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My Saver Story....

on Wednesday, 11 February 2015.

I’ve teamed up with Natwest to write about my experiences of saving money – past, present, and future, while also letting you know the help Natwest offer when you are working towards a savings goal.  For savings advice and tools from Natwest check out their Fairer Savings page.

 

PAST

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 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 were good friends for a couple of years before we got together but after uni finished we ended up moving into a flat together just as friends and I began to work in the bar full time.  I wasn't earning much at all, but I was heavily involved in the Leeds nightlife scene and yet again I managed to live way beyond my means.  Everyone in the bars, restaurants and clubs knew each other so I could get away with going out every evening and not paying for a single drink- therefore my money yet again was just spent on rent and buying clothes, I would eat my meals in the bar or at other bars or restaurants where I could eat for free.

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One of the first photos of us.

It wasn't until Mr E and I finally got together and moved to London a couple of years later that I finally got round to saving.  In London we lived above a bar, which meant we lived rent free, albeit the flat we lived in was absolutely horrible.  Because of this I had more money than I had ever had before, but by now I was older, wiser and had a serious job.  I saved a lot of my money, aware that someday in the future we would want to buy a house and even possibly have a wedding.  All of a sudden 'grown up' things were on the horizon for us.  

When we eventually moved to Cambridgeshire Mr E and I had managed to save enough to completely pay for our wedding ourselves.  I was really proud of this fact and it felt good knowing that we had saved this big chunk of money.  I was proud of everyone coming to our wedding and knowing that we had paid for every single penny of it. (bar my dress which was a present from my Mum)  We bought our first home together and did end up getting a big loan out for various bits and bobs- but by this time we were both doing well in our careers and were a lot more responsible with money.

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Showing off our wedding rings in 2009.

 

PRESENT

When Mads was born we had a period of time where Mr E got made redundant, I was also on maternity leave and we really struggled with money.  We went from being a newly married couple, both with good salaries and a nice lifestyle, to trying to survive on one person's very small income and the expense of a new baby.  It got to the point where we would have to count every single penny and I remember one month crying down the phone to my Mum as I couldn't afford to put dinner on the table or pay our mortgage.  We had a very stressful year and I wouldn't want to go through it again, but everyone has financial worries every now and again- we got through it even though it was very tough at times.  In some ways though, it was one of the best things that could have happened as it has really made me appreciate money and I have completely changed in my attitude towards saving now.

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- which in some ways is a good thing but also means that I can be a bit too rigid.  Silly things like before I would go to a bar and treat my friends to a round of drinks, nowadays I am a bit more careful and I have lost a bit of that generous spirit that I used to have.  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.

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FUTURE

Bizarrely considering I am terrible at Maths and considering my past history, I am now the one that looks after all the bank accounts in our household.  Mr E trusts me to do it and knows that I try to put as much away each month as I can.  I am now freelance so I have to keep my accounts up to date for the tax man each year, so I have become pretty good at keeping track of what we are earning and spending.  

We have a couple of savings accounts now that I try to put the odd amount in as and when I can.  I wouldn't say we have any grand plans for the future- we are just at this moment in time enjoying being in a position where we are comfortable and can afford to enjoy life a little.  We have done some big improvements to our house this year, which is lovely after five years of living in our home.  In the back of our mind we will in a couple of years want to move to our next house- whether that's our 'forever home' or just one a little bigger as our family grows.  But I am in no rush- our ridiculously high five year fixed mortgage rate ended last year and that loan we took out is finally nearing it's end- it's nice not to have to worry about every single penny we spend and to treat ourselves every now and again.  If I could offer advice to my younger self when it comes to saving I would say definitely enjoy life as you are only young with no responsibilities once, but also to not be so reckless when it comes to money and to try and keep some back for emergencies, treats or serious things.

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.

 

Natwest have a handy savings goal tool for their customers which works with your savings account to calculate a time frame for your savings goals and track your progress.  There is also a great budget calculator that anyone can use to get a clearer picture of your earnings and outgoings and your potential to save.

 

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.

 

 

 

Buying our first home...

on Thursday, 27 November 2014.

One of the biggest responsibilites and one of the most exciting things I have done in my adult life, bar of course having our two girls, is buying our house.  We had wanted to buy our first home for ages but unfortunately due to the recession we wondered how we were ever going to do it.  It was hard and we did a lot of saving to save up money for our deposit, including moving in with my Mum for a bit after moving back from London, but eventually in August 2009 we got the keys to our very first house.

It's certainly not our forever home by any means, in fact two small children and two feral kittens later and we are already feeling like we are outgrowing it.  But after living here for five years now, we feel settled and slowly we are putting our stamp on it.  Gone are the shagpile green carpets and lemon coloured walls, instead we have decorated every room and are slowly being able to afford to do the bigger, more expensive jobs.  We recently got rid of the horrible artex on the ceilings and had a living room makeover and just last month after living with an awful mouldy bathroom for many years, we got a completely new one fitted which I just love.

We have recently been thinking about whether to move again.  As mentioned our home isn't the one we want to be in forever, we eventually want to move to a bigger house, but after umming and aahing for a while we realised that we are happy where we are for the time being.  Our mortgage rate has just come down from a REALLY high fixed rate to something a lot more affordable and as moving house can be quite expensive with costs of estate agent fees, removal companies and stamp duty, we have decided to stay where we are for a few more years until we are in a position to have a bigger budget to buy our forever home.  We did have a look at mortgage rates and there are some really good deals out there at the moment if you have a good sized deposit though.

Moving can be a lengthy process and as we have a lovely little house that is perfect for us right now, we just think this would be the better options.  Obviously you have to find a house, then make sure you can get a mortgage which takes a lot longer than it used to, then theres waiting for the legal aspect of exchanging and completion before you even get the keys.  It can be stressful at times and hard work but there is nothing more exciting than owning your own house- the day we got the keys to ours I remember so vividly, we were shaking as we went to pick them up from the estate agent and our hearts were literally thumping so loudly as we unlocked our new front door for the first time.  We sat on the floor in the evening and shared a bottle of champange and a takeaway pizza as we had no furniture- it is such an exciting and daunting time.  Plus of course it is lovely to be able to plan and decorate without having to worry about whether you are breaching your contract when you put some wallpaper on the walls!

Moving house is expensive and quite a daunting thing to do but we genuinely are so thrilled with our little home- it is wonderful for Mads and LL to grow up and make memories here and it also makes me feel safe and secure too.  

movingin2009

 

 

 

Life with Two Kittens...

on Monday, 24 November 2014.

A couple of months ago we welcomed two new additions into the family in the form of Jesse and Walter- our new little kittens!  

They certainly have been keeping us on our toes, they are full of love, affectionate and sweet, but also incredibly naughty.  No where is safe as they climb up our curtains, on our leather chairs, in the girls beds and anywhere else they can find that is cosy or safe.  But ultimately we love them to pieces and wouldn't change them for the world, we want Mads and LL to grow up with pets in the household, I grew up with dogs but at this stage we don't think a dog is right for our family as much as I would love one.

We were initially a little concerned about the cost, especially as we decided to get two kittens instead of one. We had to pay out for the initial cost of them from their breeder and then we needed to buy them a bed, litter tray and cat carrier.  Then it was time for vaccinations and initial vet costs, as well as in the near future the cost of having them neutered and spayed.  We had a cat before the girls were born and he ended up having a chronic illness meaning that he was on lifetime medication, for this reason cat insurance is something we researched a lot before hand.  It just isn't worth the potentially very costly risk if our cats were to need vet care either now or in the future.  Places like Argos Pet Insurance are really reasonable and it is definitely worth the peace of mind. 

It is definitely not something to rush into, it is obviously a very big commitment and also a big cost.  But we adore our new pussycats and most of all our girls are totally in love with them, Mads carries them about all over the place (poor kittens!) and LL walks around the house shouting 'meoooooow' at them.  

Hopefully they will bring us many years of love and companionship!

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The Circle of Life...

on Wednesday, 29 October 2014.

Last week we went over to my Mums for the morning.  While we were there Mads wanted to paint some pictures so as a surprise we decided to paint one to send to my Nana and Grandpa.  She sat at my Mum's table for ages painting handprints and writing her name for her Great Nana and Grandpa, her Great Grandma and Grandpa and for my Mum and Dad as well.  Once we had finished we put them in an envelope and sent them off as a surprise for them.

A couple of days later she was incredibly excited to see that the postman had delivered a card addressed to her in the post.  Her little face was an absolute picture as she opened up the card and saw that her Great Nana had sent her a 'reply' back in the post- a thank you card to the 'budding artist.'  She carried the card round with her all day and it was the first thing she showed her Daddy when he arrived home from work that evening.  That small little gesture most definitely made her day, so I can only imagine what it did for my Grandparents.

I have spoken on my blog many times before about my Nana and Grandpa.  They live a couple of hours away from us and we don't see them that regularly, but we try to visit them as much as we can.  I am very close to them and my childhood is full of memories of fun times and adventures spent at their house.  Even now, although 92 and 89, they still are relatively active and still live at home on their own together.  Whenever we go and visit we try and take some of the strain off them, but even if we cook or tidy up, it is envitable that my Nana will come in to 'help' or tell us where to put things away.

If I am honest, it does worry me a little.  They have my Uncle nearby but other than that all the rest of the family live away.  We all visit as much as we can, my Dad and Step Mum especially, but one day they might not be able to live on their own.  Sadly they are getting weaker and it is something that one day in the not so near future we may need to address.  There are things that are options, like live in carers or care homes, but at the moment these aren't on our radar.  Although we don't like to think about it, each time we visit we are aware of the fact that we need to make as many memories as we can.  I take hundreds of photos each time and every time I leave I get upset.  It is sad to think about them one day not being here, but unfortunately it is the circle of life.

Until then though, we will continue to treasure the time we have with all of my grandparents and will make sure that the girls do things like we did last week.  Just little small gestures that don't mean much to us, but to them will have meant the world.  We are so lucky to have them and we will make as many memories as we can.  

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Our New Additions.

on Monday, 27 October 2014.

If you read this blog a lot you may have noticed that a few weeks ago we had some new additions arrive in our household- Walter and Jesse our new little kittens!  

We deliberated for ages as to whether to get them at this point in our lives, obviously the girls are so little and we also have hectic lives, going away a fair bit, often being very busy with work and also with the general craziness that comes with being a family with two small children.  But ultimately we want Mads and LL to grow up with pets in the household, I grew up with dogs but at this stage we don't think a dog is right for our family as much as I would love one.

We were initially a little worried about the cost, especially as we decided to get two kittens instead of one.  Firstly we obviously had to pay out for the initial cost of them from their breeder, and then we needed to buy them a bed, litter tray and cat carrier.  Then of course it's time for vaccinations and initial vet costs, as well as in the near future the cost of having them neutered and spayed.  We had a cat before the girls were born and he ended up having a chronic illness meaning that he was on lifetime medication, for this reason cat insurance is something that we will always have.  It just isn't worth the potentially very costly risk if our cats were to need vetinary care either now or in the future.

It is definitely not something to rush into, in fact caring for a pet is a very big commitment and also a big cost.  But we adore our new additions and most of all our girls are totally and utterly in love with them, Mads carries them about all over the place (poor kittens!) and LL walks around the house shouting 'meoooooow' at them.  

Hopefully they will bring us many years of love and companionship!

2 kittens

Feeling Grateful For What We Have...

on Tuesday, 21 October 2014.

Time and time again on my blog I talk of 'The Ordinary Moments'- relishing our everyday and feeling grateful for what we have.  That is one of the main reasons I started blogging, to record the simple moments of our lives and so when our children grow up they realise just how much we loved them.  I love having a record of our adventures and our general day to day lives together.

Since becoming a parent, I have come to be a lot more thankful for the duldrum of our lives together.  Before the girls were born, I used to get bored and restless very easily, feeling like I always needed to have our next holiday or weekend away booked, or something in the diary to look forward too.  Becoming a mother has made me truly appreciate the little things more and to feel so immensely grateful for our slightly boring, ordinary life.

I am so much more emotional now, constantly fearing the things we don't even talk about.  Becoming a parent has made me scared occasionally to bring my children up in this world sometimes, it can be a horrible and cruel place.  But then at the same time, it has also taught me to appreciate the beauty as well, and I am thankful for that.  

Since having my girls, I have become truly grateful for the fact we have so much.  We aren't rich, we are comfortable and some months we struggle like a lot of people do, but compared to a lot of people in the world we are incredibly lucky.  I do try and take the time to donate to a great charity- I have a few that I regularly donate to and I often try and help friends who are running, baking cakes or raising money in different ways to help charities close to their hearts. 

I am so thankful for my little family and thankful that we are at the moment, happy and healthy.  I know that life can change in an instant and having my girls has definitely made me appreciate it more.  Our life is simple, ordinary and occasionally dull- but I wouldn't change it for anything in the world.

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