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Tips for Budgeting and our Saver Story...

on Friday, 17 July 2015.

I don't know when all of a sudden I became a grown up. One minute I was at uni, going out every night with my husband and not having a care or responsiblity in the world, to being a Mum of two beautiful girls, with a mortgage and bills to pay. I have become exceptionally sensible when it comes to money, I think that partly comes from having had debts in my early 20's and also from working for myself. Both my husband and I work for ourselves now so we really have to budget and save in order to make sure that we always have some money in the pot should we have a quieter month work wise.

In the past I have never been a particularly conscientious saver.  Call it naive but when I was at school and I had part time jobs, I spent my pay packet as soon as I got it, knowing that while I was still living under my parents roof that they would help me out if I didn't have enough money for petrol or to go out to a party.  I wasn't spoilt, but I didn't have a particular drive to save or budget for things.  

Then when I was eighteen I went to Leeds University.  All of a sudden I was away from home with a big chunk of student loan money hitting my bank account each term, and I must admit I took full advantage of that.  I didnt' live like a student at all- I bought designer makeup, bought new clothes a lot, and went out almost every evening.  I would eat cheap frozen chicken and chips for dinner, yet drink out in Leeds nicest bars and buy clothes from All Saints and Harvey Nicholls.  I just didn't have my head screwed on when it came to money at all.  Saving wasn't on my radar in the slightest and I just enjoyed living life to the fullest- not worrying about money or that I had bills to pay.  Life just seemed to have a way of working itself out.  Yet again I knew that if I got really stuck, while I was still in education, my parents would help me.  I didn't ever ask for their help, but in the back of my mind I knew they were there as a back up.  Somehow I just managed to live within my means.

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Rocking the 'Classy' look back in 2003!

One Summer of uni I went travelling around South East Asia for a few months.  While we lived like backpackers and everything was cheap out there, I didn't save up for the trip before I went, so I ended up using up all of my student overdraft.  When I came home and told my Dad what I had done, he was furious and went absolutely crazy at me, telling me that I was immature and silly.  In the end he paid it off for me, but not without a lot of cross words and me learning a real lesson.  To this day it is something I regret as I know how much I disappointed him.  It definitely helped me realise that I needed to have a better approach to my finances.

When I was in my final year of uni I got a job in a bar part time and it was there I met my future husband.  We lived the high life for a while, not worrying about sensible things like saving still, and we also took out a couple of smallish loans- one to help us pay for our wedding and honeymoon and one to consolidate different debts. We paid a little off each month and all of a sudden when we got our mortgage and had our first daughter, we realised the importance of budgeting in order to help us pay off these debts as quickly as possible. 

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I have become very sensible, I make sure that I save as much as we can, spend as little as possible and I will always make sure we have a savings pot as a back up just in case we ever end up in that situation again.  It has made me a lot more controlled about money and my spending habits and budgeting. But ultimately we are now in a good place and I want to make sure I protect and look after our family as much as I can. I find that budgeting really helps us look after our money, things like using a balance transfer credit card, making sure we meal plan each week so we don't go overboard at the supermarket, using Tesco clubcard points to get cheaper meals out- all these things help us stick to our monthly budget and make sure we don't go over. It also means we can afford to treat ourselves every now and again too.

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But at the end of the day we are a young family, with lots of dreams and aspirations.  We don't live beyond our means and we aren't flash.  We still keep to a strict budget when we do our food shop each week, and we still um and aaah when we go out for a meal as to whether it's necessary or whether 'we can afford' it.  We are sensible and we will always save as much as we can- whether that's for a rainy day, a big purchase like a new house in the not so distant future, or just so we can enjoy it in years to come.

How Would You Spend a Spare £100?

on Sunday, 10 May 2015.

One of mine and my husband's favourite things to do when we are on long car journey's, is what we would do if we won the lottery. Sometimes it gets very detailed, right down to what we would do the minute we found out, let alone what we would spend the money on. But what about if someone gave you a spare £100- what would you spend it on then? £100 won't get you lots, it's not life changing money, but still it's great fun to think how you would spend it- and of course none of us would say no...

When you are a parent to two young children, you often don't end up treating yourself. Of course they come first, whether that's new shoes, new clothes or birthday presents to buy. £100 would be enough to go on a fantastic night out with my husband- we could go for a few drinks, out for a nice meal, and even perhaps stay over in a cheapie hotel somewhere. We both work so hard and don't get a lot of time on our own, it would be great to go out with him. However even writing that makes me feel a little guilty, as of course £100 would treat the whole family to a lovely day out- somewhere like Alton Towers, or the seaside springs to mind. We could get fish and chips on the beach, go to a aquarium and buy lots of ice creams. 

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We are pretty lucky that we get to have lots of adventures together, so another thought would be to give it to charity, or at least some of it. The Nepal Earthquake Appeal from the Red Cross is one that is close to everyone's hearts at the moment- it feels like a million miles away watching those horrific events on television when we are safe and warm in our home. I always try and do my bit for charity, whether that's sponsoring friends, running races myself, or donating via other means, but like a lot of people, of course I would like to do more but don't always have enough spare pennies to stretch to every charity.

Another way in which I could spend it would be on my Mum. She does so much for myself and my little family, and I would love to be able to treat her to a nice meal out, some new clothes or makeup, or perhaps a personalised gift from the girls. Or again perhaps pay to take her to a spa day and to spend some one on one time with her. Or I have always wanted to buy a ridiculously extravagent bunch of flowers that costs a lot of money- everyone loves flowers but sometimes I think the really over the top bouquets are often overlooked as there are other things that you could buy for a present. But my Mum loves flowers and filling her home with them.

Or we could be sensible with it- myself and Mr E are not keen gardeners and our aim this Summer is to make our garden a place that we are proud to spend time in. We are exceptionally house proud and love our little home, but when it comes to gardening we just aren't too keen. We could buy some proper tools and try and get motivated to make it nice in time for all the playing outside we are going to be doing. Or even more sensible than that, we could put it in to our girls savings accounts and save it for a rainy day.

The reason for my money talk is that TSB have asked me to think about what I’d spend a spare £100 on, because the maximum interest you can earn in a year from the Plus Account is £100 AER (5% AER on up to £2000).  More than likely we would go out for a nice family day out, donate a little to charity and maybe go out for a meal together. What would you do with an extra £100?

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Helping Kids Have A Great Flight With KLM...

on Saturday, 18 April 2015.

As any parent knows, travelling with young children, especially on a plane can be a daunting task.  It's not a case of popping off to the airport like before children, browsing the duty free, and then plugging in to your TV monitor and relaxing for the rest of the flight- when young children are involved flights are a completely different experience.  I have been lucky enough to travel to a fair few different countries with my girls, including long haul flights, and although they are pretty good little travellers, it's still something I get nervous about beforehand.  No one wants to have that child that 'kicks off' on the plane or spends the whole flight running up and down the aisles.

I have actually flown KLM with my girls- flying to Amsterdam last November.  We found KLM to be a fantastic airline for flying with children- while only a short flight, staff really went the extra mile to look after our girls- they helped us all sit together after a mix up with our tickets and also gave the girls extra Stroopwaffels to take home, which of course is a winner in a 4 and 2 year olds eyes.  I was that impressed with it that I wrote a detailed review on Space In Your Case, which you can read here.

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KLM Airlines have listened to the needs of it's younger passengers and introduced 'Bluey' the little airplane last November.  Bluey has since become really popular with it's youngest flyers, so much so that he has been made into different products available to buy on board.  But now, from June onwards, Bluey has hit the big (or very tiny) screen- Bluey The Movie will be shown on board all intercontinental flights, and also on the KLM You Tube channel.  Hopefully he will help to entertain little people on board these flights and help them understand a little more about flying.

KLM also has a really helpful page on tips and tricks for travelling with children which is definitely worth a look if you have any questions or worries about travelling with little ones in tow.

You can see the full length first Bluey movie below.

 

 

NB: This post has been written in partnership with KLM but all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

 

Yay for Spring!

on Wednesday, 18 March 2015.

It's coming, I can feel it.  Spring is definitely on it's way.  The daffodils are sprouting, it's acceptable to go out occasionally without a coat, and the evenings are getting lighter.  I am so excited for Spring, even more so this year as this Winter seems to have dragged on for an eternity.

One thing I love about Spring is the way it inspires me.  It always inspires me to make little changes to our house, this time last year we gave our living room a makeover and we have been busy updating our new office space.  I love to get it all clean and ready for Spring and Summer.  I also get really inspired with mine and the girl's wardrobe- I have been busy beavering away and hoarding clothes for us ready for the warmer weather.

While I love to buy clothes for me, I love buying them for the girls more.  I will happily spend my money on matching outfit for them, but when it comes to me, I prefer to buy things on a budget.  I can't believe I used to spend £100+ on one item when I was at uni- nowadays I am a lot more frugal!  I love places like Tesco for my clothes, plus I can sneak them in with the weekly shop so Mr E doesn't notice! 

Here are some of my top Spring essentials, all on a budget, at the moment...

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1.  I love this fedora hat from Tesco- it would look great with stripes and tan sandals on the beach this Summer.  We have a couple of holidays booked so I will definitely get the wear out of this.  

2.  I don't know if I am a little old for dungarees but I am loving this trend at the moment- these ones are from New Look and I love them. 

3.  I don't think my obsession for stripes will ever go away- this t shirt dress from Tesco is simple, cute and elegant.

4.  I love this lace jumper from Boo Hoo- it's perfect for that inbetween stage of Winter and Spring where it's still a little chilly.

 

 

A Magical Christmas With Paypal...

on Wednesday, 17 December 2014.

On the 2nd January 2014 I sat down and wrote this post.  In it I outlined what I hoped 2014 would bring our little family.  That week I had handed in my notice to work, something which was scary and exciting in equal measures and I had no idea how it would work me working freelance and for myself.  I also wrote about how I was determined to try and lose weight and to change my lifestyle, something which I have never been able to stick to before.  It's now the 1st January 2015, the start of a New Year and time to say goodbye to 2014.

What can I say about 2014?  It was a truly special year.  We had no significant milestones or events, but we have grown as a family and it has been really exciting.  I feel like I have learnt so much about myself and where and who I want to be.  When I handed in my notice I had no idea what to expect but it turns out it was one of the best things I ever did.  I work harder than I ever have before, way more so than in my old job where I could more often than not switch off 

 

This year I have done 99% of my Christmas shopping online.  In fact, I think I have only stepped foot in the shops once.  While I love shopping and enjoy a good browse around the shops, there are two things which make shopping more of a chore and less of a fun day out- little people and crowds.  Since having Mads and LL shopping isn't as fun as it used to be.  It usually involves lugging the buggy around the shops, hitting shoppers in the shin and bribing them to stay in their sets with sugary treats.  Everything takes twice as long and while they are pretty good, it just isn't a pleasurable experience like it once was. 

Add to that Christmas shopping crowds (is it just me or does anyone else get so angry?) and I just prefer to stay clear of the shops from December onwards.  For the last few years we have done most of it online but this year is the first year where I can genuinely say 99% of our purchases have been online.  

I have had a Paypal account for years, using it as part of my eBay account and to buy things online securely and quickly.  In fact wherever possible I use my Paypal account online, as it is easy and efficient to safely purchase goods.  I also use it a lot in my freelance work as a quick way of sending and receiving money with ease.  Therefore when Paypal asked if I wanted to write about their service, I was more than happy too as I genuinely use it an almost daily basis.

We don't go mad on Christmas presents but it does all mount up, especially as we have Mads birthday on Christmas Eve.  Here are just a few of the bits and pieces we have bought via paypal, obviously I can't show you them all because I don't want anyone to see!
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One big thing we have done this year is we are upgrading Mads and LL's play kitchen.  We have got them lots of gorgeous wooden play food from GLTC, ELC and Amazon to name a few.  Their play kitchen is their number one toy so I hope they will both enjoy some new bits for it.  Aside from this the one thing Mads has been asking for if someone asks 'what she would like from Father Christmas' is a 'Big Buzz.'  She is obsessed with Toy Story and so we have bought her the talking Buzz Lightyear and asked other family members to get the other characters- she is going to be so excited to open it on Christmas Day, I cannot wait to see her face.

We have also bought her a One Direction Harry doll, which makes me cringe a little but she again asked for this and who are we not to make a three almost four year old happy on Christmas Day?!  Plus we have bought them some little bits of clothing, like these super cute hats.  We have also treated friends and family, like these gorgeous stacking rings for my little sister.  They say giving is better than receiving and this is deinitely true- I love to think carefully about what gifts to get my loved ones.

Thanks so much to Paypal for making our Christmas so much easier.  It's given us more time to enjoy things as a family, such as days out, Christmas baking and other fun stuff.  This weekend is our wedding anniversary and we are taking the girls ice skating and out to lunch- normally we would be rushing around last minute trying to buy presents!

 ***** 

Paypal is running a ‘Win Christmas with PayPal’ competition where if you choose to shop with PayPal, you could win what you spent on your Christmas shopping back up to £1,000!

All you need to do is visit www.paypal.co.uk/winchristmas to register yourself, and then every transaction with PayPal is an entry in to the draw. Paypal is also running a series of amazing giveaways on its Facebook page.  Just visit Paypal on Facebook and upload your best Christmas Moments to enter. Good luck!

Find out more about the Paypal campaign on twitter using the hashtag #paypalmoments.

 

NB. Thanks to Paypal for working with us this Christmas, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

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