How to ‘do’ Christmas on a budget

Christmas can become a very expensive time if you’re not careful – decorations, presents, food… It soon all adds up. Here are my ideas on how to keep it simple (but still magical).

  • Make your own trimmings and decorations. Maybe not to the extent of our printed out Christmas tree and baubles, but a few paper chains and snowflakes can go a long way in making a room look festive.

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  • Set a budget for gift getting and stick to it. It makes sure everyone is treated fairly, and your bank account doesn’t get a shock. Plus, if you’re shopping online you can use cashback sites like Quidco to get money back on things you need to buy anyway.

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  • Maybe even set up a ‘secret Santa’ between friends to limit the amount of people you need to buy for. It’s still fun, and everybody will still get something, but it’s a much cheaper alternative.

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  • Bake biscuits for guests rather than buying in assorted sets. All you need is bit of flour, sugar and butter so it works out cheaper. Plus, it’s always nicer to eat some home-made baking. Check out a recipe here (if I can do it, anyone can).

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  • Shop around when it comes to buying food for Christmas dinner as offers may be on in different places. E.g. you may be able to get your bird cheaper at Aldi, your potatoes at Asda and your dessert at The Co-op – the possibilities are endless. But remember, before you buy anything you should check your cupboards for what you already have!

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Hope this helps!

Merry Christmas and happy budgeting.

Rae Coppola

 

Surviving a party knowing few people/only the host

Being quite a sociable person, I get invited out quite regularly, and sometimes end up at parties where I literally only know the host – the host who just so happens to be busy entertaining all their other guests and therefore is unable to babysit me for the entirety of the evening. It’s never nice not knowing anyone at a party, and from personal experience I know that all you want to do is sit in a corner and drink up alone until someone (hopefully) comes to rescue you. However, this is not a productive, nor fun, way to go about social gatherings.

As of this, I’ve created this little guide to help myself and hopefully other people for when they end up in similar situations.

What to wear

Make sure to ask the host about dress code, you’re already going to stand out as the newbie so it’s best to at least look the part. Male fashion is usually pretty straight forward, smart jeans and a shirt to match no matter what the occasion (obviously barring black tie ones). However, for women it varies:

  • For a typical house party: Always go for something smart casual so you look approachable and friendly – perhaps, jeans and a nice top, or denim shorts and tights. Take care with footwear as shoes may have to be taken off and you may not want to be barefoot, nor wearing socks with holes in.collage-2015-08-25 (1)
  • For a garden party: If the weather’s nice go for a ditsy dress with a denim jacket and flats (you don’t want your heels sinking into the grass!). Or if a dress is not your thing, slim fit trousers, or smart white jeans are also an option.collage-2015-08-25
  • For a party with a venue: It’s always good to make an effort for these sort of gatherings, as effort has gone into planning and hiring the venue for the occasion. I’d usually go for a smart dress, or outfit that you feel comfortable in yet still feel like you look the part, with heels of course (it’s probably one of the rare times you get to wear them).collage-2015-08-25 (2)

What to bring

  • Bring a gift for the host – this gives you an excuse to approach them and introduce yourself, hopefully with them spit-balling names at you after doing so because they’re grateful for the gift and understand you don’t know many other people in attendance.
  • If it’s a casual gathering, bring some sort of drinking game – even a pack of cards wouldn’t go a miss as it’s something that gets people grouped together and involved, regardless of how well they know each other (after never-have-I-ever that factor could change).
  • A friend – I’m always more comfortable meeting new people when I have someone familiar with me because I can relax and refer back to them in conversations to help them keep flowing.

Top Tips

  • Enjoy yourself. If you get into the mindset that the party is going to be fun, there is nothing stopping you from coming home feeling that way. You should not be worried or anxious, because the whole point of a party is to get like-minded people together, and to have a good time. Sometimes with the help of alcohol.
  • Go forth and mingle – this is the most important thing to do, there will be other people who do not know everyone and would like to make a friend to survive the party, and who knows, you may even meet someone who happens to have everything in common with you. Mingling means your social circle will get bigger, and you’ll be introduced to even more people, maybe eventually been invited to another party where you only know them as a host.
  • If all else fails – go home. It’s always polite to show your face, but if it’s not your scene you can always leave with the sense of achievement that you’ve tried something new.

Good luck

Rae Coppola

8 ways to make the most of your NUS/NUS EXTRA card

Written by me as a guest blogger for Student Money Saver: http://www.studentmoneysaver.co.uk/article/8-ways-to-make-the-most-of-your-nusnus-extra-card/

What is an NUS/NUS Extra Card?

An NUS discount card is nationally recognised and opens students up to more than 170 discounts both online and in-store. These discounts are for the likes of: Topshop, Apple, Frankie & Benny’s, and even the cinema (see their website for the full up to date list). You can have access to all of the above, providing you can verify your eligibility as a student.


How can I get one?

One of the perks to having an NUS affiliated University is that your student card has a unique code and expiry date. However, if like me, you’re not so lucky, you can still get your hands on one for £12 a year – a price that I’ve definitely made up from the savings it gave me access to. Statistics even show you can save around £500 if you make the investment.


To get the most out of your NUS card, use these simple tips:

1. Always ask if places do student discount

Try to get into the habit of asking when you’re at the till, or even when shopping online. You have nothing to lose since it’s common knowledge that students need to be savvy to afford to live. Sometimes high end places that you assumed would not offer the extra money off, such as House of Fraser, actually do and you can grab yourself a bargain.

2. Download the Unidays app

The app posts and sends out e-mails about boosted student discount offers e.g. Topshop offering 20% off rather than the usual 10%. It’s always handy to check what offers are on, and sometimes to wait until the boosted discount is on to buy things you are not desperate for, or are a tad on the expensive side.

3. Follow @nusextra on Twitter

The company treats all cardholders well, regularly tweeting about prize giveaways for those with a valid NUS code, and therefore giving them the opportunity to win cash sums and goodies simply by following the link and entering their log on details. What do you have to lose?

4. You can even get a discount on sale items

The Arcadia group for example, let you save student discount on top of sale prices, meaning that not only do you catch a bargain, you in fact get it even cheaper, especially if there is a boosted discount event on. That’s as good an excuse as any to come home with a ridiculous amount of bags and a healthy-ish bank account (or overdraft).

5. When online shopping use SMS!

As well as being able to use your NUS code, you may find a code for free delivery or an even better discount than the one your student card has to offer. If you’re lucky, the checkout will allow you to use more than one code at once, and you can get a product for next to nothing. We keep all our discounts up to date here.

6. If you want fast food, go to McDonalds

If you show a valid NUS card in store you can get a free Hamburger, Cheeseburger or McFlurry with any purchase of an Extra Value meal or Deli meal. Alternatively, with your card you can get free medium fries with a Big Mac or McChicken sandwich.

7. Use it to get a railcard

You can enjoy an exclusive 11% discount on the cost of a 16-25 rail card with NUS extra. This means that you’ll get a third off all rail travel for an even lesser price – providing you didn’t opt for a Santander student account (which gives them out for free!). With the money you’ll be saving on travel it’s no hassle to visit old sixth-form or college friends, take the occasional trip home, or even travel to visit new friends hometowns.

8. Going travelling? Upgrade your card

For the mere price of £1.99, the ISIC upgrade turns your NUS Extra card into an International Student Identity card. This allows you to access to over 40,000 discounts worldwide including travel, accommodation and days out. It’s definitely worth it if you’re going to be spending lots of time abroad.

If this doesn’t sway you, I don’t know what will. What are you waiting for? Get your NUS Extra card today and become a #savvystudent.

Rae Coppola

Quidco: Get Paid to Shop

I love QuidcoBeing known to be no stranger to online shopping, I must spend a ridiculous amount of money online every year from the comfort of my own bedroom and in the comfort of my pyjamas. I’ve always thought of myself to be savvy, using Unidays and HotUKDeals to get extra discounts and free delivery codes, but it was friends and family that recommended me to join Quidco.

With thousands of retailers to choose from, whether it be online, via an app or in store, Quidco makes making money from buying things hassle free. The website tracks your purchases securely and allows customers to earn cashback every time they shop.  Although most retailers offer low cashback rates, usually around 1-5 per cent, it soon adds up. The rates are sometimes even boosted for limited periods of time, so that, paired with already Screen Shot 06-18-15 at 10.17 PMexisting vouchers means that it’s easy to save money. You just have to remember to go through the Quidco website to visit a retailer or else the cashback won’t take effect as the company will not be making the commission that allows them to pay you.

Another feature of the website is the option to ‘activate’ in-store cashback offers. By activating them and registering your card, you boost the value of the cashback from let’s say 2 per cent, to 20. Then upon using your card to make a payment at a Quidco affiliated high street retailer, the money will automatically be tracked to your account. This means that you won’t lose out on money from going physically shopping, and in fact may make more – potentially enough to cover petrol money or the cost of parking up!

Cashback websites are becoming more and more popular, unsurprisingly enough, and although I’ve only ever used Quidco there are other cashback sites out there that you can use such as moneysavingexpert.com’s top pick TopCashBack, but be weary of unknown brands as they may not be as secure.

It really is a win win situation, so don’t hold your breath signing up for free money, I regret waiting as long as I did to start saving.

Rae Coppola

NUS Extra: Pointless?

I’ve always liked a challenge and my latest one has been finding and getting student discount deals without purchasing an NUS card – the joys of a student budget.

How would one do this, may you ask? 

As a student, I simply use my university ID card rather than spending the yearly rate for an NUS extra card. So11006122_10206189367395444_1376799860_n long as the ID proves the customer to be a student and shows a photo, there is no reason why any retail chain offering the discount would say no. Unless, of course, they’re picky and intent on ruining your day, merely because the card does not have an expiry date.

I’ve found having a Unidays app and online account too to be a godsend. The website allows students to verify their university/college/sixth-form status and receive codes to enter into their online shopping baskets for discount. Also, the app has an expiry code, so it’s simple to beat the system and show shop workers that and the QR code, thus getting the discount you deserve and almost missed out on.

Image taken from https://btcgc.co.uk/shop/arcadia-gift-card/
https://btcgc.co.uk/shop/arcadia-gift-card/

Shops from the Arcadia group like Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, etc even allow student discount on top of sale items, and randomly boost the discounts so students save even more. To keep savvy shoppers in the loop about these ‘boost’ events, Unidays’ kindly sends emails and regularly updates its website. Like I said before, godsend!

As forgetful as I am, I have learnt that it’s always worth asking if a shop offers student discount. You have nothing to lose, and a potential bargain to gain so it’s worth remembering.

Fingers crossed you’ll be as lucky as I was and find what you were looking for, in the sale, when there just so happens to be a boosted discount on.

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Happy hunting!

Rae Coppola