5 Important Things To Keep in Mind Before Renovating Your Home

Your house is more than just your home. It’s also an investment. It will look after your money for you as you get older, and potentially provide a fantastic nest egg for you when you choose to retire. When you own your own home, you always have collateral so you can finance anything from a new business startup to making the home of your dreams even dreamier. Renovating your home is a great way to help ensure that you’ll get a greater return on your investment if you eventually decide to sell. More than that, however, it can help you to breathe new life into the old place and ensure that you get more pleasure and enjoyment out of every moment you spend in your home.

5 Important Things To Keep in Mind Before Renovating Your Home

Image by Laurie Shaw via Pexels

However, a renovation is a major commitment, and it’s essential to go in with your eyes wide open. Here are 4 important things to keep in mind before embarking on a renovation project…

You can refinance to finance your project

When it comes to financing your project, be wary of spreading the cost across several credit cards or incurring the high interest rates of most loans. Instead, you may wish to consider refinancing your home to fund your renovation. You may benefit from a much better rate of interest and improved borrowing power.

Not everything needs planning permission

If you’re worried about the lengthy and confusing process of applying for planning permission for a major renovation, don’t let this put you off getting the most out of your home. The truth is that there are lots of renovations that can be carried out under your permitted development rights that do not require planning permission at all, from minor repairs to extensions and garden buildings. Get in touch with a local architect to advise on whether or not what you have in mine requires the granting of planning permission. However, you may well be pleasantly surprised.

Add a 10% margin onto your estimated costs

If you’ve ever watched a property show, any property show, you’ve likely seen how often even a modest renovation goes over budget. No matter how long you agonise over calculating the costs before breaking ground, there’s a chance you could go over budget. This is why it’s good practice to add a safety margin of around 10% to ensure that you don’t encounter any unpleasant surprises.

Never choose a contractor on the basis of cost

It’s not that there aren’t many, many reasonably priced and eminently capable contractors out there. It’s just that making these kinds of decisions on the basis of cost can set you up for a fall. Instead, you should choose someone who asks a lot of questions and gets excited about your project. Someone with a proven track record and reliable references who has lots of experience handling jobs just like yours. And if you hire an electrician, make sure they have the best multimeter on the market.

If you get cold feet, remember you don’t have to renovate

Finally, there are so many logistical and monetary considerations when it comes to renovations that it can make your head spin. Just remember, even if you get cold feet, there are still lots of great ways in which you can spruce up your home without the need for renovations.

Safety When Transporting Children

CHILD-CAR-SEAT-REGULATIONSEvery year, thousands of car-related injuries and deaths are reported due to negligence on the part of the driver. Parents and drivers who are traveling with children must always take extra care in order to avoid accidents and fatalities from happening. Clearly, kids are not aware of the safety measures needed when inside vehicles. Parents can always remind their kids to wear their seatbelts and behave inside the car, but it is ultimately their responsibility to travel safely with their kids.

Here are six tips on how you can ensure your children’s safety while traveling:

Follow child safety laws

Child car seat laws must always be followed when traveling in a car with a child. The general rule is children who are riding in the front seat of the car must be provided with the right child car seat. For newborns up to 15-month-old babies, the child restraint needed is a rearward-facing baby seat. Other child restraints include a combination seat, forward-facing child seat, a booster cushion, and a high-backed booster seat. The type of child restraint to be used varies based on the age range or the weight of the child. This law must be followed until the child is 12-years-old or 135 cm. tall, whichever of the two comes first. After which, the child can use the adult seatbelt.

Know the road

Thought it might have been several years – or a couple of decades – since you passed your driving test, be honest: are you totally confident on the rules of the road? Laws change, after all. Don’t be too proud to spend some time sharpening your knowledge by utilizing some of the online theory test practices available. Remember, drivers of a certain generation won’t even have been required to take a theory test!

Learn to use child restraints

Some accidents can still happen even when your child is in a child restraint. You must also know how to properly install it in your vehicle. Take the time to read the instructions that come with the restraint, so that you will be ready the next time you travel with your child. Check if your vehicle supports LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children). This can make it easier for you to install a child restraint securely. Remember that safety only comes with the proper usage of the restraint.

Avoid distractions

Plenty car-related accidents are caused by distractions, such as phone calls and texting. Avoid these distractions and concentrate on driving, especially when inside the vehicle with kids. The noise kids can make while playing inside a car is enough to be a distraction, so it is better to keep your hands off items that can hinder you from driving safely.

Follow speed limits

Another way to avoid getting into an accident is to follow speed limits. These limits are provided to guide drivers on how to drive safely when driving in different roads. Generally, if there are no speed limit signs, the ideal speed is 30 mph. However, drivers must also consider the weather conditions when driving. When it’s snowing and raining and the road is slippery and wet, it is advisable to go a bit under the speed limit to avoid accidents.

Never leave children inside the car

There have also been a number of reports of children suffocating or getting into an accident when left alone in the car. Never leave your child in a car, even if just for a few seconds. Leaving them in the vehicle unsupervised can result in injuries from getting stuck in power windows and strangling themselves with the seatbelt.

It is always important to follow these safety measures when driving with your children. By following these tips, you are sure to get to your destination without trouble.

Light Up Your Life with a New Lighting Scheme

There are certain things that I like in a living room. A sofa which is big enough for the whole family to snuggle on, plenty of wall sockets for plugging things in, a fireplace, and plenty of flexible lighting options. I think the latter might be the one which is most important to me; I hate sitting in a room at night with the bright, overhead light on as it’s really not condusive to settling down and relaxing, so I need ways to light a room which aren’t so harsh. With this in mind, I thought I’d take a look at some creative ways to light a room which give you flexibility on how the room is lit at different times of the day:

Pendant Lights

Light - Pendant Lights

Okay, so I know I said overhead lighting wasn’t my fave, but there are ways to get creative without having to alter the room too much. There are some beautiful lightshades which can be opened and closed with a little pulley to allow more or less light (or more direct light) to be shone from the fixture. They can be used with pendant lights from lights.co.uk and allow you to have complete control over how bright your room is.

LED Strips

Light -LED Strip

As time goes on, LED strip lighting has become cheaper and more accessible, and can now be used in all types of settings. I absolutely love the look of furniture with LED strips added in an almost hidden position, such as on the underside of the opening of a Welsh dresser to create a really subtle glow around a room.

Candles

Light - LED Candles

Gone are the days when candles were too much of a fire risk – LED candles are all the rage right now and they actually produce a really gentle light which looks like an authentic candle glow. We love LED candles so much that the kids have even got them in their bedrooms too – essential when you live in the middle of nowhere, like us, and have power cuts  more regularly than you have hair cuts!

Neon Signs

Light - Neon Signs

It wasn’t until I saw a programme a few years ago where the presenter went and made her own neon sign that I realised how accessible this type of design is for the home. I’d love to, in time, have custom-made neon signs for the girls’ bedrooms as I think they’re such a funky, modern way to add both style and light to a room.

Lamps

Lamps

The most obvious way to make your lighting scheme work for you is by placing lamps in all of the places that you want to add extra light. A well-placed lamp can change the tone of a whole room and I love experimenting not only with different locations for a lamp and what they do to a space, but also changing the types of bulbs that you use – at one point, we had a remote controlled bulb in one of our bedroom lamps which could be just about any colour of the rainbow, as coloured light is so much better for the eyes when you’re trying to get ready to sleep.

Cheap Ways to Give Your Home a Makeover

Cheap Ways to Give Your Home a MakeoverPhoto by Jagoda Kondratiuk on Unsplash

With Christmas out of the way, many of us are starting to think about ways that we can give our home a makeover for the year ahead. However, the dent that the festive season left in our finances is probably still a factor for most of us, which means that any home improvements need to be done cheaply, or even better, for free. With this in mind I thought I would look at five ways that you can improve your home on a very tight budget.

Recycle

One way that you can improve your living situation is to go room to room and do a full inventory of all of the furniture and fixings that you have in each space. You may realise that one piece of furniture isn’t working for one room, but with a lick of paint or a rub down it might be perfect for a different space. Our TV unit doesn’t really go with the rest of our room, however we’ve been thinking lately that we might mount the TV on the wall, give the TV unit a makeover with a coat of chalk paint and use as a coffee table.

Freecycle

Freecycle is such an amazing place to get things that you need without spending any money at all. If you want to declutter, giving old items away on Freecycle is a great way to do this as more often than not people will come and collect them, meaning you have to make little or no effort to empty a space. Asking for things on Freecycle is also a great way to obtain the resources you need to transform your spaces. We once managed to get hold of enough laminate flooring to recover the floor of a whole bedroom and it didn’t cost us a penny!

Ebay

Finding things cheaply on eBay can be really easy, although sometimes you may need to spend a little extra time seeking out those bargains. However, one trick that I learned years ago is to search eBay with misspellings. This might sound weird, but sometimes you’ll find things with a low reserve and absolutely no bids because they haven’t shown up in anybody’s search results, thanks to a misspelling in the listing. If you can find these listings, these are the holy grail of eBay and often mean that people can get things for next to nothing if you’re willing to put in the time to find them.

Swaps

If you’ve got stuff to give away you might find that someone else has something that you want and is willing to swap with you. Facebook is a great place to find swaps for your items and you may even find that there is a local event where people take their items for swap seats. Hey, if there isn’t a local event maybe you could organise one, if you have the time!

Plants

If you haven’t got the money to do a full makeover of your home, sometimes adding little touches like house plants here and there can make a massive difference to your living spaces. As well as plants giving a burst of colour to a room they are great for your well-being, help to produce clean oxygen and will make your room look stylish and put together.

5 Entrepreneurs Every Millennial Should Follow

More millennials are now choosing to be entrepreneurs. Once viewed as an unconventional path for success has now become a method that makes many young ones are able to make thousands a month if they apply themselves and work hard.

There are many success stories of regular people doing extraordinary things. These entrepreneurs started out with nothing, and they’ve built an empire. These are the successes millennials today should emulate.

These are the 5 entrepreneurs every Millennial should follow.

1) Gary Vaynerchuk

When we think of digital marketing Gary Vee definitely comes to mind! He’s a special individual from how he talks, the content he puts out and his utter assertiveness. As the chairman of VaynerX and CEO of VaynerMedia, it’s fitting that he’s known as a serial entrepreneur.

As a young boy in Belarus, he worked with his father selling wine. The marketing genius that he is, he transitioned his fathers business online and went from selling 3-60 million in a period of 5 years. If that’s not inspiring in itself; I don’t know what is?!

Gary Vee puts out remarkable content on his social media accounts. If you’re looking for the truth, for inspiration or to learn digital marketing. Closely following Gary Vee because he’s truly fearless.

2) Grant Cardone

At 60 years young he’s an absolute sales savage!!! He provides training for Fortune 500 companies, businesses and entrepreneurs with his highly successful sales platform.

Additionally, Cordone is a real estate guru in his own right! He has built a real estate throne with a $900 million evaluation on his real estate portfolio. With over $800 million in real estate transactions covering close to 4700 units across America. He built with this with help from his close family only.

Millennials should be closely watching what Cordone does because he’s humble beginnings can be relatable to anyone wanting to create an empire of their own just ask Tai Lopez.

3) Tony Robbins

Yes, Mr motivational himself has become a household name in the entrepreneur world. He’s also a best-selling author, philanthropist and a highly successful business and life strategist. People love to hear him talk, he’s very motivating; no wonder he’s had 50 million people at his events over the last 40 years.

People are very enamoured with his spirit and his way of making you feel as if you can do anything. This is why over the years he too has inspired many people to follow their dreams be successful.

American Express has named him one of the ”Top six Business Leaders in the world.” he’s worked with US Presidents, to entertainers, sports teams, billionaires and so many more. How much more authority do you need??

4) Robert Kiyosaki

When most entrepreneurs are starting out they read ”Rich Dad Poor Dad.” courtesy of Robert Kiyosaki the immortal. He’s an American businessman and best-selling author. His ”Rich Dad Poor Dad” book series has sold over 27 million copies worldwide and translated into 51 languages. 

If only for the books alone, entrepreneurs should take an interest in what this man says. 

5) Mark Zuckerberg 

We can call him Mr. Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. Zuckerberg is one of the ultimate goals for entrepreneurs. Yet, he too started with nothing; in fact, he was a college dropout. Not much needs to be said about him, just check his net worth. Just remember if he could it, you can do it too.

London on a Budget – Our Day Trip

Living in the South East means that we’re able to pop into London with relative ease, thanks to trains which go directly into the city from our local train station. Husband and I had a rare day together in the Christmas break and we decided to go to London for a bit of quality time together. Being the festive season, we didn’t have a huge amount of spare cash, so we set aside a budget of £75 to see if we could have a great day without spending too much. We’d looked up hotels near the Shard to see if we could find a super cheap place to stay, but it wasn’t in the budget this time.

Borough Market London

The first expense was our tickets; from where we live, two off-peak railcards which let us travel in and around London cost £46, which obviously took up a lot of our budget, but this just meant that we had to be more creative about what we did while we were there. Our first stop as Borough Market. We didn’t realise, but we actually spent a good hour walking around before we decided to find somewhere to eat, just taking in the sights, sounds and delicious smells of the place.

We’d heard about The Breakfast Club from someone we know who works in London and it’s just a short walk from Borough Market by London Bridge, so we headed there for their famous “Cabbies Breakfast”, a bargain at £7.50 each. It’s a really quirky, cosy little spot to eat and we really liked the place. It didn’t feel too London, if that makes any sense at all?! The food was delicious and finding a meal of this size for less than a tenner each is pretty much unheard of in London.

The Breakfast Club LondonBy the time we’d finished eating, travel and food had set us back £61 all together, so we needed to find something free or cheap to do in the area. The most obvious choice? A museum! However, we chose a museum with a difference – The Old Operating Theatre Museum.

Entrance to The Old Operating Theatre Museum was just £6.50 each, which was within our remaining budget and we both have an interest in history and medicine, so it was the perfect place to go. The museum is actually located inside one of the turrets of St. Thomas’ Church and contains an amazing array of old medical bits and pieces. After the climb on a very narrow and steep spiral staircase, the spacious area at the top holds the wonders of medicine as practised years ago. We had a lovely time, learning about the history of the place and seeing the apparatus, some of which looked like torture devices!

The Old Operating Theatre Museum LondonWith just £7.50 left in our budget, we decided to go for a little wander around, doing some window shopping and grabbing a coffee while we walked. After a while, we headed back to the station to begin our journey home, really pleased that we’d managed to have a really full, fun day out in London, on what we thought would be a tight budget. But actually, if you’re thoughtful about where you go and how you spend your money, it’s possible to have a great day out in central London without spending a fortune.

If you know of any hidden gems which are either free or very cheap to visit in London, do leave me a comment below as I’d love to repeat the experience. We may even take the girls with us next time, if we’re feeling VERY brave!

BrightMinds – Educational Gifts for Kids

Being a parent at Christmas can be a tough job. If Burrito Baby had her way, all of her gifts would be things that Husband and I consider cheap, plastic tat which will probably be chewed up by Maureen before New Year because it all gets left on the floor! Also, as you’ll know if you read this post, Sausage is getting  to that ‘hard to buy for’ age, which makes buying presents even tricker. We’ve always tried to find a balance between three things:

  1. Stuff they actually really want.
  2. Stuff which is good quality and will last longer than a few weeks.
  3. A combination of gifts which are fun but are also educational in some way.

Both of the girls are really fascinated by science. Just a few weeks ago, Sausage came home from school absolutely buzzing because she’d used a bunsen burner for the first time and she seems really engaged by things she’s learning in her lessons. BB isn’t quite at bunsen burner level yet, but she’s developing a deep love of all things science, mostly anatomy and nature.

A while ago, BrightMinds got in touch and asked if we’d like to pick some things from the website for the girls for Christmas, and I realised that it’s basically a whole site, dedicated to things my kids would LOVE! BrightMinds specialie in STEM toys (science, technology, engineering and maths), as well as wooden toys, role play & board games that are fun to use but also encourage learning and development.

BrightMinds - Learning Resources Anatomy Models: Set of heart, brain, body and skeleton

We opted for the Learning Resources Anatomy Models which consists of a set of heart, brain, body and skeleton models, giving children gain a deeper insight to the workings of the human body. Children learn as they build each of the models using the step by step photo illustrated assembly instructions. It’s a bit like a puzzle, but taking it to a whole new level!

I just know that both girls are going to love these and that it will hopefully help to continue to foster their love of science. At the moment, BB is adamant that she’s going to be a doctor AND a vet (hello, tuition fees!) and these models might be the thing that inspire her to make a choice. I haven’t opened the boxes yet, as I want to save them for Christmas, but you can see them through the window on the front and the quality and level of detail looks excellent.

I think these make such a great gift for the scientifically-minded kids in your life and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them. The best part is, you can still place an order all the way up to 23rd December for next day delivery, which mean you’ve got plenty of time to get some things ordered before Christmas. Don’t forget to take a look around the WHOLE Brightminds site for other STEM toys, arts and crafts kits, books and a whole load of other educational gifts which are so vibrant and fun, kids will forget they’re learning!

Young Driver: Driving Your Way to a Great Christmas!

Young DriverPhoto by Cory Bouthillette on Unsplash

Sausage is at that slightly difficult age when it comes to buying gifts. At 11, and a first year at senior school, she’s not into toys anymore (Funko Pops aside!) but she’s still a kid, so we don’t want Christmas to be about ‘functional’ gifts rather than fun ones. As a Mum, I finally understand why people hae always said how tricky the ‘tween’ years can be, purely because they really are in between phases.

Just recently, we heard about a company called Young Driver, where kids as young as five can have a driving lesson, and it seemed like a perfect stocking filler for Sausage. They have centres all around the country where kids can drive a real car, with a real instructor, and they even cater for a wide range of physical and mental disabilities and have automatic cars with hand controls for wheelchair users at selected sites.

Fostering a love for driving at this age is a great thing to do – I’ve written before about how happy I was when I learned to drive and how much I loved the freedom, and although driving is an expensive business these days, I think it’s important for people to learn how, even if they chooe not to use a car on a daily basis.

The best thing about Young Driver is that you can buy vouchers for one lesson, or as many lessons as you want, which gives you an option to suit every budget. The lessons are exactly the same as the lessons that they’d have when they turn 17, and there’s a YOUNG DRIVER™ Drive Diary charts your progress and goes with you.

The 30 Minute Festive Lesson Voucher  gives your tween a 30 minute Young Driver™ experience and is available as a postal voucher, which makes it great as a last minute gift. Gift vouchers are valid for 9 months from date of purchase, so they have plenty of time to get booked in for their lessons.

Im so excited about giving Sausage her voucher at Christmas – it’s such a unique idea for a gift and I really think she’s going to geta huge thrill out of the whole thing. I also think that a gift like this shows that we have confidence in her and see her as a very mature 11 year old.

If you want to learn more about Young Driver or the lessons they offer (they also do birthday parties at some of their centres!), follow the link above. There’s still time to buy a voucher before Christmas a they offer an option for email delivery which you can print off yourself at home, for extra convenience, meaning you can buy something right up until Chritmas Day itself!

Ways to Raise Funds for your PTA

Ways to Raise Funds for your PTAPhoto by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Since Sausage starting at primary school, I’ve done my best to get involved as many PTA events as I can. This has meant chaperoning many discos, helping out with Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Christmas sales, setting up stalls at the school fete and as many other things as I’ve been able to get involved with, time wise. In September, the parents received a letter, letting us know that the remaining two members of the PTA were stepping down as the committee and my sister-in-law and I decided that it would be too sad to see the PTA close down all together so we would take on the role of Chair and Deputy Chair.

Since we took on the roles we’ve had brainstorming sessions with other members of the PTA and have come up with lots of fundraising ideas that we want to try over the next 12 months. Our current commitments to the school include keeping the minibus running, but we also want to provide them with some new school playground equipment such as climbing frames so that the kids can make better use of the outdoor space. Today, I thought I’d share with you some of the fundraising ideas that we’ve come up with so far, so they might inspire you to help raise funds for your child’s School.

Embroidery and Name Tags

There are several companies which will give you a percentage of sales when you share their leaflets for your parents. Labels and embroidery are the most common examples and they allow parents to get all of their labelling needs covered while the school benefits from the commission.

100 Club

The principle of a 100 club is that you have a list number one to 100 and parents are able to buy a number and pay £1 per month for this number. At the end of each month, you draw a winner from each of the 100 names and you split the £100 usually 50/50 between the parent and the school. Obviously if you have a much larger school and want more parents to get involved you can have more numbers but do bear in mind that the main work involved with the 100 club is ensuring that each payment has been made from each parents bank account every month.

Enterprise Evenings

Lots of the parents but our primary school are self-employed and run their own businesses, many of which revolve around crafty endeavours or selling things. Enterprise evenings are fairly simple, and there are two ways that you can make a profit. The first way is to simply sell table space so that each business pays a fee to rent a table and then any profits they make, they keep for themselves. The other way is to agree a profit share for the evening so any profit made per table is split with the school but you don’t generally charge for the space. The latter option is more difficult to arrange because obviously it relies on everyone being honest about how much profit they made in the evening.

Movie Nights

If your school has a decent sized hall with a projector, running a movie night is a really simple way to make some money. Advertise it so that kids bring their own bean bags, chairs, blankets etc and all parents have to do you drop them off to watch a film for a couple of hours and then collect them at the end. Our school has its own popcorn machine so we’re planning to offer a bag of popcorn in the ticket price, but as this is cheap to make it shouldn’t affect our profits too much. You can also set up refreshment stands and sell food and drink if you want to.

Open Mic Night

This one might not work if your school is small, however our primary school has almost 1000 pupils and therefore lots and lots of grown-ups who are willing to get involved with stuff. You can charge people to come along on watch and encourage everyone to bring their own food and drink so that everything you make is purely profit. It’s a really fun way to get the adults involved with the school community and you could even combine it with the movie night so that those who need childcare have it built in with their night out.

Collecting Coins

This one takes relatively little effort and is something that you can get the whole school involved with. All you need to do is take a decent sized container to each classroom and ask them to fill it with as many 1p, 2p, or 5p coins. Then, at the end of term, you count up which class has the most money in the pot and the class with the highest amount of money raised wins a prize. You can make the prize something like lollies for the whole class if it’s a summer event which means you’re out loud will be minimal and everything else will be profit for the PTA.

If you have any other ideas that you think would be good for raising money for the school PTA and our outdoor play equipment, please leave me a comment below as we’re always trying to come up with fresh ways to raise funds.

Cooking for a Veggie in a House of Meat Eaters

Anyone who knows Sausage will know what a sweet, kind kid she is. She’s always had a huge love of animals and in recent months, it’s been weighing heavily on her when she eats meat. A couple of weeks ago, she decided that enough was enough, and that she’d eaten meat for the last time. Husband and I were more than happy to accommodate her, but that’s meant finding meals that we can either all eat together, or adapt so that one portion can be veggie. I thought we’d share with you one of our ideas:

Mushroom Steaks

Husband and I are both partial to a steak and we didn’t want Sausage to feel totally left out if we indulged in something so meaty. This is where Schwartz Pepper and Garlic Steak Seasoning came in! By seasoning a large Portobello mushroom and sauteeing it, we managed to make something that’s totally veggie and a really decent, protein-rich substitute for Sausage. We served it with the same sides as our steaks and she thoroughly enjoyed it.

Vegan Mushroom Steak

Veggie Roast

When you have a roast dinner, as long as you use a gravy which is suitable for veggies, the only part that you have to leave out is the meat. We’ve started making a roast, with plenty of veg, a lovely stuffing and loads of roast potatoes and Yorkshire puddings, but just leaving out the meat, and not just for Sausage but the whole family. A roast is SO much quicker to cook when you don’t have to cook any meat, it’s cheaper and probably healthier, too.

Fajitas

Another meal that we’re all eating together, sans meat, is fajitas. Providing you chuck in some nice, meaty mushroom when you’re cooking your onions and peppers, you still end up with a gorgeously flavourful, filling fajita and once you’ve loaded them with guacamole and sour cream, you can barely tell the difference. The guacamole is made from avocados that contain essential fats, which are great for your health, too. We even add some of the Schwartz Steak Seasoning to the pan when we’re cooking the veg, for a richer flavour.

Click on the link to get your hands on some Schwartz Pepper and Garlic Steak Seasoning.