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Tara Evans

Don't go overboard on Christmas food shopping

Don't go overboard on Christmas food shopping

It’s easy to get carried away with a festive food shop. Christmas is, after all, an indulgent time of year. But with a bit of planning it’s still possible to cut costs. Here I reveal how much you save if you shop around, ‘downshift’ on branded items – and avoid stocking up for a zombie apocalypse. 

1. Compare the cost of your shop online

There are only a few sleeps until Santa makes his way down the chimney, and if you’ve left your shop to the last minute then it’s likely you’ve missed your chance to order an online delivery. But you can still benefit from comparing prices online before you head out.

Below I’ve worked out the cost of feeding six people turkey and all the traditional trimmings. The table below compares the prices of ten items found on most Christmas dinner tables – it shows the cheapest price across six of the leading supermarkets using the grocery comparison website MySupermarket.com. In most cases I’ve looked at branded products, though with the veg I just considered each supermarket’s standard offering.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that you go around the houses and actually traipse around all six supermarkets – that would be silly. But it’s easy to see how shopping around could save.

In practice, the best thing to do is probably to compare prices and then head to the supermarket with the total cheapest overall basket. It’s especially worthwhile comparing the prices of big-ticket items such as washing powder, toilet roll or (more apt at this time of year) champagne.

(By the way, I’m assuming at this point you’ve already got your turkey sorted – but if not, it’s worth looking at my separate in-depth blog post on How to buy the cheapest Christmas turkey.)

Where to get the cheapest (branded) Christmas food items

In my comparison I’ve selected enough food to feed six people and items that are branded, where possible. If you’re interested in saving more pennies, check out the second table below where I’ve swapped out branded items for cheaper own-brand products.

Item Cheapest supermarket Total price
Bernard Matthews Golden Norfolk frozen turkey large 5.4kg – 7.2kg Farm Foods £14.95
Cowbelle brandy butter with Courvoisier VS Cognac (200g) Aldi £1.49
Brussels sprouts 750g Aldi 49p
Carrots 1.5kg Aldi 49p
Colman’s cranberry sauce (265g) Asda, Ocado, Sainsbury’s & Tesco £1.00
Bisto Favourite gravy granules (170g) Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco & Waitrose £1.00
Mr Kipling Exceedingly Merry mince pies Sainsbury’s & Tesco £1.00
Parsnips (500g) Aldi & Tesco 49p
Potatoes (2.5kg) Tesco 49p
Paxo sage & onion stuffing (85g) Morrisons 59p
TOTAL COST OF FEEDING SIX: £21.99
Source: MySupermarket.com. Prices correct as of 18 Dec 2014.

But that’s not all you can do, it’s possible to save even more pennies…

2. Scrimp on your sprouts – take the Downshift Challenge

Have you ever taken the Downshift Challenge? This is when you swap branded items for supermarket own-brand items. It can cost considerably less – and it’s not always true that the quality will suffer.

It’s worth noting that for one ITV programme a few Christmases ago, Martin held a blind taste test party for nurses at a hospital. An amazing 73% preferred an own-brand turkey compared to the most expensive brand.

Where to get the cheapest (own-brand) Christmas food items

In the first comparison I selected branded goods, but in this one I’ve selected the cheapest products possible by switching down to own-brand items. Again, the idea is to get enough food to feed at least six people.

Item Cheapest supermarket Total price

Whole turkey (frozen) 4kg – 5.30kg

Aldi £11
Cowbelle brandy butter with Courvoisier VS Cognac (200g) Aldi £1.49
Brussels sprouts 750g Aldi 49p
Carrots 1.5kg Aldi 49p
Tesco Everyday Value cranberry sauce (185g) Tesco 50p
Morrisons’ Savers gravy granules (200g) Morrisons 20p
Everyday Essentials mince pies Tesco 50p
Parsnips (500g) Aldi & Tesco 49p
Potatoes (2.5kg) Tesco 49p
Tesco Everyday Value Sage & Onion Stuffing Mix (85g) Tesco 15p
TOTAL COST OF FEEDING SIX: £15.80
Source: MySupermarket.com. Prices correct as of 18 Dec 2014.

Here the savings you can make when downshifting become apparent. While the cost of the veg remains unchanged (we were already looking at supermarkets’ standard prices) everything else is cheaper.

For example, Tesco Everyday Value cranberry sauce (185g) costs just 50p, half the price of the Colman’s cranberry sauce.

If gravy is where you’re willing to scrimp, then for just a fifth of the price of the Bisto’s Favourite gravy granules (170g) you can get Morrisons’ Savers gravy granules (200g) for an incredible 20p. Tesco’s Everyday Value sage and onion stuffing mix is just 15p – 44p less than Paxo’s alternative.

All in, it’s possible to get the full Christmas dinner and trimmings for six for just £15.80 – around £2.63 a head. And of course, you won’t use up all of every item either, so there’ll be some leftovers.

You can read taste test reviews of own-brand items on Supermarketownbrandguide.co.uk, or take the challenge yourself with our Downshift Tool.

3. Track previous prices to see if a bargain’s really a bargain

MySupermarket isn’t just good for comparing current prices – it also has a nifty tool which allows you to compare the historical price of an item across supermarkets.

For example, you might fancy a bottle of premium bubbly to pop at the dinner table this Christmas. One 750ml bottle of Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial Non Vintage champagne will set you back £24.99 in Tesco at the moment, but as you can see from the image below that’s actually a bit of a bargain – some 19% cheaper than the average price.

Check out historical prices
Historical price of 750ml bottle Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial Non Vintage champagne

You can find this graph by selecting any product in your basket. It’s probably not worth doing for your sprouts and greens but it might be worthwhile for more expensive items, like alcohol, toiletries and cleaning products – especially if you favour a particular brand.

4. And finally… don’t panic buy

As you head out of the house on your way supermarket, there’s just one warning I want you to heed (though there’s a full set of tips and tricks in our Cheap Supermarket Shopping guide.)

Now, I don’t know what happens in your family home, but as Christmas approaches my parents’ kitchen starts looking like it’s preparing for the onslaught of a zombie apocalypse.

There are already four boxes of mince pies, six Christmas puddings and two tins of Roses… by the big day comes around there’ll be enough to feed an army, and definitely plenty to keep our small family of four happy.

So the key message here is that the world is not going to end. Don’t panic buy. It’s easy to go wild in the supermarket aisles when you’re doing a food shop for Christmas, but it’s important to stick to your guns and avoid overspending.

Of course, you may choose to avoid all the info above, but I’d love to hear what your Christmas food shopping tips are and if you will be downshifting this Christmas. Please let me know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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MSE Eesha

Last month I taught an A-Level class some basics about money

Last month I taught an A-Level class some basics about money

With my role as a money analyst here at MSE and my previous experience working in a bank, I like to think I know a thing or two about the financial world.

However, for many people, growing up involves being thrust into the financial world without knowing the basics of managing money – it’s something many haven’t been properly taught about from early on.

So last month I went back to school for a day to teach an A-Level class some basics about money.

Armed with my Teen Cash Class presentation, I began my talk with a simple question: "Who here has a bank account?"

Most of the students put their hands up. Brilliant.

Next question: "What do you know about your bank?" There were a few responses, but most didn’t know anything.

So I went on to explain how banks make money, the concept of earning interest and the types of products banks sell to customers.

I stressed the benefits of having a bank account, such as earning interest and other rewards and, perhaps most importantly, how it can help you to get a mortgage in the future. But at the same time, I explained that they need to be cautious of some products they may be offered, such as credit cards.

So then we discussed whether credit cards were good or bad. The general consensus among the students was that they are a bad thing, and in a way they were correct. If used incorrectly, credit cards can be toxic. However, use them correctly and the rewards can be great (see our Cashback Credit Cards, Avios Points and Credit Card Stoozing guides for more on this).

It was also important that students understood that credit cards don’t give free money, and if they do ever get one they must always pay it off in full each month. Now I know I can’t do Martin’s "IN FULL" shout as well as he does, but I made sure they heard the message very clearly.

Is there such a thing as good debt?

Next I went on to talk about whether there is such a thing as good debt. The idea surprised most of the students, as they never thought debt could be linked with good. But mortgages and student loans are, of course, a form of debt, and are these necessarily bad, I asked the students? It got them thinking.

Unless you’re extremely lucky and have the money upfront to buy a house, most people will need to borrow in the form of a mortgage to buy one. And actually most students would be better off taking a student loan and saving their money for a house deposit rather than paying for university upfront (read our Beware paying uni fees upfront guide to see why).

Take our Good Debt/ Bad Debt Quiz to test your knowledge.

Financial education is so important

Spending time with these students made it clear how important financial education is in schools. At the end of the session the students were brimming with knowledge and were ready to embark on their adult life armed with the basic, yet often neglected, financial knowledge.

But not all students will receive this help. Since September, financial education has been incorporated into citizenship classes only for 11- to 16 year-olds in all maintained schools in England, and there are also stronger links to it in maths for all ages. This is something which MoneySavingExpert.com had called for over many years.

However, this only applies to schools that follow the national curriculum, so disappointingly many will still miss out.

If you’re a teacher and want to talk to your students about money, or a parent who wants to teach their child, there are a host of free resources on the MSE site to help you – see Teen Cash Class and our Financial Education section for downloadable activities and guides.

Do you think more needs to be done to help kids understand finance? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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Tara Evans



I believe it's possible to be both festive and frugal

I believe it's possible to be both frugal and festive

They say you can’t put a price on the magic of Christmas –  but it’s worth remembering MoneySaving too so you avoid spending a fortune on a Yuletide feast.

In my family’s home Christmas is very much the time for indulgence (you’ll find multiple Terry’s Chocolate Orange wrappers as evidence). And the turkey, along with all its trimmings, is undoubtedly the centrepiece of the day.

But that doesn’t mean it has to be expensive. I believe it’s possible to be both frugal AND festive – and so I’ve crunched the numbers to find out how to buy the cheapest turkey this Christmas.

Don’t assume if it’s more expensive it’s better

It’s worth noting that for one ITV programme a few Christmases ago, Martin held a blind taste test party for nurses at a hospital. They tasted an up-brand and down-brand version of each product in a blind taste test.

While sometimes up-brand won, on turkey, an amazing 73% preferred an own-brand turkey compared to the most expensive brand. So don’t give in to brand snobbery.

How much do they cost?

The tables below compare the price of three different types of turkey – frozen, standard fresh and premium range – at leading UK supermarkets. The tables are ordered alphabetically, so you can see at a glance the cheapest turkey where you shop ― where possible I’ve chosen a turkey big enough to feed at least six people. I’ve also included a link to the bird, where it’s possible.

If you are comparing between stores on price though, I’d suggest looking first at the overall cost of the bird, as in practice you don’t buy turkey by the kilo. Then, where the overall cost is similar, it’s worth looking at the price per kilo to ensure you get the most bird for your buck.

Cheapest frozen turkey compared 

The key selling point of frozen turkeys is that they’re substantially cheaper than fresh ones. Plus you’ll be able to avoid the hassle of waiting in line for a collection or waiting in for a delivery in the busy days before Christmas ― you can buy it now and stash it in the freezer, if you have space.

This year, the cheapest frozen turkeys come from … drumroll … Aldi and Lidl. The budget supermarkets live up to their name and are the clear winners on price.

Supermarket Type of bird Price per kg Average weight Serving Total price Last order dates (where available)
Aldi Whole British turkey £2.08 – £2.75 4kg – 5.30kg 4-10 £11 No orders online
Asda* Chosen by You frozen basted medium turkey £3.20 4.85kg 8-10 £16
Co-op Bernard Matthews Golden Norfolk frozen turkey large £2.86 5.4kg – 7.2kg 8-10 £18
Farm Foods Bernard Matthews Golden Norfolk frozen turkey large £2.08 – £2.76 5.4kg – 7.2kg 8-10 £14.95
Lidl Braemoor Medium Self Basting Turkey with Giblets £2.39 4.-5.4kg 6-8 £11.99
Morrisons Morrisons frozen basted turkey medium £4 4.55kg 9-11 £16 Order until Sun 14 Dec
Ocado Frozen medium free range turkey with giblets £6.63 5.5kg 8 £37 Tue 23 Dec
Sainsbury’s* Sainsbury’s frozen whole basted turkey, medium £4.36 4.55kg 8-10 £17
Tesco* Tesco British medium basted frozen turkey £4.11 3.9kg – 5.2kg 8-10 £16
Waitrose Essential Waitrose turkey medium with giblets £5.34 4kg – 5.49kg 8 £22 Order by Mon 15 Dec
Notes: M&S does not stock frozen turkeys.

Cheapest standard fresh turkey compared

Aldi’s a winner again in the standard fresh category ― a bird which can feed between 9 and 11 people costs £17.99. Lidl is a close contender for second place, as it costs the same per kg as Aldi for its fresh bird. Asda and Morrisons are similarly cheap, charging £19 and £18, respectively.

It’s important to note that in this table the size of the bird varies significantly. Morrisons, for instance, supplied me with the price of a bird that only serves six people, and Ocado’s turkey only feeds five.

Supermarket Type of bird Price per kg Average weight Serving Total price Last order dates (where available)
Aldi Medium fresh whole British turkey £4.49 3.5kg – 4.5kg 9-11 £17.99 Order until 11pm on Mon 15 Dec
Asda Asda Butcher’s Selection small whole turkey £5.01 3.79kg 4-5 £19
Co-op The Co-operative British medium whole turkey £5.20 4kg – 5.99kg 7-8 £26 In stores from Fri 19 Dec
Lidl Birchwood medium fresh British whole white turkey £4.49 4-5kg 8-12 £22.45 (for 5kg) On sale from 19 Dec
Morrisons Whole British turkey, small £6.67 2.7kg – 3.6kg 5-6 £18 Order until Sun 14 Dec
M&S British turkey £5.50 4kg – 5.5kg 6-10 £22-£30.25 Order by 5pm on Mon 15 Dec. In stores only
Ocado Waitrose free-range small turkey £8.29 2.75kg – 3.99kg 5 £27.94
Sainsbury’s* Turkey by Sainsbury’s £5.50 3.97kg – 4.99kg 8-10 £22-£27.44
Tesco* Tesco whole turkey medium £5 4kg – 5.99kg 6-8 £29.95 Order until Mon 15 Dec
Waitrose* Essential Waitrose turkey £5.99 4kg – 6kg 8 £35.94 Order by Mon 15 Dec
Whole Foods Free range British turkey £9.99 4kg 6-10 £39.96 Order online or in stores by Mon 22 Dec

Cheapest premium fresh turkey compared

If you’re looking for something a little bit special and don’t mind paying extra, then you may want to consider a premium category bird ― these are usually organic or free range.

We’ve updated our prices and the winner in this category is Aldi again ― with a price tag of just £22.99. It just beats Lidl by charging £1.25/kg less per bird.

Supermarket Type of bird Price per kg Average weight Serving Total price Last order dates (where available)
Aldi Specially selected medium bronze free range turkey £5.74 3kg – 5kg 8-12 £22.96 (for 4kg) Available in-store from Fri 19 Dec
Asda Asda Extra Special premium medium free range £7.17 5.29kg 6-8 £26 Order until 11pm on Mon 15 Dec
Co-op The Co-operative British medium whole turkey £8.18 5kg – 5.99kg 7-8 £45 Only available in 155 stores, out of 2,500
Lidl Deluxe ultimate fresh British Broadland free range bronze turkey £6.99 4-6kg 8-13 £34.95 (for 5kg) On sale from 19 Dec
Morrisons M Signature Bronze British free range turkey, medium £8.71 3.1kg -3.9kg 5-6 £27 Order until Sun 14 Dec
M&S* Free range British turkey £8 4kg – 4.75kg 6-8 £32-38 Order by 5pm on Mon 15 Dec
Ocado Kelly Bronze turkey dry aged free range £10.99 4kg – 4.99kg 4-7 £49.46
Sainsbury’s* Taste the Difference Norfolk black free range turkey £11.50 5kg – 5.98kg 10-12 £57.50-£68.88
Tesco* Tesco Finest free range bronze turkey medium £7.50 4.26kg – 5.50kg 6-8 £41.25 Order until Mon 15 Dec
Waitrose* Organic free range bronze feathered turkey £9.99 3-5kg 6 £59.95 Order by Mon 15 Dec
Whole Foods Organic & free range British turkey £11.99 4kg 6-10 £47.96 Order by Mon 22 Dec

But what about quality?

The more expensive a retailer is, the more they boast that their birds are of higher quality. But such claims are often subjective and hard to substantiate.

I did think about doing a taste test here at MSE Towers, but the lack of oven/kitchen equipment made it tricky. Plus, I’m looking forward to indulging and I certainly don’t need to put early stress on my waistline.

In the past people have questioned the quality of bargain basement birds, so it might be worth checking out reviews online to see if anyone has ever shared their views on the taste of a particular turkey. All the supermarkets say that their turkeys are raised in ethical conditions – but if you’re worried check the policy of your selected retailer. And tell us what you think in the Cheapest Xmas Turkey forum thread.

What about turkey crowns, aren’t they cheaper? 

I’ve heard on the turkey grapevine (it’s a thing, really) that crowns are becoming increasingly popular with those wanting to save time and money.

While I haven’t conducted a full comparison of prices, turkey crowns usually sell for a few quid cheaper than a whole bird. They’re much quicker to cook too ― the average oven time for a turkey crown is 60 minutes versus three hours for a typical 4 kilo bird.

What about buying from a butcher or local supplier?

There is always something to be said for supporting local businesses, and while independent butchers or poultry suppliers aren’t guaranteed to be MoneySaving, it’s possible they might offer a cheaper alternative to supermarket birds.

You can use the National Farmers Union’s turkey tool to find a local supplier and compare their quotes against the figures above. You might be even be able to get a discount if you haggle.

Enough about turkeys ― what about the rest of the dinner? 

Although those who opt for frozen turkeys often buy well in advance, it’s likely to be a while yet before you do your big Christmas shop.

Once the big supermarkets have released their prices for spuds, sprouts and all the other trimmings, I’ll be writing another blog post looking at how the different stores stack up and I’d love to hear your thoughts below or in the Cheapest Xmas Turkey forum thread.

Also, please let me know if I’ve missed a shop in the tables above – especially if they beat these prices. I’d love to hear what you think? Do you buy a turkey crown? Or are you loyal to your local butcher? Tell me below.

Blog updated on Thu 18 Dec to include Lidl’s prices.

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Andrea Hirai

I admit it, I'm a secret, but lapsed, comper

I admit it, I'm a secret, but lapsed, comper

I admit it, I’m a secret, but lapsed, comper. Admittedly work and kids mean I’ve not comped (entered competitions) much lately but I encourage my kids to have a go when we see a free one and I’d encourage anyone else to join in too.

First and foremost it’s huge fun. On Mothers’ Day this year my kids entered two competitions; one a Muppets treasure hunt at Cineworld, and the other a hoola hoop challenge in Bella Italia. My eldest girl won both, getting two cinema tickets for any film and a muppets DVD from Cineworld, and a £25 voucher for the restaurant.

We haven’t used the Bella Italia voucher yet so that’ll be a treat for sometime soon as it expires this month.

If that isn’t enough inspiration, we also have a fantastic community of compers on our Competitions Time forum board. I love reading all their supportive comments and, especially, the I Won, I Won, I Won board where people flag up their wins and thank the forum members who posted the competition in the first place. 

The community there even gives a shout out if prize winners haven’t yet claimed, so if you’re a comper it’s well worth bookmarking.

So if this has encouraged you to start comping, have a read of our 40 Comping Tips guide and consider joining the forum to become part of the comping community.

And while you’re there, Homebase is giving our forum members 10 real Christmas trees. You’ve got until 10am on 10 December to enter and all you need to do to is say "Merry Christmas" on the forum.

If you’re comping to boost your income, don’t miss our Boost your Income guide too for other ways to earn.

Are you a life long comper or are you a newbie planning on giving it a try? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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Amy Ellis

My Twitter complaint was resolved in a matter of hours

My Twitter complaint was resolved in a matter of hours

I recently downloaded the Addison Lee app on to my phone – after slipping a disc in my back six weeks ago the need for taxis has increased somewhat.

It’s a well-established, seemingly trusted company (that even had a TV show made about it if my memory serves me correctly). So when I had to put my credit card details in to set everything up, I didn’t bat an eyelid.

In fact, having the option for the taxi fare to just be debited from my account when I don’t have the right change is rather handy.

But after my credit card was automatically charged for a 10 minute ‘waiting time’ five days after a night out without any explanation or evidence of this wait actually taking place, I started to question whether Addison Lee having my credit card details to hand was such a good thing.

To say I was livid is an understatement. And it wasn’t the extra cost that I was annoyed about, it was only a few pounds. But it wouldn’t have mattered if it was £1 or £100, it was the principle that mattered to me.

As I said, my back has been bad, but I took the lift down from my third floor flat as soon as the text arrived from the driver to say he was outside the flat and a quick glance out the kitchen window confirmed this was the case. It took a moment, not 10 minutes, so I was 100% confident that this added charge was not warranted.

It also annoyed me because had I chosen to pay by cash, this wouldn’t have happened – the driver couldn’t obviously argue a wait that never happened with me then and there.

Outraged, I immediately responded to the email alert that said I had been charged to voice my complaint and ask the company to provide evidence of the waiting time. I got an automated email saying someone would get back to me within five days. Patience is not my forte, I couldn’t wait that long.

I took to Twitter to complain

Instead, I turned to Twitter. The tweet I sent was polite but expressed my anger at the situation. Within moments I had a tweet back from Addison Lee asking me to provide them with my case number. But what happened next I was not expecting.

I missed the call, but I had a voicemail on my phone with a sincere apology telling me that not only was it going to refund me the money for the waiting time, but in fact the cost of the entire journey. Result. The money was in my account a few days later, no questions asked.

The whole issue had been resolved in a matter of hours, simply by sending a tweet.

It got me thinking; is social media the only way to get anywhere with complaints against companies these days? I have had similar issues in the past that miraculously got resolved as soon as an aggrieved tweet was sent to the offending company.

So I think in the future I will skip the traditional first step and just head straight to Twitter.

Have you had similar experiences when complaining via social media? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

What does Addison Lee say?

"Whether customers are getting in touch to offer praise, or indeed complain, it’s our job to respond quickly, and effectively.

"The beauty of social media is that while negativity is sometimes aired in a public forum, it challenges brands to up their game. It rewards brands that adopt a personal, but effective touch and, with the right approach, the opportunity is there to turn those negatives into positives – something that we always aim for."

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Amy Ellis

Computer says 'no'

Computer says 'no'

We moved into our flat a year ago. We did all the usual things, bought a tonne of furniture from Ikea, tried to locate the stopcock (someone had put it behind an inaccessible wall) and got all the essentials sorted like gas, electricity, phone, TV and internet.

We’d had Sky TV and internet in our previous flat, it had always worked well and we still wanted it in the new flat, so we just transferred it all over (see our Cheap Broadband and TV guides to get the best deals).

The internet worked fine to start with. But over time all we seemed to do was complain about how slow the internet was. We’d find ourselves incessantly turning the router on and off in the hope that it might miraculously fix the problem.

It didn’t. Our patience at breaking point, we went out to a large retailer to get something to fix the problem. After speaking to a sales assistant we came to the conclusion that given the thick walls in our property, the signal was struggling.

The answer? A contraption to boost the signal. The price? £20. Not too bad we thought if it solved the problem.

It didn’t. So off we went again to said large retailer and explained the problem to someone else.

The answer? To buy a new wireless router. The price? £50. Not too bad we thought if it solved the problem. But it didn’t.

Taking things back to basics

Now £70 worse off and in the same sorry position, I went off to catch up on Downton Abbey and left my husband to it. Half an hour later we had fully functioning whizzy internet again.

The answer? My husband took things back to basics and called up Sky to see if it could provide an answer to why we were paying so much for something that effectively wasn’t serving its purpose. The price? £0. What can only be classed as a bargain given it actually fixed the problem.

So, I know you’re dying to know exactly what Sky did to fix the problem (apologies to anyone that already knows this, but we didn’t, so if it can help those that don’t, great). It turns out that wireless routers can broadcast on several different channels and if neighbours are using broadband on the same channel, then it can interfere with your signal.

So Sky just walked my husband though how to identify how many people in the surrounding area were on the same channel as us and then how to change the channel to make sure we were getting the best possible signal.

It turns out he didn’t even need to call, Sky have a handy video that you can watch, which walks you through it step-by-step.

We took both the contraptions that we had thought would help us back, and saved ourselves £70.

I guess the moral to the story is, so often we think spending money is more likely to help solve an issue, but in this case a simple phone call was the answer to all our problems.

Have you ever found the simplest, cheapest solution is the one that works? Do you have any tips on boosting your broadband speed? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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Sarah Monro

I can extra cash using Field Agent and Swagbucks

I make extra cash using Field Agent and Swagbucks

Many MoneySavers will already know that the idea of making money online is not a myth. I’ve been looking for ways to boost my income for two years now and so far I’ve made around £200, but it’s possible to make more if you’re willing to put in the hours.

If you’re looking for ways to make a bit of extra cash, there are definitely more than a few options out there as our Boost Your Income guide details in full. I thought I’d fill you in on my personal experience of trying to make a bit of extra cash.

The great thing about the websites and apps I list below is that most of them can be done while you’re watching TV, so if you spend a lot of time in front of the box, you might as well try making money at the same time.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that if you’re able to work and keen to boost your income, your time might be better spent improving your qualifications and applying for better paid jobs!

Here are some of the websites and apps I’ve tried so far:

This is a mystery shopping app for smartphones. I found it pays about £5 when you complete short tasks like checking if products are in stock, or if billboards are visible. I once got paid to visit a pub and buy a gin & tonic!

I made £64.50 in two months using this app, which makes it the fastest type of extra earning I’ve tried.

This web site takes some getting into but it’s very addictive once you get going. You earn money by completing surveys, playing games, watching videos and a variety of other tasks.

I made £75 in four months and only gave it up because it was starting to take over my life!

As well as earning money back on your shopping, you can use Top Cashback to make free money. I was paid to sign up to a free credit trial, use comparison websites and post adverts on a classified ads site.

Sometimes you can be paid to do the tasks two or three times, but they have strict rules on this which could result in your account being terminated if you go over the limit.

I’ve made £23 in the last year, but I imagine it’s possible to make more as I don’t check for new offers very regularly.

This app pays you to look at adverts. But you usually only earn about 2p-4p per ad, which means it can feel a little slow to reach the £10 minimum pay-out threshold. Recently it’s also started sending out adverts that you won’t get paid to look at – this makes me reluctant to recommend it as I find this quite frustrating.

It’s taken me two years to earn £42, but I think this is a good reward for minimal effort.

Have you had any success with these websites and apps? Do you have any tips on boosting your income? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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Zorica Campbell

Additional reporting by Megan Clark.

We put the quality vs price theory to the (taste) test

We put the quality vs price theory to the (taste) test

Last month’s National Chocolate Week really got us thinking – we work for a website that prides itself on fighting for the consumer, so surely it’s our duty to take the fight to the supermarket chocolate shelves, right? We put the quality vs price theory to the (taste) test, gathering some surprising results.

Typically, a 100g bar of high-end supermarket own-brand chocolate sets you back about £1.50, which may not seem a lot but can quickly accumulate over periods of time (weeks, days, hours – delete as appropriate!).

You can, of course, go for the cheaper options – about 35p for 100g, but chocolate connoisseurs don’t always want to compromise quality for price, while others argue cheap chocolate is only for cooking.

So our very willing guinea pigs (colleagues) here at MSE Towers put the chocolate to the test. To make things fair, we only compared milk chocolate and we removed all of the packaging so no one knew which was which.

  • A – Green & Blacks (100g) – £2
  • B – Sainsbury’s Basics Milk Chocolate (100g) – 35p
  • C – Sainsbury’s TTD Belgian Fair Trade (100g) – £1.55
  • D – Cadbury Dairy Milk (120g) – £1 on special offer, reduced from £1.40

We then asked everyone to vote for both their favourite and the one they believed to be the most expensive.

Chocolate taste test

Chocolate taste test


Let the tasting commence

Let the tasting commence

MSEers love a taste test, as we discovered previously thanks to the Pimms vs Jeeves test run by MSE’s Charlotte (AKA Deals Hunter), and this time was no different. As the crowds gathered, comments such as "this is the best taste test ever" filled the air and within 10 minutes, almost everything had predictably disappeared.

The Results

Fortunately, our 22 testers didn’t end up in so much of a chocolate-induced stupor that they forgot to vote and the results were quite split.

What was the favourite?

Though it was close – there was just one vote between first and second place – here are the very interesting results:

  • A – Green & Blacks
  • B – Sainsbury’s Basics
  • C – Sainsbury’s TTD
  • D – Cadbury’s

Cadbury’s, perhaps surprisingly, was in last place, while Sainsbury’s Basics was one vote off taking joint first place with Green & Blacks.

Which was the most expensive?

In terms of price, MSEers were almost right on the money, predicting correctly that the most expensive was Green & Blacks and the cheapest Sainsbury’s Basics.

But although the most expensive chocolate won, with such a significant price difference and with our testers genuinely liking the taste of the cheaper stuff too, the results suggest you don’t have to pay top dollar to get nice chocolate – cheap no-frills still tastes good.

More chocolate related activities

Check out our Forum, @MSE_Forum twitter, Instagram and Pinterest Chocolate board for the chocolate-related activity we’ve been involved in. And if that isn’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, check out MSE Debs’ fabulous chocolate cat – this has to be the best we’ve ever seen.

MSE Debs' amazing chocolate cat

MSE Debs' amazing chocolate cat

Do you have any tips on cutting the cost of chocolate? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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MSE Helen Saxon

It's sometimes difficult calculating how to get the biggest discount

It's difficult to work out how to get the biggest discount

Any resident or visitor to London will have seen the warnings about card clash on the tube – the idea that you could be charged for a journey more than once on multiple contactless cards. But I wager fewer people have heard of coupon clash (mostly because I just made it up).

I’ve been doing quite a lot of online shopping recently as I’m trying to furnish the flat I’ve just bought. If you know where to look (and MSE Deals is a good place to start) then there are plenty of coupons or codes that give you money off everyday shopping.

However, it’s been difficult trying to sort out how to use them to get the best possible discount. An online order at Marks & Spencer recently offered £5 off if I spent £30. But I also had a separate code which got me 20% off everything I was buying.

The £5 off was automatically added to my basket, and when I tried to put the 20% off coupon code in, it told me it wasn’t valid. It was only when I took the £5 off out of the basket that I could use the 20% off – and it was worth it too as it got me almost £8 off the order.

I was also faced with a similar situation when buying a fridge and a TV stand from Argos. I’d put in a code that got me free delivery, saving me £9. But when I tried to put in another code that gave me 20% off, again, the site wouldn’t let me have it. Sadly, on this occasion I didn’t realise that it might be the delivery code stopping that from working.

But, now I’ve figured it out, in future I’ll always work out which of the codes and discounts available will save me the most money and put that in first. And then I’ll put all the others in, because you never know, they could just work…

Do you have any tips on stacking coupons or which offers to use first? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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MSE Helen Saxon

Always check the paperwork before putting your signature to it

Always check the paperwork before putting your signature to it

Sadly, I’m not a millionaire and therefore don’t make nearly enough to be taxed anything close to £2.24 million.

But I did recently buy my first home. One Friday night, towards the end of the buying process, I got home to find a letter from my solicitor.

Buying a home involves A LOT of paperwork and it’s important to keep on top of it. So I sat down intending to sign it and send it back straight away so there wouldn’t be any delays.

Everything was going fine: the address of the flat I was buying was correct, as were the details about me. But then I read down to the amount I had to pay in stamp duty.

At first, I didn’t really comprehend the number as it had no comma separators (as in 1,000,000). Then it dawned on me that the piece of paper said that the "amount of tax due for this transaction was 2240000.00" – in other words, £2.24 MILLION! Hardly your average first-time buyer’s stamp duty bill.

As it happened, when I called the solicitor after the weekend, I discovered there had been an administrative error and it could be easily sorted out.

Shortly afterwards, a new stamp duty form was sent with the correct (but still excessive) amount of stamp duty land tax (it’s worth a read of Martin’s blog The UK’s worst tax… stamp duty – a sentiment I heartily agree with).

So, the moral of the tale is… ALWAYS, ALWAYS check the paperwork before putting your signature to it!

Have you ever received a larger than expected bill? Please let us know your opinions in the discussion below or in the forum.

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