Christmas Savings Clubs – Good or Bad

Christmas Savings Clubs – are they worth it?


With the New Year only just underway, thoughts are already turning to the next festive season. Adverts are appearing proclaiming that you can make Christmas 2017 the best one ever, if you join a Christmas Savings Club


Christmas Savings Clubs
Saving for Christmas

Park, once one of the biggest names in the Christmas Hamper industry have shifted their focus away from providing groceries and frozen food.  Now they are focusing on the voucher market, rather than the hassle of making up all those pesky hampers on which they charge a hefty premium.


Whilst Park do still provide a limited number of hampers and gifts, some Christmas savings clubs offer only vouchers as a reward for saving with them throughout the year.  Variety Christmas Savings Club have been in business over 35 years yet only offer a limited number of High Street vouchers.  These do however include big names such as Love2Shop, Amazon, Argos, Boots, Marks and Spencers, Tesco and Sainsburys.


Even so around a million people still use christmas savings clubs to put a little aside each week for the biggest day of the year. But do they represent good value for money?

Benefits of Christmas Savings Clubs

You can put a little aside each week to budget over the year
There is no temptation to dip into your savings
You know in advance what you will be getting
Agents can earn commission on sales.

Disadvantages of Christmas Savings Clubs

They are very restrictive and inflexible
You can get much better rates of interest and deals elsewhere
If your agent does not pay the company you might lose your savings
They do not represent very good value for money.  Hamper companies for example place an average of 20% mark up on all their products.  Supermarkets often offer the same products with considerable savings at Christmas time.
You do not receive any bonus or interest on your money.  Vouchers are often only for face value yet the company has been earning interest on your money all year round.

What alternatives are there for Christmas Savings Clubs??

Banks and Building Society Accounts

You can put a little aside each week and earn a small amount of interest making your money go further.  If you are tempted to withdraw the money you could ask a friend or relative to look after your bank card or building society book.  A notice account will pay more interest than a standard savings account.  Because you have to give notice before you can withdraw money, this will stop you dipping in to your savings.

Some banks have a “round up” service which will round each transaction you make up to the nearest pound and pay the pence into a savings account.  You hardly miss the pennies but see how much starts to build up in your savings account!

Credit Unions

Some credit unions provide Christmas Savings Clubs but also pay interest on your savings.  You will not be able to access your money until December, but because credit unions are protected under the Financial Service Compensation Scheme your money will be safe all year round.  Check to see if there is a credit union near you who offers such a scheme.

Supermarket Savings Schemes

Many supermarkets run their own savings schemes where by you either buy savings stamps or put some money aside each week to pay for your Christmas Shop.  Many of these also offer some form of bonus if you fill up your card with stamps or save a certain amount.  Even putting away one pound each week which is an amount most people wouldn’t miss would pay for Christmas dinner.  The disadvantage to supermarket savings is of course you must spend the savings in their shop.

Becoming a Christmas Savings Club Agent

Whilst becoming an agent for a savings club or hamper company may seem like a good idea beware.  There is usually a minimum order value required before you can earn any commission.


For Park Hampers in 2017 – you will not earn any commission on orders under £550 and from there upwards your commission could be as little as 1% depending on the product you sell.  Variety Savings Club has a minimum of £1500 and from there upwards your commission is a maximum of 4%.


Not a lot of reward it seems for the hassle of finding customers, collecting and banking money and managing your agency


If you are thinking of saving for Christmas 2017, we would recommend opening a separate savings account which pays interest.  You can pay in as much or as little as you like, your money will be safe and you may even earn a small amount of interest on the money you put aside.


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Why All You Can Eat Buffets Aren’t Good Value For Money

All you can eat buffets are becoming one of the most popular dining experiences in the UK.  New restaurants are popping up all over the UK, with almost ever major town and city offering at least one unlimited dining experience.

All You Can Eat Buffets
All you can eat buffets are very popular in the UK

The History Of All You Can Eat

The concept is one which first appeared in the USA in the 1930’s. In working class areas all you can eat buffets proved very popular with families.  The idea was also carried into the popular casino hotels of Las Vegas and The Strip.  Catering for 1000’s of guests was far easier by buffet than preparing thousands of individuall meals.  Nowadays chains of all you can eat buffets such as Golden Corral now boast over 450 restaurants in the USA.  In the UK, Taybarns, Cosmo and Jimmys World are leading all you can eat buffet chains.


The Rise Of The World Buffet

So why is the idea of the all you can eat so popular?  Well aside from the obvious, being able to eat as much as you want without limit, the buffet concept also allows diners to sample foods they would not normally try.  In the UK, most buffet restaurants offer various cuisines including Chinese, Indian, English, Italian and Mexican.  Some also offer live cooking stations where chefs will prepare food specially to order.  There may also be a sushi bar, chocolate fountain and unlimited ice cream depending on the restaurant.

The Economics Behind the Concept

Restaurant owners know that for every person who gets full value out of a buffet, there are at least another five people who won’t.  This is what has allowed the concept to experience such amazing growth.  Even for those who do manage to eat their money’s worth, the restaurants know that the mark up on drinks and other sundries will make up the short fall.


If we apply the rule of thirds, which is often used in restaurant economics, 1/3 of the cost of the meal will be spent on food.  With the average buffet costing between £5.99 (dinnertime) and £16.99 (evening) thats between £2 and £5.50 food per person at raw cost. When you consider that most buffet meals work out at pennies per person at cost price, you can see why very few all you can eat buffets actually go out of business.

How Buffets Entice You To Eat The Cheapest Food First

Every buffet is designed so that diners eat the cheapest food first.  This means that cheap carb heavy items such as bread, pasta and potato products are often the first items you will see.  Not only are these cheap for the restaurant to produce, they also fill you up quickly making you eat less overall.


More expensive cuts of meat are always at the end, or on the chefs stations. Buffets know that many people are unwilling (or embarrassed) to queue for these stations so will miss out on premium products.

How To Get Value For Money From An All You Can Eat Buffet

They may be fun but they are not an economical dining experience!  Here are some tips to help you make the most of your money.


  • Don’t starve yourself before you go.  Whilst you may think this will help you to eat more, it actually shrinks the stomach.  This will mean you feel fuller sooner.
  • Don’t fill up on fizzy drinks.  These will fill the stomach with gas leaving less room for food.
  • Ignore the starchy, carb laden foods at the start.
    Head for the end of the buffet or the cooking stations for the best cuts of meat.
  • Remember that afternoon sessions may be much cheaper than evening sessions but the choice of food will be limited
  • Check out local vouchers and deals.  You can often find money saving offers for buffets.
  • Shop around.  Try to find the best deals in your area

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Make Your Own Bath Bombs – Absolutely Lush!

Bath bombs – Who doesn’t love relaxing in a long luxurious bath?  And if there is one thing that can make a bath even better its that fizzing ball of loveliness that is a bath bomb.  They smell lush, they turn the bath a lovely colour and of course they fizz!!

make your own bath bombs
Bath bombs make any bath lovely


Bath bombs cost up to about £3 each in shops, with some premium brands costing even more.  Some commercial bath bombs have a dizzying array of ingredients, including preservatives, chemicals and other substances which can play havoc with sensitive skin.  Making your own is quite a simple process, plus you know exactly what is going into them.  The ingredients are actually quite simple and can be sourced quite cheaply from a chemist or online auction site.


What Ingredients Will I Need To Make Bath Bombs?

The main ingredients in bathbombs are baking soda and citric acid.  Some recipes use Epsom Salts (the main ingredient in bath salts), and others use corn flour as filler.  Fragrance is either essential oil or cosmetic grade fragrance oils and colourings is food colouring.  You will also need some sort of oil to help bind the ingredients.  Lastly, you will need some form of mould – these can be bought quite cheaply on Ebay (around £5 for a 5 cavity mould)

The Science Bit

The reaction which gives the bathbomb its characteristic fizz occurs when the baking soda and citric acid come into contact with water.  This forms bubbles of carbon dioxide.  Cornstarch if used helps the bombs to float.  Epson Salt is magnesium sulphate and is a regular ingredient in bath salts, due to its relaxing effect and the ability to soothe tired muscles.


Where Can I Find The Ingredients?

Any chemist shop will be able to supply citric acid it costs about 5 a kilo.  Baking soda is commonly known as bicarbonate of soda in the UK and this can also be bought at a chemists shop.  Online auction sites will also have the ingredients you need.  It will probably cost around £20 to set yourself up with moulds and your first set of ingredients but you can make loads of bath bombs with your initial investment.


The method for making bath bombs is the same regardless of the recipe.  Firstly mix together all the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl mix together the wet ingredients.  Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry.  Once fully combined, press into  moulds.

essential oil


Bath Bomb Recipe 1.

2 cups baking soda

1 cup citric acid

i cup cornstarch

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon water

4 – 5 drops essential oil

3 spoonfuls chamomile flowers (optional)


Bath Bomb Recipe 2

1 cup baking soda

1/2 cup citric acid

1/2 cup Epsom salts

1 tsp. water

2 tsp. essential oil

3 tsp. oil (olive oil)

food coloring (any color you want)
Remember to check the safety information on any essential oils that you use.  Some oils should not be used by pregnant women or those with high blood pressure or other medical issues.
Bath bombs make lovely low cost gifts and you really are limited only by your imagination!  Happy crafting.



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Readly Review – Save Money on Magazines

Readly Rocks! If you love to read and you love magazines you are going to love Readly.  This fantastic little app is already receiving rave review and we totally understand why!   It offers unlimited access to over 1500 different magazines every month for the low price of £7.99.  It’s the magazine equivalent of Netflix.


Readly Read as Much as You Like
Readly, unlimited access to magazines for £7.99

Readly Can Save You Money

With an average Uk magazine costing between £2 and £3, Readly’s unlimited access offers exceptional value. You can access over 1500 top titles including Good Housekeeping, Grazia, Top Gear Magazine, Closer, OK, The Beano, Hello, Woman’s Own and even Kerrang Magazine.  If you buy just 2 or 3 magazines a month, switching to a Readly subscription will save you money.


There is no limit to what you can read, so you can browse and try magazines you would not normally buy on a news stand.  Discover new interests, browse the latest news or just keep up to date with all the celebrity gossip.  Whatever your passion, Readly has a magazine to suit.


Read On Up To Five Different Devices

You can read on up to five different devices with a single account.  You can also set up profiles for different family members, so everyone can enjoy their personal favourites.  Kids want to read Horrible Histories?  Other half a fan of Guitar Magazine?  No problem!

Ready currently works on Apple iOs, Android, Windows 10, Kindle Fire and Windows Phone.


What Titles Are Available?

Readly offers an excellent choice of premium titles split into categories for easy navigation. Categories include Women Interest, Hobbies & Craft, Automative, Children and Young Adults, Celeb, Home and Garden, DIY, Mens Interest, Music, TV and Cinema, News & Current Affairs, Tech and Gadgets and Lifestyle.


At present, there are 1618 different titles and 33916 issues, certainly enough to keep you occupied for a very long time!


Access Both Current And Back Issues

Free access to both current and back issues is included in your subscription.  Ideal if you have missed a copy of your favourite magazine or you discover something new and want to check out previous issues.


Try Readly For Free

You can try Readly absolutely free for two weeks with no obligation. After your free period you will be charged £7.99 per month. Alternatively, you can get a whole month free when you start your subscription right away.  Pay just £7.99 for your first month and your second month is free.
Earn Free Months
Once you have signed up you will receive a refer a friend link.  For every person who signs up using your link you will get a free months subscription.  There is no limit to how many free months you can earn!


Try Readly Now Free For 14 days.



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Save Money on Energy Bills – Check How Much You Can Save

The average dual fuel energy bill for a UK household is now over £1300 a year.  You could be paying way too much for your energy, particularly if you have been with one supplier for a long time.  However, with so many suppliers and tariffs to choose from, switching energy companies can be confusing and complicated.  To help you make the right decision Free Price Compare offers a free and impartial service to help you find the best deal in your area.  Check if you could save money on energy in less than the time it takes to make a cup of tea.


save money on energy bills

Check if you can save money on your energy bills instantly

Check If You Can Save Money On Energy in Just 4 Minutes

It takes just 4 mins to see if you can save money on energy.  We entered our details and we were shocked to find out we could be saving over £300 a year by switching to a new supplier.  Comparing prices is simple, enter you email address postcode and your current energy supplier if applicable.  To get the most accurate quote enter how much you are currently paying but if you dont know this, they will work it out using the  average spend for your size of home.  With all UK suppliers covered you can be assured you will be finding the best deal.


Switching Suppliers Simply

If you find a cheaper supplier, switching is easy.  All you have to do is fill in the form on site and Free Price Compare will handle your switch for you, with no hassle and no cost to you whatsoever.

How Long Does It Take To Switch Energy Companies

It takes on average 5 weeks to switch, including the essential 2 week cooling off period required by UK law.  However you can sit back and let Free Price Compare handle everything for you.  They will contact your new supplier and arrange a switch date, and contact your old supplier to tell them you are leaving.


How Much Can I Save On Energy?

The company quote savings of up to £578.  The exact amount you will save depends on your energy usage and size of your home.  10% of customers actually saved more than £578!  The service is totally free with no obligation so try it and see what you could save.

What If I Change My Mind

Not a problem.  You have 14 days to cancel your switch if you decide not to go ahead.


Check If You Could Save Money on Energy



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Save Money In the Supermarket, Cut the Cost of Your Shop

Save Money on Every Shop

save money on your supermarket shopping
Save money on the items you use regularly with these smart shopping tips.


Did you know that the average person in the UK spends £58.60 a week on food shopping? And a further £5 a day on takeaways and eating out?  With food shopping take up a good chunk of our daily income, it makes sense to save as much money as possible on it.  Here are our top tips for saving on your supermarket shop.

1. Set a budget and stick to it.  This one may sound obvious but if you set a finite amount you are going to spend then you are much more likely not to impulse buy.


2. Make a list of what you need, not what you want.  Whilst we all need a treat from time to time, non essentials can take a hefty bite out of your budget.  Shop for the essentials first.


3. Shop online.  You can view all the special offers and money saving deals which you might miss in store.  You are also likely to avoid impulse buys which can lead to going over budget.   You can save money on online deliveries by choosing off peak delivery times or if you shop regular consider whether a delivery pass will save you money.


4. Look for money back offers on apps such as Checkout Smart.
Discount vouchers and coupons can slash your spend.   Some vouchers can now be used online by entering the coupon code online. Extreme Couponing hasn’t hit the UK yet (our coupon culture is vastly different to the USA) but coupons and vouchers will save money every time you shop.  Even little discounts soon add up but check your retailers coupon policy before you visit.


5. Don’t stay loyal to one supermarket.  Register online with all the major supermarkets and sign up for their newsletters and loyalty schemes.  Some retailers such as Ocado offer vouchers such as £20 off your first shop.  Whilst Ocado may seem expensive in actuality if you buy from the Waitrose Essentials Range they do not work out much more expensive than other stores.  If you sign up to their loyalty scheme you can also bag a free cup of coffee whenever you shop in store.


6. If you haven’t shopped in a while retailers are more likely to send you discount voucher and coupons. Rotate the supermarkets you use for best value.


7.You can check the prices at various retailers using My Supermarket.   Use Nectar and Clubcard schemes even if you rarely shop at those stores.  Nectar points can also be earned on Ebay purchases (make sure your Nectar card is linked to your Ebay account) and at BP garages on fuel purchases.  You can also earn Nectar points for filling in surveys online if you register with Nectar Canvass.  Clubcard points are much more valuable – up to four times so if you use them for experiences and offers instead of money off.  People sometimes sell Clubcard Vouchers on auction sites but make sure they are genuine.


8. If you have your shopping delivered opt to use no carrier bags.  Although it takes longer to unload your shopping you will be saving 5p on each bag – and as the average shop uses around 5 bags over the course of a year you could save enough to buy a decent Christmas pudding.


9. Buy bulk deals but only if they were products you use anyway.  I once had a friend who purchased a bulk buy of dishwater tablets even though she did not have a dishwasher!  Well I might get one just doesn’t cut it when you are trying to save money.



10. Branded items can be just as cheap as unbranded items when they are on offer.  Stores are much more likely to have offers on branded items than unbranded ones due to manufacturers promotions.  Check all options for an item and buy the one which offers the most value for money.  Remember to compare sizes as well as price.  Some stores give the cost per gram or per ml alongside the price so that you can easily compare matching products quickly.



11. Beware of false economy.  Whilst that 15p washing up liquid may appear a real bargain if you have to use half a bottle of it to wash up because it is so thin, then it really isn’t.  Bargain home cleaning products can often be found in home stores such as B & M and Home Bargains.



12. Check use by dates.  Some supermarkets naming no names but one in particular stands out, tend to send short dated stock to online customers.  Many supermarkets have now started to put shelf life dates on their online items so you can be sure you will be able to use them in time.



13. Plan meals in advance.  It may sound boring but working out exactly what you are going to be eating in advance  This way you can be sure everyone is going to be fed and your wont have to resort to emergency buys or even worse – takeaways.

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