Monday, 23 December 2019

The adulting hard wish list and gift guide

I don't know about you, but I've officially reached that stage in my life when I struggle to put forward gift ideas for myself. I remember poring through the Argos catalogue when I was little circling toy after toy, but nowadays I feel guilty asking for anything. I always wondered why I used to struggle to get much back in the way of gift ideas for older members of the family and now I totally get it. As you get older, your priorities change.

As I got older I discovered the difference between want and need (do you need it? 96% of the time you probably don't). And if I do want something, the stubborn Taurus in me would rather get it for myself than subject my friends and family to spending their hard earned money on me.

It sounds weird, but on Christmas day, I'd much rather watch other people unwrap presents than have any myself. Christmas for me is being with those I love. I adore seeing other people happy, that's gift enough for me.

I've noticed this shift for a while now and this Christmas only emphasised it. When my family asked for ideas in October (I kid you not), my list was minimal and I later noticed it contained functional items where I identified things that were past it and in need of replacing (slippers), commonly used household items, or else identifying day-to-day annoyances (the inability to keep food and plates warm when entertaining).

If you find yourself (or anyone else you know) in the same boat, the second category ("commonly used household items") is a good way to go. And these are the sorts of items which sit perfectly within this bracket:


Reed diffusers - I always have multiple on the go around the house so these are forever useful. Not to be confused with incense sticks which I avoid like the plague (increased risks of cancer).

Candles - because you can never have too many candles! My favourite scents include Pecksniff's bergamot and spiced tea candle (brings back amazing memories of my honeymoon), the Winter collection by The White Company and the Oliver Bonas Mandarin & Lotus candle smells like HEAVEN (as does their Seagrass & Amber) and also comes in a matching reed diffuser.

Matches - adult matches are the very definition of adulting hard. Forget a box of matches, how much nicer looking is this jar of matches?

Fragrance - fragrance can be quite personal, but it's one of those things that I won't treat myself to often so it makes a really lovely gift. Jo Malone is my absolute favourite (blackberry and bay for the win) and I love trying new scents I haven't tried before.

Moisturiser - another thing I don't really treat myself to is a decent moisturiser. I use coconut oil (which does the job) but it would be nice to try a branded moisturiser. Something like Liz Earle or Clinique.

Hand wash - I regularly use a 80p hand soap from Aldi which is an excellent dupe for Molton Brown. As simple as it sounds, having an extra special hand wash from The White Company, Molton Brown or Baylis & Harding is a real treat. Plus it's nice having these out for when you have visitors or people over to stay (also a solid gift idea for any friends and family who have had a new bathroom put in lately!)

So if you're like me (or know someone like me) who isn't brimming full of ideas or feels a little awkward asking for things, the above is a good place to start!

What is on your Christmas wish list this year?

Thursday, 12 December 2019

7 Christmas decorations to be wary of if you have pets

GLASS BAUBLES

Cox and Cox lustre glass baubles here (now in the sale!)

Unless you want to be sweeping up broken glass each morning... AVOID 

FROSTED / GLITTER / FLOCKED CHRISTMAS TREES

6ft Rosa Prelit Pink Glitter Tip Tree here

I fell in love with the above tree this year (trust me, it's better in person). Whilst I'm not normally into glittery Christmas trees, the branches were so much nicer on this tree. None of that fake plastic-feeling rubbish or the thin tinsel-like branches. But I couldn't have in my life and I'll tell you why.

Fake snow and glitter on Christmas trees can be toxic to pets. There are varying levels of toxicity so it very much depends on the toxic levels and how much is ingested (a small amount is less likely to cause any issues but it's just not something I want to risk). If you are going for a festive decorated artificial Christmas tree, always check the packaging which should clearly state whether it's pet safe or not. If nothing is said either way, it's not worth taking the risk.

Real Christmas trees also carry a risk for pets (apparently some of the oils in the needles can be toxic to dogs), so if you have a real tree, monitor closely and if doubt, close off the room with the tree if you are not around to supervise.

SNOW GLOBES

Christmas Scene Snow Globe here

Many snow globes contain anti-freeze and knowing my cats, 
they are 96% likely to knock off a shelf and lick the contents. So no.

GARLANDS & HANGING DECORATIONS

Balsam Hill Holiday Poinsettia Garland 6ft - in the sale here

Anything that hangs is risky business for cat owners. And Lord have mercy 
on your soul if your garland contains feathers (see FEATHERS below)

CERTAIN HOME FRAGRANCES

Neom real luxury reed diffuser here

Did you know that certain aromatic oils within reed diffusers, incense sticks or candles can be poisonous to dogs? Whether ingested or in contact with their fur / skin, these are the ones to be wary of: pine, cinnamon, citrus, penny-royal, sweet birch, peppermint, tea tree, wintergreen and ylang ylang. Before bringing anything into your home (or unwrapping / lighting), always check the label first.

FESTIVE POT POURRI

Mandarin Cinnamon Clove pot pourri here

Whilst I'd love to have bowls of scented pine cones and dried orange 
slices out, my cats would treat it as an all-you-can-eat buffet.

ANYTHING WITH FEATHERS

Olivias feather bauble here

Any decorations, garlands, wreaths or ornaments with feathers will be de-feathered by your feline friends faster than you can say Merry Christmas. So if you have anything like this, maybe invest in a glue gun for any possible fatalities!

Are there any other Christmas decorations your pets go mad for?

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Tuesday, 10 December 2019

The NOW TV Black Friday offer which gave existing customers the middle finger

What do you think of when you hear the words 'Black Friday'? Chaotic stores with people arm wrestling over the last item on the shelf? A great chance to stock on Christmas gifts for less? So-called bargains that aren't actually bargains? People buying s**t they don't need?


I have always associated Black Friday with reduced price consumer goods and never really thought about it in a services capacity. Enter NOW TV.

I first became aware of NOW TV's Black Friday offer last year, and with savings of up to 60% off, whether you are an existing customer or not, it's definitely one to make you sit up and listen

There are Sky sports passes, kids passes, and my personal favourites: the entertainment and cinema passes. Offers range from a one month pass, a 3 month pass and the ultimate: the 12 month package (the latter being the bandwagon I leapt on last year)

WHAT'S THE DAMAGE?

At the time of writing this, the 12 month entertainment and cinema Black Friday pass rings in at £99. And whilst £99 sounds like a lot of money, know this:

1) The 12 month entertainment and cinema pass usually costs circa £252 (so it's a pretty decent saving)

2) The reduced price works out at £8.25 a month. With the cinema costing far more than this each visit, NOW TV gives me the chance to catch the latest movies freshly released before they've even made it onto Netflix or Amazon.

Since signing up to NOW TV's Black Friday offer last year, I've barely been back to the cinema and can watch many new movies a month than ever before - plus great Sky shows like Riveria (recommend) and old favourites like SATC and The Walking Dead.

THE BAD NEWS

With last year's Black Friday pass soon coming to an end. I hopped onto the NOW TV website here hoping to renew for another year. As an existing customer, I had to log onto my account and then head to the Black Friday offers section (this section personalised to each type of customer).

What first struck me was the lack of offers available to me. Despite being an active user of the cinema and entertainment channels, I wasn't offered anything in these areas - just a sky sports package (something I have never used and never will).  I couldn't see the 12 month Black Friday offer I was seeing splashed about on every TV advert left, right and center. I heard whispers of there maybe being a 3 month offer (also not there)

I did some further research and discovered the Black Friday NOW TV entertainment and cinema offers were only available to new customers and not existing customers.

I wasn't happy. And I wasn't alone. The NOW TV forums and help pages were (and still are) full of disgruntled existing customers left feeling very disappointed this Black Friday.

LAST YEAR

Admittedly last year wasn't exactly smooth sailing either. I had issues claiming last year's Black Friday offer because my existing pass had a certain number of days remaining on it which clashed with the Black Friday promotion dates. However having popped onto the NOW TV chat, I spoke to a very helpful customer services advisor who managed to resolve the issue for me without any fuss, and even sent me a new NOW TV smart stick in the mail.

THIS YEAR

I would love to say this was the same story this year (WRONG). The advisors on chat this time around lacked empathy and were really robotic (likely bored of hearing the same complaint over and over again) and were reeling off blanket responses, likely from some company approved script. I gave it a good go, but wasn't getting anywhere. 

The advisor I spoke to then had the cheek to say "stay tuned for our up-and-coming Christmas and New Years offers". I argued these were unlikely to be as good as their 60% off Black Friday offer and asked what these would be (they couldn't disclose). How can I "hang on" in good faith when I have already done this ahead of Black Friday and then been let down all because I am not a new customer? 

THE REALITY

NOW TV are unable to offer existing customers anything for their previous custom and year(s) of loyalty. There is no thank you or incentive for being an existing customer (rookie error NOW TV).

Not only that, but my existing Black Friday offer comes to an end soon and when it does, I would have to pay more than I did before for the service. As a loyal customer for the last few years, how is this fair?

The whole experience leaves many (including myself) deactivating their NOW TV accounts, not wanting to pay a penny more out of principle. Surely £99 is better than no money at all? Add onto that existing customers leaving NOW TV completely. There is no value to alienating existing customers, it never ends well.

HOW TO BEAT THE SYSTEM

There are several hacks to get around this if you are an existing customer and don't fancy shelling out circa £252 a year (and why should you?)

1) sign up as a new customer - in doing so, you will be able to claim the Black Friday offer (but check the offer is still available first). 

2) sign up for a free trial - NOW TV does free 7 day trials so if you are strategic with when you claim these, you can easily be covered with Christmas movies and entertainment for your family over the Christmas break. 

3) assess your usage and cut back - I have been on the annual cinema and entertainment pass for the last year and on reflection realised that I don't use the entertainment pass all that much (it's only really to binge watch a series like Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead). With this in mind, it makes a lot more sense to only purchase a one month entertainment pass as and when I need it. 

4) reduce the cost with Tesco Clubcard - I have spoken at length before here about my love for the Tesco Clubcard system. By shopping at Tesco and also using my Tesco credit card card elsewhere too, I can generate Tesco points which are then converted into Tesco vouchers. On the Tesco Clubcard exchange site here, these vouchers can be put towards days out and a whole wealth of other experiences. Often your Tesco vouchers can be doubled or tripled in value - meaning you get more for your money. NOW TV is currently included as one of the offers on the site and for every 50p of Tesco vouchers, this converts into £1.50 to spend with NOW TV. So say you needed a £9 one month pass (don't quote me on that number!), all you would need to do is use £3 of your Tesco vouchers (essentially free money!). 

WHAT'S NEXT?

I didn't sign up as a new customer out of principle and have deactivated my account. I may go down the Tesco voucher route next year, but will only sign up when I know there is a series or film(s) I want to watch. And even then, I will only sign up for a month pass. Because £10 or less a couple of times a year is still a darn sight cheaper than their £99 Black Friday offer. 

Did you feel cheated by the NOW TV Black Friday sale?

Image source: Pixabay