Dec 14

Shop small this Christmas!

(C) Getty Images

(C) Getty Images

It has been a really busy week at Piggy HQ, but as it is one of my favourite times of the year I have loved it.  Not only is it the countdown to Christmas but in just a few days time it is Small Business Saturday – something which I LOVE being involved in.  Small Business Saturday was brought to the UK by American Express and is all about encouraging people to shop in local, independent stores.  I am hugely passionate about supporting independent businesses.  Our high streets are on the verge of becoming identikit towns, simply full of large chains and with no individual identity.  Small Business Saturday is a way to remind people about the hidden gems in their town, the wonderful independent shops.


As part of the Shop Small campaign, I have been out filming with the lovely Daisy Lowe, and getting to meet some of the UK’s small business owners.  It is brilliant to see these innovative and creative businesses going strong but people still need to do more to support their local independents and keep them thriving.


In my local town of Wallingford I LOVE the independent tea and coffee merchants.  The smell is divine and it is a family run business which has the most amazing and unusual stock.  There is an independent book shop, a brilliant butchers and an independent shoe shop…..I feel very lucky to have them at my disposal!


However, if you need another incentive to buy local, this festive season American Express is also offering Cardmembers a £5 statement credit when they spend £10 or more in participating small shops between 6 and 21 December.  With 56 per cent of people planning to do some of their Christmas shopping at independent small shops this year, this promotion could help the average shopper (buying ten gifts), shave £50 off their gifting budgets.  To sign up, cardmembers must register their Card at www.amexshopsmall.co.uk/register.The offer can be redeemed once per business, but there is no limit on the number of participating stores where Cardmembers can take advantage of the deal.  To find out which Shops, stores and restaurants are taking part in the campaign you can go to the interactive map at www.amexshopsmall.co.uk/map


I hope like me, you’ll all be out supporting your local small businesses this weekend.

Nov 14

Designer specs at a fraction of the cost

kimberley-walsh-square-600x600The stars were out in force last month at the Spectacle Wearer of the Year awards.  Kimberley Walsh performed in her first appearance since having baby Bobby and looked fabulous.  Amy Childs won the Specsavers Style Star award and kids TV favourite Timmy Mallett won the Services to Specs award – very worthy winners!  There were loads of celebrity glasses wearers at the event including Vanessa White from the Saturdays, TV presenter Dawn O’Porter and Blue singer and Strictly contestant Simon Webbe.  Wearing glasses and geek chic has NEVER been cooler!

I have a friend who recently picked up a bargain pair of vintage Chanel glasses from a charity shop – I know, lucky her!  The only trouble is that despite saving a shed load on the frames, with a tricky prescription it can be hard to keep the cost down for her lenses – but there is a way.  In fact, loads of people are doing the whole thing online – taking advantage of a free sight test on the High Street (ask your company if they offer one) and then buying frames and lenses online.  eBay has some GREAT frames, including vintage ones and Glasses 123 even send you frames at home to try on first.

Online companies like ReglazeMyGlasses.com are also now offering new prescription lenses at a fraction of the cost, sometimes as much as 70% off the RRP, but typically HALF PRICE!  You can even send the frames to them in a freepost pack.  Once they’ve received your glasses they will call you to discuss the options and prices for your new lenses and prescription, and they do sunglasses too.  Prices start from £19 for single vision lenses and £44 for varifocal lenses.  You can even get your glasses back in a matter of days, but for more complex lenses, it can take up to two weeks.

The main thing you need to look out for is what you get as standard with your lenses.  Boots Opticians have just made UV lenses as standard on all of their frames and it is the first time UV protection is being made available as standard to NHS customers.  You might not think this is important but eyes are up to ten times more sensitive to UV damage than skin, so it’s really important that glasses wearers protect their eyes from UV damage.

If you fancy designer sunglasses too, you could have a look on Secret Sales sites for Ray-Bans or Marc Jacobs and then get the lenses replaced to fit your prescription.

Gone are the days when being a spectacle wearer meant you had to put up with giant NHS frames or expensive replacement frames every few years – there are some GREAT ways to get 20/20 vision AND look like a superstar!

May 14

Even A-listers have to sell houses!

I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have a ‘story’ about buying or selling their home.  It is usually stressful, time consuming and EXPENSIVE!!  In my experience, the estate agent has been the biggest cause of tension, not necessarily because they have been bad, but because I haven’t been in control of the process myself.  Having looked through some of the properties on Rightmove, even celebrities like Alesha Dixon, Roger Moore and Ringo Starr have to use estate agents.  There has never really been an alternative.  No matter how much your house is selling for, EVERYONE has to rely on an estate agent to provide a good service and EVERYONE has to pay the ridiculous commission charges.

When you sell your house, there are usually six key things you need:

  1. Access to big property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla (96% of all UK properties are viewed or sold via Rightmove and Zoopla)
  2. Floorplans, photographs and a description of the property
  3. To know the value of your property
  4. To be able to organise viewings
  5. To be able to negotiate an offer
  6. To make sure the offer goes through


Those six things have had to come from an estate agent but maybe not anymore!  I have recently been working with www.Purplebricks.com, the UKs first 24/7 estate agency service offering a NEW way for people to sell their home, at the click of a button!  The idea is that for a fixed fee of £599 you can do all of the above but manage the whole process yourself with the support of their local property experts!  The average commission payment in the UK is £6,000 but this can be LOADS more if you have a popstar sized mansion! I really think this way of selling your home could be the future.  If you want to know more I have written an article about it http://www.letssavemoney.com/1-minute-guide-to-online-estate-agents/

Valuation SALES small

Remember though, it isn’t just the estate agent where you can keep control.  If you are one of the thousands of people wanting to sell your home this Spring, here are some sensible ways to try and get the best price you can:

  • Make sure your house is clean and tidy and the garden is neat
  • Remove all the clutter, if you’re using a bedroom as a storage room make sure the buyer can see the potential by moving everything or at least storing it neatly in boxes
  • Make sure your pet isn’t about during any viewings and make sure you move any litter trays!
  • A new bathroom or kitchen will up your asking price BUT you could just update door knobs, faucets and light fittings for a lot less
  • Everything that expresses your personality (the bright pink front door, the orange kitchen…) needs to go, repaint everything neutral so your home seems like a blank canvas

Mar 14

Break ups that hit your wallet as well as your heart

robin--a It is only March but there have already been some high profile celebrity breakups this year.  Hilary Duff and her husband have called it quits and despite some desperate pleas from Robin Thicke it seems as though his marriage to Paula Patton is over too.  However, splitting up is more than just a matter of nursing a broken heart, it can cost both parties an absolute fortune.  However, it doesn’t have to…….

New research out from Experian CreditExpert has said that a massive 1 in 5 people have ended up with a lower credit rating following a breakup.  The simple reason is that whilst you might have made a public declaration to your friends and family about your split, you haven’t made it official financially.  In fact, just 3% of people have ever filed a note of disassociation.  A financial disassociation is basically a credit divorce but it lets lenders know that a couple shouldn’t be viewed as a couple anymore and that all financial arrangements should be treated individually again.

In fact, I doubt any of you have even heard of one let alone used one, but they COULD be your saviour in the event of a breakup, especially if it all ends a bit messily.  In fact, thousands of people in the UK could still be financially linked to former partners without even realising it…….potentially costing you money as your credit worthiness might be decided not just on your own ability to manage money, but how good your ex-partner is too.

CreditExpert say that a fifth of people have they found it more difficult to get a mortgage a result of an ex partner’s poor credit rating and 22% stated that they have been unable to get a loan for the same reason and nearly a quarter (24%) found getting a credit card more difficult or expensive.  Quite a costly mistake!

5 ways to stay in the black after a breakup

Keep things amicable

If there is any way to keep things friendly, it will save you a fortune! As soon as things get a bit unpleasant and solicitors and mediators are involved, you’ll be wasting your hard earned cash paying their fees.  Solicitors can cost between £3,000 and £10,000 per person!

Ensure bills are still paid

As soon as the decision is made to separate, you need to make sure that all of your short-term financial matters are taken care of.  It can be easy to forget about direct debits and standing orders but missed payments can be bad news for your future borrowing.

Splitting your assets

Your bank can offer advice on how to stop your ex-partner clearing out the joint account or running up new debts. Be warned that freezing the account will affect both of you so think about that option carefully.

you want to buy your partner out of your house and keep it yourself, your lender will want to check whether you are able to make the payments each month before they transfer the mortgage. However, you may be able to remortgage to a better deal to cut down those monthly payments.  Often the easiest option is to sell the property and split the proceeds.

Your Will

It is highly likely that if you have a Will, your main beneficiary was your spouse. Unless you update your Will after a divorce, it is still possible that all of your money would go to your ex-partner after your death. Not ideal!

Check your own credit rating

Checking your own credit rating is FREE and EASY.  CreditExpert offer a free trial and it means you can have access to your file and check for any mistakes and have them corrected BEFORE you get penalised.  Read my guide at www.letssavesomemoney.com/1-minute-guide-to-credit-rating/ to find out more

Feb 14

And the Oscar for the best freebie goes to……………..

It is Oscar time and we are getting excited in the office about seeing the dresses and the diamonds and the men in black tie!  However, the Oscars is also about the goodie bags (but sadly not for us non-celebs!).  Oscar nominees this year will be receiving a massive $80,000 worth of ‘stuff’ including a trip to Las Vegas, a tour of Japan, charitable donations and even $250 worth of maple syrup!!!

It feels a bit unfair.  I mean these guys earn millions for every movie they make so they don’t actually NEED free stuff but everyone loves a freebie so who can really blame them?

However, if you aren’t one of the Hollywood elite you can still get the free perks of the A-list. Check this out:

  1. Instead of getting FREE sessions with an LA Hollywood trainer, go online and do a fitness class. There are LOADS on YouTube like yoga and pilates and Gym Cube and Sleek Technique offer some really cool classes that you can follow along with online.  If you have a look then you can ALWAYS find free trial offers too.  You can also usually get a FREE day pass to most big gym chains. Check out www.letssavesomemoney.com/1-minute-guide-to-fitness-for-less to find your nearest participating gym
  2. Rather than employ the services of a hairdresser to the stars, phone up your local hairdresser or beauty salon and ask whether they have any appointments for free – junior stylists and beauty therapists often want someone to practice on so you could be pampered for nothing (you just need a little bit of trust!).  Salon Guinea Pig is a fun website that matches you with a FREE salon or hairdresser in your local area too. Easy!
  3. You might not get the $100 face cream but you can make face packs or body scrubs from the contents of your store cupboard – honey, avocado, sea salt, oats and olive oil are all GREAT ingredients for pampering products
  4. You might be surprised what people are prepared to give away for free. Check out freecycle or freegle to see if there is something that takes your fancy. We even found a  piano last week – now that’s what I call a freebie!
  5. If you want to do your bit for charity (without someone giving you $6,000 to hand over to a charity of your choice), why not donate to Oxfam and claim Nectar points at the same time with the Tag a Bag scheme where you get 2 points for every £1. What a great excuse to get rid of your old clothes and feel good about yourself too!


Every Friday on my own site I publish my pick of the web’s best free stuff including in the last month free champagne, free meals, free motorbike rides, free massages and free books.  Have a look and see what Oscar worthy freebies you can claim too!  www.letssavesomemoney.com/freebies

Feb 14

Valentine’s gifts for FREE

place setting for Valentine's day


Kim Kardashian has been sharing her thoughts on  Valentine’s Day and is thinking very much along the  same lines as us here at LetsSaveSomeMoney.com.  It  is NOT about how much you spend but WHO you  spend it with.  It really is the thought that counts and  taking the time to come up with a personal gift for  your loved one will make him or her feel truly  special!


First thing’s first, the Valentine’s card.  O2 says that  fewer people are sending cards these days and are  turning to text messages to share the love instead!  In  fact 11 million MORE texts were sent on Valentine’s  Day last year than a normal day in February – wow!    BUT actually 85% of women would prefer a card to a  text and making your own would be a sure fire  winner!  Come on, you know you can be creative!


As for gifts, roses, chocolates and champagne are all  great (and we have listed the BEST places to buy them  in a 1 minute guide to romantic gifts on my website).    However, here are pick of top free gifts (and  guaranteed tear jerkers too!)


  • How about a pack of special playing cards with 52 of  the reasons why you love them stuck on the back of  each card?  Aaaaah!  You can make your own or even  get a custom made set  at personalisedplayingcards.com (LOOK, I have an  exclusive discount code too!  Use the code 10off4U at  checkout for a 10% discount).  You can even put  pictures on them!
  •  How about that old romantic favourite the mixtape?   Use iTunes or sign up for a free trial at Spotify and put  together a selection of songs that mean something to  you both.  The song that played on your first date, the  tune you heard when he proposed, music from your wedding…..anything that shows you have thought about it will be a winner!
  • Make a scrapbook or collage full of memories – a ticket stub from the cinema, a postcard from your first holiday…… or how about a photobook charting the happy times in your relationship?  You can do it yourself with a printer and some glue but there are actually LOADS of websites who can help you and Tesco photo have 60% off with photo books from £6 and you should check out Photobox and Snapfish too
  • Romantic night in?  Grab a meal deal from the supermarket (one with booze as this is what gives you the real value) and have a FREE month’s trial on Netflix watching slushy movies.  Pretty Woman, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice……the choice is yours (or hers!!)
  • Cut your costs by having a £5 challenge with your partner. Buy each other the best (or silliest) gift possible for £5 (or £1 or 50p – depends how flush you feel!).  We have also found some exceptionally cute heart shaped post-its at Wilkos for just 35p for you to write love notes on to your partner or even some saucy IOUs!! Ooh la la!

Jan 14



If, like the team here, you are glued to The Jump (with Hello’s very own Laura Hamilton who is looking absolutely fabulous 9 weeks post-baby!!) then you may have the taste for some adrenaline fuelled winter sports!  Around 1.2 million Brits head off to the slopes EVERY YEAR.  Half term is a really popular time for people to head off to The Alps and take their little ones skiing or snowboarding (and to get them to breathe in the glacier air!  Ha ha!)  BUT for every 1000 people who head off on the piste, between 2 and 4 will require medical attention!  It is SO important to protect you and your family with the RIGHT winter sports travel insurance.  Adding winter sports WILL increase your premium, but it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

When searching for the best travel insurance for winter sports, here are some questions you need to ask yourself:

What activities will you be doing?

Most travel insurance policies will cover you for skiing, snowboarding and snow blading but if you plan on dog sledding, tubing and tobogganing (or even risking something as death-defying as the gang on Channel 4 did last night doing Skeleton) then you may need extra cover

Who is going?

If you are off with the whole family, then look for an insurer who will give you a good deal on a family policy like Holidaysafe or compare deals on a comparison site

Will you be going off-piste?

Check your policy wording as some policies will automatically cover you for going off-piste but many insist on ONLY covering you if you ski with a guide

Will you be racing?

If you or your kids are having tuition or joining a ski school, you might be encourage to join in with some fun races.  However, some policies won’t pay out if you race so be careful!

Are you taking your own equipment?

If you plan on taking any of your own ski or snowboard equipment, from boots and helmet through to your own board or skis then check that your single item limit is high enough.

Will you be hiring anything?

Check that any hire agreements offer insurance if any hired equipment gets lost or stolen

Are you in Europe?

You should ALWAYS carry an EHIC card with you if you are in Europe as it will give you free treatment in state hospitals.  HOWEVER, it should NEVER replace winter sports insurance.  If you are going further afield to the USA, you might find that premiums rocket, however you can STILL get competitive insurance.

For more information, read my 1-minute guide to travel insurance…….

On and remember, if you are lucky enough to be gearing up for a trip to the slopes, remember the golden rule about travel money too, NEVER EVER leave it to the last minute as it WILL cost you a fortune.  Be prepared and buy it in advance from somewhere like the Post Office or get a prepaid card from FairFX or myTravelCash or use the RIGHT credit card that won’t charge you fees like Halifax Clarity.

Be prepared and you’ll have an awesome time!  Happy skiing (oh and good luck Laura!!!)

Dec 13

Host a New Year’s Eve party the money saving way!

Christmas is almost here, which for all of the party goers out there means it is almost New Year’s Eve and arguably the biggest party night of the year!  However, you don’t need to hire Calvin Harris to do the tunes or employ Gordon Ramsay for the canapes to make your party a success.  Here are ten top tips for throwing a party on a budget…….

  1. FOOD – Unless you have specifically said it is a dinner party, you don’t have to feed your guests a full sit-down (and expensive) meal like the above pic!  Most of the supermarkets have special offers on nibbles so just cook up a load of those and save your cash!  However, if you do want a full meal, go for something you can cook in bulk like a chilli or curry and then just buy nachos or naans.
  2. DRINK – New Year’s Eve feels like a bubbly night but you don’t need vintage Bollinger to make your party go with a swing! There is always a great Champagne deal to be had but Aldi and Lidl are consistently cheap with Champagne for £12 and £13 and serving Cava or Prosecco is perfectly acceptable and Majestic Wine is great if you are buying by the case
  3. GLASSES: If you are buying plastic glasses (often the best option if you are worried about cleaning or breakages!) you can get 100 for £1.50 at ASDA with free delivery or free click and collect. Or if you’re looking to hire, Sainsbury’s offer free glass hire but you must give at least 48 hours’ notice and pay a £20 deposit.
  4. VENUE: If you don’t fancy having a load of people in your own house, then have a look at pubs, bars and restaurants that might let you have a room for free if your guests use their bar.  There will probably be a minimum spend but on New Year’s Eve you’ll reach that without much help! However, many places will charge you a ridiculous entrance fee or ticket price so home is probably best!
  5. MAKE UP: You’ll want to look your best but don’t worry, discount make up sites like Gorgeous Shop and Allbeauty have LOADS of your favourite products discounted by up to 70%. If you are confident enough, you could also try a free make-over at your fave make-up counter in a department store.  You only have to buy something if you visit a MAC concession but otherwise it is up to you if you walk away glossy faced and empty handed!!
  6. THE OUTFIT: I have already gone through my LBD options in a previous blog but don’t forget that you can shwop with your friends and have an outfit exchange for New Year’s Eve.  It is amazing how different a dress can look on a friend!
  7. MUSIC: Seriously, it is not worth splashing out on a DJ or band when a personalised playlist on your iPod will guarantee you get all of your favourite tunes. A free trial of Spotify Premium will give you access to millions of songs so you can create a fab setlist to get everyone dancing!
  8. INVITES: Don’t bother sending out written invites, sites like evite have free templates you can email which also have an RSVP function and even email and text is acceptable (and free!) these days
  9. HAGGLE: If you are holding an event in a hotel make sure you ask about a discount on their rooms for your guests or whether you could get a bottle of wine per table thrown in for FREE!
  10. Although not as chic as bone china, disposable tableware can be a real time saver as you just chuck everything away!  However, if you invest in plastic plates, you’ll only spend a couple of quid more than paper but if you can be bothered to wash it all up, you’ll get at least 3 uses out of it hopefully!

Find more tips read my 1 Minute Guide to Throwing a Party  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Dec 13

Celebrity wedding at a fraction of the cost!


There has been a real rush of celebrity engagements over the last few weeks with Leighton Meester and Adam Brody confirming their intended nuptials, Ashton Kutcher allegedly about to make it official with Mila Kunis and of course the elaborate proposal of Kanye West to Kim Kardashian!  Celebrities love to flash the bling and go over the top and I have no doubt that some of these A-list weddings will be nothing short of spectacular!  Kim’s second wedding to Kris Humphries cost $10 million and Justin Timberlake’s recent nuptials were around $6.5 million!!  Even the average UK wedding costs well over £20,000 these days!  However, it really IS possible to have a beautiful and romantic wedding without breaking the bank!


Here are my top ten ideas for a wedding on a budget:


  1. Choose a less popular date – Fridays and Sundays are becoming increasingly common as venues are usually cheaper and you can save money by avoiding Spring and Summer with dates in January, February, October and November often costing less
  2. Although it is good to provide sparkling wine for a toast and some wine on the table (remember to avoid corkage costs if possible), you do not have to have a free bar all day and night, just mention on the invite that it will be a pay bar in the evening so that guests can come prepared
  3. Sit down meals can be expensive so go for a buffet or BBQ (with a good organiser to manage any queues).  I even went to a wedding where the cake was made of pork pie and wheels of cheese so this doubled as food for the evening.  Great money saving!
  4. If you have handy friends, ask for their help in lieu of a wedding gift.  Cake makers, photographers, singers and hairdressers could all provide their expertise for free, or at least with a big discount!
  5. For ‘the dress’ look at eBay and Preloved.  Most wedding dresses are only worn once so second hand gowns will probably be in excellent condition.  Also give Oxfam’s Bridal Collection a try as some designers donate ex-display dresses for just a couple of hundred pounds.
  6. If you have been living together you probably don’t need traditional wedding gifts for your home, so ask for money to put towards your honeymoon or trips whilst you are there.  Sites like honeymiles and trailfinders are brilliant
  7. Cut out expensive stationery by using a wedding website like gettingmarried.co.uk or weddingpath.co.uk where you can send out e-invites, receive RSVPs, update gift lists, give directions to the wedding and even share your photos
  8. Don’t waste your money on hiring a classic car and go for something fun or quirky (like a friend’s vintage Beetle or even a tractor).  Being original or comical will still provide the wow factor and provide LOADS of great photo opportunities
  9. Table centres can be made very cheaply. You could borrow jam jars and fill them with hand-picked flowers or use glass vases filled with floating candles or even oranges and lemons!  Lavender or rosemary from the garden would be gorgeous and make the room smell amazing as well!
  10. Remember, being different (rather than ostentatious) is the way to make your wedding memorable.  Use sites like Pinterest to pick up some fabulous offbeat ideas that won’t cost a fortune.  Even something as simple as some twinkling fairy lights can turn a normal venue into something magical


For more magical ideas read my 1 minute guide to budget weddings www.letssavesomemoney.com/1-minute-guide-to-budget-weddings/


Nov 13

Find the BEST little black dress at the BEST price!

Jennifer Lawrence The little black dress is BACK (if it ever really went away!).  In the last week I have  seen the always stylish Jennifer Lawrence, Nicole Scherzinger and Caroline Flack all  out on the town rocking their LBDs!  With Christmas party season just around the  corner, the UK’s ladies are busy searching for the ultimate party frock!  Everyone  loves to buy a new dress for the festive season but with presents to buy and the food  shop to do, making the most of your money is more important than ever. However,  you can find your favourite gown without breaking the bank!

I just LOVE Secret Sales sites and at this time of year they are full of bargain little  black dresses and party outfits and accessories (including some gorgeous dancing  shoes!) for up to 80% off! These sites are particularly good because you are unlikely  to see someone wearing the same outfit as you.  It is like going to TK Maxx (which is  also FAB!), you have to search the rails but you might just find that one-off gem and  no-one else at the party will be in the identical dress!

In the last week I have seen Lipsy dresses on Brand Alley with 40% off and black  sequinned numbers from the gorgeously titled Pretty Dress Company with 60% off.    SecretSales.com had Christmas LBDs for as little as £29.  See, you can look like Eva  Longoria without having to wear a couture gown!  Just watch the dispatch date with  Secret Sales sites as you want it to arrive in time for your big New Year’s Eve party!

We should never be uptight about the supermarkets.  Although it might not feel as  special picking up your party dress from the aisles of Asda, you are guaranteed to f  find a bargain.  In fact, George at Asda is brilliant at the moment with some beautiful  party dresses starting at just £14. Tesco and Sainsbury’s are pretty good too.

Then on the High Street, M&S and Debenhams have had some great flash sales in the  last month and I expect there will be more as we get closer to Christmas.  Look out  for discount codes too – always google the name of your favourite store with the  words ‘discount voucher December 2013’ before you head out on your shopping  spree.

If you want something extra special this festive party season, why not hire a  designer gown or LBD.  Try girlmeetsdress.com who have thousands of dresses or  wishwantwear.com and mycelebritydress.com.  Hire costs start at around £30 and  can go up to several hundred pounds if the dress is particularly special but with  Temperley and Stella McCartney dresses up for grabs, you might think it is worth it.


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