Monday, 12 June 2017

Do You Want More From Your Money?

It is very much central to the human experience that we want more. We're never full; we've not played enough, we haven't done enough - we always want more, and there's not much that can be done to quench that first we have for life - and we never seem to grow out of it. That's ok though - as long as we know that some things are out of reach, we can rein ourselves in just a teensy tiny bit and be glad with what we have and make the most out of what we currently own.

Now, we speak about money a lot on this blog, don't we - and there is a big reason for that. Money is very much something that revolves around the idea of parenting. As much as you are a great Mom - you're also a banker (and a cleaner, and a chauffeur to add to your many roles) and for good reason - you're the only person responsible enough to ensure the financial security of your family.  Can your baby look after it? Of course not! You're in charge of the bank account, and you know what, that can be quite a dangerous position to be in. Especially when we combine this paragraph with the first - if you're always wanting more from life and your money, how can you be trusted with looking after your money? Spending is the key to happiness and you've got the keys to your bank account. It takes a lot to not spend uncontrollably, especially when you want to give your family more in life.
With so many options at the hands of a parent for cash - including credit cards, payday loans and other options to gain money - it can be easy to lose control of your cash. In an effort to get the most out of life, it can be very easy to waste cash as well. That's why it is so important that any parent takes their responsibility as the family's bookkeeper seriously. We tend to speak a lot about making your cash last until payday on this site and as usual, there are plenty of reasons for that. The budget of the family has never been more stretched than it is today. With so much to buy and so many payment options, not only can our budget get stretched far and wide - we can quite easily rack up some serious debt.

One thing is true; you'll have a lot of trouble getting more from your money if you have racked up a bunch of debts. Why is that? Well, if you have debts of any nature, it is very likely that the interest of the debts will be higher than even the most generous of savings accounts or investment accounts. With a good investment at the very most you might expect a 15% return on your investment. Many debts have interest rates that start at 18% which means that even the lowest of debts has a higher rate of interest than the best investment you could possibly make. That means that in usual circumstances you'll make a net loss when you put an unpaid debt and its interest rate against an investment and its interest rate. That's not good news at all, but at least it can point you in the right direction - if you want to do more with your money and if you want more from your finances, you'll have to pay off your debts.

Paying off debts can be hard work. For this, we won't count the mortgage as a debt - more of a commitment, like rent. Even though the mortgage is a debt and it has an interest rate, if you're paying your mortgage off you're making an investment. Every other debt? It needs to be paid off as fast as possible. If you've got a number of debts, the work is harder and not just because you have more to pay off. You'll have a lot of admin tasks to do, and the biggest one of all is figuring out which debts to pay first. You might organize them by size and try to pay the biggest debt off first. What you should try to do is find a way to get your debts paid off as quick as possible and certainly, while you should consider the size and urgency of debts when focusing on any repayment plan, you might want to direct your attention to a debt with a bigger interest rate as it will only build in size if you ignore it. The next bit of admin after organization? Well, it's time for you to negotiate.
The thing is - debts can lead to bankruptcy and this usually means that a debt isn't paid off. Any creditor chasing a debt absolutely wants to avoid this situation as it means that they have wasted time and money. That means that you can certainly call up companies or people chasing you for a debt repayment and negotiate your debt to a manageable fee. This might mean that you pay a lower repayment off in total, or it might mean that the interest on your account is frozen. Either way, you can consider it a victory as it has made a debt easier for you to pay off. This is great news and all it took was a phone call. So if you need to pay off your debts to do more with your cash, then you need to consider picking up the phone.

Debt-free parenting is hard to achieve, but you can certainly do more with your cash. You could invest, you might even invest into the future of your kids by saving up for them. Simply put, if you are free of debts - you can have a lot more scope with your cash. You might put away more money towards your mortgage repayments or save up for a holiday, the point is - if you want more from your money you'll have to reign your spending in and be a responsible person, and a responsible parent. There's a lot you can do with money, but not if you're constantly spending!


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Thursday, 8 June 2017

Getting Out Of A JAM Lifestyle

Life isn’t much fun when you’re only just managing to keep your head above water. As one of the millions that have been labelled as JAMs, or families that are just about managing, it’s hard to scrape by for the long term. Still, there are several ways you can tackle this lifestyle head on and make positive moves to a more prosperous future. First, you need to fix the challenges that you’re facing right now.
Credit cards, loans, and big monthly bills can easily suck every penny from your pay cheque. This can leave you with little for food or clothing. You might not be able to afford an annual holiday, and the kids are going without the trendy toys some of their friends are enjoying. What you need to do first is cut the expenses and manage your outgoings. Here’s how:
Re-finance

Look at your loan agreements and credit cards. While one or two may have a minimum agreement term on them, chances are you could shop around and get a better deal. When you’re looking for alternative secured homeowner loans, check the interest rate and repayment term are more favourable than the ones you have at the moment. Of course, you can use this kind of loan to clear other less favourable financial agreements too. Shop around and pick the products that best suit your circumstances without costing you more.

Clear The Credit Card

Did you know that most credit cards have much bigger interest rates than other loans? Worst still, they have no repayment terms! What you bought several years ago but never cleared from the card could have cost you hundreds of pounds more than the purchase price by now. Aim to get a zero balance here every month so that three hundred pound grocery shop doesn’t become thousands.
(Almost) Never Pay Full Price

To make your hard-earned pound stretch much further, you could use discount codes and vouchers to reduce the cost of many of the things you need to buy. Use comparison websites and shop around for everything that you need to purchase to see if you can find a lower price elsewhere. This is one of the best ways to buy much more for your money. You could aim to put all the pennies and pounds you save into a savings account like an ISA to cover that holiday or any nasty bills that come your way.

Living Within Your Means?

Most JAMs are only just managing to survive on their income because their income is low. Of course you’re living within your means. However, a few tweaks to your lifestyle might alter the meaning of the term for you personally. Leave the car at home a day or two a week to reduce your petrol costs. Enjoy lots of family days out in free places like public gardens and woodland. Change what it costs you to enjoy your lifestyle.
It’s never easy to cope, regardless of your income. Earning more is rarely an option for busy parents. But you can avoid the JAM label with a few tweaks and changes. Stop the struggle today.


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Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Lego wedding cake on a budget

I can't tell you how much time went into looking at wedding cakes, beautiful designs, simple designs, expensive ones or cheap ones. I just couldn't figure out what it was that I really wanted.

For some reason I had my heart set on a really detailed cake, icing flowers, 3 or 4 tiers and absolutely stunning, to match our colours created just for us... The price tag? Errm didn't think of that to start with but obviously for something so creative that takes so long to make ofcourse its going to cost you a fair amount of money - the cake maker deserves to charge that price tag because they're so talented.... what if you don't want to spend the money on that?

Well then Marks and Spencers to the rescue with their amazing selection of cakes. From stack your own to ones that are plain and need to be decorated to the ones they have beautifully decorated... some are just beautiful - you'd never guess they were from M&S.

Oh and remember colin the caterpillar? Well you can get Colin the groom and Connie the Bride - oh my word, so so cute. £50 each though so if you're on a budget wedding - they're probably just a little over the top. Who needs more than 1 cake?

What did we go for?

We decided to go for a simple cake, square to be a little different with a ribbon around the bottom of each tier - 3 tiers. All sponge cake which was absolutely delicious.

On top of the wedding cake I wanted something simple... Michael wanted Lego - so lego it was! Well, lets face it I had to allow him to make a few decisions regarding the day as it was his wedding too... I had to share it.

He decided he wanted the groom to be Darth Vader... Wish granted (with a little help from Oliver - who I told wasn't allowed to play with his own lego star wars mini fig because I needed it for the wedding...) Sorry Oliver but you'll get over it... in time.... I mean 10 weeks later and I've still got it on my windowsill but I promise, you'll have it back one day...
I managed to find a Lego wedding favour set which was perfect as a cake topper. it was only about £6..... he replaced the groom with Darth Vader and it looked so cute holding the ring. Part of me wanted to go further and get c3po, r2d2, yoda ect mini figures from Oliver's huge collection and put them randomly with storm troopers as wedding guests around the cake somewhere but I knew that was a little over the top for our simple wedding cake. 

When we collected the cake, they were very safely packaged in their own boxes. I made sure I had the dowel rods cut perfectly to size for Michael so all that was needed to be done on the day was stack them ontop of each other. They were simple to stack too but I bet you Michael took ages to do it - you would wouldn't you? imagine if you dropped it... "darling, what happened to the other tier of the cake" ... I ate it for breakfast??

It's the little personal touches that make a wedding yours. I loved this! Notice how the brides flowers are actually lilac just like our colour scheme... meant to be!

Total cost of our wedding cake £185 including the lego topper.

When we ordered our wedding cake from M&S it was cheaper than this... it's now gone up from £179 to £199 http://www.marksandspencer.com/3-tier-elegant-sponge-wedding-cake/p/p60009442?prevPage=plp 

I'm so glad we got married when we did - firstly because it was lovely and we love each other and secondly because the prices of things - everything wedding related, keeps going up and up... we probably wouldn't have been able to afford todays prices. We booked things 2 years ago which made a huge difference to the total cost of our wedding.




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Young people - get out there and vote on Thursday 8th June!

I can't force you to vote but if you're registered then please take that chance to vote. Young people especially, it's our future - our children's future that we are voting for and this is our country, we can't leave all the decisions up to the previous generations. We're grown up now - let's make some decisions and have our vote, it only takes a few minutes! I have never waited more than 5 minutes to vote. They're open almost all day - so what's your excuse?

I'm writing this because as a mother I'm genuinely worried about my children's future, I fear that one day a member of my family could be sick and we're left unable to afford healthcare because our amazing NHS is private - we're not a well off family, we're a young family, a husband that works 6 days per week to provide for our family, a mum (that's me) that's staying at home because childcare works out too expensive not to and two very cheeky children who have no idea how lucky they are to live in the United Kingdom. I love our country, I want to be proud of it... I want my children to be proud of it, so please can we just sort it out? This is real life, it's not a joke. We're not just playing a little computer game here.

There's some women who don't vote just because they can't be bothered - women won us the right to vote... we haven't always had that right so why on earth are you not all using it?! Men too, you've got to do your part and vote.

I can't seem to warm to Theresa May and you do realise that this whole chat on changing human rights law is just shameful play on recent events in our country don't you? She knows what to say just before an election to get you to vote for her. She is saying what she knows the public want to hear. She's playing a game. Arent they all? I would feel more confident in her if she turned up to debate others on TV programmes - to reach out to normal people like me. Yes she travelled around meeting people but seriously, you're the Prime Minister, is it too much to expect you to do both? No. it isn't. She isn't going to change human rights laws... damn, there's probably even a law saying you can't amend that law. Yes I just said damn - I didn't say I was an expert when it comes to politics. I'm just a lady. A 28 year old lady who is begging younger people to vote for us!

I watch my husband get home from work really late most days, he's self employed and works so hard. I fear that the rent is going to keep going up and up and one day we'll end up living with family because we can't afford it. One day my husband might not be able to cope with working so much, he might crack. He might break down because life gets so hard - I don't think he will but what if he did what would happen? We want to buy a house!! We don't want to be paying £1200 per month on privately renting one. If the rent keeps going up - we'll never be able to buy and it's a vicious cycle. But if we can't buy.... what chance do our children have? their children even??

So on Thursday 8th June please please find the time to vote. Vote for the best for our country as a whole, #forthemanynotthefew

I'm not sure Jeremy Corbyn is the right person for the job BUT I do think Labour is our best option - I dread to think of another 5 years conservatives though I'm 99% sure they will get in. Imagine if everyone went off to read this - http://www.labour.org.uk/page/-/Images/manifesto-2017/Labour%20Manifesto%202017.pdf and voted labour.

I don't want my children to grow up in a world that thinks it's acceptable to look down on those whom are less fortunate, what is going to happen to people who cant afford private healthcare? Did you know that it was Labour who created the NHS in 1948 and now there's a chance the conservatives want to make it private? Why don't we give the creators a chance at saving it instead! http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/nhs

I know, I'm a blogger - why listen to me? Because I'm a mum, having a rant... worrying about the future. The amount of people who came out after voting to leave the EU saying they didn't vote or they shouldn't have voted to leave.... well you should have learnt your lesson! So lets hope that you use your vote wisely, don't just go in that booth an tick whatever box, tick a box whos manifesto matches what YOU want for US.

I love the say For the many, not the few.

So young people if you've registered then PLEASE take 2 minutes to vote. Thanks,

That's the end of my rant now... as you were.

Regards,
a nagging mum!

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Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Buying Your New Family Car Made Easy


(Picture source: http://bit.ly/2qWOGv0)

When you have a family, certain things become more important. One of those things is your car. You may not have cared much about it before, but now it’s an integral part of family life. You need to ensure you have a car that fits your family’s usage, which means you’ll be looking for something different to a regular car you’d buy for yourself.
If you’re ready to buy a new family car, then you probably think the task is quite daunting. However, I’m about to make it a whole lot easier with this little guide. Below, you’ll find a few of my top tips to help you buy a new family car with ease:

Compare To Get The Best Deals

When buying a car, you’ll know that there are loads of different deals out there. Some people may sell the same car for a lot less than someone else. To avoid being ripped off, you should come up with a shortlist of family cars, and then compare their prices to find the best value option. But, the comparison shouldn’t end there. There are other elements of car buying that need comparing too. As well as the cars themselves you should also compare insurance, credit card, and loans. It’s important you find the cheapest car insurance policy as it can save you money on the running costs. As for credit cards and loans, well, these are two options you can consider to help finance your purchase. So, it pays to find the best value finance option too. By comparing things, you will find the overall best deal and buy a car that’s more affordable for you and your family.

Narrow Down Your Search

I mentioned a shortlist in the above point, and this is something everyone should look to create. In doing so, you narrow down your search and make life a lot easier. It’s really easy to narrow down a family car search, all you have to do is look for cars with all the essential family-friendly features. For example; good safety features, a high safety rating, comfortable ride, adequate space for your family, enough seats, etc. You’ll soon find that your choice of car reduces dramatically after you list all the things you need.

Make Good Use Of Your Old Car

Most people go to buy a new family car when their old one just isn’t doing it for them anymore. Or, your old car just isn’t suitable for a family, and you need something more appropriate with a child on the way. Regardless, you should make good use of your old car to help you purchase this new one. Try to find a dealer that will agree a part-exchange deal with you, which means they take your car off your hands, and will deduct the price of the new one as part of the exchange. It can save you a lot of money, and also a lot of time too as you don’t have to go through the effort of trying to sell your car on the market.
Buying a new family car is made so much easier when you follow these three tips. There’s nothing groundbreaking about my advice, but it will definitely help you make the right decision for your family and your finances!

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A conversation with a 7 year old about terrorism

I don't intend for this post to be guidance for parents on how to talk to their children about terrorism because I am not the right person to advise on that one but I am sharing a conversation I had yesterday with my son Oliver who is almost 8 years old and what he thought about it - I didn't plan the conversation like I probably should have done but when Oliver came out of school yesterday he looked worried, he was very grumpy - more so than usual and snappy, oh so snappy! I questioned what was wrong and he just snapped at me, nothing... ok.. So like most other mums have learnt by the time their child is 7 years old you just start chatting about something else and if it's something that is really bugging them - then they'll tell you it fairly quickly.... and he did!

Age 7 is tricky because they're at school - you don't know what other children already know and will share with them, you also take them to shops right? Where there's newspapers... well your 7 year old can now read these headlines and without explanation can be even scarier than they are and lets face it they're very scary as it is.


At school - I'm not sure who said it but apparently someone told him there were men dropping bombs from planes in London and he was worried that would happen here and fall onto him. The utter confusion and panic in his face meant I did need to explain something to him now because someone else had said something that wasn't true. Could I make him feel any better with the 'truth' though? Currently he thought that in London throughout the day loads of people were dying due to random bombs every now and then falling onto them... what?! How had this other child got the wrong information from somewhere?

As a mum I'm sure there's going to be some very hard conversations I need to have with both of my children but this one for some reason just felt so difficult because as an adult it's never possible to understand terrorists so how could I phrase what I was trying to say to a child who definitely isn't going to understand it either, children look to you as their parent for an explanation as to WHY this has happened, that's why they always question why because you know the answer and you're their hero, you're always right but I don't know. I have no idea, I can't even begin to understand what goes through these peoples brains.

So this is how our conversation went -
I asked him if he remembered the bridge incident a few months ago that he saw a bit of on TV before I quickly turned it off, of course he did remember it, he was very scared by it and actually he decided - for himself! that he didn't want to go on a school trip - to the Islamic cultural centre in London, not because he had connected the dots to Islam but because he had connected the dots to London and now in his brain, London was no longer safe... what!!! It proved an impossible task to get him to go on the school trip and at the same time I didn't want to force him to go, if he really didn't want to. I confessed to him that this was a terror attack, he nodded his head and said I know, bad people.

I told him that a few weeks ago whilst loads of people - young and old were at a concert for Ariana Grande, they had a lovely time listening to her songs such as the ones we often play on youtube and dance around the room together on our pretend discos! I told him that once she had finished and people started to leave, some of them, 22 were killed by a man who wasn't a nice person. I went into detail!

I told him that the man had made a bomb, he was a very bad man and he decided to make that bomb to hurt people, to kill people and to upset everyone in our country. But WHY?! ... I don't know Oliver, I genuinely don't understand - no one does. These people are brain washed - But Oliver questioned what's brain washed? .... hmmm ... you know when you pause for a second to collect your answer from loads of words flying around your head? This wasn't a conversation I wanted to be having with my 7 year old. Was I even right to start this conversation? so I settled with they are convinced to believe something is correct. Oh. Ok so why didn't his friends stop him doing this? Tell him it was not good? Stop them? Well - that's a good question Oliver - maybe they didn't know? (I didn't know how to say perhaps they were just as bad as this bad person?! I didn't have the heart to say that to him)

I told him that on the weekend, it happened again. Three men had decided to hurt people, cause pain and loss of life again. Why? I don't know why Oliver.

I continued to tell him, they drove a van into people that were on the pavement and they really hurt them, killed some of them. His face - the utter shock, confusion and pain for these people. My 7 year old can see just how wrong, how heartbreaking this is. Why can't they?


I didn't stop there - perhaps I should have but I continued, I thought to myself - you've started now so you need to explain some more incase other kids tell him more lies, I want him to know what happened. I told him that they had knives and stabbed people. He cried. I expected the tears - it's a heart breaking thing to have to tell your child they live in a world with very nasty people.

Then he got scared, what if they come here? I don't want them to hurt anyone else at all. I know you don't Oliver and I'm praying that this world doesn't get any worse as you continue to grow up in it.

I promised him that they won't come to our towns - I don't know that but how could I tell him that? He doesn't need to know that. This little lie I needed to tell to make him feel safe.

He asked me why did they kill themselves? he thinks that living in our world is nice.

Were any children killed mummy? Oh, this is heart tugging. Yes, yes they were. which was quickly followed by "do they want to kill more children?" Sheer look of terror, I cuddled him, held him and told him I will spend my life making sure he is safe. WHAT THE ACTUAL F**K. I can't believe I started this conversation. I change my mind. *but rewind button isn't working!!!*

Then my 7 year old asked, Is there going to be another world war? - having learnt about world wars at school, Oliver is now worried this will turn into one.

His feelings are what I expected; shocked, anger, fright and followed by sadness.

I'm not sure at this point why I started telling him the truth but afterwards I'm glad I did. I couldn't have him thinking that planes were randomly fly above us and drop bombs on us. I couldn't let him think that may happen but I didn't want to just dismiss it, it didn't feel right to lie to him. I had to tell him something so I decided that the truth was the best, you may agree with what I did or you may disagree and think he's too young.

I find it so important to stress that these terrorists are not what Muslims are like, I've been friends throughout my life with Muslims and none of those friends share the thoughts of these awful people. It scares me that people could turn on Muslims because of their religion being used in this way. I want my children to be friends with everyone; Hindu, Muslim, Christian or Jewish! I want to teach them to love and not to hate.

The impact of what has happened recently will affect our children whether we tell them the truth or not, they may ask why suddenly there's more police at functions or their school friends may tell them something that isn't true but still scary, I'd rather my children grow up knowing the truth and feeling in some way comfort that there is a lot of good people too - if that makes any sense at all. I want my child to know that as a nation we will look after each other, we have an amazing team of police, paramedics, doctors, nurses as well as just every day ordinary people who will help you.

I believe we need to empower our children with the knowledge and as much understanding as we can give them to cope with this, I want my children to know that if they're ever worried about anything then they can talk to me. I also want them to be alert when we're out and about.

I told him when something bad happens, look for the good people. Look for the police officers keeping people safe, look for the paramedics and doctors saving peoples lives... look for members of the public offering help in any little way that they can.

And as for the planes - I told him that was nonsense, I told him we have people watching our airspace and keeping it safe. He found comfort in that too. It worries me what the other child has heard - are they worried too and has anyone thought to have a chat with them about it too? I've told Oliver not to go to school and tell children what I have told him. I've told him to tell them that we have an amazing police force, NHS who save lives and RAF, Army, Navy all of whom will look after us. I've told him we are lucky to live in our country.

Do you know what made Oliver feel better? We sat down together yesterday to put catch up on the tv and we watch the One Love Manchester concert which was on Sunday, as it zoomed out and showed how many people were there... I told Oliver that they were all good people, all happy people who love each other and want to help look after everyone to be safe. He found comfort in that, he liked that they were there together having fun, that made him feel safer knowing that there were thousands of nice people so thank you Ariana Grande and all of the other artists who made that concert happen.

Have you spoken to your children about it too?



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Delicious Edible Gift Ideas for Any Occasion


Having trouble picking a gift? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Whether it’s for a special occasion like an anniversary or just something small like a friendly get-together, there’s always room for gifts and it can often be difficult trying to pick something out. Whether it’s a personalised gift, a sentimental one, or something practical that your recipient can use straight away, there are far too many choices and you might be spoilt for choice, or simply lack any inspiration.

If that’s the case, why not pick something edible? Edible gifts are for every occasion and you can always customise them to fit something special. For instance, if it’s Easter, egg-shaped gifts are common. If it’s Christmas, then something festive like Christmas trees can be used. If it’s for Valentines, then why not buy some heart-shaped chocolates instead? To help you out, here are a couple of delicious edible gift ideas for any occasion.


Homemade Cookies

Nothing is as comforting as a batch of fresh, delicious homemade cookies. There are countless cookie recipes available on the internet, and you can add pretty much anything you want to them. You could make big cookies with a few chocolate chips, you could add nuts, fruits or even bacon bits if you really wanted to. You can experiment with unique cookies to give as a fun gift to a curious friend, or you could decorate them with festive icing.

Personalised Treats

There are plenty of services on the internet that let you purchase a personalised treat for your recipient. For instance, Chocogram allows you to send customised messages in the form of chocolate tiles. This makes a delicious and fun idea to send to anyone, and the only limit is your imagination because you need to think of a message to give. If you want something a little more generic, then you can also buy gift hampers full of edible treats. These can range from retro sweets to alcohol treats and even meat hampers with steaks and bacon. Just make sure to avoid giving a gift that isn’t compatible with your recipient. For instance, if they can’t eat nuts, then stay well away from them and if they’re trying to lower their sugar intake, try to get sugar-free gifts.

Hot Chocolate Jars

These are beautiful and delicious ideas that have become popular over the past couple of years. Homemade hot chocolate is sweet, creamy and wonderfully flavourful. Simply add a layer of sugar and cocoa powder into a mason jar and you have a fully functional hot chocolate jar, albeit a boring one. To spice it up, add a thin layer of a spice such as cinnamon, add chocolate droplets on top, or even some marshmallows. To serve, simply remove the marshmallows and other toppings, then mix the powder and sugar. Simmer some milk over a low heat and then spoon the mixture into the milk, stirring it until it becomes a delicious and frothy hot chocolate. Pour it into some cups, then top with the marshmallows and other toppings. Not only do these mason jars look lovely, they can also be decorated and stored relatively easily. They look wonderful if the dry ingredients are layered properly, and you can make them in large batches to send to friends and family.

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