Forget Christmas presents, this year people will be cutting back on grocery costs in an attempt to make ends meet. New figures from Vouchercodes show that this year, we will be spending an average of £125 on festive seasonal food and drink – down 15 per cent on last year (£143) and less than half the amount we were able to be spend in 2011 (£264).
Shoppers in East Anglia are cutting back the most, spending £25 less than the national average (£100) while those in the North East will be splashing out the most on festive treats with the average Christmas grocery price tag of £147. Must be all that Nukey Brown. The 45-54 age group are the most extravagant shoppers with an average spend of £178 this year in comparison to the 18-24 age group spending close to 50 per cent less with an average spend of £98.
Despite the scandalous price of turkey in December (when supermarkets can’t give it away at any other time of the year), the cost of entertaining is cited as the main reason UK shoppers’ groceries are more expensive over Christmas, with two fifths blaming their hosting duties for the increased shopping bill (42 per cent). The West Midlands is the most generous region for festive freeloaders, as 55 per cent of UK adults accommodate family and friends with food and drink.
Anita Naik, lifestyle editor of VoucherCodes said: “Despite being a season to enjoy themselves, consumers are feeling the financial burn more than ever this year. Christmas can be a hard time of year to get the balance right between splurging on treats and covering essential costs. It is sad to see that for the second year running, families are forced to cut back further on their Christmas groceries to stay afloat – especially as indulging in festive food and drink is widely seen as one of main things to look forward to.”
Still, one way to save cash on your Christmas dinner is to check what offers and discounts are out there. Most of the bigger supermarkets will have offers that change regularly to keep an eye out, especially for the more expensive bottles of spirits.
Checking voucher and deals sites like HUKD can also help save a little bit extra. At the moment you can pick up £12 off a £60 spend from Tesco or the slightly less generous £1 off some spuds at Asda. Every little helps. Oh, wait.
Alternatively, you could just do all your shopping at Aldi instead- and you can currently win £150 to do your whole Christmas shop on their facebook page . If you’re into that kind of thing.
We’re not sure if Greggs have started having glue on their Corn Flakes in the mornings, but over on their website, they’ve announced something called ‘fish custard’.
You can have a look at their page here – greggs.co.uk/fish-custard - which is accompanied by this: “In a rush? Too busy for lunch, followed by pudding? 1 out of 11 Doctors recommend Fish Custard. Perhaps the greatest sweet-savoury invention since the Yorkshire Pudding… Fish Fingers & Custard make a delicious snack.”
**edit** Turns out this is a reference to Doctor Who. Thanks to all the Sheldon Cooper’s who pointed that out to us.
It invariably isn’t good for the economy, but who cares? You need to bunk off work and get to the pub or start putting your feet up. With that, you can pretend your computer is broken or has a virus, thanks to Happy Hour Virus.
Here’s what you do. First, visit the website here. Choose an option, as seen above. Then, let out a frustrated noise or sigh wearily. Then, tell you colleagues that you’re going to have to stop work.
Then start the weekend.
For the most part, shop security is some bloke with a ‘tasche who looks like he could be outrun quite easily. Thieves get taken politely to a little room in the back of a shop and told off while everyone waits for the police.
However, have you ever imagined a world where security can lay the smack down? This video shows someone taking matters into their own hands after someone was seen trying to swipe some new clothes.
It’d make shopping more exciting wouldn’t it?
Supermarkets are always looking for the most effective way to shove their shady offers in your face at exactly the right time, and now a shopping research organisation, in conjunction with the University of Bangor, has come up with a high tech solution- using an MRI scanner.
Yes, we know these expensive pieces of equipment are normally used for checking for cancer and brain diseases and the suchlike, but surely shopping is equally as important? Test shoppers will be asked to simulate a ‘normal’ weekly shop (spending around £40) and the MRI will elucidate which areas of the brain are used at which part of the shopping journey, and illustrate what effect yet another BOGOF has on the brain.
Preliminary research has found that:
After around 23 minutes of shopping, emotional responses take over from cognitive thought. This means you really have to buy that chocolate bar, regardless of whether it is good value or not.
After 40 minutes (average time for a shop) the cognitive functions of the brain shut down completely, “ceasing to form rational thoughts.” Explains all that bad trolley driving/parking then.
SBXL research also found that 20% of people will put a special offer into their trolley even if it is actually poor value for money and that nearly half of BOGOFs are incomplete- with shoppers only picking up one item.
Dr Paul Mullins, Senior Lecturer at the University of Bangor said: “In particular, we are interested in how factors we may be unconsciously aware of can override what might be considered the optimal choice based on conscious judgements.”
SBXL MD Philip Adcock was confident his company could help supermarkets fleece us even further maximise profits: “We estimate that supermarkets and brands consistently give away 23% more margin than they need to.”
So the moral of the story is- do your shopping in under 23 minutes.
Everyone makes mistakes, right? After all, we are only human. However, you would think that there was some kind of quality control process in the publishing industry. Like fact checking some of the facts in a book before it goes to print?
Now, a die hard football fan has been offered his money back after pointing out a couple of errors in Sir Alex Ferguson’s latest autobiography. When we say a couple, we mean 45 separate and individual inaccuracies that any elderly manager worth his salt should have been on top of.
For example, the book claims Roy Keane captained Manchester United for 11 years, when everyone knows that it was actually 12 years. And commenting on Rio Ferdinand’s excellent performance in the semi-final of the Carling Cup at Old Trafford, Sir Alex fondly reminisced on 2009. Even though the match was in 2010. Worst of all, Sir A remembers clearly the day his protégé Ryan Giggs took to the pitch in red and black at the tender young age of 16. Any fool knows he was actually 17.
The boss of Hodder and Stoughton is reported to have emailed the disgruntled fan to apologise and offer him a full refund. Acording to the Daily Mirror, the publisher explained that:
“We did in fact go through several stages of fact-checking with this book, with a reading from within Manchester United as well as from a specialist football fact-checker. Although a very large number of corrections were made we plainly did not pick up everything.”
“Possible corrections that have so far been helpfully pointed out are being checked and will be included in future reprints,” he finished.
But the publishers are probably not too downhearted. The book, Sir Alex’s second autobiography, became the UK’s fastest-selling non-fiction book since records began as 115,547 copies were sold in its first week. Still, this could set an interesting precedent- will we see historians demanding their licence fee back when period dramas mess up the costumes? Or cinema goers returning tickets when a blockbuster turns out to be a damp squid? Or IT crowds thrusting Windows 8 back at Bill Gates because it’s monumentally crap?
Whatever you thought was the best city for living standards in the UK, think again. It’s Bristol.
A new survey for Moneysupermarket.com has put the UK’s largest 12 cities in order, calculating an index of living conditions in order to find the best place to live, particularly considering the current immediate past recession.
The items included in the index included average salary, unemployment levels, the state of the housing market, any rise in disposable income, any increase in cost of living and general life satisfaction. To take account of the changing priorities since the halcyon days of 2007, disposable income, unemployment and housing market figures had extra weighting, as it is assumed these are the things having the biggest impact on people’s lives at the moment.
And Bristol came top. The average employee salary there is £22,293 – above the UK average of £21,473, and the third highest out of the 12 largest UK cities. It also has the highest disposable income growth and one of the lowest unemployment rates at 8%.
Edinburgh was second, with the second highest average salary of £24,628 and the lowest unemployment rate out of all cities at 6.7%. This compares with an unemployment rate of 11.5 in Glasgow who were languishing down in 9th place. Edinburgh also had the top overall life satisfaction score and has a weekly cost of living almost £30 lower than the UK average of £401.10.
London only reached 7th place for quality of life, while Bradford came out as the hardest place to make a living, followed by Sheffield. Manchester and Birmingham came 6th and 10th respectively. Birmingham is still better though.
So Bristol is the place to be, a result which many people who have been to Bristol might find surprising. Given the survey has only looked at our largest cities, is comparing average data really worthwhile? After all, someone living in Peckham might have an entirely different time of it to someone living in Kensington. Is Bristol just the city with the smallest range of incomes and circumstances or is it really the best place in the UK to get on in life?
Oh dear Asda. In a fit of shocking taste, Asda’s decision to sell a mental patient costume for Hallowe’en has been criticised by all and sundry for pandering to outdated and harmful stereotypes. The costume has now been removed from sale, but we have a picture of what it looks like.
As you all know, decaying skin, blood spattered clothing and a meat cleaver are the top three ways in which you identify someone with mental health issues. These horrors certainly do not look just like you, or me, and are incredibly terrifying individuals, worthy of a scary costume.
Last night, Asda issued a statement saying the decision to sell the costume was a “completely unacceptable error” adding that it “should never have been sold and it was withdrawn as soon as it was brought to our attention.”
Asda finished: “We’re deeply sorry one of our fancy dress costumes has upset people.”
Mental health charities have roundly deplored Asda’s actions, and the supermarket has announced it will be making a “sizeable donation” to Mind by way of an apology. Fellow supermarketer Tesco has also withdrawn one of its Hallowe’en costumes named ‘Psycho’, in which the wearer sports an orange jumpsuit, a hockey mask and a machete, in anticipation of a related backlash.
But is it the costumes that are the problem or the name? The Tesco costume looks more like an escaped prisoner (or a famous art-loving cannibal) than someone with mental health issues, and the Asda costume was originally found under a link to a “zombie” costume. Would we have this debate over zombie and cannibal costumes?
Either way, it seems the stigma surrounding those with mental health is still alive and kicking, despite the much quoted statistics that one in four of us will suffer mental health problems during our life. And if you have three friends who seem normal- looks like you’re the nutjob.
It’s barely even autumn, but lots of are already thinking about winter, and not just because of rising fuel bills. This Sunday marks 100 days until Christmas, and with a fifth of us already worrying about how we are going to pay for all that jolly festivity, Christmas shopping might be on your list sooner than you think.
A new survey from One Poll and vouchercodes showed that 15% of us have already started our Christmas shopping and that over a third (36%) will have begun by the end of this month. That’s September, folks.
But is this just Christmas-hysteria getting in early, or is this a sign that people are thinking, and budgeting ahead, rather than relying on plastic or, heaven forbid, payday loans to get them through the season of goodwill? According to the research, 36% of people will spend less on this Christmas than last, with 62% not expecting an increase in disposable income before the end of 2013. Put that way, it makes sense to start buying things, or putting a bit aside to make sure there is enough come December time. Just don’t stash your savings with Farepak. Or Arthur Fowler.
Last year, YouGov estimated the average UK household Christmas spend at £835, down from £865 in 2011. This amount is made up of gifts for friends and family (£634), as well as food and drink (£161), and cards, trees and decorations (£40).
Given that most of us don’t have a spare £835 in any given month, let alone one filled with excuses to spend money on drinking and partying, isn’t it time you started your Christmas shopping?
We always like a good bacon story here at Bitterwallet and today is no exception. The National Pig Association (NPA) have urged consumers to boycott bacon over poor conditions for the pigs growing the bacon, as some countries are ignoring EU edicts on pig conditions.
You will be pleased to hear that British bacon is fine for munching, as the UK outlawed sow stalls back in 1999. However, some of our closest neighbours are thumbing their nose at the EU ban, which came into force seven months ago, and the EU started infringement proceedings against nine countries in February – Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Poland and Portugal. Five more reprobates, The Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Finland, and Slovenia are still being investigated.
The NPA have drawn up a ‘Wall of Fame’ to persuade retailers and food companies to pledge they will not import pork and pork products from non-compliant European pig farms. The association is even carrying out spot checks, to ensure badged companies are sticking to their word.
NPA general manager Dr Zoe Davies said “sow stalls are narrow cages. They make life easier for pig farmers, but they are medieval in the eyes of British consumers because the sows spend most of their lives being able to do little more than stand up and lie down.”
But now that you know that Danish bacon (amongst others) is bad, will you boycott it as requested? Or do you not care about the living conditions of your meat before you eat it?
According to a You Gov consumer research report, commissioned by First Assist Insurance Services (who, coincidentally, provide private healthcover), many of us are expecting NHS services to decline, with half of us thinking about paying for additional cover. 48% of people surveyed polled expect the service provided by the NHS to deteriorate in the next year, and 59 per cent expecting waiting times to increase.
Maintenance of Government spending levels was also a concern, with 48% anticipating a fall in NHS funding. Many people think some services should be cut to allow greater funding for more universal health concerns, with tattoo removal, cosmetic surgery and weight loss surgery being top of the list.
As a result, 41% of respondents said they would (definitely or possibly) consider private healthcare products. Nine per cent have already purchased cover, which could mean that half of the UK will end up paying to supplement the insufficient NHS provision.
But is this a good thing? If people can afford to pay, should they, or should the NHS be truly universal and free? Are there just too many people not paying enough in taxes?
Poor old Co-op bank. They’ve been having a few problems recently, and now they are attempting to alienate anyone else who might consider banking with them, by withdrawing their promise of good service.
Currently, the bank offers a ‘service level guarantee’, which outlines five promises of high service levels. If they do not meet any of the promises, they will apologise and give customers £25. The five promises, which will still apply to business customers are:
We promise to begin processing your account application within 48 hours and, if your application is successful, to open the account without error
We promise to set up and pay your standing orders and Direct Debits as instructed and without mistakes
We promise not to make any financial errors on your statements
We will automatically issue your cheque book and cards and make sure you have one available at all times
We guarantee to calculate your interest correctly. Should we make an error, this will be corrected without question.
However, Co-op bank are now advising customers that the service level guarantee is being withdrawn with effect from 16 September. This information has been available on their website for some time, but details are now being sent out to already-nervous customers with their latest statements.
The information sent to customers assures them that “we are not removing your right to express dissatisfaction or complain, and have well-established procedures to allow you to do this. We know that sometimes things go wrong and we really value your feedback” which is a little bit less reassuring than the current claims that “nobody is perfect and accidents do happen but at The Co‑operative Bank we are so sure that these will be few and far between that we have put our money where our mouth is.”
Guess they’re not so sure anymore.
Remember that big South East water company that got everyone’s back up over its dry tax coffers? Well, now it wants everyone to feel sorry for it, as it has endured a “tough time” financially. Aw diddums.
That’s right Thames Water is apparently very distressed by its measly £144.9m profit in the year to the end of March – blamed on the freezing weather and rising levels of bad debt. This amount was down by 20% on the previous year, despite a 6.7% price increase for its cash strapped customers. At least the Chief Exec still got his payrise, now earning £450,000 a year plus a £274,000 bonus last time.
In any case, Thames Water have now applied to the regulator Ofwat to ask for their blessing to add an extra £29 to every customer’s bill to prop up their profits.
This ‘need more profits levy’ increase, on top of a 1.4% rise already planned for next year, would see Thames customers’ average bills go up from £354 to as much as £396.
Of course some of the extra charge is being laid at the door of the super sewer, being built to take all the crap out of London, but up to £16 (55%) is actually to cover Thames Water for the bad debts of other customers. Figures suggest that around 200,000 of Thames’ customers did not pay their bill, and the company has ‘no legal power to chase them through the courts’.
Stuart Siddall, Thames Water finance chief, told the Daily Telegraph that there had been a 50% increase in unpaid bills since the recession began saying: “Before the recession bad debts were running at £40 million a year, but now they are up at £65 million. One in 25 bills are not being paid.” Other privately owned companies do not get customers who do pay their bills to subsidise those who don’t. It would be interesting to see what Thames Water would do if everyone refused to pay their bill in protest, assuming Ofwat agree Thames’ request.
Any revisions to price limits will not apply to customers’ bills before April 2014.