Thursday, 30 May 2013

Pinching Pennies - 30 ways to try and save some....

A new site  pinching-pennies.com has got a lovely little bloggers competition running at the moment to see if we bloggers can give a few tips on how to save pennies.  I'm all to do with saving pennies or making my money work harder, basically because I always seem to have too much month left at the end of the money. 

I'm not a huge spender, but I'm not a  huge earner either and bills just seem to take up more and more of my income each month.  I should be really good at saving money, I'm married to a financial advisor and work for another one; my problem is that my talents lie in investing large sums of money or investing regular sums into pensions or inheritance tax avoidance schemes. My problems would be easy to solve if I was rich, so in my efforts to get there, here are some of my tips.

1. Don't shop when you are hungry or thirsty. You will only splurge on impulse buys.
2. Shop with a list. Again this will stop impulse buys and also should mean you don't forget something and have to go back. No one can ever really go to the shop for a pint of milk and just buy a pint of milk....
3. Use coupons. They are everywhere, cut them out, print them off, grab them off shop shelves when you see them and keep them in your purse. There is nothing worse than buying something to realise at the checkout you have a money off coupon for it at home on the pinboard.
4. Make use of cheap deals site like Groupon, but only buy things you really need.
5. Before you buy anything ask yourself "do I really need this?" "Is this worth me working for x minutes/hours?" Quite often you don't really need it at all.
6. Car boot sales are a great way to get rid of old stuff you no longer want and make some money in the process. If you haven't got much, grab a friend and share a pitch.. just don't spend all the money you make on someone elses stall.
7. Make use of free cinema ticket sites like seefilmfirst and showfilmfirst. Not only are the tickets free, you get to see the film before anyone else.
8. If you fancy eating out, check online for voucher codes. Large chains often offer really good discounts if you look on their websites before you go. Pizza Express, Bella Italia and Cafe Rouge always have some kind of deal on their website or for people who sign up to their mailing lists.
9. Don't be a lable slave... sometimes own brands are as good as named brands.
10. Shop around for discounts with your car insurance... NEVER take the renewal quote, even if you want to stay with that company.. they will always wiggle the price down a little bit.
11. Shop around regularly for your gas and electricity, it is so easy to switch nowadays and there is always a cheaper tariff if you look for it.
12. Don't be afraid to haggle with your mobile phone or TV company either. Threatening to leave may sound callous but they will normally offer a deal to stay with them.
13. Always pay your credit card bill off on time, unless you have a 0% deal. Otherwise when working out how much something has cost, remember to add on the interest you will pay on that purchase to your credit card company.
14. Take a packed lunch into work. Shop bought sandwiches are so much more expensive than home made, and probably laden with calories.
15. Use a library rather than buying a book. Ask yourself how many times do you read a book, if it's only once, then why pay for it?
16. Rent DVDs rather than buying the film, or if you must own a copy, wait a few weeks and watch it fall in price before you buy it.
17.Daytrips with the kids needn't always be an expense... a picnic on the beach is just as much fun as a day at a zoo, when you're little. Take a kite, or a ball and play with them rather than letting them be entertained by others. They will appreciate getting parent time so much.
18. Always feel like you are a taxi service,,,, why not see if other parents are travelling to the same clubs and events and car share.
19. If you must drive to work, why not see if there is a car sharing scheme in your area for other people doing the same journey. Devon has a fantastic one, which puts people in touch with other drivers, or just people after a lift willing to share petrol costs.
20. If you use public transport, invest in a weekly, monthly pass. It is always cheaper than individual journeys.
21. Send letters second class. Most of the time it will get there at the same time as a first class stamp anyway.
22. Turn off lights if you are not in the room
23. Learn to hate your standby buttons. Keeping that little red light on is costing you electricity... switch it off
24. Turn down your central heating by 1 degree and you won't notice the temperature change but you will see the electric bill difference
25. Don't use your dishwasher half empty, wait until it's full or better still wash up by hand.
26. Sales are everywhere, take advantage of them.
27. Empty the boot of your car, the extra weight uses more fuel.
28. Re-use carrier bags, it will save you 5p a go and the enviroment, so it's a win/win.
29. Not every sale is genuine or every discount a real saving. Double check first.
30. Use your freezer... stock up on reduced goodies at the supermarket and put them in the freezer. You can save a fortune on your shop that way.

If like me you like the idea of pinching pennies you can find them on facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pinchingpenniessite  and on twitter at @Penny_Piggy.

Swimwear Style Blogger Competition

Swimwear Style Blogger Competition

I've found a really great bloggers competition on swimwear365.co.uk, to choose your favourite item from their range and style it.  I have to admit that I've completely fallen in love with this cute pink swimsuit.  It comes with integrated underwiring and an elasticated under bust.  It even comes with  removable pads to give you a few options if you need them.  Luckily for me it's underwired which is a major requirement for me in swimwear.  I'm not brave enough for bikinis (or even tankini's) anymore, I leave those for my teenage daughter, but still like to wear fashionable swimwear with a bit of style.  I'm  not quite ready for black complete cover ups just yet.  I swim on holiday, not just laze on the beach and so a swimming costume like this ticks all my boxes.
 
I love the bright neon colours that are so on trend for this summer - I'm still holding out hope that we will have a summer - and think these shorts from River Island which can just be pulled on over the top of the costume will be great. They have a bit of length to them, hotpants are not my thing anymore, I wore them first time round!.  The bright pink blouse from Dorothy Perkins, covers all the bits that WILL wobble and is such a lovely colour.  I'd be happy just to throw it over the costume and go. 
 
The sunglasses and shoes add another touch of colour and fun, and I'd be set, whether it be a day at the beach, a day at the pool, or even just walking around town.
 
 I can see this outfit being a staple of my summer.
 
If you want to have a go at styling your own outfit or just seeing the lovely costumes on their site then nip along here... http://www.swimwear365.co.uk/blog/homepage/springsummer-2013-swimwear-style-blogger-competition/ 
 
 


 

'50 Shades Of Beige'

I'm not the worlds best DIYer.   I can decorate and I like to think I have a nice eye for colour and design but hammers, drills and suchlike are not quite my style. I'm more a  paintbrush and a pot of gloss kind of person.  I love looking round DIY shops and quite often have a project or two on the go in my head at any one time. I am also blessed with a husband  who is absolutely useless at anything remotely resembling DIY but when our washing machine exploded a few months ago, flooding our kitchen and ruining the worktop, a cupboard and my lovely floor in the process, I wasn't too worried as we were insured.

The insurance company however, claimed that they only needed to pay for the repair of the area directly affected by the flood water, which was seven strips of laminate and a kitchen cupboard, so sent us a voucher for £15.00 to spend at B&Q after deducting the £50.00 excess on the policy.


The offending exploding washing machine.  Shards of innards and lots of water are not good for a floor.


So we dutifully bought new laminate and tried valiantly to repair  the damaged area. 

Lessons we learnt.

1. Laminate is not easy to remove
2. Laminate is not a jigsaw, and taking out strips does not mean you can then switch another one into it's place.
3. Cutting laminate is not as easy as it looks.
4. Once down if you've not done it right, laminate moves.
5. If you want flooring fitted properly, get a professional in....

Now we have a floor that looks like something Frankenstein would have been proud of, but we hate.

The gaps are because the kitchen cupboard kickboard is so warped following the flood that it won't hold the laminate into place.  So the pieces keep slipping forward.  No matter what we try we can't get them to stay put, but that is probably because we had to force them into place next to laminate that had been down for a  year already when the accident happened.  We had to replace everything that  you can see and slot it into the boards behind.  Those boards are all still perfect and look like new.




I'm sure these are not supposed to have a gap between them!


I think the chips add character (at least that what I tell myself to stop myself crying)


As you can see quite a DIY disaster and one that ruins the entire kitchen.  We have real wood floors in the front room and hallway and the difference between the two areas is so marked it's unreal.  We invested in wooden floors as we have a severely asthamtic son, and carpets don't do him any favours at all, but cost meant that the kitchen which he uses least had to have the cheaper option.
 
I'd dearly love to be able to replace the entire floor, and repaint the walls in a fresh new colour so that I could have a kitchen that I could be proud of, instead of one that makes my heart sink everytime I walk in.  I used to love being in my kitchen and could quite happily be there all day, cooking and cleaning, now I get in and out as quickly as I can and try to forget about the disaster underfoot.

1926 Trading Co Ltd are currently running a competition for bloggers to tell them about their diy disasters and which room in your house is in need of a makeover and why.  You can find more details here.  Hopefully I've done enough to convince them that my kitchen needs major surgery.

Wood Flooring

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Zante: A tale of two holidays.

M's VIEW
I love going on holiday, I love planes and trains (but not automobiles - they make me car sick). Mum always huffs and puffs whenever I ask if we are nearly there, but on planes, I can watch the little screen and know how far we still have left, so I leave her peaceful to watch a film or something.  I like Zante as it's not too long a flight for me and I don't get bored or fidgety, I can normally sleep a little bit too, as long as my big brother leaves me alone, but he's a teenager and mum says that teenagers can only sit still for about ten minutes before they get ants their pants, so perhaps 3 1/2 hours is too long for him.

Zante is quite a small island.  We always stay in Laganas, as I like playing on the beach.  I've even been lucky enough to swim with turtles there, which was amazing. 






Laganas can be quite noisy at night, which my brother loves, but I'm normally fast asleep and don't hear anything.  I quite like walking around in the evening, it's bright and colourful and the shops are all open.  I don't like shopping, it's boring, but they sell lots of things for me to play with as mum doesn't let me bring many toys with me, something about suitcases being too heavy.  I don't quite understand that as Dad is very strong and can carry them.


 
Although the beach gets quite busy in the day time, I don't mind as I like playing with the other children.  Normally mum and dad find a kids club for me to join as they like me to be busy and I make friends there and we can then play on the beach together.  I like that most of the hotels we stay in have a swimming pool too, as the sea is quite salty but it is very blue and mum lets me go in the water whenever I want here.  Sometimes at home she gets quite upset when I want to go into the sea, sea can't be dirty, it's water and water makes you clean, so I think she just doesn't want to get wet herself.

I like Smugglers Cove the best.  I can dress up like a pirate and we go on a boat to get there.  Lots of people get very drunk on some of the boats and it is funny to watch them but I like pretending I'm a pirate and the ship wreck is great.


MUMS VIEW:

I love and adore Zante. It's a short enough plane ride that I can actually get on the plane without fearing for the sanity of the other passengers faced with my boisterous over excited children.  Once landed, the airport is easy to navigate and the island itself so small that it's not a long journey to get to any of the resorts, which is a bonus when you have a car sick child.

Once there, it is absolutely beautiful, the scenary takes your breath away and it is still unspoilt in so many places that it can feel like you've stepped back in time.

 
 
The children are safe here, I don't feel constantly on tenderhooks to watch their every move and can actually relax!  Anyone who has ever been on holiday with children, knows how important that is.
 
The sea is clean, warm and inviting, no need for surfers against sewage here and swimming with the turtles on Laganas beach should be on everyone's bucket list.  The beach, whilst busy is so large and clean that you can easily find a space to call yours, to lie down with a book and and enjoy the sea breeze.
 
Food choice is plentiful and cheap so even if you're not on all inclusive (or even if you are) it doesn't hurt to eat out for most meals.  We have yet to find a bad cafe or restaurant on the island.
 
There are lots of activities for people of all ages and with most of the hotels set back away from the nightlife, you can avoid the young carefree, party or night sleep all day crowd with ease.  My kids are on the go from the minute they wake up to the minute they collapse into their beds at night.  I never hear, "What can I do?" " I'm bored" or "Are we nearly there yet?" all holiday.. so for me it's heaven.
 
 
We went with Cosmos on our last trip to Zante and stayed at the Alykonis Hotel.  If I've sparked your imagination and you want to try it you can find all their deals here.
 
 
 
 


Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Egg Mains in Minutes... Eggy Bears picnic...



This is so simple to make but kids (well my fussy ones and their friends) all love it.



Simply make a plain omlette, I use two eggs, a dash of milk and nothing else in a frying pan.

Egg Fried Rice or plain boiled rice make the head, ears and paws.  Keep it sticky so it can be shaped.  Then cheese is cut out for the ear and nose.  Blob's (that's the technical term) of brown sauce make the eyes and paws and nose. 

The trick is in the tummy, where you can hide whatever filling you want.  This one is stuffed with baked beans and cheese chunks, but I've used a fried half tomato, a large mushroom - anything that can make a lump can go in the middle. 

This takes literally ten minutes to make, can use anything  you fancy and is healthy and nutrious - and did I mention kids love it.  Although I will admit the first time I made it, my daughter didn't want to eat him but keep him.


This post is an entry for the #eggmainsinminutes Linky on BritMums, which you can find here
in association with Main Meals in Minutes   http://www.eggrecipes.co.uk/mainmealsinminutes.
#eggmainsinminutes badgesponsored by British Lion Eggs

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Why I Love Writing

I love writing.  Anyone reading my blog, will assume that I sit here typing away on my keyboard and then pressing publish, but in reality, I'm a pen and paper girl.  I'm a traditionalist. I like the feel of a notebook on my lap and not the electrical kind.  I like nice paper, and the feel of a pen sliding across the surface.

I love writing. I still have a diary that I fill in religiously each day, an oldfashioned woven tome, which contains all my thoughts and feelings.  Obviously, I hand write in this, and practice the perfect penmanship that I was taught at school many many years ago.

I was lucky enough to attend a school (and I'm only talking in the 80's, I'm not that old) where they believed that it was important that we write nicely.  At infant/junior school we started with a pencil and moved up to a biro.  They also instilled in us that a cheap biro was never a good thing; when we were ready we were equipped with a nice biro, which needed to be looked after.  I remember my first pen to this day, a Papermate, which came in a little presentation box, with a burgundy barrel. 

When we had mastered biro's, we were allowed to move onto a Pental rollerball and then the final crowning glory was to move up to an ink pen.  Girls who wrote with ink pens were looked on with jealousy and admiration.  They could be trusted to write with a nib and ink!

When I was thirteen, I went to live in France with a french family for three weeks.  Pen envy was still paramount at that stage and the girl I stayed with had a Caran D'Ache fountain pen.  It was truly beautiful and I craved this pen more than anything else.  Her handwriting was so different from my rounded english shape, the flow of the french squirls were so artistic and I felt sure that this was made possible not by her schooling but by this beautiful pen.  On returning home, I badgered my parents for a pen like Geraldines.  It was on my birthday and christmas lists for years but they could never understand my desire for a pen which "I was sure to just lose".  It took me 8 years to get a Caran D'Ache fountain pen of my very own.


Caran d'Ache Madison Cisele Fountain Pen Silver - 1
Truly a thing of beauty...
To some extent they were right, I did lose it, but not for a long long time and I wept when I found it gone from my handbag.  I've never again been able to justify spending that kind of money on a pen again but I still remember the feel of it in my hand, the flow of the ink over the paper, the ease with which it allowed me to put words on paper.  That pen made me a better writer.  It wrote the invitations to my wedding, the deposit cheque for the purchase of my first house and the birth announcement cards for my children.  It came with me all around the world on holidays to write postcards home and when I went to university it took me through all my exams. 

There is nothing quite like a fountain pen for giving your writing that flourish or for making it seem effortless.  So you can rub out a pencil, you can lose a biro and not give it a second thought but you can't get the feel of writing, truly writing, not just putting words to paper, without a fountain pen.

The closest I can find to that long loved pen is this one from the The Pen Company, http://www.thepencompany.com/product/caran-d-ache-madison-cisele-fountain-pen/, if anyone wants to get me one you know where to find me,  I'll be the one in the corner scribbling into a notebook.