Staying On Top Of My Finances With Youtility

[AD] Housing costs are at a 13 year high with no hope that things are set to improve anytime soon. The bills that are coming in highest are housing, fuel and power which are obviously necessities and not something we can get on without. This coupled with huge costs of rent/mortgage payments, travel to and from work, food and clothing can often leave people with very little to spend on free time which can be extremely hard on family life.

Due to this keeping an eye on money coming into and out of the house is of upmost importance and sadly I am the worlds worst at organising my finances. I don’t keep track of anything coming in and out and very rarely shop around for cheaper deals which is so important when it comes to getting the most from your money.

I know that for me this is an extremely poor way to deal with things, especially as I am trying to run such a large household, so when I was approached by Youtility to try out there app I knew it was the perfect time to get things into order.

Youtility offer a one stop app to revolutionise the way you organise your household bills so that everything you need is all in one place.

Every Bill In On Place – Youtility allows you to add every bill you have to the app so you know exactly what you have and how much is going out in, all in one place instead of having to log into each account separately to get all your details.

Track Your Homes Performance – This was something I really loved about the app. You can see how efficiently you are running your home compared to others in your area. It really makes you think about things like your electricity and gas consumption and has really prompted me to make changes in these areas. Having shorter showers, turning the thermostat down a notch or two and making sure that the house isn’t continually like Blackpool illuminations are all great ways to make small changes.

Compare And Change – As I said earlier making time to make sure we have a competitive rate on our bills is something I rarely look into as I never seem to find the time to do it. With Youtility it is all done for you, so if a better deal comes up for you then it can all be done through the app.

Keeping You In The Know – There are breakdowns of how much you have spent and what you have ready to come out which makes it really easy to budget. They will let you know about any high bills that you may need to take a look at and keep you informed of when contracts are coming to an end which is great to make sure you are taking a look at everything you are getting is as you need and if not then changes can be made at the right time.

The Advantages Of Buying A Second Hand Car

[AD] Buying a new car can be scary territory for many people…myself included as there are just so many different factors to consider.

Shall I buy brand new, shall I buy second hand. Shall I buy privately, shall I buy from a dealer. The list really is endless and even when you finally decide on where you are going to purchase your car there is the worry that whoever you are buying from is going to be trustworthy and ultimately if the car is going to be roadworthy.

These days buying secondhand is a good option for many reasons. And for me the price is certainly the biggest pull.

Did you know that if you buy a car that is only a year old you can save as much as 27% off the price of a brand new car. Places such as KAP Motors offer used cars at really competitive prices so are a great one to check out.

Here are a few top tips for what to think about when buying second hand:

  • Buying from an established dealer – This is probably the safest way to buy second hand as you have a secure base to go back to if there are any problems once you get your new car home.
  • Check details and history – It is extremely important to make sure that all the car details and history have been checked and all safety procedures have been carried out before you even consider buying.
  • Inspect and test drive – You can either inspect the car yourself or get a knowledgeable friend or family members to check out to over look it and always take it for a test drive to ensure you are happy with everything.

Our March…

March seems to have come and gone in the blink of an eye and as I still here going over what we have been up to I think it’s probably the fact we have been so busy it has just flown by.

Archie started off the month with landing himself his first real part time job. It is on a church retreat and he had the job of cooking, cleaning and serving the guests. He seems to be thoroughly enjoying the more tasks he is set and meeting new people who all seem to have sixth amazing stories to tell.

I have to admit when he first told me about where it was(down a load of country lanes with no public transport) I was moaning like made as I knew this was going to fall back on me to get him there and back. But it wasn’t until someone said instead of moaning you should be proud of him for taking the time to find himself work and apply himself that I realise I should suck it up and praise him for his drive and want for independence.

Frankie has one of his routine trips to the hospital for an eye check and the good news is he is nearly done with patching. There has been a huge improvement in this sight and they have got it to a leave that is now remaining stable, so the daily battles with the patch I’m am happy to say are now over!

I fast forwarded the year and stepped straight into summer at the Next Happy Hotel event where I got to look at a whole host of products from homeware, clothing and beauty that are set to make for a pretty great summer. There were some fantastic pieces in each and every section but I think I was most surprised by the amount of other beauty brands that are available through next. I had no idea they stocked Benefit…did you?

From a event on my own to one with all the family at Chessington World Of Adventures. For those of you that regularly read my blog you will know that I have been an ambassador for them for the past few years now and absolutely love watching the changes each and every year. This year the have a new interactive attraction based on the much loved book – Room On The Broom. The children loved it and it’s a must see for any fans of the story.

I have been up and down with my exercise but Jemma’s Health Hub has kept things pretty constant for me so I’m hoping to feel a lot healthier and less self continuous this summer.

Whist we are in the subject of health I had a little bit of a scare with some chest pains that I was referred to the hospital for. My blood pressure isn’t really what it should be and I am waiting on a scan just to check that everything is ok and it’s actually given me more of a push to shift these pounds and get my exercise back to being an everyday routine rather than a chore.

Peppa Pig is still very much a favourite in this house with the boys…even though Frankie wouldn’t let on to anyone; so we were very excited to go along to Leicester Square to see the new film that is put this Easter. The boys absolved it and I’m sure it’s going to be another big hit.

From this screening we went straight to the Royal Opera House to take a look at one of their family fun Sunday events. I was more than a little apprehensive about taking the youngest two as they don’t really scream Royal Opera house! I needn’t have worried though as it was such a relaxed atmosphere where they got to enjoy lots of crafts, storytelling sessions and witness the most amazing ballet and modern performances. It really would come highly recommend from us.

With Mother’s Day on everyone’s minds I was invited along for afternoon tea with Paperchase. We got to chat to lots of lovey mummies and take a look at all the amazing products Paperchase had to offer this year.

A highlight for me probably more than the children this month though was a screening of the new Dumbo movie. It is most definitely a childhood favourite for me and I was so pleased that Disney had worked their magic and managed to recreate a different but equally as thought provoking and heart warming movie as the last.

Spring definitely seems to have been making an appearance and we have been enjoying this with some time in the garden, plenty of hot cross buns and some spring flowers. I really do love this time of year.

The last few days of March will always be ones to remember as the day we were celebrating Izzy’s 13th birthday party my eldest daughter Alice decided to give birth to my beautiful second grandchild. We don’t like to do things by halves in this family and it was a whirlwind 24 hours but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

After all the chaos it was time to celebrate Mother’s Day and this is traditionally a nightmare day and this year didn’t disappoint.

I think I have this ridiculous expectations that my children are going to turn into angels for one day and the arguing and bad behaviour are all going to disappear! Sadly of course this doesn’t happen and we started the day with two of them devouring my chocolates before I even sat down to breakfast, one then decided to throw the said breakfast as their sisters head and so the day started.

Next year I’m going to lower the expectations in the hope that this will help!

Treating Your Mum And Giving Back To Charity At The Mother’s Day Toy Exchange

[AD] We kicked off our Mother’s Day celebrations a little earlier than usual this year with a trip to Centrale and Whitgift Shopping Centres in Croydon to take part in their Croydon toy exchange.

They set up a fantastic project which allowed families in and around Croydon to take a pre-loved toy along to the shopping centre and exchange it for a gift of goodies to give to your Mother as a treat on Mother’s Day. The pre-loved toys will them be distributed to the families of Rutherford School who help provides wrap-around services for people with disabilities in the Croydon area from age three onwards.

The boys loved dropping their toys into the big box that was already looking pretty full by the time we got there. They collected their cute pink bags they were full of goodies from shops inside the centre including House Of Fraser, Body Shop and Superdrug.

From here we took the opportunity to take a look around the shops to see what they had to offer in the way of treats for Mother’s Day…well once I prized the away from the children’s area that I have to say is a pretty cool way to give the little ones a treat whist you are there.

Centrale and Whitgift Centres have been my go to place for shopping in Croydon for pretty much as long as I can remember. I actually have fond memories of going along there as a child and selecting gifts for my own mother with my hard earned pocket money.

Spring forward a few years to say the least and I relished in the fact I could take my own little ones ones along to help me chose a gift for their much loved Nanny who deserves a medal for putting up with us lot!

There is such a great variety of shops that suit all budgets. There are plenty of the popular high street favourites such as marks and Spencer, House Of Fraser, Zara, Boots, H&M, Topshop and Superdry to name but a few.

It’s a tradition for us to buy a simple bunch of daffodils every year for my Mum as they are here favourites but you can equally find anything from gorgeous clothing, beauty products, homeware or even a voucher for treat herself to a beauty treatment or a new hairdo!

After all our hard work we stoped for a bite to eat which is also something that is pleasure in Centrale and Whitgift Shopping Centres and there is always plenty to chose from. We always opt for sushi that is set right in the middle of the Whitgift Centre so you can enjoy your food whist watching the hustle and the bustle of the shoppers going by.

We had a brilliant afternoon and if you are looking for a shopping destination with all you can look for under one roof then you really should take a look at Centrale and Whitgift Centres.

Bringing Back The Dining Room

[AD] Dinner times in our house are only what can be described as chaotic, more like a chimps tea party at times and are more often than not a pretty stressful time of day.

Since moving through we have gained a dining room and I have been making it my mission to bring back dining as a family as often as we can and making it a place we all want to congregate, eat good food and enjoy each other’s company.

More often than not for ease I stick the little ones at the breakfast bar to eat, the older ones eat as and when they feel like and my husband on his lap when he gets in from work. For us the importance of eating together as a family has been completely lost.

Over the past few months though we have been really making a conservative effort to all get around the table, leave all our devices elsewhere and connect as a family. We allow no distractions and just enjoy each other’s company…well aside from one or two arguments of course!

I have compiled a little list of things I have done or plan to do to get the dining room just how I want it to make a place that is used as much as the other rooms in the house rather than just when people come round.

Benches – When we bought our new dining table we opted for benches feather than chairs for a more laid back feel. With a large family it also allows us to squeeze more people around the table as there is more often than not an extra one or two joining us!

Rugs – We have wooden flooring throughout the downstairs of the house and this can often look and feel cold so I am currently looking for something to go under the table that will add a splash of colour and a little warmth to the room.

Practicality – This is a big one for me as the room needs to work for us all so practical furniture and furnishings are must. As with the benches as I mentioned earlier furniture that can utilised in different ways is so helpful to make the area work on a daily basis.

Lighting – Good lighting always sets the mood and allows the space to be used for a range of different activities. The children can set up at the table during the day for play and getting homework done when the lighting needs to be bright and through the use of side lights you can create a relaxed a calm feel for an evening with friends.

Art – Filling the walls with beautiful, personal pieces of art and photos is probably one of the most important things for me. It’s great to be able to sit back and gaze at something beautiful.

11 Of Our Top Tips For Getting The Most From Your Mobile Phone Contract

[AD] There are countless ways in which we use our mobile phones these days, and knowing that everything from a quick message to a Youtube video is at the touch of your fingertips is often a reassuring way to justify those high-priced contracts.

However, it is important to recognise when you are spending too much and where you can cut costs to ensure you are only paying for what you really need. These top tips have been put together as a simple aid for you, to help you make the best of any contract.

Top Tips for Saving On Your Phone Bill

The cheapest deal on the surface may not always be best

Some deals can be too good to be true as they are often conceding possible hidden charges and penalties, for example having to buy internet add-ons when you run out of data and huge fees for overuse. Yes even a four megabytes over your allowance could cost you, for example Vodafone charge £6.50for every 250mb of data over!

Work out your usage and go from there when deciding how much data you really need. The sweet spot is looking at your average monthly usage and having a little bit to cover you. Using about 1GB a month? Then 2GB is ample.

Stick within your limits

There is nothing worse than going over your data limit and being slapped with those charges for internet overuse. As well as looking for the best contract with the data allowance you really need (and be realistic here – if you like watching videos on the go then your allowance needs to be high!), make sure you also edit your settings to work with Wi-Fi where possible.

Don’t bother with mobile phone insurance

Coverage in case of an accident is important, but it is easy to overspend on insurance. It is worth checking whether your phone is covered by your home insurance first, and if not consider self-insuring by putting money aside rather than paying an insurance firm.

Think twice about cashback deals

Cashback May seem like an attractive bonus but often companies do not make it easy to claim and so you find yourself traveling through monthly bills, just to get a few pounds back. Make sure it’s worth it, and where possible look for deals with instant cash back rather than redemption

Don’t keep paying the same amount when your contract has ended

Check up on the length of any contract you sign up for, and then ensure they don’t increase their prices each year. Once you are tied to a contract it becomes very easy to forget about it and keep the direct debits leaving your account – how often do you actually check the numbers and look for increases? Stick with shorter contracts and make sure to keep an eye on your accounts and what is leaving them each month.

Travelling outside the EU?

Does the contract allow for overseas usage? If texts and calls abroad are covered, great! If not, you are facing huge costs the second you turn on your data. Check out the overseas allowance and make sure you stick to it. Three is the best for this with their feel at home product which also works in the USA.

Go SIM Only

Could SIM-only work for you? By opting for a SIM-only contract, you really do pay for what you use, thus avoiding extra charges and overuse fees. With this option you can source the phone and contract separately, giving yourself the choice of handset you want and still keeping costs down in the long run – though in this instance you will have to face the initial upfront cost to purchase the handset.

The other good choice is to use a pay as you go SIM this site has ranked and compared them with giffgaff coming top. This used to mean topping up manually and each time you use your phone some of your credit is used up. But now with bundling the networks offer a set among of data, minutes and texts that last 30 days. This puts you fully in control as you can’t overspend and there are no tie ins.

Test out the networks

Check out the networks available and see how well they fare in your area. Do they have a good signal where you live? Do they have good customer service reviews generally? These are all important to look at when you are choosing the best contract for you. You might even want to test networks out temporarily first with a pay as you go SIM before tying yourself into a longer deal.

Don’t be afraid to haggle

Haggle! You never know what you can get unless you try, and you may well end up with a discounted monthly charge if you show your loyalty by haggling to stay with the same network. After all, they don’t want you to give your money to another network and so will more than likely accept a lower fee to keep you as a customer.

Compare Deals

Use comparison tools and online sites to review the best options according to your needs and usage. uSwitch, Moneysupermarket, Tiger Mobiles etc all have easy to use filters to find deals.

Don’t discount MVNO or smaller networks

Explore the option of smaller networks, as these are often more likely to give you better details in order to win and retain your custom. giffgaff, 1pmobile, Asda and Superdrug are all worth looking into.

 

Five Spring Wardrobe Essentials

[AD] Now that the winter is nearly over, my thoughts are turning to updating my spring wardrobe. So I have been doing a little research to identify the latest trends. Here are some of my favourites.

Linen is back…

Looking at the Fashion World website it is clear that linen is very much back on trend. Currently, this retailer and many others are stocking all kinds of items made from this wonderful natural fabric. It is great for regulating your body temperature and wearing it is good for the environment.

Keep an eye out for trousers and shorts made from linen. But, be a little careful with this fabric. It can wrinkle quite badly, so usually it is best to buy linen mix items.

Later in the year, you can expect to see linen jackets being made widely available. When choosing which trousers you buy bear this in mind and try to buy cuts that will look good when worn with a semi-formal linen jacket.

If it has been a while since you owned linen, you might like to read this post. It explains how to take care of this wonderful fabric.

Comfy trousers…

Widelegged or slouch trousers are a big trend. They are very comfortable, but be careful not to buy a pair that are so big and baggy that they drown you.

At this time of the year, crop trousers are a particularly good option. They will take you right through the summer too.

Asymmetrical necklines…

Necklines have got really interesting this year.  Look a special eye out for stunning asymmetrical necklines in a bewildering range of cuts. Try a few on to find out which ones suit you the best. Also, bare in mind tan lines if you are buying tops or dresses for your holiday. If you are not careful you could end up like a stripped tiger.

Beautiful lavender clothing…

For the spring, the standout colour is lavender. It appeared on the catwalks late last summer but didn’t really take off. Fortunately, this means that you get a 2nd bite of the cherry. It is a difficult color to match, so the best approach is to dress head to toe in lavender using different tones to add interest. 

But, you can get away with wearing white accessories. White sandals work particularly well with a lavender dress. Plus, you can always pair lavender trousers or skirts with a nice white blouse.

Head to toe neutrals…

If that colour is not for you, go for neutrals instead. The winter whites trend has moved on slightly with stone, light tan and beige items being introduced. This is a classy and stylish look that works for most skin tones and complexions. When choosing which items you buy, think about how you are going to blend them in with other items in your wardrobe. For example, a cream blouse is going to look great with your jeans, much better than a tan one would. 

I hope you enjoyed this women’s fashion post and it had given you all a little inspiration.

Their Own Little Space:Evermeadow House Playhouse

[AD] Being a large family means that it is not easy to find time to yourself.  As adults my husband and I can factor this into our day, but for the children this can be hard to do and I try as much as I can to make sure they all get a little time to themselves, but with the reality of busy lives this isn’t always easy.

The youngest two really enjoy each others company…aside from the arguing! And they are both the ones the older children try to escape from for a bit of peace and quiet!

This is where having a little area in the garden that they can slope off to has been such a great addition for us and we have been able to do this with the help of the lovely people at Big Game Hunters who supply just about anything you could want for oudoor play.

They kindly sent us their Evermeadow Playhouse House to try out and it has been absolutely perfect!

Neither my husband or I own any DIY skills so the thought of errecting a playhouse sent my husband packing and me grabbing the phone to enlist the help of my poor Dad.  I actually didn’t need to panic though as one big box arrived full with our playhouse and instructions that did exaclly what it said on the tin(well box).

The panels have been made to simply slot together and with each pannel being numbered this was an easy task. The screw holes were in place and with the help of a power screwdriver the house was errect within under an hour. Even the windows were already in place so it really was a super easy build.

The house comes in its origianal state wood wise which allows you free reign on the colour you would like it. I was expecting the boys so go for something bold but they surprising they wanted to leave it natural so I just gave it a few coats of wood preserver to protect it from the weather.

The house is suitable for ages 18mths to eight years and has plenty of room for my youngest two to play inside together with their toys.

We have plans to get some cute plant pots outside, a doormat and some big cushions to make it a little cosier inside so keep an eye out over on Instagram for all our updates!

Room On The Broom – A Magical Journey At Chessington World Of Adventures

[Press Event] For a long time now the most loved ride at Chessington World Of Adventures for us has been the Gruffalo River Ride. The familiar characters from the Julia Donaldson classic has been bought to life and even the cynical teens of the family love to ride on the former ‘Bubble Works’ which we never thought could be replaced.

Fast forward a few years and I was over the moon to learn that another Julia Donaldson classic – Room On The Broom was going to be brought to life again and we would be one of the lucky few to see it first.

As always I was as excited as the kids as we set off to Chessington World Of Adventures. It was a pretty early start and we were over the moon to be greeted with a Room On The Broom themed breakfast of wand shaped fruit skewers, star shaped biscuits and mini caldron of sweets(bring on the sugar rush!).

Full up and eager to get to the ride we made our way over to the old Hocus Pocus Hall which was now home to the brand new Room On The Broom – A Magical Journey.

As we entered the familiar large doors we soon realised it had, had a real transformation and was now a library that was home to a bubbling witches caldron. We even got to see Julia Donaldson herself before we entered!

From the start I could tell this was going to be a very interactive experience which is always a hit with the boys.

A stormy wind gust in, blowing away the witches treasured possessions and from there we were sent on a mission to try and find them.

We weaved through woods and we’re challenged to release her hat from the trees, search through haystacks to find her bow and bash the fireflies to reclaim her wand; not forgetting to dodge the dragon who was looking out for a diner of ‘Witch and Chips’.

The boys were pleased to see that a couple of the original features of the house still remain and I will league it down to you to visit and find out for yourselves.

As well as this amazing new attraction there has been two new themed rooms added to the Safari Hotel they would make for an amazing addition to any trip.

This really is a must for all those Julia Donaldson fans out there and had made the perfect partner to the Gruffalo River Ride.

Our February…

Well February has been a pretty funny one weather wise hasn’t it. We spent the beginning of the month with everything crossed that the snow flurries were going to settle and give us a couple of ‘snow days’ and then the end of the month stripping back to T-shirts and eating ice cream in the park.

The beginning of the month was actually a cause for celebration in our house as we celebrated granddaughter number two’s imminent arrival with a baby shower for Alice. I haven’t quite got my head around being a nanny to Isla yet and we already have another one on the way to add to the madness of the family.

We also spend a good few hours in the garden getting it ready for the warmer weather. The boys have been really lucky to have a new playhouse, slide and sandpit and we can’t wait to find the perfect paddling pool to make us completely summer ready!

It’s not to often that I socialise in the evenings anymore and I decided this new year that I was going to stop being such a misery and get out with my friends more.

I had a lovely evening with the mums from Oscar’s class. Ate to much a drank more than I should which made for an all round great evening.

Getting back into my fitness has been a great success this month thanks to Jemma’s Heath Hub. Jemma and I had found each other though the wonderful world of Instagram and she asked me to trial her online fitness program which had seen me out of bed super early three times a week to take part in an online exercise session with a whole load of other likeminded women. Go and check her out if you are looking to get back into fitness and want something to do in your own home.

My husband is the romantic one in our relationship and my lack of romantic is something that really gets to him. So this Valentine’s Day we both took a few hours out of our day to grab some lunch and randomly walk around a local museum…not really his idea of a good day out!

One of my first real jobs was working in the food hall at Marks and Spencer. I still have fond memories of this and they were an amazing company to work for. So fast forward a good few years my new job has landed me back at Marks and Spencer…but behind the scenes at head office.

It really is moments like this that make me realise all the hours I put in are most definitely worth it and it was so amazing to be behind the scenes of a place that is so close to my heart.

The boys were gifted scooters from the wonderful Micro Scooters this month and they literally haven’t got off them since. They have always been my first choice for scooters as they are so easy to use and look amazing. They came with use on a trip to the park the other day where we all enjoyed our first ice cream of the year.

We get to explore many parts of London with my job but Battersea is someone I don’t I have ever been and the children certainly haven’t. We had a more than pleasant surprise when we went along to the power station during half term and got to witness what an amazing job they are doing there.

They have some great shops and restaurants and lots of bits and pieces to keep the children occupied along the waterfront. We were actually there to try out a class at the über cool Boom Cycle whist the kids were kept occupied at the lovely ladies from Kids Table. It is definitely one to put on your list.

We actually did a lot of eating in town this half term with a trip to Yo Sushi and Las Iguanas who both offer great deals during the school holidays so keep this in mind for Easter.

Half term was actually a pretty packed one for us and aside from duties of dog sitting at mum and dads we got to enjoy some great events, including a trip to Neville’s in Belgravia for the launch of the new range of hair care from Child’s Farm.

The boys thought they were super models and spent the morning requesting exactly how they wanted their hair styled whilst me and Izzy were treated to some braids and of course a bit of glitter.

The end of month saw an event just for me which is always a welcome change and I attended the launch of the Emma Willis Collection from Next.

It was an amazing evening where I got to see the whole range which was a stylish and gorgeous as Emma herself.

I spent the evening catching up with friends, drinking way to much Prosecco and fan girling Emma for most of the night!