The Spend It Widely Guide on How to Earn Free Money

Want free money? Good. I am a Prince and good friend mine person family just got inherited $100,000,000 and you can have half, all you need is… Wait. Sorry. Wrong article. This article is about actual free money,  how to get it, and why it isn’t actually always too good to be true. Also, to keep things light hearted – let’s see how many different words I can find to describe cash.

Important note – this isn’t going to be a guide about how to scrimp and save by doing fantastically boring things like switching your current account to get 0.75% instead of 0.65% interest on your dough, or stockpiling 3 for 2s to sell in the Brexit apocalypse. If you’ve listened to our Podcast (which you definitely should because, totally impartially, it’s awesome) then you’ll know we’re not about that. We’re about doing easy things that make life more fun. Nothing here is laborious or boring, everything here we would, or do, do ourselves. Read, learn, earn some free dinero and Spent It Widely.

How to earn free money (for realsies):

  1. Cashback – we bang on about this relatively often, and for good reason. It is literally the easiest way in the world to get free cash. Shop online just like you would usually, but before buying, simply sign into Quidco / TopCashBack and click through to the shop. I have earned well over £1,000 in two years from doing this and Vix has earned even more. To quote the meme, y tho?  Shops online and on the high street want your business; cashback works by taking money they’re willing to spend on advertising and giving it back to you. With cashback offered on everything from supermarket essentials to holidays and financial products, it’s another way to boost that your splash budget.
  2. Open Table – eat out at places? Good, don’t we all? Now do yourself a favour and start booking through OpenTable. Every time you dine you get points. Get enough points (which isn’t hard) and you can swap these for vouchers.
  3. Collect Airmiles – a pet rant of mine. Getting on a plane sometime in the rest of your life? Lucky you. As long as it’s not low cost then you should bloody well be collecting the frikking airmiles. Don’t know how? Not an excuse – you can find out with our beginners guide to collecting
  4. Use a points of cashback credit card – I’m deliberately going to avoid giving advice here. Let’s just say that I put all of my spend through credit cards that earn me points or cashback. Google it. I’ve earned enough this year for two free trips to New York – and an upgrade to business on a recent flight from Las Vegas (This was controversial. Why? Listen to episode 4 for the story).
  5. Your old Phone(s) – yes, hello, who is it? PPI? No thanks. We’ve all got a phone. Sometimes we get a new one. Most of us get a new one every two years. Watchya doing with your old one? Nothing? Rookie error, would you leave your old car on the drive? Sell / recycle it online and literally get free casheesh. How much you say? Well – if you’re upgrading to a new iPhone X from an iPhone 7 Compare My Mobile will get you £270 for your 7. Not bad. But the prices depreciate; yes, there is that car metaphor again. Just like you lose value driving it off the forecourt, your old phone loses dollar as months and years go by so don’t procrastinate.

Side bar – I am say in a hotel lounge, lovely and quiet, with ten people reading. An American has just answered his phone and immediately PUT IT ON SPEAKER. Why America Why?!

Sorry, back with you now.

As promised, simple things to get free wonga (do not use aforementioned site, they are insanely expensive and loan is not free money! ) There are also a load of things you can to save money / get more from the money you’ll spend like getting free hotel upgrades, enjoying free/cheap cinemamaxing out your wedding, and much, much more. Want more? Good. Keep reading. It’s what Spend It Widely is here for!

Enjoyed or more tips? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch here.

Hello (Fresh) is it me you’re looking for?

Part of the reason I wanted to do this blog is I am absolutely packed full of TED talk levels of detail on the things I love, and I am (for the most part) too self aware to inflict them, unsolicited, on the people I love. My evangelical zeal for Hello Fresh is one such TED talk that will never see the light of day. There are a lot of opinions floating round about this type of service but I wanted to give you the proper, user tested low down as someone who has been using the service for most of the year.

In terms of setting the scene, both me and my husband have fairly arduous jobs so prior to Hello Fresh we were in a cycle of take aways, drinks after work that turned into pub snacks, or a trip to a restaurant on the way home. This would no doubt be followed by the occasional orgy of well intentioned spending on store cupboard and fridge essentials to do more cooking at home, and the absolute shame of shuttling said fresh items wordlessly in the bin when life got in the way.  For way too long we have been grimly aware that we are wasting criminal amounts of food and money throwing away food, or putting it in the halfway house Neverland of the freezer, despite never having the organisational skills to defrost things, only to be thrown away later or stored forever in icy stasis.

So, brace yourselves, here is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (I watched a lot of Law and Order on a flight took last week) about Hello Fresh

The Skill level

It’s as simple as you want it to be – You choose from 10 recipe options each week so you control how much time you want to spend, and the level of effort you put in. Some of them are super quick and under half hour, some of them take a little bit longer. It caters for all palates, and in the safety of the subscription you can cancel at any time, you can test things you’d probably never commit to in the supermarket, or gamble on if you saw it on a menu. Also, it’s reduced the meat we eat, as some of the veggie options have really caught our eye and taken us out of our carnivorous comfort zone.

The recipes are simple to follow but don’t take them step by step, make sure you read ahead – I’ve been caught out a few times fannying around with veg prep without realising the next picture instructed me I should also have been pre-heating the oven/roasting some seeds/some other such task. They’re not always easy as a solo mission as some of the steps are best done simultaneously and it’ll depend on the size of your kitchen and your ability to multitask every now again. They don’t require a lot of equipment typically just the essentials and – where anything fancy is necessary – they offer work arounds based on what you have (no garlic crusher? No problem)

The taste test

For people like us who (maybe pretentiously) consider ourselves quite foodie, and routinely go quite hard on herbs and spices when cooking for ourselves, the flavours can, on occasion seem diluted, obviously this is to cater to everyone’s taste – but it would be nice if they kicked it up a few notches for the culinarily adventurous. This is not a dealbreaker because they still taste great, and you can always raid your store cupboard to pump up the flavours. Also, a splash of wine in an Italian dish doesn’t go amiss…

 

 

Food racking up airmiles

The ingredients really are top quality, for the most part. Sourced from local farms and butchers, the vegetables are typically from what’s in season – nice if you care about your food’s carbon footprint and if you want to get into the habit of using what is readily available and reasonably priced. The meat has consistently impressed us. Where there have been problems – the occasional limp carrot or sad vegetable, they have been dealt with very swiftly by the customer service team.

On the flipside, everything is individually packaged which is super convenient but arguably has environmental implications. It is all recyclable but whether you are okay with this depends on how comfortable/willing you are to recycle. Each meal is packaged with ice to ensure they stay fresh even if you can’t put them away straight away – sometimes life gets in the way – we have found an incredible range of uses for said ice packs, from cold compresses on champagne inflicted injuries to using them as ‘cold water bottles’ in the armageddonesque heatwave. They also make a good basis for a bbq beer bucket, or a picnic basket.

Cat not included (sorry)

The Captain is not included – sorry!

Flexibility

You choose your delivery window which is not as narrow as I would like but, as mentioned, the food will keep if left in a safe place (I have tested this many times when I have gone out gallivanting and forgotten it was due) and there is a tracker on the app that shows you exactly where you are on your delivery driver’s route.

Some of the ‘use by’ dates can seem a little bit short, particularly if your life doesn’t always allow for pre-planning meals or, realistically, you simply can’t be arsed/fancy something else on the evening you were supposed to have it. You can exercise common sense with this, universal truths like the fact onions basically live forever and the old smell test, means they can actually last a lot longer than forecasted (please don’t die taking this advice, emphasis is on common sense) and if you do not get round to it, freeze your meat, keep the non perishables together, and you can recreate it another time without spending too much extra – a random courgette here, a red pepper there doesn’t typically break the bank. Although we are accumulating tins of coconut milk at a ridiculous pace; the bad news -apparently we can only eat curry when we’re really in the mood for curry, the good news; when the apocalypse comes we’ll have something to drink that current fashion suggests is pretty good for us.

Commitment phobe? No worries

You can pause your deliveries at any time but you have to do it in a specific window – this can be frustrating if you get it wrong, and if you are the kind of person I am, you might need to set reminders on your phone to choose what you want/keep or pause your week’s delivery. If you don’t choose, they pick for you, which happened to us once and will never happen again – in one of the hottest summers on record, we had 3 fucking stews and there was no one to blame but us.

You can pause indefinitely or cancel at any time so if you fear commitment, fear not.

The price

Deals exist so you can give it a good, long, low-cost trial: We got our first 3 boxes (containing 3 meals) for half price (full price £35)  – which on a cost per portion was pretty punchy. We were fairly convinced we’d run the trial then give up on it, but the recipes were so delicious and it was so crazy convenient that we are still going today.

I cannot even calculate the saving in terms of food waste. Pre HF we were sheepishly throwing away the 4th chicken breast in the packet because we only needed 2 but 4 was the ‘best value’ now we get exactly what we need for the meal, and spices at a pinch (like saffron) that we’d never have bothered to buy in bulk. The portion sizes are varied, typically the pasta dishes leave enough leftovers for the next day (not for me, but I understand this is the case for normal people who have impulse control) some have been on the small side and more suited to a lunch than an evening meal. That said, you might be surprised how full you are, eyes can be bigger than belly and it’s actually taught me a lot about portion control – particularly when it comes to rice, that I can now miraculously cook the right amount of.

So, this is my love letter to Hello Fresh, one of the best decisions I have made from a culinary point of view. Admittedly it is not for everybody and arguably there are cheaper ways of getting similar results but if you value your time and have the means to afford it, it’s incredibly good value.

You can find out more here: Hello Fresh

Avios – what, where, who and how (and why)

Avios. A lot of people have a lot of strong opinions. I’ve heard rants about how they’re useless and I know people who love them as much as some people love their in-laws.

First disclaimer – Avios is the currency of British Airways and I have a love hate relationships with BA (I want to love them but recently I’ve found it hard).

Second disclaimer – I have collected Avios for years, will continue to collect them and think that anyone not collecting them is basically walking through a rainstorm where it’s raining money (notes probably, as coins would hurt) and not picking up the free cash.

OK, now that’s out of the way let’s address some pain points:

  1. It can take ages to collect Avios – true. It can. It really really can. But if someone told you that you could have a savings account that they’d pay into, it would cost you nothing, and you could eventually use the contents to buy something really cool I bet you wouldn’t say no
  2. Taxes can be expensive when using them – kind of true. For long-haul flights this is true. Although these land up about the same as an full price Economy fair when using Avios to fly Business. So would your rather pay for a full price Economy fair and fly Economy or pay the same amount in taxes and fly Business? Short-haul is a different story as Avios taxes are capped within Europe to £25 – both in Economy and Businedd. £25 plus a few Avios for a return trip to Spain with all the champagne you can inhale anyone? I would. In fact I did. Several times!
  3. Avios expire – also true. The crucial thing here is that they expire if you don’t add anything to your account. All you have to do is add a handful every now and then (fly BA and credit your miles or even just buy some milk and cereal on a BA Amex every few months). So, whilst true, this really isn’t an issue

Let’s take an example. My husband and I flew Business Class return to South America earlier this year on our honeymoon. This was all done on Avios and the taxes were less than the equivalent flight would have cost in Economy (we actually paid for First Class using Avios but they decided the plane wouldn’t have First Class for our flights – WTAF – although that’s a different story). This wasn’t accomplished though flying BA every month for three years, nor was it accomplished through hundred of thousands spent on a credit card. I always push for us to put all big expenditure (and a lot of my small expenditure) on a card that earns us points. It so happens that we changed cards twice over the past couple of years and both times benefited from a sign up bonus. Couple this with the fact that we ALWAYS collect miles from our flights (our guide on how to collect airmiles) meant that within a couple of years we had well over 150k miles. Again, to stress, this was not within an insane credit card spend.

When it came to spending these miles and booking these flights we also took advantage of our two-for-one voucher. This is a voucher that BA credit cards offer customers who spend £10k/£20k per year (depending on card). This voucher allows you to get two return flights for the equivalent airmiles cost of one flight. And that’s it. Enough airmiles and a voucher secured us memorable and comfortable (and, crucially, champagne fuled) start and end to our honeymoon.

Convinced that you should start collecting? Good. Do I get I prize?

Here are my top tips when it comes to Avios:

  • Never fly an airline without collecting your miles. This is a golden rule in general but applies even more so to BA as they’re our national carrier
  • Check out the Avios / BA portal where it’s possible to earn avios from your everyday shopping at dozens of brands – these really can add up – my train travel alone nets me 4-5000 avios a year
  • Consider cards that allow you to earn airmiles, especially with the sign up bonuses
  • Be flexible with the destination when booking – if it’s just a beach your lucking for then there are loads of options. If you’re keen to fly further afield then consider booking up to 12 months in advance
  • Remember the lounge and airport benefits- when you do book your Business Class flight don’t forget to get to the airport early to enjoy the lounge and take advantage of fast track security and business check in – you’re premium today baby!

Remember, with capped taxes you can get European redemption from just 20k miles and £25 so follow the above and you could soon be jetting off.

Whilst we’re talking about avios, you may want to check back soon for our guide on how to get upgrades on planes. Tried and tested methods to turn left – everyone wants to turn left.

How to find cheap flights

Looking to book a flight somewhere fun? Of course you are, it’s 2018, who isn’t?! Looking for flights to an awesome destination without spending a fortune? Well hopefully we can help with that. Here are my top tips on how to find cheap flights without breaking a sweat.

Top tips to find cheap flights:

  1. Start looking early – as soon as you have an inkling you are going somewhere, then start looking for flights. This really will help with all of the below tips and get you the best value. If you didn’t, and you’re flying tomorrow then: (1) have an awesome time, send me a postcard and (2) don’t worry, read on and hopefully we can help.
  2. Be flexible with dates – Peak times can be very expensive. This is something most parents will know by the painful inability to fly during term time. It’s simple supply and demand (check me and my Economics 101 out), the more people want to fly, the higher the prices are. As a result, the more flexible with dates you are, the better the prices are. If you are fully adulting and have kids in tow, then try the next tip.
  3. Be flexible with destination – There are 192 (or thereabouts) countries in the world, and thousands of cities, you don’t have to go to the same place each year.
  4. Collect airmiles – airmiles are airline currency, you can use them to get free flights around the world (Check out our beginners guide on how to collect airmiles). What’s more, even if you don’t have enough airmiles to pay for the cost of a flight outright, most airlines will allow you to use miles to part pay for a flight thereby reducing the cash cost. It’s really worth collecting points from everything you can all year round as they can make a massive dent in the cost of your flight.
  5. Compare – look, if you don’t know what comparison sites are then you really are beyond help. If you do, but aren’t using them to find flights then why the hell not!? Skyscanner, Kyak and Momondo (my personal fave) should be your first port of call to find flights.
  6. Don’t book direct – Airlines release seats at a wholesale price to travel agents, which means you can get cheaper flights by booking indirect a lot of the time. Tip five will help with finding the best online travel agent deals. If you’ve never heard of the company, just check they are IATA / ABTA rated (bottom of the site) and do a quick google for reviews to be sure.
  7. Keep an eye out for sales – airlines do sales. Not a surprise. These are often pretty good. Surprise. It’s really worth keeping an eye out for the sales. These are often around January, over summer and (increasingly) over Black Friday. Have your credit card ready and when you spot a good deal – snap it up. You don’t have to book hotel and flights at once and getting a bargainous air ticket will help you have more to spend on lux accommodation #highlife #yeababy #doesanyoneusehashtagsanymore
  8. Fly secretly – there are several sites out there that only publish insanely cheap sale price and error fares (where the airline has made a pricing mistake – wouldn’t you hate to be that guy). Check out Holiday Pirates and Secret Flying

The above tips are all tried and tested and I use these regularly when booking tickets. We’d love to hear your experiences using this or whether you’ve got any of your own to share so get in touch.

Vix 4 Cineworld – True love 4ever

So I’ve already talked about marriage, but my second strongest and longest commitment has actually been to my Cineworld Unlimited Card.

I took it out in my first year of university, when it was £9.99, I pretended that it was because I was studying films on my media degree but it was actually an excuse to see films like Love Actually until my eyes bled. Whilst I’m loathe to reveal my age in the hope I look like a hot, young millennial, in the 16 years I’ve had it (*WEEP*) It’s surprisingly only crept up to £17.90 despite the fact that individual tickets have skyrocketed from the £3 NUS cheapy Tuesday deal to up to £15.20 to see the latest release in 3D.

In times of austerity over the last sixteen years, it’s the one direct debit my cursor has never hovered over, that and my commitment to giving a dog a ‘safe place’ for a small sum a month, and it has proven to be fantastic value. In the first year it’s unlimited standard films a-go-go, as well as 10% off food and drink, but after a year you get updated to Premium, which gives you 25% off food and drink – almost making it as cheap as sneaking in your own stuff –  plus Unlimited then applies to the 3Ds. Depending on how your town centre rolls, the card – which is valid in Cineworlds across the whole of the UK – also gets you 25% off some generic, nice chain restaurants, including Las Iguanas and La Tasca.

It’s the closest to a free night out you can get and the more you use it, the better value it becomes. With cinema prices the way they are, you only need to see one and a bit films a month to make it work for you and, magically, it also works as the paying ticket if you have access to Meerkat movies, so you can treat a friend, or a date, or a person in the queue behind you that needs something nice to happen to them that day.

In my time as a member I’ve done everything from three-film cinema days (with optional smuggled in contraband gin in a tin – for Man UpPitch Perfect 2 and Mad Max: Fury Road, if you’re asking) to seeing a Sunday Morning children’s films on weekends away when we checked out and had nowhere to go that didn’t cost money. Another cheeky little benefit in these ludicrously roasting heatwave times, go and have a 90 minute nap in the blissful aircon. I’ve also subscribed my Dad, who goes so often that I’m starting to wonder at what point they flag fair usage… I am very definitely my father’s daughter.

It also means you can see movies you wouldn’t fork out full ticket price for – uncovering hidden gems and unashamedly see the same film over and over. Cineworld, I love you.

You can find out more here: https://www.cineworld.co.uk/unlimited This is not in any way sponsored, I just fucking love it.

 

How to collect airmiles – the beginners guide

This may seem like a simple question but there is a surprising amount of complexity here. For the semi-regular leisure flyer (it you, it me), it can seem daunting to know where to start. What’s more, when you are collecting, it can seem like you’ll never collect enough to actually be useful.

Here are the simple secrets and tricks to collecting airmiles the right way – because there is a wrong way! When done right, airmiles are free money that can seriously reduce the cost of your next trip to fun-time-happy-holidays.

There are a two things you need to know:

  • There are three major airline alliances, the chances are the airline you’re flying will be a member of one of these
  • You can collect airmiles from almost any flight, even if you’ve booked indirectly and even if someone else paid for the ticket

How to collect airmiles properly in four extremely simple steps:

  1. Chose the airline club that works the best for you from the group (using the below table). This is basically a question of deciding which airline you’d like to spend your miles with the most. For example – If your next flight is with American Airlines but you’re never going to go to the US again, then BA is probably the best bet. These should be your go to airline loyalty scheme within the alliance. Whenever you fly any airline within this alliance, make sure to use this club.
  2. Register for the scheme and get your account number
  3. Use this account number when checking into (or during booking) your flight to collect your miles
  4. Use the same account every time you fly a member airlines

Done and done! Seriously, that’s it.

Now do it again when you fly again. When your account balance is over 10/20 thousand then it’s time to start getting a little excited about what your miles can buy. A free-ish flight to the continent, an upgrade on your next flight? Yes bloody please and thank you so much – it’s all available when you’re collecting miles.

Top tip 1 – If you want to grow your airmiles balance significantly faster you can look at certain credit cards to do this. More on this later.

Top tip 2 – If you’ve flown recently and haven’t collected airmiles on your flight you can still collect them retrospectively, usually up to six months afterwards. Just log into your chosen account

Use the below table to check who is in which club, I’ve bolded airlines that are worth looking at collecting with / I use based on being a UK citizen. Also, you may notice Virgin Atlantic, Etihad and Emirates are missing from the below. These guys are so cool that they rock their own clubs, so you’ll just have to collect directly.

Alliance name: One world Star Alliance Sky Team
Airlines: American Airlines

British Airways

Cathay Pacific

Finnair

Iberia

Japan Airlines

LATAM

Malaysia Airlines

Qantas

Qatar Airways

Royal Jordanian

S7 Airlines

SriLanken Airlines

Adria

Aegean

Air Canada

Air China

Air india

Air New Zealand

ANA

Asiana Airlines

Austrian

Avianca

Brussels Airlines

CopaAirlines

Croatia Airlines

EgyptAir

Ethiopian

Evaair

LOT Polish Airlines

Lufthansa

SAS

Shenzhen Airlines

Singapore Airlines

South African Airways

SWISS

TAP Air Portugal

THAI

Turkish Airlines

United

Aeroflot

AerolineasArgentina

AeroMexico

AirEuropa

AirFrance

Alitalia

China Airlines

China Eastern

China Southern

Czech Airlines

Delta

Garuda Indonesia

Kenyan Airways

KLM

Korean Air

MEA

Saudia

Tarom

Vietnam Airlines

XiamenAir

How to Spend it Widely – the wedding cut

It’s wedding season and here our girl Vix gives you her top tips on where to make the cuts and when to splash the cash based on direct experience of the most expensive, most exciting day of her life…

Don’t rule out fixed price options if you want to go a la carte for venue

Our hotel allocated us an events manager who was absolutely desperate to do something different to the ‘out of the box’ they typically offered so we were able to lift out things we didn’t want, and sub in things we did. We swapped champagne toasts for Prosecco because I really wanted cocktails for after the ceremony without the extra cash. With the saving from the downgrade, we got an extra set of Cosmos and beer buckets for our guests to enjoy while we were pottering around doing photos. I also asked if they could get the fairy lights to dress up some of the darker corners, and they were happy to oblige.

Food glorious food

Some hotels will try to charge you for menu and wine testing so get that agreed up front at the time of booking, it might be a bargaining chip they’re willing to compromise on to close the sale. We’re foodies/greedies and the food was really important to us so to give our guests extra choices, we gave them the full menu of meat and veggie options to mix and match. I have no doubt this was not the normal, ‘done’ thing but we submitted the ‘dietary requirements’ and everyone got what they wanted. It was just one more little detail we really cared about.

Identify what is important early on, and invest your money there

I did not care about flowers. I literally could not have cared less. I like sunflowers, which are the simplest flowers in the world so I initially was just going to give everyone one each. With a little bit of a review, it was clear that sunflowers were actually pretty damn cheap to buy wholesale so we just bought 100 of them and made the bouquets ourselves. The internet is full of tutorials and my expectations/care level was so low that I was really laid back about cocking it up. Florists were a bit frosty with us for not investing in their expertise, and muttered a lot about us making a big mistake but we wouldn’t be bullied. We bought florist pins and tape and had a good laugh bundling them up. The money we saved more than covered the cost of the bridesmaids’ dresses. I also did not care about a wedding cake, would have been happy to pile up a load of Colin The Caterpillars, and maybe put a doily veil on one. My Male of Honour’s friend was trying to move into showstopper baking so we booked him to do our cake to boost his portfolio. It was BEAUTIFUL, and a fraction of the price of if we’d gone to a wedding baker. He now has his own gorgeous bakery in Bristol so odds are you won’t get that kind of deal again but, if you want to take a look at some of Greg’s other work then you can check him out at https://www.instagram.com/stickyfingerscake/

27 dresses

So I both spent and saved when it came to dresses. We got engaged two years before the wedding and in the excitement I bought a 1920s-style satin dress online. I waived my right to a refund and had it sent to my house in my haste to have it, and I bought it in an ambitious size too small. The good news is around the time of the wedding, I got it to fit. The bad news is that was the only good thing I could say about it – it fit. At a basic level, it zipped up. I looked like a sack of potatoes in it. Me, a stocky, reubenesque character, had bought a dress for Keira Knightley. I had to sell the dress on ebay, at a quite depressing loss. In the end I went high street. And I would recommend keeping an open mind. I didn’t have a ‘dream dress’ and operating on a limited budget with no ‘vision’, I was staggered by the lack of variation in the dresses in the designated wedding shops. I also had a terrible experience at David’s Bridal that did not carry many stylish dresses above a size 14 – and they forced me into them anyway, despite me protesting that they were not going to fit. At one point the salesperson had one foot in the small of my back dragging on the zip, not quite the cinematic ‘say yes to the dress’ experience I was hoping for. There was one that I quite liked but they refused to order it in for me to try unless I paid a deposit, so they lost my sale. I came out in tears, had cocktails with my friend Beth, then hit the high street, they had a MUCH better range of realistic sizes (not to mention prices) and weren’t so shackled to a traditional meringue. Even if you think you know what you want, it’s worth going to a good department store and raid it from top to bottom, from prom upwards. I had so much fun doing that. The dress I eventually got was Phase Eight (bought with cashback from Quidco for extra value), and I absolutely loved it.

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Do not scrimp on the scaffolding underneath

Get the right underwear – I would have rather fried my own head than stand all vulnerable in a changing room in my pants in front of strangers under normal circumstances, but after my experience in David’s Bridal being shoved into dresses and instructed to do things like ‘jump’ into them, I lost all sense of shame. I had read hundreds of articles about Spanx etc. but I had no idea what was going to work and what wasn’t. Not only did I find out I was wearing the wrong bra size, but the amazing assistant in House of Fraser completely remodelled my figure with shape wear (or, as I called it ‘scaffolding’), and the dress (that I already liked) became absolutely amazing. It’s worth the blushes.

Bridesmaids

I had 6 bridesmaids and a Male of honour; apparently I went through such a mad excited phase that I was practically stopping people in the street to invite them to accompany me down the aisle. They all have very different looks so putting them in the same dress (particularly the boy) was never going to work. I set a budget and a colour palette and asked for suggestions and the result was stunning, all the girls felt like themselves on their best day, and they actually do have (cliches aside) dresses they can wear again. Was one of the best decisions I made and, again, some of them I even got cashback on. My Male of Honour had a suit to match the wedding party – and we also went high street for those, with a view to having them fitted by a tailor as though they were couture.

Wedding vix

The present was your presence – but cash was quite nice as well

We took a deep breath and made the brave decision to ask our family and friends for cash towards the honeymoon as a gift. There are some really cool tools that help you turn asking for cold, hard dollar into an actual legitimate wedding list, like honeyfund, that allows your guests to buy ‘items’ from your itinerary online. Things we asked for included rounds of drinks, books for our Kindles, to bigger things like dinners out and trips to local attractions. We then made sure we photographed us doing all the things on the list so people knew we massively appreciated them.

We also squeezed even more value out of our honeymoon by booking via Quidco. SecretEscapes was on there at the time offering a mighty 10% cashback, which was a really nice rebate to have at a later date.

Do it your way

Above all, the thing to remember is that it is your day. Do not fall into the trap of feeling like you have to care about things you don’t care about. You do you. It’ll be the best day of your life anywhere, because you’ll have everyone you care about at that moment in one room together.