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Let’s be honest, 2020 is turning out to be a complete arse of a year. Whether you are hoping Christmas is cancelled, or you are hoping to see your extended family over the festive period, there’s no escaping the fact that the Christmas period is notoriously expensive. How are we going to make Christmas 2020 more affordable after the year we’ve had?

Two years ago I ran the “Christmas Cash Challenge” where I sent out weekly emails with ideas to make Christmas that bit more affordable. Some of these ideas are still suitable in the world we live in today, but some really might not be. In this post I’m going to pull together the best tips to make Christmas more affordable, but which are relevant for this year!

Save money on your utility bills (and get £50 towards your bills)

I am with Bulb for my gas and electricity. I switched a couple of years ago and it is one of the best things I’ve done. Not only are they a green company, but they were cheaper than other providers when I looked at switching. Not only that, but if you sign up using my referral link you will get £50 credit towards your bills, and then once you have switched, you can earn more money by referring your friends and family (£50 per referral). This is a great way to keep your bills down and be more environmentally friendly too.

Use Cashback Sites for EVERYTHING

Cashback sites are a great way to earn money back on all your purchases. All you need to do is sign up for the sites, and then click through to the retailer of choice via the cashback site. My favourite site is TopCashback through which I have earnt over £110 of cash on items that I was going to be purchasing anyway. Quidco is another great cashback site. Both sites have great deals however sometimes they offer different retailers and different rates, so it is worth joining both and comparing before each purchase. Both my links are referral links and at this time – they are offering you a bonus if you sign up through them. I also receive a small commission for sending you their way – but as I said, I wouldn’t recommend anything I don’t fully believe in!

If you do sign up, check out the Bingo offers – some of these mean you get your money back, and some you can even make a profit on, and that’s not including any wins. I’m not advocating gambling – but if you can get £25 cash for signing up and depositing the same or a smaller amount on a bingo site, then it’s worth a try. Just make sure you read the terms and conditions to ensure you are eligible for the cashback.

Shopmium also gives you cashback, but you have to purchase specific items and then upload the receipt via the app. If you join up with my referral code you can get a freebie (at the time of writing it is a can of Pringles, but this changes regularly). My code is AMAFYECY. Some of the offers will mean you get the item for free, and some will mean you effectively get the item at a reduced price – so like I mentioned earlier, this only works if they are items you would buy anyway, but it’s definitely worth signing up and checking out the things you can get for free.

Checkout Smart is another app where you can get items for free by purchasing the items and then scanning your receipts.

Fill your spare time with surveys

Anyway, onto the next thing! This one requires a little more effort, but it’s honestly a fun and easy way of making extra money – and you can do it as and when you have a few spare minutes. It’s survey sites! My favourite is most definitely Prolific Academic. Their surveys are part of research studies and are therefore usually interesting and meaningful. It can take a little while to join up and get going – but you are filling out information which will mean you shouldn’t then be screened out of surveys later on and are only offered ones which you are eligible for. They used to offer a referral programme, where I would earn a small commission for sending you their way, but that is no longer in operation. I honestly would recommend them anyway though – I’ve earnt nearly £600 through there already

Some of my other favourite survey sites include:

Swagbucks – this one includes doing surveys, questions and activites and you save up your “Swagbucks” and then redeem them for anything from charitable donations, through to Paypal cash in your account.

PureProfile is another great survey site. They are in the process of revamping their site but it’s a massive improvement – there are surveys and quick quizzes.

Branded Surveys – formerly known as Mintvine, another survey site, sometimes the surveys seem a little random, but if you have time to kill in front of the TV it is definitely worth checking out.

OnePoll – lots of quick tasks and questions and the rewards soon add up. Definitely worth a try!

Mystery Shopping

As lockdown restrictions are changing so regularly, some of these will be less feasible than others, but it is worth bearing them in mind.

In short you are paid to go in to a shop and complete a task, and then feedback on the service. Some of these just require you to answer a few questions and snap a few pictures, and some are more detailed. One of my favourite ones was when I had to go in to a travel agent and pretend I wanted to book a holiday. I was given the brief and spec by the company, so I had to appear natural but also remember what I needed to say and do. The records of my enquiries saved on the system by the agent formed part of the mystery shop and these are deleted after the feedback has been processed. Another type, which I’ve not done but which I know is super popular, is one where you have to go in to a bank (usually having made an appointment first) and make enquiries about a financial product. Sometimes you have to actually take out the product (these can be removed off your credit report after) and sometimes you even have to record the conversations with a device which you will be provided with. These are bit more effort but usually pay that bit more.

The platform I have used the most is esa-retail. Quite a few of their tasks are self serve which means you don’t have to speak to a human being before doing them, so if they are available you can just take the task. I’ve done a holiday shop enquiry through them, as well as a few supermarket audits. You can view the instructions for any of the tasks before signing up for them but they are usually pretty straight forward and easy to do. I’m a bit rubbish at lying, so tend to stick to the ones where you just have to go to a shop and look around or make a purchase, rather than make up a family at a travel agents but it’s personal preference as to what you like doing. With the shopping ones you quite often have to make a minimum purchase, but you can get this park on top of the payment, so you can get free stuff as well as getting paid for your time.

The next platform which I have used quite a bit is Red Wig Wam. They do tasks like mystery shops, but also merchandising tasks (where you go in to a shop and tidy up the shelves) right through to shift work if you are looking for the odd shift for extra money. I’ve had a load of ready meals through a task through these guys – again, you had a make a minimum purchase, but could get that back when you uploaded your receipt after the shop.

As I said in part one, I don’t recommend products or companies which I have no experience with, but there are so many mystery shopping companies out there that I did some research online and on this one occasion I will share some companies who I have not worked with myself, but do appear to be highly recommended online. Obviously, like anything, use your discretion and don’t use something you aren’t happy with.

Obviously only do mystery shopping tasks which you feel comfortable, and ensure that you follow current social distancing guidelines at all times.

Sell some stuff

Now something a bit different! Selling stuff…. Lots of it! There are so many great ways out there to sell your things and you can find which one works best for you. You’d be surprised by the amount of things you have in your home which you don’t use but which someone else will be hunting high and low for. Some of my favourites are:

Ziffit – for things like books, CDs, DVDs and games, Ziffit is quick and easy. You download the app on your phone, and scan the barcode like in a shop. The app then gives you an instant price for the item. You can choose to accept the offer, or to keep the item instead if it isn’t enough for you. Once you are ready to check out, you complete the order and are sent by email a postage label which you print from home. Package up your items securely and then take to the nearest location which accepts their packages (currently they operate through the Collect+ network). Once the items are received and checked your money is sent to your PayPal or bank account – it’s super quick and easy!

Music Magpie  is a great alternative. It works in pretty much an identical fashion – except sometimes they are looking for different items or offering different prices so it is worth checking your items in both to check which one is offering you the best priece.

Facebook selling groups/marketplace – like a local selling noticeboard, list adverts and allow people to buy direct from you.

eBay – whilst a little more effort is required for this one – your items will reach a much wider audience, and therefore quite possibly get you more money. Make sure you accurately calculate postage costs before you list so as to not dip in to your profit – and don’t forget the eBay and PayPal fees that you will incur as well. More and more people are using BIN (Buy It Now) to sell their items and that seems to be getting more popular. This is mainly because a lot of people nowadays want something there and then and don’t want to have to wait a week or so for an auction to end. Ultimately it’s personal preference though. Check out my blog post about how to maximise your eBay listings.

Shpock is a good app to list things locally – very similar to Facebook marketplace. You can see someone’s buying and selling history and that can give you a little more peace of mind.

CEX is one of my favourite ways of making money in the “real world”. One of the great things about them is that if you take store credit instead of the cash, you get a higher amount. If you are then looking to buy items that they sell – you can get a bargain. I was recently looking for a DSLR camera, I sold some old tech and computer games that never get used and got my new camera for the grand total of £5 in cash!

With some of these (such as Facebook marketplace and Shpock) you may be able to arrange a contactless sale/collection for a sale. You can pay or be paid by PayPal and then leave the item in a secure hidden location. I’ve collected and sold a few things this way – and it means you can maintain social distancing.

There are loads of other places you can sell your things – but these are my favourites. Let me know your favourites if I’ve missed any out!

Selling your skills

Now, to sell something different – basically, yourself! Let me explain! Whatever you are good at, there will be someone else who can’t do it, or hates doing it, or for whatever reason, can’t do it. You need to find your strength and sell it. You might not even realise yet that what you have is sellable. A great place to start is sites like Fiverr – people list jobs that they can do, for a fixed price, and then other people buy the “gig” there and then. Whilst there are loads and loads of “gigs” on there which cost a fiver (well, $5 which is just over £4 according to today’s exchange rate) there are also loads of jobs listed for several hundred pounds. This is great as if the thing you can sell is not something that can be done in a few minutes, or you would make a loss at a low price, you can sell at a higher price. Things to remember though are that as a new seller, it will be slow, and you may have to start off with lower prices than you would like to get customers and some feedback on the board. The vast majority of these tasks are digital ones which can be completed online. To give you an idea of what you can sell – here are five of my favourite gig titles that I have come across whilst browsing – and I promise that these are all 100% legitimately on the site! “I will retouch selfies”, “I Will Talk, Listen, Or Give Advice About Any Topic”, “I Will Make You A Custom Harry Potter Hogwarts Acceptance Letter”, “I will pick your lottery numbers – ducks will pick them” and “I will cast a prosper and increase money spell”.

I’m not going to lie – whilst researching this – I found a lot of very weird stuff on there, but hopefully it has at least give you some ideas. There’s also a lot of really good stuff on there – so go and have a look at what “gigs” you can find that you might be able to deliver!.

People Per Hour – Another great platform for selling your services is People Per Hour (PPH). It’s more of a hub for freelancers, but that’s effectively what you are if you sell through one of these sites and is therefore seen by some as more professional than Fiverr. It’s basically a very similar concept, you can offer jobs or gigs and people buy them if that’s what they are needing. You can also put in bids or tenders (they call it proposals) for jobs that other people are needing done for them. If you sign up via my link you can get £30 free credit – so if there’s a task you need help with, now might be a great time to look in to it! Or you could just blow the credit on getting your selfies retouched (yes that is available on there)! 

Not convinced about selling your time online, have you thought about getting a part time job or extra hours at work (obviously subject to current social distancing and other legislation)? How about pet sitting or dog walking? Whatever your schedule, there’s bound to be something so have a look on local job boards or your local Facebook groups.

Start saving money

Anyway, this week we are going to look at saving money on the whole. Do you have savings? Would you be disciplined to pay into them regularly if not? You are probably aware of my debt story and how rubbish with money I used to be. I’m not saying I’ve got it all sussed now, but I definitely feel more confident about managing my money. I’m going to share two of my favourite ways of saving money. The first is something I picked up on the CAP (Christians Against Poverty) money management course. The premise is simple – use a budget – and use cash! With debit and credit cards it is so easy to lose track of your spending. If you have a budget, and each month withdraw the amount that is required for your general day to day expenses, you can only spend what is budgeted for. You may even like to set up a separate account for this. Handing over cash definitely makes you more aware of what you are spending as well.

My second tool is a great system called Plum. I don’t know the technical ins and outs, but basically you join, it links to your bank account and then your Plum bot/assistant sits in Facebook messenger. Each day it pops up and will tell you your account balance, and you can message back with any questions or problems. Every few days, it works out what you have coming in and going out and transfers via a direct debit (which you authorise as part of the sign up process) to your new savings account. At any time you can choose to withdraw your money too, so there is quick and easy access should that emergency arise. I’ve been using it for quite a while now and it really is a simple, painless and automated way of building up your savings and I can’t recommend it enough.

Scan your receipts

As you do your shopping, from everything from petrol to groceries and toys for Christmas, you can snap your receipts via apps such as Shoppix and Storewards. These earn you coins, which you can build up and then put towards either cash withdrawable to PayPal or Amazon vouchers.

Use money making apps

Now, much as I wish I could make you all rich at the wave of a wand, I can’t! Firstly, I’m not rich, and secondly it doesn’t work like that (unfortunately). You will need to put some efforts in to turn around your finances or make that extra money. Saying that, I know how hard it is when you are working full time, or have busy lives, and your spare time is small and valuable. That’s why this week is another thing you can do which is quick and easy and can be done in front of the TV, or on the bus, or wherever you have 2 minutes. There are loads of task apps available, whereby you complete tasks or quick quizzes and earn points which in turn can earn you rewards and cash bonuses, and I’m going to show you my favourites.

Vypr – this is one of my favourites. All the “steers” are picture based. Some of them are one question, and some of them are more. They also sometimes have ones that are worth many more points if you complete in store (you will need your location settings enabled on your device).

BeMyEye – this is a great app for tasks to complete whilst out and about. They are usually things like taking photos of displays in shops. You can check the location and instructions for each task before reserving the job. Use referral code q7gkvk to get a £1 bonus after you complete your first job of over £1.

CitizenMe gives you quick questions or surveys. So far I’ve not had many for cash, mainly it’s to build my profile, but whenever I do get one for cash, the money is in my PayPal account within minutes of the survey finishing – so no waiting for a minimum withdrawal amount.

Sweatcoin – an app you install on your smart phone, which links to your phone and works out how many outside steps you do each day. For each of these you earn points and these build up in your account. You can then save these up and trade in your “Sweatcoins” for offers via the app. You can log in to the app daily to earn bonuses by completing tasks or watching an advert, but you don’t have to. You can just leave the app there building up your credit. I’ll be honest, I’ve not earnt enough for any of the decent offers on there, and there is a daily limit as to how many coins you can earn each day, but for something to just leave on your phone and requires minimal effort it’s definitely worth a go.

There are loads more out there – checkout this eBook on 50 apps to make you money which is only 99p!

Switch your bank account

How happy are you with your bank? Very few people love, or even like their banks. I’m no financial advisor, and I can’t recommend specific financial products for you, but if you are savvy and shop around, you’d be surprised at the amazing deals or offers that you can find just for switching your current account. Switching current accounts is actually really easy and quick – and usually your new bank will do everything for you and the current account switch service guarantees no missed payments.

Offers are always changing, so shop around and see what is available before making any decisions. Banks which regularly have good deals include Halifax (who regularly offer up to £100 to switch to them and meet their minimum criteria). Various banks also offer forms of cashback on purchases including Natwest and Santander – so depending on your spending habits, one of these might be really good for you. If you are regularly overdrawn, some banks will offer 0% interest on your overdraft or the first chunk of it. Some banks are also able to include free rewards such as insurance so it is definitely worth shopping around. None of these links to banks are referral or affiliate links – I’m just sharing them as they are on the face of it good offers. You should research which would be most beneficial to you and whether it is worth switching or not.

Other top tips!

Anyway, here’s the last part of the challenge and there’s no real topic! I’m just going to share some of my favourite general ways of saving money and making money!

Voucher codes – there are so many vouchers and voucher codes around, including many online. I always tend to Google before going somewhere to see if I can find a code or deal. Some restaurants even have their own apps and deals on there. It’s definitely worth checking out.

O2 Priority – You can make massive savings by signing up for an O2 free sim card. The tip is to activate and download the apps whilst connected to Wifi. You should then be able to put your usual sim card back in and still benefit from the deals and offers on the apps. Check out my posts with loads more information about O2 Priority .

Meal planning – I am terrible at this, but I know it really can save you a small fortune. Meal plan, only buy the ingredients you need, and batch cook and freeze portions of things. You can also save money on your food bills by buying yellow stickers. Towards the end of the day is the best time to find these in shops, and your shop will probably have a set time when they are reduced – and people will know this so it can actually get a bit busy! It’s not saving you money if you end up throwing the food away though so make sure it fits into your meal plans.

Free stuff – there are so many ways of getting things for free. Check out Latest Deals & Free Stuff. They share loads of freebies currently available and are updating the site everyday. They even have a Facebook group and Whatsapp message system if you want live updates throughout the day. A lot are free samples so small products but again, it all adds up. Another way of getting stuff for free is to sign up for review sites. A great money site, Save The Student has a great post about this and which sites they like using.

OH MY DOSH is a great site with a whole range of tasks, quizzes, giveaways and all sorts. It is definitely worth signing up and dipping in and out as and when you have a moment. If you use my link you get a £1 bonus on signup!

A slightly more unusual approach is to go to the media! If you’ve got an interesting story or a top tip, magazine will often pay for them if they are printed. Fiona at Savvy in Somerset made £200 selling a health story to a woman’s magazine, and I’ve had a letter printed and received a small hamper in a home magazine. Have a look through the publications you read, you can also look for opportunities on beonscreen.com – whilst a lot of these are TV and quiz show type appearances, they do sometimes have magazine or journalist requests. If you are on Twitter, search for #prrequest and #journorequest for journalists looking for people to be featured. On that note – apply for, go on and win a TV Quiz show whilst you are at it! I know, it’s not normal behaviour, but if I can do it, so can you! Have a look at Be On Screen and see what’s looking for contestants. You’ve got nothing to lose by applying, and at any stage of the process you can change your mind. It’s a seriously fun day out if nothing else, but you could get some serious money.

Talking about winning – enter competitions! Ideally look for competitions which have prizes you want or need, but there is always the option of selling any prize you get. There are some great competitioning communities out there and if you aren’t in it, you definitely won’t win it! Check out Di Coke’s book about competitions and how to find and enter the best ones for you, or pop on over to her website and Facebook community.

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