Christmas · Money

Keeping Costs Down Ahead of Christmas

save moneyNow that we’re almost in November, whether we like it or not, most of us are thinking about ways to save money so that we can maximise our spending power for the festive season. There are SO many ways that most of us can save money without even realising it, so I thought I’d take a look at ways to save that you may not have even thought of.

Reduce Your Phone Bill

Most of us have mobile packages with “free” minutes available but it can be easy to go over the allowance and tot up call costs. Using a site like Contact Number UK to look up numbers can drastically reduce your costs as they list the cheapest numbers for calling many companies on.

Cut Your Channels

If you have Sky, Virgin Media or some other TV service and you’re past your first year of service, it’s a really good idea to look at your package and work out exactly what you use and what you don’t. Often, things like music channels, movies and sports are charged at a premium and if you don’t ever watch them you could save yourself hundreds of pounds each year by stripping them back.

Do It Yourself

I know it’s tempting to outsource jobs like window cleaning, car valeting, oven cleaning and all of the other yucky things that none of us really like doing, but you could save yourself SO much money by doing them yourself. If you have your windows cleaned once a month and you’re paying £10 a time, that’s a saving of £120 a year…if you have your car valeted every six weeks at £20 a time, that’s a saving of over £160. The savings all add up!

Quit The Gym! 

Okay, if you’re a gym-bunny and go to the gym on a regular basis then we aren’t suggesting that you give it up, but if you have a subscription to a gym that you rarely use, it might be worth looking at cancelling it. Many gyms also offer cheaper “off-peak” subscriptions, so it might be worth looking at the times you usually go to the gym and seeing if an off-peak membership would work for you. Also, running is absolutely free and a great way to exercise.

Sell Your Stuff and Buy Second Hand

Facebook groups and eBay are both brilliant ways to recoup money on your unwanted stuff by selling it all, and they’re also great places to pick up absolute bargains! So often, kids clothes, furniture and other items will be almost brand new and a FRACTION of their normal price, and literally look as good as new after a bit of a scrub. Local buying and selling also reduces your need for shipping fees, saving you even more.

 

Blogging

Ways to Improve Your Blogging

I’ve been doing this whole blogging thing for over six years now and I never dreamed that I could make a living out of it, but here I am doing exactly that. I do try to avoid ‘blogging about blogging’, not least of all because I certainly don’t feel like I’m in a position to be telling other people HOW to blog, but I have picked up a few things along the way which have taken my site from unread to having several thousand subscribers, so I thought I’d share a few of them here.

Invest in a Good Camera

If you intend on taking photos to go on your blog, investing in a decent entry level camera (Sensible Reviewer has some great suggestions) will help you to take your images to the next level. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with natural. off-the-cuff photos taken on a smartphone or compact camera but all of the most successful bloggers I know also throw well-styled images in, especially if they’re working with a brand.

Get a Proofreader

Before I hit ‘publish’ I always proof-read my own posts, but it’s still really common for mistakes to fly below the radar, especially when you’re reading your own work. Many bloggers fall into the “spelling and grammar doesn’t matter” school of thought, and that’s fine for them, but I usually feel mortified if I read a post back from a while ago and see a mistake which has gone unnoticed all that time. Husband casts an eye over things for me now to see if I’ve made any glaring mistakes!

Formatting Consistency

This one may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like to format my posts a certain way to give consistency down the page. All of my posts are aligned justified down the page to give nice straight lines as I just think it makes my whole site look tidier and my images are usually centred, which also makes the page look neat. If I go onto sites where the text and images are all over the place it often puts me off of reading further.

Don’t Blog for the Sake of It

I know a lot of bloggers who blog to a schedule and that’s fine if you’ve actually got something to write about, but I also see people blogging simply for the sake of getting something published so that their site doesn’t sit dormant for any length of time. Blogging shouldn’t be forced and it’s really easy to spot posts which have been thrown up simply as ‘filler’.

Don’t Be Scared to Promote

Writing a blog is all well and good, but if no-one reads it you’re basically doing the digital equivalent of shouting into an empty room. Utilise social media to its fullest potential, don’t be afraid to write posts with the words “If you like this please hit share” and don’t forget to join some of the Facebook groups for bloggers which are a great place to join in with comment posts and sharing circles.

Bostik Bloggers · Crafts

Day of the Dead Sugar Skull Craft #BostikBlogger

day-of-the-dead-sugar-skull-craftSo, a little while ago I was asked if I’d like to be a Bostik Blogger, which basically involves being sent a box of craft materials each month and coming up with something relevant. Seeing as we’re on the run-up to Halloween, and Halloween is basically Sausage’s favourite holiday, I thought we’d do something Day of the Dead related, which is the Mexican day to celebrate those who aren’t with us anymore and celebrated on the same day as Halloween.

Having “age-gap kids” as I do (there’s five and a half years between Sausage and BB) means that we need crafts which are engaging enough to keep Sausage interested whilst being simple enough for BB to get involved with, which is why this simple Day of the Dead mask is perfect for both of them – plenty of BLING for Sausage but lots of simple shapes and sticking-on for BB!

Here’s What You Need: img_20161122_114327_hdr

1 paper plate, Bostik White Glue, Bostik Glitter pens, scissors, A black felt tip or permanent marker, Various sequins and pom-poms for decoration, a lolly stick

Cut the plate into the desired skull shape

img_20161122_114430_hdrMark between and around the ‘teeth’ with your black marker and draw your eye and nose shapes with a pencil (I drew around something for the eyes because my freehand is rubbish!)

img_20161122_114724_hdrGo around the eyes and nose with your black pen and fill then completely

img_20161122_114948_hdrStick sequins around the eyes and in the nose using your Bostik white glue

img_20161122_120326_hdrOnce the glue has semi-dried, outline the eyes with whatever colour of glitter glue you like

img_20161122_120508_hdrStick the pom-poms along the top edge of the skull. Add decorations on the cheeks using more sequins and glitter glue to create patterns. Stick a stick to the back of the mask.

img_20161122_121046_hdr

And you’re done! It really is that simple. Given the small amount of effort it takes, I really think this is such a lovely craft and we’ll definitely be making a whole load of them to decorate the house with! You could even cut the eyes out and use them as masks with a little elastic stapled to the sides.

Do you love Halloween and Day of the Dead? I’d love to see your crafts so please do leave me a link below!

Anger · Parenting · Personal

Parenting Groups: Five Reasons for Quitting

parenting groupsFor a fair while, I’ve been part of a few different parenting groups on Facebook, places where mums and dads can go to ask questions about anything from “does this rash look like chickenpox?” to “which shops have Hatchimals in stock?” and largely it’s been good. I’ve asked plenty of questions myself and try to help others where I can. But, as of yesterday, I’ve removed myself from these groups (all but The Motherload) because it’s just messing with my head. There are questions which get asked over and over and OVER again and they’re things which make me so cross that I can actually FEEL my blood pressure rising. Here’s just 5 of those questions:

1. Vaccinations

This was the one which prompted me to remove myself yesterday and it’s probably the one which makes me the MOST angry. Someone asked “Have any other parents refused vaccinations for their kids and has is caused them problems with school and nursery?”. The comments are full of people who think they know better than the World Health Organisation (despite the fact that they get their info from American websites with URLs like VacTruth.com and nothing with any basis in actual science). Just in the last month, I’ve seen people cite the inclusion of mercury and aluminium in vaccines as a reason not to give them as well as one woman who claimed that the flu vaccine contained MSG which is, WAIT FOR IT…WORSE THAN GIVING HER CHILD COCAINE. (FML)Another woman claimed that she knew all about herd immunity and it meant that her child didn’t need vaccinations, thus proving that she actually knew nothing about fucking herd immunity.  I was one step shy of spamming the group of pictures of kids with smallpox, so I decided it was best to step away.

2. Baby Names

I’m aware that what people on random parenting groups name their kids is absolutely NONE of my business, but every time there was a “can I have suggestions of names for my unborn child?” thread, I’d read through with my head in my hands, feeling really sorry for the future generation of children who were going to have names like “Aliviyah” (pronounced Olivia, just in case you were wondering) and feeling like I was living in a real life Idiocracy.

3. Nub Theory

“Oh hi everyone. Can you look at this scan picture of my baby (who is probably too young to have even properly developed reproductive organs yet) and guess what their gender might be based on a totally theoretical and unproven method of working it out?”. Nub theory is a THEORY. Asking strangers to guess the gender of your unborn child is stupid.

4. Keeping Up with The Jonses

Do you know what I found myself Googling the other day? Matching Christmas dresses for me and the girls. Thanks to the people on Facebook parenting groups who go absolutely fucking OVERBOARD every Christmas with their EXPERIENCES and their CHRISTMAS EVE BOXES and their “BOOK-A-DAY” ADVENT CALENDARS and ALLLLLLL the other overblown shit that everyone MUST do and MUST talk about at length so that they can lord it over everyone else, I am seriously considering matching outfits for myself, my eight year old and my two year old for Christmas Day. And I’m pretty sure that makes me a massive twat.

5. Nastiness

I’m aware that what I’ve written above may seem like a bit of nastiness but this is NOTHING compared with some of the vile behaviour I’ve seen from grown people in parenting groups. There’s a LOT of stuff which gets discussed that I don’t agree with but I always try to be respectful and give replies to people based on actual knowledge and not just knee-jerk reactions. Often though (I assume on days when there’s a full moon and everyone’s menstrual cycle is syncronised) things can get NASTY. Simple threads about bottle feeding can lead to struggling Mums being called c*nts and being left wishing they hadn’t asked in the first place and it’s that kind of behaviour that I just don’t want to be a part of.

Are you a member of any of these kid of online groups? Do you find that they enhance your life or do you step away from your phone or PC feeling like your head is going to explode? I’d love to hear from you!

Christmas

Vouchers This Christmas

We love Christmas, here in the Mum’s the Word house, and we try each year to make it a big deal for the girls. However, one thing that I try to maintain is that although Christmas is a big event, it doesn’t have to cost the earth. I see posts of Facebook of people having spent literally thousands of pounds on toys and Christmas experiences and it seems bonkers to me. I try to start planning in advance to make sure I get the maximum for my money and I thought I’d share some tips with you here:

Second Hand

I know people sometimes blanch at the idea of giving second-hand things for Christmas but kids, especially smaller ones, don’t know the difference. Toys like Jumperoos are often for sale in local groups and can be used again and again, saving you money and ensuring your kids have great quality toys.

Voucher Codes

Keep an eye out for discounts throughout the year, especially for large department stores, like Debenhams promo codes, and buy things early to put away for Christmas. Someone I know buys things whenever she sees something which would make a good gift and keeps it all in a specific cupboard, which she empties out at the beginning of December. Last year, she’d bought so much stuff that she had TOO MANY presents and ended up giving a load to charity!

Make Things

Handmade gifts are a great way to keep costs down and often mean so much more than some random piece of tatt that you could buy. If you’re REALLY organised, you could even forage for fruit, makes jams at home, jar them and make them into festive gifts, costing you next to nothing!

Secret Santa

Another good way to keep costs down is to buy presents for the kids in the family but do a Secret Santa for the adults. Set a limit of say, £20, that way everyone gets one decent quality gift, everyone saves money and no-one feels left out!

Start Saving

This one might not necessarily SAVE you money at Christmas as it doesn’t exactly limit your spending, but starting a Christmas fund in January is a really good idea. Put in as much as you can afford each week or month and by the time it comes to shop for Christmas, you’ll have a good chunk of money saved towards it, lessening the burden of finding funds in December.

Do you have any great tips for saving money at Christmas? I’d love to hear them so please do leave me a comment below.