Andrea Hirai

Andrea Hirai

We recently held our second #dumpyourjunk spring clean and decluttering Twitter party with founder of ZeroWasteWeek Rachelle Strauss (known to many as Mrs Green).

We asked for tweeps’ own spring cleaning, decluttering and storage solution tips, and we weren’t disappointed.

We went off on a bit of a tangent, as you do with these things, but that’s often the best way to find pearls of wisdom. So below is just some of what happened.

Reusing milk bottles, tin cans and toilet rolls

We asked what you do with reused milk cartons…

What would you do with this?

Gardening was the answer…

perfect for salads

Rachelle (@myzerowaste) pointed out they can be used as watering cans…

watering

While @madvixen1983 suggested plant pots…

growing

Wardrobe decluttering was forgotten in the heat of the moment…

Decluttering was forgotten

And baked bean cans made an appearance, too…

Baked beans made an appearance..

Which inevitably led to toilet rolls…

which lead to toilet rolls...

Thankfully Rachelle steered the conversation to safe ground with a toilet roll seed-growing demonstration…

Rachelle steered the convo to safer ground...

‘But we might need it…’

Decluttering isn’t just a physical challenge, but a mental one at times, too. Who hasn’t said "we might need it" when trying not to let go of unused items?

We might need it..

@Cottage_R has…

We might need it wires...

And so has @Kitty_Smith

We might need it cables...

But Rachelle had a handy solution she’d created for this particularly, wiry problem…

Rachelle's Leads

More decluttering tips

For more top tips read February’s Dump your junk part 1 blog post, follow @MSE_Forum and @myzerowaste, and keep an eye on the #dumpyourjunk hashtag for news of the next Twitter party.

You can also join our Old Stylers forum board for chat with like-minded spring cleaners.

When you’ve finished decluttering, we’ve also stacks of ways to make cash from the clutter in eBay Selling Tips and Boost Your Income.

To leave you with some inspiration for your own decluttering, see how well @mommyemu has done…

And there were cheers

Do you have any of your own tips on how best to declutter and have a spring clean? Please let us know your thoughts in the discussion below or on the forum.

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MSE Eesha

MSE Eesha

I saved $366 on Vegas theatre tickets by going on a timeshare tour

I saved $366 on Vegas theatre tickets by going on a timeshare tour

Viva Las Vegas! The entertainment capital of the world is renowned for trying to make you spend big bucks on theatre shows, casinos, restaurants, clubs and more. But by giving up a couple of hours of my holiday time, I saved around £240 ($366) on theatre tickets on my recent trip.

And instead of sticking by the old adage; "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas", I’m going to share how I made my savings with you…

What did I get?

Here’s what I got:

  • Three tickets to Cirque du Soleil for $75 in total, they should have been a staggering $75 each.
  • Three tickets to Tournament of Kings for $70 in total, they’re selling for $70 each.
  • Two tickets to Thunder from Down Under, for $76 total, they’re also selling at $76 each.

In total I saved £240 ($366) on theatre tickets; not bad for three hours of my holiday time.

How did I get it?

To get the discounted theatre tickets I signed up to a timeshare tour. This is where a company shows you around a new resort in the hope that you’ll buy a holiday home there.

However as a ‘thank you for visiting’, the timeshare company offered me discounted theatre tickets.

The itinerary and length of the tour will vary from company to company. The one we did in Vegas started with an hour long presentation (which we listened to while eating our free breakfast), after which we were taken on a tour of the resort.

This was followed by a Q&A session (while we ate our free sandwiches) and finished with the hard sell by the sales rep. In total it took around three to four hours.

Don’t do it if you’ll crumble like a cookie

If you’re thinking the above sounds like a breeze, be prepared, this isn’t for those who crumble like a Hobnob at the first sign of pressure.

The reason they want you to go is so you buy one of their timeshare apartments and they’ll try every trick in their thick ‘timeshare bible’ book to try and get you to buy.

You need to be strong-willed and out rightly say ‘no’ if it’s not for you and do not budge on this, keep stating that you’re not interested and you’re only there for the freebie/offer.

I had to say no four times before they finally backed down and ushered me into another room to collect my theatre tickets.

Former MSE Rose had a similar experience with pushy timeshares salesmen back in 2012 too. She even had to pay a deposit to listen to the sales spiel. See her How a sales rep claimed timeshares prevent cancer blog for the tactics used and how you can get around them.

Is it morally wrong to do this?

In my opinion, going along on a timeshare tour just for the freebie/deal, isn’t wrong. It’s just being financially smart. As long as you aren’t rude to the sales reps and hear them out (which, is all they ask you to do anyway) then your freebie is well earned and justified.

Have you gone on a timeshare tour just for the freebie/other offer? What was your experience of it? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or via the forum.

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Megan French

Is there any difference between branded and unbranded medicine?

Health may be more important than wealth – but that doesn’t mean you have to shell out more on branded medicines when generic equivalents are often a fraction of the price.

You may know that branded and generic (unbranded or own-brand) medicines often have the same active pharmaceutical ingredient – and that it’s therefore often possible to save by opting for the generic version (for more info see our Cheap Medicines guide). But just how much is the price difference on a basket full of medicine?

I selected 10 non-prescription drugs commonly found in medicine cabinets and did a price check – starting with a quick online search of Asda, Tesco, Boots and others, followed by a trip to Camden High Street in central London to see how shops such as Savers, Poundland and the 99p Stores compare.

Without fail I found that generic medicines were cheaper every time – and in the most extreme case you could end up paying almost seven times more for branded equivalents.

The table below shows the best prices I found. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of how to stock up without breaking the bank.

Branded vs generic – how 10 products compare

Branded medicine Cheapest price Generic equivalent Cheapest price Saving as a percentage
Anadin Paracetamol 16s £1 Savers (in-store) Paracetamol 16s 19p Asda*/Savers (in-store) 81%
Nurofen 16s £1.75 Asda* Ibuprofen 16s 25p Asda* 85%
Lemsip Max sachets 10s £3.50 Asda*/Tesco* Max Strength Cold and Flu Relief sachets 10 £1.80 Asda* 48%
Calpol Infant 2+Months 100ml £2.42 Asda* Paracetamol 120mg/5ml suspension (i)

99p 99p Stores (in-store)

59%
Imodium Original 6s £2.19 Savers (in-store) Loperamide 2mg 49p Savers (in-store) 77%
Sudafed Decongestant 12s £3.29 Boots* Decongestant tablets 12s £2.99 Boots* 9%
Anadin Extra16s £1.95 Tesco* Extra Power Pain Relief 55p Tesco* 71%
Piriteze 30s £8.99 Boots* Hayfever and Allergy Relief (Cetirizine) 30s £2 Asda* 78%
Clarityn 30s £6.49 Boots* Hayfever and Allergy Relief (Loratadine) £2 Asda* 69%
Corsodyl 300ml £3.49 Superdrug* Chlorhexidine Mouthwash £1.85 Superdrug* 48%
Total saving £35.07 n/a £13.11 63%
Prices correct as of 27 March 2015. (i) The generic version is for 3+ months

Is there any difference between branded and unbranded?

The trick when it comes to comparing branded and generic products is to compare the ‘active’ ingredients, which is the actual medicinal element.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the professional body which represents pharmacists, says branded and generic products are the same if the dose of the drug and the formulation (whether it’s a tablet or a liquid) are exactly the same.

It adds that regardless of which one you opt for, all medicines are made to the same standards – you get the same protections and quality control with generics as you do with branded drugs.

If you have any allergies though, do check the non-active ingredients too, Don’t assume they’re the same in a generic product as they are in a branded one. If in doubt, ask for help at your local pharmacy.

Be aware too that some brands also market several different products that on closer inspection all contain the same active ingredients, so again the golden rule is if in doubt, ask.

It seems that we’re not the only ones to have spotted this either, as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has recently started legal proceedings against Nurofen manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser over some of its pain relief marketing.

It’s alleging that some Nurofen products are marketed differently to treat different types of pain, despite containing the same active ingredients. Nurofen however says this case only applies to Australia and that it doesn’t relate to the UK where all Nurofen products remain available. It adds that there will be no changes to packaging in the UK.

Why are the prices so different?

The prices differ drastically because the company which initially develops the drug has to recoup the huge cost of all the testing and patenting, and it only has a set number of years to do so before other companies are also allowed to sell the product.

Given that most new drugs take between 10 and 15 years to develop, this means the pharmaceutical company usually only has a few remaining years on a 20-year patent to cash in on its product.

The big brands are also often backed by huge advertising campaigns, which is another cost generic drugs often swerve.

Where is the best place to buy?

Supermarkets and discount stores such as Savers tend to be cheapest, particularly for very common drugs like paracetamol and ibuprofen. Of the 10 medicines I looked for above, those that I could find in a supermarket or discount store were invariably cheapest there.

It’s worth mentioning though that shops without an in-house pharmacist will always have fewer products on offer as there are strict rules governing which medicines can be sold without supervision – even if they are non-prescription.

Bear in mind too that independent pharmacies can sometimes sell a broader range of generics than large pharmacy chains, some of which have taken to producing own-brand versions of generics which aren’t always the cheapest. Never be afraid to ask the pharmacist for the cheapest generic version.

Online pharmacies can also offer knock down prices, particularly on items such as hayfever medicines cetirizine and loratadine, but you need to look out for delivery costs which can slash any savings (that’s why no online pharmacies featured in the table above). For piece of mind it is also worth checking that an online pharmacy is regulated.

Do you have any tips on how to cut the cost of buying medicine? Please let us know via the comments section below, or on the forum.

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Andrea Hirai

Andrea Hirai

People trying out our Ideal Home Show app

MoneySavingExpert.com currently has a stand at the Ideal Home Show – something we’ve done in past years too. (If you haven’t been and want to go, the show’s on until 6 April and you can still grab the Ideal Home Show 2 for 1 deal.)

This year the stand’s next to the super theatre and on the days MoneySavingExpert.com creator Martin is appearing he answers questions there afterwards (see the link above for the dates and times).

Members of the MSE Team are also there to help you, as are representatives from Citizens Advice and the Energy Saving Trust. See MSE Wendy’s guest post on Citizens Advice for more on how we worked together at the show.

The stand also has a bank of iPads with our specially designed quick quiz on to see which areas of your day-to-day life you could save money on, or are due money from, and how much.

For example it looks at water bills, gas/electricity bills, motor insurance costs, council tax bills, mobile phone contracts, checking if you’re eligible for flight delay compensation and PPI reclaiming.

I’ve worked on the stand for the last few years and each year what I really love is finding out how much we’ve managed to save people.

I was on the stand this past Saturday and thought this year, as a very unscientific experiment, I’d ask people if they minded telling me how much we could save them.

Several people thought that as they already use our site and are signed up to get our weekly email, the quiz wouldn’t be able to find them anything they could save on. But for me that’s the MoneySaving equivalent of a red flag to a bull – the challenge was on!

In total I asked 12 people how much the quiz told them they could save. Of the 12, the smallest possible saving was £350 and the biggest £6,650. In total the maximum saving from my random sample was £28,400!

Many, many more people than that did the quiz in the four hours we were on the stand and of course people will have used it in the hours before I arrived and after too. So the savings people are making are likely to be far greater than even £28k.

MSE’s stand at the Ideal Home Show

Hopefully the majority of people who take the quiz choose to get the results emailed to them so they can follow up on it by taking the next step to actually save that much.

Have you visited the Ideal Home Show stand and completed the quiz? If you have, let us know what it said you can save, and whether or not you’ve acted upon its help, via the comments section below or on the forum.

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Andrea Hirai

Andrea Hirai

Some fruit and vegetables only need a bit of work to start growing

If someone asked if you wanted ‘free’ fruit and veg, you’d probably grab the chance with both hands… and mouth! But some fruit and vegetables only need a bit of work to start growing and you’ll have them coming back year after year, giving you virtually free fruit and veg forever.

And if you don’t think you can grow stuff believe me, if I can, you can. This summer alone I expect to save around £50 by growing my own strawberries, rhubarb, apples and pears.

So what gardening tips and tricks can we show you to help you produce “free” fruit and veg? We’ve compiled a list for gardening virgins.

If you’re no longer a gardening virgin and can help those who are with tips of your own or disagree with ours please share your thoughts below.

1. Got land? Any land? Use it

I don’t know about you but healthy AND cheap ticks several boxes on my list. So do you have access to a piece of land? Any piece of land? If you do, don’t waste it! It doesn’t have to be large – any space will do.

It could be a tray of salad shoots on a window ledge or pots on a balcony.

2. Start small

If you’re one of the gardening novices this blog’s aimed at you probably don’t want to splash the cash only for all your plants to die. So start off small so you don’t knock your confidence early on.

3. Good sources of “cheap” seeds, bulbs and more

There are stacks of places you can buy seeds and plants cheaply – they’re no longer the preserve of expensive garden centres. To help I’ve done a quick round-up of what’s available at the moment. Let us know if you spot any more.

4. Get “free” seeds from veg you eat

Back in the olden days my Grandad would grow vegetables from the veg’s own seeds. For example, using seeds taken from tomatoes before he ate them, growing potatoes from packs he’d bought in the supermarket, rather than buying the seeds from DIY or gardening shops.

This is a great cheap/free way of getting seeds.

Some gardeners still do this but some believe if you re-use seeds too much or try to grow supermarket-bought potatoes instead of commercially produced ones, it can produce diseased vegetables later on.

I asked our Greenfingered gardeners on the forum what they thought and had some interesting replies.

  • Forumite Mojisola says “Many seeds gardeners use, especially the more expensive one, are… cross produced from two specific parent plants. When you grow those in the garden, they will be open pollinated by unknown pollen so the plants from the next generation won’t have all the characteristics of the F1 plant, although that doesn’t mean you won’t be pleased with the results.”
  • HappyGreen says “I have successfully grown Kale and Mizuna leaves from my own seeds. I also have many self-seeders which I transplant later in spring if I need to, mainly Chards.”

5. Grow “cut and come again” fruit and vegetables

I love rhubarb. I love swiss chard. I love apples, pears, plums… Can you see where I’m heading with this? They’re all fruit and vegetables that, once planted, grow back each year without you having to do a load of work.

The technical term is “perennial” but it’s this kind of talk that makes it all seem like hard work and can put some people off getting started so we’ll leave it at that… My technical term, once initial plant costs are factored in, is “CHEAP”!

If Andrea can grow fruit & veg, you can too

6. Cut vegetables off from the stalk?

I’ve heard a rumour that if you leave the end of the cucumber on the stalk when you cut yours off a new one will grow from it. It’s not something I’ve tested (I’ve only grown cucumbers a couple of times and they weren’t very successful so I used my mini greenhouse for something else instead).

If you’ve grown cucumbers and tried it I’d love to hear if it worked? I might give it a go this year.

7. Even the experienced gardeners get it wrong sometimes

Just read the fab forum discussion Highs and Lows of growing your own dinner 2015 by forumite queen of cheap to see what can happen.

8. Read around

A few years back I wrote a gardening blog with tips and tricks to save on fruit and veg. Since then grow-your-own seems to have grown even more popular (pardon the rubbish pun!). So have a read around for more tips and ideas.

9. Get “free” water

Butt, butt, butt…. how? If you’ve given gardening a go and decided you like this free fruit and veg lark, install a water butt for free rain water. It’s a no-brainer – I have three; two in my back garden, one out the front – I wanted another but my husband pointed out we don’t have any more drainpipe I can use!

Don’t forget a stand and connector to link the butt to your water pipe. You can buy each part individually or get them all in a kit.

A standard size is 210L or you can get a slimline 110L.

DIY stores such as Homebase or B&Q etc sell them from around £30 upwards but also check for offers from your water company or council. SaveWaterSaveMoney is a good site to check too.

10. Make your own, “free”, compost

Want to save money on bin bags? Compost your cardboard, your scrap paper, egg cartons, kitchen towels, even cat litter if it’s biodegradeable. Just remove your cat’s poo first! Websites such as myzerowaste and The Rubbish Diet have good tips on composting and reducing waste in general.

Are you an experienced gardener with tips to help new gardeners start off without forking out a shedload of cash? Or do you disagree with any of my tips? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or on the forum.

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Tara Evans

Do you agree that reselling tickets for profit is morally wrong?

Have you ever wanted to buy tickets to a gig, theatre or comedy show only to find the tickets have sold out almost instantly and you’ve been left without?

To add insult to injury those tickets appear on a secondary ticketing website such as Viagogo, Stubhub, GET ME IN! or Seatwave within minutes but at double the price.

It’s gutting.

Today when I heard that these four main websites had promised greater transparency following pressure from the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), I was hopeful.

New rules don’t go far enough

But sadly, after a closer look at the rules I just feel like they don’t go far enough. The websites have promised to give consumer clearer information and as a result of this we’ll be able to see:

  • The original cost of the ticket
  • Entry restrictions and if there are restricted views
  • If seats are next to each other
  • If there are additional charges
  • A contact email address if something goes wrong

The rules will help inform new legal restrictions coming into force under the Consumer Rights Bill later this year, which could see ticket-selling sites face fines of up to £5,000 if they don’t comply.

I know it’s probably unrealistic to ask for a cap to be placed on the amount of profit resellers can make from tickets, but it would be nice if face value ticket websites got more exposure and that’s the purpose of this blog.

You can resell tickets at face value

Twickets is a fan to fan ticket exchanges where you can sell tickets at face value.

It works a bit like the other reselling websites where you list a ticket for sale. The difference is that the price must be face value or less.

Twickets has been running since 2011 and also operates using the Twitter handle @Twickets. You can add up to 15% to cover the original booking fee, payments are via PayPal and you can set up delivery by post, drop & collect, meet up and download.

The firm promises the buyer that in the unlikely event tickets are not as described by the seller, you’ll get your money back.
It also has a transparent list of fees, for more information visit Twickets.com.

I was saddened to hear about the closing of another site at the end of last year called Scarlet Mist, which also ran a similar service for many years.

But wait, isn’t ticket reselling a smart way to make money?

I know some of you will disagree with me on this blog. It’s easy to see how snapping up tickets to a popular event and reselling them at a much higher price is a clever way to make extra cash.

In fact, the Government agrees too. In 2009 it published a white paper looking at the industry and concluded it was fair.

And as one of the bosses of these firms once said to me when I challenged him on the morality of his business: "You’re just selling a commodity, what makes it different from selling a house at a profit?".

It’s a good point. But it’s something I feel quite strongly about.
For me, going to see Blur play at Hyde Park, or Caitlin Moran interview Lena Dunham at the Southbank Centre is an experience.

It’s something I’ll never forget and the memories can’t be replaced. So, why because I can’t afford to pay double the price of a ticket, should I be robbed of this experience?

Sure you can make a quick bit of cash but I believe doing it makes you no better than a ticket tout standing on a street corner, except you’re in the comfort of your own home sat behind a computer screen.

I’d like to know what you think. Do you agree that reselling tickets for profit is morally wrong? Or are you keen to make a fast buck as a legal ticket tout? Please let me know via the comments section below or in the forum.

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Guy Anker

Guy Anker

Valentine’s Day is a day of (hopefully) love

Valentine’s Day. A day of (hopefully) love, giving, time spent with a special one and… delivery firm Yodel leaving people’s flowers on the pavement.

OK, so I may have exaggerated that final point a tad, but I was astounded to get to the front door of my apartment block on Saturday afternoon to see a box of roses left all alone in the drizzle outside the front door to my block.

They were meant for a neighbour of mine in the block (they weren’t from me!) but given my block is on a fairly busy street, anyone could have run off with them.

I took them inside to the rightful recipient’s front door (I left the flowers in the hallway as there was no answer at the door, but at least they were well within the walls of a fairly secure block of flats and firmly out of public sight).

As you’ll see from the pic below, the delivery firm that left them there was Yodel. That’s the same firm that was voted among the worst parcel delivery firms in December by our users.

The box of flowers Yodel left in the open

We have also heard tales over the years of Yodel customers saying parcels arrived with damaged contents, or drivers claiming householders were not in but where customers insisted no attempt was made to contact them.

Without having spoken to the sender of these flowers, they may of course have asked for the package to be left outside (although this seems unlikely given it’s on a busy road) but as there are dozens of flats in my block, you’d think the delivery driver could have gotten a neighbour to answer the main door and so left the flowers more safely inside.

I’m also aware that it’s no good delivering Valentine’s flowers a day late, which puts delivery drivers under pressure when no-one answers the door, but was this really the best thing to do?

Yodel is not alone in attracting criticism from customers. In fact, DX was rated worst by our users last time out.

However, it is the name that has consistently come up over the years in my mind for being synonymous with bad parcel service. When I saw the parcel lying there, I thought to myself "I bet it is a Yodel parcel" – and I was right.

Yodel’s public relations team often gets very shirty when we cover it in a bad light, more so than many other firms (1).

Yet this is just one example of what appears to be bad service. That’s why we hold it to account on behalf of our users. We – and they – expect better.

Have you experienced problems with Yodel or any other parcel delivery firm? Please let us know via the discussion below or on the forum.

(1) Update, 1pm, 18 February. Credit to Yodel’s PR team on this one. After the blog was published it got in touch, not to have a go, but to find out further details so it can stop this happening again.  

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Andrea Hirai

Andrea Hirai

One way to declutter is to have a car boot sale

As part of our New Year’s Resolutions campaign we hosted a #dumpyourjunk decluttering Twitter chat with founder of ‘Zero Waste Week’ Rachelle Strauss (known to many as Mrs Green).

What was originally planned as a half hour Q&A turned into an inspirational, hour-long Twitter party with many other declutterers joining in.

The tips that came out of it were fantastic and left everyone wanting more… so watch this space for news of #dumpyourjunk Part 2. (Follow @MSE_Forum and @myzerowaste for updates.)

In the meantime, have a read of some of the great tips below that came out of the Q&A and click through to the #dumpyourjunk hashtag to see the full conversations.

Q: @MSE_Forum: What’s your top decluttering tip?

  • @myzerowaste: "Swishing [swapping clothes] is fab if family don’t want to swap – add friends, nibbles and wine!”
  • @coachykim: "My top decluttering tip is… getting rid of things I haven’t used or worn for a year."
  • @CantSwingACat: "Also, carboot sales are one of my faves for ridding old clothes, though you’ll probably just get £1 or £2."

Q: @MSE_Forum: Do you sell stuff when you’re decluttering or give it to charity?

  • @CantSwingACat: "Probably mostly sell as I need the money. But I buy from charity shops & tell myself that’s how I’m doing my bit."
  • @RaisingWildOnes: "Yep, until we’ve paid off debts, then the junk will be donated :p"
  • @DRnaturegirl: "Everything! Give away, freecycle, eBay, local ads, recycling banks and charity."
  • @Mehubbyandkids: "My dining room has five boxes in to go to the charity shop. Been there nearly two weeks now."

Q: @MSE_Forum: What can I do with half-used toiletries?

  • @RaisingWildOnes: "Give them to kids to play with in the bath & get clean at the same time. Or just use them all up if you like them!"
  • @coachykim: "Check them first for expiry dates, and liquids for separation or bad smells. Any of the above, chuckout!"
  • @TotsAdventures: "I use half-used conditioner to make my kids paint."

Q: @MSE_Forum: What are your top tips for waste-free make-up removal?

  • @Cottage_R: "I use an oil based liquid makeup remover – only needs a towel so no waste! Bottle can be recycled!"
  • @Mehubbyandkids: "Crochet little make up remover pads. They can be washed and reused instead of cotton wool that needs to be thrown."
  • @CantSwingACat: "Stick a box of half-used toiletries in your bathroom, ban yourself from buying more until you’ve used them up."
  • @myzerowaste: "Tips for waste free make up removal here."

Q: @MSE_Forum: When it comes to decluttering, are you a flylady or a slow burner?

  • @myzerowaste: "HaHa! A procrastinator, unfortunately! But then a whirlwind who burns out *sigh*."
  • @makeandmendyear: "I go in fits and starts! I did the #minsgame last year – one item on day 1, two on day 2 etc, up to 30, and that was great."
  • @KarenCannard: "A slow burner, most definitely. Surprised husband hasn’t tripped over anything yet."

For more ways to make cash from your clutter, check out our How to sell on eBay and Boost your income guides and join our Old Style MoneySaving the Best Upcycling and Re-use Tips forum threads to talk it over with other declutterers.

Do you have any of your own tips on how best to declutter and have a spring clean? Please let us know your thoughts in the discussion below or on the forum.

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Helen Knapman

Helen Knapman

What was your favourite team blog from last year?

As we’re coming towards the end of January (and hopefully one step closer to some warmer weather!), I thought now would be a good time to publish our top 10 team blogs of 2014.

Hopefully you’ll already have read these posts, but if not, why not have a read now? And please keep coming back this year to let us know your thoughts on the diverse array of subjects we cover in the Team Blog.

So without further ado, here are the top 10 team blogs of 2014 based on the number of page views received. (Please be aware that the information in these blogs may no longer be correct.)

1. How to buy the cheapest Christmas turkey

2. Downshift your Christmas dinner and feed six people for £15 … with all the trimmings

3. Only got Sky Sports for the Premier League? Here’s how to cancel for the summer

4. How I got a £3,300 Virgin Atlantic upper class flight for £1,500

5. Why I won’t ever send a letter first class again

6. Tesco’s Double The Difference policy left me nearly £50 richer

7. My top tips for bagging cheap hotel rooms

8. How I boosted my income by £200 with websites and smartphone apps

9. Yes, I admit it. I have solar panel envy

10. I’ve a mountain of toiletries. So why am I rushing out to buy more?

If you’ve got through that list and it’s made you hungry for more, you can also view Martin’s top 10 blogs of 2014 and our Deals Hunters’ top 10 blogs of last year.

Do you agree with the team blog top 10 list? Or is your favourite blog of the year missing? Please let us know your thoughts in the discussion below or in the forum.

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Andrea Hirai

Andrea Hirai

cybersecurity

Don't let hackers get their hands on your personal details

While many people are giving up smoking, getting fitter, clearing their debts, etc,  my New Year’s resolution is to try to be better organised and declutter.

One resolution I don’t think we hear much about though is doing more to make sure we’re safe online. It shouldn’t be overlooked as it’s hugely important. Use a weak password or forget antivirus and you could find yourself in a whole heap of financial pickle, not to mention face a huge time-wasting hassle.

If you’ve been given a tablet or laptop for Christmas or grabbed a bargain in the January Sales, making sure it’s fully protected should be a priority.

Our 30 Ways to Stop Scams guide should get you up to date on the latest scams doing the rounds. As it can be a long month, if you’re short on cash at the moment, at the least get free anti-virus sorted.

If you’re an MSE Forum user, as with any form of social media, always use the latest version of your internet browser and make sure your password is strong enough, difficult enough it can’t be guessed and change it regularly.

We’ve been working with the Home Office’s CyberStreetwise campaign for over a year now to highlight online security issues that people can sometimes forget. We held a Twitter Q&A using the #becyberstreetwise hashtag just before Christmas to do just that and the team is answering questions on our forum too: New Year’s Resolutions: Stay Safe online, Stay Cyberstreetwise.

Read the questions below and click through to the #becyberstreetwise hashtag to see the full Q&A.

Q: @MSE_Forum: How important is it to protect your home wi-fi?

A: @cyberstreetwise: It’s extremely important, take a look at our tips on how to secure your wi-fi.

Q: @MSE_Forum: Is it OK to download apps from individual websites?

A: @cyberstreetwise: We would recommend only downloading from the official app store for your device, if not sure of validity, don’t download!

Q: @MSE_Forum: Is all public wi-fi encrypted?

A: @cyberstreetwise: Not all public wi-fi is encrypted, take a look at our advice on wireless networks here.

Q: @MSE_Forum: How often should you update your software to stay safe?

A: @cyberstreetwise: Always download & install software updates immediately when they appear. Remember to also check for updates manually.

Do you have any tips on how to stay safe online? Please let us know your thoughts in the discussion below or in the forum.

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