Family · Money

What Does a Homeless Person Look Like?

homelessWhat does a homeless person look like to you? Is it the person sitting in a cardboard box under a bridge, possibly with a dog, usually with a sleeping bag and little else to protect them from the elements? Someone with their worldly possessions in a shopping trolley? Sure, that’s what a homeless person in the most extreme of situations can look like.

On the other hand, a homeless person can be a woman with a job and a family. A person who’s lived in a privately rented house for 5 years which the owner now wants to sell, as is his right and privilege as a homeowner. So, why doesn’t the woman find somewhere else to live? Well, it’s not always that simple.

Since the woman and her family moved into her current accommodation, rental properties have increased in price by around 30%. Living costs have increased hugely whereas wages have not, so saving money isn’t exactly easy – what can the woman save if there’s nothing left in the pot after bills at the end of the month?

The average cost of a three bedroomed property where this woman lives is between £900 and £1100 and most letting agents require up to one and a half months’ rent in advance, one months rent as a deposit, plus £300 in admin fees and £50 contract fees. Some even charge ‘checking in’ fees when a let is agreed, and in a lot of cases the fees are non-refundable should an application not be succesful. The minimum this family will potentially need to find before moving is £2800, and that doesn’t include the actual cost of moving, which is just simply not that easy to scrape together after the cost of living.

Then there’s the other issues. The family has a dog – most landlords won’t take pets. Perhaps more worryingly is the rise of landlords who specify ‘no children’ or ‘one older child considered’, despite offering family sized homes to rent. Both workers in the house are self employed and don’t have a working, home-owning guarantor to offer as bond in case their rent doesn’t get paid (despite having a perfect 5-year record of having paid rent on time and in full, every month).

The local council housing list is closed to anyone who can afford private rentals at the moment, so there’s no hope of any help from them, and if the family were to end up homeless, they’d likely be put into a hostel before being offered a too-small, temporary flat in a high-rise, which means the family pet would have to be re-homed. There’s a Housing Association locally, but all they have to offer is part-buy schemes where they own 40% of the property and charge a monthly rent for the privilege, and this obviously requires people to have a mortgage in place.

A mortgage is out of the question. The current financial climate plus a misspent youth means that the womans’ credit rating isn’t as high as it would need to be and banks don’t tend to look favourably upon two adults who work freelance, one of whom has been rubbish with money for most of her adult life.

So, who does this family turn to for help? Why can an average, working family in the UK not find themselves adequate housing in 2015? The rental market has been made prohibitively difficult to be a part of, with anyone falling short of credit checks expected to offer up even more money (that they likely don’t have) in advance, and unregulated letting agents are allowed to charge astronomically high fees without consideration for the people they’re fleecing. It is very much, as they say, a landlord’s market right now.

Yes, homeless people sometimes live in shop doorways. But sometimes, they’re a 30-something Mum of two, with a dog and a Husband and an estate car. A ‘normal’ person who’s being crushed under the weight of the cost of energy bills and high rents who simply cannot make room in her budget to save almost three thousand pounds in the next 5 months. Someone who faces the reality that, even if her family CAN scrape together that amount of money, there may well just not be a landlord who’ll take dogs or kids or someone with less-than-desirable credit. Someone who knows that there’s no council or housing association to fall back on, nor relatives with the space for 4 people to bunk down.

Obviously, the person I’m talking about is me. Our situation is looking pretty grim at the moment and it’s a constant source of stress for Husband and I. We’re doing our best to find a way around this situation but there simply doesn’t seem to be one and there’s a very real possibility that we could be homeless by the summer.

Obviously, any constructive advice would be appreciated.


January Survival Tips

January Survival TipsWith the expense of Christmas out of the way, January can be a daunting prospect when your bank account is looking a little empty. Even those of us with the strictest festive budget can find themselves going over and spending money they don’t really have, leaving things looking a little lean after the New Year. The Money Advice Service has asked me to put together a list of tips for getting through January, to help you make the pennies go a little further. Here are ours:

1. Leftovers don’t have to be unpalatable!

I know the thought of leftovers can be unappealing, but they really can be tasty. Several of my lovely blogging friends have some great suggestions of what to do with leftovers, such as Otilia from Romanian Mum who makes these gorgeous pasties with her leftover mince, Mari from Mari’s World who makes this Turkey and Bacon Pie, Carolin from Mummy Alarm who makes this with her leftover Brussels Sprouts and Helen at The Crazy Kitchen’s delicious chicken and chorizo risotto.

2. Cooking in bulk can work out a lot cheaper

I often make a huge batch of lamb stew, which costs around £20 to make, but will actually yield about 10-15 portions, which means it can be as little as £1.30-ish per porton! There’s also a veggie curry in the Jamie Oliver 30-Minute Meals book which works out really cheap, can be made in huge portions and freezes really well.

3. Don’t be fooled by the sales

Whilst it is possible to net some great bargains in the January sales, try not to be sucked in by false bargains. The vast majority of stuff that’s ‘on sale’ is junk that the store couldn’t sell across the rest of the year. If you didn’t NEED it when it was full price, you probably still don’t need it now!

4. Don’t be a January Joiner!

There’s this pressure on everyone to get in shape in the New Year, and while it’s great to want to improve your health, the VAST majorty of gym memberships and fitness equipment go forgotten by February. Given the fact that it’s estimated that up to £50 million per year is wasted on unused memberships, being a January Joiner seems a false economy. Free apps like My Fitness Pal and Couch to 5K are far more economical and will let you see if you’re really serious about getting in shape, or just jumping on the New Year bandwagon.

5. Sell your stuff

I don’t know about you, but we very much live in a digital age in our household. All of our music and movies are digital and I literally cannot remember the last time we used a CD or DVD. A couple of days ago, I gathered all of our unwanted media and even an unused games console and sold them all to Music Magpie – our unused stuff has earned us over £100!

6. Check your subscriptions

Take a look at all of the things you pay for on a monthly basis – is there anything you can scale back? If you’re paying for a sattelite or cable subscription; do you really use all of the channel packages you pay for? Do you pay for Spotify/Netflix and never use it? Is your Amazon Prime account a drain you don’t need? Be ruthless and cut back everything you don’t need. You could save yourselves hundreds of pounds in the long run.

So, those are our tips – what are yours? Leave me a comment with your best money saving tip for January.


Sicily on a Budget for Family with Children

Sicily is widely known as a hotspot for romantic getaways, but it is also a nice place to take a family vacation. The island is very accessible to get around and has many activities that are family friendly as well as relaxing for even children. One way of making travel around the island easier is hiring a car in Sicily and driving to each destination. This will save you on time and most importantly money. There are also great budget accommodations around the island such as bed and breakfasts to quaint inns, which will make your family vacation that much easier and less stressful. Here is a quick guide on some of the best activities you can do that are fun for the entire family and most importantly, will keep the kids happy and occupied.Tempio di Apollo, Siracusa

In the cities there are some great museums and exhibits that are fun and educational for the whole family. In Palermo, there is even a children’s town with many fun activities. You can find For a more nature driven experience, try taking the family on a guided tour of Mt. Etna or other volcanic sites. Kids will surely be in awe of the power and site of an active volcano. On Mt. Etna there is even a cable car that takes you over the flowing lava and active zones. There are even various mud baths around Sicily where the whole family can have a blast being covered in natural clay! For more educational and fun trips, kids and adults alike will enjoy exploring some of the Ancient Greek temples or other ruins around the island. Syracuse has some of the best preserved temples in the world making it a fun and memorable adventure for the whole family.

Au sommet de l'Etna, volcan en activité en SicileIf you are visiting during the summer months there are some wonderful nature parks and water parks in Sicily. On a hot day there is nothing better than to go to one of the water parks such as Etnaland near Catania or Acqua Isola Verde Park near Cefalu. The whole family can let loose and have fun at any of these awesome parks which also enjoy some incredible views. In the town of Monreale you can split the day in half. One half can befor the adults to see the amazing cathedral and the other for the kids to go to the nearby waterpark. No matter where you go Sicily is filled with fun activities for the entire family. Whether you are on top of a volcano or walking amongst ancient ruins, everyone can find something they like.


Oh You Pretty Things #1 – Christmas Presents

Two of my favourite ever bloggers, Sonya at The Ramblings of a Formerly Rock ‘n’ Roll Mum and Mary from Keynko, have teamed up and started a new weekly linky where they ask us to show them our stuff. No, I don’t mean rude stuff, get your minds out of the gutters! They’re asking to see our wotsits, our knick-knacks, our…okay, this isn’t sounding any less rude, is it?!

They’ve kicked off their first ever ‘Oh You Pretty Things’ with an easy one, and they want to see our Christmas pressies. Given the fact that they’re a pair of old-school vintage lovers, I thought they might like to see my very amazing, best Christmas present ever, bought for me by my Husband.

Yes, my friends. That is a Teddy flippin’ Ruxpin.

After hearing me talk for years about how I wanted one as a kid and never got one, Husband got himself on eBay just before Christmas and managed to find a fully-working Teddy Ruxpin to tell me stories and give me vintage 1980’s-style hugs.

It may sound silly to get a talking teddy at the age of 30 but when I was little, my cousin Joe had one and I genuinely remember thinking that it was the most wonderful, truly magical thing I’d ever seen. Listening to Teddy’s stories transports me back to being 5 years old, sipping juice with Joe, and imagining the adventures that Teddy describes was probably the most innocent time of my life.

Since Christmas, the girls and I have sat and listened to Teddy telling us all about his adventures in his airship, but I have to admit to having been a little bit precious about not letting the girls touch him if their hands are dirty! Because this is an American Teddy Ruxpin, he runs on little cartridges rather than the conventional tapes that the UK models had, but I’ve seen a few on eBay and I may well invest when I’ve got some cash as it would be lovely to have a collection of stories.

So, there you have it, my first link up to ‘Oh You Pretty Things’! What do you think? What was your favourite Christmas pressie? Did you have a Teddy Ruxpin? Leave me a comment below.

Mental Health

On Days Like Today…

stressOn days like today, I struggle to cope.

On days like today, when the baby is crying, the house is a mess, my head is banging, I’m feeling guilty for not being able to give Sausage as much attention as I should, the dog is whinging, every noise from our neighbours makes me feel as though my head will explode and I struggle to cope.

On days like today, when the baby is inconsolable, it doesn’t matter if I pick her up or put her down or cuddle her or give her a time-out, I struggle to cope.

On days like today when there simply aren’t enough hours in the day, where I have to choose between writing or housework or getting the exercise I so desperately need, I struggle to cope.

On days like today, all I want to do is hide my head under a duvet but I can’t because bedtime isn’t for another two hours and I struggle to cope.

On days like today, I end up hating myself because I question whether having another baby was the right thing to do, and I’m struggling to cope.

On days like today, I’m counting down the minutes until the evening routine – bath, pyjamas, inhaler for Sausage, bottle for Burrito Baby, lights down, all quiet, because until that time, I struggle to cope.

But cope, I do.

Even though I feel like I won’t, like my brain is going to melt and my heart is going to stop beating, I make it to bedtime. Even though I feel like I won’t.

And I look at my girls with their sleepy eyes and my Husband who’s got the same haunted expression as me, mentally patting himself on the back for getting through another day whilst simultaneously trying to forget that we have to do it all again tomorrow, and I know that on days like today when I struggle to cope, things will be alright in the end and for every day like today, there’s a dozen good days that I struggle to remember through the stress and sleeplessness.

On days like today, I may struggle to cope, but I still consider myself the luckiest person in the world.