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Apr 4 / admin

Which horse will you back on Grand National day?


Although having a bet on the horses goes against the grain for most people who choose to live a frugal lifestyle, many will make an exception this Saturday – 5th April – when the Grand National takes place.

The Grand National is renowned for being one of the hardest steeple chase races in the horse racing calendar. It was first run in 1839, and apart from the World War years and in 1993, the race has been staged every year. This year will be the 167th Grand National and the prize fund is a record £1million.

It is estimated that between £40m and £80m is bet on the Grand National every year. And if you join you can get a free £50 bet when you place your first bet on the sports book. Betfair is also offering a £10 refund for any Grand National bets placed on horses that don’t complete the race; which, given the uncertainty of the race’s outcome, is a generous offer!

There are different schools of thought when it comes to narrowing down the field to choose a National winner. The majority of people will not consider the form or stats. Instead, they’ll choose a name that has significance for them – and with so many names to choose from that’s not hard. Before Saturday, you’ll get better prices with antepost betting than you will on the day of the race, but remember, there’s a possibility that you’ll be backing a non-runner.

However, if you do take the statistics of previous Nationals into consideration, you could narrow down the field to realistic chances. In the last three decades, 80% of winning National horses have been aged 9, 10 or 11. Weight is also very relevant in this handicap race – the heavier the weight, the ‘better’ the horse’s form. The average winning weight for the National in the last thirty years has been around 10stones, but many of the recent winners have carried more than this. Just bearing these two stats in mind could help you eliminate some of the longer shots, and give you a reasonable chance of picking the Grand National winner.

Mar 28 / admin

A guide to meal planning


We all have busy lives with work, commuting, children and the whirl of social engagements. In amongst this is the need to eat 3 meals a day and for many, the quickest option is to grab food on the run, have a takeaway or to pull a frozen ready meal out to pop in the oven at the end of the day.

Eating this way though is expensive and not very healthy. Ready meals and takeaways are packed with salt and sugar and a coffee on the way to work each morning quickly adds up to a big hole in the finances.

It doesn’t have to be like this though as with a bit of planning ahead and being committed to organising meals each week, there are huge savings to be made as well as being kind on the waistline.

Meal planning is all about setting out the choices of food for the next few days ahead. Most committed meal planners decide what is to be served on a weekly basis and then set about organising their cupboards and freezer to ensure all the ingredients are in place to use each day.

With meal planning comes the idea of bulk cooking. This is a great way to fill the freezer with portioned meals of healthy foods cooked in large amounts. Family choices often include bolognaise, cottage pie, chilli con carne and soups packed with vegetables and any leftovers. Not only does this mean that you know exactly what goes into the food, you are saving on buying more expensive ready meals.

The first step is to draw up a meal plan. This is usually a timetable labelled with the days of the week along one side and the meals of the day along the other. Next, have a look in the cupboards, fridge and freezer to see what you already have which can be used for meals and start to fill in the boxes. This can be items such as cereal and milk for breakfast or lunches with baked beans and tinned vegetables. After you’ve exhausted the options in the house, now look to complete the meal plan with recipes you can make which need just a few ingredients. If you have everything for a chilli except the meat, add mince to the shopping list and fill your meal planner in with what you’ll be eating this. Carry on this way until you’ve filled the whole planner.  Look to utilise leftovers in your plan; if you’ve decided on a roast dinner for one day, use whatever is left the next day in some way.

Take the list to the supermarket and buy all the ingredients needed. Also ensure you have your planner as a reminder of what you are going to cook. Don’t be tempted to stray from your list – you already know what you’re going to be cooking.

If in previous months your overspend on quick solution foods has meant you are now faced with an unexpected bill and you are unable to pay it, look at direct payday lenders to give you a bridging solution at the same time as starting with your new mealtime challenge. Within a month you will have saved money on your food spend, repaid the emergency funding and given your body a great boost with fresh ingredients each day.

Mar 19 / admin

8 Brainy Ways To Cut Down Your Spending


Hi everyone, I am Amy Matt. I see my life through a frugal lens because there was a time in my life when my finances were going crazy and I had no clue what to do! That’s when I started exploring the personal finance dimension. I am happy to be here today @ Winning Back.

“Either you are a master of your money or a slave to it. Use your mind and have fun,” says Sharon Lechter, CPA, and co-author with financial guru and New York Times bestselling author Robert Kiyosaki. The following eight suggestions will set you on a new, smarter path to dealing better with your money.

Make A Budget

Yep. You have heard that one before. So now is the time to finally do it. Just try it, if only to achieve a snapshot of what you’ve been missing.

A budget is all about getting your finances under control. It is about understanding how much money you make, and understanding where it is going. It’s brainy because it requires an intelligent effort to make an honest analysis, and face the fire. It also places you above 66 percent of the population (De Groote, 2013) who do not budget.

Accountants, and accounting firms like ForthsOnline in UK have been witness to the harms of ignoring this crucial step. Poor spending habits, and not taking care of your finances can make things ugly, quickly.

The Internet is teeming with tools that you can use to get your budget arranged.

Find some free tools at, and



Utilize Lists

Lists are simple tools that build discipline. By thinking about and writing down what you need while on your shopping trip you will avoid impulsive purchases, which add up over the long-term, and increase your personal transaction average. Filling a list can also save you on fuel costs. You won’t be going to the store so often for forgotten items, will you?

It’s brainy because it requires forethought, and a disciplined decision to take account of what you have, and what you need. A disciplined shopping trip will make you

feel more secure in your finances, and therefore in yourselves. On a side note never go grocery shopping when hungry.

Time To Pack A Lunch

The money you will save from packing lunch for work will add up quickly. Given that eating out for lunch with your colleagues is a good way to network, if you are feeling a pinch in the wallet, the $30 to $45 per week average expense can be cut in half with a bag lunch. That leftover money can go to reducing your debts, or become part of a different section of your budget.

It’s brainy because bringing lunch from home has other benefits, including healthier eating which has numerous positive effects – inside the workplace, and out.

Carry Snacks

Eating out is such a large expense that it garners another mention. Vending machines are expensive. Even more costly than that are convenience stores who are charging an average of $1.19 for a single candy bar. Keep snacks on you at all times to curb the impulse to grab a quick bite.

It’s brainy because it requires forming a habit of throwing a snack and a water bottle into your purse before you leave the house. Stashing, and keeping the snack supply stocked at home and at work becomes a life habit, and will save you thousands.


Do you have email subscriptions for newsletters, sales alerts, and ads from your favorite retailers, and stores? There is a link within every message, often in small print at the very bottom of the email that allows you to unsubscribe. Unsubscribing is a step in the process of getting out of the mindset that shopping a sale for something you do not need is saving money. It’s not saving money because money is going out of your pocket.

It’s brainy because even if you trash or ignore the majority of those emails, it only takes one to get you into the store and impulse buying. Taking care to avoid temptation is smart.

Buy It Used

The value of the majority of merchandise declines rapidly once it’s been taken out of the store. If you shop thrift stores or the occasional yard sale the quality of the items often surprise you. In a thrift store it is the job of the employees to sort the good from the bad, and place the good items on the racks.

U.S. News and World Report (2012) has a segment on thrift that lists 16 items you should never buy new, in case you want somewhere to start.

Buying used is brainy because it takes a conscious decision to drop out of the consumer mindset of good things are only good when new, and save yourself considerable money by shopping second-hand.


Take A Second Look

There is a good chance your services can be renegotiated to a smaller bill. Cable, mobile carriers, and Internet providers have several options available to fit within your budget. If they do not have other options consider either switching, or cutting off the services altogether. That extra few dollars a month can go a long way to helping you live more comfortably. Consider switching from cable to Netflix, and Hulu subscriptions. Added together they are a mere $16.98 per month.

To keep you utility costs down mind the lights. Turn off all unnecessary lights and appliances. Consider using energy friendly light bulbs. Plug the leaks in your windows. Put a stopper underneath your door. Just the smallest bit of extra insulation adds up to dollars saved every month. Tape the joints of your ducts to seal any leaks. This will also reduce your heating bill.

It’s brainy because it requires you to take measure of the effect of a burning light, and spurns you to action on things that have escaped your notice for years. It helps you think differently about how you live, and empowers you to take control of your expenses.


Renting has become a huge industry. You can rent anything from hedge clippers to home entertainment. Thanks to the rental industry you can forego innumerable expensive acquisitions until you have properly saved enough to buy them.

It’s brainy because renting allows you to test the merchandise without worrying about returns, warranties, and the big hole in your bank account.



So . .

Whether you are hurting financially, or just looking for ways to cut back your spending the previous eight suggestions will provide results you will notice. The trick you will have to worry about is what to do with the money you save. Stick to these eight suggestions and you’ll know the best use for that money.




De Groot, M. (2013, January 3). New Gallup poll shows two-thirds of Americans do not budget | Deseret News. Retrieved March 17, 2014, from

Kossman, S. (2013, July 10). 10 Ways to Cut Your Spending This Week – US News. Retrieved March 17, 2014, from


Feb 25 / admin

Great art gifts for older children


If you have an art mad older child, there are some wonderful presents you can buy them for birthdays and Christmas. An older child, by which we mean over 10 years old, can attempt to use almost any medium, and it is seldom too early to start them experimenting with new mediums. It’s a good idea to encourage children to experiment as widely as possible, with all types of creative mediums, so here we look at some of the great artist gifts you may like to consider for an older child.

DVD magic

There are some skills that are simply a joy to observe in action and creating artistic works is one of them. The artist’s DVD is a growing market and even those without a particular interest in art become engrossed as the process unfolds. There is a wide range of mediums featured in artists DVDs, many of which are filmed on location abroad, or in the UK. There is something mesmerising about watching a real professional at work, and seeing how they work. Older children, from early teens, may well find a DVD a great inspiration, and pick up a few tips along the way. You can find highly-regarded Royal Academy artists producing DVDs now, such as Ken Howard and Fred Cuming. Look out for Jean Haines and Shirley Trevena, and Peter Wileman.

Drawing gifts

For the child who is hooked on drawing there is a wide choice. You may like to opt for a traditional wooden box set of coloured pencils, which make a great gift. There is a Winsor and Newton drawing set, which would encourage a child and is very reasonably priced. You might like to think outside of the box, however, and buy a smart folder for the child’s work, some calligraphy pens, or simply some beautiful new acrylic pens. For children who like to draw people, why not look for a model with moveable limbs for them to work from. Oil painting gifts Oil painting can be an expensive hobby, and this can put parents off buying set for the children. But prices of oil painting sets have come down considerably thanks to a competitive market. You can pick up a simple set of oil paints for £20 upwards from leading manufacturers. There are sets available specifically for children, but older ones may prefer an adult looking gift. Look out for Winsor and Newton again for low cost sets, which come with palettes, brushes and canvas included. You can find a range of sets at More inspiration There is a wide range of accessories to choose from if the child is a keen artist already. Paintbrushes, sketchbooks, easels, and canvases never go to waste. You just can’t have too many! But why not give a gift that enables a budding artist to try something completely different? Textile and silk painting, acrylics, pastels, printmaking, glass painting and marbling are all hugely enjoyable for the young artist. What about a set of Chinese paintbrushes in a beautiful fan shaped box? Anything a bit different can fire a child’s imagination. They may discover that they have a hidden talent, and will find a whole new direction to go in.

Feb 13 / admin

Ever heard of Zopa? No? Ever heard of Pac Man?

Zopa are the UK’s first peer to peer lending service, sort of like a mutual borrowing and lending club.  I’ve been using them for years and am a big advocate.  I spotted this nifty infographic on their website and thought you might like to enjoy it too :0)