Friday, 29 January 2016

Saving money on your pet costs

Let's face it, owning a pet can be expensive.  Vaccines, insurance, visits to the vet and routine products like flea treatments and worming tables can all mount up, yet we can't afford not to take preventative healthcare measures.

I mentioned recently that purchasing pet-care items online can be a savvy way of saving money, and now there's a great web store from the long-established and trusted name in pet products, Bob Martin.

On the Bob Martin Vetcare site you can save money not only on their own branded products, but on many others recommended by your veterinary practitioner such as Drontal, Advocate, Metacam and Frontline.

Offering a wide range of healthcare and wellbeing products for both cats and dogs, this could be your one-stop-shop for all those care items we need to buy when our pets get sick or need routine treatment.

Some products are only available with a vet's prescription, but they will still probably work out cheaper than purchasing them at your veterinary practice. Others can be purchased without prescription and include a range of worming treatment, flea treatments, ear cleaners, grooming products and training pads.

If you've not purchased prescription medication in this way, it's worth noting that your vet is legally obliged to issue you with a prescription if your pet requires treatment.  You do not have to purchase it directly through your practice if you can find a better deal elsewhere.  Some practices will charge you a nominal fee for issuing a prescription, others issue free of charge and some charge around £10.  But with savings of over 50% on some items on the Bob Martin Vetcare site, it could be well worth it.

Sending your prescription over is straightforward. You can do it by post, email or fax and there are full details on their site.

So let's take an example and see how much you could save:

Cerenia travel sickness tablets for dogs have a recommended retail price of £52.42.

Bob Martin Vetcare sell them at just £23.23.

Even paying £10 for a prescription to be issued by your vet, you are still saving £19.19.

Now, we have to look at postage costs.  They offer free p&p on orders over £25 or on any order including a Bob Martin branded product, so it's probably worth popping some poop bags, vitamins or shampoo into your basket, otherwise you pay £3 for delivery.

There are some exceptions to the discounted p&p costs, including bulky items and medicines which need to be refrigerated, and you can find out more here

Their Spring Grooming range smells lovely and we are trying out some of their coat cleaning wipes and no-rinse shampoo which are ideal for quick clean-ups at this wet and muddy time of the year.  They sent Delilah a lovely selection to try out - she was delighted with her mail which was serendipitously waiting for us after a particularly muddy walk! I can recommend popping some of these products into your basket.  The wet wipes are enriched with aloe vera and we've found them really handy for quick wipe-downs.

You can rest assured you're in good hands when ordering as Bob Martin is run by pet experts and pet owners and they work alongside the Veterinary Medicines Directorate as a licensed supplier of prescription and non-prescription medication. They also have a resident vet available to answer any queries or concerns you may have.

My advice would be to bear them in mind next time you visit your vet and do a quick comparison of costs on your mobile before you pay out in your practice.

Let me know about any money-saving you manage to achieve using the site!

Thank you Bob Martin Vetcare for Delilah's treats!

Thursday, 28 January 2016

How to maximise your family budget

January is surely the tightest month of them all, with many of us feeling the pinch after the Christmas expense.  If you've made New Year resolutions to get your finances in order and bring down your monthly expenditure, then I've got some handy hints for you.

Switch your energy providers

You've probably heard this time and again, but many of us still haven't changed our gas and electricity companies for the best deals.  What's stopping you?

Be an energy shopper and you could save around £200 a year.  It really is simple to do, and even if you have switched previously, maybe it's worth looking again?  New companies, deals and tarrifs come on the market all the time, so it's a good idea to set up regular calendar reminders to have a quick check on an OFGEM approved comparison site.  The first time we did it we saved £70 per quarter on our gas bill alone - I had no idea we were paying so far over the odds.

Property maintenance 

At this time of the year you may not be spending too much time out in the garden. However, it is worth investing some time to check for any wear and tear or damage that may come back to hit you in the wallet later.  

Check your guttering is leak-free and clear of those autumn leaves to keep rainwater flowing properly.  Damaged or blocked guttering can easily lead to costly damp problems.  Check for dripping outdoor taps - especially if you're on a water meter as this could mean you're literally pouring money down the drain. I recently noticed our downstairs toilet cistern was faulty and water was pouring out of the overflow, both risking damp issues and racking up our water charges.  A quick change of a washer has fixed it.  If you have any outdoor pipes, it's worth getting them lagged before the cold snap finally arrives to save frozen and burst pipes and a huge bill.

Pet care

Our four-legged friends come at a price.  It had never occurred to me to shop around for cheaper vet care, but it's definitely worth doing.  Our old dog had a long-term medical condition which required daily medication and regular blood tests and it was only after asking around I realised we were paying far too much at our local vet.  We switched to one of the large chain partnerships and paid around a third of the cost for the same tablets, and they also wanted to see her less frequently for blood tests meaning our bills were hugely reduced. We still got great service, but at a much better price.

For maintenance products like regular worming and flea treatment, consider buying online instead of through your vet as you'll often be able to purchase the same product much cheaper.

Finally, pet insurance is something I'd thoroughly recommend.  Again, shop around for the best deal and plan for you, but be sure to carefully check excesses and exclusions.  I know some people who don't use insurance, preferring to save money themselves in an 'emergency fund' and while this may be a good option for some animals, I think it very much depends.  I mean, your fluffy rabbit is hardly likely to ever see you in the High Court, but a dog however could easily nip someone or run out into the road causing an accident leaving you with massive legal bills.

Staying in is the new going out

It's eye-watering nowadays the cost of a night out. Whether it's rounds of drinks at the bar; a trip to the cinema or a meal in a restaurant, the prices just keep going up and up and for many the household budget won't stretch that far.

It's still important to factor in leisure time, so a £10 supermarket meal deal and an evening with a good box set is a bargain by comparison. Plus there's no taxi fare or babysitting bill to pay! Try renting a DVD from your local library and make homemade popcorn for a fraction of the price of a trip to the multiplex.


If you aren't already, do sign up to a cashback site. By channelling your online purchases through one of the sites, you can earn a percentage back on most things you buy.  I typically earn around £500 per year so it's well worth doing.

Most of the sites also have mobile apps too so you can even earn money instore, and some offer cutback if you scan and send them receipts of certain products.

So, how are your monthly finances looking this new year?  Do you have any great ideas you'd like to share?

This is a collaborative post.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Bloo Loo Giveaway

Last week the Bloo Loo team were in London cheering people up on what is traditionally known as the most miserable day of the year.

But the commuters and shoppers in One New Change at London's St Pauls couldn't possibly feel blue with the swinging tunes booming out from the live band and the team handing out a thousand pink tulips, 50 bouquets and lots of other spot prizes.  I was lucky enough to receive my own beautiful bouquet of spring tulips.

The team were joined by the eye-catching giant loo, reportedly the largest in the UK, and against the stunning backdrop of the cathedral it was certainly a talking point!  Passers-by were able to write down their woes and literally flush them away.

It was all part of their launch of the fabulous #BlooMonday competition which is running until 1st February where you could win a £1,000 Thomson holiday voucher - now that's gotta put a smile on your face surely?

To enter, simply tell the Bloo Loo team about your 'little burst of happiness'. Maybe someone's done something to cheer you up recently, you've had some unexpected good news or you've finally completed a project that's been hanging over you.

Pop over to their Facebook or Twitter account and tell them about it using the hashtag #BlooMonday and tag them.  Full terms and conditions can be found here.

Now I know cleaning your loo isn't exactly the happiest activity, but with their new floral fragrances and easy-to-use products, Bloo Loo make it a breeze.  They're not just about cistern blocks either.  Their range includes handy toilet cleaning wipes, gel cleaners and their brand new product Foam Aroma which will be launching in Tesco soon.  The foaming powder works to clean your pan, remove limescale and once flushed away will leave your loo smelling gorgeous (just thank your lucky stars that you don't have a loo that big to clean!)

The Bloo Loo folks have offered a selection of their products as a giveaway prize to one lucky reader of my blog too, so if you'd like to be in with a chance, just complete the rafflecopter below and don't forget to enter the #BlooMonday grand prize giveaway too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is in association with Bloo.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Positive and Inspiring Reading Books for 6-9 Year Olds - And A Giveaway!

Ruby loves to read, she absolutely loves it.  She was delighted to receive book tokens and story books for Christmas.  I'm very happy to indulge this passion with trips to the library, regular bedtime stories and the occasional treat of a new book.

A little while ago we were sent a set of books by Clever Tykes for her to try out. Designed to provide positive role-models, encourage enterprising behaviour and show how to overcome challenges, these stories were sure to not only provide entertainment, but leave young readers feeling empowered.

Ruby chose to read Walk-It Willow first. Given our new puppy's arrival in the home she was drawn to a story where the main character (a girl, which was also a bonus) sets up her own dog-walking business.

She was thoroughly engrossed in the book on our train journey and had read it cover-to-cover by the time we reached our destination.  She loved the illustrations which brought the characters to life, but did feel the story was a little short - she's used to reading longer chapter books now.  Although she's only 7 she is a fairly advanced reader, but of course, all children read at different levels and she certainly found these much more engaging than the books she's used to in her school reading program.

She was able to pick up the key messages about how to be enterprising - good organisation and planning, networking with your contacts, having a positive attitude and utilising your natural talents and interests, as well as key life skills such as admitting your mistakes and learning from them and being honest.

Clever Tykes is a series of storybooks for children ages 6-9, which introduce important life skills and characteristics through positive entrepreneurial role models.  The stories follow three separate protagonists as they each realise that there is something they are especially good at or passionate about, and they set about making this into their own venture. The stories are fantastic reading books in their own right and incorporate the target literacy and numeracy skills for the specific age range. The entrepreneurial messages are subtle whilst important characteristics such as innovation, independence, goal-setting, hard work and resourcefulness are promoted.

There are two other books in the series as well, each with their own stories of entrepreneurialism and problem-solving. Code-it Cody follows a young boy who together with is computer club friends, each have to come up with a new video game.  Will hard work and perseverance win the day? Change-it Cho features sporty Cho who leads a healthy lifestyle and sets about encouraging her school friends to make positive food choices but comes up against lots of opposition from those with a vested interest in children buying sugary treats.

I've been really impressed with this series and how the messages are subtly woven through stories, yet are simple enough for children to understand.

Clever Tykes have been working with schools developing resources for PSHE lessons covering topics such as e-safety, equal opportunities and healthy lifestyle as well as offering the tools to develop enterprise clubs as extra-curricular activities. They have some great resources for teachers and parents on their site and their blog is worth checking out too, I really enjoyed their post 38 ways to make your child more enterprising - full of genuinely useful advice.  My daughter is already showing sparks of entrepreneurialism and is very interested in the fundraising work I do for the PTA, she's always looking for things she can make and sell or innovative ways to raise money for charity, so I think I'm going to be spending a lot of time following Clever Tykes!

The books are available to purchase at £7.99 each, or £19.99 for the set of three.

They have been kind enough to offer the set of three books as a giveaway prize to one lucky reader here.  To be in with a chance, simply tell me below which of the three books you think your child will choose to read first and why, and complete the rafflecopter form.

Disclosure: I was sent a set of books for review and a set will be provided for the winner.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Thursday, 7 January 2016


2015 will always be remembered as the year we lost Ella.  She bounded into our lives when we were a loved-up couple just moved into our first home.  Course, we had our initial teething problems, as she chewed her way through the kitchen table leg, gnawed through my entire cookbook collection, and demolished the bookcase too. A Labrador, she'd eat anything, and even after puppyhood, some of the funniest memories are of her helping herself from the pantry – goodness know how she ate an entire box of Weetabix, but I'll always remember her sheepish look, those guilty eyes and oatie-goatie beard.

But she was the perfect dog.  She never batted an eyelid when Ruby came along, enduring hours being mauled about by chubby little hands,  her bed invaded by a chunky toddler, she was no longer centre of attention.  She never got annoyed, not once.

Ella was such a central part of our family, yet slotted right in.  Equally happy on a 10 mile hike as she was curled up snoring all day if we were out. She had the bladder of a camel, the constitution of an ox but the patience of a saint.  

Her health declined rapidly last summer.  The vets were perplexed, but after numerous tests, she was diagnosed with leukaemia.  She wasn't eating and could barely walk - her two greatest pleasures in life.  It would have been cruel and ultimately futile to put her though any treatment.  We had to make the saddest decision, which weren't ready for - it hit us like a body blow. 

On her final day she was pampered and petted, she slurped her way through endless cups of tea and was hand-fed roast chicken.  We all piled on the floor for cuddles and told her how much we loved her.  While we wept, she feebly wagged her tail.

The loss was devastating.  I was broken.  My best friend had gone.

Our first holiday after we lost her was difficult.  She wasn't there to jump in for a swim with the Old Man; to dig in the sand and help Ruby make castles.  We didn't have to ask for a dog bowl in every coffee shop and pub we visited.

At one of the places she loved the most, by chance we got chatting to a couple and their two dogs.  We told them all about Ella and how much we missed her. Sounds crazy I know, but it was almost like she gave us her blessing when the couple said they thought their girl was carrying pups, so we exchanged numbers and waited.

And what do you know, a month later I got a picture message of those Springer Spaniels with eight little bundles of fluff.

Delilah is very different to you Ella, but I think you'd approve.  She has a lot to live up to, but we're getting used to her odd little ways, and I never believed I'd be able to love this much again.

This post is my entry to the #PetLovers competition with and