Get Ready For Christmas With These Handy Tips

Christmas is creeping up on us quickly and before we know it we’ll be pulling crackers and tucking into our dinner.

But before that comes a lot of planning. Have you started to prepare yet?

As we approach the festive season we often overstretch ourselves and tend to start feeling stressed – especially if we know we are welcoming guests.

However by getting organised early you can ensure that you and your family have a magical, memorable Christmas to be enjoyed by all! So what can be done to ensure you feel ready and excited this Christmas?

Budget In The Months Leading Up To Christmas – Although it would be amazing to have a no expense spared Christmas, unfortunately that’s unrealistic for a lot of us, especially when your family had five children! Minimise the risk of of falling behind money wise or getting into debt in the run up to Christmas by budgeting for it early on.

Whilst not many of us want to think about Christmas Day in October, by beginning to purchase some presents this early on you will be able to spread costs nicely throughout the months.

Enjoy Family Activities Together – As the temperatures begin to drop there is nothing better than getting snug with the kids and watching Christmas films.

Before watching Elf for the tenth time research some recipes for gingerbread houses and once you are ready pop the film on and get decorating with your children. It’s a great way to spend some family time.

Decorate The House – If you have got guests coming over for Christmas dinner this year you may want to make home feel even more Christmassy than usual. Ensure that your house is picture perfect ready by picking some gorgeous Christmas lighting and cute decorations – they’ll not only make you feel more festive, but your guests will appreciate all the effort you’ve gone too.

Put Time In Your Calendar To Visit Family And Friends Further Afield – With family often spread across the country it can sometimes prove difficult having everyone in one place over the Christmas period. If you have presents that you need to drop off make sure you schedule your visits early on so that you have time to see everyone.

By following these handy tips you will be ready for Christmas without the unnecessary stress.

*collaborated post

Prepping Your House For Winter

Winter is coming…

With the weather already offering more of a chill, the annual arguments over when to put the heating on have begun in millions of households nationwide, with the divide between warmth lovers and thrifty savers clear to see.

For a lot of people this period means prepping the house appropriately for the colder months. If you’re one of them here are a few ideas for getting your home ready for an enjoyable winter.

Boiler Check – If you’ve never experienced a boiler breakdown during winter, consider yourself lucky. It’s a real case of you don’t know what you’ve got until it gone with your boiler, which is why a regular service is advisable. Nothing too crazy – once a year should be fine, but it’ll make sure everything is in working order.

Think of it this way, you’d rather pay for a service than a whole new one. If your boiler ever breaks down you’ll need to have some financial backup funds ready to get one.

Lag The Pipes – You might not have heard of this term before but it’s actually a really simple process. Lagging is simply placing insulated foam tubes around your pipes, particularly by plastic ones in order to reduce heat loss.

A small investment that will get you some small savings in return, but more importantly it will help prevent your pipes from bursting in the cold – something that you’d definitely rather not pay for.

Draft Proofing – If you live in an old building without double glazing you might have already noticed a few shivery breezes rolling into the room on occasion. Poor draught – proofing is surprisingly common in UK homes, so it is worth checking to see if it needs doing.

It’s a good investment too – you’ll make savings in the long run and keep your home nice and snug.

Insulate The Loft – Bit is a bigger job this one, but if you have a loft then it’s highly worthwhile. Your loft may already have some insulation but it might be quite old. Today’s insulation is much thicker than that of yesteryear do see if y out can top it up.

Again this will be an investment here, but it will pay off once it starts to get really chilly.

Be Smart With The Thermostat – There are two ways to do this – be smart with your existing thermostat or get yourself a smart thermostat. If you have an old school DIY thermostat be sure to set practical timings in your day to day heating so you get a mix of comfort and economy.

Obviously you want the house warm for when you get in and wake up, but you need to be careful not to have it wakes up all day long and in turn get a big bill at the end of the month.

A smart thermostat meanwhile will handle all of that for you, but you do need to install it into your system at home. Either way using your heating wisely will keep your bills down over winter.

The weather might be getting colder but that doesn’t mean things have to be glum. Prep your house correctly and you can enjoy getting snug and cosy every night, all while daft in the knowledge that you won’t be spending to much money in the process.

Collaborated post

My Top Ten Cheap Summer Holiday Activities

I love having the kids home for the summer…well most of the time, but my purse certainly feels the strain so I always try to find as many cheap activities to get us out of the house as I can I have have listed my top ten here for you to take a look at.

  • IKEA – This Is my saviour at least a couple of times during the holidays. We head over there early to grab their cheap breakfast and avoid the queues and then the kids absolutely love walking around and playing house in all the different room set ups. As long as I can resist popping candles and pot plants into my trolley then it makes for a really cheap day out.
  • Swimming – Over the summer months a lot of council run pools offer free or heavily subsidised swimming for kids. This is perfect to keep my teens busy for free as well as the little ones. Check out Croydon Pools or Donyings, Redhill if you are a Surrey local.
  • The Library– Most libraries run a reading scheme over summer that gives the children a chance to use the library and gain merits of different kinds once they complete different stages.
  • Fruit Picking – This is something I love as much as the children to be honest. They get the chance to see where the fruit is grown and then can go home and enjoy the fruits of their labour.
  • Soft Play – To be honest soft play is never my first choice of activity but the kids absolutely love it and many independent soft play facilities such as Little Lambs Soft Play have some great offers running over this period.
  • National Trust – We have had a National Trust card for a few years now and it really is so worth the money. A couple of trips and you will have covered the years membership and it gives you a whole hosts of homes and gardens to discover and lots of activities to take part in once you’re there.
  • Play Dates – A change is as good as a rest so they say. Sharing play dates is a great way to get out of the house, see friends and save on having a big day out.
  • The Park – For us a trip to the park is good wherever the weather. There is puddle jumping when the rain shows it’s face or bug hunting and picnicking when the sun comes out to play.
  • Hit The Beach – A trip to the beach is great whatever the weather too. For the price of a packet of chips or an ice cream you can have a whole day of exploring.
  • Food Shopping – Now this one is a little random but all my children have loved to help with the food shop. They can read items off the list and find them on the shelves and even get all the ingredients to then get home and help out with dinner. For me it’s an essential thing to do that can be made fun!

Finding The Right Broadband Deal For You

When it comes to household essentials I would say for us good connection to the internet is essential. My husband and I both rely on it heavily for work, the youngest two use it to watch their favourite tv shows and as for the teens well it would be like cutting off a limb if we got rid of it!

We have always opted for fibre broadband as it provides super fast connection through fibre optic connections to the copper cabling that would already be in home from existing phone lines. These cables transfer data at super high speeds and can cover a great range of distances.

It can however be a bit of a minefield when it comes to choosing a provider and there are a lot of factors to consider before you make your final decision:

  • How many people using the connection – This is a big consideration for us as we have such a large number of people in the house using the internet at any given time so we need a package that can cope well with this.
  • Who supplies your area – It is all well and good to pick a provider that will offer you the best service but it is essential you check to see if they cover your area as without that the deal is worthless.
  • What speed do you need – Some people are happy with a slower connection time that will save them a little money wise. We however are usually on a pretty tight schedule so speed is the key for us. This also needs to be thought about if you like to download a lot of movies and tv shows as your connection needs to be able to cope with the demands of this.
  • Do you want an entire entertainment package – We actually got rid of our tv entertainment package a few years ago now but a lot of people still like to have the option to have this alongside their broadband so would be something to look into if this is you.
  • Budget This should probably be ranked at the top of the list but I think all of the other options need to be thought about before you find an entire package that suits you and your family. Getting all the things you need for a good price is ultimately what most of us want and those are some great comparison sites that can do just this for you.
  • I would love to know if there are any other things you consider before choosing your home broadband.
  • 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.

    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.

     

    A Whole New Way To Shower

    [AD] When it comes to designing a bathroom it can be a bit of a minefield with so many different options to chose room.

    Shall we have vanity unit or shelving? shall we get roll top bath or just a shower unit? shall we tile the whole room or add paper?

    The list can go on and on but ultimately what you need is something that is going to suit the whole family and everyone’s needs and I know for us we couldn’t be without a shower.

    For us the speed and efficiency you get from having a shower is something we definitely need as having a large family utilising our time well is an absolute must; and this is certainly one way to save a lot of time in the morning when there are so many of us trying to get ready and leave the house.

    A shower is also way more energy efficient than a bath. It has actually been calculated that a 10 mins shower only uses 25 gallons of water compared to the 70 it takes to fill a bath, making it is better for the environment and kinder on your pocket which are two things that we think about a lot in our home.

    My eldest son is lucky enough to have an en-suite in his room and this is the perfect place to have a shower but due to the limited space a wet room would actually be something that for us would probably work a lot better than the usual shower unit for many reasons:

    Space Saving – Wet rooms optimise the use of space in bathroom by taking out the need for bulky shower trays and doors and making way for a free flow area which creates a lot more space.

    Having to make the entire space waterproof also means you are less likely to get any leaks like you could with a traditional shower unit.

    Interior Heaven – For me the sleek design you can get with a wet room is a big pull for me. Floor to ceiling tiles that fill the entire area creates a modern, seamless look that won’t date easily. You can keep the design as simple as you want with minimal accessories and all of those much needed products stored away in cabinets to keep it clutter free, giving you a more relaxing experience.

    Squeaky Clean – One of my pet hates is cleaning the shower. Having to try and squeeze round tight corners to get in and give it a good clean is a real pain and something you avoid with a wet room. Plus you are removing the need for grout which we all know if a nightmare for breeding mildew which is a nightmare to get off!

    Easy Access – This one for us is a real bonus when it comes to showering the little ones. They always opt for a bath as a shower unit makes them feel claustrophobic and uneasy when the shower door had to be closed shut. This problem is taken away with a wet room and the openness is far more appealing to little ones.

    Becoming A Thrifty Food Shopper

      

    I like to think of myself a pretty thrifty food shopper already, although after watching the series ‘Eat Well For Less’ on BBC One a while back it has played on my mind that there are still a few changes that I could put into place to save a bit more on food which leaves more to spend on going out and having fun!

    I recently took the big step of moving away from my super easy Tesco home delivery service and moved over to the increasingly popular Aldi.  For a while I had been a bit snobby about shopping in there, thinking they must be selling really poor products if they are so cheap; but I could not have been more wrong.  Don’t get me wrong my stress levels have tripled again as I had come a custom to a little man kindly bringing my neatly packed shopping right to my kitchen table and I have now reverted back to trying to control at least two little ones around the supermarket; one of my past posts will tell you how I try to make this a slightly less painful task.  It does however save me upwards of £50 a week and as a lady said to me the other week whilst I was pushing two screaming babies in the rain through the car park “think of the money you are saving”.

    This was clearly my biggest and best move so far but I am now going to try and shop locally for things such as meat as it’s said that you will only pay a little more for your meat and you will get much better quality by going to a butchers.

    I have also seen many friends have to close small businesses of late due to people opting to shop online or use the bigger retailers.  It is so sad and that is why the whole comunity spirit is being completly wiped out and soon High Street shopping will be a thing of the past.

    Having being cooped up for the past few day feeling poorly I needed to get the boys our of the house to enjoy this lovely sunshine, so a trip to the park and a bit of food shopping were on the list to see if this was going to be another thrifty move for us.

    First stop was the Bettameats butchery in Banstead High Street where I was greeted by a super friendly and helpful butcher that helped me chose what would be best for me and best value for money.  Only £27 later I walked away with some fantastic looking meats that will feed all seven of us for well over a week.

       

     

    Our next stop was Banstead Fruiterers just across the road.  Again I was greeted with a smile and the offer to try before I buy which unfortunately my son took him up on the offer and would not leave the poor mans strawberries alone! 

       

      

    We left there with plenty of fruit and salad to last the week and I would guess that it’s half the price I would have paid at the supermarket.

    Very pleased with my savings and the warm feeling that  I had done my bit to keep the local High Street thriving we set ourselves up in the park to take in the beautiful sunshine and sample some of our goods.  This will be a new way of shopping that I will be keeping up from now on.