Monday, 30 December 2013

My 2014 Financial Plans

Each year I assign a word for the forthcoming year last years word was Joy and you can read more about it over on the Mad House and this years word Nurture.

However I thought it was high time I set an annual plan, in addition to my seasonal manifesto's

So for 2014 my financial word of the year is Prudence

  1. 1.
    the quality of being prudent; cautiousness.
    "we need to exercise prudence in such important matters"
    synonyms:wisdom, judgement, good judgement, judiciousness, sagacity,shrewdness, advisability, common sense, sense
    "foresters argue about the prudence of drastic thinning"
    caution, cautiousness, care, carefulness, canniness, chariness,wariness, circumspection;
    far-sightedness, foresight, forethought;
    "an elder counselled prudence"
    thrift, thriftiness, providence, good management, careful budgeting,economy, canniness, frugality, abstemiousness;
    "thanks to his father's prudence, a fortune was made"

We have been in our home for nearly eight years and we really need to make some updates to it.  We need a new stair and hall carpet.  New bedroom furniture is needed for the boys as we bought the cheapest we could find when we moved in.

We also have some debt that we need to pay off before moving forward with this work.

So I plan to:

  • Declutter and continue to sell things we no longer need or want.
  • To only buy things we need.  
  • To think twice about whether we need something.
  • To continue meal planning and reducing food waste
  • Look for new ways to bring additional income into the house.
  • To use up what we already have.  I will not stockpile.  Specifically I will not buy anymore fabric until I use up my stash or sell it.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Navigating the Sales - our purchases

Do you love or loath the January Sales?

I have been pretty under the weather since returning from holiday and had a hit list of items that we needed from the sales that we had saved for.

Yes, I saved money for the sales.  I knew what we needed and this year decided to define what a bargain was.  We decided things were only bargains if we needed them.  

So what was on our list.

Clothes for Maxi Mad. 

Gap Outlet store (40% additional off sales items).  Perfect for long sleeved tops to go under summer t shirts. 
Fat face.  Great quality that lasts for both boys and gets passed on.
Mini Boden.  Maxi has a love of tartan baggies. 
John Lewis. Fab PJ's
Juicy Tots.  We love Maxomorra clothes.


A new suit for work - M&S outlet.
Work shirts
Everyday clothes from fat face

Mini Mad

Headphones - HMV 50% off


A new sewing machine - John Lewis


Wrapping for next Christmas
New Roasting tray

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Why I love Poundland, especially at this time of year

I am a huge lover of Poundland.  As a thrifty Mum how can I not be?  I used to love going in with my Mum and looking for bargains and know that it is the place to look before shopping at most of the other stores.

They recently gave me £20 in vouchers and asked me to go shopping for Christmas and I was delighted with what I got.

Horrid Henry Books x 2 - £1 each Perfect for the boys friends for Christmas
Find the Meerkat book - £1 for my Where's Wally loving Maxi
Fantastic Red felt table mats x 6 - £1 each
Red felt coasters x 4 - £1 for all  four
3 cadbury selection boxed - £2 (three for two), gifts for the boys little friends
A giant candy cane - £1 for Mini's stocking
Cupcake cases x 100 - £1 for a gift
Haribo pack - £1 - perfect stocking fillers
Batteries - £1 a pack.  Why go anywhere else and they last too.
Chocolate coins x 2 -  £1 a pack for the boys Christmas Eve Bag.
Lightening Wire - £1 for a certain christmas present.

I have been unwell and in hospital for the last week and have really missed out of getting bits and pieces for the boys stockings and all my wrapping from Poundland.  They have had some great Christmas stuff in this year. I wish I could have got a couple of Christmas Elves delivery bags in my local store.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

New Year, New You

The New Year is a great time for a spot of reinvention, and the perfect opportunity for fresh starts and a new outlook. Along with making some resolutions about the coming year, you might also like to have a bit of a physical transformation to go along with your new mind-set. By combining both lifestyle changes and changes to aspects of your look, you can have a whole new you for the coming year, so start planning the 2014 version of yourself now!

Quit something

Let’s face it, everyone has a bad habit or seven, and most people can think of something they might be able to give up that would improve their lives. Whether it’s something big like smoking, or something a little less extreme like hoarding or impulse buying, the New Year is a great excuse to give it up and stick to it. Before the clock strikes midnight put measures in place to dissuade you from your bad habit, such as a penny pot for money you are saving, or an incentive like a chart with a monthly reward. If you manage to ditch something you’d rather not be doing you are on your way to a happier version of yourself.

Take up something

Do you find your spare time is often frittered away on watching TV or hanging out in your PJs? Taking up a new hobby or a part time job could be a really constructive way of using this time and will help you be a happier more rounded individual. Often people take up exercise in January with the hope of becoming healthier and maybe meeting a few different types of people. You could also use the turn of the year as the point at which you learn a new skill or pick up some extra cash with a second job.

Revamp your wardrobe

A big part of how you feel is how you present yourself and whether you feel confident in what you are wearing. Use the January sales as a reason to get a whole new look and treat yourself to some new clothes. This doesn’t need to be super expensive, and you could get a whole new wardrobe for less than you’d expect with ranges like George's women’s clothes making your new look affordable and stylish.

Pamper yourself

Looking and feeling great is not all about what you wear, it’s about feeling fab inside and out. Eating well and taking time out for a little TLC and pampering can help you to get the New Year off to a good start, feeling a million dollars. If you can’t afford a trip to a hairdresser or beautician, then invest in a few home kits and set aside some time to indulge in some “me time”. Promise yourself to have a little session like this once a month to make sure you feel just as fab this time next year.

Whatever you have decided to change in the coming year, make sure it’s a positive move and will make your life better in some way. This might be by an increase in confidence, or a better financial or health situation. Stick to the promises you make on the 1st of January and have a great 2014.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Portable North Pole - A personalised Video Message from Sata

Each year the boys look forward to their personalised video message from Father Christmas and The Portable North Pole.

It has become a family tradition and it is great to see the improvements that PNP have made over the years.  Initially Father Christmas never said the boys names, then only Maxi's and now he also can say Mini's too!

You can pop your child's details in and a photo of them for the basic video.  My boys are seven and eight and we are holding on to the tradition of Father Christmas for as long as possible and the joy on their faces when they see the video is just great.

This year there are more options, so both the boys video's are different and it looks as though they are just for them and they both said they were different from last years!

Now I am off to make me one and put myself on the good list!

Friday, 13 December 2013

#XmasJumperDay - The Alvin Edition

Never one to miss a thing Alvin, our eight month old Bichon Frishe has joined in the fun as today is #XmasJumperDay.

Want to know more about #XmasJumperDay then pop over to Thinly Spread and Christine will tell you about it much better than I can.  

Donate a Pound Text TEAMTHINLYS to 70050 or pay in here *

The wonderful jumper that Alvin is wearing was sent to him from Pets at Home as part of a Christmas Hamper to celebrate his first Christmas. 

Things that are Easily Forgotten at Christmas

With a million and one things to think about at Christmas, it’s only natural that one or two things may slip to the back of your mind, or get forgotten about completely. After all, we can only be superheroes 364 days of the year, surely?
We’ve made a list of some of the most common things that people forget about in a bid to avoid the last minute stomach drop when you realise on Christmas Eve that you’ve forgotten the turkey. (Ok, we don’t think anyone is quite that bad, but still).

Seems a little obvious, but then some of the easiest things to forget are. If doing some of your shopping online, why not look for stores that offer cards as well? That way you can tick two things off your list at once. Charity cards are a great way to spread a little more Christmas cheer and are a lovely way to donate to your favourite cause. Or you could even make cards your own like we do

That one gift
There always seems to be one person that turns up at your house who you’d just altogether completely forgot to buy for. Or even worse, they hand you over a gift and you have nothing to give them back. It’s always a good idea to keep a bunch of spare xmas gifts that would suit a whole host of people at home in case of these social emergencies. You can find gifts to suit lots of people by clicking here.

Gift tags
A daft one, but one you’ll be kicking yourself for when you’ve organised all the kid’s presents under the tree, and then have no idea whose is whose. You could get stickers to identify the kid’s ones, and then fancy gift tags for those recipients that you’re trying hard to impress.

It’s always the same every year – too many people, too few chairs. Aim to get things organised a good few days in advance, so it’s one less thing to stress about on the big day. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to contribute to the chairs!

Christmas dinner essentials
There always seems to be one ingredient that just slips our minds whilst we do the dreaded big food shop, whether it’s stuffing, cranberry sauce or gravy. The best way to avoid this is to check, double check and then check again (and hope there’s a supermarket open nearby on Christmas Eve).

Having lots of things to wrap can have a slight negative effect on your sanity, but also your sellotape. Make sure you have a huge supply so that you’re not left looking around the house for other sticky things that could suffice to stick the paper together.

You won’t be very popular on Christmas morning if you’ve forgotten the key to make the little ones’ shiny new presents work. Make sure you practically have a cupboard full of them to avoid trembling bottom lips come dinner time. Oh, and double check which type of battery your child’s toy will need!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

How your credit card can reward you this Christmas

Christmas is a time for giving, with even big businesses making an effort to help. If you play your cards right, you'll find your credit provider is just as tuned in to the spirit of the season as your family.


One of the simplest ways to make the most of your Christmas spending is with credit card cashback schemes. The most generous offers can repay as much as 5% of your spend, which means that it really does pay to make your Christmas purchases on a credit card. The crucial proviso is to ensure that you stick to a reasonable budget so that you can pay off your bill at the end of the month, to avoid letting your interest costs dwarf the gains you make from cashback.

Reward schemes

Many credit cards come with reward schemes, which accumulate points for every pound spent. These points can then be redeemed for a huge range of essential and desirable goods and services, ranging from flights to electrical goods and even groceries. The best way to make the most of these is to choose the scheme that best fits your spending habits. If you frequent a particular shop or supermarket, check whether there's a credit card that combines with their particular loyalty scheme to enhance your earnings - for example, the American Express Nectar Credit Card (representative 25% APR variable) offers four Nectar points for every pound spend at Nectar partners.  

0% purchase credit

If you're feeling generous this Christmas, or have a particularly grand gift in mind for a special someone and you want to spread the payments to avoid taking a quick financial hit, the best way to save money is to use a credit card offering 0% purchase credit. This allows you to pay off your purchase gradually, without added interest payments. 

Purchase protection

All credit cards protect payments of between £100 and £30,000 from retailers going bankrupt, failing to deliver, or delivering faulty goods. Many offer even better deals, which replace stolen or damaged goods. This kind of protection against Christmas mishaps is one of the most overlooked rewards available, but in the worst-case scenario, it could make all the difference.

Special offers

Although using credit card rewards usually involves a bit of forward thinking, some are tailor made for last-minute shoppers. American Express UK, for example, has a regularly updated selection of special offers available to their customers. These include deals in travel, dining and shopping, so you're bound to find something special if you're stuck for gift ideas - just try not to leave it until Christmas Eve!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Are you saving for your future - pension jargon explained.

There has been a lot of news in the UK press this last week about the retirement age for state pension rising and this got me thinking about pensions and saving for our future.

Pensions and all the jargon about them really confuse me, so I have decided to try and explain some of the Pension jargon.
  • Superannuation - Superannuation is essentially what employers pay employees into their retirement funds
  • State Pension - The pension that you will revive from the government when you reach their appointed retirement age.
  • Private Pension - These fall in to three main catagories.
  • Standard pensions. This is where you and/or your employer make regular monthly payments
  • Stakeholder pensions. These are similar to standard pensions, but have low and flexible minimum contributions, capped charges and a default investment choice so you don't have to make the decision where to put your cash.
  • Self-invested personal pensions (Sipps). These work in the same way but are DIY pensions, allowing you to choose your investment. Investors
  • Annuity: The usual means by which a pension fund is converted into an annual fixed income for life. This is paid regardless of how long the recipient lives,  You can have joint or single annuities. 
  • Additional voluntary contributions (AVCs): pension top-ups to a company or occupational scheme, which individual savers choose to make in addition to whatever the scheme requires.
  • Free-standing AVCs (FSAVCs): pension top-ups to a personal plan which is unconnected to any company or occupational scheme.
This post is brought to you in conjunction with Suncorp Superannuation, click here to visit Suncorp superannuation

Our Christmas Decorations

Being out of the country for the start of Advent has left me somewhat not in the Christmas mood.  Also I find it really difficult since my Mum died two years ago on Christmas Eve.  However, it is really important to me to keep the magic alive for the boys for as long as I possibly can.
One of the ways I do this is to have a number of traditions that we do each year.  The boys look forward to them and it really helps me find joy in the small things.
So far this year, we have spend Saturday evening putting up our Christmas Tree.  Each year we get the boys to buy a new ornament and putting the tree up is a real trip down memory lane for us all.  We talk about when each decoration is from and what it means to us.  Also a lot of the decorations were my mums, so we talk about Christmas past when I was growing up.  Also the boys were both gifted a Christmas ornament as a Christening gift by a dead friend who is no longer with us, so each year they place that on the tree and remember her kindness and love.  We have been busy looking at the fab christmas lights at for when the time comes to replace our outdoor lights.
So I want to share some of our decorations with you and show you what they mean to us.
  1. The cross stick stocking was done by me as a child and it still has the original chocolate coins in it and came off my mums tree.
  2. Happy Grinchmas 2013, we brought this back from Florida.
  3. Bead ornament was brought back from South Africa over 10 years ago.
  4. Delft ornament was given to me by Mum when she visited Holland.
  5. The small nativity was my mums and she always placed it on top of the TV, so do I.
  6. The Guardian Angel was given to me by Mum
  7. The boys made the pine cone decoration
  8. The Tinkerbell decoration was bought for my Mum by my SIL.
  9. The 2000 is self explanatory!
  10. The boys and me made the spool ornament.

Friday, 6 December 2013


Most parents will tell anyone that listens about the tales of tantrums and terribleness, tears and trauma that can accompany bedtime for tiny tots. In fact, sometimes it lasts way past infancy and well into primary school. Of course, there are always going to special occasions when the kids are just too excited to go to sleep when it’s bedtime. The night before Christmas, their birthday, a holiday or even favoured relatives coming to visit, all these add up to more night’s than a parent would like to have to get into a wrestling match at bedtime!

One key point in helping your child trot happily off to bed, is to NEVER alter their nightly routine unless it is absolutely necessary. Same time to bed and same time to wake up in the morning is said to be they key to setting a child’s body clock and keeping a beneficial balance to their sleep/wake cycle. Even a lie-in on a weekend can damage their internal body clock, so trying to stick to a regular routine is important.

Bed Time

A comfortable bed that supports a child’s body is also in good condition, for example, no lumpy mattresses or broken coiled springs, and a good solid frame. Many parents opt for novelty beds, which are fantastic fun and for toddlers work very well in a budget and don’t want to have to change the bed every time your child grows a few more inches, take a look at the winter sales online such as solid well-made frame should last for years, with only the mattress in need of more regular replacement.

Nothing can beat a
regular bedtime routine for a small child. A relaxing bath taken a good hour before sleepy time will be more beneficial as the body temperature will cool once out of the bath, then slowly rise again, helping the child feel sleepy.
No toys an hour before bed, just snuggles and a story, the CD’s
that read nursery stories are useful, but beware they don’t get your child too excited about the plot! Some may find a CD of children’s relaxing music may well calm them down enough to nod off peacefully.

A Piece of Quiet

Just before bedtime playing in the bedroom is not a good idea. Unplug anything electrical and snuggle together for a story before lights out. Once the light is off and a night-light is lit, it’s your time and time for the little ones to sleep.

Of course this won’t always happen. When a child gets up, lead them back to bed, but do not engage in conversation, just a quick kiss and back into bed. Repeat until daylight, when the little angel finally drops off!

Image courtesy of

Monday, 2 December 2013

Do you limit and keep an eye on your childrens screen time?

We are currently on holiday and it has been one blessed with very little screen time and lots of family time.  A real reminder of our summer in the UK, where my boys spent most of their spare time out in the fresh air with friends.

However, we are returning back to a very cold and dark UK this week and I know that this will mean that the boys are going to want to use their screens again.  Part of me knows that this is just due to the dark nights and cold, but part of me really wishes I had the guts to got screen free.

It is really hard for me to know what to think of screens and electronic time and I am aware of the fact that I spend my day working in front of a PC and I do not want to be hypocritical with the do as I say not as I do quote, but I am also aware that this is the first generation with such access to the internet etc.

So we do have some very basic rules:

  1. No screens after 6pm
  2. No aggressive games
  3. No screens if you have been bad
  4. No screens at dinner or any other social time.
  5. No screens in anyone's bedrooms
  6. Total honesty on what you are viewing

The boys have access to computers and screens at school and during golden time on a Friday afternoon are allowed to play games such as educational horse game for kids and monshi monsters or even Bin weavels.

Mostly they go on educational websites during school hours or BBC bitesized and I know that there computer access is supervised at school.

It is much harder at home due to the nature of devises to keep an eye on what they are accessing, but we have tried to make sure that we are aware of what they are doing and we also discuss things such as internet bulling at home and agree that they can not have access to Facebook etc until they are in their teens and even then that I will have access to their accounts.

What are your thoughts?

Making Christmas and Advent Magical

I adore Christmas Time and one of the ways that I make it magical is by taking time out each day during advent to do an activity with the boys.

It doesn't have to be a long time, but even sitting down together and having a special hot chocolate gives us time out to appreciate each other and to try and remove the focus of christmas away from Christmas Day and the presents.

So I wanted to share with you some posts I have recently done on Mum in The Mad House about Christmas and our advent traditions:

 Do you have a Christmas Elf, then do come and share his antics on #ElfCam on social media 

Why not try making ornaments that are longer lasting that salt dough with air drying clay

Christmas eve is my most favorite day of the festive season, so join us in making Christmas Eve Gift Bags 

Why not make our very simple animal friendly reindeer food

Looking for advent activity inspiration, well look no further than here! 

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