Get Ready For Christmas With These Handy Tips

[AD] 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.

Prepping Your House For Winter

[AD] 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.

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.

     

    LaplandUK Early Bird Booking

    I know you all probably think I’ve gone completely mad by talking about Christmas 2018 when if you are anything like me you are still trying to find places to home all the presents and loose all the weight from the Christmas just gone!

    I can however confirm though that my marbles are all still firmly intact and I just wanted to give you a heads up the our favourite christmas experience EVER – LaplandUK is running an early bird offer from 29th January-2nd February 2018 that isn’t to be missed.

    LaplandUK sold out completely last year and as someone that has visited countless Father Christmas’s over my twenty years of parenting I can confirm that this was the most amazing experience I have ever been to and something I don’t think could ever be topped.

    LaplandUK offers a completely immersive experience that is completely spellbinding for the adults as well as the children.

    If this is something you would be interested in then I really urge you to take a look HERE and get in quickly and take up this offer which is to good to miss!

    Pines And Needles:A Family Affair

    Last year the lovely people at Pines And Needles introduced me to the world of real tress and since then I would never look back.

    From the excitement of going along to select the perfect tree to the the anticipation of it being delivered to the front door the thrill of buying real is pretty special.

    The other evening we went along to Pines And Needles wimbeldon branch to take part in their Treetorial event and select our very own tree.

    During the event a member of staff who are always kitted out beautifully in their Santa hats and kilts(the trees come from Scotland!) showed the children and gave them a few facts about the trees, let them pick out some decorations to decorate a tree whilst we were there and the highlight for Izzy was getting a ride through the tree wrapping machine!

    Filled with their new found knowledge the children picked out a stunning 7ft Norway Spruce that they have named ‘Piney’ who they egarly awaited the delivery of the next evening.

    Unfortunately ‘Bruce’ arrived after the little ones bed time but it actually made for a more magical morning as they all rushed down the stairs to see it first thing in the morning. Izzy has already said she knew it was here as the smell has waffted into her bedroom and Oscar immediately dived in for a cuddle proclaiming he loved him!

    For the next few hours I had pulling, poking and prodding until it was time to decorate our stunning tree.

    After a few fraught moments of twisted lights and broken baubles the tree was complete and had once again become the most beautiful focal point of the front room and the whole story of the chosing, naming and decorating will be a found memory for the whole family to remember for many years to come.

    If you are yet to get your tree and think that Pines and Needles is the way to go for you then you can use the code JOYOF5 and this will get you 5% off of your tree of choice.

    There are plenty of venues to find across London or you can also purchase online.

    I would love to see you trees in all their glory and if you fancy naming yours like us then don’t forget to use the hashtag #brucethespruce on all your social media posts.

    *collaborated post

    Home Of Black Friday Pop-Up Experience With Amazon

    Christmas is well on the way now and for many of us the worry of being able to get everyone their much longed for gifts is something that is hard to deal with.

    Christmas is a truly magical time of year but the pressures of financing everything can make this happy time dampened by the pressure.

    There are however ways around this with Black Friday being one of the best ways to save a fortune in the run up to Christmas.

    Amazon are streets ahead when it comes to Black Friday and have taken things a step further this year with a super quirky pop-up experience in the heart of Soho Square to celebrate.

    I was lucky enough to be invited along to the launch last night where we got the chance to see what is going to be on offer and listen to the thoughts behind Black Friday from retail expert – Clare Bailey.

    Claire was explaining that for most of us over the years we have realised that giving money is a better option of gifting as the January sales start the minute Christmas finishes and all those gifts we have spend our hard earned money on are dramatically reduced.

    However there is no thought or love behind gifting people with cash so being able to make huge savings before christmas is a great way to allow people to enjoy giving an actual gift.

    The pop-up shop is a way of showcasing over 100 curated Black Friday deals with the addition of being able to try out games in their super cool games room, take part in games for your chance to win some great prizes and partake in workshops from Amazon Handmade Artisans, YouTube stars and TV chefs.

    I had a wonderful evening meeting talented sellers from Amazon Marketplace such as the lovely Lavinia the owner of Lavolio who makes delicious and beautifully packaged handmade chocolates. And the guys behind Cozy Glow candles that would certainly give that well know candle male a run for their money!

    They have such passion for their brand which makes their products so much more appealing.

    One room in the shop was set up like a beauty salon where I was treated to a hair makeover from GHD and tried out some fabulously vibrant Max Factor lipstick that lasts for an amazing 24 hours.

    The shop is open from 12.30-7.30 from Tuesday 21st November until Friday 24th November and is certainly worth a trip for a fantastically interactive shopping experience and some fantastic bargains.