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  1. A very honest account of how I ended up in £17500 of debt by the age of 20

    Believe me, I am no stranger to struggling with personal debt.  As soon as I hit 18 and was old enough to get store cards and credit cards, I did.  I was really quite naïve and really quite stupid.  I’d moved out of home at 17 and into a shared house with an older boyfriend.  I thought I was so grown up and mature, but I had no idea how to manage money and neither did he.  I was off to university and before I even had my loan come through I’d spent it on a deposit for us to get our own flat together.  I was in debt before I even turned 18.

    Once I had a taste of store cards and being able to buy whatever I wanted I was hooked.  I quickly developed a shopping addiction and would rarely wear the same outfit twice for a couple of years.  I always justified it to myself – ‘I never want to go travelling or anything, so it doesn’t matter if I get into debt as I’ll always be here to pay it off. . . blah blah blah’ ‘Life’s too short’ ‘Money’s there to be spent’. 

    What to do if you’re struggling to manage your finances A very honest accou

    As I said, I was young and stupid.

    I also lacked any confidence.  I worked at what I thought was the coolest clothes shop in town and I wanted people to like me.  It was a very social environment and we went to the pub for lunch almost every lunch time, again to the pub for drinks after work and we also went out clubbing several nights a week.  I definitely had fear of missing out and was always the last one at a party and never missed an event or chance to go out with everyone.  I smoked and drank and lived way beyond my shop assistant wage.  I regularly bought rounds for people and shared out cigarettes as I wanted people to like me and continue to invite me out. 

    All these purchases were going on my credit cards.

    Buying new clothes almost daily, going out for lunch almost daily and out clubbing in the evening several times a week, plus paying rent, household bills, a mobile phone bill, for a car and everything else at age 18-19 was way too much for my wage at that time.

    Before I knew it I had 10 store cards, 3 credit cards and 2 loans and was in ‘debt crisis’ meaning I was paying off the minimum payments by borrowing credit from another card and actually never ever paying anything off.

    I realised I was in trouble when I suddenly maxed out some of the cards and had no funds left anywhere to pay the minimum payments.

    Eek!

    I started getting red letters and panicking.

    What to do if you’re struggling to manage your finances A very honest accou

    The stupidest thing is I never ever sat down and worked out my incomings and outgoings.  I had no idea what they were or if I could even afford all these credit cards and store cards.  It’s the most obvious and simplest solution before ever applying for credit, but I never did it.

    I went to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and for the first time I sat down with the advisor and totted up my debt.

    I was almost 20 and in £17500 worth of debt.

    INSANE.

    Plus, I had nothing to show for it!

    I was advised to go on a debt management plan and after five very long years I managed to pay every last penny back.  It was a struggle, I was skint and I definitely learned my lesson.

    I managed to get out of debt by my mid-twenties and even get accepted for a mortgage a few years later.  It’s totally possible to get yourself out of any financial mess you get yourself into and turn it all around.

    I’m a very different person now.  Yes, my husband and I have debt.  We have a mortgage and we have two homeowner loans, but we can afford these and still have plenty left at the end of the month.  I work our finances out every month on a spreadsheet so I know where we are every payday and I check our bank accounts first thing every morning to double check each balance.  Although we have debt I am in control of it and we can afford it.  I certainly don’t live the lifestyle I lived in my early twenties and I’d never be so stupid again.  Our debt now is to pay for our home which is an investment for us and our children’s future.

    I never ever want to be in that situation again.  It was a very dark time for me and it was totally avoidable.  Being consumed by debt and having money worries is horrid.  It really did destroy me at the time.

    If you are struggling financially there are options available to you.  Here are some thoughts on what you can do if you are in financial difficulty:

    What to do if youre struggling to manage your finances A very honest accoun

    Consolidate your debts

    If your debt is manageable and you’re not in debt crisis like I was then you may still be able to help yourself. If you have debt spread across several sources it might be worth consolidating your debt onto one credit card with a 0% balance transfer fee.  Just don’t use the credit card and only use it to pay off the outstanding debt.  You can also use online personal loans to do the same, but you’ll be charged interest on the balance.  Only get a credit card or loan if you are sure you can make the monthly repayments and it’s in your best interest.

    Request a repayment holiday

    If you can’t make a payment in the short term then speak to your creditor.  Some banks will let you take a repayment holiday for a month or so if you’re struggling and you’ve otherwise been a good customer.  It’s always worth asking and it could give you just the time you need to get your finances back on track.  Most of the companies I spoke to when I was struggling were actually really helpful and offered advice.

    Ask for advice

    There is so much advice out there to help you with your debt nowadays.  Do not struggle alone, go and get help!  The Citizens Advice was a huge help to me and knew exactly what I should do.  The banks also have helplines, but for me I preferred to talk to an impartial person face to face when things got really out of hand.  They signposted me to a debt management company who helped me clear my debt.

    Use a free debt management company

    If your debt is unmanageable by yourself you may want to consider some specialist advice.  A lot of debt management companies charge a fee for their service.  I used a company called PayPlan who offer free advice and free debt management services.  They communicated on my behalf to all my creditors and even managed to halt the interest on many accounts so I had a chance to just pay back what I owed.  You can pay one monthly payment to the debt management company and they’ll distribute it on your behalf.

    The best thing you can do is to get help today and don’t let the problem get any worse.  Once you are in control of your finances, keep it that way.

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  2. Let's put an end to harmful cigarettes

    According to The Guardian, the number of people in the UK who smoke is currently at an all-time low after a steady decline over the last few years – with figures showing that in 2016 only 16.9% of people were recorded as smokers, falling from a rate of just over 20% in 2010. Loads of people are keen to quit now, and rightly so, due to smart marketing campaigns from the government that warn about the cost – both to your health, the health of your loved ones and of course, the financial cost.

    The most popular tool to help quit smoking in the past six years has proven to be e-cigarettes, the benefits of which massively outweigh all other smoking cessation methods. We are the most progressive in the UK when it comes to e-cigarettes and have one of the highest percentage of vapers in the world. Studies by the HNS have been conducted to show that vaping is far safer than smoking so it is being recommended by health professionals as an excellent method for helping to quit.

    Here are some more benefits of using e-cigarettes to quit.

    Will Vaping be the End of Smoking

    Adjustable Nicotine Levels
    E-cigarettes can still contain nicotine, which is a good thing, as for those who quit smoking nicotine is what their body craves. The levels of nicotine found in the e-liquid of vapour cigarettes are not only adjustable, but you can also opt to get rid of them altogether – so you can slowly wean yourself off the addictive substance without having to worry about the health issues of going cold turkey!

    No Harmful Chemicals
    The worst thing about tobacco cigarettes is the plethora of dangerous ingredients you will find in them, not least arsenic, commonly found in poison and tar that will turn a healthy set of lungs cancerous if exposed to prolonged use. E-cigarettes contain no such chemicals as everything is non-toxic and completely safe. Making the swap will massively reduce the amount of destructive substances that you feed your body.

    Same Muscle Memory
    The problem other smoking cessation methods have is that they do not involve the same rituals as actually smoking, there’s no feeling of putting something to your mouth and inhaling for that relaxing ‘throat hit’. E-cigarettes possess pretty much the same rituals as smoking tobacco and as such as are massively popular – while nicotine patches provide you with that hit of nicotine, there will still feel like there’s something missing.

    No Sneaky Side Effects
    A huge issue for smokers is the smell that smoking will leave them with, or the fact it turns their teeth yellow – e-cigarettes possess no such problem. The e-liquids that are available to purchase can come in quite enjoyable smells, but they won’t stick to your clothes! There are absolutely no ash burns to worry about to, too.

    If you’re looking to help somebody quit smoking, why not take a look at some vapour starter kits from some reputable e-cigarette stores? Do someone a favour by enabling them to kick the filthy habit once and for all!

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  3. Why you should grow your own veg

    Allotments all over the UK are extremely popular and waiting lists are long. In a recent survey, a quarter of people said they had an allotment for growing food that’s fresh and tastes better, for the exercise in digging, planting and weeding, and to socialise with other like-minded people. As you can see, there are wide ranging benefits to allotment gardening. Let’s take a closer look.

    6 Benefits of Allotment Gardening sack of carrots

    1. Eating healthily

    Of course, an obvious benefit of growing your own fruit and veg is that you eat more healthily. Not only are you more likely to eat the vegetables and salads you grow, but you’re the one who decides what to grow them with (or without). Your choice to use no chemicals or sprays, for example, means you’ll be able enjoy fresh organic fruit and vegetables without the hefty ‘organic’ supermarket price tag.

    1. Saving you money

    If you have green fingers, your allotment will be able to produce enough fresh vegetables and salads to supplement your entire family’s weekly shop. Just imagine – fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the year! Yes, it can be hard work, but even if you only grow a small crop of vegetables, a large part of the reward is the money saved that you would have otherwise spent at the shops.

    1. Sunlight keeps you healthy

    If you’re a light-skinned individual, then spending around 15-20 minutes a day out in the summer sunshine will help you build up your levels of vitamin D, which is important to your health. If your skin is naturally darker, you can spend around 60-90 minutes in the sun to raise your vitamin levels.

    Gardening outside in sunlight can make a difference to your wellbeing too – sunlight can help to ward off certain illnesses and raise your levels of serotonin, the vitamin in your body that makes you happier and healthier.

    6 Benefits of Allotment Gardening - man in allotments

    1. Burning up the calories

    By doing just 30 minutes of gardening on your allotment, you can burn around 150 calories, which is just as good a low-intensity workout at the gym, or doing low impact aerobics. People of all ages and abilities can get involved. It’s wonderful exercise with the added bonus of putting delicious greens and vegetables onto the dinner table.

    Moderate activity like gardening can help prevent heart disease, obesity, brittle bones, arthritis, mild depression and non-insulin dependent diabetes. Allotments first came into being as means to feed the rural poor, but over the years, they’ve become a popular hobby among people from all over the UK.

    Those who work allotments are healthier because of the exercise and much needed ‘fresh-air’. So, why don’t you contact your local council today and add your name to the waiting list.

    1. Meeting like-minded people

    Your local allotment is a fantastic place to meet people in your neighbourhood and form great friendships. All of you share a common interest and most allotment gardeners are only too happy to lend a hand and offer advice.

    1. Supporting natural habitats and open spaces

    Traditionally, allotments are located near housing developments, and are therefore essential areas to provide habitats for all forms of wildlife. By cultivating and planting an allotment, you’ll be doing your bit to keep biodiversity levels on the up.

    Without these wonderful ‘green spaces’, all sorts of wildlife would be under threat, the ecosystem would suffer, crop yields would fall and your neighbourhood’s open spaces would become a much poorer place.

    It’s a fact that just one square metre of land can support hundreds of species of insects, frogs, spiders, hedgehogs, and many other kinds of wildlife. Allotments provide local wildlife with sustainable habitats, and these include birds, foxes, badgers, bees, butterflies, slow-worms and many others. You’ll be amazed by what you see while working at your plot.

    6 Benefits of Allotment Gardening

    What you should plant

    When it comes to growing your own fruit and vegetable, there’s a huge choice of crops you can try. Whether you go for traditional potatoes, carrots, salad greens, pumpkins or runner beans or try your hand at more exotic varieties of cavolo nero, okra or mooli – half the fun is in seeing what works. Take into account the soil and climate conditions of your particular allotment and experiment with trial and error.

    Unless you have a good gardening community with regular seed swaps, a good seed supplier is key. Most garden centres should offer a decent selection, or you could order from a specialist online supplier such as Seed Parade.

     

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  4. 7 Ways to promote your blog when you’re not online

    Colour Graphics recently produced this survey questioning how we bloggers market our blogs both online and offline.  It questions whether offline marketing is effective for bloggers and whether it’s used at all.  I mostly market my blog online, though I do not believe offline marketing is totally dead and for some it can still be a successful way to gain new readers.  When you start to think about it, you probably do market your blog offline without even thinking about it. Something as simple as telling someone about your blog and them going home and looking at your blog is successful offline marketing!

    Here are several simple ways to market your blog offline:

    Tell everyone you meet

    I expect you do this anyway?  If not, why not?  Be proud of your blog and skill!  I too felt embarrassed of my writing and blog when first starting out, but now I love my blog and I’m proud to share it with people.  It’s highly likely those you tell will ask you for your blog name or web address.

    How to market your blog effectively offline - 7 Ways to promote your blog

    Use business cards

    This ties in nicely with the above point – have a business card at the ready!  It’s so affordable nowadays to get a stack of business cards professionally printed, why not get some made for your blog?  As soon as someone asks for your URL you can give them a business card.  They’re great for dishing out at networking events and meet ups too so people can look at your blog after the event.  You might be able to leave a few in cafes and other reception areas that allow you to do so.

    Go to local networking events

    Find a local small business networking event and sign up.  You may meet other likeminded people and gain some valuable contacts.  Remember to take your business cards with you!

    Attend blog meet ups

    There are lots of blog meetups throughout the year in various locations where you can network with bloggers just like you.  This is a brilliant way to get new readers as they’ll be super interested in your blog and understand exactly what a blog is!

    How to market your blog effectively offline - 7 Ways to promote your blog

    Post a local ad

    Support your local leaflets and news by posting an ad about your blog.  You’ll have to come up with a really catchy tagline to entice the paper readers online!

    Use a car vinyl

    Have a car vinyl printed with your URL to stick on the rear screen of your car.  Make sure it’s clear to read when cars are waiting behind you.  Give friends and family one to stick on their car too.

    Write for a local paper

    Lots of local papers regularly need new writers about all sorts of topics.  Offer your services once a month and in return they should let you add your name and website under the article title or at the end. 

    What do you think?  Can you, or do you, successfully market your blog offline?

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  5. Has motherhood turned you into a blubbering wreck?

    Becoming a mother definitely makes your priorities change and of course your body, but it can also make you way more emotional as I continue to discover!  Things that never used to bother me in the slightest now turn me into a blubbering wreck.  In normal day to day life I’m not even a crying sort of person.  I used to be more emotional in my early twenties, but not so really anymore. Not in my day to day life anyway, but the thing that is starting to get me is TV and films.  Especially if there are children involved.

    I think this is something to do with becoming a parent and understanding the emotional attachment to your child?

    The film that got me last night was Cast Away.

    I knew before we even started watching it that I was going to cry.

    Has becoming a mother made you way more emotional

    We were having some random conversation about how if I ‘lost’ Ben, how long would it take me to move on.  Yes random I know.  I jokingly said two weeks and just imagine if he came back and I had a new husband already.  I said you know, kind of like Cast Away, but a lot quicker.

    Ben said ‘huh?’

    He had never ever watched Cast Away! 

    Whaaaaat?!  I can’t believe anyone hasn’t watched Cast Away.  Not only do I love every film Tom Hanks is in, but I had to watch this film when released if only to see how it’s possible to make an entire film entertaining with only one character on screen for the duration (pretty much).

    So we watched it.  And as predicted at the end I couldn’t hold back the waterworks. 

    Trying not to let Ben see I was crying I popped my arm over the top of my head in a weird uncomfortable (but I’ll pretend I’m just chilling comfortably) triangle position, so it blocked his view of my eyes.  Then I held back the tears by holding a giant bubble of air in my throat that just wanted to be released in a wail along with a bucket load of tears.  Do you ever do that?  It kind of hurts!

    I’ve no idea if he knew what I was doing or that some tears were just streaming down my face anyway, and I ended up telling him that the film made me cry.  It’s the ending where he sees his girlfriend, but she’s now married with a child.  She thought he’d died seeing as his plane crashed and he wasn’t found for four years and even held his funeral and felt like she had to move on.  Whilst away he dreamed of getting back to the love of his life and it kept him going.  Now she probably wishes she’d have held on and waited.  But she also has a new husband and a daughter, so she needs to be with them; such an awkward ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ situation.  I just feel so sorry for them all.

    When I used to watch the film I never shed a tear.  I thought it was sad, but I just thought it.  I never showed it.  Now I can’t even hold the tears back!  I wanted so bad to tell Ben why I found it so sad once we went to bed, but every time the words entered my head ready to say them, I got that lumpy bubble of air back in my throat and couldn’t speak as I would just start blubbering again!

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