order a free PAYG sim from O2 (don't worry, you won't be paying anything for any of this). I am on GiffGaff, which is run through the O2 network, but I still needed an actual O2 sim. You can download the app with your original sim in the phone, however, you need an O2 number to get the activation code. So insert your new O2 sim, when it arrives, and go through the steps to activate the O2 Moments app. Then, remove the O2 sim, re-enter your own sim, and continue to use the app - yep, it still works! The only time you'll need that O2 sim again is if the app updates, in which case you will need to re-activate (I only had to do this after iOS7 updates).

The kind of deals available on this vary. Some are just money off (great if you're shopping there anyway!) but frequently, they have freebies.

You do need to be near-ish to the store when you claim your freebie/discount, as they have time limits which can vary from as little as 30 minutes up to a few hours. You need an internet connection to claim unfortunately. Most of the offers I have claimed have been one place in the city near me, so I tend to go and borrow the wi-fi at the Apple store, claim the offers I want, and then go on a freebie dash!

Second note: the freebies are often behind the counter, so just take your phone up and say you've got the O2 Moments offer. They'll take the code from your phone, type it into their system, and hand over the freebie!

So far I have gotten:

Free espadrilles from Office, worth £10
Free strawberry & cream buttons from Hotel Chocolat
Free tiddly vampire chocolates from Hotel Chocolat

And offers:

£5 off (no minimum spend) at the Fragrance Shop
6 bottles of wine worth £60 for £4.99 from Naked Wines

I could have gotten (had I wanted them/caught them in time):

Free backpack from WHSmith
Free book club book from WHSmith
Free chocolate from WHSmith
Free 6ml perfume sample from The Fragrance Shop

Currently they have for offer:

Free handwarmers from Halfords
Spray Atomiser from The Fragrance Shop for £1 (worth £10ish I think)

There's also loads of money off offers for chain restaurants (Zizzi's, Ask Italian, Yo! Sushi) and even 45% off Odeon cinema tickets, which has been on offer for a while.
Definitely worth the effort of getting if you live near, or frequent somewhere, that has the shops/restaurants listed above.

---

There are a whole host of other apps out there which can earn you money. I've tried a few, but they weren't right for me (either I got too frustrated with them, or they needed an internet connection out and about which I rarely have away from wi-fi due to not paying for much data). Check out From Aldi to Harrod's blog category 'Smart Phone Earning' for more ideas.

Also, if you haven't checked out the mobile deals from GiffGaff, it's worth doing so. They offer 30 day 'Goodybags' which are like a 30 day contract, you can easily switch goodybags at the end of the 30 days according to your budget and if you're happy to have it every month, you can set it to auto-renew. I currently use the £5 goody bag which is plenty for me - it includes 60 minutes (it adds minutes every time you receive a call, so sometimes I end up with 70 or 80 minutes), 300 texts and 20mb of data (enough to check my email/look up info a few times). The next price up is £7.50 which offers 200 minutes, unlimited texts and 250mb of data. etc.etc. The flexibility and prices are great. Perfect if you're in an uncertain position and don't want to sign up to a fixed contract you may not be able to afford. If you don't want to buy goodybags (I only recommend this if you really only send a couple of texts a month or whatever), you can just top up like a normal pay as you go phone - the pricing is much cheaper than most networks at 10p per minute instead of 25p+ per minute, 6p per text instead of 12p and 20p per day data instead of £1.
If you do decide to join and want to thank me for the recommendation - feel free to enter my giffgaff name '8ofspades' when you sign up or use this link. I won't see your number or details if you do this, I will just get some points :)

Friday, 20 September 2013

progress.


Money is still a struggle and I'm still job hunting with no luck, but I'm proud of the progress i have made so far this year.

I've been able to cut down an already low budget so I no longer need credit cards to help out when it comes to buying food. In fact, I've managed to stay out of my overdraft quite a lot too! All my credit card debt is on 0% and slowly reducing now. Mostly, I am surviving. I'm in an incredibly lucky situation where I don't have as much stress on me for things like rent - my mum owns this house so I pay half the rent it could get (if it were in its best state of repair, which it is not & why I am lucky to rent it). My boyfriend getting a job has also been very lucky for me. I don't use his money to pay for my bills or anything, but he is a support I know would be there if things got dire. (And he is overly generous on his two days of buying food so I can often survive on the leftovers and a small top-up shop when he is not here). 

The water meter, after much stress and pushing and hating on the water company, has finally been installed! Monthly payments have gone from £51 to £15 - quite the difference. I am on the solo tariff, which allows (on the direct debit of £15) 75 cubic litres of water a year. I am unlikely to go beyond 50 cubic litres, so the excess of the £15 will stay in my account as credit. Quite shocking, isn't it?

I did another self-assessment to see where I could cut back further and decided several things - 

1. There are 4 rooms in the house that have lights with more than one bulb. I've gone around removing the extra bulbs, which aren't massively necessary. 
It's a small saving but like anything, it adds up. 

2. I am an avid hand washer. I live in a house with a combi boiler. I always wash my hands in hot water. The water is never on long enough to actually heat up! The boiler comes on seventy several times (I really should tally how often I wash my hands) a day and burns gas for no reason. Gas is damned expensive. I'm really hoping I'll see quite a difference from switching to washing my hands/brushing my teeth in cold water - the boiler hardly switches on at all during the day now. 

3. Washing up habits. I won't let myself use the dishwasher that much now. I read on A Thrifty Mrs (5.) about diluting washing up liquid with vinegar. Dubious at first, despite my love of vinegar, I found it works incredibly well! Better even. Still just as many bubbles and just as much grease-cutting power, no vinegary smell AND glasses have the best shine! 
I've also switched from hot water to cold water there too. I was doubting that it would work as well but actually, there's really no difference in how clean things get. 

4. Using a steamer thing to steam broccoli on top of potatoes, thus saving several minutes worth of gas from using only one hob. 

5. I dragged the old phone out of the cupboard and turned off the cordless phones - why pay to power two phones all the time, when you could have a power-free (well, paid power-free) phone and just use the cordless phones in stiuations where it is necessary?