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Category: Family, Lifestyle & Opinion

  1. July 2018 Monthly Family Roundup

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    July was a super busy month!  The summer months usually are as we make more holiday plans and have days out thanks to the good weather.  The weather this year has been particularly good with around one whole month of nonstop sunshine and temperatures hitting 30 degrees!  A real summer for once in Britain!

    Life is usually hectic busy all the time with me and Ben both working full time, Bella at school and Reuben at two settings, both a nursery and pre-school, kids swimming lessons, going to the gym at least four times a week and cooking homemade meals every day.  Just all that alone keeps us so busy and fills each day along with keeping on top of the house, chickens, Ben trying to do woodwork and keeping up to date with friends, family and so on.

    We’ve also surprisingly crammed in several mini breaks and a holiday this month.  Read below to see what we’ve been up to!

    Catch up on some of my previous family roundups here: 
    January 2018
    February 2018
    March 2018
    April 2018
    May and June 2018

    Welcome to my latest monthly family roundup.  Once a month I look back through our photos and my planner to record the highlights of the previous month.  It’s a great way to create an online scrapbook that I, hubby and the children can look back on for years to come.  I always think that even if the rest of my blog fails somehow one day, I’d still write these posts and use my blog as an online memory book for me and the children.  I bet they’ll love reading through this category when they’re grown up!

    July 2018 Mont­­hly Family Roundup

    Sold Ben’s car to We Buy Any Car

    photo of new mazda bongo with pop top up in camping site in oxwich bay devo

    Our new Bongo - King Bongo!

    You may have seen me mention in previous posts about selling Ben’s old car, but we finally did.  Unfortunately we had to use We Buy Any Car.  We already knew we wanted a Mazda Bongo and had started looking.  The plan was to sell Ben’s car and then use the money to fund the purchase.  We thought we could get £3500-4000 for Ben’s car and a Bongo for around £4500-5000.  Thing was, we’d already started looking at Bongos and saw a really good condition one with low mileage that was the same price as others in terrible condition with twice the mileage!  So we had to go and look at it.  Big mistake as we went ahead and put a deposit down, turning our funding options around.  We used all our savings to buy the Bongo, listed at £5000 but we got it down to £4500, with the plan to pay it back with Ben’s car sale.

    Then, of course, an engine light came on almost immediately in Ben’s car.  Probably to teach us a lesson for doing things backwards with the finance side of things.  After several garage trips, some paid, to find someone with the right car reader to read the fault we found out it would cost around £1500 to fix and most garages seemed to be quoting high as it was such a pain of a job they weren’t keen to do it at all.  Gah!

    Then of course, we’d still have to sell Ben’s car for the maximum price possible and who knew how long that would take.

    So, begrudgingly, but for a quick sale, Ben used We Buy Any Car who gave us a whopping £1500, but I guess after the cost of repairs this would have worked out about the same if we couldn’t sell Ben’s car for the maximum possible price, though maybe £500-£1000 less than we could have got in the end.

    So the car is gone, thankfully, but I feel like we lost out on quite a bit of money from our original plan so our emergency fund savings took quite a hit.  Luckily we had them to cover it and I’ve been desperately trying to top them up and working as much as possible, even until the early hours some nights, to try and replace the funds.  I want to save six months’ worth of wages in our emergency fund and within three years.  I was hoping to be a third there by the end of this year and still plan to.  Being self-employed means I’m always anxious about money so I want the security of a large lump sum sat there in case anything ever changes with my income.  Plus, of course, it can cover any household or car emergencies.

    Next time we will sell the car first and then buy the new car!

    See why I’m saving an emergency find here: Why saving an emergency fund is a great idea

    Bella runs on sports day!

    Woohoo, Bella runs on sports day!  Looking back at her last sports day here, she did so much better!  Last year she stopped and cried and the teaching assistant had to grab her and run to the end with her!  This year she was really panicking before and not wanting to practice in her P.E lessons.  We gave her lots of encouragement, Ben practiced with her in the garden, we upped her sports activites at the gym, and it all must have worked as on the day she ran no problem, she didn’t come last (which I know doesn’t matter but it did give her a big confidence boost) and she was SO chuffed with herself!  Go Bella!  Hopefully that’s the fear of sports day over now and she’ll enjoy it a little more from now on.  We try to encourage the taking part and not that winning is the most important factor.

    Bella has first hair cut and I go shorter

    photo of bella getting her hair cut for the first time age 6 for blog post

    Bella’s hair just does not grow!  It’s got to just below shoulder length when straight, but it’s super curly so it sits above her shoulders to look at.  This is the longest it’s got in her six years of life!  Lots of her classmates have had their hair cut, some several times, and she was asking when she could have hers done, so I booked a hairdresser appointment and she had her first trim!  Her hair grows into a point in the middle so this was straightened out and the hairdresser is confident with regular 12 week trims we can get it to grow down healthily and start to get a little more length.  She loved her first haircut and must have felt very grown up!

    photo of my new hair cut for July 2018 Monthly Family Roundup

    I also had my haircut even shorter, so short, the shortest it's ever been!

    Diggerland

    photo of the entrance to diggerland devon for blog post July 2018 Monthly F

    I was lucky to be invited to Diggerland to review on my blog so we attended at the start of July.  We had a great time and chose one of the most boiling hot days to go!  Luckily that day one of the England World Cup football games was on so it was dead quiet.

    Click here to read my full thoughts: Diggerland Devon review

    Vix orthodontic treatment over

    July 2018 Monthly Family Roundup brace off

    Brace off, retainer with two temporary false teeth (can you spot which ones, it's quite obvious?!)

    photo of essix retainer with two false lateral incisor teeth for blog post

    My orthodontic treatment is over.  I had my braces on for over two years and they are now both removed.  I now have my retainers full time, but that might only be until October.  Then I’ll need to wear them part time in the evenings only.  This is forever more to hold the teeth in their new positions.  Many people stop wearing their retainers and then their teeth start to move again, so after spending £3000 on braces I will be wearing my retainers part time forever more!

    My teeth aren’t perfect yet though.  I had to have my peg tooth removed so now I have no lateral incisors at all which are the teeth next to the top front teeth.  Ben says I look like a pirate!  Luckily I have a retainer with two false teeth to cover the gaps temporarily.  I have an appointment with a cosmetic dentist next week to discuss my options which will probably be two bridges.

    I can’t wait.  I just want my mouth back and to be able to eat socially, as well as my new perfect smile of course!

    Here are all my blog updates from July:

    Peg tooth extraction
    No more braces after 28 months (but it's not over yet)
    12 reasons I hate the clear plastic Essix retainer
    Upper Hawley and lower Essix retainer fitting appointment
    The partial denture disappointment

    Kid-free trip to the Gower

    photo of me and my husband ben in oxwich bay gower wales for blog post July

    Before taking the kids camping in our new Bongo, we thought we’d better test it out for a night ourselves, so me and Ben went to the Gower for one night.  It was the first night we’d had away by ourselves, kid-free, this whole year, so we really enjoyed it!

    Here’s what we got up to: Kid-free travel review – Our first campervan trip to Greenways of Gower, Oxwich Bay

    Bella finishes year one

    photo of my daughter bella on last day in year two for blog post July 2018

    I can’t believe it, but Bella has completed two full school years and will be entering her final year of infants in September!  This school year was twice as fast as last year I swear!  This means it’s only one year until Reuben starts school too and we’ll be applying for his school place this autumn.  Wow!

    Ben goes camping with Pete

    As is becoming their yearly tradition, Ben and his best friend went camping.  They went somewhere in mid Wales for two nights, both in their campervans this time!  They went climbing, which Pete is becoming an expert at, and got lost in some mountains on a mega trek!

    Funnily I just looked at my family roundup from July 2017, one year ago, and we did a lot of the same things.  Obviously school ended and Bella had sports day, but it was the same month that we had a kid-free trip and Ben went camping with Pete!  Deja vu!

    First family camping trip in the campervan to Devon

    July 2018 Monthly Family Roundup branscombe bay photo

    Branscombe Bay

    photo of my kids on a cruise in devon for blog post July 2018 Monthly Famil

    After the success of mine and Ben’s first campout in the Bongo, we took the kids to try one night camping with them.  We visited Devon for one night and spent two full days exploring a few beaches.  It was successful and the kids loved it.  We only forgot to take Bella’s nightlight so she ended up down with us half way through the night, so I had a squished night’s sleep, but next time we’ll not forget some torches and nightlights for them!

    Here’s my full two day diary: Branscombe Airfield and Campsite review and two day Devon travel diary

    Fat Toni’s date night

    photo of giant pizza at fat tonis cheltenham pizzeria for blog post July 20

    Ben and I luckily had a date night out, thanks to Ben’s brother babysitting for us as a treat for our birthdays.  I’m hoping to find a local babysitter as I love the luxury of someone coming to our home and us being able to pop out for a meal for a couple of hours every now and then.  We went to Fat Toni’s which is a pizzeria in Gloucestershire that we’ve only had takeaways from before.  We’re quite far out so have only had cold takeaways from their so far, but we knew piping hot it would be amazing.  They make the largest pizzas ever to share and have loads of vegan options.  We had a huge vegan pizza to share with vegan pesto, asparagus, wild mushroom, spinach, tomatoes and more!  It was delicious and amazing piping hot as we had thought!  We went to the Cheltenham restaurant, but they also have takeaway only outlets in Stroud and Gloucester.

    Center Parcs, Longleat

    We finished off July with the start of our summer holiday to Center Parcs in Longleat.  It was the first time we’d been to Center Parcs and wanted to see if it lived up to the hype!  We did have a great time, but I won’t pick the most expensive week of the year next time.  As it cost so much to go, around £300 per night, we didn’t have much spending money left, or really I couldn’t justify much more.  So we enjoyed a few meals out as a treat, a pedalo ride and crazy golf, but didn’t take part in any of the booked activities.  If we go again, which I’m sure we will, I’ll aim for a cheaper week if they exist in the school holidays and pre-book some activities before we go to spread the cost.  It is an amazing place, but I feel you need to take part in some activities to really get the most out of it.

    That said, here are 7 free things to do with kids at Center Parcs Longleat

    photo of lake beach at center parcs longleat for blog post July 2018 Monthl

    photot of pedalo at center parcs longleat for blog post July 2018 Monthly F

    A super busy month with so many trips and days out!  August is looking pretty much the same with weekend plans galore whilst it’s the summer holidays, then things will start to quieten down as the kids go back to school and the weather starts to cool.

    July 2018 Monthly Family Roundup

  2. How to cut costs for your wedding

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    Make no mistake, weddings are an expensive business. In the UK alone, the wedding industry is worth £10 billion a year, and costs are on the up.

    Did you know that the average UK wedding costs £27,161? That’s more than the average salary! If the thought of spending so much on your wedding is making your stomach turn, then the good news is that you’re not alone. Many couples manage to achieve beautiful, memorable weddings at a fraction of the cost.

    How can you have your dream day without the dream budget? Take a look at these useful tips on how to cut costs for your wedding.

     How to cut costs for your wedding

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    Have a smaller wedding

    While you might initially want to invite hundreds of guests to your special day, it’s not always feasible to do so. There’s a cost-per-head associated with most weddings, and when you multiply it by 100 or 200, it soon starts looking frightening. Why not opt for a more intimate ceremony instead? You’ll still get to celebrate with your nearest and dearest, but your costs will be considerably lower.

    Learn to make sacrifices

    When you’re planning a wedding on a budget, you’re going to need to learn to make some sacrifices. You might not be able to have the elegant Chiavari chairs that are an extortionate extra at your venue, but does it really matter?  I’m sure you can choose something just as tasteful for less.  It can be difficult to make sacrifices for your wedding day, but thinking about what’s most important to you can help you work out where to spend the most money and where to cut back. If it’s a band you’re looking for, conduct a search of local bands at https://www.alivenetwork.com/hirelivemusic/wedding_bands_in.asp?area=Hertfordshire and go check them out. You never know, you might even be able to cut a deal for promoting their services or reducing their playing time!  Always remember to negotiate the fee if the quote is too high for you.

    Go DIY

    DIY weddings are becoming increasingly popular, and in the age of Pinterest and YouTube, it’s even easier to create many wedding elements yourself. A DIY garden wedding, if you have the space, is a great way to save on costs, and can make your wedding reception feel all the more intimate and special. There are many things you can do yourself for your wedding to save on costs, including making your own food, buying flowers from the garden centre instead of a florist and making your own bar. Get your friends and family involved to help you have the perfect day.

    Related A sneak peek at our garden Wedfest

    Cut costs by shopping online

    You can save a lot of money for your wedding by doing some savvy online shopping. From searching for discount codes for bridesmaids’ dresses, to buying discount gift cards, to buying your wedding essentials in bulk from abroad, you could end up saving hundreds of pounds without having to sacrifice anything. Take a look at some great money saving tips that will help you score some great bargains online.

    Your wedding day is one of the most special days of your life, but it doesn’t have to be the most expensive. Being clever with your wedding planning will help you bring your costs down so that you can enjoy the perfect day without ending up in loads of debt afterwards. Whatever you decide to do, you’ll have a day to remember as you start this exciting new chapter in your lives together.

    You may also enjoy
    How to make getting married affordable
    Dressing for a Summer Wedding on a Budget
    Wedding Guest Etiquette: How to be the perfect wedding guest

     

    How to cut costs for your wedding

    Collaboration

  3. Making Christmas magical for your kids this year and affordable for you

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    Christmas seems a little far away right now, after all, it is still August and the summer holidays are in full flow. But, that doesn’t mean that as parents the big “C” word isn’t at the back of our minds.  I always find as soon as the summer is over and the kids are back to school, I begin to think about Christmas.  In fact sometimes I do it even earlier.  Last year I bought all my Christmas presents in August, making the most of the end of summer sales!

    One thing you might be wondering is how can you make it more magical for children? There are so many ways, but often with Christmas, we need to start thinking about the costs involved. I wanted to share with you some of the ways that you can make Christmas magical for your children and how you can do it with a bit of planning in advance to spread the cost.

    Making Christmas magical for your kids this year and affordable for you

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    Have a plan

    One of the best things you can do when it comes to Christmas is to have some form of plan in place. It will sneak up on us before we know it. The plan can include all sorts of things. It might be lists of the people you want to buy gifts for and what those gifts might be. It might be a plan on how you want to spend the Christmas period, from taking your children to see Santa to hosting parties and gatherings with friends and family. It might be planning the Christmas dinner or deciding on what you want to do on the day itself. Having a plan can help you to be better prepared for the season, and with it only being four short months away it is time to start thinking about it.

    For example, I have already booked us a trip away.  I booked it in January and we’ll be going to Bluestone for a few nights to enjoy their Christmas activities and Kingdom Of The Elves.  We’ll not be there for the day itself, but close to it.  We’ve not yet been away at Christmas so I can’t wait!  I think the kids will be so excited.  Booking it in January meant I was sure we had it booked as I can imagine it gets very popular and also I could spread the cost through the year.

    I’ve also booked a table for Christmas Day for our Christmas lunch!  It’s also the first year we’ve ever done this.  I’ve wanted to go out for Christmas lunch for years, but Ben always wanted to be at home on the day itself.  This year, however, he’s had a change of heart and we are going to a local country pub that has an entire vegan menu!  Again, this has been booked now as their bookings are open and they advise booking sooner rather than later as it is very popular.  I will pay a deposit in October and will receive the set menus so I can save enough money to cover the cost well ahead of the day.  The kids love eating out so it will be a really magical treat for all of us on the day.

    Start saving

    Christmas is an expensive time of the year, there is no denying that fact. It doesn’t intend to be, nor should it be about money. Buying gifts, spending more on events or days out, taking time off work to be with the family which may end up with less pay for the December month. It can be a hard time. So try and take some time to enjoy it by saving for it right now. It might be that you save a small amount each week, or put all of your change into one of those savings tins. Little and often is the key to making it a success.

    Alternatively, do what I do and try to pay for things in advance.  If you are booking trips or day trips then these can often be paid for well in advance.  If not, then find out how much they will cost and save beforehand.  Write out your present and card list and keep an eye out for bargains in the stores throughout the year.  Then by the time Christmas comes you’ll just need to buy the wrap!  This is how I planned it last year and by December we were able to have our monthly pay as usual and not have to suffer a huge dent in it because of Christmas.  Even worse was a few years ago where I put it all on a credit card in December and then spent three months paying it back the following year.  I will now always avoid this and spread the cost through the year or save up so our December pay doesn’t take a big hit.

    We will also be having a more minimal Christmas this year.  The children will be having four gifts each along the lines of ‘something you want, something you need, something to eat, something to read’.  I saw someone mention this online, I can’t remember who, and it’s really stuck with me.  As someone who has a passion for minimalism I really like the idea of a minimal Christmas.  Less presents, but more days out and adventures instead.

    Make some extra cash to help pay for it

    Maybe you need some extra cash to help pay for Christmas. My blog is full of ideas on how you can make some extra income from home, but often it is all about using your spare time more wisely. It could include taking on some online side hustles like filling out online surveys or performing mystery shops. It could be that you make some extra cash by decluttering your home. Listing things online on websites like eBay and making some extra cash, and space in your home. It could even mean taking on extra shifts at work or overtime if it is available. Doing it now means that you can then save the extra income for December, when you might need it the most.

    Christmas should never be a worry financially or a struggle.  With a bit of forward planning or money making ideas you’ll be able to enjoy the festivities whilst affording them too.  That said, Christmas isn’t all about spending.  Take time to enjoy just being with your family or taking a well-deserved break at the end of a bust year.  If you can’t afford to buy presents, then don’t.  People will understand.  You should never give only to receive.

    Think outside of the box

    Christmas is one of those times of years that I think parents love. There is something about the magic of the time of the year that you see in your children’s eyes that can often make any extra hard work or expenditure all the more worthwhile. If you love Christmas and you do have money to spare then you may want to think about some of the ways that you can make it extra special for your family.

    One of the best things to consider would be unique Lapland snow holidays. This would be an absolute dream for many and perhaps even a once in a lifetime experience on our bucket lists!  The home of Father Christmas himself, and a place filled with wonder and magic. Not only is it a great thing to do around Christmas time but it can also be a fabulous family holiday to enjoy.  Perhaps skip the summer holiday one year and instead have a Christmas holiday!

    Other things you could consider would be decorating your home for Christmas with your children, documenting the things you do, making cards or Christmas food. Planning ahead means you can really feel in control and actually enjoy Christmas rather than feeling stressed and overwhelmed by it.

    Have a list and start buying now

    Finally, if you like to plan ahead then a great tip would be to have a list of things you need, such as gifts, cards, decorations, drinks – basically anything that can be purchased in advance and start buying them now. Many stores and shops hold summer sales and this could be the perfect opportunity to buy the things you need and save a little money in the process. Even buying party food ahead of time and freezing it when they are on offer with buy one get one free offers could save you a fair bit in the long run.  Buying in advance isn’t just suitable for presents, but for long lasting or freezer friendly food, drink, décor and everything you usually wait until December to buy.  Think about what you could start adding to your weekly shops each now to ease the expenditure in December.

    I hope that these tips help you to plan and prepare for your magical Christmas with your family and make spreading the cost a little easier so you don’t have to worry about paying for everything in one go this December.

     

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    Making Christmas magical for your kids this year and affordable for you