Making the Most of the Family Budget: How to Save for a Holiday

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Dreaming of a week on the beach with the kids, or even a long weekend exploring some distance land in the sun?


Holidays can be a wonderful way to bond with your loved ones and create memories that last for a lifetime. Of course, they're not always the easiest thing to afford. When you're struggling to stretch the family budget far enough as it is, it can feel as though you'll never have enough cash for a holiday. 

The good news is that you don't necessarily have to give up on a family holiday if you're trying to cut back on your spending this year. Instead, all you need to do is think about how you can adjust your budgeting techniques to make your adventure more affordable. Here are a few tips to keep in mind. 

1. Consider Getting Some Extra Help

One of the biggest problems that families have when it comes to booking a holiday, is that we only have certain times in the year when everyone is available to travel together. Whether you're just taking a trip with your immediate family, and you need both parents to be off work, and the kids to be away from school, or you're traveling as a group, it's hard to make the schedules match up. 

Then, when you do find a time that seems to work for everyone, you may find that it doesn't give you enough space to save up your income for long enough to afford the trip. If that's the case for you, a little help could be the best way to go. A personal loan means you can enjoy your vacation worry-free, and then finish paying it off at a time that suits you. 

2. Look for Ways to Make Extra Cash 

If you're worried about having enough money for your family holiday, or you simply want to make sure that you have enough left over to splurge on souvenirs, then you might want to consider finding additional ways to make extra cash. For instance, there are plenty of websites online these days where you can go to offer up your skills as a freelancer. 

On the other hand, you could always consider a more traditional side-gig, like taking on a part-time job or becoming a dog walker for the people in your neighbourhood

3. Save Wherever You Can

Before you even start saving for your family holiday, it's worth sitting down as a group and going through your budget. Look at how much cash you have coming in and going out each month and ask yourself where you might be able to cut back. For instance, would you be willing to sacrifice your Netflix subscription if it meant a dream holiday? 

Sometimes, you may not even have to sacrifice anything. Making simple changes like consolidating your debts or switching to a different energy supplier can save you a lot of money every month. The key is to find as many ways to save as possible, then focus on funnelling all of your left-over cash into your "holiday fund".

4. Choose a Budget-Friendly Trip

Your decision of where to travel is sure to have an impact on how much you spend on your family holiday. For instance, it's probably not a surprise that a budget trip to Spain is less expensive than an all-inclusive adventure around Disney land. Choosing a place that's both appealing and affordable will make your holiday goals more accessible. Additionally, it helps if you can be flexible when it comes to dates and airfare. 

For instance, if you can pick a day for your flight that isn't a peak time, you can save a serious amount of money on your plane tickets. Even driving a little further so that you take off from a different airport can help to make your journey cheaper. 

5. Travel with a Group 

Another great way to save money on your booking? Travel as a group. You can save a serious amount of money just by telling your travel agent that there are 10 or more people going with you. Additionally, if you get everyone together for a trip at once, you reduce your risk of spending extra money on entertainment for the kids when you're at your destination. More people means more opportunities to have fun, bond, and avoid the boredom. 

Just make sure that you choose a group you feel comfortable spending time with for a week or two.

Modernising our tiny kitchen.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Back in 2006, after 2 years together, Barry and I took the plunge and contacted AFL Wealth Management to see if we could get a mortgage. After a meeting with a helpful Financial Advisor we finally got the green light - exciting times!

After contacting some local estate agents p, we quickly realised there really wasn't a lot available in our local area, so we knew we were going to have to sacrifice some aspect of our "dream house" in order to stay in the village we both grew up in.

After viewing for a few weeks, we finally narrowed our viable options down to two.

The first option was a lovely two bed terraced house complete with a quirky attic bedroom, newly fitted (albeit super tiny) kitchen. It was decorated in neutral colours throughout, including the carpets and nothing really needed doing before moving in. The only downside we could see was the garden was completely separate from the house. You literally had to go out of the back door, walk 2 minutes until you came to a big patch of grass separated into sections by chain link fencing. No privacy at all and unsurprisingly the majority of them where over grown and generally not looked after. Not ideal at all.

The second was again a two bed terrace, slightly bigger than the first - even the kitchen! Also decorated neutrally throughout with lovely flooring and a small, attached back yard - bonus!

This is where the fun started, Barry liked the first house purely because of the quirky bedroom, while I argued that as we wanted a Dog and a Family someday, not only would the attached yard be better but also the wooden flooring.

Of course he finally saw sense and I won the debate! We placed an offer and bought a house! We still live in the same house now and I must say it has served us well.

Over the last few years, a dog and a Daughter later, we have painted, wallpapered, added and taken away many things but one thing that we have never really been happy with is the tiny kitchen. We are under no illusion that extending is an option - we know that is way out of our budget and would also take up the only garden area we have. Instead we would love to start with a blank canvas and design the space ourselves as we honestly believe the space although small could have been utilized in a much better (and modern) way.

After much deliberating we have decided to finally start putting our ideas into action, so I have started spending my evenings scouring the web for modernising and space saving solutions.

Finding ideas is the easy part, making the fit the budget is another story! A cash loan is always an option, we know we can pay it back, it's just getting the lump sum that is difficult, something else always comes up doesn't it? 

Here is my favourite option so far, light and airy - perfect for our tiny kitchen, while not being so modern that it will need redoing in a few years. What do you think? 

If anyone has any experience with maximising a small kitchen I would really appreciate any suggestions or tips.

Happy Easter!

Easter crafting and baking - which is your favourite?

Easter with Liv!

 Does your Family have any Easter traditions?
We always went off to my Nana's static caravan for Easter when I was Younger, armed with lots of chocolate from aunts and grandparents of course!
We have always done Easter crafts and an egg hunt with Liv. As she has so many people buying for her, some of the family get her little gifts instead of eggs. So far she has had some play make up and nail polish, a bunny teddy bear and a voucher for Chester Zoo, lucky girl she is!
She is off to my parents caravan for Easter this year so we have already started her Easter bonnet and fabulous chick glasses, what do you think?

We usually make some biscuits or chocolate nests with mini eggs in, but this year I have found three AMAZING looking Cadburys Crème egg recipes from Georgia's cakes. We have decided to give the cheesecake a try - it looks fantastic but fairly easy too with me not being the best baker!

Which would you like to try?

Cracking Creme Egg Macarons by Georgia’s Cakes

Makes 20-25 macarons


5 large Cadbury Creme Eggs
125g icing sugar
65g ground almonds
60g egg whites
12g caster sugar
10g cocoa powder
100g double cream
100g dark chocolate, chopped up


· Sieve together almonds, cocoa powder and icing sugar into a bowl

· Whisk up egg whites and gradually add sugar in stages

· Whisk eggs until stiff peaks have formed

· Fold the egg white into the dry mix in 3 stages

· Fill a piping bag attached with a round nozzle

· Line a tray with baking paper and pipe £2 coin sized circles, leaving about a 2cm gap in between
 each one

· Leave for about 20 mins to skin

· Dust with a small amount of cocoa powder just to achieve a slight pattern on the surface

· Turn on the oven to 135°C and bake for 10-12 mins

· Make the filling by heating the cream and pouring it over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate has melted in

· Leave the ganache to cool and thicken (stir every now and then)

· Once the macaron shells have cooked, remove from oven and leave to cool completely before taking them off the tray

· Heat up a knife in hot water and slice the Cadbury Creme Eggs widthways into 5-6 circular pieces

· Once ganache has thickened and is at a spreadable consistency, fill a piping bag

· Pair up the matching macaron shells

· Place a piece of Cadbury Creme egg into the centre of one side of the shell, and pipe a ring around it with ganache

· Sandwich the other side onto it to form the macaron – and voila. Delicious cracking Creme egg

*     *     *

Cadbury Creme egg cheesecake by Georgia’s Cakes


· 10 Cadbury Creme Eggs
· 6 mini Cadbury Creme Eggs
· 150g digestive biscuits
· 75g melted butter
· 750g full fat cream cheese
· 150g icing sugar
· 1 vanilla pod
· 300ml double cream
· White chocolate, melted
· Dark Chocolate, melted
· Caramel sauce


· 8 inch cake ring or spring form tin
· Acetate


1. Line the inside of the tin or ring with some acetate - this will make it easier to remove the cheesecake after it’s been set

2. Crush the biscuits into fine crumbs and stir the melted butter in

3. Pour into the cake tin and press around the bottom of the tin so the whole surface is covered and compact

4. Put in the fridge to set

5. Chop 5 of the Cadbury Creme Eggs up into small chunks and set to one side

6. In a bowl, beat together the cream cheese, vanilla seeds from the vanilla pod and sifted icing sugar

7. In a separate bowl, whisk the double cream until it’s just started to firm up

8. Gently fold the cream into the cream cheese mix until it’s combined

9. Add the chopped up Creme Eggs and mix in

10. Take out the cake tin with the biscuit case

11. Cut the remaining Cadbury Creme Eggs in half - length ways - and arrange them facing out around the sides of the cake tin (use the goo to make them stick to the sides!)

12. Pour in the cheesecake mix and flatten off the top with a spatula or palette knife

13. Set in refrigerator for at least 1 hour

14. Once set, take out the fridge and remove the tin being careful with the outside of the cake

15. If applied, remove the acetate too

16. Drizzle over some white chocolate, dark chocolate and caramel sauce in a criss cross pattern

17. Cut the mini Creme Eggs in half - length ways and - arrange around the outside of the cheesecake

*     *     *

Chocolate Crème Egg cake by Georgia's Cakes

Serves 20


· 5 Cadbury Creme Egg halves to decorate
· 250g butter
· 250g caster sugar
· 200g eggs
· 225g self-raising flour
· 25g cocoa powder
· 1tsp vanilla paste

For the buttercream
· 150g softened butter
· 60ml milk
· 425g icing sugar
· 75g cocoa powder

For the chocolate drips
· 50g double cream
· 40g dark chocolate


18. Melt the butter and mix in the caster sugar
19. Add the eggs and mix through
20. Then add the flour and vanilla and mix until incorporated
21. Divide equally into 2 x 6 inch lined cake tins and bake at 180°C for 30-40 minutes until they are cooked through
22. Leave to cool on cooling racks


1. Beat together the icing sugar, cocoa powder, butter and milk
2. Keep beating until the mixture is light and fluffy


1. Level each cake off on the top and cut both in half so you have 4 equal layers of cake. Make sure you save one of the ‘bottoms’ as the last layer

2. Spread a layer of buttercream onto one layer and place the second layer on top

3. Repeat on the second and third layer. When you get to the fourth, make sure the top layer is facing down so you have the flattest side on the top

4. Place the last layer on and encase the whole cake with buttercream

5. Scrape off the excess buttercream and leave in the fridge/ freezer until the buttercream is set firm

6. Heat up the cream and pour over the dark chocolate and mix until it’s melted through

7. Pour this melted chocolate mixture over the cake and push towards the edges with a palette knife. Let it gently drip down the cake

8. Use the leftover buttercream to assemble the top of the cake, placing 5 Cadbury Creme Egg halves on top alongside meringue kisses

I found a quick video for this one which may help if you are giving it a try.

Please share your work if you do attempt any of the recipes!

Happy Easter!

Five small changes to improve your life.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

We all want to improve our quality of life, but making changes can often be more trouble than they're worth. Here are five quick and easy ways you can improve your life, instantly:

1. Join a new club... alone

As we get older, we often forget the fun we can have trying new things and making new friends. Whether it’s a book club, a weird new sport, or an art class, your life can be dramatically improved by taking the plunge and trying something new. You never know, you might uncover a talent you never knew you had!

If you’re brave enough, resisting bullying a friend into doing it with you can make a huge impact. You might feel nervous and shy at first, but it can allow you to be free to socialise with strangers (just friends you haven’t met yet!) without worrying about leaving someone out. 

2. Keep a diary

It might sound a bit sappy, but it’s been proven that writing down your thoughts and emotions from the day before bed helps you get a good night’s sleep and generally makes you happier. It’s a brilliant way of processing stress and anxiety, and can be a wonderful memento to look back on years later. Every day things that you take for granted now may seem wonderfully quaint or special fifty years in the future!

3. Spend less time in phone queues!

Using Contact Number UK will save your precious time being wasted in phone queues listening to cheesy music. They aim to provide you with a quick way of getting through to all of the UK’s major companies and organizations, ranging from Sky or Amazon, and even HMRC. By using the numbers found on Contact Number UK's site you will be able to start talking with customer service much quicker, leaving you with more time on your hands - who doesn't need that?!

4. Listen to new music

Discovering new artists or even genres can be a wonderful experience. Going outside of your comfort zone and picking a different radio station to have on in the background while you’re de-cluttering your house or cooking dinner is a simple way of broadening your musical knowledge. Good for pub quizzes, great for general happiness. 

5. Move more

It would be lovely if we all had a passion for exercise, but if we’re honest the sofa is kind of better. Even so, gradually increasing exercise into your everyday routine can be an effective way to improve your life and general health. From half an hour copying pilates videos on YouTube, to enthusiastically dancing while doing the hovering (combine number four, perhaps?), just a little extra movement every day can create big changes!

The secret to keeping kids entertained

Thursday, 22 February 2018

“I’m boreeeddd”


Eughh, those words. Are you desperate to find 6 weeks worth of activities to keep the kids occupied this summer? You’re not alone because as we speak there are plenty of other parents desperately surfing the internet trying to find the best affordable and exciting family adventures. So to save you time, we have found some of our favourite ideas to give you and your family the best summer yet.



DIY fun


● Build a treehouse! OK, this may sounds like a lot of effort and a lot of money, but it’s a great way to get the kids involved, plus they’ll love you forever after you made the coolest outdoor fort! See it as more of an investment, not only is the process of the big build exciting, think of the amount of fun they’ll after, not just lasting the summer, but many years to come. For some inspiration and advice, read here.


● Get Baking! Baking is great fun, it might get a little messy but that just makes it even more fun. Let the kids choose what they want to bake from a recipe book and take them shopping with you to get the ingredients. They’ll love the sense of responsibility and will be so proud with the finished pudding - you never know, you might have the next Mary Berry living under your roof!


● Especially if it’s a hot day (i know that’s rare but you have to be prepared) water fights are SO much fun! I suppose they aren’t really DIY as such but it doesn't cost much to buy some cheap water guns and water balloons! Get the swimsuits on and the water running. It’s great for some outdoor activity away from those screens!


● Finally, make your own treasure hunt! Whether you choose to hide clues to follow, or give them a map at the beginning, they’ll love running around and figuring out where the treasure is! Alternatively, you could get them to create the treasure hunt themselves, allowing them to get creative and arty!



Day trips 


● For the ultimate adventure, why not go on a fun family day out at Port Lympne. Your little ones will get to meet some of their favourite animals like never before! This safari experience is perfect for your little explorers and after a busy adventure you can have a tasty treat at one of our restaurants. To make the day even more unforgettable, why not try one of our exceptional experiences, for example you could be a keeper for the day!


● If you’re a family who love sporting activities, the Chill Factore could be the answer for you. You can go skiing, snowboarding, tubing and even indoor skydiving and if you’ve never hit the slopes before - don’t worry because they offer lessons for everyone! Plus, they also offer a range of party packages for your little one’s birthday falls in the holidays.


● For more of an underwater experience, visit the Sealife centre, with locations all over the UK, Brighton, Blackpool, Manchester, London and Loch Lomond (just to name a few!) you don’t have to travel too far! Get close to all the exotic sea creatures like never before, seahorses, jellyfish, turtles, sharks, rays and so much more!



What are your plans for the holidays? Do you have any tips to keep the kids from murmuring those dreaded words?

How to make your door as energy efficient as possible.

Friday, 22 December 2017

As part of the latest government efforts to promote green living, all new builds need to have external doors that are compliant with the latest energy efficient regulation. This relates to something called a U-value which measures how effective a material is as an insulator. Anything with a bad U-value will enable heat to escape easily, leaving an expensive, cold home which is not very eco-friendly at all. Confusingly the U-value itself translates as the lower the better. This is why some companies opt for A+ and below as a ratings scale which makes things a lot easier to understand.
You might not believe upgrading a door will make much of a difference to a home's energy efficiency, but a lot of heat can be lost between the home and the door, particularly with older single pane doors. There are lots of doors in any one home and all provide different privacy, accessibility and visibility options. It is important to ensure that those doors are as energy efficient as possible to the benefit of your home value, heating bills, home comfort and the environment.
Here are the best ways to ensure the doors in your home are as energy efficient as possible: 

Replace Older Doors

If you purchased an old home it is likely it still has the original exterior doors. They are unlikely to have been replaced, and so they won't be as efficient as newer types. Newer doors are designed to fit better and so are more insulating. Choosing something with a good U-value will ensure your door is as efficient as possible. Certain companies use a green certified label to promote their most energy efficient doors. 

Ensure Interior Doors Fit Well

Interior doors help to trap the heat into one single space which is really useful if you choose to just heat one room. Make sure your interior doors fit well and consider installing additional glass doors or bifold doors into your home for extra privacy and heat retention. 

Keep On Top of Bad Habits

Keeping on top of bad habits in the home will help your doors be as energy efficient as possible. For example: with any glass doors letting sunlight in you should open the curtains in the day so that the light can get in during winter, and in summer keep the curtains closed during the hottest parts of the day to keep the home cool. Keep curtains shut at night to protect against window draughts. 

Add Draft-proofing

Draught-proofing around your doors can help to stop air leaking out. Your draught-proofing needs to be extremely durable with doors that are used a lot and a tension seal will help with durability. You can find tips on draught-proofing your doors and other parts of your home in this handy Energy Savings Trust video

Buy A Truly Eco-Friendly Door

Even though some doors are labelled as green or eco-friendly, this isn't always the case. In lots of marketing, green labelling is used and yet the door actually contains lead or CFC's. A truly green door will be free of CFC and will be made with various eco-friendly compounds including ingredients like calcium and zinc which have a lighter carbon-footprint. These materials are just as durable as non eco-friendly materials. You should also try to buy from a manufacturer local to you where the door is made and sold in the same location. 

Bifold Doors

Bifold doors are a great way to increase the light and warmth in your home and despite concerns or ill-founded worries about their energy efficiency, they can be just as energy efficient as a standard exterior door. Bifold doors can keep your home safe and secure all whilst adding to the aesthetics of your home and the accessibility of your outdoors space. There are some ways to ensure the doors you do buy are as eco-friendly as possible:-


By its nature, glass is not exactly as weather-proof as building materials like brick or concrete. That's not to say it can't withstand harsh weather as well as your standard exterior door though. Usually bifold doors are installed with a low threshold to ensure the weather has the least possible chance of finding its way inside. The seal between the floor and the threshold is also likely to be much more secure if it is made from rubber. This helps keep the cold and rain out and the heat in. 

Frame Materials

The material the door is made from is important. UPVC frames aren't always the best 
choice. Wooden frames tend to be more high maintenance and aluminium can cost more. In most cases you will pay more for an eco-friendly and higher quality door but you'll get a return with its efficiency and the fact it will last you a long time. 


You will want to look for low-e glass on your bifold door. Low-e means low emissivity and is a coating that reflects heat. With a good u-value door the glass is likely to be low-e, but it is worth checking. Read this handy Energy Savings Trust article about eco-friendly glass and what to look out for. 
There are many different contributory factors that have to be addressed in order to make a home as energy efficient as possible. The time and effort is well worth it in exchange for a home that is eco-friendly, efficient and comfortable to live in.

The best celebrity style interiors.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Are you looking for that picture perfect celebrity style home? Do you come across the big double page spreads on the beautiful interior of the Beckham’s home and think about what it would be like to be able to have their incredible eye for design - or their very expensive interior designer!


Turns out you don’t need to have a famous designer to be your fairy godmother because we have found the best of the best designs for you to transform your home into the fairy castle you desire. Sophistication? Class? Tropical? Edgy? We have found the most popular celeb styles for you to choose from!



Shabby chic 


The shabby chic look tends to be furnishings which display their age, the scratched paint look often tends to be a popular choice. Shabby Chic is more of an elegant, dainty style which celebrities such as Taylor swift, Reese Witherspoon and Jessica Simpson love! Jessica Simpson especially, loves to decorate her home with light colours, glistening chandeliers and rustic side tables to really create a calming, relaxed retreat. To tie the room together, add some made to measure curtains from family run companies like Plumbs



Vintage farmhouse


The vintage farmhouse style has become increasingly popular in recent years, the grand entrances, tall ceilings and large fireplaces achieve a cosy and homely living space with plenty of room for friends and family gatherings - perfect for christmas! World famous stars such as Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried and Whoopi Goldberg love their farmhouse homes. I’m sure Anne Hathaway didn’t have any second thoughts on spending millions on her farmhouse home in Connecticut which houses a stone fireplace, peaked ceilings and a large, wooden dining table to seat all her guests!


Parisian Style 


If anyone does design right, it’s the Parisian’s, whether it’s fashion or interior design - they know what they’re doing. The parisian style interior is a timeless classic, the floor length drapes, the array of beautiful antiques and the tiny details of gold, whether it rims a photo frame or mirror etc. A simple bunch of flowers is a popular finishing touch which ties the room together. Celebrities such as Mark Wahlberg and Ellen Degeneres are huge fans of this styled interior, for example, Mark Wahlberg introduces gold into details within the ceiling and around the mirror and fireplace.





For more of a fun, lively feel, a retro interior could be for you. With bold bright colours such as reds, yellows, blues etc. Matched with a range of patterns and textures such as shaggy rugs and a pattern wall, you are sure to have that ‘funky’ look down to a tee. From checked tiled flooring to pop art on the walls, this style really is wacky and wonderful. This style is very popular with Pharrell Williams whose home is full of bright, uplifting furniture and lighting. He has large images of cartoon characters hanging on the walls and bold coloured chairs which stand out in the room.


Have you got a favourite style for you home?

Weight loss help with The Independent Pharmacy.

Friday, 15 December 2017

So I have a little personal update for you. A week ago today I finally bit the bullett and started what I hope will be my success story with the #SlimFastChallenge

Having been to classes and followed plans before, I have to say it's so nice not to have food on my mind constantly - with most diets it's planning, cooking, weighing all the time. 

On this SlimFast 3-2-1 plan  it really couldn't be any easier!

This is how it works:

3 - snacks - slimfast have a huge range of snacks for under 100 calories but it is also recommended to eat a piece of fruit. I have been having two pieces of fruit and either a delicious Slim-Fast snack or a Babybel.

Today I had some SlimFast BBQ flavour Tortillas, a Slim-Fast  Chocolate Nutty Nougat bar and a pear.

2 - shakes - either a ready made one or two scoops of powder with 200ml of skimmed milk blitzed up in the smoothly maker with ice - yum! There is also the option of a meal replacement bar if you are out and about. These are between 210 and 230 calories.

1 - healthy 600 calorie meal.

It is also advised you drink 2 Litres of water a day which I have to admit has been the biggest struggle. I am terrible for forgetting to drink, I pester Liv all day long to drink as she is the same, but forget to do the same myself.

The taste test!
I was quite surprised how creamy and filling the shakes actually are, they are quite sweet for my taste but I have got used to them now.

All of the savoury snacks and chocolate bars I have tried are genuinely delicious and aren't like "diet" food at all. They taste just like any other little treat you would have. They are all under 100 calories so you know you can have a treat without blowing your daily intake.

The meal replacement bars were quite a shock for me as they are so filling! The chocolate peanut one is my favourite with a cheeky cup of coffee.

As for my main meals, I usually eat healthily anyway so have been sticking to meat/fish and veg, salad or a jacket potato. I can honestly say I have not felt hungry or lacking energy even once which has really surprised me!

I have been recommended to try some pharmacy prescribed weight loss tablets too, which help by reducing fat absorption. They can help you lose an extra 1 pound to every 3! 

I will update you all in the new year, Merry Christmas!