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When hiring a firm or a person to do some work for you - perhaps some building work or plumbing or electrical jobs at home or in your shop or office, check their credentials and be careful how you pay, when you pay and how much you pay, discuss it with someone you trust before committing yourself. Remember that if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is! If it's much more than you expected, you need to justify it to yourself. Again, talk to a friend about it.

The three things you need to check are: (1) Ask for and take up references, their previous customers won't mind you calling. (2) Go with your gut feeling for the person and the firm, it's most often correct! If it's a big job go and look at other work they've done. (3) Always get price, payment terms and a straight forward guarantee of the work in writing before you commit to anything, if you're happy with the quote, stick with the terms you agreed. Discuss it with someone first.

Most people only end up disappointed because they have ignored the basic rules. Finally, if it's work that could show problems afterwards, ask for a retention in the initial written terms of, say 10% for 4-6 weeks after completion.



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Spruce up your home without breaking the bank

If your home is feeling a bit tired but you don’t have much cash to splash, don’t worry. You’ll need to plan well, hunt out bargains and tap into your inner creative spirit but even with just a little cash you can make a big difference to your home.

Planning and de-cluttering

When you don’t have money to burn, thinking hard about what it is you want to change is more important than ever. Look at a room and ask yourself what you really don’t like about it.

It helps if you take a couple of pictures of the room and upload them to your computer. Looking at the space from a different perspective means you can often see more clearly what isn’t working.

It might just be that the room is cluttered with too much furniture or general mess. Take the plunge and tidy up then get rid of any furniture that you don’t use. You can sell it – try sites like Gumtree or Shpock – and put the money towards your new look room.

A new life for old

Revisit the furniture you already have. Don’t throw something out because you're tired of the colour or the finish. You can easily change it. If the basic shape of the piece is good then repainting is a way to give it a lease of life. Change the handles, too, and bingo, you’ve got a fab new piece of furniture.

Small spend, big impact

Save on big ticket items and add impact with low cost extras. It’s all about being clever with details. Go for budget versions of high cost items, by choosing basic white tiles for a bathroom for example. Then add interest by using coloured grouting. Or hunt down a beautiful old reclaimed door handle in salvage yards and transform an ordinary door.

Budget style

Small items like vases and cushions can make a big difference. "Buying a vase and a bunch of flowers can lift a room. It’s as much about styling the space as it is about buying new things.".

Art is another simple winner. Try online sites like http://www.art.co.uk and you can choose from a huge variety of prints at reasonable prices. Or visit your local art school graduation day – chances are the students there will be delighted to sell you a low cost piece.

Be creative

Making your own is a sure way to save money. Check out the ends-bin at haberdashery stores and take a sewing class. Basic curtains and blinds are very easy to make and will instantly update a room.

The biggest cost in most projects is the labour involved, so try to involve friends and family and do as much of it yourself as you can. Learn a few new skills – [the big] DIY stores sometimes offer ‘how-to’ demonstrations for many basic skills free of charge.

Hunt down bargains

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Join sites like

Freecycle or Freegle (see below)and you can pick up furniture for nothing, or search for second hand furniture in your local area through sites like Gumtree.

If you prefer something brand new, be prepared to spend some time shopping around. You will often find low cost versions of the same product online or in high street discount stores.

If you only do one thing

If you only have the budget for one thing, then invest in paint. Paint is a marvellous, inexpensive way of changing the whole look of a room.

If budgets are super tight, choose one feature wall and give that a fresh coat in a tone that’s darker or lighter than the rest of the room. Or just paint your woodwork. Painting woodwork white or cream gives a room an instant update. For help picking out a colour for your home, try this: https://www.dulux.co.uk/en?gclid=CIq_iLXLtcgCFafnwgode3kABw

So have a quick declutter, think hard about what you need to change, give a room a coat of paint and make your own basics or shop around and you’ll soon find that redecorating a room doesn’t need a huge budget.

Items you might consider buying that aren’t brand spanking new!

Electrical goods

You may worry that if you buy electrical goods secondhand, they won’t work. But did you know several well-known high street retailers sell their reconditioned electrical goods online, complete with limited warranties? For example:

The Tesco outlet on eBay: http://stores.ebay.co.uk/tescooutlet

MPB Photographic (top brands): http://www.mpbphotographic.co.uk/

Just remember to research such websites first using search engines, to pick up any bad reviews.

Self-assembly furniture

Why bother buying furniture from Ikea and Homebase when community freebie sites exist - such as:

Freegle http://www.ilovefreegle.org/ check out

SnaffleUp http://www.snaffleup.co.uk/ check out

They often offer the items you want, pre-assembled, for free? You can even post ‘wanted’ notices asking for specific items. Alternatively, find out where regular house clearance auctions are held in your local area, and bag some bargains that way.

It’s well worth researching these sites and many others like them. There are bargains to be had!

If you find a website that others may find helpful for price or choice or ideas, why not let us know so we can share it. Go to 'Contact Us' on the HOME page.

Here’s an interesting website and It’s a BBC one! There are some lovely ideas, including these examples: http://www.bbc.co.uk/homes/design/

Finally, this site is not an obvious site, but a cracker!


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Can cleaning without chemicals save cash?

Can you really clean a kitchen with a lemon? Wash your windows with white vinegar? Scour an oven using salt? More importantly, does doing so save you cash?

I've always been a big believer in expensive cleaning chemicals. This isn't because I want a fanatically sterile home, but more because I hate cleaning and these products all promise to save me time.

That means that I've spent a lot of money over the years on expensive, bleach-filled concoctions. If it's not dangerous to inhale, then you won't find it in my cleaning cupboard.

But the internet is full of suggestions for cleaning your home using cheap products that you already have around the house.

I've been testing out a few chemical-free cleaning methods to see if they work - and if they work out cheaper.

This week I cleaned my house using just lemons, vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, salt, old newspaper and soda crystals.

Instead of washing my bath with lemon-scented, bleach-filled bathroom spray, I wiped it with half a real lemon then used a cloth soaked in lemon juice to clean the taps.

White vinegar was liberally sloshed around the toilet bowl and I poured soda crystals down the clogged-up shower plug hole, followed by boiling water 20 minutes later.

There is, apparently, nothing white vinegar won't clean and it's dirt cheap. I used it to wash the lime scaled shower doors and mixed it with water to wash down the floor. To clean my bathroom tiles, I sprinkled baking soda on a damp sponge and wiped them down.

Next, I cleaned the inside of my windows and a grubby glass table using vinegar, before polishing them with newspaper. I cleaned my oven with a mix of baking soda, salt and water, which I left for several hours before wiping off.

In the kitchen, I used bicarbonate of soda on a damp cloth to wipe down the work surfaces, followed by a whisk round with half a lemon. I ran the washing machine with a handful of soda crystals to give it a clean.

Did it work?

Without a doubt, these natural cleaning products worked. My home was clean and it didn't smell of vinegar once everything had dried (I had been worried it would smell like a chip shop).

But, while the end result was just as good, I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it was a bit harder. I had to work a bit longer than I would with my usual arsenal of chemicals.

How much did I save? Here's a run down:

White vinegar (568ml) - 44p

Bicarbonate of soda (200g) - 83p

Soda crystals (1kg) - 90p

5 lemons - 70p

Salt (750g) - 27p

Total - £3.14

Compare that to the current contents of my cleaning cupboard:

Cif Power Cream Kitchen (750ml) - £2.98

Mr Muscle Oven Cleaner (300ml) - £3.00

Mr Muscle Sink and Plug Drain Gel (500ml) - £3.70

Cif Power Cream Bathroom (750ml) - £2.98

Tile Brite Gel (300ml) - £2.00

Harpic Powerplus Disinfectant Toilet Cleaner (750ml) - £2.00

Total - £16.66

That means that my cache of chemicals has cost me more than five times what my natural cleaning kit did. That's an astonishing 530% more.

  • Note: We couldn't find the author of this piece, but thought it was interesting enough  to include anyway. If the author reads this, plesae get in touch with us.


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Avoid the cowboys !

  • Do not deal with traders who cold-call.
  • If the trader says they are working locally –check with your neighbour that the work has been completed satisfactorily.
  • For larger jobs always get three written quotes from different traders – it’s a way to check what work needs doing and that you're getting a good price.
  • Don't be pressured into having work done straight away – give yourself time to think it over.
  • If the trader finds additional work that needs doing get quotes for that too. 
  • Don't pay cash for work carried out and try to avoid paying any money up front.
  • For advice, contact the Trading Standards Service via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 08454 04 05 06.


 A child asked his father, "How were people born?" So his father said, "Adam and Eve made babies, then their babies became adults and made babies, and so on." The child then went to his mother, asked her the same question and she told him, "We were monkeys then we evolved to become like we are now." The child ran back to his father and said, "You lied to me!" His father replied, "No, your mum was talking about her side of the family."