There was a while there when GB started calling me the coupon lady because every time we visited the supermarket I’d rake out all the coupons and offers and previous reciepts claiming money off our next shop from the basket on top of the microwave, and then proceed around the aisle’s with them clutched in my hands making sure we’d buy the right type of sweet potatoes so that we could get that all important 30 pence off.
I hadn’t suddenly morphed into an eighty year old women, I had just started to get wise to the fact that we’d spent years scanning and beeping those club cards and nectar cards and advantage cards, and for what reason? We did nothing with them. I know we’re not alone in this – everyone I know has a card for every supermarket they visit but none of us seem to ever spend the points or claim the benefits. Even when you do finally save enough points to actually buy something, there’s always that voice in the back of your head that says ‘don’t spend it on that, that’s a waste. Just keep saving until you can buy something worthwhile’.
So yes, I became the coupon lady. I made sure we got our 30 pence off sweet potatoes and saved the £1.12 from our previous shop that we never ever remembered. Clearly they cottoned on, as we no longer get nearly as many coupons through the door now and I’ve reverted back to swiping, and beeping, and presenting for no apparent reason, just like every one else.
Avios, the website that helps you turn your spending into real life exciting rewards, are setting out to combat just this. Apparently 34 million days of holiday were wasted in 2014 because British workers didn’t take their annual leave, and billions of pounds worth of loyalty points lay unclaimed every year. They want to make us all aware of just how much we could be gaining from those unused points every year and the potential adventures we could be missing out on. They’ve created a microsite dedicated to this called ‘Do more with Avios’ to show exactly what you could be doing with those unclaimed points. I’m not an Avios user myself (yet), but when they asked me to give their new points calculator a go, and see how many points I could potentially have earned in a year of spending as well as the rewards I could have reaped, I was intrigued.
I don’t drive so that took my average down a lot (you can save lots by getting points every time you top up your petrol), but I am a total shopaholic and a big proportion of my shopping spend is spent online (a great way of redeeming points from various retailers). Add to that a fair bit of travelling this year (on trains up and down the country and flights) and suddenly my calculator had reached the 15,000 points mark. 15,000! That sounds like a lot right?
The next step is for Avios to tease you with all of the potential adventures you could have gone on with those points. Ideas such as trips to Paris, weekends away in a countryside hotel and luxurious spa days were popping up on my page and I realised that it was probably time we got more savvy and utilised our spending more. We have friends who are always booking flights through their airmiles, getting money off through Quidco, and using their credit cards wisely to save hundreds. Next year – this will be us.
Avois offered to send me on an adventure to give me a taste of what I’d been missing out on, and it was certainly enough to do that. A spa day for two at the Marriot County Hall on the Southbank popped up and after all the stress of wedding planning lately, I knew it would be just the ticket.
I chose a spa day deal for two which threw in one treatment of our choice and afternoon tea, and I booked in for the week I returned from Paris, thinking I could keep the Hen-do celebrations and pampering going for that little bit longer. Knowing how much my friend Danielle loves an afternoon tea, and seeing as we hadn’t seen each other since a fair bit of travelling and adventures (her in KL, me in Paris) I invited her along for a girly day of catching up and chilling out. The day we met at Waterloo station was possibly the worst weather I’d been out in for a very long time. The rain was torrential. In the short distance from the station to the Hotel near the London Eye, we were soaked to our skin with socks and shoes sodden from the accidental knee deep puddles we kept finding ourselves in. By the time we reached the tranquility of the hotel spa we couldn’t wait to get out of those wet clothes and enjoy some sauna time.
As far as spas go, the Marriott County Hall is slightly more basic than some I’ve been to previously. The decor said hotel lobby more than it did relaxing spa, and it definitely could have been a touch cleaner. There wasn’t specificially an area to relax in, as the steam room and sauna were just in the changing rooms along with the showers and lockers, and the pool was a short walk through the hotel, and really more of a ‘swimming’ pool rather than a ‘relaxing’ pool (anyone else not actually go to the pool to swim during a spa day?). Having said all that the staff were extremely friendly and couldn’t do enough for us, which was a welcome change to some of the more luxury spas I’ve visited in the past. We were also told that there is usually a whirlpool and jacuzzi but it was currently under construction so perhaps we just visited at the wrong time. We did manage to spend a good few hours relaxing though with the steam room being my personal haven (not so much of a haven for my new eyelash extensions which felt as if there were falling away as quickly as my stresses were). We had our treatments first, and I opted for a massage while Danielle headed off for a manicure. My masseuse was lovely and asked me describe all of the tension I had and where I found my back and shoulders affected and then set to work on all of the problem areas. I’ve only recently discovered the joy of massages but boy am I converted. Usually I’m a bit of a wimp and ask them to go easy on me, but this time I let her push and prod away and it was actually the best thing. She worked a lot on my shoulders, where I often get tension which leads to headaches (a problem most of us who work over a computer all day will get) and then she also worked on my spine and lower back, where apparently I had a slight misalignment. That sounded scary initially until she told me all it needed was weekly soaks in the bath and regular massages and then I was sold.
After a dip in the pool (loving the plan tree decor) and a small stint in the sauna (always too hot for me) we decided to get out of our robes and head upstairs for afternoon tea. I always love the relaxing showers you have in spas – those giant overhead sprays and jets of cold spray from the sides are the perfect way to end the spa experience, before having to give up those comfy slippers (I weirdly love those things) and put your rain sodden jeans and puddle soaked shoes back on. We left the spa and went upstairs to he hotel’s Library room for our afternoon tea, an old library, with high ceilings, wooden beams and cabinets full of old books, which had been turned into a relaxing restaurant setting. As two afternoon tea addicts, myself and Danielle both admitted this was the pinnacle of our day, and we sat in that room chatting over a glass of prosecco and avoiding the ongoing rain outdoors for hours after we’d finished eating. The staff were really great once again, which always makes such a huge difference. We never felt rushed to leave, or in a hurry to finish up. My glass kept getting topped up (until eventually I had to say no, as I could feel myself getting tipsy on a diet of scones and prosecco) and the service really was outstanding, yet the setting still very relaxed.
Having only told the Hotel as we arrived at the spa that they were expecting one vegetarian guest and one gluten free (silly me hadn’t been organised and called ahead), we were pleasantly surprised when the requests had been met and we were both brought a cake stand each full of delectable treats. My entire range of sandwiches were made with gluten free bread, I had a top tier of gluten free desserts, and (what excited me the most) I even had two giant, squishy, fruity big gluten free scones to enjoy, which were served warm and accompanied with jam and clotted cream just the way I like them. This is something I’ve never seen done gluten free before, and they were absolutely delicious – soft, spongy and so moist you’d never know they weren’t made with average flour. Along with a broad selection of herbal, green and traditional teas which were also on offer and of course that never ending prosecco, we had quite the lovely afternoon watching the rain patter against the window and enjoying the (albeit rather grey) views of the Thames and Big Ben.
After seeing the type of adventure I could be enjoying every so often simply through collecting points on the things I’m buying anyway, I’m definitely going to be more savvy from now on and try and utilise the points I’m saving. Thanks to Avios for sending me on an adventure and helping me to relieve some stresses.
How about you? Are you a savvy points user and coupon lady, or are you guilty of letting the points disappear?