Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Taking a look at your finances. Where can you cut back, cutting your utility bills, shopping with discount codes and maybe a little lifestyle tweak!

Recently, even though I now work and bring in a little bit of extra money into the household, we still wonder where it all goes by the end of the month. 

We do live quite frivolously and could cut back on some things we do and so I decided we needed to have a little finance tweak to see what we could change and where we were maybe spending a bit too much whether it be downsizing the utility bills, the food shop, eating out or clothes shopping! 

We don't go out a lot as a couple or even as a family. We try and take the children out to local parks, lakes, woodland walks rather than spending a fortune on theme parks, play areas etc... Even the local play area seems cheap at the time until you get sucked into buying a hot drink, a drink for the kiddies and then they came they are hungry whilst you are there and it all adds up really quickly. 

Discovering local parks, woodland walks and Windsor Castle! All free and fun days out. 

As a couple we hardly go out at all. I have my Tuesday night pub quiz night and the OH plays badminton with a local club which takes up one or two nights a week. I would love a date night each month, a chance to connect without the kids around our ankles or the daily grind of bedtime routines and nights where you are so tired after getting the little ones to bed that you fall asleep before your head hits the pillow! 

We do spend too much on eating out or takeaways. Every month I say we will stop but it's so easy to do. On a night when you can't be bothered or when the kiddies have pestered you for a takeaway. Or we go shopping during the day and sneak in a quick lunch that ends up costing a small fortune. 

In the past 2 weeks alone we have eaten out or had takeaways far too often and I worked out it amounted to nearly £170. I was shocked. It is so easy to do and easy to forget that you ate a quick fast food meal here or a restaurant breakfast there. 

£150 is a decent week to week and a half food shop for us or at this time of year it's one child's Christmas presents sorted. It's the cost of a decent day out as a family for us yet if we even considered it we would probably think twice about spending that amount so why was it so easy to spend it on all those treat days?. 

Eating out and takeaways should be date nights and treat days! 

That is what it should be too, a treat. As children we rarely ate out and if we did it was because it was a special occasion. Yet the Things have become so used to it they expect it. If they ask for it they expect to get it or at least for their request to be considered and it's become the norm. It needs to be seen as a treat, something special and not a given that it will happen every week.

So eating out was the first part of my cut backs. Going back to one treat a month for the children and incorporating a date night into our month so not only do we look forward to a treat of a meal out but also some time as a couple where we can talk and get out of the house together. 

Next up are the bills. Cutting back on utility bills where you can is always good. Our gas/electricity provider allows us to downsize our bills if we are in credit or claim the money back and leave our monthly payments the same. I have compared prices with other providers and at the moment we can't really save on those but do look into it from time to time as different providers could save you a few £££'s compared to your current provider. Also look at your TV package and broadband/phone bills, there are always ways to cut your monthly direct debits with either a different provider or a deal from your current provider. 

I also found when I was looking at our direct debits that I was paying out on a few monthly subscriptions that I didn't realise were still ongoing. Apple Music had been subscribed to on a one month free trial and then we hadn't cancelled before the trail ended. REMEMBER to cancel a free trial just before it ends otherwise you do then get charged and the subscription remains ongoing often without you realising. Another thing I cancelled was our sons subscription to a monthly Loot Crate. Whilst he was working he would give us the money for it but he hasn't worked in 8 months and we were paying over £20 a month for him to have a treat sent through the post, I don't think so! 

Food shopping, the bane of my life!. I try and do a weekly food shop but I often end up going to the local shops for bread, milk, juice, fruit top ups and so inevitably what I thought was a £100 a week shop turns into £150-£200 before I realise. Meal planning is the way forward for sure. The three youngest get fed at school so I don't have pack lunches to worry about but some weekly food shops are just spent throwing stuff into the trolley and I get home and find I bought a trolley load of junk or stuff that won't make full meals! So meal plan your week and make sure you write all the ingredients down that you need before you go. Don't go shopping when you are hungry and try not to take children with you who throw stuff in the trolley without you realising. Also take advantage of money off online shopping for first time customers which most supermarkets offer on their online stores and do keep an eye out in the post for vouchers from supermarkets that you have shopped with before. I have had some through recently that have come in handy on the past few online shops. 

Our weekly food shop, this shop was around £160 and I swear it only lasted a few days!

And finally, always shop with a discount code is what I live by! If you are at the shops and see something go home and research online to see if you can buy it elsewhere cheaper or if another shop is running a discount or a code that will make it cheaper. Hold off buying something you like if you can and wait for the sales or often stores will run discount codes at certain times throughout the year, you don't usually have to wait long. 

Meet the celebs! Who we have bumped into over the past couple of years and very kindly allowed us a picture. Tim Peake, Jack Dee and more.

I was looking back through my endless amount of photographs I have taken over the years and a few celebrity pictures popped up. 

Through the years we have been lucky enough to bump into a few celebrities in passing and I'm not ashamed to ask for a picture, even if they didn't really want to! 

When we saw Jack Dee in Harrods the OH wouldn't ask him for a picture even though he was quite excited to have seen him. So I sent the OH off and went and asked Jack for a picture anyway. He obliged although I am not sure if he really wanted to or not, however it was Christmas so we were all in a good mood and feeling generous! 

A very young Thing 3 with Jack Dee

 A couple of Christmas's ago we also bumped into Peter Crouch and Abbey Clancy as we did our Christmas tree shopping at a local garden centre. It completely took us by surprise and I grabbed a quick picture. It's not something you expect when you pop into a local place, like celebs never go out to buy anything! 

Peter Crouch doing his Christmas shopping!

In 2014 I was lucky enough to be able to join in with a Mothercare web chat with Myleene Klass talking about her Baby K range at Mothercare. I was so nervous and I really didn't want to be on video, made worse by trying to keep as far away from the camera as possible and making myself look even more stupid than I already do! However, I was pleased to have had the experience and would definitely do it again. Myleene was lovely to talk to and tweeted afterwards too. I don't mind being called inspirational every now and again! 

My web chat with Myleene Klass, spot the person with a tiny head! 

Last year was my first trip to Carols with the Stars at the Albert Hall. My parents had been for a few years previously but had never gone celeb hunting on the interval. Carols with the Stars is a great event and has been going on for many years raising money for some great charities. In the interval I had to go and see who I could find. I found Dr Dawn Harper, John Sergeant and Tom Lister. All were very friendly and approachable and were lovely to meet. 

Ooooh Tom Lister! 

This year it was Thing 3's turn to get her picture taken with a couple of famous people. First off she was so super excited to get her picture taken with Tim Peake. We visited the local Farnborough International Airshow back in July of this year and whilst we are in the Space Zone we saw Tim Peake arrive. Thing 3 was in awe of him, we didn't get to chat as there were a few other people waiting for pictures but she said that was one of her life goals to meet him! 

Thing 2 and 3 with Tim Peake, they were very excited. 

Next is someone who I had no idea who he was (sorry!) I am clearly not down with the cool kids at all. Whilst at an event in London recently Thing 3 was over the other side of the room talking to someone. She came running over to me asking for my phone so she could take a selfie with this person, she had asked permission beforehand! Both her and Thing 3 were again super excited to get a picture with Daz Black from Daz Black Vines and Youtube fame. It's where all the cool kids are at, which shows I really am not a cool kid. Sad times! 

Thing 2 and 3 with Daz Black. I want to be like the cool kids! 

So there we have our brief encounters with celebs. Whether we accosted them for a photo or not is another matter but they were all willing volunteers, aside from my sneaky pic of Peter Crouch! 

Who will we bump into next? Have you ever met or bumped into a celeb whilst out and about? 

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

You share too much on social media. When you get comments about what you write and how often you write!

I was recently told that I share too much on social media. This then makes me question whether I do or not. However I thought about it for a while and realised there was a lot more I could share if I really wanted to. 

I'm yet to make Youtube videos, although this is my next big step that I need to take! I spared all my followers from a daily potty training picture or sharing every element of our lives including when the Things are sick or when the OH has come home drunk from a night out. I'm yet to bore you with so many pics of my ugly mug or every outfit my children wear every day of the week. 

All of the above is what I should be sharing. As a blogger and active user of social media this is what I have allowed my life to be. As well as 'trying' to discuss every day issues, family life, current affairs etc.... I have allowed my followers into my home and to share our lives. That is what this is all about. 

So I am here to say 'If you don't like it, stop reading'

Thing 5, completely bored by others moaning! 

I thought long and hard about writing that last sentence. Will I lose readers? So what if I do lose readers. It's the ones that aren't interested or the ones that are moaning that I share too much in the first place that I will lose.

I would like to think that now Thing 5 has started school I have more time to devote to my blog and social media content and continue to grow and build it as best I can. Since he started school 3 weeks ago that hasn't quite gone to plan, I've been enjoying my new found freedom! 

I don't spend as much as time as I would like connecting on Twitter, I don't have blog posts scheduled for every day and I don't take the time to comment on all of the lovely blogs that are out there and definitely worth a read.

The moaners can moan all they like but if anything I am only going to be sharing more across social media, growing my blog content more and continue what I have been doing but with more energy, more content and more insight into our lives. 

I read newspapers, magazines and online content every day. If I don't like it or don't want to read it I turn the page, I scroll on by without a second thought. I wouldn't think to email a company or a newspaper or message one of my friends and tell them that I think they share too much or they write too much information on their website, it's their job and it's their lives it's not up to me to question it or complain about it.

I also find that that the moaners aren't even on social media, or they are lurkers that haven't embraced the whole social media experience. 'Oh I don't know why I'm even on Facebook' Well remove yourself then. Move on, find something else to do, just don't moan at other about something you aren't interested in or you aren't even part of. 

This is my life, our lives. It's like a modern day version of Michael Aspel holding a big red book. In years to come we can look back at everything we did, all we achieved and the people we met along the way. Documented, pictured and yes there will be those embarrassing moments we would rather forget too. 

Thing 4 celebrating the start of more blog posts! 

So continue on your social media journey. Blog, Instagram, Facebook and Youtube the shit out of life and two fingers to the moaners and the haters! Much love! 

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Christmas shopping. Pictures and details of my festive beauty and bath products shopping haul from Poundland

Christmas shopping. My festive beauty and bath products shopping haul from Poundland

Yes I have started my Christmas shopping. Today I got a fab beauty and bath products shopping haul from Poundland and I wanted to share these with you. They are fab for stocking fillers and cheap too! 

Every year I say I will be organised and start my Christmas shopping early and be done by beginning of December and then I am still running around in the week before. Sometimes I see something and I think it's too early to start buying so I leave it and then it's gone when I eventually go back to buy it. 

So when I popped into Poundland today and saw a few Christmas products that looked good I thought it was best to buy now and stash away rather than leave them and then not be able to get them. 

I recently saw someone on Instagram share a picture of the Christmas nail files and nail clipper sets in my pictures and thought they were great for my 2 daughters so these are what I went into my local Poundland for today. I then found a whole section of great little bath and beauty products. 

First up we have mini bath fizzers in a range of festive smells including sugar cookie, vanilla frost, mint swirl and candy apple. Also pictured are mint swirl and sugar cookie scented bubble bath shape (110ml). 

Next are festive shaped nail files. These are fab and my two girls have really started to look after their nails so these should help keep them in tip top shape! With stockings, gingerbread men, xmas trees and other shapes at the ends and great colours too. 

These mini bauble lip balms are fab. There were 4 different colours to choose from with lovely snowflake designs on the outside and they would be great either in their stockings or even hung on the tree over Christmas and can then be used afterwards. The two larger items are vanilla frost and sugar cookie scented shower gels in round bauble shaped containers with lovely ribbons on the top (250ml). 

My children love bath bombs. We spend a fortune on bath bombs and when I found these in Poundland I thought they were fab little sets. There is a 3 pack of duck bath bombs in lavender, vanilla and strawberry fragrances and then I picked up the single packed strawberry and blueberry cupcake bath bombs. 

These nail products caught my eye whilst browsing. The festive nail clippers and nail buffer sets were what I had gone in store for. Then I found the candy dip nail sets. With a sheet of 18 double sided stickers and a pot of nail glitter my two daughters will be jazzing up their nails over the festive season for sure! 

That festive shopping haul cost me £23 and is a great start on the Christmas shopping for two of the children. If you can get down to your local Poundland then do as I am sure over the next few weeks there will be more festive stock arriving alongside these great bath and beauty products. Grab them whilst you can. Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?

Monday, 5 September 2016

One day until Back to School. Uniform ready, new shoes ready, kids ready............. Is Mummy ready? Waving Goodbye to my last baby and surviving on my own in the empty nest!

The summer holidays have zoomed by, as per usual. I always say that they will go so slowly as we have nothing planned and then in the blink of an eye we are just one day away from back to school. 

We've bought the uniform, bought the shoes and had haircuts. 

Thing 5 in his school uniform, he only turned 4 years old a few weeks ago. 

We've also done quite a lot over the holidays and really enjoyed our time off, well most of it! We've been to the beach, walked through the woods, visited London Aquarium, eaten lunch at Hard Rock cafe, watched Scooby Doo Live at the London Palladium, bounced at Oxygen Freejumping and had two birthday celebrations on the same day. 

The children have laughed, cried, argued, woken up late, gone to bed late and in general had a fab fun time whilst completely wearing me out but it's the holidays, live a little! 

However, now I am thinking we need a few early nights. we need to be ready for the impending back to school stress. The early morning wake up calls to get ready to go out the door. Back in to the routine of having bags, uniform and lunch boxes ready before we are racing out of the door to get through the school gates on time. 

This year sees my last baby start school. I kept telling everyone how I was so looking forward to it. This is the first time in a long time that I will be waving a child off to big school and not have a baby to look after. I am on my own, going solo and now feeling sad as the day approaches. 

Thing 5 is really looking forward to starting school which is good. He will be in the same school as his older brother and is moving into Reception class with a few friends from his preschool. He has known all of the teachers since he was born as we have been doing the school run to this particular school since forever! 

Thing 4 and 5, these two get on so well and will be in the same school for a year.

So how am I going to cope with finally having an empty nest? Over the past six months or more I have been really looking forward to the day, or at least telling everyone I was. Thing 5 is so ready and tells me daily that he won't miss me. I know I am going to be a sobbing mess! He is my last baby, I am going to be home alone for the first time in over 13 years and I don't like it one bit. 

Whilst the children walk into class greeted by their new teachers to help them learn, comfort them if they get upset and nurture them through their school years, who will be there to comfort me? Who will be there to tell me all will be ok when I am on my own at home without my baby? Will tissues, chocolate and maybe a little alcohol be handed out as standard at the school gate for all parents in a complete state on the first day back?! 

When my first born started school I was the same but when Things 2,3 and 4 started school I was a bit less emotional. Not because I cared any less about them starting school but I had other children to keep me busy and take my mind off the fact they were gone all day, I had sent the others off to school and knew it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be but now it's my last baby I'm not sure about the whole process again! 

Whilst they spend the last day at home sat quietly, chilling in front of the TV without worrying that tomorrow they will be back at school with their friends and making new ones, they have no idea how Mummy is feeling. I tell them I will miss them, I tell them every day but they don't care! 

The next few weeks for me will be fuelled by cake, tea and filling my day times with as many things possible that I can do so I don't sit in a quiet house all alone crying in front of This Morning and wondering if 10am is too early for some gin!