Read my UK lifestyle and money blog

matched betting box

 RSS Feed

Category: Home & Garden

  1. 5 ways to save time and money in the garden

    Posted on

    Gardening can be a rewarding and enjoyable hobby, or it can feel like a chore. Either way, it doesn’t have to be as expensive as it can first seem.  Sure there are lots of gadgets you can get nowadays and the gardening aisles in your local DIY stores are overflowing with tempting products. But, if you’re on a budget or wish to be a little savvy with your garden expenditure, then here are a 5 ways you can save money in your garden.

    5 ways to save money in the garden
    Image

    Consider artificial grass

    Artificial grass from a supplier like New Lawn is becoming more commonplace nowadays as people realise not only the amount of maintenance and time this will save them in the garden, but also how much money it can save.  As the grass is artificial it will not grow, so you won’t need to invest in a lawnmower.  You’ll therefore use less energy to maintain your garden as you’ll not need to buy fuel or use electric to power this lawnmower.  Just imagine  never having the hassle of mowing the lawn again!

    Sow direct from seed

    When growing your own vegetables there are countless apparatus available to you such as starter seed trays, propagators, grow lamps and so on.  The idea being you sow your seeds indoors in tiny sections of a starter tray, then move these into a larger pot , then eventually move outdoors.  Whilst you can grow like this, it’s usually a lot of faff and to be honest, you’ll be spending a lot of money on various trays and pots when you really don’t need to.  Many vegetables are perfectly fine to be planted directly outdoors and will thrive.  I simply plant my veg directly in the soil, cover with fine mesh netting until they have grown a couple of inches, and then remove the mesh and off they go (or grow!).  To save money by planting directly outdoors, simply opt for easy to grow summer varieties and hardy winter vegetables.

    Plant succulents

    If you want to opt for something that requires very little maintenance, then opt for succulents in your border.  Not only are they unusual and instantly add interest, but they will save you a ton of money on water!  These plants are designed to withstand harsh conditions in deserts and thus need very little attention or watering.  Plus they are slow growing, so you’ll never need to expend energy cutting them back!

    Make your own compost

    Buy a compost bin or build a simple square structure at the bottom of your yard to start a compost heap.  Compost can be pretty compost when purchased from gardening centres, but it’s so easy to make your own from your left over scraps of food.  Plus, it’s sort of free!  You were going to throw this food away anyway, so now you’re using waste to create something that you would otherwise need to buy.  You’ll also save time and energy on making trips to the store to buy compost when you need it.  Win-win.

    Raid your recycling

    Instead of buying plant pots and seed trays when you need them, start keeping plastic packaging from your kitchen such as takeaway trays and margarine pots.  These make perfect seed starter trays if you stab a few holes in the bottom.  Cardboard egg trays also work perfectly for this and they can even be planted directly into the soil when the seedlings are ready to go outdoors, and the cardboard will naturally rot away.  Spray old tin cans in colourful paints for unique plant pots.  The possibilities are endless if you let your imagination run wild.  You’ll be helping to create a more sustainable world by reusing items and generating less waste.

    There we have it.  Five ways you can begin to save time and money in the garden.

    Related blog posts:

    7 ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle
    Important Reasons to Choose Organic (other than your personal health)
    How to save money and future proof your garden
    6 easy ways to save money around the house (and be eco-friendly)

    5 ways to save money in the garden

  2. Setting up a successful business space from your home

    Posted on

    With rental and property prices changing constantly; it can be difficult to find the right place to run your business, especially if you’re already a busy mum. Due to uncertain times, many people are choosing to save themselves the cost of renting, or paying another mortgage, and running their businesses from home, whether it’s their full-time job, or an exciting side hustle.

    By keeping your company within your property, you’ll save commuting costs, and won’t have to pay additional bills on a space that doesn’t belong to you.  There are even some bills you can class as a business expense when you work from home.  I’ve been self-employed for six years this month and currently have an office at the end of the children’s playroom.  Ben has just set up a home business and has a workshop at the bottom of the garden!  

    There are, however, some things you should consider before taking the plunge, and turning the place where you live, into an office, workshop, or studio.

    Setting up a successful business space from your home

     My walking desk/office set up at the end of the children's playroom!

    All you need

    You’ll need to scope out your house, garden, or land (you lucky thing), for the suitability of running your company, and it will depend on what your business is. Office-based work is probably the most straightforward, as a room or area within your home can easily be converted into an office space, using a desk and appropriate shelving. To separate your home life from your work; you might want to consider setting up your business in the garden by using, or building, a dedicated room to work inside. By keeping your work removed from family life; you’ll be able to concentrate professionally at the job in hand, throughout your time “at work”. 

    This is definitely something that would be great for me as currently my office is a third of the playroom!  I thought it was a great idea at first so I could be near the children when they are playing, but it’s actually impossible most of the time to get work completed if they are here as they can see me and want my attention.  A separate area, if you have the space, is definitely recommended.

    For companies that manufacture goods; you’ll need to think about the scale of your operation and how much you’ll be producing. Any machinery will have to have ample room to be used correctly, and you’ll need adequate storage for your items. It’s worth investing in all the tools needed, both physical and digital, so that you’ll have all you need from the get-go. 

    Even if you’re a maker, like Ben my husband is, the importance of organised admin and digital marketing cannot be undervalued. Yes, he needs a workshop to make, but he still needs a space and tools to be able to promote his wares digitally as this is how he can get a sale in this day and age.  And, of course, there is admin to deal with, whether that is emails, uploading listings or documenting income and expenditure.  He still needs a space to be able to work digitally too.  Make sure you scope out the best template management or social media platform system to make things easier for running your business; find what suits you and your business so that you can begin to thrive.

    Separation is key

    When you run your own business, it can often consume every part of your life, especially when you’re working on it from your home.  There is always something to be doing with regards to your business, new ideas popping into your head constantly, emails to respond to and work to be getting on with.  The problem is you work at home and you could therefore always be working and thinking of work!

    Therefore, it’s crucial that you’re able to switch off and enjoy your family life after the working day is finished. Having a separate space to work on your property is the best way to switch off, as you can lock up and leave everything in there, away from the house. If you have a work environment inside the home; try to remove as much as possible from the rest of family life, by locking doors and turning off any phones and computers.

    If, like me, your work space really is in the middle of family life (who thought a playroom-office was a good idea again?!), then you need to try to set clear boundaries between work and life.  I admit, I still struggle to do this on busy days, especially as I like to stay on top of my work and get things done promptly, but I do try to have working hours that I stick to.  I usually work when the kids are at school and then again when they are in bed.  I also take weekends off, most of the time.  When I work every day I feel all consumed by my business and don’t give my children the quality time they need, so by taking the weekends of I can at least give them my full attention for two days of the week without my head stuck in a laptop. 

    It can definitely be a struggle to take time off when you’re setting up a business and it demands all your attention and time, but it’s best to set some clear rules about when work time is and when your own life time is!

    A quiet space

    You’ll also want to be able to drown out (most) of the noise when you’re working on something important or during unusual hours, such as when the kids and husband are home. This factor will again stress the importance of separation, so make sure it’s a focus when you’re designing the space.  If I do have to work when my children are home then it’s quite impossible if they are being noisy and I need to concentrate, especially as they are usually in the same room as me.  A separate room where I can shut the door would be ideal – so do consider this if you are setting up your own workspace.  

    Ben’s workspace is great as it is at the bottom of the garden, away from our home and noisy family life.  I’m sure he can much better separate work and life compared to my setup.  Of course, mine is lovely and peaceful in the day when the children are at school and nursery, and Ben is at work!

    For more on the importance of switching off from your business, take a look online for some inspiration and tips or check out my running a home based business blog posts or my work-life balance blog.

     

    Related blog posts

    5 tried and tested ways to make money as a UK stay at home mum
    How to deal with overwhelm as a work at home parent
    Tips to stay healthy if you work from home
    How to manage your time effectively when working from home
    Managing life as a full time working parent

    Setting up a successful business space from your home

  3. How cutting back on plastic benefits your life and saves you money

    Posted on

    Last night I watched the documentary Plastic Planet on FMTV.  It was a real eye-opener!  It’s incredible to think that plastic was only first invented in 1907 and in just over 100 years it has become a huge part of our lives and society, even something we would now struggle to live without.  Of course I’m sure we could probably live without it, but it’s not like we could just cut it out and stop using anything with plastic.  New materials or natural materials would need to replace plastic.  Simply look around your house and even your car to see just how much we rely on plastic!

    Right now I’m typing on a laptop with plastic casing and walking on a treadmill that is made out of plastic.  I have a plastic pen and calculator next to me.  The blinds and voile on my window are made from plastic.  No doubt the photo frames on my wall have a plastic coating and my iPhone has a plastic case.  The list goes on.  That is simply the items within arm’s reach of me that I can see are made with plastic.  In the documentary I mentioned above there are a few families who empty their homes of plastic – they bring everything made from plastic outside and realise just how much they have.  Unless your clothes are made from natural fibres, then they are plastic too!  It’s everywhere.

    Whilst we certainly have come to depend on plastic and suddenly stopping it’s production in its entirety isn’t possible in this day and age, there are some measures we can begin to take to stop it’s damaging effects on the environment.  One of these is to reduce the amount of single use plastics that we are using and throwing away.  I believe the onus is largely on the manufacturers and people in power to seek environmentally friendly alternatives and I hope they are doing so, but we can take a stand as individuals by reducing the amount of single plastic we buy and use.

    While we all know it's a great way to reduce waste, cutting back on plastic isn't just something that we can do for the environment.  The act of cutting back on plastic benefits us in so many different ways, even personally.  Here’s how:

    How cutting back on plastic benefits your life and saves you money

    Photo by Jonathan Chng 

    It benefits our diet

    What comes in plastic containers? Convenience food. To cut back on these convenience food that come with so much plastic packaging, such as packets of crisps, microwave meals, bottles of pop and so on, we will see an upshot in the amount of healthy food we can cook at home instead.

    Water bottles are a very good example, because we believe that we're taking the healthier option, which naturally, we are. But if we buy a bottle of water every single day, it's not doing the planet any favours at all with all that one-use plastic waste. So instead of this, we could purchase a water container, like a Reefdog water bottle and just refill that with water. Water becomes one of those things that we can forget to drink an adequate amount of, and so, with a large water bottle, not only are you cutting down on your plastic, you are getting closer to your recommended amount of water every day.  There are even apps available that tell you where you can fill up your water for free, with registered businesses happy for you to do so.

    Plus, as we move on to the next point, just think of all the money you’ll save on all those bottles of water!

    It saves us more money

    As we cut down on the abundance of plastic, this means we have to develop ways to be more self-sufficient, especially when it comes to the foods we carry around with us. As our shopping excursions are reduced, we'll see the benefit in our savings. Because when you think about bringing your own lunch into work or cutting down on takeaways which can use a huge amount of plastic packaging, we're going to save so much more money that we can invest it into other more positive aspects of our lives.

    When we see such a significant amount of savings by cutting down on that daily shop bought lunch, it adds up quickly. And even that morning coffee on the way into the office can be easily substituted for a reusable coffee cup, where we can make our own coffee at home, which will save even more money!  You could buy a whole tub of coffee for the price of just one cup from a shop!  Nowadays, because life is so expensive, it is these little costs that add up over the weeks, months, and years.

    It can kick our social conscience into gear

    If you've got friends that are constantly going on protests, and fighting the good fight, but you have no idea why, something as little as reducing our plastic consumption can infiltrate into other areas of our lives. When we think about cutting down on plastic, we then begin to think about our paper consumption, our carbon footprint, how the food choices we make affect others and so on.

    Maybe you can't picture yourself as some sort of eco-warrior, but if we all get a better idea of how we are impacting the planet individually we can begin to care for things that wouldn't have factored in our lives before. While there are more people now going vegan for the purposes of cutting down on their carbon footprints, as well as other reasons, this is only one piece of the puzzle.

    If you want to take a more active approach to look after the world you live in, you've got to begin with the small things. If you know people who seem like they couldn't care less, then getting them to think about their own plastic consumption, as well as other lifestyle habits, might make all the difference. Blue Planet 2 was, for many people, a catalyst to truly cut down on their plastic consumption, because they finally saw how it impacts our oceans. So if we all get a better understanding of how our plastic use impacts other creatures in the world, it becomes a positive force for change.

    We are stuck with certain habits in life, and it can take a while to undo them. Using a huge amount of plastic is one of those things that, thankfully, many shops are now hot on minimising. But we can't just rely on food suppliers to minimise the amount of plastic so we benefit- we've got to take the initiative. And luckily, it begins with the simpler things. But if you have people in your life that have no idea why they should even bother minimising their plastic, highlight the fact that it's going to benefit them.  If they do eat fish then tell them that due to plastic pollution in the oceans, even the fish they eat are now poisoned with plastic which in turn poisons them!  The problem is much bigger than just unsightly litter.  And if we communicate this to the people who don't care, and make it about themselves, this is setting the wheels in motion.

     

    What to read next

    7 ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle
    3 Important Reasons to Choose Organic (other than your personal health)
    13 eco-friendly ways to start saving money in the kitchen
    Get 100% renewable energy with Bulb and save lots of money (over £250)
    Plastic is not fantastic – the dirty secret of where our recycling really goes

     

    How cutting back on plastic benefits your life and saves you money

  4. Things to save for when renting your first home

    Posted on

    I’d like to think of myself as a pretty seasoned home renter.  I moved out of home at the age of 17 into a shared house and then moved no less than ten times to various properties whilst renting.  I lived in a mix of shared houses, a bedsit, a flat with a boyfriend or a flat with a friend.  The shortest I stayed in one of these properties was three months and the longest was three years.  I’ve been through the process of viewing rental properties, filling out forms and references, paying all the fees and moving so many times!  I am now a homeowner and have stayed in one spot for 4.5 years which is the longest time ever!

    Today I want to give you some insight into the costs to consider when renting a property.  Perhaps you’re thinking of moving out of home for the first time and need to know the costs involved.

    Here are six things to budget for when looking to rent a property for the first time as a tenant:

    Things to save for when renting your first home

    Image

    Deposit

    This is usually the largest upfront expense when renting a property.  I usually had to pay between a 1-1.5 month’s rent as a deposit.  This is usually paid on the day you move in.  Providing you leave the house clean and tidy without damage to anything then it will be returned at the end of your tenancy.  Be warned though, it can take a while for the deposit to be returned so you can’t always rely on this as your deposit for your next rental property and may have to save a deposit again when  you decide to move on.

    Holding deposit

    Some agencies ask for a holding deposit which is payable as soon as you decide you want the property.  It ensures they take it off the market and don’t let anyone view it whilst they are checking your references and paperwork is sorted.  Only pay this if you are absolutely certain you want the property as it may not be returned if you simply change your mind.  If you do have to pay a holding deposit then it should be deducted from your first month’s rent and deposit bill.

    Agency and referencing fees

    Agency fees and referencing fees are fees payable to the letting agent, unless you rent privately, that won’t be returned.  These are to cover their admin costs and any costs involved in getting references from your bank and place of employment, for example.  These fees vary and are not set, so check with the letting agent for their fees before agreeing to a property to make sure you are happy with them.

    First month’s rent

    Rent is paid upfront for the month ahead, so you’ll need to pay your first month’s rent on the day you move in.  Then you’ll need to pay this every month from then on.  Some letting agents always take this payment on the first of the month, but others will take it monthly on the date that you moved in.  If rent is due on the first and you move in half way through the month then you may only have to pay half the month’s rent upfront and the first full month’s payment on the first of the following month.

    End of tenancy clean

    When you move out of the property at the end of your tenancy then you’ll want to have saved some money to cover the costs of any end of tenancy cleaning.  Some landlords and letting agencies let you clean the property yourself so long as it’s left in good condition, but some will require a professional clean or at least the carpets professionally cleaned at the end of your tenancy.  Make sure you ask what is required before choosing to rent a property to ensure you are happy with any costs involved.  If a professional clean of any sort is required then this will be a part of your contract and if you do not comply then they will deduct the cost of a professional clean from your deposit.  It’s always best to read your contract thoroughly before signing so you are aware of your obligations as a tenant and not surprised by anything at the end of your tenancy.

    Furniture

    Sometimes you will be able to rent a furnished property which can be great news if you are moving out of home for the first time and don’t have any of your own furniture, or if you want to save on the cost of furnishing an entire property yourself.  If a place is furnished then you’ll need to look after the furniture as if it were your own as any damages will have to come out of your deposit at the end of your tenancy or be paid for by you.  If the property is unfurnished then you’ll need to consider the cost of everything you need to buy.  You will at least need a bed and mattress, sofa and perhaps table and chairs to start.  Bargains can be found at second hand shops if you can’t afford new or want to recycle furniture and sometimes you can find free items on local marketplaces.  It’s likely you’ll need to buy some things yourself though, so factor this into your costs when saving to move out of home.

    Bills

    Sometimes rental properties list the rental price with ‘bills included’.  I had this at two of my properties and it made things so much easier.  I simply paid my month’s rent to the landlord each month and they covered all the utility bills and council tax.  Job done!  I think it’s fairly rare to find such a deal though and rental payments are usually just rent only with bills to be sorted by yourself.  You’ll need to factor in the cost of energy (electricity and/or gas), council tax and water rates.  These have to be paid each month and are usually based on how much you use each month.  Then you’ll probably want a TV licence if you plan on watching live TV or using BBC iPlayer and of course an internet connection.  You might want to consider contents insurance to cover your contents in case of theft or damage.  It’s a good idea to work out all these costs before you decide to rent a property to see if they are affordable and to make sure you budget for them every month.

    Moving costs

    You might have a friend or two with cars and vans who can move you and your belongings to the property.  If not, then you may need to hire a van to move your belongings on moving in day. Costs can vary greatly depending on whether you can hire a van that you drive yourself to if you need to hire a van with a driver.

    There are lots of costs to consider when moving out of home for the first time into a rented property.  Work out how much you can afford for rent and bills each month and search for a property that suits your budget.  If money is tight then you may wish to consider a furnished property that includes bills to make things easier to budget and to have less upfront costs.  Simply register with letting agents and let them know your requirements and they’ll contact you whenever they have a suitable property.  Good luck!

     

    Related blog posts

    Get 100% renewable energy with Bulb and save lots of money (over £250)

    Is buying a house better than renting?

    Beautiful ways to make a rental home feel like your own

    Should I stay or should I go. Moving house decisions.

     Things to save for when renting your first home

  5. Top reasons to install smart home security

    Posted on

    Smart devices for our homes are becoming more commonplace and we’re only just at the beginning of this exciting shift into more technological advances in and around our homes.  Some smart devices are purely for our own enjoyment and pleasure such as colour changing light bulbs. Others are able to save us money and keep our homes more efficient, such as smart heating devices. But perhaps one of the best types are those which keep us feeling safe and secure such as smart home security. 

    In this blog post we’re going to take a look at some of the top reasons to install smart home security.

    Top reasons to install smart home security

    It’s so affordable

    If you think that setting up a smart home security system sounds really expensive, then think again.  Security camera website Time2 have some really affordable smart home cameras starting at around £39.99 for a single indoor camera and £79.99 for a single outdoor camera.  Obviously you might need more cameras than this, but if funds are limited then you can set up at least one camera in a prominent place for less than £50.  That’s a steal!  They’re so affordable, you can add more cameras to your collection as and when you need to and by sticking to the same brand you’ll be able to connect them all to the same app.

    Easy to use

    Simplicity and user experience is key when it comes to modern tech and smart cameras have this nailed. Simply plug and play!  All you need is a Wi-Fi connection and power source and you’re set to go.  Download the relevant app for your smart device and you’ll have access to all the features on your smartphone.  You can control the camera from your phone and choose when to record, playback the videos and watch a livestream whenever you like.

    Peace of mind

    Whilst you may not be able to stop a burglar in his or her tracks whilst you are not home, or away on holiday, you can have peace of mind that you may be able to catch them in the act with indoor security cameras.  My husband always sets up our home security Wi-Fi camera whenever we go away and leaves it in an inconspicuous place within our home.  If anyone does break in whilst we are holidaying then we will have recorded some live video footage of the thief.

    Deter thieves

    Even better are outdoor cameras which would not only catch a thief in the act, but they could stop them in their tracks altogether.  Outdoor cameras on your property will act as a deterrent to wannabe thieves.  If they know they’re going to be caught in the act and filmed as they commit the crime, then they’d have to be really stupid to still go ahead.

    Motion alerts

    You’ll not need to be checking your phone every ten minutes to see what’s happening when you’re not home as these cameras really are smart by having motion detectors already installed.  The app on your phone will let you know if any motion is detected and hopefully it will just be next door’s cat and nothing to worry about!

    Top reasons to install smart home security outdoor

    Don’t unnecessarily record

    Along with the motion detector is the ability for the cameras to only start recording when this motion is detected.  This means the cameras can stay idle whilst nothing is happening, saving energy and thus money by not running all the time.

    Multiple uses

    The indoor cameras are great for keeping an eye on your valuables when you are not home, but they also double up as brilliant ways to keep an eye on your little ones or baby when you are not in the room, providing even more peace of mind that they are safe playing or soundly asleep.

    High definition video and sound

    The quality of the video is also important and there’ll be no fuzzy hard to make out images as you may imagine with CCTV, but clear high definition video and high quality sound that you can play on your mobile wherever you are in the world.

    Automatic night vision

    Smart cameras also have night vision so your home is protected even when the nights are drawing in and it’s dark from late afternoon.

    There really are so many benefits to installing smart home devices and cameras are some of the smartest tech that will provide you with peace of mind about what’s happening in your home, no matter where you are.  They can act as a great deterrent to protect your most valuable possessions from would-be thieves and ensure that if the worst does happen you have the proof in HD video with sound to catch those in the act.

     

    Related reads

    Smart home devices you need in the 21st century

    Home, work, travel: How safe are you day to day?

    Securing Your Business Needn’t Be Complicated

    Is Your Stuff Safe? The Best Home Security Hacks

    Top reasons to install smart home security