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.

Cutting The Heating Costs This Winter

Yes I’m sorry that I am already mentioning the dreaded ‘winter word’, but as we all to aware before we know it the big coats and boots will be out and we will all be finding ways to keep warm inside and outside the home.

When it comes to heating the home it can be a pretty costly exercise and I’m sure we could all find much better ways to spend our money rather than on something a boring as heating.

Below I have compiled some tips on ways to save a few pennies on your heating bill this winter:

Draft Proof The House – Whilst the weather is still mild take a bit of time to go around the house and find any areas that are letting in any draughts. Door frames and widows are two of the biggest culprits but can be easily rectified by getting some specialist tape or draught excluders that will go a long way to retain the much needed heat.

Shop Around For Energy Providers – Its very easy to get complacent and just carry on using your same energy provider. This however can be one of the biggest ways to save money and many people have made savings of up to £300 a year. There are plenty of comparison sites out there that find you the best deals in a matter of minutes.

Check Your Boiler – The boiler is the most vital part of heating your home so it is very important to make sure it is in good working order at all times. Now is the perfect time to make sure it is in good working order so that you don’t end up with any nasty surprises once a cold spell hits! Companies such as Homeserve Heating provide an excellent service that does just this.

Have A Rejig – Think about the positioning of your furniture and try to move big items such as sofas away from radiators to stop the heat getting trapped.

Doors Open and Doors Closed – This may be a bit of a confusing title but it means that different doors being opened and closed can have different benefits.  If you have the bath running or oven on for instance allowing the doors to be open will let the heat radiate through the house. On the other end of the scale if you have an unoccupied room then turn the radiator off and keep the door closed so you are not wasting money and energy heating an empty room.

Fill Up The Chimney – If you have a unused fire place then filling the chimney with a specialised balloon will stop a huge amount of energy being lost.

Turn Space Age – By this I don’t mean donning a spacesuit, it simply means getting your hands on a few rolls of tinfoil and covering the wall directly behind your radiators to allow the heat to be sent back into the room rather than absorbed into the wall.

I hope you have found these tips useful and would love to ear if you have anymore of your own.

*Collaborated post.

“It’s Not Blackpool Illuminations In Here You Know”

Illumination, lights, bulbs

“It’s not Blackpool illuminations in here you know” this is an all to familiar phrase that regularly came from my parents mouths when I was a teen and something I sadly find myself saying now I’m a mum to teens!
It is infact not until that bill for leaving on every light in the house fell into my own hands that I understood how much not flipping that switch actually costs.

Sadly though along with an inability to find the wash basket and a passion for growing mould on plates, leaving lights on is a rite of passage for teenagers and it is probably easier to find ways round it rather than waiting for them to conform.

Something that I have recently discovered thanks to thelightingsuperstore.co.uk  is the use of LED lighting in the home.

I had always thought of LED as being something that was used only in places like shops and restaurants and I had never considered it an option for the home.

There are however many benefits of using the bulbs.

They really are the lighting option of the future with the minimal energy they use they are extremely long lasting which saves money as well as the environment.

The bulbs themselves are on the pricey side but due to that fact they use 90% less energy than traditional bulbs you will recoupe the money from your initial outlay within a matter of months.

The versatile bulbs come in a variety of different shapes, sizes and colours and can remarkably last up to over 25 years!

Another bonus of them is that due to the small amount of energy they use the heat that is radiated is minimal and posses less of a fire risk than most…again great for teens they love to drape rubbish over their lamps!

To me they are a no brainier! Long lasting, energy saving, cheaper and better on the environment. They really are an option to be thought about.
*collaborated post.

Getting Christmas Off To A Cracking Start With Poundland

Decorating the house for Christmas is a bit of a big deal for me and something I like to selfishly go at alone!

Don’t get me wrong I do let the children ‘think’ they have a hand in it, but ultimately it’s a job I love and want to get just as I like.

I have a loft full of different colour baubles, reams of sparkly ribbon and wreaths and swags coming out of my ears.

With my ever changing want for new colour schemes and a lover of a bargain somewhere that can give me good quality decorations at a good price is always something I’m on the look out for.

When I was asked to decorate my mantelpiece for Christmas using items from Poundland I was excited yet a little  apprehensive that it might be mission impossible.

As I said I’m a real bargain hunter and love to snap up great deals from Poundland on a regular basis.

When the children’s birthdays come around they are my first stop for party bag fillers but home decor is something I would never have associated with this store.

To my suprise they had a great range of Christmas decorations in a variety of colours and styles and plenty to go with my silver and white theme.

I wanted to mix fresh foliage with a selection of different decorations to create a really Christmassy feel.

I gathered some pretty glass baubles, sparkly tree toppers, silver string beads, scandi style wooden lights and wicker hearts, mantelpiece snow, glitzy stockings and some simple white candles.

Once the basic foliage was set up it was time to add the decor.

I didn’t use things in the conventional way and instead put the tree toppers onto sticks.


I wound wire round the baubles and added these too.


In the centre of the arrangement I placed a couple of candles and deconstructed the wicker hearts to make them individual.



I lastly sprayed some thin twigs with spray paint that I also got in store and draped the lights and silverbeads throughout the whole arrangement to finish it off.


I carried on the theme by adding some extra baubles, hearts and beads to my tree to match the arrangement.

This experience has really shown me that you can create Christmas arrangements from very little money that can still look beautiful and elegant without breaking the bank.


If this has inspired you to take a trip to Poundland then join in with the Twitter party I will be hosting on Friday for your  chance to win some vouchers to help towards your shopping. 

Making Your Meals Go Further

It gets to this time of year for me when the expense of Christmas fear kicks in and I start to think about some changes to put into place to save a few pennies.

Our biggest outgoing and area of waste by far is food, yet it is the area I find easiest to make saving when I make a bit of an effort.

Here are a few tips to stretch that weekly shop and save on any unnecessary waste.

Package Free And Wrapped Veg 

Instead of grabbing the easy to use pre-prepared veg opt for the loose vegetables and wrap them in paper towel before placing in the fridge to prevent the condensation form softening them.

Crusts For Breadcrumbs

If your children are like mine and always want their crusts removed save them and make breadcrumbs to be stored in the freezer.  These can be then be used in different meals as and when you need them.

Squashed Tomatoes

Those squishy tomatoes hiding at the back of the salad drawer can easily be turned into a soup or pasta sauce to use straight away or freeze for another day.

Bulk Up Those Soups

With the colder weather upon us soups will be coming back into onto our menu and to make them a more filling meal simply add some rice or small pasta to bulk it up.

Big Bird Better Than Portions

The traditional Sunday roast chicken is the perfect meal to stretch over to the next day.  Use the breast meat for the Sunday roast and then save the rest for a curry, casserole or add to pasta on the Monday.

Pack In Those Pulses And Veggies

Meat is definitely the most expensive part of my food shop so wether it’s a curry, casserole or mince dish, make it go further by adding lentils or vegetables to make it go so much further.

The Freezer Is Your Friend

Don’t just throw out those leftovers you don’t think will get eaten. Box them up into individual portions and save for those days you are pushed for time or simply can’t be bothered to cook.

Dinner For Lunch

We spend way to much money on eating out and find that making extra the night before and saving for lunch the next day is the perfect way to stop the temptation of eating out.

Bread

The dieters nightmare and a bone of contention in our house is bread.

For me a good crusty loaf is the perfect, cheap way to fill up hungry kids. It can be eaten with a simple spreading of jam as a snack and can be served with most meals to bulk it out a bit.

My husband disagrees and says it fills the kids up to much and they don’t eat their dinner!

If your loaf stays around long enough and has gone a little dry simply sprinkle with water and bake for a few mins to bring it back to life.

Fancy Kids Snacks

I always have a bag full of snacks that are predominantly used as a distraction or bribery tool when when we’re out.

I have stopped buying those snacks they are geared towards little ones with attractive packaging and a hefty price tag by buying rice cakes and raisins and decanting them into those food bags with characters on that can be washed out and used again, saving an absolute fortune!

I hope your got a few tips here and I would love to have some more of you have any to share with me?