1. 5 Of The Best... Family Finance Resources for Money Savvy Mums

    Tuesday, June 9, 2009

    In the midst of this "credit crunch" we are all looking at ways of cutting back, saving money and generally being careful with our finances.

    As money-savvy mums, we cut back on luxuries; turn lights off when we leave the room and cross our fingers hoping we won't be affected by the rise in unemployment.

    But there are many ways we can take control of the family finances, effectively "recession-proofing" ourselves and learning to live happily for less.

    In this article, I'll cover 5 of my favourite "personal finance" resources for money concious families which offer friendly and impartial advice to help us take control of our finances.

    Money Saving Expert

    Since its launch in 2003, Martin Lewis' Money Saving Expert has become the most popular resource for personal finance in the UK.
    The average person in the UK can give themselves the equivalent of a25% payrise, by being an active, savvy consumer and shifting to thevery best deals; this site's here to show you how.
    Featuring articles which cover everything from the latest credit card deals to the cheapest family outings, this site has something on offer to help every family save money without cutting back on enjoyment.

    A key aspect of MoneySavingExpert is "consumer revenge". As Martin explains:

    The underlying philosophy is that we live in an adversarial consumer society...
    A company's job is to make money. A consumer's job is maximise their cash. Companies spend billions on advertising, marketing & teaching their staff to sell; yet we don't get buyers' training.
    We want to redress the balance.
    Using information provided by the site (and the knowledgeable MSE community), thousands of readers have successfully reclaimed PPI and bank charges; saved hundreds each year by switching to the best deals for utility bills, and learned how to successfully get out of debt.

    The community of Money Saving Expert is truly wonderful. In the forums, you can ask advice about virtually anything related to finance and will almost certainly find someone willing to offer their advice. There are even sections for thrifty gardeners, frugal families and grocery shopping on tiny budgets.

    Finally, Martin's Money Tips e-newsletter is one which I recommend every parent receives. This weekly email collects the week's most important financial news and timely discounts and is sent to over 3 million subscribers. With the summer holidays approaching, we're bound to get news of discounted days out, family-friendly activities and even budget holidays.

    Visit Money Saving Expert

    The Money Magpie

    The Money Magpie was started in 2007 by Jasmine Birtles: a finance journalist, author and presenter.

    This site is focused more upon helping visitors make (and save) money by becoming savvy consumers:

    We have up to date information on hundreds of ways to earn a bit onthe side and boost your income - and more are being added every week.

    But there’s no point in earning extra money if you’re wasting itelsewhere, so we also have a wealth of information on best-buyfinancial products, plus heaps of articles to help you be a cleverconsumer and make the most of your money.
    Families can enjoy a whole section of articles to help save money, including this lengthy post which offers 50 useful ideas.

    Email subscribers can receive a free weekly newsletter containing a round-up of the best money saving tips, plus a free ebook and downloads to help manage family finances.

    Jasmine Birtles has recently published The Money Magpie in book format, which I will be reviewing for Glamumous readers tomorrow. This book is a collection of all the best advice from the site and offers a structured long term plan for future finance happiness.

    Visit The Money Magpie

    This is Not Work

    This inegnious site offers time and money saving tips to "sort our your finances in your lunch break".

    Written by Richard Browning - the development editor of consumer advice site, This Is Money - this site is aimed primarily at time-concious parents, you can find a new short tip each day to help save money on family expenses:
    I devised This is Not Work as a place for people - primarily parents - to share some of my quick tips and thoughts on making life that little bit easier.

    While there are a lot of websites, blogs and discussion forums for people to while away the hours making 'friends' online and sharing tips and information, this is the one for those of us who haven't got hours.
    You can also follow This is Not Work on Twitter to receive updates and information as it is posted to the site.

    Visit This is Not Work

    Love Money

    Love Money is an "everyday" financial website, provided by the brains behind The Motley Fool. It offers down-to-earth articles which can help you feel richer and become wiser about your finances.
    We believe that you should care for your money, keep an eye on it,and do everything you can to help it grow. In return, your money willlook after you and be the fuel that allows you to live your life theway you want.

    How can we help you make this happen? By givingyou the tools to create real and lasting change in your life.lovemoney.com isn't just a finance news site or a product comparisonsite. It's a place where you can learn from experts, share yourexperiences and ideas, improve your money skills with easy onlinetools, and focus on personalised content hand-picked for you.
    One of the best aspects of LoveMoney comes from registering with the site: members have access to a personalized "home page" featuring articles and the best deals most applicable to you and your family.

    Updated at least every day, the site covers financial affairs as and when they happen on the blogs, and helps families discover ways and means to manage money more efficiently without using jargon, making it easy to understand.

    LoveMoney also offers a comprehensive Q&A section where members can ask financial questions which are answered by the LoveMoney community.

    Visit Love Money

    Get Rich Slowly

    This US-based site offers some very thought provoking articles about saving money and getting rich - slowly!

    While some articles discuss finance options most appropriate to those living in the states, I absolutely love the style of the articles written on this site. These are posts which make us think about how we choose to spend our money, and how we can learn to live on less money without feeling as though we are missing out.
    You will not find any get-rich-quick schemes here. Nor will you findmulti-level marketing fads or hot stock tips. I am not pitching anyproduct or book. Instead, you’ll find daily information about personalfinance and related topics.
    To learn about the core values which Get Rich Slowly represents, take a look at the about page which offers a complete overview of the site along with JD's 12 personal finance mantras.

    Visit Get Rich Slowly

    Which sites would you add here?

    For this article I limited my additions to the 5 personal finance sites I visit the most. However, as this recession deepens and saving money has become a concern for many more parents in the UK, I've also discovered several highly interesting blogs such as Reccessionista (UK), Miss Thrifty and Shoestring Alley (I couldn't write this article completely without mentioning these excellent sites!).

    Are there any other sites you visit regularly which offer advice for money-savvy mums? Please feel free to let us know by leaving your comments below.

    Image credit: Money Shot by Jessica Shannon.
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  2. Save Time and Money on Laundry Days

    Monday, June 8, 2009
    Of all the cleaning we undertake as mothers, laundry is by far the most expensive task. Not to mention time consuming!

    Bombarded with advertisements for the latest dirt-busting detergents and a never-ending pile of laundry, we often lose track of how to keep track of our pennies and buy into expensive ideas which claim to save us time (but don't necessarily save us money). Uniforms need to be ready for school; shirts must be ironed in time forwork; baby clothes are constantly being changed, and (what with all themess created by the rest of the family) mums just need something towear!

    So in this post I'll share some ideas for how we can save money and time on laundry days, whether you set aside a particular day for all your washing or (like me) choose to run a load through the washing machine each day.

    Organize clothes and wash less often

    Whenever possible, sort clothes and other washable items by colour as soon as they need washing and encourage your family to do so too! Those laundry hampers with sections for colours and whites are wonderful (though expensive); having two or three cheap laundry baskets to hand is just as useful. This saves time sorting through clothes whenever you need to put on a load, and also prevents colour leeking from your non-colourfast red socks onto those expensive Egyptian cotton towels...

    By organizing loads in advance, you can ensure you only wash clothes when there is a full load of washing. This saves money too, since you'd use more energy for 2-3 small loads than for a single full load on the same cycle (and probably more detergent/softener too!).

    Use less detergent for each load...

    Unless your clothes are very heavily soiled, you can get away with using half (or even less) of the recommended dose of detergent.

    I prefer to use washing powder tablets, and use only one per full cycle of washing (whereas two or more are recommended on the pack). For very dirty clothes, I add half a cup of washing soda - which works out cheaper than that second tablet - which is sufficient to get rid of most everyday stains too!

    Boxes of powder may seem cheaper on the shelves, but unless you're really frugal and careful with measuring for each load, you could actually use more than when paying a little extra for tablets. Supermarket own-brands (and also budget/unknown brands from local shops) usually work just as well as their branded counterparts. Go for these cheaper options which enables you to spend a little extra on luxury softener to make your laundered clothes smell and feel wonderful instead.

    ... Or make your own detergent!

    I found this wonderful article over at The Family Homestead which explains how to make your own laundry detergent. According to the author, this works out at around 71 cents (about 45p) per batch, which can clean 64 loads of washing!

    That's less than 1p per wash, far far cheaper per load than even the cheapest budget brand washing powder!

    Use white vinegar instead of fabric softener

    An oldie, but a goodie, white vinegar works out a far cheaper solution than buying fabric softener. Simply add a slug in place of your fabric conditioner in the detergent drawer and your clothes will come out soft and fluffy. Even better, the vinegar helps stop the build-up of limescale in your machine (and is also a cheaper solution to the de-scaling products on sale for our washing machines and dishwashers).

    Don't worry about the smell - surprisingly clothes will not smell of vinegar when they come out of the wash cycle! The only down-side is that they won't smell of lovely expensive fabric conditioner either...

    Pre-treat stains with a home-made solution

    Don't pay through the nose for expensive pre-wash treatments - they really aren't worth the money!

    You can make your own by filling a spray bottle 4/5ths full of water, then top up with cheap washing up liquid. Shake to mix well, then spray this solution onto the problem areas and leave to soak in before washing as normal.

    For really tough stains, check out this huge page of stain-removal solutions which covers everything from mud to blood, grass stains, red wine and even tea.

    Wash on the shortest, coldest cycle

    During a wash cycle, the heating of water uses the highest percentage of electricity.

    There really is no need to wash at the maximum recommended temperature for your fabrics unless the items are really badly soiled. Turn the thermostat to 30 degrees (or even less if you can bear it). You could save up to 40% in energy per wash cycle (depending how high your usual temperature).

    Similarly, use the shortest cycle you can for everyday cleaning. Your clothes will still come out clean as the invigoration does most of the hard work, not the amount of time your clothes are immersed in water!

    Wash your delicates in the shower

    Our delicate underwear should really be hand-washed, but I'm sure many of you bunk your smalls in with the main washing load simply to save time...

    The trouble with this is that delicates can lose their shape and colour; they don't last as long when washed so rigorously.

    Instead, take your smalls in with you when you shower, and wash gently with your favourite shower gel or a little soap. This saves a lot of time and makes your underwear smell as gorgeous as you do!

    Dry clothes on a washing line

    Tumble dryers are a godsend when time is short, but these use up so much electricity to heat and dry our clothes (even the energy efficient versions).

    If it's not raining and you have some outdoor space, save yourself the cost of electricity and dry your clothes outside. I'm not sure exactly how much money this will save, but trust me, it's a lot! Clothes can dry very quickly on a line, even when it's not sunny, and smell fresher too.

    Use "Dryer Balls"

    A while back, there was quite a craze for Dryer Balls which increase air circulation in the tumble dryer, helping clothes to dry more quickly and feel softer without the use of fabric conditioner or tumble dryer sheets.

    I personally held off buying them for a while, but when I saw these on offer in Poundland (the actual branded variety, not a cheap knock-off!) I couldn't resist trying them out.

    Ladies, these do work! I'd guess it knocked about a quarter off drying times and made our towels very fluffy indeed. If you spot them on offer, try them for yourself! The RRP of £9.99 seems a tad expensive to me, but I'm told they're often found in budget stores and Wilkinsons for far less.

    Iron clothes while slightly damp

    Remove clothes from the washing line/tumble dryer to iron while still slightly damp: they take far less time to iron!

    If you give clothes a good shake before hanging out on the line (especially on windy days) there will be less creases to iron out. Also, take clothes out of the dryer as soon as the cycle is done and shake while still warm to minimize creases and ironing.

    Invest in an enery efficient washing machine

    I know washing machines are expensive and a purchase we prefer not to make unless absolutely nescessary. But if you're using an age-old washing machine you could be wasting pounds of electricity each year! Energy efficiency is measured on a scale of A through to E, where A offers the best possible efficiency (and uses far less electricity per cycle). Such machines may cost more for the initial purchase but do make up in saved electricity bills in the long run.

    Final thoughts

    I hope these tips can help you save a little time and money on laundry days! If you have any tips of your own to share, please feel free to leave your comments below and I'll update this article complete with accreditation to your own blog or site.

    Image credits: "Better than TV" by BrianU; Spin Cycle by B Rosen; Washing Line by Steve9091. All via Flickr Creative Commons.
    Continue reading »
  3. Looking for fun family activities this weekend?

    Saturday, June 6, 2009
    Now that summer is finally here and the long school holidays are approaching, you may well be looking out for some entertaining activities or information about family holidays.

    Over at Have A Lovely Time, you can read reports of events, days out and holiday destinations which are written by parents, for parents!
    This blog will report on places we have been and things we have seenwhile out and about with our children, in the hope of helping youdecide where would be a lovely place to go.
    As parents, we love to read about the real experiences of families with children. Brochures, newspaper reports and the like tend to sell us the information we'd like to hear, not the truth about what it's like to visit a theme park, holiday location or event with children in tow.

    The journalists of Have a Lovely Time are real parents who offer the truth and their own recommendations. You can also find entertainment reviews and fun activities for your family to enjoy at home. As the title suggests, this site is all about having a lovely time, no matter where our families may be.

    This month, I have contributed a monthly round-up of news and events of interest to parents which Linda has kindly published on site. Find out about the Tales of the Road campaign, which helps children learn about road safety; discover some great events happening around the UK this June (including a festival of extreme arts and celebrations of Henry VIII's ascension to the throne), and even learn about special offers and discounts to help your family save money while having a great time.

    Be sure to visit Have a Lovely Time soon to read about loads of great days out, news and opinions, and holiday experiences which are written with family in mind.

    Image credit: peasap
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  4. Win a Copy of Christine Hill's Pregnancy Guide!

    Thursday, June 4, 2009
    Are you expecting or planning a baby? Perhaps you know someone who is?

    Ebury Publishing has kindly offered 10 copies of Christine Hill's Pregnancy Guide to give away in a competition for Glamumous readers!

    Christine Hill has over 25 years experience with ante and post-natal classes and has worked with over 5000 mothers during her extensive career. She is London's most sought-after pregnancy guru and as a mother herself, she knows a lot about the concerns, anxieties and questions asked by expectant mothers during pregnancy.

    After reviewing this guide for Glamumous readers, I can honestly say this is the most reassuring and informative book about pregnancy that I have had the pleasure to read. Christine Hill's Pregnancy Guide is like having a medically-qualified best friend who will explain the truth about your pregnancy in a straightforward, easy to understand manner; she dispels myths and cuts through the fog of information overload to offer the answers you really want to know.

    The book is divided into fourteen short chapters which cover everything from your reactions upon discovering you are pregnant to ante-natal classes, possible medical issues and what really happens during labour. There is even a chapter specifically for fathers which assists understanding of how our men can help us through pregnancy and birth!

    How to Enter

    This competition is offered as a prize draw for all UK-based Glamumous readers (sorry I'm unable to offer these prizes to those living outside the UK).

    To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment below with your name and a link to your blog/website or your email address (so I can contact you if you are one of the lucky winners).

    Only one entry per person please! Multiple comments by the same person will count as only one entry.

    Entry to this competition will close at 8pm BST on the 18th of June 2009.

    Winners will be drawn at random from the names submitted in the comments (complete with photographic evidence to ensure impartiality) and will be announced here on Glamumous on the 19th of June. I will contact each winner personally for more details so we can send out your free copies of this excellent guide.


    Feel free to comment using any identity you choose (such as your Google profile, Open ID, Name/URL or Anonymous).

    Please be sure to leave your name and blog/website URL or email address in your comment so I can contact you if you are one of the lucky winners! If you don't have a website (or means of contacting you through your site) please leave your email address in the following format (or similar):

    name [at] domain [dot] com

    Do not simply type your email address in the regular way (such as myname@email-account.com) as this could leave you susceptible to spammers collecting your address!

    *This competition is open to UK residents only*

    More information

    Christine Hill's Pregnancy Guide will be available from all good book stores, direct from the publisher, and from Amazon.co.uk from the 11th of June 2009.

    To learn more about Christine Hill and this excellent pregnancy book, please visit the official book page or read through my comprehensive book review.

    Please help spread the word!

    If you know of anyone else who may be interested to win a copy of Christine Hill's Pregnancy Guide, please let them know about this competition. I'd be very grateful for any Tweets, links or social media votes to help others find out about this prize draw!

    Wishing the best of luck to everyone who enters!
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  5. Get a Free Personalized Father's Day Card (Pay only 50p postage!)

    With Father's Day only a few weeks away (the 21st of June), I thought I'd let you all know about a great deal from BonusPrint (in conjunction with The Mirror) which enables us to get a free personalized Father's Day card that includes a photo upload and personalized message.

    This offer is for the A5 sized card (not the smallest) and carries only the charge for postage: 50p.

    To get your free personalized Father's Day card, simply head over to the Bonusprint offer page which contains the promotional code for this offer (write it down as you'll need this during checkout).

    Be sure to choose the A5 size card to qualify for the offer, then upload your photo and personalize to your liking. There is a selection available to add a border around your image, which helps the design look more like a Father's Day card (choose Border>Father's Day and select from the two available alternatives).

    Until you reach checkout, it will appear that the total cost of your card is £1.50. However once you've filled in your details you'll be able to enter your promotional code to reduce the total cost (including postage) down from £2.00 to just 50p.

    This is a time sensitive offer which ends at Midnight on the 9th of June!

    I've just created a special card from our youngest to her Daddy - she explained exactly which photo we should use and what she wanted to say in the card to make it a truly personal one :)

    Hope you will enjoy this free offer too!

    Thanks goes to MoneySavingExpert for news about this offer.

    Image credit: renaissancechambara
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  6. Christine Hill's Pregnancy Guide (Book Review)

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009
    These days we are awed by the sheer number of books available to us, and it's difficult to choose something relevant to our needs. As parents, we are limited in the time we can spend reading, and as frugal families we cannot afford to spend on books we may later find irrelevant. So each Wednesday, I aim to review a book on a range of subjects from parenting guides to home-making, fashion/beauty and cookbooks which are most relevant for fabulous, frugal mums!

    Are you pregnant or planning a baby? Perhaps you know someone who is?

    Chances are, if you're expecting a baby you'd appreciate some sound and down-to-earth advice about what to expect though those nine months and how to adapt to the many changes you'll experience.

    This is where Christine Hill's incredibly useful guide comes into play...

    A Bit About Christine Hill

    A physiotherapist with a postgraduate degree in paediatrics and obstetrics, Christine has worked all her life with mothers and babies. She is one of London's most sought after pregnancy and ante-natal gurus who has attended more than 5000 mothers during her career.

    Most importantly she is also a mother, having given birth to three (now grown up) children. Drawing upon her professional and personal experiences she has produced this guide to offer realistic advice for expectant mothers in regard to the subjects we'd really like to know more about!

    "This is a book about you"

    As Christine states in the introduction:
    Unlike other pregnancy books, this book is about you - managing a pregnant life and giving birth - rather than about the miracle of your developing baby.
    From the very start, it is apparent that this book is unlikely to be anything like any other pregnancy guide you may have read. Christine gets straight to the point, presenting her advice in a straightforward and easy to understand manner, covering those aspects of pregnancy which we would really like to know about but are often afraid to ask.

    Even sensitive subjects such as our natural (and often unexpected) feelings upon discovering we are pregnant and how to deal with haemorrhoids are covered in this guide, alongside practical advice about how we should look after ourselves (both physically and mentally), and where we can turn for support when we need it.

    Practical, Reassuring Advice

    While reading through this Pregnancy Guide, I virtually felt as though a medically qualified best friend had written this book for me.

    This guide is unlike any other pregnancy book I have encountered: it offers the truth about pregnancy, the good and bad aspects of this experience, and through it all this guide manages to reassure us that all we experience through these nine months of change is perfectly normal.

    For example, Chapter 3 covers Antenatal Care and (possible) Medical Problems, including details of all tests we may ge given as expectant mothers. At no point does this chapter lapse into unintelligable medical jargon! Throughout the information is provided in a friendly, easily digestible manner which undoubtedly reassures us about all aspects of potential medical issues with our pregnancies.

    Those of you who are already mothers may - like me - have felt confused and overwhelmed at times during ante-natal sessions when it seems even the most sympathetic midwives can become tongue tied when explaining medical issues to the uninitiated! I personally learned far more from this book than through either of my pregnancies, because everything explained is so darn easy to understand!

    What is Covered in this Guide?

    Christine Hill's Pregnancy Guide is divided into 14 chapters, which are organized (as Christine states in the introduction) in "loose chronological order".

    Beginning with an overview of immediate issues relevant for anyone who has just discovered they are pregnant, through to an explanation of what to expect during labour and the birth of your baby, these chapters explain everything you need - and want - to know about through the varing stages of pregnancy. However, there are certain issues we like to be aware of early on, such as possible complications and organizing ourselves in plenty of time before baby arrives. These are dealt with in earlier chapters than may be expected, intended to help us prepare for the unexpected while retaining a sense of control through knowledge.

    Here is a brief explanation of chapters covered in this guide:

    Introduction: I'm pregnant for the first time. Help!

    This introductory chapter offers calm and reassuring advice for those who have just discovered their pregnancy and are dealing with emotional issues of their change in physical circumstance.

    Chapter 1: Immediate Issues

    In this chapter, we are presented with practical advice such as working out for sure when baby is due and making important decisions about the future.

    Chapter 2: Birth Issues

    Here we are presented with considerations for the birth and antenatal care, some of which need to be acknowledged very early on in our pregnancies.

    Chapter 3: Antenatal Care and Medical Problems

    This chapter offers an overview of the different types of antenatal care we can consider, plus information about all the different medical tests and possible medical problems we may encounter throuh pregnancy with honest and clear advice.

    Chapter 4: Work Issues

    Christine understands the issues working women face when discovering they are pregnant. From advice about when to inform superioirs and colleagues of our pregnancy to learning how to dress to accomodate our changing shapes, this section covers anything and everything you may like to know about work when expecting a baby.

    Chapter 5: Getting Organized

    Making preparations for the new baby is a key aspect of most expectant mother's concerns. In this chapter, we learn about the things we really need to buy for our babies; deciding whether or not to breastfeed, and how to find someone who will look after us (enabling us to concentrate on our new-found duties as a mum).

    Chapter 6: Thinking Ahead about Labour

    Rather than be blissfully inorant of what to expect during labour, Christine encourages us to consider what will happen, and how we can deal with labour well in advance of the occasion.

    Chapter 7: Well Meant Advice (and Dire Warnings!)

    As any mother will explain, when pregnant we are offered advice from every corner of our world (friends, family, and even strangers in the supermarket!). This chapter helps dispel unnescessary concerns, and offers clear informed advice about how we should conduct ourselves with regard to health through pregnancy months.

    Chapter 8: Muscles and Bones

    The most drastic changes to our bodies during pregnancy are to our muscles and pelvic region. Christine offers explanations of these changes, with practical information to ensure our pregnancies are more comfortable (and less physically damaging) such as pelvic floor exercises and safe practise for lifting heavy objects.

    Chapter 9: Pregnancy Related Irritations and Changes in Your Body

    The physical changes we experience through pregnancy affect us in many ways. From sickness to sleeplessness and everything between, this chapter explains what can happen, why it happens, and how best to deal with the discomforts of pregnancy.

    Chapter 10: Last Lap of Pregnancy

    Those last few weeks before baby is born are a time when expectant mums feel at their lowest ebb. This chapter acknowledges our feelings, sensations of tiredness and discomfort, and helps us prepare both emotionally and practically for the imminent birth of our babies.

    Chapter 11: How Labour Begins

    This chapter offers information of what to expect during those first stages of labour, and what we can do at home to soothe and prepare ourselves for the birth.

    Chapter 12: Labour Continues... And Possible Pain Relief

    Here Christine presents concise information about possible pain relief, including the pros and cons for each of the different methods available to us.

    Chapter 13: Second Stage - The Actual Birth

    In this chapter we are presented with reassuring advice about both vaginal and caesarean deliveries, including what we can expect and the aftermath of birth.

    Chapter 14: Fathers

    This chapter is specifically aimed at fathers whose wife or partner is soon to be giving birth, and covers issues such as arranging paternity leave, helping mums through pregnancy and labour, and how to organize the home after the birth.

    Conclusion: You as a New Mother

    This short final chapter addresses concerns many new mums experience soon after their baby is born, again reassuring mums that their feelings are entirely normal and supplemented with advice to help everything run more smoothly.

    What I love most about this book

    By presenting advice in a manner which is friendly but straightforward, Christine cuts through the fog of information overload. She is adamant from the start that we should always keep an open mind throughout the course of our pregnancies. Rather than prescribe a course of action and experience every woman should follow, she offers advice and information that enables us to make choices that are particularly relevant for our individual needs.

    Facts and figures are quoted often throughout this guide, which was an aspect of reading I did not expect. Unusually, this does not make us feel that we are numbers in a system: contextually these numbers are extremely reassuring. By providing facts in a friendly manner this enables us to feel we are not alone in our experience of issues relating to pregnancy and our experiences of childbirth. Such information provide details of what we would like to know, but may not understand how to ask questions to receive the answers we seek.

    I particularly enjoyed reading through Chapter 3 (regarding antenatal care and possible medical conditions) because this section offered clear and easy to digest information which I personally felt was lacking in my experience of both pregnancies. I truly appreciate how Christine deals with issues which many women are frightened or nervous to acknowledge in a friendly yet professional manner.

    Final Thoughts on Christine Hill's Pregnancy Guide

    When I was first offered Christine Hill's Pregnancy Guide for review, I must admit I was a little apprehensive about my possible enjoyment of this book. I'm already a mum (having experienced two very different pregnancies) and was very curious to find out what this guide could offer that I didn't already know.

    Any concerns were dispelled upon reading only the introduction. Christine Hill's tone is more like that of a best friend, one who explains the truth about pregnancy, and who approaches the subject in a manner absent from other pregnancy books I have read: she answers all the questions which are truly relevant for expectant mums!

    This is not a book which will explain every detail of the stages of pregnancy and how your baby develops through each month; nor is this a book filled with medical jargon which causes us to have more questions for our midwives than before we had started. Instead, this book could well be the most important and informative guide you could hope to read through your pregnancy, whether you are expecting your first child or your fourth!

    Christine Hill's Pregnancy Guide will be published by Vermillion on the 11th of June and is currently available for pre-order from Amazon.co.uk.

    Stay tuned for details of a forthcoming competition where you could win your own copy of this excellent and informative book!
    Continue reading »
  7. 5 of the Best... Sponsored Survey Sites to Earn Rewards in your Spare Time

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009
    A couple of weeks ago I published an article explaining the easiest ways to supplement your family income. One of the easiest ways to earn a little extra cash or rewards is to take part in sponsored surveys. These sites enable us to voice our opinions and assist marketing departments to develop products and services which are of more interest to us, while at the same time earning a few extra pounds or reaping the benefits of rewards.

    I've been actively completing sponsored surveys for about 6 weeks now and have earned a fair bit in cash and vouchers for my time. Sponsored surveys are ideal for busy mums and dads as these usually take only 15-20 minutes to complete (some even less), enabling us to participate when we have a few minutes spare.

    In today's post, I'll share my five favourite sites for sponsored surveys which I feel offer the best rewards for our time and actively allow us to contribute our opinions on products and services of interest to parents with children.

    1. Toluna

    By far my favourite (and most active) sponsored survey site is Toluna. I receive at least 3-4 emails notifying me of new surveys every day of the week, and have earned enough to cash in a £10 Amazon voucher less than a month after joining!

    Toluna offers a rewards based system, and emails members fitting the criteria required for surveys when new opportunities are available. Surveys generally earn between 900 and 5000 points for successful completion, depending on the length it takes to complete.

    Points earned can then be exchanged for vouchers redeemable at Amazon, Halfords, HMV, Love2Shop and many more reward partners besides. To give you an idea of the points required to earn vouchers, I earned a total of 60,000 points (in just over a month) which I exchanged for a £10 Amazon voucher.

    To help earn extra points, Toluna offers a number of benefits for it's members. Quick surveys can earn between 15 and 120 points each, and take literally seconds to complete (there are hundreds to choose from too!). These Quick Surveys are available on the Toluna Website once you have successfully logged in. Furthermore, each personal interest survey you complete earns 300 points with an extra bonus of 2000 points when you complete them all.

    Learn more about Toluna and sign up

    2. Ciao Surveys

    Ciao has recently improved the survey system (which is now separate from the general Ciao reviews site). Offering monetary rewards, Ciao will email eligible members about new surveys when they are available.

    Each survey earns between 10p and £3, depending on the survey type and estimated length of completion. It could be possible to earn in excess of £20 a month with Ciao (though I confess to having earned only £11 last month). Payment is made via PayPal, and you can request to cash out at any time.

    Learn more about Ciao Surveys or sign up

    3. Pinecone

    Pinecone is held in high regard as one of the most rewarding and influential sites offering sponsored surveys. Unfortunately it is also the most difficult to register with. Periodically, Pinecone opens to new survey applicants and allows members to post banners which link to the sign-up page for a certain length of time, restricting an influx of applicants to only a few targeted new members.

    Surveys are very interesting and usually last about 20-30 minutes each. In return, you can be rewarded with "Luncheon Vouchers" to the total of £2-3 for each survey completed, which can be redeemed at loads of leading restaurants, fast-food outlets and takeaways.

    If you are interested in joining Pinecone, the best method is to Google Pinecone to see which sites are offering current banners for new applicants (this was how I was able to sign up). It may take a day or two for your membership to be approved, after which you will receive confirmation and emails linking to new surveys suitable for your profile when available.

    Learn more about Pinecone Research

    4. PanelBase

    This is another highly rewarding site though I personally receive news of new surveys less often than with other membership sites.

    Many of the surveys offered by PanelBase are hihly interactive, including video and audio based research. The average reward for surveys is about £1.25, and most last under 20 minutes.

    Panelbase seem much more concerned with security than other survey sites I have used, ensuring we feel more secure when completing surveys where sensitive information may be revealed (and even while logging in!). For me, this is a key aspect of my enjoyment when completing surveys, and I do highly recommend this site for those hoping to earn rewards from consumer research opportunities.

    Learn more about Panelbase or sign up

    5. Valued Opinions

    I personally receive about 5-7 emails informing of new surveys each week from Valued Opinions who rewards for successful completion of market research surveys which can be redeemed for vouchers with Valued Opinions' reward partners (including Tesco, HMV, Marks and Spencer and more). Most surveys offer between 25p and £2 for each survey completed, though it seems to take a while for rewards to be credited to our accounts.

    Valued Opinions again offer interesting surveys using different types of media (some of which are flash-based surveys offering a different perspective on the regular "choose your opinion" style). These surveys seem less "in-demand", so don't worry if you are unable to check your emails each day - you're still likely to be able to complete a survey before the allotted number of members have completed the opportunity.

    Find out more about Valued Opinions and sign up

    Tips for earning rewards from Market Research Surveys

    If you hope to earn some significant rewards from participating in market research surveys, here are some quick tips:
    • Try to check your email at least once a day for news of new surveys. Some surveys are time sensitive or require only a limited number of participants. If you don't get in early, you may miss out.
    • Don't be put off if you receive the message that you do not qualify for the survey after a number of questions. Researchers usually require responses from a particular range of people, based on age, gender, location and such. Most survey sites offer a different reward (such as entry into a prize draw) for those who do not qualify.
    • Try to keep note of which surveys you completed to ensure you receive your rewards. Some sites only reward members when surveys are completed (up to 3-4 weeks). If you feel your rewards have not been received, you'll need to provide details of what you have completed in order to claim these rewards back.
    • Be honest! It is important to offer your honest opinion and be truthful about your personal status. Even if you think you may not meet the criteria required to successfully complete a survey, your opinions will be useless if they are false. What's more, the details you offer in surveys may be matched against those in your membership profile.
    Participating in market research surveys is unlikely to help pay the bills, but in registering with these sites you can easily earn significant rewards each month to treat you or your family in exchange for your time each day and contribute your opinion regarding products and services which matter to you!

    Image credit: wrestlingentropy
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