Featured Post: Some simple tips to help you tackle rising living costs

on the beach

A rare moment of summer sunshine

I don’t know about you, but in the past couple of years everything has started seeming more expensive. I’ve not been spending extravagantly or anything, just maintaining what we’ve been doing. However, I think the reason behind it is that everything really is more expensive! Last year our weekly shopping was somewhere in the region of £100, before you think that’s a lot, there are 5 of us in our household including three growing children. Nowadays the weekly shopping is usually around £200.

 

I know that we are not the only household in this situation, a straw poll at work tells me that nearly everyone is feeling the pinch and it’s difficult to know and to recognise when to put the brakes on your spending. It’s also quite hard to accept that you need to tackle the situation heads on, who wants to feel worse off!

Christmas is just three weeks away and if your household is anything like ours you’ll be entering the red very shortly. I think we spend at least another additional £500 this time of year which I never seem to manage to plan for.

In the spirit of this, and because quite frankly we need to reign our spending in a bit here, I’ve come up with a few practical tips to help you reduce your day to day costs. These are all things we’ve done here (with the exception of the final one) and they seem to be making a bit of a difference.

Shop around for Energy

Revisit your energy suppliers and use a price comparison site to check you’re still getting the best deal. If not, swop! One year we saved nearly £300 doing this.

Shop around for Insurance

Car insurance, buildings and contents for your house and life insurance all add up. Make sure you use a compassion site to get the best deal for this, also you’ll find that you can get some great deals by using the same company in combined policies, for example if you use the same insurance company for two cars you’ll save nearly a third.

Change supermarkets

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with regular trips to the same supermarket. However, I have found that if I shop around a little then I do tend to save money. I’ve noticed that some supermarkets are considerably  and consistently cheaper than others for a variety of things so stock up on pasta in one supermarket and crisps in another and you’ll soon find you make savings.

Use the Library!

One of the most easy and passive ways I’ve found to save money is to use the library digital magazine apps. With your library card you’ll find that you can access a range of free magazines online and they are delivered in exactly the same way as if you’d take out a subscription. No compromise here, just money saving!

Maximise the potential of your house

Some of my friends live close to  the train station and they don’t use their driveway so they rent it out. Others allow television companies to use their houses as location shoots. We’ve not managed to do this yet, but I think with a bit of effort it might be worth considering.

There are lots of other things you can do which can help you maximise your current income and generate some passive income which will all help. If you’d like some other ideas have a look at this website.

Featured Post: Kitting the Whole Family Out with Great Swimwear

Brilliant beach in West Wales ideal for swimming or coasteering

Swimming is a great way to past the time. It is fun, keeps you fit and is something you can potentially enjoy year round, as a family.

No point in the UK is more than 70 miles from the sea. So, most families can easily take a day trip to the seaside. During the winter months, you can simply switch to visiting your nearest swimming pool.

To start enjoying this pastime all you need to do is to kit everyone out with some swimwear. You can easily buy what you need from online retailers like Simply Be. Here are a few tips to help you to quickly find what you need.

Measure everyone

Before you do anything else, measure everyone you are planning to buy new swimwear for. This is the best way to get the sizing right.

Another way of doing it is to measure something that you already own. Provided it fits well, of course. It is easy to measure a pair of trunks or swimming shorts. If you want to measure a swimsuit or bikini that you already own, this guide will help you to do it properly.

Buy good quality swimwear

If you are planning to go swimming on a regular basis, it makes sense to buy good quality items. Remember that both salt and chlorinated water make swimwear wear out faster. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do about this fact. Rinsing everyone’s costumes out as soon as possible will help. However, if you buy cheap swimwear it will not last very long. The fibres will start to break down after just a few weeks of wear. When that happens the costume will start to sag and fade.

Buy the right cut

For both men and women, there are several styles of swimwear to choose between. You want everyone in the family to feel comfortable while wearing their swimming costumes. So, take the time to find out what each member of your family would like to wear and try to buy something in that style.

Of course, it needs to be modest. If the swimwear you are buying will be worn on holiday bear in mind the dress code of the place you are planning to visit. For example, in France, most swimming pools will not allow men or boys to wear swimming shorts. So, if you will be staying there you will need to kit the male members of your family out with trunks instead.

If you, or other family members, are planning to take part in water sports or beach games you will need to bear this in mind as well. Some styles of swimwear, for example, string bikinis are not suitable for most watersports.

Goggles and buoyancy aids

If your children are young or are not confident in the water you will want to buy them some sort of buoyancy aids. A few years ago I wrote a short guide about buying them and goggles. You can read it here.

Featured Post: Fun for kids: 5 Things Every Parent Should Do for a Road Trip With Kids

Any expert will tell you that it pays to be well prepared before attempting a road trip with kids. Having some fun things to keep the kids occupied, along with snacks, drinks and the expectation that you’ll need to stop often, a road trip can actually be an enjoyable way to travel for kids and parents. The following ideas are sure to make the miles speed by without taking the smiles off your faces.

Make a Map

Kids, especially younger ones, like to ask repeatedly whether you’re there yet. By making them a map, they can assess how much further you have to go. Make a child-friendly map that features photos or drawings of the landmarks you’ll encounter along the way. Your child can mark off the landmarks as you drive so they know when you’re getting closer.

Make Some Stops for Fun

If you plan for stops along the way, you’ll all have fun and you won’t have to stress so much about making good time. There are all sorts of great attractions all over Britain and making time to see some of them makes for great memories and keeps kids from getting bored and cranky in the car. Look for museums, roadside fruit stands, quirky truck stops and other stuff along the way. You won’t be sorry! If you think you would make a better trip with a bigger or better car, take the opportunity. IntelligentcarLeasing.com offers the best prices for car leasing and you can lease a vehicle ideal for your trip.

Bring a Portable DVD Player

Any parent who has taken their child on a road trip will tell you that a portable DVD player is the best investment you’ll ever make. You can hook the device up the car via the Bluetooth or cigarette lighter, allowing your child to watch his or her favourite movies along the way. This is a great way to keep things calm and quiet along the way and a movie can also help a child fall asleep if you’re traveling at night or during naptime.

Save the Electronics for a Last Resort

Kids love their tablets and handheld video games, but even those will get boring after playing for hours. Stash them until your child is on his or her last bit of patience with riding in the car or when you’re stuck in traffic. Just when things are reaching their breaking point, hand over the device and things will be immediately better.

Consider Elevation

If you plan to drive into the mountains or otherwise climb in elevation, pack some snacks your child can chew or suck on. This helps relieve the pain and pressure in your child’s ear and gives them a tasty treat to look forward to on the road. You might even want one for yourself if you’re uncomfortable with changes in elevation. No one turns down candy!

A road trip doesn’t have to be a miserable experience. By planning it well in advance, you’ll have plenty to keep the kids entertained and everyone will look back on the trip with fondness because your memories will be pleasurable rather than disastrous.

Featured Post: Garden Lighting Projects that Will Transform Your Garden

The other day I was looking at garden lights from LED Hut and was surprised by how much choice there was. Garden lighting has come a long way. It really does not matter what type of ambience you want to achieve you can do it.

A sleek chic look

If your garden is all about clean lines then strip lighting could be the way to go. In the past few years, it has fallen drastically in price. This form of lighting is no longer the reserve of hotel pools and the owners of palatial homes.

You can simply use it to highlight any steps in your garden, or you can get a bit more creative. The lighting can potentially be installed on each fence post to create a row of beautiful upright strips that look like they are hovering above the ground. Or, you can run it around the edge of pots to highlight them and turn them and the plants they contain into stunning natural garden sculptures.

A soft oasis

For someone who likes everything to be a little warmer and softer, there are plenty of options. Installing deck lights is a great way to light up the communal floor spaces in your garden. If you buy the right kind, they can also be used to light up floors that are made of harder materials such as concrete. The light they give off is usually soft and very relaxing. Using spike lights you can create soft puddles of light that pick out some of your favourite trees or garden ornaments.

If you have a body of water in your garden, do not forget to light that up too. There is nothing more restful that listening to the sound of running water while you watch your fish swim serenely by in an otherwise dark space. The fact the body of water is the brightest element in the garden draws your eye to it and helps you to focus only on that. It really is a great way to lull yourself into a meditative state.

A place to play and entertain

Many people like to use their garden to entertain, for them, good quality lighting is essential. It allows them to continue to cook and serve their guests long after dark.

Again, there are many options. However, usually in that situation, you want your lights to be mounted quite high so that they create big puddles of light. Taking this approach means that you will need fewer fixtures to cast light across a big area. However, when installing this type of lighting, you need to think about your neighbours. Light pollution is increasingly becoming a problem in urban areas.

More ideas

If you would like more inspiration, just click the link. The article you will be taken too includes examples of 38 innovative garden lighting ideas. Most of them are for the type of luxury lighting you see used in high-end hotels and large properties. However, as you will see, the vast majority of them actually work really well for normal residential properties.

 

 

Featured Post: Choosing the perfect family pooch

So you have finally decided it is time for the family to grow and you are ready for the patter of tiny feet. Add to that a wet nose and a wagging tail and it can only mean one thing. Congratulations, you are going to share your life with your first family dog, and thing will never be quite the same again!

Deciding to get a dog is a big decision in itself, but it is only the beginning. The next question is what sort. Ask ten people and you will get ten answers, because each breed has its own foibles. One thing to remember, however, is that it can be a mistake to generalize. Suggesting that a spaniel will be hyperactive or a Rottweiler will be aggressive can be as inaccurate as making assumptions about a human on the basis of their race or nationality.

Remember, every dog has a unique character of its own, so see beyond the breed. In fact, some of the very best dogs are of no discernible breed at all, and there are no end of cross breed puppies for sale that will make wonderful pets and not cost you the earth.

So now that we have the question of breed disposed of, what else should you consider?

Family dynamics

Every family has its own dynamics, and these will affect your choice of dog. Young kids in the household? If you have under fives, you need to supervise closely for the safety of everyone, but it makes sense to get a puppy that will have a chance to grow up alongside the kids. Just remember, every dog has teeth and will use them, so what’s more important is to set ground rules for everyone – whether they are two or four-legged!

Temperament

As we mentioned earlier, every dog has its own character – but the breed will at least give you some clues as to what traits you might expect to see. Working dogs, such as border collies, need their own space, while breeds like Dalmatians thrive on attention and fun. Gun dogs tend to be sociable and obedient, while terriers can be more of a law unto themselves. But always remember, nurture plays a bigger role than nature, so do not get too caught up in the stereotypes!

Training

A key aspect of a dog’s temperament is how easy it is to train. Again, there are some clues in the breeds here, but when it comes down to it, any dog can be trained with determination and consistency. With that important caveat in mind, you will usually find that working dogs – Labradors, German Shepherds, Collies and the like – are keen to learn and eager to please. Huskies are notoriously difficult – not because they do not understand, but because they have an almost cat-like habit of deciding for themselves whether or not to obey.

Exercise

Every dog needs daily exercise and stimulation, and if they do not get it, they will become bored, stressed and often destructive – they are really not so unlike people. While working dogs need more exercise and longer walks than smaller breeds, even the tiniest terrier still needs to go out for a walk every day.