How we saved almost £10k in 12 months

Saving money can be extremely difficult, but it's not impossible. It is surprising how much money you can actually save by cutting back on a few (not always all) luxuries and switching your products for slightly cheaper versions.  Getting into the initial mindset of saving money can be hard at first, but if you have something you really need or want to save for, you can do it.

In the short space of twelve months, between my husband and I we have saved almost £10K. It wasn't easy - it took a lot of willpower and at times it was challenging, but we had a goal that by the beginning of 2018 we wanted a house deposit and we've done it. Although it has helped that we both have decent wages and we were able to put a big chunk of that money away each month, there has been plenty of other things that we have done to top up our wages and reach our money saving target. From mystery shopping to filling out academic studies, to selling on eBay and the odd flutter with match betting, there's a lot of money to be made online for those able to put the time in.

Below are a few hints and tips to inspire those looking to save up, whether you're planning on saving your dream holiday or a house deposit, a new handbag or a rainy day fund.

Analyse your incomings and outgoings

The first thing you must do when you're planning on saving money is to analyse your incomings and outgoings. Pay attention to your monthly bills and tot up how much of your wage you have left when everything has been paid for. Once you have your overall total, you can then give yourself a weekly budget of how much money you would ideally like to live on and put the rest into savings.

Make a plan

One of the best ways to stick to saving money is to write down a plan or have an overall end goal. Figure out what you want the money for, when you want it by and how you are going to do it. Set yourself monthly challenges and once you have reached half-way, reward yourself - it will keep you motivated.

Register for cashback websites 

Make money back from any shopping you do by registering on cashback sites such as Top Cash Back or Quidco - you can earn a percentage of your shopping back by using an affiliate link on their website and you would be surprised how quickly it all adds up.  Many banks now have cashback schemes and it is worth discussing these with a bank advisor to see if it is worth you registering. You may have to pay a small fee (we pay £5 a month), but we get almost £10 a month back based on all the bills that we pay.

Grab freebies with your weekly shop

Two of my favourite apps on my phone are Shopmium and Check Out Smart. These apps give you discounts and often freebies with your weekly supermarket shop. If you're thinking, what is the catch? There isn't any. These apps are set up so that you can try new products, in the hope that the brands will get new customers. Shopmium also has a market research section, where you can leave reviews of the product once you have tried them and these will be passed back to the company. Over the last year and a half  I've had nearly £100 worth of freebies. If you would like your first freebie on Shopmium, register for an account and use KHUAAUYP to get a free jar of Nutella.

Sell your unwanted items

One of the quickest and easiest ways of making money is to sell your unwanted items on Facebook selling groups, apps such as Depop, Shpock or Vinted or on eBay. We all have items in our homes that we do not use on a regular basis, so it's always worth taking a hard look at these items and if you know they are never going to get used again, you can make some money from them.

Buy and sell for profit*

Buying and selling items for profit can be frowned upon, but if you have an eye for a deal and you know that you can make extra money from selling it on, why not? You can buy stock from car boot sales, charity shops or even grab items in sales on the high street. We found a vinyl player in a reduced section for £7.99 - brand new in the box, they were just selling this for old stock and we managed to sell it for £40. I also bought a beautiful pair of shoes for 99p in a charity shop and I didn't intend on selling them as I really liked them, but they didn't fit quite right - I gave them a £5 starting bid on eBay hoping that I would get £2-3 profit, but they went for £50! Of course, not all buying and selling for profit goes well, so you need to have a backup plan on what you're going to do with any old stock.

Help academics with their studies*

Another website that I really enjoy is Prolific. Profilic studies is a website where you can help university students with their research. The studies are incredibly varied and well paid and you it's worthwhile doing them as you know that you will be making a difference, helping students across the world with their studies. Over the last year, I've made £180 and could have easily made more if I dedicated more time to the website.

Sign up for surveys*

Surveys can be incredibly laborious, but if you have the spare time it is always worth registering to a few survey sites and doing these whilst watching television on an evening.  Although many pay only 5 to 10p per time, it will eventually add up. Swagbucks, OnePoll,  YouGov and Opinion Outpost are just a few of them, but it is worth looking around the internet to see which ones suit you and the time you have available the best.

Become a mystery shopper*

If you enjoy shopping and have a keen eye for detail,  you should consider mystery shopping. Mystery Shopping is as the name describes, where you go into a shop pretending to be a normal customer, but you will have a set of questions you will need to fill in about the service.  Mystery shopping is a great way of getting free meals, free food, free clothes and earning a bit of money on the side. There are many ways you can do this - you can register for apps such as Field Agent or go down the more formal route of websites such as Market Force.

Experiment with matched betting

Matched Betting isn't for everyone, especially those with an addictive nature and it can require some consideration, but if you are sensible with money and don't mind gambling, it can be a good way of earning a little bit of extra money. If you haven't heard of Matched Betting before, Matched Betting is where you take advantage of free bets that companies offer and place a bet backing both sides, making it a win-win situation. There's quite a lot of maths to do and it takes a lot of concentration, but if you follow many guides available online, there is money to make. We made just over £500 tax free last year before we had to stop - if you're applying for a mortgage, don't do any Matched Betting within six months of your application as it will show up on your statements and lenders do not like gambling as it shows risky behaviour.

Make money from your hobbies*

Finally, if you have a hobby that enables you to create physical or digital products or something creative that you can share with the world, why not consider making money from it? This can range from selling graphics online to selling artwork, making bathbombs or candles to even setting up your own blog if you are passionate about writing. These probably won't make you money straight away, but it's a great long term time investment and could pay off in the future.

If you are making money, even a small amount you may need to consider declaring this to HMRC - the items with asterisks next to them means that money will need to be declared as they are taxable incomes.

What are you saving money for?

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What I eat in a week as a vegan

When you first decide to go vegan or plant-based, it can be difficult knowing where to start when looking for meal inspiration, especially if you work long hours and don't have the time to cook. Whilst there's a plethora of meat alternatives on the market, consuming them every day isn't the healthiest option when you're trying to ensure that your recommended vitamin and mineral intake.  As someone who has gone plant-based not only for animal reasons but for health too, I always try to make sure that I get as much food from all the vegan food groups as possible and plan out all my meals to get a head start. The majority of my meals are foods that I've chucked together last minute, although I do try to make sure I cook at least two recipes out of my cookbooks each week to help me learn new cooking skills and give me enthusiasm for my plant-based lifestyle.

This week marks six months of me being vegan and a whopping fifteen years of being vegetarian and nearly every week, I'm asked by family and friends 'what do I eat?' I'm lucky that growing up my parents and friends supported my vegetarian lifestyle and although many still don't understand, they have adapted well to me being vegan too. Today I thought I would put together a small overview of 
some of the meals I eat each week to give those looking to go plant-based some inspiration.

Pulled jackfruit burgers

Pulled jackfruit is possibly one of my favourite quick meals to make and it is really low cost - if you have a Chinese supermarket in your local town, you can pick up a tin of jackfruit for only £1. I usually coat the jackfruit with paprika, garlic and onion powder then roast in my favourite BBQ sauce along with some black beans for extra protein. To accompany the dish, I usually make sweet potato fries and have either a side salad or some grilled veggies.

Avocado and hummus flatbread

If I'm working from home, I like to make myself either homemade soup or a fresh flatbread for my lunch, like the one above. The flatbread is made from 200g flour (or wholemeal flour) and a splash of water, salt and pepper and I usually mix some chia seeds for extra protein. The mixture is kneaded and then rolled out into the desired shape and lightly toasted in a pan. I've topped this with hummus, avocado and some veggies.

Scrambled ackee bowl

Ackee is one of the most underrated 'egg' substitutes when it comes to veganism - it looks like a scrambled egg and is really creamy and filling. Ackee is, in fact, a Caribbean fruit, but it goes so well with spinach, peppers and slices of toast. I usually season my Ackee with garlic powder, onion powder and some chilli flakes for an extra kick.

Jackfruit and mushroom stroganoff with horseradish mash potato

This recipe is from one of my Simply Cook subscription boxes where they send you a spice kit to make a specific meal. Instead of using just mushrooms I've added jackfruit for extra texture and substituted a few of the ingredients to make it vegan. In fact, a lot of the Simply Cook boxes can be very easily adapted to a vegan diet.

Fajita bowl with tortilla chips

One of my favourite recipes at the moment is this fajita bowl with homemade tortilla chips. The recipe was in one of my issues of Vegan Living magazine and it is incredibly easy to make.  All you need to do is cook some peppers and red onion with chilli powder, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper with some tomato paste and then cut some large tortilla bread into triangles and bake them. There are many different recipes for this online and it's so easy to do - I've topped my bowl with some avocado and fresh coriander.

'Cream cheese' and sundried tomato sandwich

Sometimes all you need is a nice carby sandwich and my favourite one to make is a vegan cream cheese sandwich with sundried tomatoes, spinach and some balsamic. The cream cheese is made from soaked cashew nuts blended with nutritional yeast, salt, pepper and garlic and onion powder.

Chia flatbread pizza with sweet potato fries

One of my weekend staple dishes is a homemade vegan pizza - which is really easy to make and affordable too. I made the chia bread by using part flour, part water, part chia seeds and mixing them all together to make a dough and then I grill it on the hob. I then add tomato paste and all my favourite veggies. Sometimes I will also add 'tempeh bacon' made by marinating tempeh in soya sauce, paprika and maple syrup. I usually serve this with sweet potato fries or wedges and a glass of wine to celebrate the weekend.

What are your favourite vegan dishes?

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The Emotional Stages of a First Time House Buyer

Buying your first house is a life-changing decision and even with the most straightforward of applications, there are always things that pop up that you can never quite prepare for.  It's a journey full of emotions from the excitement of looking for your dream home, to the agonising and tense wait of house and mortgage offers. I always knew that applying for a mortgage wouldn't leave me skipping down the street to the bank, but I never expected it to give me the rollercoaster of emotions that it did. Today I've decided to reflect on the emotions I've had so far through my house buying process to let first time buyers know that you are not alone - it's such a momentous time in your life and it's bound to have anxiety attached to it, but also you shouldn't let this anxiety ruin your happiness because eventually you will own your dream home and it will be worth it.


The first emotion that any first-time buyer will experience is excitement. It is a very exciting time looking through houses and knowing that one of them could eventually be yours.  There's the thrill of being able to start planning your dream bedroom, bathroom and kitchen and knowing that when the house is yours, no landlord is in your way.

Self doubt

Once you've picked the house and it's time to get the mortgage, the self-doubt phase kicks in. S*** suddenly gets real and you have to be an adult and talk about complex financial decisions and prove that you're capable of managing your own money - not great when you look at your last three bank statements and realise that almost half of your wage goes on clothes shopping. You become critical of everything, analyse every fine detail and regularly ask yourself 'why would a banker trust me with a mortgage?'


Once you've had the two-hour long bank meeting,  it is a waiting game to see if your mortgage has been accepted. Even though mine was processed within the space of three days, it felt like forever. The hours creep by, you check your phone every five minutes and then Google makes you paranoid when you accidentally stubble upon forums of people discussing their failed mortgage applications. You wake up every morning thinking, will this be the day I find out?


All being well, your mortgage will have been accepted and you enjoy your temporary state of relief - the bank thinks you're good to go and you can begin to feel optimistic. You can finally pop the fizz, have a quick 'yay us' moment and after a long, tiring wait, you are able to have a good night sleep before the next section of hard work begins.


The emotions of the last few days, weeks and months finally catch up with you and you begin to feel irritable and tired, but the hard work isn't over yet. You have to make sure the solicitor is in place, liaise with the bank and make sure all the paperwork is organised from your side. You feel drained all you want is a few days curled up on the sofa watching Netflix but don't lose sight of the finish line.

Second thoughts

Buying a house is one of the biggest financial decisions you will make and something you will be paying off for a considerable time of your life (unless you're super rich), so it's normal that at some part of the process you will begin to have second thoughts. These can range from thinking the house isn't quite big enough to being worried about the location and whether it is somewhere you would still want to live in 20 years time.

Last minute panic

Once the solicitors are involved and you have your eyes on the completion date, last minute panic will set in.  It's the stage where the banks do their final checks and where you are so close to owning a home that it feels like a reality. The last-minute panic sets in as you realise the end is in sight and you don't want anything to go wrong and jeopardise it.


Right now I'm in the last minute panic stage, but I'm sure once everything is signed on the dotted line, the house is in our name and we have our own home, that the ultimate feeling will be elation. That euphoria of knowing you've done this - yes, you, the person who thought that going a month without Starbucks would be difficult or the person who never looked to the future and lived in the moment. There will definitely be a big bottle of champagne with my name on it when this is done and the process is finally over.

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Making time for the things you love with Virgin Trains on the East Coast

Life often has an annoying habit of getting in the way of the things we love, from busy work commitments to lack of money or suddenly making us feeling poorly or blue. It can be really hard to make time for the things you love when you have so many other commitments and only seven short days to fit them in.

This week I've teamed up with Virgin Trains on the East Coast to show how planning ahead can give you a head start and give you more time for the things you love. During the last week, Virgin trains on the East Coast have challenged me to work my way through my to-do list, comprising of things that I either needed to get done or have been putting off for far too long.

Booking a gym class

One of my first items on my to-do list was booking into a gym class. I've been paying for a gym membership for nearly four years which includes unlimited gym classes and I've never been to any of them. This was mainly due to my lack of confidence, but also partly due to the fact that I always forgot to book in advance and spaces would fill up. This week I booked myself into a class a few days early on my fitness class and then attended my first ever pilates class. It was fun, it really pushed me out of my comfort zone and it gave me the motivation to do a lot more of them.

Book a trip to London

The next item that I was keen to tick off my to do list was booking a trip to London. It has almost been six years since my husband and I spent the night in London and the last time we went, it was when we got engaged. Over the last few months we have been working really hard to save for a house deposit, so it was about time that we treated ourselves. We booked our tickets in advance on the Virgin Trains on the East Coast website travelling from Leeds to London and we managed to get tickets considerably cheaper than booking only a few days ahead.

Cooking from scratch

Meal prep or batch cooking is a great way to save time when you have a busy working week and something that I've been looking to do more of recently. I leave the house at 7am and usually don't get home until 7pm and I often feel too tired to cook, but I need to cook a lot from scratch due to my nutritional needs as a vegan. This week I bought lots of ingredients in advance and spent an evening cooking and freezing meals to free up space for the next few days. It felt like a big task, to begin with as I needed to cook several meals at a time, but it was great knowing that I could come home from work the night after and simply reheat my meal. I was then able to dedicate the time I freed up to blogging and even going to the gym.

Sorting out my photography

On Friday night, I spent the evening in front of the television, with a big glass of wine, printing off my travel photographs from 2017. Now we're in the digital age, most of us just keep our photographs on our phones or computers, but what happens if they break? Last year I lost a considerable amount of photographs when my hard drive broke and I was devastated. I kept telling myself that I would print off my photographs in future, but the months have crept by and until now I hadn't printed off any. Printing my travel photographs means that I have physical copies of my favourite memories and also that I can make space on my camera for more photographs of the things I love.

Spending time with loved ones

Last, but definitely not least on my to-do list was to spend much needed time with my husband. Although we live together, we rarely get to spend quality time together because we're too tired on an evening and we both have very hectic lives.  We spent Saturday having a few cocktails then went for a meal at one of our favourite restaurants and it was great to be able to have a laugh together without feeling too rundown. It also happened to be the day that we finally put an offer down on a house and it was a great distraction whilst we waited for it to be accepted...hopefully we will hear back from them soon.

How do you make time for the things you love?

*Collaborative post
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Six ways to rekindle your lost motivation

We've all been there, staring at a to-do list and not knowing where to start. It can be incredibly frustrating when you have a task to do for a specific deadline, but you cannot find the 'get go' to begin. Before you know it, the list gets bigger and what seemed like a one hour task can suddenly feel overwhelming. There are many things that can affect our motivation from juggling our workloads and problems at home to simply feeling tired or the weather making us feel cold and uninspired.

This week I'm teaming up with Virgin Trains on the East Coast* to highlight how planning ahead, such as purchasing earlier train tickets or meal prepping, can help you stay organised and free up your time to do more of the things you love, rekindling your motivation for life. Over the next week, I will be posting my daily challenges on social media and striking off my to-do list, but first, here are just a few tips to help you find the motivation to get what you need done.

Your working environment can really affect your mental health and positivity, so before you embark on your to-do list, make sure you declutter your desk space and create 'thinking room.' Hang up photographs of the things that inspire you, make note of what you would like to achieve and have space where you can spread out all your paperwork so you can see and think clearly.

Set goals
Some people work better when they have a target or a set goal to reach, so try to think of a date when you would like to have completed your work by or achieved what you are setting out to do. Think of your short and long-term life goals and write out a plan to help you get there.

Don't overdo it
Taking on too many tasks at one time can lead to stress and burnout and you're less likely to achieve what you have set out to do and if you do achieve it, your performance may be subpar. Only take on what you can handle and only take on a few tasks at a time.

Be positive
Although it can be hard at times to remain positive, always try to keep a smile on your face and surround yourself with positive people. If you have a 'can do' attitude, you're more likely to get things done.

Be inspired
Sometimes we all require a little bit of inspiration to show us that the tasks we are doing are worthwhile. Think closely about what you would like to achieve and then browse social media, the internet or books to find inspiration from people who have had similar successes.

Reward yourself

Once you have completed your goals, don't forget to reward yourself however big or small. You will work harder knowing that there's something you want at the end of the task and once you have that sense of achievement, you're more likely to do it again when you have something else you need to get done.

Do you have a long to-do list?

 *collaborative post
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