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10 Tips For Burns Night, any Night on a Budget

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Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties are not just for Burns Night.

Burns Nights can be so much fun – there’s merriment, celebration, great food, dancing, poetry, singing… and maybe just a dash of whisky, but we don’t have to limit it just to the birthday of the bard.

If you’ve had the honour of hosting a Burns Supper, you’ll know there is a lot to organise, and perhaps a lot to pay for too, but Burns Night fare is good enough for any dinner party.

So how can you throw an enjoyable Burns Supper, any night, without blowing your budget?

Here are ten tips that could help you.

  1. Shopping around for your haggis could reap you benefits and work out much cheaper in the long run.  You could get several haggis cheaper than one hefty one and there may be some good deals on.
  2. Consider buying a smaller haggis and serving it as a starter with a smaller serving of neeps and tatties.  Then serve something less expensive – like a good value beef joint or whole fish – for the main.
  3. If you buy a big haggis, don’t waste the leftovers. Keep it and make some haggis-based dishes for the rest of the week – for example haggis lasagne.  Or serve some the next day in a Scottish breakfast if you have guests who stay over.
  4. Buy cheaper whisky and use it to make a pitcher of Hot Toddy. Your guests are unlikely to taste the difference – especially as the night goes on!
  5. Encourage guests to bring their own drinks – especially if they’re quite particular about their brand of Scotch.
  6. Propose that guests bring their own starters or desserts – to cut down on preparation time and cost for you, and to give the supper more diversity.
  7. For next year, consider having your Burns Nights later – some retailers may bring down the price of any leftover Burns Night food on their shelves after the 25th January.
  8. Grow your own potatoes and turnips.  You’ve plenty of time to prepare for 2014.  Here’s how to grow potatoes and turnips. A good crop will last you for Burns Night and beyond.
  9. A Burns Supper wouldn’t be complete without songs and poems from Robbie Burns himself. has a timetable for the evening – including links to the essential poems and songs – for free.
  10. If you’d like your singers, speakers and other entertainers to read from a book, you could borrow one from your local library.

by the Debt Advisory Centre Scotland.  We hope you had a great Burns Night last week and will continue to enjoy haggis throughout the next year as one of your staple foods!

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A Homemade Christmas with Crafty Projects and Food Recipes. From Christmas Tree Decorations to Mulled Wine.

A lovely Christmas featured post, brought to you by Simply Be.

It’s that time of year again when Christmas is nearly upon us.

Many of us are getting ready to stock up on luxuries, gifts and decorations.   Oranges, nuts and much more sit happily in shop windows, while boxes of cakes, chocolates and figs make their way into shopping trolleys across Britain.

It’s all about making Christmas your own and not necessarily spending enough money to keep the country afloat for the next year.  There’s no better way to keep your money in your pocket than getting a bit crafty in the kitchen and with the decorations.

Lets have a look at some nice and easy craft and food ideas that you can do at home to save some pennies.


 Christmas tree decorations

Homemade Christmas-01

Ideal for both kids and adults, these decorations will give your tree a real old-fashioned Christmas look, and provide hours of festive entertainment for the whole family.

You will need:

–          Some card

–          Coloured felt

–          Chalk

–          Safety scissors

–          Needle and thread

–          Glue stick

–          Glitter, sequins and any other decorations you’d like

–          Ribbon

Step 1: Take two pieces of felt and one piece of card. Place them on top of each other and, using the chalk, draw out your chosen Christmas design on the top piece of felt. You could make lots of different shapes, such as trees, angels or stockings.

Step 2: Once you’ve drawn your design, hold the felt and card together and cut around the outline so that you have three identical shapes, two with felt and one with card.

Step 3: Place the card in between the two pieces of felt, and sew around the edge. You could use gold or silver thread to make it extra sparkly!

Step 4: Use the glue to decorate your design with glitter, sequins, or even other felt shapes to create an applique effect.

Step 5: Take a piece of ribbon, cut to the desired length and sew the ends to your decoration, before hanging on the Christmas tree to shine among the fairy lights!

 “Santa, Stop Here!” sign

Make a colourful decoration for your window or garden to put out with the children on Christmas Eve – you could even get the kids to leave a carrot next to it, to lure the reindeer in!

Homemade Christmas-02

You will need:

–          A panel of thick card

–          Christmas wrapping paper

–          Coloured card

–          Coloured pens or paints

–          Glitter, sequins, felt shapes, or any other decorations you can think of

–          Safety scissors

Step 1: Cut your thick card down to the size and shape you want, and then wrap it up in your wrapping paper.

Step 2: Glue the coloured card to the centre of the wrapped thick card. Using pens or paints in festive colours, write a message to Santa, such as “Santa, stop here!” or “Santa, this way!” You can find some great templates for writing your message here.

Step 3: Decorate your sign with glitter, sequins, or felt Christmas shapes.

Step 4: Leave somewhere Father Christmas can see it – but not until Christmas Eve!

 Christmas Food Recipes

 There’s something incredibly satisfying about making your own Christmas food – the whole family can enjoy making it together, and your finished products are often just the thing for handmade gifts, Secret Santas and last-minute parties – for kids and grown-ups alike! Here are just some of our favourites.

Mince pies

Homemade Christmas-03

The ultimate in Christmas cuisine, there really is nothing that beats the humble mince pie. Who doesn’t note their “first pie of the season”? Making them should be a shared experience; taking turns adding ingredients to your mincemeat mix and arguing over who can make the best pastry is as satisfying as sitting back with a cup of tea and taking that first indulgent bite. Ours is a variation on a Delia classic, made the day before you need them, complete with a foolproof pastry recipe that will softly crumble and melt in the mouth.


Makes around 1.4kg


–          225g Bramley apples, cored and diced into small cubes

–          110g vegetable suet (or even beef, for a slightly richer flavour)

–          110g sultanas

–          110g currants

–          175g raisins

–          110g mixed candied peel

–          175g soft dark brown sugar

–          Grated zest and juice of 1 orange

–          Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

–          25g almonds, sliced into slivers

–           ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

–          Pinch ground nutmeg

–          1tbsp brandy

–          1tbsp Irish whiskey

–          1tbsp dark rum

Step 1: Combine all the ingredients except for the brandy, whiskey and dark rum in a large, ovenproof bowl, and mix thoroughly (if you have little helpers, this is the time to employ them!). Once fully mixed, cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave somewhere cool for around 12 hours.

Step 2: The next day, pre-heat the oven to 120C (100C for fan ovens). Cover the bowl loosely with tin foil, and bake the mixture for about three hours.

Step 3: Take out of the oven and stir well. Stir occasionally for the next hour, as it cools. The shredded suet will have coagulated – don’t worry about how it looks, it will encase all of your other ingredients and lock in all the flavour!

Step 4: Once fully cooled, add the three spirits as generously as you like (our measurements are a rough guide!) and stir well. Your mincemeat is now ready to use, and can be cooked with immediately or will last for another year or so if packed into sterilised jars.


Homemade Christmas-04

Enough for 18-24 pies


–          225g cold butter

–          350g plain flour

–          100g golden caster sugar


Step 1: Rub butter into flour with your hands, working quickly with your fingertips.

Step 2: Mix in caster sugar and a pinch of salt.

Step 3: Combine into a ball with your hands, and knead briefly. It should be fairly firm. You can use this straight away or leave in the fridge for later.

Making your mince pies

Homemade Christmas-05

 You will need:

–          Your mincemeat

–          Your pastry

–          1 egg, beaten

–          Icing sugar, to dust

 Step 1: Preheat oven to 200C (180C for fan ovens). Line two muffin trays by pressing a walnut-sized ball of pastry into the bottom of each hole, ensuring the surface is fully covered.

Step 2: Spoon about a tablespoon of mincemeat into each pastry case.

Step 3: Take slightly smaller balls of pastry and pat them down into a large circle with your hands, then place as a lid onto each pie. Apply a little pressure around the edge to seal the lid to the base.

Step 4: Brush beaten egg over the top of each pie, then bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Leave to cool, then remove to a wire rack. Using a sieve, dust icing sugar over them just before serving. Don’t forget to try one while they’re still warm!

Peppermint Creams

Homemade Christmas-06

Makes 3-4 dozen

Excellent bite-sized treats, just right for satisfying those Christmas sugar cravings and easy enough to whip up in a hurry!


–          450 icing sugar

–          1tbsp milk

–          ½ tsp peppermint extract

–          1 egg white


    1. Sieve icing sugar into mixing bowl and mix in peppermint and egg white. If the mixture seems too thin, add some more icing sugar.
    2. When the mixture is thick enough, knead it and sprinkle with a little more icing sugar. Roll out and cut into small, 1-2 inch thick squares.
    3. Leave for 10 minutes, then turn sweets over.
    4. Leave for another 15 minutes before serving or gift-wrapping.

Mulled wine

A toasty treat on a cold Christmas Eve, mulled wine is the ultimate comforter. This recipe will also fill your home with delicious Christmas aromas, and is ideal if you have friends coming over!


–          1 bottle red wine

–          60g Demerara sugar

–          1 cinnamon stick

–          Pinch grated nutmeg

–          1 orange, cut in half

–          1 dried bay leaf

–          60ml sloe or damson gin


    1. Slowly heat the wine in a saucepan with the orange, sugar, bay leaf, cinnamon and nutmeg. Keep simmering until sugar has completely dissolved.
    2. Taste-test and add more sugar if desired.
    3. Take off the heat and stir in the sloe or damson gin before serving in heatproof glasses. The warmer the better!
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Sponsored: Are You Driving Home for Christmas?

As December gets ever closer there is one thing we can be sure off, the weather is going to make driving pretty dangerous. But for the vast majority of people the school run and getting to work are essential journeys, which just can’t be avoided no matter what the weather is like. So here are some top tips for making driving in the snow and ice as safe as possible.

 Plan Ahead

The busier roads are always the first to get gritted, so plan your journeys around them. On a day to day basis minor roads may save you an extra few minutes on your daily commute, but trying to traverse down a country lane which is covered in snow is the fastest way to find yourself stuck. Although you obviously want to avoid situation like this it’s a good idea to keep a supply of salt in your car just in case. It’s also a good idea to be patient while on the roads, if you are travelling down the motorway don’t be tempted to get into the outside lane and end the journey as fast as possible, find the lane with least amount of slush and ice and remain in previous tyre tracks if possible.


Start gently and avoid high revs when setting off, try to get the car moving when in second gear and ease your foot of the clutch as slow as possible, this will minimise the possibility of wheel spin. Snowy conditions make choosing an adequate speed even more important than usual. Going too fast can result in your wheels losing traction resulting in your car sliding, losing control, and possibly spinning; on the other hand though going too slow can cause you to lose momentum and coming to a halt.


When it comes to braking you want to be gentle, slowing down should be as smooth as possible. Increasing you stopping distance is another top tip, you should think about doubling or tripling the stopping distance you would you use on a dry road. Although braking is necessary try and use the gears to slow down, braking can cause the wheels to lose traction and slide, but if the tyres are constantly turning they will have better grip on the road. If you do lose control try and steer out of the way rather than trying to come to a complete stop. In icy conditions ABS systems should not be relied on, so remember to slow down far more cautiously than usual.

 Remember to be courteous to other road users, if snow is falling turn on your fog lights or dipped headlights, but remember if visibility improves fog lights have the potential to dazzle other road users.

 This was a guest post by Simon Howarth on behalf of Remote Asset Management, providers of vehicle tracking solutions for businesses of all sizes across the UK.

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Infographic: The Story Book World of Sleep

This Infographic by gives tips on getting to sleep and staying in land of nod.  It talks about what sleep is, and how we can get better sleep.

It even mentioned the little used word, somniphobia.  If you don’t know what that is, just read on to find out more.  It’s a bit like an insomniacs guide to better sleep.

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Featured Guest Post: 5 Reasons Girls Should Be Playing Sports

A featured guest post from Simon, writing for Banana Moon


We all know playing sports is a great way to get some exercise, and having fun while doing so is an additional benefit. But there is a distinct difference between the number of girls and boys playing sports. Up to 70% of boys participate in regular exercise, with some reports suggesting the amount of girls participating in sport to be as low as 31%, with the recent success of the Olympics hopefully this number will increase. So if your daughter wants take up athletics don’t give her the run around, here are 5 reasons girls should be playing sport other than the fitness benefits.

1.       Better Results at School

It may seem that playing sports would take up time that could be used for studying, which in turn would have a detrimental effect on school results. But research suggests that girls who regularly participate in extracurricular sports perform better in school than their peers who don’t. Sport improves concentration, memory, and learning, which is sure to give active girls a head start in the classroom.

2.      Learn Teamwork and Goal-Setting Skills

By participating in sports the effectiveness of working together becomes more apparent than in a classroom or work based situation, learning to cooperate on the field can easily transfer to other situations where achieving a common goal is the desired outcome. Working with coaches, trainers, and teammates to set goals and work towards them will help develop communication skills that can be difficult to learn in a classroom; and teach girls that the success of a team is not due to one person’s performance but the performance of each individual working for the group. Setting goals is also a great way to direct attention and focus on a desired outcome, the achievement of which will greatly increase self-confidence.

3.       Boosting Self-Confidence

Girls that take part in sports tend to be more self-confident. Knowing that you can set goals, train towards them, and achieve them is great and by gradually increasing the difficulty of skills and opposition you will quickly develop a sense of confidence and will be much more likely to try something more difficult in the future. Performance accomplishments are the greatest influencer on sports confidence; understanding that you are the biggest influencer on your performance will send a girl’s self-confidence sky high and encourage her to believe in internal affecters rather than be negatively affected by external forces such as peers or fate. Knowing that internal factors are much more likely to affect results will allow for greater risks to be taken on the sports field, in the classroom, and socially, resulting in greater rewards.

4.       Reduce Pressure

As I’m sure most of us know being a teenager can be quite a stressful experience. Although the causes of the stress may appear trivial as adults, they are very real at the time. Since the rapid rise in social media and the pressures faced by girls to look a certain way the causes of stress are only increasing, as a recent study found when it discovered one in three teenagers experience stress at least once a week. Exercise is known to inhibit the release of cortisol from the adrenal gland, which acts as part of the bodies fight or flight response and suppresses the immune system, so exercise reduces the physical symptoms stress can induce. Not only does exercise decrease the release of cortisol it even increases the release of endorphins, the bodies feel good chemical, producing a feeling of jubilation sometimes known as ‘Runner’s high’.

5.       Great for Health

As well as the obvious benefits of maintaining a healthy weight and cardiovascular fitness girls there are other health benefits. One of which is girls who play sport are less likely to smoke than those who don’t take part in any sports. The effects can also be seen as girls get older, with those that exercise less likely to develop breast cancer. Exercise undertaken at an early age will also help strengthen bones helping to reduce the chances of suffering osteoporosis.

In summary girls should be participating in sports as they help develop skills that can be transferred to other facets of life, as well as making them feel better both emotionally and physically. Introducing girls to sport will hopefully foster a passion that they will maintain throughout their adult life, and gain the health benefits that are seen not only in the short term but also the long term.

Author Bio

Simon is a Sports and Exercise Science graduate and coach of a junior hockey team, blogging on behalf of Banana Moon who specialise in personalised clothing; including sports kits, T-shirt printing, and personalised hoodies.

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Featured Guest Post: 8 Free Fun Activities for Mums to have with Toddlers

Featured Guest Post from Agnese Geka from Agnese Geka – blogger and online marketing consultant for, which is UK’s biggest guide through market research companies providing opportunity to earn extra money by working from home.  For the latest news updates follow them on twitter and facebook.


How to have Fun with an Empty Purse

Seen through a toddler’s eyes, an empty purse is almost as fascinating as one which is full. Therefore keeping them entertained doesn’t have to cost the Earth. All it takes is a little time and imagination – and a parent who is willing to play. There are numerous fun and free activities that mums can do with their toddlers. Here are just a few.

Make Play Dough

Play dough is suitable for children of all ages and can keep toddlers entertained for hours. It is simple to make from items you will already have in your kitchen. The dough is made from salt, flour, vegetable oil and food colouring. Toddlers can even help making the play dough as there are recipes available which do not require the dough to be cooked in a pan. Perhaps the best thing about play dough is that it is non-toxic and will do your toddler no harm if they accidentally swallow some. It can also be reused over and over again. In terms of a toddler’s education, this provides a great way of teaching new shapes and colours as well as improving hand-eye coordination skills.

Visit the Library

Libraries are great for toddlers. There’s lots for them to see and do – and at no cost to you. Besides, encouraging your toddler to read from a young age is recommended and will help when they eventually start school. The vast majority of libraries hold toddler groups and often have special guests to entertain the children. Sitting down in a group and paying attention to one adult is good preparation for the future, as is mixing with children their own age. Such groups give mums the chance to mix socially as well.


It may seem like a strange suggestion but toddlers can help in the garden. Obviously, they should not be handed dangerous tools but there nothing to stop them helping to plant and water. Not only does this give you both the opportunity to get some fresh air, but toddlers can learn a lot from the garden including the colours and varieties of flowers and how the plants grow.

Insect Collecting

Another fun activity for toddlers is to go insect collecting. All that’s needed is a jar jam and a small net to catch the bugs. There is an endless supply of creepy crawlies that can be found in a back garden or local park. By simply sweeping the net over long grass you are likely to catch several bugs. Toddlers can learn the names of the various bugs and their colours. Such activities also make it more likely that your child will not grow up scared of insects.

Make a Tent in your Living Room

You’ll be surprised at how easily it is to be creative at home. Rather than sitting your toddler in front of the television, why not build a tent for you and your children to play in? Simply placing a bed sheet over four chairs will give toddlers an opportunity to use their imagination and for you to encourage some role play games. This activity is great for a raining day when your toddler may be frustrated by having to stay indoors. It can also help to eradicate some fears toddlers may have of enclosed or dark spaces.

Bubbles Galore

Toddlers love bubbles and although this may seem like a simple activity, it can keep them entertained for hours. It is also something that can be done every day. Most mums will have children’s bubble mix at home but even washing up liquid can be used. Put some washing up liquid in water and then dip a plastic ring in it and blow away. You can create different sizes and shapes which your toddler will love. Count the bubbles with your toddler to help them develop their numerical skills. Best of all the bubbles leave no mess!


Teach your toddler some dance moves when they are at home. There’s almost an endless supply of suitable music for children to dance to. They will enjoy it and it is great for their coordination. Try arranging a few toddlers to come round to make this activity last a bit longer. The toddlers are likely to keep dancing longer with an audience. This will also help improve their social skills.

Visit the Garden Centre

Taking your toddler shopping may not seem the most fun activity, but garden centres are a great location for them. They often have pet shops and aquariums which will fascinate even the most demanding child. They can walk around and see the different plants and ornaments. Remember you do not have to spend money in order for you and your toddler to while a few hours away wandering around the site.


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Guest Post: Redecorating your child’s bedroom on a budget.

This is a lovely featured guest post with some handy tips on redecorating a child’s bedroom.


As parents we’d love to give our kids the best of everything, but unfortunately more too often our hearts say one thing and our purse strings another.

As our children grow older one thing that must also grow with them is the interior design of their bedroom, and for a lot of parents just the mere thoughts of this renovation can cause palpitations of the heart as they see the proverbial hole in their wallet grow crater-sized.  However, redecorating your child’s bedroom is something that can easily be done on a reasonable budget, and is also a good way to involve your child and help them learn about practical decision-making.

Take note of these practical tips for redecorating your child’s bedroom on a budget, and think about where your child might be able to get involved along the way.

  1. A Splash of Colour – Picking a new shade for the walls is one of the thriftiest ways of making a big overall change to the room. There’s no reason why you can’t choose a mix of different colours for the room, perhaps colour-coding different areas for different activities. A calming pastel blue for the bed area will help your child relax at the end of a busy day.
  1. Choosing a Theme – Being on a tight budget means wanting to avoid having to redecorate every single year, and so choosing broader bedroom themes – such as under the sea or a jungle adventure – is a better bet than choosing specific cartoon or television characters, which your child may well tire of as they grow older.
  1. Getting Practical – Redecorating your child’s room is a great way to clear out clutter and to create more space. Affordable and functional divan beds are a good option to save money on buying extra storage space, and specialist retailers such as Silentnight offer a wide selection of these bed types, as well as their Silentnight mattress range that will give your child the comfort and support they need for years to come.
  1. Stuffed Animals – Your child’s stuffed animals can actually be a handy resource for basic bedroom decoration. Why splash out on expensive ornaments and trinkets when you can just rearrange what is already there? If your little one is a teddy-bear obsessive, create a special corner of the room to house them all. This can really help your child to develop his or her imagination.

There’s no reason why redecorating your child’s bedroom should send you into a financial black hole. Treat it as the fun project it should be, and get a little creative. A handprint on the wall is just as effective as an expensive accessory when it comes to adding a little of your child’s personality to their personal space.

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Smart mums get time savings by managing their energy online.

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We mums are great at multi-tasking.   I admit, that as a prolific blogger, I tend to go online several times in any one day (Internet service permitting)  and at times I’m probably checking email, or messages hourly, which helps me feel more in control of my mad family life.  I organise my life around my Internet persona, so my time online has to be productive – or days would simply disappear in a flash.

Research collated by British Gas, showed that busy mums save up to an hour a day by using the Internet for some daily chores, like banking, finance and paying bills.  In fact, the statistics even went as far as showing that online mums spend the same time online a day as they do when they are engrossed in housework (39%)

British Gas wants to inspire people to use the Internet to manage energy bills and save time by using a range of online tools.  With 7 out of 10 mums using the Internet to cope, the efficiency levels they achieve are high in comparison to the younger generations as they tend to focus on essential tasks.

It’s always good to hear of new tools and websites where I can save time doing my daily chores, so when I heard about British Gas and their online app, I was actually surprisingly excited about it.  Being able to have meter readings submitted without having to let a stranger inside my door is appealing to me.

Tim Copper, Digital Director, British Gas said: “We’re  helping our customers save time and hassle by giving them the tools they need to manage their energy online – freeing them up to spend time doing other things. From submitting meter readings to checking their balance really easily at the touch of a button, online or via our app, we’re making it easier customers to stay in control of their energy every day.”

Lets look at some more of the research.

46% of mums are going online every few hours to complete day-to-day task, such as, booking appointments, checking/ paying bills, shopping etc.

The most popular online tasks for mums are:

  • Buying presents / gifts for the family (86%).
  • Managing finances (84%).
  • Paying bills e.g. energy bills (84%).
  • Overwhelmingly mums go online to complete day to day tasks to save time (68%) rather than money (42%).
  • More than half of mums (54%) admit that without the technology, they wouldn’t be able to cope with the demands of their increasingly hectic lives.
  • 30% of mums even claim a lack of internet action for an extended period of time makes them feel anxious.

For me, it’s pretty obvious that my online life has to save me time as well as money, or I probably wouldn’t do it.

I use the Internet and go online to complete chores because it saves me:

  • Travel both ways to do grocery shopping, the time involved and stress driving.  Time would easily add up to a couple of hours, or I could simply log on, do my shopping, sit back with a cuppa, no stress and potter with some emails for a maximum of about an hour in total.
  • Additional savings for using direct debits for monthly energy bills, ie phone, gas and electric, as there are usually small savings for paying online.

Finding the time to interact online:

I’ve been told many times by friends that they don’t know how I find the time to go online and blog.  This actually means they think I have far too much time on my hands, and have nothing better to do.  What they don’t realise is that using the Internet probably means I have more spare time in a day than they have for getting MORE done.  It’s a well kept secret by Internet fans.  Going online is easy and I can pay my bills while I’m waiting at the school gates – how efficient is that?

British Gas

Paying bills by direct debit gives and average annual saving of £67.  It’s how I do mine.  The benefits from using online services can take the headache out of having to call a call centre to find out simple things that we can get access to immediately on the Internet.

Register now with British Gas to manage your online energy, and you will be able to :
  • View your balance.
  • Print your bill
  • Enter meter readings
  • Monitor your energy consumption
  • Book and track an engineer

You’ll also receive 2000 Nectar Points for registering for an online account, as well as more rewards for submitting meter readings and using the online dashboard.  Find out more.

British Gas on your Smartphone

To make registration, and manage our accounts simply and effectively, British Gas have a handy smartphone app that allows us to sort our payment details and submit meter reading wherever we are, so if I am out and about and stuck in a huge queue, I can pay a bill and save myself time later on.  That has to be good.

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Gold Medallists Stamps to be issued for our London winners in 2012

How’s this for something unusual and possibly collectable to commemorate our Team GB Gold Medal wins during London 2012?

When big events come our way, it’s nice to have a little momento to remember them by.  I’m not one for collecting trinkets or ornaments, so the stamp initiative appeals to my sense of being appropriate, affordable and realistic.

Next day stamps are going to be issued, featuring our Gold Medallists from the Olympic Games, by the Royal Mail.  They will recognise the achievements of each win at the 2012 Olympic Games that will run from the 27th July to 12th August.

Sally Gunnell, OBE launched the official announcement and revealed the design.  As an Olympic gold medalist herself, who won the 1992 games in Barcelona’s 400m hurdles event, Sally is a good choice to champion the stamps.

The main image of the stamp will, wherever possible, be a photograph of the Team GB athlete or team in action from their gold medal winning final. Where this can’t be achieved, the image will be of the athlete’s gold medal winning journey taken from a heat or from their gold medal award moment on the podium

This is likely to be the only time in my life that the Olympics are going to grace these shores, so I am very likely to squirrel a copy of these stamps away with my Queens 25th Jubilee coin, and hopefully also one from the 50th.

Royal Mail’s team of picture editors and graphic designers will be on standby and ready to swing into action when Team GB strikes gold.

This will be the first time any host country has used action shots for Gold Medal stamps and issued them the next day, during the Games. This will also be a first for next day stamps from Royal Mail.  Be The First in line to get your own stamps, although I suspect I will be tempted to get the Official 2012 Compendium at £20 each so that my boys can have one each.

Royal Mail will also be the first postal service of a host country to issue stamps which will celebrate the start of the Paralympic Games on 29th August.

The stamps seem to be a nice touch and give the winners families an affordable and memorable reminder of great sportmanship.

Gold Medal stamps will be on sale at 500 selected UK Post Offices by lunchtime the next day, and on the Royal Mail website after each gold medal win by Team GB. They will then be distributed three times during the Games to a further 4,500 Post Offices nationwide.  As a first for Royal Mail, many of the 500 Post Offices will open on a Sunday for the first time during the games.

In 2008, at the Beijing games, Team GB won 19 gold medals, so it would be nice if we could have several stamps to remember our Olympic event.

Moya Greene, Royal Mail Chief Executive, said:

“Royal Mail is proud to be involved in this once in a lifetime event and to recognise the success of Team GB.

“Our Gold Medal stamps will be unique souvenirs of the Games, marking the great achievements of our talented athletes. They will be a special way for people across the country to celebrate Team GB’s gold medal wins and help mark their amazing achievement.

Royal Mail and the Olympics

Royal Mail has a proud history of commemorating the London Olympic Games.  For the 1948 Games, Royal Mail issued stamps bearing the five Olympic Rings.  Olympic stamps were not issued to mark the 1908 London Games as Royal Mail stamps could only carry images of the reigning monarch.

The Olympic Collection can be bought from Royal Mail.  Register your interest now to be one of the first in line.

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Guest Post – How much money can I save by switching energy provider?

This is a featured guest post.  Who couldn’t use a little extra advice these days about their energy costs. 

With energy prices still rising from the big six suppliers, it’s hard to know exactly how much you should be spending on your energy bill – and, more importantly, how to lower that. There are so many things that you can do around the home such as turning games consoles off to trim the spending, and through changing provider you can save as much as £420 on your tariff!

The trick to this is that through the right research you can compare electricity prices and hit the perfect sweet spot for your family. We can save on anything from energy bills to travel insurance when it comes to comparison, so have a look here and see how managing your bills better can lead to a reduction in expenses.

How to manage your consumption

Global warming is a hotly debated topic as the UK – well, the world – look at ways of moving to renewable energy. And, while it may not be the right time for your family to move to renewable services there are ways that you can help the environment and your bills at the same time. Have a look at these top four ideas:

  • Insulation – Make sure that money isn’t literally going out of the windows and doors by ensuring that any cracks and leaks are stopped. Just by doing this, you can save as much as 30% on your energy costs.
  • Cold water washing and air-dry – Calculators on energy usage have suggested that just by using cold water instead of hot to wash all of your clothes, you can save more than £100 a year. What’s more is that once this is done, try to save extra by leaving your washing to dry naturally – good for the clothes longevity and good for your pocket.
  • Light fittings – If lights are left on for a full year, they cost more than £100 to run. So, with that in mind, if you turn off the lights every time you leave a room and switch to energy saving products then you will be ready to save money on your lighting.
  • Unplug – An absolutely crucial one, especially in a full property. Do you leave the television on standby when you leave a room? Is that Xbox running all the time? Anything from this to mobile phone chargers being left in can cost you money, and studies have found that as much as 10% of electricity is used by appliances on standby.

Reducing your bill

Because there is no one company that can possibly claim to offer the cheapest electricity and gas services, finding out how to switch can be extremely cost-effective. Once you’ve understood how to use as little energy as possible, you can look at the other options for who should be your energy provider. To do this, all you need to do is follow a three step guide.

  1. Compare the market – Figure out what you’ve been paying in recent months, use a comparison website and see how your tariff compares to others on the market. Calculate how this works in your budget, and then;
  2. Choose the new provider – There are plenty of options in the market for you to choose from, and there are many variables to look at. Different areas can have different prices and you need to look at things like tariffs, discounts, incentives, extra charges, payment options and testimonials to ensure you’re getting the right deal.
  3. Switch – Contact the chosen supplier and you will be sent a contract to sign. If this goes to plan, then you will be able to switch in about six weeks. Be aware that 28 days notice is needed for the old supplier and any outstanding bills should be paid so the direct debit can be stopped. Then, the new supplier with come, the meter will be updated and you’re good to go.
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Guest Post – Cash in the attic? Turn unwanted items into extra pocket money.

This is a Featured Guest Post, and it makes sense to look at our old dusty belongings that simply ship from home to home with us when we move.  Perhaps these dusty old relics could be put to better use, and really turn into cash in the attic. 

Many people feel that to make a house a home, they need to fill it with all the earthly possessions they’ve ever come across. And, while it can be nice to be surrounded memories and lovely items, they could probably be put to better use.

There’s a reason that things tend to go in the attic, and it’s not because you want everybody to see them. Sure, photo albums of weddings, your children growing up and Christmas decorations are placed there to save room, but in the attic and across the home there will be items that could add to your pocket-money.

With the economy not looking likely to change anytime soon, cashing in on these things can do anything from helping the kids go on school trips to raising money for the holiday fund. Whether it’s time to get the antiques down to the auction room or you can start selling DVDs with musicMagpie, now’s the time to start the Spring clean. Read on for five of the best items to sell.

  • Memorabilia – Remember that time you were lucky enough to go and watch Queen on tour and bought some items, or you were given that Bruce Springsteen Born to Run t-shirt as a present? Well, do you still need it? Are you a big collector? Of course, it brings back great memories to you but do you really need to keep it? T-shirts, especially from the bigger bands and the special tours, sell at a great price to serious collectors. With some items going for as much as £100, surely it’s better off out of your hair and put the money in the pot. Don’t forget signed football t-shirts either because they are sought after products by many – especially the vintage ones.
  • Electronics – Technology hasn’t half continued its meteoric rise over the years, and the odds on you having something in the home that you don’t use because you upgraded is pretty much odds on. Anything from a laptop to a digital camera or a smartphone could be lying around, unused. Let’s be honest, once you’ve stopped using it, you’re not going back so stick it on an auction website and see what money you can get in from it.
  • Entertainment Collection – Mixed with both of the first two points, you are bound to have CDs, DVDs and computer games that aren’t needed anymore. So, with that in mind gather them up and decide whether you should continue to have them cluttering up the home. If it’s an old LP then you might be able to get a fair amount for it or if you’ve just got a lot of average discs to get rid of then you can get a little extra pocket-money using musicMagpie to get rid of them.
  • Wedding Gear – One of the biggest sections on auction websites is for bridal wear, and there are plenty of other things from your wedding that could be sold. From ring-bearer pillows and decorations to bridesmaid and bride dresses you can usually get a few pounds for anything you had. Even if you don’t want to sell your dress, there may well be other items that are taking up space – get them shifted.
  • Exercise Equipment – Remember that time that you said you were going to go on a fitness drive? Probably not, but if you did ever invest in an exercise bike, elliptical or treadmill that is now collecting dust in the roof – consider selling it. They cost a lot brand new, so trim the price and second-hand should go for a good few quid. Tightening the belts is starting to turn into a cliché, we’ve heard it that many times. But, with everyone needing to cut back a little, there are always ways and means of earning a few extra pennies.
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Guest Post – Have Fun While Saving in the Home

This is a featured guest post which revolves around saving money in the home, and how to go about it.  There are some fun elements involved, and getting the whole family to help seems to be a good way of helping everyone appreciate the value of money.

Have Fun While Saving in the Home

Saving money doesn’t have to be a drag. There are lots of things you can do around the house that save money and are fun, too.

One of the easiest ways to save money is to use comparison websites to find the lowest prices on a whole host of things, including credit cards, mortgages, cable and phone rates and insurance. To make this saving activity fun, get the whole family involved.

For example, if you want to do a comparison on home and contents insurance, have each member of the family — assuming they are old enough — do a search using a comparison site. Award a prize to the person who comes up with the best deal on home and contents insurance.

You can do this same activity with just about anything on which you are trying to save money. You and your family can search price comparison sites for the best prices on other types of insurance, too, such as auto and life. If you are looking to refinance your mortgage, you can search price comparison sites to find the best rate and lowest fees. You can also use price comparison sites to find a top credit card balance transfer offer to consolidate your debt.

Another way to save in the home and still have fun is to have a family movie night. If you stay home and rent a movie or use a movie streaming service, you can save a lot of money compared to going to a movie at the theater. Renting a movie costs less than one ticket to the theater, and it’s much cheaper to make your own popcorn than to buy it at the movies.

If movies aren’t really your thing, you can have a family game night. Play cards or a board game, and then offer prizes for the champion.

To save money on family dinners, cook at home instead of going out to eat. You can make this fun by involving the whole family in preparing the meal. Experiment with new dishes and desserts, and let your kids make up their own. One way to do this is to have each member of the family choose one course of the meal and then help in preparing that meal.

You can get the whole family in the act to save money on your grocery budget as well. Have everyone get online and go to coupon sites to see how many coupons they can find for things you need. You also can assign family members to check out the websites of the supermarkets in your area to find the best deals. Again, make it a contest and award prizes to the winner to make things fun.