In association with Post Office Money

A few weeks ago I had an email from Post Office Money.

They wanted to talk to me about my house, which I bought last summer, and a new online tool that they were working on – This Is My Home – looking at affordability of housing for first time buyers. Post Office Money were conducting some research into the saving and spending habits of first time buyers throughout the UK, but as well as finding out more about averages, they wanted to hear some individual stories that highlighted the challenges faced by first time buyers and the compromises that sometimes need to be made.

At the same time they wanted to show that it owning your own home IS achievable, even if you do happen to be single, self-employed and not keen on depriving yourself of treats. (Me.)

So…

My unlikely story of home ownership

By the time I got to about 35, I felt like I’d really missed my chance to get on the property ladder. I was living in Bristol at the time and house prices were through the roof, (pun intended). My rent was so high though that had no disposable income left to save – I was caught in the trap.

Mostly, I felt okay with it. When I was growing up we lived mainly in rented properties and moved house quite a bit, so I guess I was used to it. I convinced myself that owning a house wasn’t all that important – I just couldn’t see it ever happening, especially not when I was self-employed. (Everyone knows blogging isn’t a real job right?) I felt like I’d made my peace with always renting.

‘It’s great!’ I would say. ‘If anything goes wrong it’s not my responsibility to fix it!’

What I’ve learnt since buying my own house last year though is that owning a home comes with a lot more feelings than just responsibility. Having never owned a house or had such a massive debt, I thought it would feel overwhelming. I thought it would be a pressure, something always at the back of my mind. I even worried that I might resent the house, or feel trapped by it, given that I’m not used to the idea of living in one place for a long time.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. View Post

Over the last few years I’ve started doing this thing whenever I travel anywhere of bringing Bee back some local currency as a present. (I buy myself tasteless fridge magnets, but that’s probably a whole post in of itself – a treat for another day.) Not only does this tradition mean I have a useful thing to do with leftover holiday money, but it also means that I am technically giving her cash, which she always likes.

(She has from time to time, when things have got desperate, thought about exchanging it all for pounds, but I think she’s been disappointed by the value of her Vietnamese Dong.)

compare foreign exchange rates

Photo by Keegan Houser on Unsplash

Although this is a very lovely and thoughtful gift, it’s undermined by the fact that my approach to travel money generally is a bit backwards. In my head, people who order foreign currency in advance for trips are OLD PEOPLE who are just overthinking things. ‘Look at me,’ I think to myself, ‘getting cash out at an ATM and casually paying for things like souvenirs or fun times abroad on my card like a pro-traveller.’ Then I get home and realise that my bank charges me a fee AND a percentage on all non-sterling transactions and I realise what a doofus I am.

And then I forget about it until the next time I go abroad and the VERY SAME THING happens all over again.  If I ever do think to buy foreign currency in advance then I just go into the post office because I really don’t know how it works otherwise. Thinking about it I really don’t know where the cocky attitude has come from as I am clearly RUBBISH at the whole thing. View Post

Fancy £15 off your next Dominos order? If you’re anything like me you’re already picturing the menu and thinking about using the discount as an excuse to treat yourself to four warm chocolate chip cookies. (If you have never had these then WHAT IS YOUR LIFE?)

My blog has always had a strong pizza vibe. One of the very first blog posts I ever wrote was called ‘Does Dominos deliver on Christmas Day?‘* and who can forget the Dominos versus Pizza Hut comparison post I did back in 2011?

If you want to see an example of top quality photography then you want to hit that baby UP. Talk about proud.

Today though I wanted to let you know about a Dominos offer being hosted by Quidco that gives new Quidco members a massive £15 cashback just for buying a pizza! 

dominos cashback offer voucher code

Quidco, in case you don’t already know, is the UK’s number one cashback and voucher code site. The theory is simple – you set up an account, go via Quidco any time you want to do any shopping, book a hotel, compare insurance prices etc, and you earn cashback. The cashback you earn can then be transferred into your bank, sent to you via PayPal or as an Amazon voucher. View Post

In association with VoucherCodes

Today was a bit of a momentous occasion in our house. After 12 years of ‘I hate school, don’t make me go,’ Belle sat her very last GCSE exam.

*pours stiff gin*

It was a bit of a funny day in the end. I did think she might want to go out afterwards to celebrate, but when she got into the car outside school at about 3.30pm she just seemed exhausted.

‘Take me home’, she said ‘so I can get into bed.’ And there she sat, seemingly quite happy, eating Krave out of the box.

Luckily I had expected that she might not be feeling at her most sociable, so I decided to take her out to eat on Monday instead – a kind of last supper. Except it was lunchtime. And nobody got crucified. Otherwise it was EXACTLY the same.

We went to Zizzi as we had an exclusive 30% off mains offer from VoucherCodes.

prawn starter Zizzi VoucherCodes

(When you go to Zizzi, make sure you have this prawn starter. The flavour of the sauce is AMAZING.) View Post

Post in association with NatWest

A couple of weeks ago I found myself sat alone at the bar of a members’ only club in London, sipping prosecco and feeling that heady mix of nervous and excited as I messaged my family WhatsApp group.

‘What are you doing in London?’ asked my sister Annabel.

‘I’m going to a speed dating session being run by NatWest to show how easily you can be emotionally vulnerable to online scams,’ I told her. ‘I was MADE for this.’

‘Do the other daters know,’ asked Annabel, ‘or is the assignment to go in and try and scam them?’

‘I think they have to scam ME,’ I said, ‘but I know there’s going to be ‘a twist’. A behavioural psychologist is going to be there. Maybe they just watch and laugh at how gullible I am??’

‘You’re going to get so scammed,’ she said.

‘I’m going to get scammed RIGHT UP,’ I agreed. ‘Hopefully someone will step in before I hand over any cash.’

tips to avoid being scammed

Because I wasn’t joking when I said I was made for this experiment. View Post

energy saving tips

If I’d had a pound for every time I’ve said ‘you left your light on’ over the years then quite frankly I wouldn’t have to care about my energy bills, as I would be a millionaire.

Children leaving on lights drives me absolutely mad, as there is just no excuse for it. Think about it – it’s like the light itself is TELLING YOU YOU’VE LEFT IT ON.

It SHINES. In your face.

I don’t even know how it’s physically possible to leave a room and NOT notice that you’ve left the lights on. I can only conclude that children’s brains have a vital part missing from them until they reach some kind of magical age where they are able to SEE LIGHT.

Anyway.

This post isn’t meant to be me complaining, it’s about positive things you can do to save energy – not just to reduce your bills but also to ensure that you leave less of a mark on the world. I’ve recently bought my own house and so I’m in the lucky position now where I can think about bigger things I can do to reduce energy consumption. I’ve had my loft properly insulated for example, and I’ve got decent double glazing throughout.

Even if you don’t have the cash (or the enthusiasm) to tackle bigger projects, small changes you do can add up. Here are seven properly useful ideas I’ve had to help you create good energy habits in your home.

Get a smart meter

This is top of my list and an excellent first step to help you reduce energy consumption. With free smart meters, which allow you to monitor your energy usage in real time, in actual pounds and pence, it means you can see for yourself how much it costs to do specific things like boil a kettle or run a dishwasher and thus identify ways to cut back. There is something about having this information presented to you, seeing the energy and money tick away, that really helps to hammer the message home. View Post