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Me & Mine 2016 - July

There's nothing like a good wedding to bring family together and that's what we did on 23rd July when my Sister and her fiance go...

Friday, 26 August 2016

Finding the Balance

It's scary to say this but for most of my working life, I have worked part time. I started working full time at the age of 17 but by the age of 21, I was on my first stint of maternity leave. I returned to work after having Zachary on a part time basis, doing only 15 hours a week. 

Once I had Charlotte, I increased my hours to 16 per week, working a 4 day week with every Friday off and working every second Saturday. I was lucky we were in the position to afford for me to work part time but it was also a necessity with having no family to care for the children in order for me to even do 20 or 25 hours per week, never mind full time. 

During my two years at college, I was still only doing 20 odd hours a week, including my study time. I had a day off every week which meant I could pick the kids up from school. I took them to school every day. If I needed to take time off college, it didn't affect me financially because I didn't get a bursary. 

But now I'm back to working full time, 36 hours per week. Thankfully I don't work weekends because of where I work, and I get to spend those two days with the kids and Husband (unless he is working). I don't get to do the school run or the school pick up; I'm lucky and so grateful to the wonderful person who helps me out with this, allowing me to be at work on time and to stay on until work stops. My Father in Law helps out, now he has retired, whenever he can too. 

I started blogging when Charlotte was born in 2009. I've loved keeping my blog and having all of these memories recorded to look back on. Fun times together, photos of our adventures and free time to do whatever we pleased. Whilst we still have this time, it is even more precious because it is limited to two full days per week. 

I'm not giving up blogging, but I do think I have to limit the time I spend on my blog. Most evenings I sit down at my computer and think of a blog post to write. Before, the content came so easily because we were always doing something. But, you may have noticed recently, the posts on my blog have been fewer and my weekly updates are quite repetitive. I don't enjoy writing the same old, same old but because we have this routine of school and work for 5 days, there really isn't anything more I can write. I also need to concentrate on work stuff as I have a required number of hours per year of post qualification training to do which includes research and further reading. 

So I've decided that, after this week's update, I will no longer post a weekly update on my blog. I want to finish my 366 Project for this year so I'll post a photo a day on here with a short description and from the new year, I'll post it on my Facebook Page and Instagram account. 

I'll still be sharing our days out and adventures, special achievements, funny stories, recipes and so on but these will be posted as and when they happen. I'll also be concentrating on getting a weekly video up on my YouTube channel. I love my blog and how much it has grown over the years, and I want to continue to build it for the kids to read back on in the future. But I also want it to be interesting to our readers, old and new. 

Tips for Saving for that Special Purchase

Saving for a special purchase can be pretty hard when you have regular monthly outgoings and not a lot of money left over after everything has been paid out. However it is possible to save up for a treat without feeling like you are scrimping on other things.

Of course, a loan is an easy way to get the money you need to buy whatever it is you want or need. It's also a lot easier to get a loan even if you've been refused before; you can even ask someone to be a guarantor and check out guarantor loan specialists such as Glo. I'm not one for borrowing money though; I prefer to save up for the things I want as then you don't have to worry about being tied to a monthly payment for up to 5 years.

Here are some of my tips I use to help me save up money:

Make some cuts/changes

When starting a savings plan, it's best to look at your current outgoings and see if you can make any cuts or savings. For example, I looked at our Sky bill recently and we decided to see if we could reduce our package because we hardly ever watch TV. We called and ended up saving around £50 per month by changing different things and going on to new deals.

Set up a spreadsheet

Once you've looked at your outgoings and made any cuts or savings, set up a spreadsheet with a list of all your outgoings, how much they are and dates they go out. If you do this on Excel, you can input your total income per week or month, depending how frequently you are paid, and have it automatically deduct your outgoings, giving you a total remaining expenditure, This is such an easy way to keep track of everything and you can adjust things without having to redo the calculations so if you save money on a bill or you have a bit of extra income from overtime, you can type it in and you're good to go.

Set realistic goals

After you've worked out how much money you have left over after paying out everything you need to, set yourself a realistic and manageable goal for putting money away. I was always taught to put away at least 20% of my monthly salary into savings. If you total everything up and have around £500 left over then aim to put £100 of that into a savings account. Set up a standing order with your bank so that the money is automatically deducted from your salary when it is paid in. The important thing to remember though is to be realistic because if you put more than you can afford away, you run the risk of dipping into those savings and never being able to reach your savings goal.

Open a savings account

If you want something that you can pay into on a regular basis, you might find that you won't get much of a interest rate. Look at a cash ISA that allows you to save a specific amount in the tax year and you won't pay any tax on that money. You could also look at "online only" accounts that don't allow you to have a bank card for your account.

Round it down

Another thing I do to save a little bit extra is to round my current account balance down to the nearest pound and put the change into my savings account. It's amazing how quickly that couple of pound adds up in a month.

What tips do you have for savings for a special purchase?

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Keeping Your Home Safe Whilst You're Away

It's an exciting feeling when you have a weekend break or a holiday to look forward to. You pack your cases, make sure you have your passports, currency, itinerary, travel insurance and you might share your plans with friends and family on social media. But what about your home?

Imagine being away somewhere, enjoying the food, drink, culture and scenery to return home and find that the worst has happened to your house. It would definitely put a dampener on your relaxed and refreshed self! To give you a bit more piece of mind, Chill Insurance have shared their tips for keeping you home safe whilst you are away:

These are very similar to my own tips that we follow whenever we go away:

Invest in an alarm system

This might seem like a pricey option however in the grand scheme of things, it is an investment for the long haul and it often reduces your insurance premiums if you have a security alarm fitted in your home.

Check for a neighbourhood watch scheme 

If you don't have a neighbourhood watch scheme, perhaps you have a neighbour you can leave a key with so they can check on your home, pick up your post and open/close your curtains for you.

Ask someone to house-sit

If you have a friend who could come and stay at your house, great! We often get someone to stay at our house because it means we don't have to put the cats into a cattery and we know there is always someone to keep an eye on things.

Set timers or turn off electrics

I turn everything off before we go away. I'm a bit paranoid like that. It also saves a bit of money!

Check your home insurance is up to date and valid

If your home insurance is up for renewal, you can check on sites such as Chill.ie to find yourself the best deal. Make sure you have the best cover you can afford and always keep receipts for items in your home. You could even make a photograph album on your laptop, PC or phone so that you have evidence of what you owned if anything is stolen from your property,

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Getting the Chop

After months and months of growing my hair, I decided to get about 4 inches cut off it at the weekend.

Using the good old butterfly Snapchat filter, this is how long my hair was before I got it cut.

And this is it now! I'm still getting used to it and I miss being able to do a long "Elsa" style braid but it looks much healthier and it doesn't take nearly as long to dry.

Charlotte also got her hair cut. Hers was even longer than mine and she had a good 5 inches taken off hers.

I feel like she looks so grown up now!

I'm tempted to get a bit more taken off at Christmas time but not sure I'm brave enough to have a bob done! We shall see.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Pre-owned Luxury and Designer Products

Have you ever stepped into a designer store and lusted after a beautiful leather handbag or a stunning pair of shoes? I know I have; I'm a massive fan of Christian Louboutin and it has been my dream to own a pair of his shoes for a few years now. However, the unfortunate part of high end designer items is: the price tag. 

Take the Chanel Boy bag. It is a gorgeous bag and one that I would love to own but it costs over £4000 and, unless I win the lottery any time soon, I'm not going to spend that amount of money on a handbag. 

However, if you are looking for that dream handbag or beautiful piece of jewellery at a reduced cost, you may consider buying second hand. Whether it's that Chanel bag or a second hand Rolex, buying from a reputable seller may be a great way to make your dream designer purchase at a fraction of the designer cost. If you aren't sure where to start, Xupes have a great selection of handbags, jewellery and watches with a pre-owned rating to help you determine the best piece to purchase. They only sell genuine items which either have a stamp or certificate of authenticity so you also have piece of mind that you aren't being ripped off or conned. 

If I were to consider buying a designer product second hand, I'd definitely look at a Chanel bag. For those who can afford to buy new, Chanel are a good designer to invest in as their prices increase every year so you're pretty much guaranteed to make money from your purchase. Because of this, people who do invest to sell on will take good care of their products meaning that you are highly likely to get a handbag in an almost new condition! Certain styles are also very classic so they don't go out of fashion. 

One thing I wouldn't buy pre-owned is shoes. It freaks me out the idea of wearing shoes that someone else has had their feet in. And for that very reason, I didn't buy my first high end designer purchase second hand! But if you head over to my Instagram account, you can have a nosey at what I bought. I'm LauraYMFT on there. 

Have you got a favourite designer item that is on your wish list?