65 articles Articles posted in Christmas

Making Some Extra Cash Before Christmas

ChristmasI think we can all agree that with the exception of perhaps foreign holidays and those unexpected expenses that can pop up throughout the year, Christmas is probably the most expensive time of year for most of us. From buying presents and food, new trees and decorations, not to mention all of the various school discos and Christmas sales which end up costing a fortune, the need for cash seems never ending! Unless you’re a sensible soul who’s saved all year and has your Christmas fund full to the brim, there’s a good chance that an extra few quid would come in really handy, so I thought I’d take a look at a few ways that you could raise a bit more moolah for your celebrations.

1. Sell Your Old Stuff

Selling things on Facebook selling groups can be really lucrative at this time of year because everyone is looking for a bargain. Have a really good clearout and be ruthless about all of the things you really don’t need or use anymore and you could make yourself a packet. If you’re a totally newbie at selling on Facebook, here’s a guide I wrote last here which might really help.

2. Lotto Betting

Lotto betting is a great concept which allows you to enter foreign lotteries, like the massive Powerball draw that happens in The States. By entering through LottoLand, you effectively bet on the outcome of the lottery rather than buying an actual ticket which gives you the flexibility to enter any draw you like, and the stakes are pretty high – even the second tier prize for betting on the Powerball could net you around £34,000! Obviously it’s not a sure-thing, but it’s still good fun if you go into it without expecting fortunes!

3. Seasonal Work

Loads of companies hire extra staff at this time of year to help with the demand of Christmas shoppers, and lots of the jobs will be evening or night work like replenishing shelves, which would fit around your kids and help you earn a bit extra for Christmas. Seasonal jobs also sometimes lead on to other job opportunities, so if you’re looking for something ongoing, getting your foot in the door now could be a real help.

4. Online Surveys

I know a lot of people who do online surveys and save all of their earnings as vouchers for sites like Amazon, which then allows them to do most of their Christmas shopping using just their earnings from doing so. Many of us are online for a large portion of the day and some sites even have mobile apps, so whenever you have down-time, you could be earning.

5. Delivery Driving

With more and more people shopping online, there are lots of courier companies out there who are always looking for more drivers to cover areas, as well as restaurants who deliver takeaway food. If you’re a driver and own your own car, you could easily pick up delivery work which is usually completely flexible and allows you to pretty much be your own boss.

6. Sell Your Gold

It’s SO common for people to have jewellery laying around that they literally never wear, and if there’s no sentimental value attached to it, it’s probably worth more to you if you cash your gold to somewhere like Post My Gold. With Post My Gold, sellers needn’t worry that their old rings will be melted to scrap, as if they’re suitable for resale, they’ll receive even more money!

Have you got any smart ideas for how to earn money before Christmas? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Gifts for Craft Lovers

With the pre-Christmas shopping season well and truly upon us, I’ve been gathering together ideas for all sorts of gifts, for the various different people in our lives and today I’ve been thinking about great gifts for craft lovers. Be they a knitter, sewing enthusiast, crochet queen or cross stitch maven, Deramores has the perfect gift for them and I’ve got my five favourites to show you:

Barima Scarf by We Are Knitters – £59.99

Merino wool is hot stuff right now (if you’ll pardon the pun!) and this kit will give your loved one everything they need to make a super on-trend scarf. An easy to intermediate crochet project, the Barima Scarf is a beautiful openwork shawl-like scarf with rock-star tassels. A gift that keeps on giving.

Hobby and Gift Filled Crochet Hook Set – 15cm (Set of 14) – £14.99

Every crochet enthusiast needs somewhere to keep their hooks, and with this kit you get not only a cute, sturdy case but also a set of 14 new hooks, too! The hooks come in a variety of sizes from 2mm right up to 10mm and will give your crochet fanatic a brilliant bit of kit to keep their hobby going.

Deramores Studio DK Corgi Olski – £9.99

You can never have too many four legged friends, and this cute and cuddly corgi would be perfect gift for family and friends.  This kit contains all of the wool needed to make this gorgeous little pooch and best of all, the pattern is sent via email upon purchase to cut down on paper waste. Cute AND conscientious!

Hobby and Gift Craft Bag – £29.99

The absolute beauty of crafts like knitting, crochet and sewing is that they can be done basically anywhere, which means that having a dedicated bag for all of your materials can be a great help. This craft bag is strong, sturdy and looks great and will allow you to take everything with you whilst remaining practical and stylish.

Crochet Roxy Rockhopper Kit by Twilleys – £14.90

This adorable little penguin is absolutely perfect for your quirky friend or relative who doesn’t only crochet blankets, or someone who loves to craft but has a baby or grandchild on the way. The end product is absolutely gorgeous and the kit contains everything they need to make it. It’s also a really good gift for beginners as everything is made from squares!

Do you have a crafty friend or relative? Do you like my list of suggestions? Do let me know if I’ve managed to inspire you!

Gifts for Men from Jacamo

I don’t know about you, but the men in my life always seem to be the trickiest to buy for. Husband, my Dad, our Uncles…these are always the presents I’m left blank with when I start to do my Christmas shopping and it seems to get worse every year. This year, I’ve been taking a look at the menswear on Jacamo and I’ve found a few little gems which would make great gifts, so I thought I’d share them with you in case you’re usually left as uninspired as me.

Husband

I think I’ve mentioned before how Husband was a huge fan of David Bowie, so this t-shirt would be great for him. He only tends to wear t-shirts with a logo or print on the front, rather than plain ones, and I love the fact that the picture they’ve used shows Bowie playing a sax, as most people don’t realise he was an accomplished saxophonist.

Dad

My Dad is SO tricky to buy for and I reckon I probably get it wrong just about every single year, but he’s actually a really keen cook so this year I’m going to go down the foodie route and buy him something to compliment his kitchen creativity.

Uncle

My Uncle is a bit of a petrol head, and also a keen model maker, so this kit is basically the perfect gift for him! I do love giving creative gifts because they’re something that the person can spend time on, and they’re left with something cool at the end of it.

Little Brother

My little brother (and when I say little, I only mean in years, he’s about a foot taller than me now and will be 18 at the beginning of next year) started driving this year and we’re all really proud of him for passing his test so quickly. I reckon he would absolutely LOVE a supercar experience day where he’d get to go and drive an amazing car on a track (with supervision, of course!) and it would really be a gift to remember.

Cousin

My cousin is a confirmed Whovian and loves anything to do with the show, so this Tardis robe would make an excellent gift for him this Christmas. His birthday is really near Christmas, so he’s always double tricky to buy for as he’ll have got a bunch of stuff at the end of November, but I’m going to make sure that no-one else buys this for him before I can!

 

5 Tips to Minimise Christmas Stress

Stress-Free ChristmasNow that it’s November and Bonfire Night is over, people’s thoughts are firmly turning to the next big holiday: CHRISTMAS! If you’re anything like me, the run up to Christmas is a combination of shopping, planning, getting in the mood (but not too early!) and generally trying to facilitate the whole family’s enjoyment of the big day. One thing which is really important for me is finding the balance between readiness and stress-management – getting to the big day with high blood pressure and the need to sleep for a week is not good for your own enjoyment, so I thought I’d share some tips for minimising your Christmas stress.

Plan Ahead

I appreciate that telling you to plan ahead in November is a little bit like locking the stable door after the reindeer have bolted, but do yourself a favour for NEXT year and do some forward planning! Buy decorations in the January sales when they’re dirt cheap and put them away, start a savings account and put a little in each week and do as much as you can throughout the year so it isn’t a mad rush this time next year.

Take a Break

Taking yourself off to spa might seem a little lavish when you’ve got a lot of expense coming up, but treating yourself to a detoxing winter spa day at The Moroccan Spa Urban Retreat in Harrods is the PERFECT way to relax your mind and body, leaving you feeling tip-top for all the Christmas parties you’ll be going to and is the perfect way to reward yourself for all the hard work you put into making Christmas special for your family. You could even ask for vouchers for Christmas so you can do the same thing next year!

Lower Your Expectations

There seems to be this pressure on everyone to have EVERY Christmas experience possible and between the Santa visits, the pantos, the Christmas Eve boxes as well as hundreds of pounds worth of gifts, the matching jumpers and festive pyjamas..it’s exhausting both mentally AND financially. Choose just a couple of things to do…there’s always next year if you want to try something new but cramming it all into one festive season will just drive you crackers!

Set Limits

It’s basically the law for kids to hand you a Christmas list as long as your arm and although it would be nice to buy them every single gift, it’s just not always possible. Set yourself a limit on how much you’re going to spend on food, presents, decorations and extras and DO NOT GO ABOVE THOSE LIMITS. That way, instead of stressing about how you’re going to afford one last stocking filler you can tell yourself “Nope, it’s just not in the budget”.

Have Fun!

So often, us grown ups spend so much time making Christmas magical for the kids that we simply forget to have fun. Take some time for yourself, have a sherry, blast some WHAM! and let your hair down. Kids love presents, sure, but they also love relaxed, fun-loving parents who know how to have a good time as a family. Christmas won’t be fun for anyone if Mum or Dad are a sobbing wreck in the corner, wondering if 150 miles is too far to drive for that last Hatchimal in a random toy shop!

Top 5 Gifts for Coffee Lovers

Top 5 Gifts for Coffee LoversAnyone who knows me, knows that I love coffee. It’s my main drink of choice, in fact I probably drink coffee more than anything else, and I really enjoy using our coffee maker to it’s fullest potential. Being a coffee lover myself, I thought I’d put together a list of gifts that most coffee lovers would appreciate, which will hopefully give you some inspiration ahead of your festive shopping. Here’s what I’d love to see in my stocking:

Coffee Beans

Obviously, I have a particular brand of coffee that I always buy, but I do really enjoy trying out new beans. Different coffee beans have different flavours and strengths and can compliment different foods, just like wine, and we often have a few different varieties in the cupboard at any time so I’m always keen to try something new. Little hampers containing a variety of beans would make a superb gift.

Grinder

If you’re serious about coffee then grinding your own beans is a great idea. Grinders can range from budget to seriously high-end and the more you spend, the better quality the grind, but it’s possible to buy something for a reasonable price that even the most discerning coffee lover would love.

Syrups

A great way to add flavour to your coffee, if that’s something you like, is by using flavoured syrups. They’re available in a whole range of flavours and even come in sugar-free varieties for the sugar conscious amongst us, plus Monin also often offer some really sweet little gift sets for Christmas containing festive flavours.

Milk Steamer

If your coffee lover likes a latte or a cappuccino, buying them a milk steamer so that they can make their own cafe-quality drinks would be hugely appreciated. Steaming your milk takes good coffee to the next level and they’re a great little gadget for the kitchen.

Biscotti

I’ll be honest, there’s nothing nicer on the side of a coffee than a slab of biscotti and they make a brilliant gift when given with some beans in a hamper. Choose a good Italian variety for an authentic experience…just don’t expect your gift recipient to share them with you!

Are you a coffee lover? Is there something you’d like to receive for Christmas that I haven’t listed here? Leave me a comment below!

Keeping Costs Down Ahead of Christmas

save moneyNow that we’re almost in November, whether we like it or not, most of us are thinking about ways to save money so that we can maximise our spending power for the festive season. There are SO many ways that most of us can save money without even realising it, so I thought I’d take a look at ways to save that you may not have even thought of.

Reduce Your Phone Bill

Most of us have mobile packages with “free” minutes available but it can be easy to go over the allowance and tot up call costs. Using a site like Contact Number UK to look up numbers can drastically reduce your costs as they list the cheapest numbers for calling many companies on.

Cut Your Channels

If you have Sky, Virgin Media or some other TV service and you’re past your first year of service, it’s a really good idea to look at your package and work out exactly what you use and what you don’t. Often, things like music channels, movies and sports are charged at a premium and if you don’t ever watch them you could save yourself hundreds of pounds each year by stripping them back.

Do It Yourself

I know it’s tempting to outsource jobs like window cleaning, car valeting, oven cleaning and all of the other yucky things that none of us really like doing, but you could save yourself SO much money by doing them yourself. If you have your windows cleaned once a month and you’re paying £10 a time, that’s a saving of £120 a year…if you have your car valeted every six weeks at £20 a time, that’s a saving of over £160. The savings all add up!

Quit The Gym! 

Okay, if you’re a gym-bunny and go to the gym on a regular basis then we aren’t suggesting that you give it up, but if you have a subscription to a gym that you rarely use, it might be worth looking at cancelling it. Many gyms also offer cheaper “off-peak” subscriptions, so it might be worth looking at the times you usually go to the gym and seeing if an off-peak membership would work for you. Also, running is absolutely free and a great way to exercise.

Sell Your Stuff and Buy Second Hand

Facebook groups and eBay are both brilliant ways to recoup money on your unwanted stuff by selling it all, and they’re also great places to pick up absolute bargains! So often, kids clothes, furniture and other items will be almost brand new and a FRACTION of their normal price, and literally look as good as new after a bit of a scrub. Local buying and selling also reduces your need for shipping fees, saving you even more.

 

Vouchers This Christmas

We love Christmas, here in the Mum’s the Word house, and we try each year to make it a big deal for the girls. However, one thing that I try to maintain is that although Christmas is a big event, it doesn’t have to cost the earth. I see posts of Facebook of people having spent literally thousands of pounds on toys and Christmas experiences and it seems bonkers to me. I try to start planning in advance to make sure I get the maximum for my money and I thought I’d share some tips with you here:

Second Hand

I know people sometimes blanch at the idea of giving second-hand things for Christmas but kids, especially smaller ones, don’t know the difference. Toys like Jumperoos are often for sale in local groups and can be used again and again, saving you money and ensuring your kids have great quality toys.

Voucher Codes

Keep an eye out for discounts throughout the year, especially for large department stores, like Debenhams promo codes, and buy things early to put away for Christmas. Someone I know buys things whenever she sees something which would make a good gift and keeps it all in a specific cupboard, which she empties out at the beginning of December. Last year, she’d bought so much stuff that she had TOO MANY presents and ended up giving a load to charity!

Make Things

Handmade gifts are a great way to keep costs down and often mean so much more than some random piece of tatt that you could buy. If you’re REALLY organised, you could even forage for fruit, makes jams at home, jar them and make them into festive gifts, costing you next to nothing!

Secret Santa

Another good way to keep costs down is to buy presents for the kids in the family but do a Secret Santa for the adults. Set a limit of say, £20, that way everyone gets one decent quality gift, everyone saves money and no-one feels left out!

Start Saving

This one might not necessarily SAVE you money at Christmas as it doesn’t exactly limit your spending, but starting a Christmas fund in January is a really good idea. Put in as much as you can afford each week or month and by the time it comes to shop for Christmas, you’ll have a good chunk of money saved towards it, lessening the burden of finding funds in December.

Do you have any great tips for saving money at Christmas? I’d love to hear them so please do leave me a comment below.

Start Your Christmas Shopping Early

Okay, I realise that I’m being a MASSIVE hypocrite here, by mentioning Christmas during the summer holidays, after moaning on more than one occasion about various press releases mentioning the festive period already. However, I’ve realised that this is actually a great time to start Christmas shopping with so many summer sales on at the moment.

I always have great intentions of starting early with my Christmas shopping and then it gets to the last week of November and I realise I’ve completely missed the boat. The main reason I manage to talk myself out of starting early is that I always think I’m going to end up buying things for people which they’ll already have by Christmas, so I thought I’d do some brainstorming about the sort of gifts you can buy early which will either be pretty unique or won’t matter if they’re doubles…read on to see my ideas!

Pyjamas

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Nobody ever has too many pairs of pyjamas and you’ll often find that they’re really cheap at this time of year, because it’s so warm and no-one wears snuggly PJ’s in this heat! There are some great loungepants in the Ralph Lauren sale for the man in your life and they’ll make a great gift as the Ralph Lauren label makes them that extra little bit special.

Underwear

Underwear is another thing which people always need; don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you buy lingerie for your mother in law or colleague, but buying some nice undies for your nearest and dearest is a great way to fill a stocking (if you’ll pardon the pun!).

Candles

Candles and other ornaments are a great thing to buy and put away as they won’t spoil and they’re easy to store. If you shop around, you can often find ‘wintery’ scents at their cheapest at this time of year. purely because nobody wants to smell mulled wine and gingerbread in August, but this makes them perfect to buy now and save for Christmas.

Slippers

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Another classic Christmas gift is slippers and if you opt for a premium brand, they’re a great gift to buy now and put away. The Tommy Hilfiger sale has some great offerings at the moment, which would be perfect for the colder months and will make a great gift for that Uncle who you can never seem to find a decent gift for!

Homewares

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Anything home related such as throws, framed photos, accessories and cushions all make great gifts, especially if someone you know if moving house or getting married. There are so many premium brands such as Calvin Klein which offer super smart homewares which people would love to receive as gifts and which can be put away until Christmas, saving you a fortune when it comes to December.

 

Mum’s the Word’s Mega Mince Pies

About 10 years ago, I went to a work Christmas get together where someone had put on a little spread of festive nibbles. One of the things that was on offer was mince pies (obviously!), but these mince pies were a little different. Instead of a fully enclosed pie, the top was nestled on a dollop of brandy butter and it made them taste incredible – like Christmas on steroids!! I decided that I’d try to recreate something similar and thought I’d share them with you here:

Mum's the Word's Mega Mince Pies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Mince pies with added kick!
Author:
Recipe type: Christmas Baking
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • One pack of chilled JusRoll shortcrust pastry
  • One jar of mincemeat
  • Small pot of brandy butter
  • Icing sugar to dust
  • (You'll also need a dimpled baking tray, a 2.5" pastry cutter and a star-shaped pastry cutter - we also placed a pastry holly leaf on the top of each star but these aren't absolutely essential if you don't have a holly leaf cutter)
Instructions
  1. (Before you start, take the JusRoll out of the fridge and leave for half an hour to reach room temperature)
  2. Cut out 12 cirlcles of JusRoll and place in your baking tray
  3. Place a moderate teaspoon of mincemeat in each pastry case
  4. Bake at 160c (fan oven) for 25 minutes
  5. Cut out 12 stars and place on a flat, non-stick baking tray
  6. Bake at 160c for around 15-18 minutes
  7. Allow everything to cool completely
  8. Place a dollop of brandy butter (about half a teaspoon) on top of each mince pie and top with a pastry star
  9. Dust with icing sugar before serving

mega mince pies
It’s a super simple recipe which the kids will probably love to help with and it takes a really short time to prep and cook, but the result is fantastic and takes your mince pies to the next level.

Merry Christmas!

I Just Love It Whisky Gift Set Review

I think it’s fairly safe to say that everyone has someone in their lives who is tricky to buy for. Mine is my Husband. My ‘very good at buying gifts’ Husband, which makes my job so much harder around Christmas and birthdays because you can guarantee that he’s bought something amazingly sentimental and perfect for me (like the Teddy Ruxpin I’d been coveting for 25 years that he bought for my last birthday)! Enter ‘I Just Love It‘, a website which makes personalised gifts for people who can be a real pain to buy for.

I noticed they had a whisky gift set, which is labelled as a Fathers’ Day gift, but is actually perfect for Husband for Christmas. He’s a huge fan of whisky, with 16 year old Lagavulin being his usual tipple of choice. However, this gift set contains a whisky which is distilled on the island of Islay, one of the inner Hebrides, somewhere that Husband has been planning to go for a few years, so it seemed serendipitous to see it in the set.

Here’s the info:

Exclusive to I Just Love It, this Father’s Day Whisky Gift Set includes single malts from three of Scotland’s most famous whisky regions, including a limited release from one of Scotland’s sadly closed distilleries. Presented in a gorgeous hand-finished gift box with a personalised sleeve, it’s the ultimate way to compare and contrast the different characteristics of single malt from the Scottish Island, Speyside & Islay regions.

The set itself comes beautifully boxed with a personalised sticker on the outside which you can add your own message to and really is a lovely looking gift.

The set also comes with tasting notes and a tasting mat, allowing the recipient to really get involved with the whisky sampling process (rather than just glugging it down before it hits the sides!!).

The set costs £29.99 (plus P&P) and makes such a lovely gift for anyone with an interest in whisky, or even a complete beginner who you feel might appreciate learning about whisky and its origins. The girls and I were really impressed and can’t wait to give Husband his pressie!

Thanks again to I Just Love It, who sent us the set for review purposes.