Monitoring the Royal Mail

When I retired I looked for some interesting part time work I could do from home. I thought a job would help me fill my time and finance my hobbies.  I found rather to my surprise several companies were happy to employ the more mature candidates.  Here is one of the ways I earn a few treats.

I have been part of the Royal Mail monitoring panel for almost two years. This is operated by Kantar TNS Research International and has been running for twenty-five years.  In exchange for posting and receiving letters and parcels I receive postage stamps and love to shop vouchers. I also get some packaging material which can be recycled. Other treats include  a diary for Christmas and a packet of chocolate  eggs for Easter. I have been lucky enough to win a £10.00  love to shop voucher in the daily draw twice.  Kantar also hide a golden smart in a parcel each month which is worth £100.00 but I have never been lucky enough to find it.

What do I have to do?

A collection of stamps showing Hermione, Harry and Ron with the Ford Anglia and the Night bus.
I received a set of Harry Potter stamps when I went live in January

All over Britain participants   send each other letters and packages.  Each one contains an electronic chip called a smart which records the progress of the item through the Royal Mail postal system.  When I am live I receive a package each week with my posting instructions. This includes various sizes of envelopes and a schedule of when to prepare and  where to send the letters. Details of letters sent and received have to be entered every day on a fairly user friendly website. About once a week I also have to go to the local post office to post a parcel.

Although it can have its downside generally I find it good to have an incentive to go for a walk or visit the local shopping centre.  Normally I spend about six months live and am then rested for six months.  During this time I can participate in other postal surveys. I did feel a bit guilty when our postman struggled through the snow with a couple of letters that I knew only contained a piece of paper and a smart recently.

If you are in the U.K. and live near a post box and can get to a post office and would like to join click here to find out more 

Kantar provide full training and I had a few weeks sending pieces of cardboard to and from their office while I  showed I was happy with what I had to do.

Have you found any unusual part time jobs? Please share in the comments below.

Visiting the Royal Mint at Llantrisant

Croeso I Cymru  Welcome to Wales

This week Bill and I went on a coach trip to the royal  mint at Llantrisant which is near Cardiff in Wales.  I have been a coin collector for a number of years and was keen to learn a little more about how they were made.  The visitor experience centre was opened in 2016 and cost nine million pounds so we were hoping for an interesting visit.

History of the Mint

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The first British coin

Coins have been minted in England for over a thousand years. The earliest coin found with a London mark has the head of King Alfred.  From about 1100 A.D. coins were minted inside the tower of London and  until 1970 coins were still minted in London at a site close to the tower.  However the government decided to introduce decimalisation. In 1971,  pounds, shillings and pence were replaced by 100 new pence to the pound  and  a larger site was needed to produce the new currency.

The site chosen was  in  South Wales. It may not have been a coincidence that James Callaghan the chancellor of the exchequer was M.P. for the nearby city of Cardiff. The new mint at LLantrisant was opened 50 years ago in 1968  and over 200 million coins were struck in preparation for D day.  At the time I was at university at Bangor in North Wales and I remember the excitement of getting the new coins. Predictably people were less impressed when they found that prices tended to go up.

Visiting the mint

Gromit covered with new pence.
Still on the Gromit trail. This one has been covered with new pence.

The royal mint is on a 35 acre site and is the largest in Western Europe.  It has an interesting visitor centre which is open every day from 9.30 A.M. to 17.30 P.M.  Tickets cost  a rather hefty  £13.50 for adults and £11.00 for children and  a family ticket for two adults and two children costs £40.00.  Concessions and group rates are also available.  There is free parking and a small café.  It is four miles from junction 34 of the M4.  For more details click here:  The Royal mint visitor experience

Part of the energy used is generated by a wind turbine painted to resemble a daffodil, the Welsh national flower and named Delilah in honour of Sir Tom Jones who was born nearby.

Our visit

After a security check we saw a short film which introduced the new range of coins for this year.  New coins depict Paddington bear and James Cook as well as a series of 10p pieces with letters of the alphabet. There will also be a commemorative coin with “New Pence” like the original decimal coins.

In the next room our guide showed us a display of tools used to mint the coins. She  also pointed out  some of the details we should  look out for when examining our change. For example the two pound coins have an appropriate slogan round the edge. The London underground £2.00 has “Mind the gap”.

Next we glimpsed a little bit of the production process. I was a bit disappointed to learn that no British coins will be struck this week. Demand has dropped considerably with the increased use of debit and credit cards. However the mint produces currency for about 60 other countries and we were able to watch Egyptian pounds being minted. Our party were  suprised to learn that coins are packed in cardboard boxes ready for transport.  For obvious reasons we were not allowed to take photographs of the production area.  You will also never see a lorry with Royal Mint on the side.

After the factory tour we had time to explore the exhibition area.  The mint also produces medals. All the medals for the 2012 London Olympics were made at the mint and copies were on display. There was also a cabinet devoted to the most famous master of the mint Sir Isaac Newton.

The mint has a small shop where you can purchase collector coins and other souvenirs including the largest chocolate money I have ever seen.

Our visit took about two hours including coffee and  rather tasty Welsh cakes in the café.

A famous car

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The Penny lane mini.

In 1967 the Beatles released the single Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields forever. Two minis were covered with old pennies to promote the record and this one has been carefully stored and preserved for 50 years.

Home working successfully after retirement

The picture shows someone home working sat on a soafa using a tablet with their feet up.
The dream life. Home working has many advantages.

I  retired just over a year ago but found I missed the stimulation and I will admit the money from working.   I wondered if there were any interesting home working opportunities that would offer a reasonable rate of pay to older people for a few hours work a week.  After a bit of googling  I soon discovered that quite a few mystery shopping companies had jobs for older people. Now rather to my surprise I find myself home working.  This is all very new to me.  During my working life I  worked in offices, nursing homes, hospitals and even a laboratory but now for the first time I am my own boss and work from home and  I find I much prefer it to watching day time television or knitting.

       10 tips for successful home working after retirement

  • set a target for how much you want to earn each week.  When it has been reached you have done enough.
  • Learn to say, No.  If you are working for several different people you will need to schedule a reasonable quantity of work and schedule some down time.
  • Make sure you get up early and get dressed.  It will make you feel more like work.
  • Keep all your work tools in one place preferably away from day time television.
  • Keep basic accounts recording income, outgoings and time.  (I imagine I am invoicing myself) so you can see what is the most profitable type of work.
  • Pay yourself a wage and keep a float for expenses.
  • Check income tax allowances.  If you work from home you can claim a portion of your heating and other household bills against income tax. (U.K)
  • If you work as an employee tell the tax office and you may be able to offset part of your personal tax allowance against tax. (U.K.)
  • Tell your friends and family that you will be working at certain times.
  • Make sure you schedule in some exercise.

I find it suprising the amount of work that is available for pensioners.   My recent jobs have ranged from sending a tweet to enquire about disabled access at a railway station to asking how to apply for a new driving licence at seventy.  I also do tasks that are not age specific like visiting gardens and local pubs.   Google and you tube have been my friends.  When I am stuck I can generally find a helpful video.  I also use my tablet’s planner and notepad to organise my schedule.

When I was in full time work I used to enjoy helping to mentor students.  I also enjoyed helping my own children with their homework when they were at school so when I found that there were opportunities to help research students I investigated further.  My favourite website for this is prolific academic , My referral link which puts research students in touch with participants.  I have also recently participated in research studies at our local university.

If you work from home do you have any tips to share? Or are you finding the transition to retirement easier than I did.  I would love to hear what you are thinking.  Don’t be shy.

If you are thinking of home working and want to find out more….

For more on mystery shopping and a couple of companies to try see my post https://www.theplatinumline.blog/mystery-shopping/

For more on helping with academic research  see my post https://www.theplatinumline.blog/helping-with-academic-research/

A very useful site for British readers to find out about homeworking opportunities is  The money shed

Quincy, a large ginger cat
Quincy – a cat who used to visit. You can’t take time out to cuddle a cat when working in an office

Make an extra £20.00 a month by filling in surveys

How to make an extra £20 a month

From 2017 the British government allows you to make a £1000 a year without having to declare it for tax purposes.  If you have a couple of hours a week to spare it is fairly easy to earn some extra money online.

A lot of companies like to conduct market research by getting people to fill in surveys.  This can be any thing from watching adverts to see if you have understood the message, to asking questions to find out how you shop.

Like many people I began my online money making by filling in these  surveys.         I would be the first to admit that spending 20 minutes filling in a survey for 50 pence is working well below the minimum wage however if you are time rich and money poor it is worth considering these sites as a way to earn a few pence.  Many sites also offer vouchers which can be saved for Christmas or birthday presents.   Quite a few sites also let you donate money to charity.

I look for sites that let me cash out at a low payment threshold and are easy to use.   Another important consideration is do they use the demographic information you provide to choose suitable surveys to match your profile.   I  prefer using British sites as I think they are less likely to disqualify you from surveys. Sometimes filling in surveys can lead to other opportunities. This year I was invited to a focus group to discus a well known science magazine for which I was paid £30.00 after filling in a survey and  I was also asked to keep a spending diary after another survey on a different site for which I received £15.00.   It is worth thinking about your answers and paying attention to trick questions.

My favourite site which does have a £50.00 minimum cash out is populus live.  It pays about £1.00 for five minutes and it took me about ten months to earn £50.00.

A  couple of other reliable sites.


Branded Surveys.

This site is American but seems to have plenty of surveys.  You start as a bronze member and can then pass through the ranks to become a silver or gold member which gives you a chance to get higher paying surveys and more points in the daily poll.    Be sure to do the daily poll to get at least 5 extra points a day.  You also receive a bonus if you are disqualified from a survey.

Branded surveys.

QMEE

 

QMee

we both get 50p if you use my link.   If you install the QMee app you will also earn a few pence for  searches.  This site lets you cash out any amount to paypal so it is worth giving it a try.

Yougov

This site is a slow but reliable earner.  Minimum cashout is £50.00.  Surveys are by email invitation only and once you are invited to participate in a survey you can usually complete it.  They are generally short and work well and are often on political or current topics.

YouGov

I would like to know other people’s favourites in the comments.  I know Pinecone is highly recommended but I have been unable to get on the panel.

How to sell books online

This is a stock photo of some library shelves
Most people have some books that are unloved

Online bookselling

A few years ago I used to supplement my income by online bookselling on Amazon.  Although I no longer do this I thought I would offer a few tips in case anyone else is interested.  Some  are also probably relevant to general online trading.  I am now a poacher turned game keeper and help at a local charity shop and I sometimes spot items they can sell on Ebay.

Most people start by selling their old books, often college textbooks but then need to look for replacement stock. The first thing I realised was that online selling is more about the ability to source quality stock cheaply than  brilliant salesmanship.

Amazon

When you first look at Amazon you will find a lot of books for sale for 1p .  You will wonder how sellers manage to do this. The answer is that these are mega sellers who probably buy charity shop rejects for about 5p each and make most of their profit from the postage charge. Professional sellers also pay considerably less Amazon fees than you or I.

The key to success is to find your niche. If you are interested in fishing or local history that is the place to start. Have a look at sites like Amazon or Ebay to find what is selling and for how much. If you try looking up the price of your own books it will give you some idea.  All modern books have an ISBN number above the barcode.  If you search for this number you will can compare your edition with what is on offer. Try to do a practice listing to see exactly what you will receive and then decide if it is worth it. Also look at the best seller ranking to see if it is likely to sell. Personally I would avoid hardback fiction or thick mass market paperbacks.  Old encyclopedias , readers digests or family bibles are also unlikely to sell.

The next task is to try to source the books in good condition cheaply. If you have time go into your local charity shops and talk to the staff, ask them to look out for books on your interest and if they find any pay a fair price and thank them. Large book shops also have end of season sales especially if a new edition of a text book has just been published. Unless you intend to trade on a large scale and have a lot of storage space I would avoid buying in bulk. It takes a surprisingly long time to list and pack books. Only buy books for resale in very good condition.

You then need to cut costs for posting and packing. I was able to buy padded envelopes in bulk from our local stationers. Look on ebay for discounted stamps. It is a good idea to invest in some cheap postal scales. It is important to work out a selling price that gives you a reasonable profit. Some dealers have software that automatically makes their books  1p cheaper than the next lowest but ignore this. If your books have been well chosen they will sell. Give the books a good description, mention any faults like highlighting in textbooks and try to package them well and post promptly. If you have good feedback you will get orders.

Other bookselling sites

The Amazon sellers forum is very helpful. If you have several books on the same subject or by the same author it might be worth selling them as a bulk lot on ebay.  More specialist books sometimes sell better on Abe books which is also owned by Amazon.  Ebay also allows you to let the buyer collect if they are particularly heavy. Ladybird books have devoted collectors and prices can be checked on the weeweb or they can be saved and sold as a collectors lot.  Another series to look out for is Haynes car manuals.  I once sold a manual for a Reliant Robin for a good price.

If you have books that are worth a few pounds but you just want them out of the house a site like  Music Magpie is worth considering. Minimum sale is £5.00 but they pay postage and provide the packing labels.

If you want to try bookselling  but don’t have  any spare storage space then the Amazon affiliate programme may be for you.  Once you sign up you can put a link to any Amazon product on your social media or blog and receive a small commission on sales generated.

Publishers are also looking for people to review books in exchange for a hardback or digital copy.   You can apply to receive books to review at Goodreads  or Netgallery (E.books).