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Category: Home & Garden

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

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    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

  2. Things to save for when renting your first home

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    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

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    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

  3. Top reasons to install smart home security

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    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

  4. How to remodel your staircase on a budget

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    In many homes the stairs are one of the first things you see. They are often uninspiring as they sit in the same position and have the same look day after day.  Our stairs are the first thing you see when you enter our home and I’m not that keen on them.  I’d like a new banister and ideally to take off the carpet and paint the wooden stairs underneath white.  We do have white walls so it would be a very white entrance, but one I hope is bright, light, clean and welcoming.  We just worry about the children slipping down if the stairs have no carpet, so we may need to wait until they are a little older.

    Stairs are usually very boring and just serve a purpose.  But, this doesn’t have to be the case. It is possible to completely rip out and replace your stairs or simply remodel them. The best part is that this can be done on a budget.

    Here are some tips on how to remodel your staircase on a budget:

    How to remodel your staircase on a budget

    Image

    Consider the design

    Start by taking a look at these stair design ideas. You can find a new design of staircase that will completely change the look and feel of your home.  There are so many places to find inspiration from.  I’ve seen white staircases on Instagram and Pinterest, for example, which have fueled my desire for beautiful white painted steps.

    You may need to consider rebuilding the whole staircase depending on your design idea and what you already have there to work with.   A new staircase can be fitted by yourself although you may prefer to get professional help. While this is definitely the most expensive of the options available it is not as expensive as you may think.

    Remove the carpet

    A simpler idea that many people opt for is to remove the carpet. Constant wear and tear can quickly make any carpet on your stairs look tired. By removing it your stairs will feel opened up.

    However, it will be louder when people walk up and down them? For this reason you may wish to consider tiling the stairs or adding a stair runner.

    I’d love to go for plain white painted steps and with a no shoe policy upstairs in our home, I hope they won’t be too noisy, but perhaps too slippy?  A runner down the middle is probably the best way to combat this.

    Remove the risers

    You’ll need to verify that you can remove the risers without affecting the structure of your stairs. Don’t take them out if you are unsure!  However, if this is possible it can be a great way of opening up the stairs and the space behind them.  Only do this if you have open space under your stairs.  If you have a cupboard then this is not a good option or you’ll see all your storage!

    Remove the cupboard

    You can actually remodel your stairs by changing the space round them. This means removing the cupboard under the stairs and perhaps changing the flooring at the base of the stairs. If you also consider painting the walls a pale colour, or even white, you’ll make the space round the stairs feel much more open.   This will make your stairs feel larger.

    Lighting

    Light is important in any home and the lighter your stairs are the more appealing this space will feel.  If you have any windows that can shed light onto the stairs then make sure the drapes are pulled right back.

    In addition fit mirrors to the walls to bounce the light round the stairs and surrounding areas.

    You should also consider a hanging light that will bounce light down the stairs; the light could even be suspended half way down the stairs. This would be a great addition to our staircase as we have a double height ceiling over our staircase, so a suspended light would make a great feature.

    The balustrades

    It’s easy to overlook the balustrades but this is a great way of transforming your stairs without ripping them out. In fact the balustrade is surprisingly easy to remove and replace.

    Step away from the traditional with a metal balustrade or even choose a glass balustrade that will look like it’s not there. Alternatively you can mix materials; such as metal and glass or wood and plastic. 

    Ours currently has some 70s style horizontal strips of wood which I really don’t like, though my husband does.  I’d rather something vertical and wooden and of course, painted white!

     

    The key to remodeling your stairs on a budget is to look at what others have done with their stairs and accept that there is no limit to the possibilities.  Ripping off an old carpet, sanding back and repainting may take some time and effort, but it doesn’t need to be costly.  There are features of the stairs that can be updated without having to replace the whole staircase to give the impression of a new staircase.

     

    What to read next:

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    6 savvy ways to save money Christmas shopping online

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    How to make money from your phone with the Roamler app [and a Roamler invite code for you]

    5 tried and tested ways to make money as a UK stay at home mum

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

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    Win the whole cost of your online shop with cashback site Boom25

     

    How to remodel your staircase on a budget (2)

  5. 5 ways to get more money out of every in-store shopping trip

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    Here are 5 ways you can be savvy with your supermarket shopping and save/make even more money with every shop:

    5 ways to get more money out of every in-store shopping trip

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    1. Use Curve for 3 months and get 1% cashback

    Get free money by using the Curve Mastercard debit card.  It’s a clever app and actual Mastercard that is linked to all your other credit cards and debit cards.  The idea is that you only have to carry one card around with you.  If you have loads of cards, then it will make your life easier!  You simply choose which card you wish to pay with on the Curve app and then pay in the shop using your Curve card and the money will be taken from the chosen card you have selected in the Curve app.

    One bonus is that if you change your mind and wish you had paid using your credit card instead of your debit card, or vice-versa, you have 14 days to change which card you pay with; a pretty clever feature that puts you in charge of your money even more.

    Just recently I paid accidently on a card I wasn’t meant to.  I simply wasn’t paying attention in the shop.  If I had used the Curve card to pay then I could have reversed this decision and paid on the correct card.

    You will get 1% cashback for the first three months on three retailers of your choice from their options (including supermarkets), so it’s worth paying for everything for at least three months using the Curve card to take advantage of this.  It costs you nothing as Curve is just like a third party, so you still pay for the purchases using your own bank card at no cost to you.

    Even if you don’t carry on using it, it’s worth signing up and making every purchase via the Curve card for three months and they’ll give you 1% cashback on 3 retailers that can be spent using the Curve card itself.  You just select to use the cashback when on the app.  Your next purchase will be made with the cashback.

    For an extra £5 cashback simply sign up with my code FL2KH at https://dw92j.app.goo.gl/ZV9a

    It costs nothing to sign up to their free service and you’ll get £5 for free for using my code and 1% cash back for three months at no extra cost to you.  It’s basically free money!

    Handy tip: Set your Curve card to pay with your rewards credit card (see point 2) for double benefits!

    2. Use a rewards credit card to pay

    And then pay it straight back!  The trick here is not to use a credit card to get into debt, but to reap the rewards from spending on it.  We have a 0% on balances credit card from Tesco which means we don’t get charged on our purchases for 30 months if we did not pay it all off, but that’s not the purpose of the card, but protects us from paying interest if for any reason we didn’t pay the full amount off.  We put all our normal household spending on this credit card and then pay it straight back, usually as soon as the purchase is made.  I have an online payment set up from our regular current account to the credit card so it takes me a few seconds to make an instant payment to the card.

    Why bother doing this?

    To reap the rewards of spending on the credit card.  For us, we use a Tesco credit card which offers us Tesco Clubcard points on all our purchases when using the credit card.  Not just in Tesco, but everywhere we shop.  This means we get a stack of Clubcard vouchers every three months that we can then exchange for 3x their value in restaurant vouchers for places like Pizza Express or Zizzi.  We usually get £60-£100 of restaurant vouchers which is 2-3 meals out for free!

    I know there are probably plenty more rewards cards out there with all sorts of tempting cashback or points rewards, so it’s choosing the one that is most beneficial to you.

    Don’t use it to buy things you can’t afford or to get into debt, but purely for your normal shopping so you can get the most out of every purchase with cashback or points.

    3. Check Roamler for mystery tasks

    Roamler is an app for your smart phone with lots of in-store audits, some that can be performed slyly whilst doing your regular shopping.  I always try to check mine when I’m going to a store to see if I can make some extra money during my normal shopping trip.  It could be as simple as taking a photo of a flower display for a couple of pounds or checking if an item is in stock.

    You need an invite code to register, so check out this blog post for yours: How to make money from your phone with the Roamler app [and a Roamler invite code for you]

    4. Get coupons and cashback from these apps

    GreenJinn: If you are shopping in-store at Tesco, Sainsbury’s or Waitrose then check the GreenJinn app to see if there are any coupons for your shopping.  Or even if there is anything you want to buy because of the coupons – sometimes there are 50% off deals and even 100% off deals so you can try new products.  Simply select the items in the app that you want to buy in-store and once you have your receipt, upload a picture into the app and wait for it to be verified.  Once it has been accepted then your cashback will show on the app and you can cash out as soon as you reach £1.50.

    Shopmium: This is a very similar app to GreenJinn and if you sign up by clicking my referral link here then you can currently get a free jar of Nutella on your next supermarket shop (or enter my referral code referral code 46e3t).

    Clicksnap: This is an app from the cashback site Quidco.  You can receive up to 100% cashback on selected items from the major supermarkets and also Ocado.  Use the app to easily snap photos of receipts and the money will be added to your Quidco account.

    CheckoutSmart: This is the same as Clicksnap with the same offers so just choose one of the apps.  If you don't use Quidco then use this one as the money can be withdrawn straight to your PayPal or via BACS rather than going to a Quidco account.  To avoid a cashout fee, just wait until you have over £20 to withdraw.  Sign up here: www.checkoutsmart.com

    Handy tip:  Sometimes the same offers are on more than one of these apps, so if you are limited to one item per offer then you can actually get more than one by using coupons on more than one app if available!

    5. Snap your receipts with Shoppix and Receipt Hog

    Finally, once you’ve completed any Roamler tasks in-store, checked GreenJinn for a coupon code, paid using your Curve card which is linked to your rewards credit card, it’s time for you to take a photo of your receipt using Shoppix and Receipt Hog!

    Receipt Hog and Shoppix will give you points or ‘coins’ for every receipt you upload and you can change these for cash once you reach their threshold.  Find out more here: Make money at home from receipts with Receipt Hog and Shoppix

     

    By following these five tips, you can really get the most out of every in-store shop!  You can make some extra money and save some money!

     

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