Christmas can be a really expensive time of the year for families with travel costs and Christmas food shopping to take into account. And that’s completely leaving out the stress of preparing for presents for the kids and gift exchanges! This can potentially wreak havoc on your wallet if you don’t plan accordingly, which is why this article exists – with lots of tips to help you make a delectable Christmas dinner and save money in the process.
The key points involve reducing the cost down enough to make a fulfilling meal for everyone. In this current digital age, you can use the services of a grocery app to find the best values for the myriad of ingredients you might need. Then, gather up a handful of loved ones or friends who will be at the Christmas dinner party, and go value shopping for all the necessary ingredients.
Here are some tips on how to make Christmas dinner on a budget:
My vegan Christmas roast dinner 2017 - a sprinkle of dried mint and lashings of gravy were added after the photo. Yum!
Decide on a budget
Decide first of all either what your total budget is or how much you want to spend per head. With Christmas Day lunches at pubs costing around £60 per head, your at-home meal should be an awful lot cheaper than this! Once you have worked out your maximum expenditure, and then make sure you stick to it and are careful with your spending. It can be tempting to buy a lot of treats at Christmas, but if you are on a budget and money is stretched, then you’ll have to hold back.
Make a shopping list
Instead of aimlessly wandering around the supermarket aisles choosing as you go, have a meal plan and write a shopping list for exactly what you need. This should help stop you overspending as you know exactly what you need to buy and you just need to have the willpower to stick to your list!
Whilst you may think that choosing organic is expensive at first, some of the online veg box deliveries offer really good value and you can be sure you are getting high quality ingredients. Plus they deliver to your door which will save the time and money spent travelling to the supermarket.
Go to a farmer’s market
A great way to support local farmers and also to save on produce is to pick up everything you need at a farmer’s market. They often have great deals on fresh produce and can be really competitive on price with supermarkets.
If the organic boxes and farmer’s markets are out of your budget, then go with the value brands. You’ll be surprised at how amazingly cheap supermarket own brand vegetables and value ranges are, even at Christmas. Often the supermarkets will have lots of offers on the fruits and veg you need to make Christmas lunch as they want to win your custom for your Christmas food shop.
Get everyone to chip in
Not with money, but with the food. If you’re making the main meal, then why not ask some family members to bring desserts, others to bring drinks and another to bring the starters or canapes? Make it a family affair and don’t feel pressured to have to provide for everyone if you can’t afford to. Your loved ones will understand and be more than happy to chip in and bring a part of the meal each.
Make everything from scratch
While it might be tempting to buy ready-made canapes, desserts and frozen yorkies or potatoes, it’s often much better value (and tastier) to make your own homemade versions.
Control the portion sizes
Be sensible with the portion sizes. Ensure that everyone has enough, but don’t overfill plates and end up with a lot of food waste which is wasted money also. Cook enough for each person to have a good sized portion and a perhaps a tiny bit extra for those who will want seconds. Leave the extra off the plates and in the kitchen so if it’s not needed it can be saved and eaten as leftovers instead of wasted.
Keep it simple
Have the star of the show (usually meat, but in my household a nut roast), potatoes, stuffing, yorkies and three or four veg. Some condiments such as dried mint and cranberry sauce and of course gravy. You can go all out and start creating cauliflower cheese and so on, but you can also keep it much simpler and choose a couple of tasty steamed veg that will do the trick and keep costs down.
Before writing a shopping list and buying anything, check your cupboards to see what you already have. You might have some jars of condiments in there, packets of stuffing and a tub of gravy granules. Don’t go out and buy it all again if you already have it at home.
There we go. Whatever your budget this Christmas for your dinner, make sure you don’t break the bank and follow these tips to be a little savvier with your festive food shopping.
Let’s face it. Kids grow fast. One day they’re crawling around in their onesie and the next they’re choosing their own clothes in their favourite High Street fashion store. It’s crazy how quickly children grow and how often they need new clothes, especially in those younger years. No matter what kind of kids’ clothing you’re looking for, be sure you’re giving particular attention to their functionality. And, believe it or not, there are even some ways you can save money when buying kids clothing.
How to choose functional clothing for your children
Not only does buying functional clothing serve a purpose, but it will also save money in the long run. If you’re buying clothes that suit their intended use then they will stand the test of time and won’t need replacing so often, or get ruined easily. For example, if you know your child is going to wear the clothes in the rain or the snow, it might be a good idea to look for something that repels water instead of soaks through when wet. If you’re constantly hanging wet coats to dry then they’re going to need a spare whilst one is drying out. By buying a suitable water repelling coat in the first place then you’ll only need to buy one and not waste time and money on drying wet though jackets.
You might also keep an eye out for the quality of the clothing. Cotton is very popular since it is the least likely material to contain substances that can be harmful to your child. Choosing organic cotton which you know has not been sprayed with chemicals is even better. Quality clothing like this washes well, maintains its softness and feels great on the skin. Additionally, be aware of your child’s needs. Do they have sensitive skin? If so, wool might not be the best choice (plus it’s a pain to wash!)
If you’re not sure what size kids clothes to buy, get something a little bigger than you think. Even if your child cannot wear it now, they’ll eventually grow into it, plus it saves a trip to return it to the store if it was too small. That’s one less thing you have to buy at that stage when they do fit the item! Plus, if you’re anything like me, clothes can shrink when washed and tumble dried for the first time, so allow for an element of shrinkage!
Of course, you always want to consider your child’s style preference. Once you’ve determined that what you’re purchasing fits your child’s needs and is functional, you can take a moment to find something that they’ll enjoy wearing. Kids can be stubborn and I’ve often bought clothes that my kids refuse to wear at all. Perhaps it’s best to take the kids with you and let them pick, then you can guarantee they’ll wear it and you won’t be wasting money.
Lastly, after you purchase clothes for your children, you want to be sure they’re safe. Wash them before letting your children wear them, just like you would do with your towels or linens. This helps to remove any remaining substances or residue that may cause skin irritation. If you’re choosing organic clothing then you might want to skip this step as they should have no chemicals on them at all.
Kids clothing can quickly add up, especially when they outgrow it so quickly. Here are four ways you can save money on kids clothes.
4 quick tips on how to save money when buying clothes for children
Buy a size larger – obviously not so they look ridiculous or their clothes swamp them, but often with my daughter I have been able to buy a jumper or coat a size larger and it’s lasted for two years instead of one. For my son I’ve been able to get away with buying even t-shirts a size larger as baggy t-shirts suit him more.
Check for second-hand bundles – check online marketplaces for people selling second-hand bundles of kids clothing at great prices. These are particularly great for buying clothes for messy play, forest school and pre-school as you’ll not care about them getting marked or covered in paint!
Buy out of season – check the end of season sales for clothes for the following year. Choose sizes a year ahead ready for next summer in the end of summer sales, for example. Do the same in the winter sales and you’ll never have to pay full price for clothing again.
Swap with your friends – if you have older kids or your friends or family have older kids, then pass on your outgrown kids’ clothes and they’ll be happy to do the same to you. I once even borrowed a big box of baby clothes from a friend and returned it once my son had grown out of them, ready for my friend’s new arrival!
Buying kids clothes can sometimes be a challenge or a costly experience for any parent, but don’t get overwhelmed. Just follow a few simple guidelines and you’ll have your child ready to go no matter what the season – you might even have next season’s wardrobe ready and waiting if you’re savvy about it. Whether you’re buying for your first child or the fifth one, you’ll be a pro in no time!
I received my results today so I want to share with you my thoughts and a review of the Genesis DNA Talent test. Firstly, though, let’s start at the beginning as you may be wondering what completing a DNA test involves.
How to complete a DNA testing kit with Genesis DNA
Usually you would register and order a DNA testing kit from their website directly, but as I was sent the kit for the purpose of this review, I didn’t order online. I guess my process is the same as if you receive a kit as a present. It comes with instructions to register your kit at their main website using the special ID number unique to your kit. You simply fill in a few quick details such as your name, age, email address and sex along with the box registration number to ensure that your results are sent to you when ready.
The kit comes with everything you need to take two DNA swabs and clear instructions so you’ll know exactly what to do. It’s totally pain free and you simply need to pop on some gloves and take a swab with an extra-long cotton swab in the side of your cheek. You twirl it round whilst coating it for 30 seconds or so and then pop it in a test tube. Then you repeat with a second swab.
There’s no need to worry that you’re doing it wrong as they’ll send you a second kit if for any reason they can’t extract your DNA from your two swabs.
Simply send the test tubes back in the envelope provided and await the email of your results!
Why choose the Genesis DNA talent test
I was at first offered an immune health DNA test which is very appropriate for this time of year, but my immune health is not something that concerns me. I eat a plant based vegan diet full of superfoods, fruits and vegetables every day and exercise several times a week. I don’t drink alcohol and I don’t smoke. Whether it’s my lifestyle choices or a strong genetic immune system, I rarely get ill - this entire year I’ve had one migraine and one day where I was feeling under the weather, but that’s it. I never get sick or ill. It’s very rare for me.
So I decided the immune test might not be so beneficial to me and they offered a talent test instead. It definitely sounded intriguing as it promises to reveal:
Your physical, mental and intellectual predispositions
Which activities and professions could be your most successful
What potential talents you haven’t yet tapped into
How your genes affect your personality
This certainly interested me as perhaps there is a hobby I have not yet realised I am good at or a profession I have never considered. Maybe I’d have a light bulb moment in my head and realise my future career and potential.
Through my twenties I never had a hobby or interest and always felt I was lacking one. I wanted so desperately to be good at something and to have a talent. I tried a few things and nothing ever stuck. I was always so envious of those who had a skill or talent, especially those who had perfected their skill from a young age. Why didn’t I know what I was good at?
It was the same with career choices. As a child I never knew what I wanted to be. I never had a focus or set dream. I flitted between wanting to be a teacher, a firefighter, a radio presenter and more. I never knew what my skills were or what I wanted to be. I had no set direction and this continued into adulthood. I never had a set career in mind. I was always hardworking and worked my way up in a company I was loyal to for 9 years before having children, but once I left to start a family I again realised I did not know what I wanted to be.
I knew I didn’t want to return to the same job as it was demanding and full time hours, when I wanted to be with my new daughter more, and so I trained to be a childminder. I think I was more passionate about running my own business and having more flexibility than the job itself and it never materialised as a house move took a lot longer than anticipated. In this time I had already started a jewellery business and from this a passion for writing was rediscovered and I turned to blogging as a hobby and future career choice. I am now a full time blogger - a blogger because I love to write.
Yet I always wonder how long the blogging bubble will last and if it bursts, then what will I do next. I have no idea.
Perhaps my DNA test will help guide me to a suitable career choice or suggest a talent that I could be great at!
A breakdown of my Genesis DNA talent test results
When my results were ready yesterday I was sent an email notification. I had to login to my account and download the results – a 36 page A4 booklet! It can be viewed online, but as it looked quite extensive I printed it out and read the whole thing. Sometimes I find a huge amount of information easier to process on paper instead of staring at the screen for a long period of time. But there’s no need to print and you can access everything totally online.
The results are broken down into an overview, main recommendations and then detailed recommendations. Let’s look at my results and my thoughts:
Apparently due to my variant of the COMT gene I have an increased level of dopamine and adrenaline which help to shape my personality. I was somewhere on the middle of their scale which meant I was a ‘sensitive discoverer’ as well as a ‘warrior’. I definitely like being called a warrior!
My personality traits were a bit hit and miss to be honest. It was a bit like reading a horoscope where some I could really relate to and sounded just like me, but others were nothing like me. Perhaps genes aren’t always conclusive or maybe I’m not interpreting them correctly. Here are some of the interesting points:
It says I can easily lose my temper which is true! Not with friends though, but more with my kids! There’s only so many times I can repeat myself and ask nicely before I do lose my mind… put your socks on, put your socks on, put your socks on, put your socks on, put your socks on, can you please put your socks on, PUT YOUR SOCKS ON. Job done.
It does tell me to break away from my professional life or else it will have a negative effect on my lie. I’m certainly a workaholic and even more so since running my own business. It’s important to take breaks and not let it take over your life, but that is sometimes easier said than done when you work by yourself and can only rely on yourself to get the work done!
It suggests I work on my creativity by listening to classical music. I’ll just leave that one there…
It does say I can easily break addictions which I think is very true. Some people are terrible at breaking an addiction, but I am strong willed and if I want to do something then my will takes over! I also love an experiment and see anything such as giving up added sugar for a year (which I did in 2017) a challenge and one that I will succeed in! Turn giving up something into a challenge and I bet you’re far more likely to succeed.
For my professional career, seeing as I have traits of both a sensitive discoverer and a warrior, it displays a whole host of varying career ideas: writer, fashion, artist, lawyer, nurse, waitress, broker, manager, lifeguard, the list goes on. It’s not very specific, so at least now I can blame my genes for my indecisiveness when it comes to a career path! It does say I need to decide which personality prevails in me to make a career choice, so can I be a warrior?
Pressure at work is apparently good for me and I agree. I hate twiddling my thumbs and I need a lot of work to keep me engaged, so lots of deadlines and pressure – yes please. I work best when I’m fired up with lots to do.
But then it says I need greater self-discipline which I disagree with as I am highly self-motivated and work well by myself, at-home, where others often say they’d be too distracted or procrastinate too much!
It says as I’m a warrior then if I’m not satisfied with my career then a change won’t be challenging – ‘hear hear!’ This should so be true for everyone! Isn’t it so boring to hear those people moan constantly about their jobs they hate, but they don’t do anything about it?! Life’s too short to keep working a job you detest – do something about it!
The diet section is probably relevant to everyone –consume more magnesium, don’t drink sugary drinks, do drink green tea. Sensible advice for all I’d say.
Memory and spatial orientation
I have a high level of the BDNF factor so I’m predisposed to faster transmission of information from short term to long term memory. This must be before I had kids and suffered baby-brain and mumnesia…
It goes on to say I gain motor skills rapidly and memorise them even after a few days. I’m a fast learner and can learn pretty much anything I set my mind to, especially anything academic. Here are some of the points that are interesting from this category:
I might be a good driver. We’ll have to ask my husband Ben’s opinion on that…
I may be good in maths, geometry and geography. Yes I am! Or at least I was! I got an A in GCSE maths and GCSE geography and loved the subjects. I ummed and arrrred about taking them at A-level, but was trying to release my more creative side and took drama and philosophy instead. Doh! I 100% should have continued with geography and maths and then who knows what career path this could have led me down.
It reminds me that cortisol is increased in stressful situations and also too much working out and lack of sleep… I know, I know. I’m working on it.
I’m also predisposed to high blood pressure which is interesting as my Grandad has hypertension and my uncle did. I’m hoping my lifestyle choices will help to keep mine down.
I have high levels of the protein KIBRA which means I have high verbal communication skills:
Written and spoken communication isn’t a problem for me so it suggests a career with these. This is good as my current career involves a lot of writing! I love to write and hopefully I communicate well through my writing. I’m always told everything reads well.
I don’t have problems with written work at school or work. I’ve always loved writing, spelling and reading and always enjoyed writing essays!
I shouldn’t have a problem learning foreign languages. Well I learnt German at school and found it relatively easy, so I took up French as a second language and struggled! I don’t think I’m great at languages, but I just don’t have the time to learn one currently.= or the need.
Apparently public speaking and presentations are not difficult for me. But they so are! I hate talking in front of large groups of people. I hate the attention and all the eyes on me. I went to a yoga class recently and had to introduce myself in front of around 35-40 people and my heart was beating so fast and palms sweating. I’m definitely not comfortable speaking in front of large groups of people I don’t know. I prefer small groups or 1-1s.
I have a higher sensitivity of the oxytocin receptor which means having a higher resistance to stress, emotional, optimistic and empathetic. I don’t think I do have a higher resistance to stress. Maybe more than others, but I still get stressed on a regular basis. But perhaps we all do?
‘Stressful situations aren’t problematic for you’… until I had kids…! (Of course I’m always saying this in jest, but parenting is stressful!)
I find it easy to recognise lies and manipulation – yes I think I do. I’ve known a few liars and manipulators and I can see straight through it, even when others can’t.
I’m kind. Why, thank you :)
Type of muscles
My muscles contain an additional protein – alpha-actinin-3 (ACTN3 gene). I may be good at sports that require high dynamics, muscle contraction and anaerobic effort.
Because I have an additional protein in my muscles I should be able to take part in sports that require high dynamics and strength. I love to run 5km-10km and I also love the step machine at the gym and yoga classes.
I can easily build a muscular silhouette. Ooh I’d better try this! I do need to work on my bingo wings!
I’m apparently more suited to sprinting, but I never got on with sprinting. I’ve always been good at and enjoyed long distance running. I do 5km runs at the gym a few times a week and sometimes go up to 10km. For 5km I run 1km per 5 minutes which I don’t think is bad. I could push myself to go faster if I was racing. I do sometimes sprint for a minute or so at the end of my 5km to really get my adrenaline pumping!
My energy is efficiently transported during physical activities, meaning I get fatigued slowly during exercise. This definitely rings true and is why I like long distance running over sprinting and can sometimes keep going and going…
I am apparently talented in ‘sport’. I’m not sure I am. I enjoy running to keep fit, but I don’t think I’ve ever been talented in any other sports.
This section tells me to choose long distance, whereas the muscle section said short distance. My genes are conflicted!
It tells me to include dark chocolate, green tea and cocoa in my diet to improve performance. All things I love and all things that will give me more energy and also contain caffeine. I use cacao rather than cocoa as it is less refined. I choose dark chocolate that’s without added sugar so it’s healthier. Anyone who knows me will know how much I love green tea! These three foods could benefit everyone.
Final thoughts (and save 20% off Genesis DNA tests)
Wowsers, that’s only a tiny snippet of the comprehensive DNA report I received! There’s a lot that I feel matches me and some that really doesn’t. Overall I found the process of completing the test and receiving the results a fun thing to do. It was definitely interesting to see what levels of certain genes I have and what this should mean for my personality and health traits, even if they weren’t always accurate.
I’d definitely do a DNA test again, but I think I’d opt for something more specific like a health DNA test or even a food intolerance DNA test if I thought I might have intolerances to something. I think DNA testing for health reasons is great to pinpoint a specific health problem or issue and could really benefit someone’s life. For recreational purposes or for a nosey insight into your genes it can be quite expensive, so I think it’s more valuable if you have a specific purpose in mind. That said, it does make a modern and unique gift idea!
Starting your own self-employed business is an incredibly exciting time. Whilst you may be full of ideas and buzzing with anticipation for what the future holds, there are a few important things, and possibly legal, that you need to explore and implement. These include whether you need to register for self-assessment for tax purposes, if you need business insurance in Liverpool or the rest of the UK and whether you need a separate business bank account. Read on for some more information on these three topics.
I recently wrote a blog post titled 6 handy tax tips for bloggers, but it’s also relevant for small business or home business starts ups. There’s lots of useful information there about record keeping and how to register for self-assessment with HMRC, or even if you need to at all. If you are a sole trader and your gross sales from your trades/services are no more than £1000 per tax year, then you do not legally have to register with HMRC or need to fill out a tax return. It’s called a trading allowance and everyone is entitled to one self-employment trading allowance of £1000. You can read the official information about this allowance to see if you need to register by clicking here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/tax-free-allowances-on-property-and-trading-income
There are still some reasons you might want to register, even if your gross self-employment income is under £1000, to entitle you to certain benefits. Or if your gross income will be over £1000 then you need to register. It’s very easy to find all the information you need and to register online at the HMRC website. You could even hire an accountant to take care of your accounts and complete your tax returns for you.
Depending on the type of business you plan to undertake, you may need business insurance, otherwise known as commercial insurance. Many companies offer bespoke business insurance to cover your trade and many even offer home-based business insurance. If you are selling products then you may wish to consider product liability to cover you for faulty products or issues arising from any products you sell. If you see customers in person or go to trade shows or fairs, then you may need public liability to cover any accidents on your property as an example. There are lots of reasons why your business may need insurance to ensure you are covered for injury to customers or damage to their property, for example.
Business insurance can also cover your equipment from damage and theft, such as laptops and cameras, tools and even stock and business cash. It’s definitely worth considering so you’re not out of pocket should the worst happen. There are lots of companies that can offer advice about insurance and let you know whether you need it. If you require commercial insurance in Liverpool and the North West then consider contacting Rigby Financial for advice and a quote.
Business bank account
You may also need to open a business bank account for your start up. If you are a sole trader then you are under no obligation to open an official business bank account and it could even be an additional expense that is not needed. Many business accounts have tempting offers of no fees for the first year, but then charge a fee after this. It’s fine to use a personal bank account for sole trader transactions – just make sure you highlight which is for business use or even better, open a separate personal bank account for your sole trader transactions.
If you are a limited company, however, then you do need to open a business bank account to keep its finances separate. You cannot open a personal bank account in your business name - your business is a separate entity to yourself. If you’re looking to borrow money or have a company credit card, then you’ll need a business bank account to apply for these.
The above are three things you need to consider when starting your own self-employed business.