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Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy Halloween everyone! 

This Halloween, I've decided to do something that scares me and share some of my writing. As some of you may already know, I am writing my own novel which I am incredibly serious about and am going to push to get published once I have finished writing it. The reasons for this are because I truly do believe it's a good storyline, and I also believe this particular storyline has never been done before. Sure, I've read one or two zombie chick lit books (Married With Zombies) and even zombie romance novels (Warm Bodies) but I've never read a story where people fall in love during a zombie apocalypse. And I find that strange, because if you watch any action (and sometimes zombie) movie, or read an action book, nearly always, there's that element of romance. It's one of the reasons I love action sometimes as I feel there's just something special about a love that is created during one of those kind of adventures.

Anyway. Right now it's called You, Me & Zombie (working title) and here's just one snippet I'm sharing...enjoy, and please, please do leave me any feedback!


Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Halloween | Zombies | Zombie Novel | You, Me & Zombie

I was average.

I was the type of girl who most people would never look twice at in the street. Chances are, if you ever met me, you wouldn’t recognise me again because I just happened to have one of those plain faces.

I had blue eyes, shoulder length straight brown hair and a body that wasn't too big, nor too little. I had no piercings or tattoos. No quirks or kinks. There was nothing about me at all that stood out.

I just...was.

And I didn’t just look average. My whole life was average too.

My job?

Working as a waitress.

My family?

I was an only child and I had no idea my dead beat dad was. My mum was shacked up in Paris with some random dude I'd never met after she'd upped and left for France years back. We had an okay relationship – we got on well enough and I loved her to pieces, but our relationship wasn’t anything special.

My social life was nothing out of the ordinary either.  I had a few close friends I could depend on for most things and a few more people who I'd considered as part of my social circle but that was about it. I'd only had two serious relationships in my life – the first ended because of distance when he buggered off to university half way across the country and the second ended because he was a dick.

So to chalk it up, my life was beyond boring.

However, I did of course yearn for something more than my standard working week, spent waiting on other people hand and foot. The thought of spending my life that way bored me to tears and I'd constantly question why I did it. I used to daydream about travelling and meeting new people, learning about their life stories and creating memories that would last me a lifetime.

But then I'd remember that I needed money to travel and to save that money I needed a job. But, as a typical 25 year old, I found it impossible to actually save any money.

There was absolutely nothing special about me or my life. I'd never done anything particularly exciting with my time, nor had I ever made an impact on anyone's life. I just spent my days doing the same thing over and over, occasionally throwing in a drunken night out with my friends once or twice a month.

I wanted change – I craved change - I just wasn't brave enough to make it happen.

It turns out though that in the end, change came to me whether I was ready for it or not.

In hindsight, the day it all began to change was pretty much the end of the world for everyone else.

But for me? For me it was just the beginning...

CHAPTER ONE
It’s a gloomy and miserable kind of day and the weather is acting as the perfect backdrop to my afternoon spent trailing around the shops. The irony of being back at the shopping centre on my day off when I already spend five days a week working here certainly is not lost on me. But needs must, and those needs include a last minute stroll around the shops to find the perfect dress for my plans tonight. My best friend is throwing an engagement party and, since she’s my best friend and all, any dresses I already own simply will not do. It called for a brand spanking new dress, something that was as glam as the event I’ll be attending when my bestie and me toasted to what would soon be a whole new life for her.

Ideally, I would have loved to have found something during a lunch break earlier in the week. It would make life so much easier if I could instead be at home right now, getting ready at a leisurely and relaxing pace. But life was rarely ever simple for me (though it was mostly boring), and the task of finding the perfect outfit in small forty-five minute windows throughout the week has proved impossible.

I’m still determined to spend my afternoon relaxed though, hence why since getting here half an hour ago and ducking out of the rain into the harsh and bright lights of the shopping centre, all I'd done so far was amble around slowly, window shopping and craving some form of caffeine. And most of that time has been spent day dreaming about being at home all cosy and in the warmth – or better yet, on holiday somewhere exotic – instead of living the harsh reality of shopping among the busy crowds in central London on a Saturday afternoon.

Still, I have roughly until six pm to find a dress and that thought comforted me somewhat.

I have a whole five hours left.

I can do this.

Deciding I cannot survive without some form of coffee any longer, I change direction and instead head towards the escalators to take me up to the second level of the shopping centre. I hated being here on my day off, so I definitely don’t fancy actually going into work when I’m not rota'd in today - but since I’m a single girl paying extortionate rent on a tiny flat in central London, it’s a safe option to bypass Starbucks and instead go somewhere where I can get coffee for half price.

I'm just stepping off the escalator when I begin to hear a commotion behind me. I don't even notice it at first because, as usual, I'm in a world of my own – the crowds of people around me blending into a background blur. After all, commotion is pretty common in a shopping centre this big on a busy Saturday.

It's only when I hear a fearful scream echo throughout the air that I feel my blood run ice cold.

I’ve heard quite a few screams in my lifetime – especially with living in the area of London that I do – so I can easily differentiate between a scream of someone who is joking around, a scream of someone who is putting it on and the scream of someone who believes they are in genuine danger.

That was one of those screams.

I immediately throw myself towards the second floor balcony, leaning across the glass panels and glancing around at the crowds on the first floor. Wondering what the hell is going on, my heart begins to pick up its pace a little. I clutch my bag closer to me and then freeze in shock when my gaze finally falls on the horror that’s beginning to unfold beneath me.

An elderly gentlemen – I'd have guessed in his late forties – is ambling with a limp towards a younger woman who looks scared for her life. I see his walking stick cast aside, laying on the floor a few feet away.

Even though he’s limping, he doesn’t seem to need it.

Meanwhile, the girl’s right hand is clasped tight around her left arm, the white material of her top quickly turning a deep, dark red as it's stains with her blood. I find my eye line constantly flicking between the younger lady and elderly man, unable to look away.

There’s something odd about the man.
Even though she’s backing off fearfully, he’s still continuing towards her, slowly and swaying, slightly uneven on his feet. If I didn't know any better, I'd say he was drunk – but there's just something in his posture and the expression on his face that told me he isn't.

The lady falls to her knees and I peer over the railing, trying to get a closer look, not quite understanding what was going on. Was he trying to help her? If so, why did she scream?

He looks so...odd.

His skin is a faint uneven grey tone and his probably once dusty grey hair looks almost brown now, filled with what seems like dirt and dried blood.

It makes no sense, and I’m almost tempted to laugh out loud because what I’m seeing can’t be real.

I'm just wondering why no one else has noticed whats going on or why no one is trying to help when two men push through the crowd and pounce on him, knocking him to his knees.

My gaze darts back to the woman and I hesitate when I see she’s no longer on her knees and in pain - she’s now standing tall as if nothing even happened.

In the blink of an eye, she reaches out and grabs hold of a man passing by, earphones in, eyes focused down on the phone in his hand and unaware of what’s happening around him.

And then everything begins to happen in slow motion.

She develops this crazy, determined look in her eyes (which I can even see from up here) and emits this loud growling noise from deep in her throat.

Then before I can even blink, she leans down and sinks her teeth deep in the side of this man’s neck, blood instantly pouring everywhere.

There's a loud scream.

And then another.

Then suddenly the whole crowd that had subtly gathered around them start to panic.

I don't even understand what's happening until I look back and see the other elderly man imitating her – and the two men that originally had a hold of him.

And then as I watch, frozen to the spot as one injured person turns into two, three and then six 'injured' people, it dawns on me.

They're zombies.

Reality hits me like a brick in that moment and I immediately dash towards the escalators to head back down to the crowd, eager to help someone – anyone – to safety.

And then a switch clicks inside me and without thinking, I turn to the opposite direction and run quickly towards the opposite escalator to take me to the top floor.

Right now, I don’t even care that I’m acting cowardly.

I've seen enough movies by now to know that by trying to help them, I’ll only be making the situation worse.

I’d only add to the problem - and put myself in danger in the process.

Less than a minute has passes and as I stumble up the metallic escalator stairs, I glance back behind me and can see already half a dozen people biting, eating, feasting – whatever you want to call it – on others.

I immediately know there’s no way I can get out of this shopping centre right now. The large crowd is between me and the nearest exit, and the crowd is growing bigger, almost like a ripple effect in a pond.

The only way – the safest way – is up.

By the time I reach the top floor and practically throw myself at the lift that would take me to the rooftop cafe – where I work and where I'd actually been heading originally before this all kicked off – the whole shopping centre is in madness.

I hear an alarm ringing loudly against a soundtrack of screams, inhumane noises and smashing glass.

I don't know if the smashing glass is for safety, weapons or just pure idiots trying to steal things but I don't care. In mere minutes, the whole place has turned into chaos. My only concern is to get to safety.

I frantically push at the lift button, the only signal of my panic. Other than that, I'm completely calm. I turn around and try and grab the arms of people rushing around me. I recognize a couple of colleagues, but I'm stunned to find they just rush past me in a panic.

“H-Hey! Up here is SAFE!” I cry loudly. “You shouldn't be panicking. DON'T go downstairs. You have NO chance if you try and fight them!” I continue to scream. No one listens to me. Not one person.

The lift finally opens with a loud ding and I feel rather then see more shoppers dash past me, bags heavy, faces of fear. I reach out and grab one of them – tight.

“HEY listen to me!” I cry angrily. I assume they have no idea of what's going on, only that the alarm has gone off so that everyone has come downstairs as a safety precaution. Bad move.

The guy I'd grabbed turns around and looks at me with a puzzled look on his face. The only thing I have time to notice is that he's about a head taller then me and a bunch of tattoo's decorate his arms.

“Don't go down there” I continue, my eyes pleading. “Up there is more safe, trust me, PLEASE. You can't get out and more and more people are getting - ” I bite my tongue, cutting myself short. I know that even if I find the words to explain, he won't believe me. “Just please” I beg, my blue eyes burning into his green ones.

I have to get into the lift before it goes up again and I can see behind him that the madness is getting worse. I can see on the other side of the escalators that there's a small disruption, indicating that it - whatever it is -  has reached the top floor. I guess that means that the other two floors are pretty bad.

I bite my lip and back myself into the lift, but I don't let go of his arm. Instead I try to pull him in with me, until he shakes me off. He still doesn't say anything.

“PLEASE” I continue desperately.

I can feel tears threatening to fall from my eyes. Whoa, I’m more shook up then I thought. “Just look” I point behind him and watch as he turns around and then starts, before he steps back slightly.

I watch him and the confusion and fear on his face is obvious.

“But...” he speaks at last but is lost for words. I don't know if he understands, but there’s no doubt that what we can both see as clear as day in front of us is shocking. Even if we don't understand it. “They need help” he concludes at last. Yet he doesn't move.

Rubbing my right eye out of frustration, I try again. “You can't help them. Please trust me. It'll only happen to you if you try” I explain. How am I going to get him to understand?

“PLEASE” I cry. By this point, I don't know if it's more for my safety or his. I don’t even know why I care - I just want to get to safety - but somehow if I can at least make one person safe in the process, I’ve at least done something right.

The lift doors begin to close. “Please” I whisper, my eyes locking on his.

Nothing.

Until the very last moment. He sticks his hand out, stopping the doors. With one last glance behind him, he sighs and steps inside to join me in the small lift. The doors close behind him. And then there is silence.

Any feedback whatsoever would be greatly appreciated!!

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Sunday, 30 October 2016


We all know America does Halloween best. From the beautifully decorated lawns to the tastiest candy, it's no surprise I've always wanted to visit America over Halloween.

However, one thing America really does best is its haunted attractions. Even the family friendly ones look like so much fun, but it's the real scare attractions that go all out. The haunted houses and spooky farms seemingly have their own scare factor on a whole other level and then, of course, there's the attractions that are almost borderline torture houses.

Still, from the genuine haunted buildings to the most famous attractions that require a waiting list of years, here's my top pick of America's best scare attractions.

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MCKAMEY MANOR | SAN DIEGO 
McKamey Manor is what is known as an extreme scare attraction. With a waiting list of 24,000 and a waiver that has to be signed before entering (to ensure brave souls can endure the stress of the ordeal), you'd be forgiven for thinking this attraction is just a bit of scary fun - it must be if it's so popular, right? Wrong. The manor boasts that attendees will likely end up being cut and bruised as they get gagged, bound, covered in blood and tortured during the ordeal that can last between four and seven hours. I can't see the appeal of it myself - to me, this doesn't seem like a haunted house and more so a torture house, but who am I to judge? Russ McKamey continues to defend the house - people are more than aware of what they are signing up to, and he admits that no one is put in any actual danger and much of the horror is psychological. I have to admit, it must feel pretty damn rewarding to survive that kind of thing and if a typical scare isn't enough for you, then maybe this is your answer.

THE DENT SCHOOLHOUSE | CINCINNATI
What makes Dent Schoolhouse unique is that it is however supposedly actually haunted, with a creepy past. The story goes that the schools janitor, Charlie McFee, murdered a bunch of students between 1942 and 1952 - sounds like Freddie Kruger, I know. Apparently both the children and the janitor now haunts the school house and ghost tours are ran there, which take in the most haunted spots of the schoolhouse. The tours are genuine tours without fake or jumpy scares, although in November clowns take over for a more thrill seeking scare for just two days only.

BATES MOTEL | PENNSYLVANIA 
Bates Motel isn't just a scare attraction - it's a horror theme park. As well as characters roaming and plenty of scares to be had, there's a haunted hayride that takes place through tall corn, ghost towns, a slaughter house and more. There are over 26 sets, and there's also the actual Bates Motel, which is a Victorian mansion available to explore for more scares. There's even a drive through insane asylum. Insane, yes, but the whole thing also sounds damn awesome.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Halloween | 5 Of America's Best Scare Attractions | McKamey Manor | The Dent Schoolhouse | Bates Motel | The 13th Gate | Haunted Overload

THE 13TH GATE | LOUISIANA
From what I've read about The 13th Gate, it's kind of halfway between McKamey Manor and a normal scare attraction - as in it's much scarier then most, but it doesn't include borderline torture. The 13th Gate is about extreme ultra realism and boasts some serious impressive sets, such as a real-life snake infested swamp, cellars and passages, and even a prehistoric ice cave. And, next door, there's a giant zombie infested cemetery.  Dare I say this is one I might even consider one day?

HAUNTED OVERLOAD | NEW HAMPSHIRE
This outdoor haunt sounds super fun with over the top sets, gigantic monsters, stunning costumes and impressive light and sound to create effects to create a Halloween world set in the New England forest. There are three levels of fear - so something for everyone - and this haunt focuses on the tradition of Halloween. There's little blood and guts, and instead brave attendees will instead expect encounters by classic legends such as scarecrows and headless horsemen. It's often been described as similar to a Hollywood set because of how creative it is.

And, one more worth mentioning, is Dead Of Night in New York. Although it's now closed, I've heard that past themes at the extreme attraction included humiliation, which saw strange substances being smeared on people and, um, giant fake pensies hitting people in the face. LOLZ.

Would you ever attend any of these - or have you faced any you'd like to recommend? If you had to pick just one to attend out of the five above, which one would it be?! Let me know!

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Friday, 28 October 2016

Sometimes there are blogger opportunities and blogger invites that are just so amazing that when they fall into your lap, you can't help but think they were created specifically for you.

This is one of those times.

When Gothic Midtown gave me a follow on Twitter and acted very mysteriously, I was very intrigued. When I found out more about the pop-up bar and ghost walks that Gothic Midtown offers, I was sold.

I love Halloween. I love London. I love spooky stuff. So when I was invited down to the launch of Gothic Midtown on Wednesday, I knew I was in for a good evening.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Halloween | Gothic Midtown | London | Pop up Bar
Spotted: contacting the other side...

Gothic Midtown offers scare walks around London in the run up to Halloween and the walks are hosted by none other than the legendary medium Derek Acorah. Each walk culminates in a visit to a Victorian themed pop up bar, where attendees are offered a free Halloween cocktail to celebrate surviving the walk.

Alternatively, the bar in the old Central St Martin's building (perfect location, by the way) - which is a short walk away from Holborn station - can be visited without taking the tour first. There's a menu of delicious horror themed cocktails by Ladies & Gentlemen, the dress code is Victorian Gothic Chic, and half price cocktails are available between the witching hour of 6-7pm. 

On Wednesday I donned a fitted black dress with a Victorian chic collar, perfected my makeup with a Halloween twist (a deep red lipstick and a hint of red eyeshadow between my eyes) and headed down for a night full of scares.

Upon arrival, I was greeted immediately by doormen already in character, and I was ushered inside to grab a drink and mingle. My first choice of poison was Coffin Lining, a delicious blend of vodka, homemade blackberry, honey and lavender syrup with a squeeze of lemon juice and served with fresh berries. The deep red drink emitted smoke upon serving and I immediately fell in love with the Halloween themed drinks menu.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Halloween | Gothic Midtown | London | Pop up Bar

I quickly got chatting to some others and together we explored the rest of the beautiful building. With tall looming rooms, darkened and candlelit social areas and a basement with rooms that looked like caves yet tiled toilets, you'd be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the building was once used for something like a mental hospital! 

When visiting the basement, I definitely got that vibe from my surroundings, but perhaps it was the creepy lady who waited in one of the smaller rooms, screaming about her dead baby which helped me decide the building was definitely curiously creepy.

Inside one of the more social rooms, there was plenty of spooky fun to be had. A tarot reader insisted that I had a lot in store for 2017 - a new love who would take care of me and, in July, the success of a project. I already know what my big project for next year is going to be, so this revelation sat well with me.

A curious character played the piano in this beautiful room, which really set the scene. A few drinks in, my friends and I decided we had enough courage to approach the ouija board, something I've always had the interest in trying but also been too scared.

Now this was an interesting experience. Being that we were at a launch night for spooky but fun ghost walks and a pop up bar, I didn't expect much from the board. I suppose when you think about using a ouija board, you think more about sitting in a quiet darkened room with an expert - here, I just expected it to be a bit of a laugh.

However, it soon became obvious that we were contacting some spirits. In turn, each of us lifted our fingers off the palette, which continued to move regardless - so we knew right away neither of us were doing it. There was definitely a tense atmosphere around the board and when the palette began to slowly spin and rotate, I definitely got a bit creeped out.

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I'd never seen a ouija board do that before, and with the way it span, it made our hands twist around each others if that makes sense. Neither of us could have 'pushed' or 'spun' the palette in that way - it was obvious there was something or someone else at work here. One of my companions asked if perhaps the spirit liked to dance, judging by the way the palette moved and spun across the board. When it moved to yes, we all let out a collective 'aww'.

Oddly enough, later on when we decided to experience the board one more time before leaving, it took me a while to speak up and proclaim that the name being spelled out before me was actually my late grandad's name. It may have been a load of crap, but I asked a few questions, and was satisfied and comforted by the answers that were given to me. 

So, yes, although the whole event was supposed to be spooky fun, I was surprised to walk away having had a spooky-but-comforting experience with 'the other side' (in my belief, anyway).

The rest of the event was spent drinking through the cocktail menu, sampling the yummy food and dodging the advances of the Victorian witch doctors - one of which who seemed to take a liking to me because I actually knew what a Victorian witch doctor was (thank you London Dungeons).

It was a fab event and a real interesting sneak peak about what the bar has to offer. I've never been to a Halloween themed bar before, but Gothic Midtown offered that perfect mixture of sophisticated fun and suspense. Yes there were creepy people walking about and chances to visit a tarot reader or try your hand at a ouija board, but it wasn't spooky fun as in people were constantly jumping out at you.

Formidable Joy | Formidable Joy Blog | Halloween | Gothic Midtown | London | Pop up Bar

You could experience the scares as you pleased, and likewise, there were also some fab DJ's playing some great music in the main area.

There was definitely a spooky atmosphere throughout, but it's nice that no matter what your scare factor is, the bar caters to everyone.

I did not have the chance to experience the ghost walk myself but was told it was again fun but creepy, too.

So if you're still stuck wondering what to do for Halloween this year, I would suggest Gothic Midtown for their ghost walks with Derek Acorah, their Victorian pop up bar - or both. The bar is perfect to wind down after an evening of scares, so even if you are doing something else that's Halloween related in London, I'd definitely suggesting popping along to Gothic Midtown afterwards.

You can check Gothic Midtown for dates on the ghost walk and the pop up bar, as dates vary.

I'd also like to say thank you to Gothic Midtown for putting on such an exciting and spooky event - I had a lot of fun.

*Please note, some images used in this post were taken from Gothic Midtown's Facebook page, with permission.


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Tuesday, 25 October 2016


I've spoken about this app a good few times on the blog before, but the last time I went into real detail was back in 2012 when the app was still on its first season.

Zombies, Run! has now released five seasons, couch to 5k training plans, a book and has plans to release a board game. It's amazing to see how far it has gone and in lieu of plans to run it's 5k virtual run this weekend, I thought I would revisit my thoughts on the app and how it has helped me.

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Although I have used the app on and off for the past few years, it's probably only earlier this year that I've really stuck with it and kept up with using it on a regular basis rather than every few months. Signing up to the virtual run has really given me that push, and over the past couple of months, I've kept it up in that I've been making the effort to go for a run once a week every week.

That might not seem like a big deal to some people, but it means a lot to me to keep it up regularly.

The 5k virtual run works the same way that the app does; you select a playlist and between songs a story plays where you complete missions, pick up supplies and out run zombies. Supplies can be used to improve your base (which has changed dramatically since the first season!), which, of course, works as motivation to keep going.

Here's why Zombies, Run! has worked for me:
  • it's zombies. I'm obsessed with zombies.
  • improving the base takes time and to do so, supplies are needed. To get supplies = I run.
  • there are FIVE seasons. The first season was dramatic enough, but with four sequels, I really want to hear more of the story.
  • it's easy to become fond of the characters too.
  • there are zombie chases! With the realistic sound effects, even if I'm at the part in my run where I need to walk for a while, it motivates me to get moving again.
Since signing up to the 5k virtual run, I haven't yet commited to the training app. Although I enjoyed the missions, when it came to the weeks where I was required to do squats during intervals, I stopped. I was too embarrassed to do this in public! I think in future I will try to revisit this and try again, but it's a little bit of a shame as I really wanted to be able to run the full 5k when I attempt this weekend.

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I don't think I'll run the whole way - that's a given - but I'll still do it, even if it's a mixture of running and walking. I know for a fine fact that my stamina has improved by using Zombies, Run! as it is and the training missions (there are training missions to help set the story for the 5k run, these are separate from the 5k training app) have really helped. 

I can now run for five to ten minutes at a time without having to stop and that's such a difference to me! My sister has helped too, as she has taken me on a run and explained that a run doesn't necessarily constitute as sprinting the whole time, and that even a slow run/jog counts!

So I'm really pleased to think that although I won't run the whole 5k, I'll sure as hell push myself and will run a lot further than I would had I taken on the run earlier this year without use of the app.

Onto the run, however. I can't go into too much detail, but the amount of effort the team behind the app has gone into. I've received a pre-run kit with instructions, and a employee card! I think the general premise of the run is that I have to break into this company's building, but they've made so much effort into everything behind the scenes.

I can log onto the company's website, I can call a number to hear messages about the company, I can log on behind the scenes. It's amazing and has really got me excited for the run but, of course, it isn't necessary to the run and people can take part in the run without these optional extra details.

All places for the 5k run are now sold out, but there's always next year and I recommend that you still download Zombies, Run! to help boost your fitness.


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Sunday, 23 October 2016

As much as I love Christmas, we all know how expensive the season can get - not just for exchanging presents, but for decorations, food (for Christmas dinner and just lush Christmas food in general), Christmas parties, Christmas dinners with work/friends, Christmas nights out and seasonal things in general.

Since my mum died, our family doesn't tend to bother with Christmas too much. We no longer exchange presents and instead choose to 'celebrate' the holiday in our own way.

That being said, I am always up for seasonal things to do, so of course, it's around about this time each year that I tend to sit down and budget and work out ways to earn some extra money to tide me across.

I did do a pretty successful money saving post years ago which I was pretty proud of, but most of the sites on there are actually redundant now, so here's an updated version on how to a) save money and b) earn some extra cash for Christmas.

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CASHBACK WEBSITES
Cashback websites are always a good idea. Set your homepage to one and just remember to always use a cashback website for everything you buy. Of course bigger spends pay off - so things like car insurance and phone contracts can get you around £80 back, but every little helps! My favourites to use are Quidco and Topcashback. Quidco's minimum withdrawal amount is only £1, which avoids waiting around, whereas Topcashback doesn't have a minimum withdrawal amount, but does take an annual membership deduction which is, if I remember rightly, £5.

Topcashback also currently has a fun competition where you can win money just by looking through the website. Cashback websites often run easy promotions like this during holidays like Halloween or Christmas.

ONLINE SURVEYS
Bex did a fab guest post on this a few years back, and this is still my favourite way to earn extra cash. My personal favourites are Yougov, GlobalTestMarket and Swagbucks - but unlike in the past, right now I'm finding myself focusing just on Swagbucks and getting quicker payouts. Halloween is a great time for survey websites like these - this week alone, I've cashed out £25, and that's by only doing one or two surveys a day. It can be a long process as you have to put the effort in, but around Halloween and Christmas is best. There's plenty of ways to earn extra SB's for free, which can then be converted into vouchers or Paypal. Right now there's a sale on, meaning it's quicker than ever to redeem points.

MATCHED BETTING
Now this is something I'm relatively new at and still getting used to, and I kind of hate the name. To me it just conjures up the image of a sleazy old man hanging out in a bookies, trying to scam money out of everyone and possibly stinking of alcohol. Don't ask me why. I heard about this first on Save The Student and went on to learn that not only is this process entirely legal, but that it's also even been recommended by The Guardian. The best way I can explain it is that you sign up to betting websites that offer free bets along with your first deposit, place two bets on two different websites betting against yourself so that you will still win money back and that you're qualifying for the free bet. In most cases, you lose something like 10p on this first bet. You then use your free bet to repeat the process. It's super hard to understand, I still don't know how it works, but the guide is really useful - you just have to study it and take it very slow. This method certainly is not a quick fix, but if you're willing to put the time and money in, I've heard people can earn up to £1,000 a month. I'd probably be too scared to bet big amounts to get to that much, but I can very easily get an extra £15 or so per bet, which all adds up in a month. My only tips are to read everything very carefully as it's very easy to make a mistake - on my first go, I didn't realize my free bet was only valid for three days, so I missed out on using it. My second tip would be to probably keep around £50 aside and spare for this alone. You'll need it for things like Liability amounts (nope, I have no idea what that is either) but you do get it back. Essentially you spend a little money to earn a lot of money I guess, and it's a wildly recommend money-making method online!

ONLINE WORK
You can of course actually take some time to earn money online. People Per Hour is great for this - especially if you have a lot of admin skills to sell. In the past, I've earned a fair good amount of money by just doing things like typing up interviews, or typing up old students work and placing their answers into teacher packs. It's as easy as that, and this is a really, really good way to earn extra cash when you're sat at home in an evening in. It's so nice sometimes to just sit down with a cup of tea, put a decent TV show on the background, and get to work. Sometimes I even do it in bed...

USEFUL WEBSITES
There are tons of useful websites out there to help you earn extra money or help you save. I find Money Saving Expert's forum an absolute godsend, mostly for things like Swagbucks or the TopCashBack promotions, but also other little ways to earn extra cash. It's so helpful. Gratisfaction is really useful for voucher codes and bargains, but freebies too, and, finally, I've just downloaded the Qmee toolbar for my browser again. You don't actually have to do anything, but it sometimes brings up suggested websites based on what you google. Click on what is suggested and that's it. I've only earned 43p so far but hey, it all adds up, am I right? There's no minimum cashout amount, and it's just started doing surveys too, where you can see what each survey is worth exactly.

There are of course loads of ways to 'up your income' but these are the ones I find most useful. Some of them aren't easy and take some time and effort, but at the end of the day, if you're sat at home on an evening anyway, you might as well spend as little as one hour to try and earn some extra cash. One useful tip is to keep everything you earn this way in a separate savings account so a) you don't dip into it and can save it for Christmas/a big holiday etc and b) you can see just how much you earn this way exactly!

Do you have any tips on how to save or earn money for Christmas? Let me know!

*Please note, I have used some of my own referral codes for these websites but these benefit you too! For example, the People Per Hour code will give you a 5% discount voucher if you choose to sign up and complete a project. However, you don't have to use my referral codes!

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