A couple of months ago I wrote a post about the TNS Postal Survey which generated a lot of interest, so today I have decided to share my experience of the Ipsos UNEX postal survey with you.
I signed up for this survey last November and completed a training period of 4 weeks before joining the live panel. I have found that it is very similar to the TNS Postal Survey in the sense that it involves sending, receiving and recording mail; it differs, however, in other respects which I will highlight in this post.
UNEX is an international postal survey and involves sending parcels rather than letters. Every week panelists receive a posting pack in the form of a large cardboard box which contains: a posting schedule; pre-stamped parcels to send to other panelists (in my case one for each day of the working week) and a pre-stamped envelope to return any transponders to UNEX. Transponders are small electronic devices that track parcels as they move through the system.
The pre-stamped parcels to send to other panelists include a transponder, a scrunched up sheet of brown paper and a short generic letter explaining that the parcel is a test item. As a panelist you will also receive these parcels and they have to be logged onto UNEX’s website upon receipt. I find it quite exciting to receive these just to look at the foreign stamps – some of them are very unusual! The website is extremely efficient and user friendly, it takes about 10 seconds to log a sent or received parcel.
UNEX operate a points based rewards system whereby each letter earns you 10 points for each logged parcel and good performance is rewarded with an extra 30 points per month. The points can be redeemed for gifts or gift cards in a dedicated online shop. I usually wait until I have accumulated 260 points and claim a 20 Euro Amazon gift card.
Whilst I doubt that the rewards are sufficient to cover the costs/hassle if you have to go out of your way to post/receive the parcels, I am sure that anyone who visits (or at least passes by) the Post Office daily and is in a position where parcels can be left in a safe place if necessary, would benefit from this survey. Join here. You can also visit their Facebook page here. If you are a member of this panel already, I would love to hear your experiences of it.
Whilst you are unlikely to make a fortune out of completing online surveys, there is still the potential to earn some extra income each month with very little effort. You may have heard that survey websites pay you pennies for a lot of work – and even screen you out after you have answered most of the questions; this is certainly true of some of them but there are still good ones out there. The following websites are those that I have found worth doing:
Prolific Academic – This is one of the highest paying survey websites. The surveys pay a minimum of £5 per hour and you are provided with an estimated completion time. The surveys are compiled by academics, cover a wide variety of topics and are usually interesting to complete. The only downside is that you don’t get any notifications and have to log on frequently to check for available surveys. They pay via Paypal or Circle. The minimum payment threshold is £5 but beware, you will be charged a fee if you withdraw less than £20. Join here.
Pinecone Research – This is my second favourite paid survey website. All the surveys pay £3 and take 10 – 15 minutes to complete. Occasionally they will also send out a product to trial and you will receive another £3 for filling in the follow up survey. From time to time you will receive an unpaid survey entitled ‘household questions’ – this is a pre-screening survey that usually takes less than a minute to complete. Recruitment is done through banner advertisements that appear sporadically on websites and occasionally through a referral link. Payment is made via PayPal or Prepaid Virtual Visa. See here for more information.
Global Test Market – These surveys pay an average of £1.20 and usually take about 20 minutes to complete. The payment threshold is approximately £30 and is paid via PayPal or in high street vouchers. By completing these surveys you are also automatically entered into their quarterly sweepstakes draw. Join here.
New Vista Live – The typical payment per survey is £1 and each survey takes around 15 minutes to complete. Payment is made by cheque and the payment threshold is £50. You are credited with £5 for signing up. Join here.
Populus Live – These surveys pay at least £1 each, the amount you receive at the end depending on how long you have spent completing it. The rate of pay is typically £1 for every 5 minutes spent. The payment threshold is £50 and payment is made by cheque, posted to you automatically. Join here.
One Poll – These surveys are short and sweet, typically paying between £0.10 to £0.30 each and taking 1-2 minutes to complete; you rarely get screened out. They credit you with £2.50 when you open an account and the payment threshold is £40 which is paid via BACS or PayPal. Join here.
Valued Opinions – reward you with up to £5 per survey. Occasionally there is an opportunity to join a focus group or trial a product. The payment threshold is £8 and you are paid in gift cards for Amazon or selected high street retailers. Join here.
Panelbase – pays between £0.25 to £10 per survey, each taking around 10 minutes. The payment threshold is £10 and you are paid via bank transfer or Love2Shop/Capital Bonds vouchers. You are credited with £3 when you sign up and occasionally there is an opportunity to join a focus group. Join here.
Ipsos – These surveys pay between 5p and £1.80, the higher paying ones taking around 15 minutes to complete. They pay via high street vouchers and the payment threshold is £10. Join here.
Swagbucks – The surveys on this website tend to be quite low paying (approximately 40p for a 10 minute survey), so I don’t spend much time on them. However I find that it is worth logging in everyday to complete the daily poll, watch videos and earn points for using their search engines. Join here.
Mintvine – Like Swagbucks’ these surveys are very low paying, and not really worth doing, however it is worth having an account just to complete the daily poll and you can also earn points for clicking some of the links. Payout is 1,000 points ($10) and is done via PayPal. Join here.
All of these survey websites are free to join and the questions are usually very easy to answer – most of them can be completed whilst watching television or even whilst working in a role that permits personal internet access. The surveys come in handy to top up your cash and, whether you dedicate 20 minutes or 2 hours a day, you will soon see your earnings adding up. Many of the sites also reward you for referring a friend. It is worth keeping in mind, though, that these earnings are taxable.
I know that it is perhaps a little late in the year to be posting about my L’Occitane Classic Beauty Advent Calendar, but I am so pleased with it that I am telling anyone who will listen…
I received it in the post on Friday 1st and it was a complete surprise – sent to me by my lovely mother who knows that I am a huge L’Occitane fan.
The advent calendar depicts a Christmassy scene of a town square in Provence, illustrated by Kanako – a well-known artist in France. There are 24 windows to open and each contains a miniature L’Occitane product.
So far, I have received:
Day 1 – 35ml Cherry Blossom Shower Gel
Day 2 – 10ml 20% Shea Butter Dry Skin Hand Cream
Day 3 – 50g Almond Delicious Soap
Day 4 – 30ml Verbena Body Lotion
Day 5 – 10ml Pivoine Flora Hand Cream
Day 6 – 35ml 5 Essential Oils Conditioner
Day 7 – 30ml Ultra Rich Body Lotion
Day 8 – 5ml Light Comforting Cream
Day 9 – 35ml 5 Essential Oils Shampoo
Day 10 – 25g Soap with Verbena Leaves
Day 11 – 30ml Ultra Rich Shower Cream
Day 12 -10ml Almond Delicious Hand Cream
Day 13 – 33g Effervescent Revitalizing Sugar Cube for Bath
Day 14 – 30ml Citrus Verbena Shower Gel
Day 15 – 3ml Ultra Rich Lip Balm
Day 16 – 50g Arlesienne Perfumed Soap
Day 17 – 35ml Relaxing Shower Gel
Day 18 – 20ml Almond Milk Concentrate for body
Day 19 – 25g Extra-Gentle Milk Soap
Day 20 – 35ml Cherry Blossom Shimmering Lotion
Day 21 – 10ml Verveine Cooling Hand Cream Gel
Day 22 – 35ml Almond Shower Oil
Day 23 – 10ml Dry Skin Foot Cream
Day 24 – 7.5ml Arlesienne Eau de Toilette
My family tradition has always been to open gifts of any kind after the evening meal, (yes, I know this is unusual, but I can’t break with tradition!). I will, therefore, be updating this post in due course.
If you are interested in getting one, it is definitely not too late – it is available for purchase here.
I was recently very pleased to receive a package from the Savvy Circle containing a starter kit for their ‘Olay Total Effects’ project. I have enjoyed testing this product over the last few weeks.
Included in my starter kit:
1 x Olay Total Effects Day Cream 50ml
A Savvy Circle insider’s guide full of handy hints and tips
10 x Olay Total Effects Day Cream 7ml samples
10 x Olay money-off vouchers, redeemable at Superdrug.
‘Ask your friends’ product research sheets
The idea behind this project is to: test the Total Effects Day Cream, hand out the samples and coupons, spread the word and gather other people’s opinions on the product.
After using the product for a couple of weeks I have noted that the appearance of my skin has improved – it looks a lot brighter and, whilst my fine lines have not disappeared, it does look smoother. An adequate amount of the cream dispenses from the pump bottle, which looks quite classy with its black and gold colours; it absorbs into my skin very easily.
My friends have reported that they also like the cream. One person commented that at first they thought it might irritate their sensitive skin due to the light fragrance, but quickly noted that it did not upset her skin at all. Another friend stated that her dry skin felt much softer after trying a couple of the samples.
My only disappointment with this project is a rather far-fetched claim that 8% of women have good skin in their DNA and that the remaining 92% can achieve skin “that can look and behave like the other 8%” by using Olay’s products. That is a tall order, and I am not convinced that it can realistically be achieved with a bottle of face cream costing around £15.
Overall, I have enjoyed taking part in the project and would recommend this product to those looking for an efficient face cream that does not hurt the pocket too much.
Interested in becoming a Savvy Circle member? Apply here
We recently visited Canela, a Portuguese restaurant in London’s Covent Garden area, before catching the matinée of The Death of Stalin at the nearby Curzon Soho Cinema.
We were able to book a table online via ‘OpenTable’ the night before and were greeted by the friendly, but not overzealous, staff on arrival.
The decently sized menu caters for all appetites, with dishes ranging from light bar snacks to hearty traditional Portuguese dishes such as Moelas em molho do Chef (chicken gizzards in sauce). As it was lunchtime and we did not want a heavy meal before our visit to the cinema, we opted for a small selection of sharing dishes, followed by a Bifana (pork loin steak sandwich), finishing off our meal with a Pastel de Nata (custard tart).
The first sharing dish to arrive was ‘Alheira’ mini burgers with quail eggs – which were so beautifully presented it seemed a shame to eat them. They consisted of a mildly spiced sausage meat topped with a fried quails egg, had a smoky flavour to them – and were delicious. As soon as we cleared our plates we were presented with Pastéis de Bacalhau (salted cod croquettes) – our only disappointment, as they were lukewarm and a bit on the bland side. The last sharing dish to arrive was the Camarão ao Alho (garlic prawns) which consisted of perfectly cooked fresh prawns engulfed in a rich sauce – absolutely marvellous.
A Bifana is a traditional Portuguese sandwich, consisting of marinated pork loin steak with mustard wrapped in rustic bread. In this case they were served with salad and crisps (the crisps might seem a little strange but it is a common combination in Portugal and works very well).
Although they lacked the authentic ‘slightly burnt’ look, the PastéisdeNata (custard tarts) were very good, the pastry had a nice, crisp consistency and tasted very fresh. Mine was washed down with a delicious Galão (a type of latte, served in a tall glass).
The interior of the restaurant was simply decorated with subtle nods to Portugal; the marble tables for example, and the carefully chosen Portuguese wines that adorn the walls, rather than the gaudy souvenirs or ’reminders’ of the restaurant’s authenticity often found in places heavily frequented by tourists.
The meals were served in white ceramic dishes with a blue rim – the subtlety here lies in the fact that whilst these are traditional Portuguese plates they did not have ‘Portugal’ written on them and nor were they embellished with scenes of the Motherland.
It is also worth noting that the prices are very reasonable, especially given Canela’s location. The aforementioned dishes and a bottle of wine set us back £90 – there are very few places in this part of London where you can find fresh food at so low a cost. The most expensive dish on the menu is Bacalhau à Brás (salted cod with potatoes and eggs),which are priced at only £13.90.
Currently there are some special offers available, including:
‘Afternoon Offer’: free coffee with any cake
Monday to Friday 3.30pm–5.30pm and
‘Lunch promotion’: Portuguese daily dish for only £6.50
Overall I would say that Canela is worth visiting and makes a refreshing change from the surrounding ‘gimmicky’ or, heaven forbid, chain restaurants so prevalent in this area.
For those of you who might be interested, we thought that ‘The Death of Stalin’ was a decent enough film. Whilst it was by no means a masterpiece of British comedy, it was nevertheless an enjoyable watch, which was surprising considering the subject. Some of the acting was superb.
Since I started working from home, I have signed up to most of the product testing companies in the UK. It is, after all, always lovely to receive free products in the post! There are many companies that offer products ranging from books to electric shavers to test in return for feedback; if you would normally buy them, it can also be considered money saving!
The amount of work required in return for the products varies enormously; whilst some companies expect you to send in videos of yourself using the product or lengthy conversation reports, others simply require you to fill in a short questionnaire. Over the years, I have weeded out those that demand what I consider to be too much effort for a freebie – two hours work for a toothpaste? No thanks! In no particular order, here is my list of the product testing companies that I believe are worth signing up to.
Alba Science: Specialises in cosmetics and toiletries and trials are frequent. I have received many products including shampoo, facial toner, night cream and lip salve from them in the past year. They send out an email with a questionnaire in order to apply to trial the product and if you are successful it will arrive in the post a couple of days later. Most of their products arrive unbranded, in plain packaging (see my photo), and are usually premium high street brands. After the product has been trialed, there is a follow-up questionnaire which usually takes about 3 minutes to complete. Join here.
Clicks Research: Trials are mostly cosmetic and food orientated. There is a lengthy profile questionnaire on this site, but it is worth completing (and keeping updated) as they do send out some lovely beauty products, which are also usually unbranded. Once signed up, you will start to receive invites to join trials – these do fill up in a matter of minutes though, so it is best to use an email address that you check regularly. Join here.
Boots Review Panel: If you are lucky enough to be chosen for this panel you are in for a treat! They regularly send out products – ranging from £7 Lip Crayons to £200 perfumes and ask for a short review on their website in return. They send out emails before posting products and you can decline them if you wish. Sign up here.
Supper Savvy Me: Offers trials of Procter & Gamble products. I have found it is best to be selective with this company as there is quite a lot of work involved in the trials. Typically they require at least 3 written reports on conversations about the product, a starter, half-time and final survey, posting on their blog, uploading photos on their website, etc. Whilst this is fine for a high value product such as a hairdryer or epilator, I don’t feel it is worth it for, say, a cleaning spray and a few vouchers. Register here.
BzzAgent: This company’s trials are also worth being a bit discerning with and can include anything from chocolate to beauty products. In return for your freebie, you are expected to submit conversation reports, share posts about the product on social media, write a review, send photos, etc. There are some great products on offer which vary in value. Apply here.
Home testing Club: Focuses on new product launches. Most of their trials are of items usually found in the supermarket. Product trials are posted on their website (although sometimes you will get an email invite). If you are accepted they will post the products out and you will subsequently receive a link to a very short questionnaire. I have tested facial wash, mayonnaise and toothpaste for them. Apply here.
Tesco Home Panels: According to Tesco, this panel is based on your Clubcard data. They usually send out trial invitations that fill up very quickly, particularly for clothing, and follow up with a short questionnaire a couple of weeks later. Most of my trials have been clothes or shoes. I have heard many differing reports about the frequency of trials. My experience has been that for a year and half I received about 2 products a months and then the trials stopped. Tesco have told me that because there are a large number of people on the panel there are sometimes delays between trials. They also send out some very short surveys which are rewarded with Bonus Bond vouchers. Not currently recruiting, but it is worth checking here from time to time.
Pinecone Research: This is predominantly a survey company, albeit one of the highest paying ones. Sometimes they will send out a product to trial after you complete one of their surveys and you will get another £3 for filling in the follow up survey. I have received a variety of products including crisps, juice and floor wipes from them. It is an invite only panel.
Senses Club: Is a French company that focus on scents and flavours. They conduct surveys that used to be very lengthy and tedious, but have improved considerably in the last couple of years and are rewarded quite generously with Amazon or Debenhams vouchers. I have had two £50 payments from them this year for about 10 mins work each time, answering questions about my washing machine use. Occasionally they send out products to trial and so far this year I have received fabric conditioner, floor cleaner and shampoos. They are not currently looking for new panellists, but is worth keeping an eye on this page.
Beauty Bible: As you may have guessed by the name, this company specialises in beauty products. If you are fortunate enough to be the right fit and make it to the top of their waiting list you will be emailed a short questionnaire so that they can tailor your package according to your skin type, hair length etc. They are quite unusual in the sense that they ask for a £30 contribution – but it is totally worth it, as you will usually receive over £100’s worth of goodies. Apply here to join their waiting list.
Do you do any product testing? Would love to hear your comments on this!
This postal survey is conducted for Royal Mail by Kantar TNS; its objective is to independently monitor business and personal post that travels through the Royal Mail UK network and is rewarded with free monthly stamps.
The panellists tasks for the main survey are to:
Receive a weekly posting pack and prepare items, including letters and parcels, for posting.
Record items received from other panellists.
Post items to other panellists according to a weekly schedule.
This is rewarded with 12 x 1st class stamps and 4 x 1st class large letter stamps per month, as well as seasonal gifts including Easter chocolates, and diaries at Christmas. After completing the training period, and again after 6 months on the panel, panellists also receive a ‘presentation pack’ which includes approximately £10-12 worth of stamps.
It usually takes me 5 -10 minutes to prepare the items to send to other panellists, depending on how many there are. This varies a lot – some weeks I only have 3 letters to send; others I might have 10, including a cube for which it is necessary to purchase a label from the post office (the price of the label is reimbursed).
Aside from the main postal survey there are additional ways of earning income through the site, including the Unaddressed Mail Survey. This involves recording any junk mail received that has not been specifically addressed to you, including anything from takeaway flyers to catalogues. This pays £5 in Love2Shop vouchers for every three weeks completed.
There is also a Correctly Delivered survey that necessitates logging the number of items received on daily basis, plus reporting any ‘doorstepped’ items, for two weeks. This is rewarded with £5 in Love2Shop vouchers.
The latter two surveys are by invitation only, but I seem to be included in them fairly regularly. And in addition to all this there are prize draws; you could receive a randomly allocated ‘Golden Smart’ which will net you a cool £100 worth of vouchers.
As I live within 20 metres of a post box and visit the post office at least three times a week anyway, it is convenient for me to take part in the survey. I am not sure, though, that it would be worthwhile for anyone needing to travel to the post box and/or post office – the costs incurred would more than likely outweigh the benefits.
Out of the all the methods I use to top up my monthly income this is the one that pays the least. I continue with it, however, since it isn’t very time consuming and I don’t need to go out of my way to complete the tasks. I usually earn about £20-25 a month in stamps/vouchers if I do the main survey combined with the Unaddressed Mail and Correctly Delivered surveys.
You can apply to take part here. If you are responsible for receiving the post at work and your employers allow it, or you are a small business owner, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will then send you a link which will earn us both £25 in Love2Shop vouchers providing you successfully complete the training period and become an active panellist. If you subsequently complete six months on the panel, you will receive a further £25 in vouchers.
Earlier this week, my partner and I decided to have a meal at Arancina, one of favourite local restaurants. It is one of the places we go when we just fancy a cheap, no frills eat that does not consist of processed food – a rare find in London these days.
Arancina serves this purpose beautifully as they serve up homemade Sicilian Pizza and hearty meals including Lasagna, Aubergine Parmigiana and Chicken Milanese with roast veg. The pizza prices range from £7.95 for a 35cm x 20cm Margherita to £23.50 for a huge 70cm x 28cm Carnivora. The ‘hearty meals’ will set you back a mere £7.50 and they also do some combo deals, such as a pizza slice, Arancina ball and a soft drink for £8.10.
There are two Arancina restaurants in London, we visited the Notting Hill Gate branch – it is quite unusual in that there is no proper table service. Instead, you order and pay downstairs at the deli-style counter and then carry your tray of food to the seating area upstairs. However, if you order a whole Pizza, rather than the slices on display, staff will usually bring it upstairs when it is ready.
We ordered two arancina balls as a starter and a 35cm x 20cm Carnivora – together with drinks the bill was under £30. The food, as always, was delicious. In case you are not familiar with them, the arancina balls are deep fried risotto balls with a filling of either beef ragu with peas or ham and cheese.
The pizza we opted for was the Carnivora (Margherita, Spicy Salami, Ham and Italian Pork Sausage) in ‘Paletta’ size (35×25 cm). It was full of flavour, the base was crispy but not too thin, and the toppings are made from good quality ingredients. (Sorry I completely forgot to take a photo of it!)
The only complaint I had this visit was about the music, for some reason they decided to play an old Beyoncé/Destiny’s Child CD at full volume, which didn’t quite fit in with our ‘relaxing after work’ vibe. To be honest, lyrics such as “I don’t think you ready for this jelly ….cause my body too bootylicious for ya babe” are never going to quite work for me whilst I am stuffing my face with pizza. I asked one of the staff to change it or at least turn it down, she obliged but seemed really taken back that I didn’t share her taste in music. The other clientele consisted of three young, trendy twenty something lads and two Japanese tourists – I am quite sure that they were not enjoying the music either!
Arancina opened in 2006 and is known locally as a success, evidenced by the queues of Italian tourists on a Saturday afternoon, eager to get their fill before hitting Portobello Market. I would wholeheartedly recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for a decent slice of pizza in west London. A menu is available here.
Don’t feel like going out? If you live locally you can order it from Deliveroo here.
As the cooler weather has been approaching, I have noticed that my skin has been breaking out, as it always does at this time of year. In my experience, it is best just to go easy on make-up when this happens. Working from home does make this easier for me, but last Saturday night I was going out for dinner with a group of people, most of whom I hadn’t met and wanted to look my best – It is at times like this that I reach for my trusted Estée Lauder Double Wear Foundation.
As it is a thick formula, known for its fuller coverage, I think it is important to get the shade right as otherwise it will look too obvious – the aim is to look like we are not wearing any make-up isn’t it? Indeed, it has taken me a few attempts at finding the right shade of this foundation, but I am very glad I persevered as it really does cover up a multitude of sins. Luckily the Estée Lauder ladies at my local Boots have been patient and let me have a few trials before committing to a purchase – just ask them for a colour match and they will usually try to find your match instore then issue you with a little vial containing a few days’ worth of the foundation.
Another great thing about this product is that I can achieve full coverage with a very small amount – I usually just dab 2 or 3 drops on a Ecotools classic foundation brush and spread it quickly in semi-circular movements. It immediately covers any minor blemishes and evens out my skin tone, without looking too fake and ‘cakey’. I have also found that it lasts a long time on my skin (roughly 10 hours ) and does not needed to be re-applied, which can happen with some cheaper formulations.
The only complaint I have about this product is the bottle. Too many a time, I have poured out too much of the liquid and wasted it, for this reason I would prefer pump dispenser. It is available here.
This month, in collaboration with Woman & Home magazine L’Occitane are offering a free sample of Immortelle Precious Cleansing Foam. So last week, after acquiring my voucher online I printed it out and then picked up a free 50ml trial sized bottle of this at my local branch.
After using it for a few days, I have found that the cleansing foam is gentle on my skin, but at the same time manages to leave my skin feeling very clean and removes all traces of make-up, including mascara. I have been using it in the shower in the morning and over the bathroom sink with hot water and a muslin cloth at night, and haven’t needed to use any other products before applying my moisturiser. It has a light, fresh fragrance and the pump dispenses easily. The foam spreads really well and does not leave any residue.
Get your free sample here. The offer is running until the 30th of September while stocks last. EDIT – I believe stocks have run out now – sorry!