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Category: Home & Garden

  1. 5 unique uses for a garden shed

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    It’s that time of year again where the kids garden toys are strewn all over the garden and I’m nagging Ben that we need yet another garden shed!  We already kind of have two and I think we really need a third.  One of our sheds is Ben’s workshop and the other is for garden storage housing our lawnmower, chicken bedding and feed along with tins of paint and the like. 

    Problem is it’s so dinky that’s all that fits in.  We went for a minimal shed at the time without considering the kids garden toys and a place to home them.  Now they are getting older we have just purchased them a bicycle each and again we have nowhere to store them!  I’m beginning to think the minimal shed was a bad idea and it’s time for us to start researching some much larger solid sheds online that can just house the whole lot.

    Hopefully we’ll be able to agree on something soon whilst neatening up our garden and all its belongings.  Luckily we have a large amount of space at the bottom of our garden for a large shed as we were originally planning on building a garden room there.  We have had no end of conversations about what a shed could be used for down there and I will share some of them in this blog post with you.

    Here are 5 unique uses for a garden shed:

    5 unique uses for a garden shed

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    Potting shed

    A shed doesn’t have to be overflowing with junk and garden clutter.  It can also be used for growing things and potting plants.  Potting Sheds are genius sheds that have a whole side of upper windows which acts like a greenhouse for growing plants.  There is still plenty of space in the rest of the shed to store pots, garden tools and supplies.

    Kid’s playroom

    A regular size or small shed would make a great kids playhouse or Wendy house.  We did have a small kid play shed, but they just grow out of them so quickly.  It would have been better to get a larger adult sized shed that they could use for years on end instead of just a year or two.  If you have the space then a large shed that can be totally converted into a playroom with tables and chairs for messy play would be the ideal way to keep the mess out of the house!

    Workshop

    As my husband Ben has done already, it’s possible to convert a shed into a workshop.  Just buy a shed plenty large enough for a workbench, wood storage and tools.  Plus some room to move around whilst you are creating your masterpieces.  Hook up some electricity and lighting and you’ll be ready to create in no time.

    Art studio

    If you are a budding artist then a large shed turned art studio could be the perfect idea.  Paint it all white inside to act as the perfect blank canvas backdrop to showcase your paintings.  With the doors open in the summer looking into the rest of the garden you can draw your inspiration from the greenery and nature.

    Gym

    Who wouldn’t love their own private gym at home?  Most of us unfortunately don’t have the space in our actual homes for a bunch of gym equipment, so a shed turned gym is a brilliant idea.  Plus, it will pay for itself over time compared to the price of a premium gym membership.  And you’ll have no excuse for not staying fit and healthy!

    There are plenty of genius uses for sheds that are more than just storing clutter.  Plus they could even give you an extra room or space to let your creative side flourish.

     

    Related blog posts:

    5 great ways to use a garden room
    A sneak peek at our garden makeover progress
    Dreaming of a Future Room

    5 unique uses for a garden shed

  2. 13 eco-friendly ways to start saving money in the kitchen

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    The kitchen is one of the most used rooms in the house.  In ours it is probably the busiest room and I can never seem to get out of there enough!  There’s always cleaning to do, food to cook, lunchboxes to prepare, laundry to tackle, recycling, waste to dispose of and cupboards and draws to sort out.  It’s never ending, especially as a family of four.  I expect it’s also the most expensive room in the house.  There’s always something switched on whether it’s the washing machine, kettle, extractor fan or our water distiller.  The fridge and freezer are always plugged in zapping energy all day.  In this blog post I am going to share with you how to start saving money in your kitchen whilst being more eco-friendly too.  Win-win!

    Wash by hand

    Hubby and I debate this all the time, but I’m certain it’s better to wash by hand.  We do only have a slim dishwasher and it just doesn’t fit much in at all.  We can fit one family meal’s worth of washing up in at a time and it runs for almost two hours!  I can’t see how that is cost saving as it is using electricity for two hours.  If I wash the same amount up I will use one or two hot soapy bowls of water and no electricity, perhaps a tiny bit of gas for the hot water.

    According to this statement I would definitely be saving money by washing up - ‘One cycle in a typical dishwasher costs the same in energy and water as heating between four to six washing-up bowls of water in the kitchen sink’ - Source

    I guess it depends on how much you can fit in your dishwasher and how many bowls of washing up you would do, but for us I’m certain it’s cheaper to wash by hand as I never use 4-6 bowls per load.

    Break dishwasher tablets in half

    If you do use the dishwasher then try breaking your tablets in half.  Hubby always does this (he prefers the dishwasher) and it washes everything just as effectively whilst making our tablets last twice as long.  Plus there’s less of the tablet getting washed into the environment each time.

    Use Eco-Eggs

    Save time and money on your laundry by using Eco-Eggs.  These are egg shaped cases that are filled with pellets made from minerals.  Chuck them in with your wash load and you’ll not need to use any detergent.  They come in various sizes that can last one year or more before you need to replace the pellets!  The dryer balls have fragrance sticks to make your clothes smell nice, reduce drying time and soften the clothes to stop fabric softener use in the wash.  Just replace the fragrance sticks every now and then.  Using both of these will stop you from buying detergent and softener, reduce your drying time which will save on energy costs and it’s much better for the environment.

    Use cloths instead of wipes

    Cleaning wipes may be convenient, but they are terrible for the environment.  If you must buy them then choose eco-friendly options, instead of non-biodegradable versions that are smothered in nasty chemicals.  Try using a plant based kitchen cleaner spray instead with cloths that you can wash and reuse time and time again.  Much cheaper than wipes, nontoxic and there’s no waste.

    Make tea with a teapot

    Do you always put a teabag in each cup when making tea for everyone?  Invest in a teapot and you’ll be able to use one teabag to make four or five cups of tea!  I regularly do this with green tea bags and have even got six good tasting cups of tea from one teapot.  Previously I used a bag per cup so this would have wasted six tea bags!  Less waste again and more money in your pocket as you need to buy less teabags over time.

    13 eco-friendly ways to start saving money in the kitchen

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    Cook from scratch

    Making homemade meals is much more cost effective than buying expensive readymade meals and it’s healthier.  There’s a lot of debate online about which is really cheaper, but I definitely believe cooking from scratch is.  Just take a look at the price of a potato compared to a part baked one in the chiller section.  Just bake it yourself and save pennies or even pounds.  Another comparison is to look at the price of a readymade pizza.  It’s easy enough to make a thin dough base with water, oil and flour, then top with tomato puree and grated cheese.  You’ll have loads of flour left over and tomato puree and cheese… enough to make even more pizzas another day.  I’m sure making your own food can be much cheaper, just less convenient.  Plus there’ll be less packaging waste.

    Meal plan

    Meal planning can help to save money by reducing food waste.  If you’re buying random items each week not knowing what you’re going to be cooking then there’s a higher chance you’ll waste some.  If you plan your week’s meals in advance then you’ll shop for exactly what you need and use everything.

    Save leftovers (or give to pets)

    If you have left overs then save them to use the next day for another meal.  Throwing them into the bin is just throwing money away!  If you have pets then they may appreciate the leftovers and this can reduce how much pet food you need to give them.

    Bulk buy

    Buying in bulk or larger sizes is a great way to save money.  Just check the labels in the supermarkets for the ‘price per’ to see which size offers the best value for money.  It can also reduce the packaging waste too.  It may be more expensive upfront, but will save money in the long run.

    Batch cook

    Batch cooking is a great way to save time and money!  You can buy ingredients in bulk which will save money, you’ll be doing the majority of the chopping/cooking/food processing and so on in one go which will save on energy costs, plus you can divide the food into controlled portion sizes to reduce waste.  It’s also a brilliant way to use up veg that will turn if left for another day or two and so prevents food waste.

    Freeze browning fruit

    Don’t throw away browning fruit, especially bananas.  Peel and freeze bananas to use at a later date in a smoothie or dessert.  Frozen bananas make the best milkshakes when blended with your favourite milk.  We love almond milk for a sweet taste.

    Distil or filter water

    We were buying mineral water at first as our tap water tastes so horrid and isn’t very clean at all.  I actually measured it with a TDS meter to see how many dissolved substances were in it and it read 200ppm.  That’s 200 parts per million.  200 different little things floating in the water that I don’t want to consume regularly!  Plus I was concerned about the amount of plastic waste from the water bottles.  Oh and it was expensive to buy mineral water for our whole family!  So after looking into the water thing more I decided I wanted to distil our water at home and invested in a home distiller for around £150.  This means we get pure water to drink and cook with and over time we’ll make our money back compared to buying high quality bottled water.    If you’re regularly buying bottled water then look into buying your own filtration system or a water distiller.

    Change energy supplier

    One of the best money saving things we did this year was to switch energy supplier for the first time saving ourselves over £250 for the year.  We switched to bulb who use renewable energy sources and they are much cheaper than the main energy suppliers.  You can get £50 credit as well as saving around £200 per year (we’ll save £264) by joining Bulb with my referral link by clicking here

    There are so many ways to start saving money in the kitchen and be more environmentally conscious too.  Just start looking at where most of your money or energy usage is going and see if you can make a change.

     

    What to read next
    Get 100% renewable energy with Bulb and save lots of money (over £250)
    Be eco-friendly with a climate-conscious pension from PensionBee
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    How to earn cashback on things you already buy
    5 tried and tested ways to make money as a UK stay at home mum

    13 eco-friendly ways to start saving money in the kitchen

     

  3. Kitchen cabinets: how to get your colour combinations spot on

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    No kitchen is complete without cabinets - and usually lots of them. Carefully planned units help to keep these rooms neat and organised. But this storage isn’t just practical; it can make a style statement too. If you think your cooking space is in need of an overhaul, now could be the perfect time to rethink the colour combinations of your cabinets.

    Here are a few suggestions to get you started…

    Kitchen cabinets how to get your colour combinations spot on

    Don’t be afraid to mix things up

    There’s a tendency to play it safe when it comes to colour, but there’s no rule saying you have to stick to the same hues when you’re choosing your cabinet finishes. To achieve a fresh, vibrant and dynamic look in this part of your home, why not mix your palette? For example, you could pick different tones for your wall cabinets and your island unit. As it suggests on the website of kitchen cabinet specialists solidwoodkitchencabinets.co.uk, choosing a different shade for this unit will turn it into an accent piece and ensure it’s the focal point of the room. You might want to go for white walls, grey wall cabinets and a blue island to create a stylish and visually stimulating cooking area.  

    If you don’t have an island, you could switch up the tones on your upper and lower units instead, creating a similarly striking look.

    Consider understated neutral

    If you’re a fan of more understated décor, an alternative is to combine neutral shades. For the ultimate in subtle chic, you could select white base cabinets and cream wall units. The difference between the two colours is so subtle that people might not even notice it when they first walk into the room, but this is a great way to balance crisp, clean and modern with soft and traditional.

    A neutral scheme also gives you the perfect chance to add pops of colour, whether this is a statement oven and extractor hood or something as small and simple as a toaster or kettle.  

    Make the most of monochrome

    For the epitome of contemporary elegance, perhaps a monochrome scheme would suit your kitchen. The tuxedo effect you get from teaming up black and white is a classic look that always turns heads. For an open, airy look, it’s best to choose black for your base units and white for your upper cabinets, rather than the other way around.

    If you like the idea of this style but you think black units are a bridge too far and might make your kitchen feel a bit closed in and oppressive, you could choose a suitable shade of grey instead.

    To introduce a little extra warmth into a monochrome kitchen, think about introducing accent pieces in rich tones such as yellow, orange or red. From a standout piece of artwork to an eye-catching table and chairs set, these accessories can make the design scheme really come alive.

     

    The key when it comes to getting your colour combinations spot on in your kitchen is to have a clear theme in mind and to know what look you’re trying to achieve overall in this part of your home.

    What to read next
    Get 100% renewable energy with Bulb and save lots of money (over £250)
    5 great reasons to get an attic conversion
    Features my dream home would have
    Eco-Friendly Design Ideas for Your Garden this Summer
    How to create the perfect outdoor patio seating area
    Space saving furniture ideas for a small bedroom

    Kitchen cabinets_ how to get your colour combinations spot on

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  4. Is buying a house better than renting?

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    I have recently passed the four year anniversary of owning my own home.  I purchased my very first property just over four years ago at the age of 28.  Before this I was a seasoned renter who had rented eight properties over a seven year period after moving out of home at age 17.  I estimate I spent anywhere from £25000 to £30000 in rent during this period.  This is pretty cheap too as the properties I rented include a dinky bedsit and rooms in shared houses, so my rent was much lower than if I’d rented a property all by myself.  Before buying our first home together I lived with Ben for three years where I contributed to the mortgage so I’ve not included this in my estimations.  In this blog post I am going to take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of owning your own home.

    Is buying a house better than renting

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    The amount I spent on rent shocks me and I’m sure others spend a whole lot more than my figure.  I get that renting is flexible and allows you to be young and carefree whilst you work out what you want to do with your life, but I still think it’s such a huge waste of money.  I did live in the same county and I never enjoyed moving around so much.  Packing and moving house was really a royal pain!  Living in houses with people you don’t really know is also quite challenging. 

    I’ve basically paid a nice chunk off someone else’s mortgage when I could have been paying my own.  Except I couldn’t as I never had a deposit at the time and obviously needed to live somewhere, so renting was the only option.  It’s a shame there wasn’t a 100% mortgage option, especially for those of us who could afford to rent a property so could clearly afford the mortgage repayments.  If that option had existed I’d have owned a property for almost 15 years now and have a nice pot of equity sitting there.  If only. 

    Now I own a home and have been settling in for four years, so I have had long enough to experience both sides – renting and owning.  Below I will share the advantages and disadvantages of owning your own home.

    Advantages of owning your home

    Is buying a house better than renting advantages

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    You will make money

    Usually property prices will increase over time.  In recent years house prices have really boomed.  By using the ‘How much has my house made me?’  tool on the Sunlife website I can see that Zoopla estimate my property has gone up in value by £52,050 since we moved in four years ago.  See here exactly how much your house has made you too.  It’s an estimate, but it’s not far off based on what other nearby properties have been selling for.  That’s over fifty grand we’ve made for basically living in our property.  That’s £13,000 per year which is pretty staggering if you ask me.  If we were renting we obviously wouldn’t have made any money from the property at all.

    Equity

    As you continue to pay off the mortgage and the house value continues to rise you will generate more and more equity.  This is the difference between how much you still owe on the mortgage and how much the property is valued at.  This equity can be used to climb the housing ladder or it can be released in retirement to fund a more enjoyable lifestyle.

    One day you’ll be mortgage free

    So long as you don’t have an interest only mortgage then you’ll be paying off the amount borrowed.  Eventually you’ll be mortgage free!  When this exciting day comes you’ll no longer have to worry about paying mortgage or rent and will have more money in your pocket.

    Security

    Owning a home gives you the safety and security of somewhere permanent to live.  When renting you never know if the landlord will renew the contract or if they may decide to sell up.  You can decide how long you live in your home.  You’ll also be mortgage free one day and will have a home in retirement.  I always wonder what renters do when they reach retirement age as rents must be extortionate to those on a basic pension.  Paying off a home now means you have somewhere comfortable to live when you can no longer work and earn.

    Home improvements

    It’s your own home so you can do what you like to it, within reason and sometimes with planning permission!  But you can decorate it exactly how you like, put things on the walls and basically make it your own.  Renting either doesn’t allow you to make changes or if you did then it could be money wasted if you need to move out.

    It can sometimes be more cost effective

    Sometimes mortgage repayments are cheaper than rental payments, particularly if you have a sizeable deposit.  My husband’s previous home was in a very cheap area and his mortgage repayments were much cheaper than my rent in a shared house in the next town!

    Monthly costs will decrease

    Your monthly costs will decrease over time if you stay in the same property as inflation rises, but your mortgage repayments stay approximately the same.  You’ll get pay rises and the cost of living will go up, but providing you don’t move those mortgage payments that seemed a lot in the beginning will start to seem much smaller in a few years.  Rent will always go up, usually every year, so you’ll save in the long run against renting.

    You can make money off the property

    You can rent out a room to a lodger or even convert an outbuilding to a guest room to make extra income.  The property is yours and you are free to make money from it by renting a room out.  There’s even a certain level of tax relief when doing so.  You would not be allowed to sublet when renting.

    Disadvantages of owning your own home

    Is buying a house better than renting disadvantages

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    The housing market could crash

    There is the possibility the housing market will crash and you could go into negative equity or have less equity.  This is usually only momentary and you can always choose to stay living in your home until the market recovers.

    You need a big deposit

    This is usually the biggest drawback to owning a home as you need a large deposit.  High rents can make it impossible to save for this.  There are lots of help to buy schemes available where you now only need a 5% deposit, so it’s worth saving as much as you can and seeing if you qualify for government help to get on the property ladder.

    You are responsible for repairs

    One of the main benefits of renting is not being responsible for the white goods, plumbing and electrics and so on.  If something goes wrong you simply call your landlord or letting agent and they will fix the problem at no cost to you.  In your own home you own everything so if something breaks you will need to pay to repair it.  It’s a great idea to save an emergency fund for these situations.

    Less flexibility

    When renting you may move onto a rolling contract after a six month period or whatever is agreed, which means you can give one month’s notice to move house.  Owning will not give you that same flexibility.  It could take months to sell your home and even then there’s a chance a buyer will pull out last minute.

    High moving costs

    If you want to move home there are high costs involved. I estimate the cost of us moving home is around £10,000 with estate agents fees, solicitors and stamp duty to consider.  When you move from rented accommodation you will get your initial deposit back provided you maintained the property and there may only be some minor admin and referencing costs.

    Interest rates can rise

    If bank interest rates rise then mortgage repayments will also rise.  There are fixed mortgage deals which will give security for two or five years, but once these run out then there’s a risk that interest rates are no longer as favourable.  It’s best not to max out your budget for this very reason and take a lower mortgage than you can afford.

     

    For me, at this stage of my life, owning a home is a no-brainer.  We are a young family with children in nursery, playschool and school so owning a home gives us the security to stay put in one place and raise our children close to their schools.  It gives us a sense of security.  Once the mortgage is paid off it will also be our inheritance to our children.  The value of the property will increase over time so we will also make money either for ourselves to enjoy in retirement or again to leave to our children.  We also love being able to modify our property and make it our own, knowing it is really our own home.  So for security, investment and ownership reasons I believe owning a home is definitely better than renting.

     

    Related

    Your Path to Owning a Home - 3 things to do if you want to own a house
    3 ways to make sure the house you are buying is in good shape
    What To Look For When You're Buying A House
    Is Buying An Older House The Right Decision?

    Is buying a house better than renting_

  5. The benefits of fitted wardrobes over freestanding

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    Whilst the very thought of a fitted wardrobe may at first seem old fashioned and dated, designs have come a long way and a bespoke piece can really enhance your bedroom’s appeal, much more so than a freestanding unit.  People seem to have a love or hate relationship for built in wardrobes and today in this blog post I aim to convert you into a fan of the fitted wardrobe by sharing some of their many benefits.

    I recently had a bespoke reclaimed pallet wood wardrobe built into my bedroom corner and I just love it.  It is the exact size I want, bespoke to my home and décor taste and it’s created some extra storage space I didn’t have before with a shorter freestanding wardrobe.  I never thought I’d want something fixed to the wall, but I have now been converted!  You can view it in my blog post How my bedroom décor describes my personality

    Here are some of the many benefits of a fitted wardrobe over a freestanding unit:

    The benefits of fitted wardrobes over freestanding

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    Make use of wasted space

    Freestanding wardrobes create a lot of wasted space.  There’s usually a gap between the wall and the wardrobe, a huge gap from full height to the ceiling and even a few inches gap beneath.  These wasted spaces are just an attraction for dust, junk, clutter and rubbish and serve no purpose.  With a bespoke fitted wardrobe you can make use of all this wasted space by designing the wardrobe right from the floor to the ceiling and up to the walls with no gaps at all.

    Enhance the height of the room

    By using furniture that is the full height of the room it will give the impression the room is taller by elongating it.  This is particularly useful in a low ceiling house or small room where you want to create the illusion of more space and a larger bedroom.

    Hide the clutter

    Depending on the space available to you it’s possible to create storage for more than just your clothes and shoes.  Add draws and shelves to store blankets, travel bags and other belongings that might usually be on show on top of the wardrobe or beneath.  Your room will be neater and tidier in the process enhancing its overall appearance.

    Bespoke for your bedroom

    The best thing about fitted wardrobes is they are not an off the shelf product.  They are custom made for you and bespoke to your bedroom. They can be made with a variety of materials and in a colour that complements your existing décor.  They’ll fit in wherever you want them too, even in alcoves or below slanted ceilings.

    Easier to clean

    One big bonus is they are much easier to clean than a regular wardrobe.  As there are no gaps around the edges as they’re flush to the wall, there will be nowhere for dust to settle and collect.  All clothes and belongings will also be dust free as they do not need to be in the open.

    There are so many benefits to a fitted wardrobe and with so many designs to choose from they are the perfect bedroom investment.

     

    What to read next
    Why every woman should create a capsule wardrobe
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    The benefits of fitted wardrobes over freestanding

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