Everything That A New Parent Needs To Know About Childcare Vouchers

31 07 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from familymwr

The birth of your first child brings a whole range of new experiences and challenges. Whilst you’ll need time to share in these experiences with your new baby, there may come a point when you decide it’s time to return to work. This decision could be for a number of reasons, whether you’re in need of a little extra money or you simply love your job and don’t want to lose it. Returning to work however brings yet another challenge, namely, who is going to look after your new-born and how are you going to be able to afford to pay for childcare on top of rent, bills, food and general living expenses? Before you start to panic that you’re going to have to stay at home and look after the baby yourself, while your partner works double the hours to earn enough money to live on, stop. I may have just the solution for you – here is everything that a new parent needs to know about childcare vouchers.

What are childcare vouchers?

If you have never heard of childcare vouchers, it is a scheme set up by the government to help those parents who want to work with the cost of childcare. Some employers may offer you childcare vouchers at the expense of some of your salary. It is not a legal requirement for employers to assist you with childcare costs in return for you coming back to work so it’s worth asking your HR manager whether or not your company uses a scheme such as Co-operative Employee Benefits childcare vouchers.

There is however two other ways in which your employer can help you cover the costs of childcare that do not involve childcare vouchers. If your employer offers you directly contracted childcare or there is an on-site nursery at your place of work then you will not be eligible for childcare vouchers.

How does the scheme work?

If you have children up to 15 years old and require childcare whilst you work, childcare vouchers can save you roughly around £1000 each year. The way it works is by allowing you to pay for the childcare out of your gross salary (that’s before any tax or national insurance is deducted). This ‘salary sacrifice’ means that once you’ve paid for the childcare vouchers, you’re actually better off than if you’d received your usual salary and then spent a portion of it on childcare.

Here is an example:

You sacrifice £1000 of your gross salary which after tax and NI is only worth about £700. You then receive £1000 worth of childcare vouchers, which means that for every £1000 you sacrifice, you actually gain £300 – not bad is it?

Use a savings calculator to work out just how much you could save by using childcare vouchers

Benefits of childcare vouchers

So aside from the assistance with paying for demanding childcare costs, what are the other benefits of using childcare vouchers?

–          Benefits for parents

The childcare voucher scheme allows you to return to work safe in the knowledge that the cost of childcare for your youngster will be met each and every month. There’s no worrying about saving a portion of your incomings to spend on childcare as the cost is sorted before you even receive your net pay (after tax and national insurance). It also saves you some money each month which can add up to a significant saving over a year.

–          Benefits for employers

Your valued members of staff are more likely to return to work after having a baby which means you don’t have to spend time and money on employing someone new and training them each time someone falls pregnant.

–          Benefits for nurseries

Childcare vouchers can be an extra incentive for parents to keep using your services. There are no restrictions as to which provider of childcare vouchers you can accept so you won’t lose out on business either way.





Buying clothes on a budget – what you need to remember

31 07 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from In this fleeting moment 

It might not always feel like it, but summer is finally upon us – and that means we’re all looking to dress to impress. However, you might have noticed that the contents of your wardrobe are looking a bit tired and tatty; so it might be time to get out there and buy some new clothes. It has to be said, though, that many of us are struggling a bit financially at the moment. You may think, therefore, that buying new maxi-dresses and clothes would be one extravagance too many. Luckily, this needn’t be the case.

You’ll no doubt be relieved to learn that it is possible to stay on trend even if you’re trying to operate to a relatively tight budget – as many of us are at the moment. If you’re prepared to do a bit of digging around, you may be surprised to find that there are some real bargains to be had. Sure it takes a bit of graft and perseverance, but you’ll soon notice the difference the next time you look at the state of your bank account. It can be easy to splurge once you get started with your clothes shopping, but a bit of self-restraint can really make a massive difference.

An article from eHow.com offers some useful tips in this regard. It suggests concentrating on buying clothes which are likely to work well with pieces you already own – so if some of last summer’s clothes are still in good condition, you can dig them out again and partner them with some of your new additions. It’s also worth thinking about how much wear you’re going to get out of a particular item before you go out and buy it. If you feel you’re likely to get plenty of mileage out of a certain item, then it should be a worthwhile purchase. However, if you’re not planning on wearing an individual piece of clothing much then it may be better to simply not buy it at all.

Furthermore, you might want to think carefully about what you’re actually looking to buy before you head out to the shops. It’s tempting, once you enter the store, to go a bit mad and buy on impulse – indeed, this is what the retailers themselves are banking on. However, if you draw up a list before you start shopping and stick to it, you should be better-equipped to avoid the temptation of impulse buying and overspending. This should also help you to narrow your search a bit, saving you effort.

An article from About.com, meanwhile, also offers a number of pointers. It notes that there are some real bargains online at sites like www.missguided.eu, so it’s well worth taking a look at what these online outlets have to offer. Many shoppers look for items in store and then search for similar items online to compare prices; you’d be surprised just how much money you can save this way. Shopping around can really help you save a lot of money, so it’s well worth doing.





How to Find Catering Jobs

19 07 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from USDAgov

Before checking for the latest jobs on catering recruitment websites, the first thing you need to do on your road to the kitchen is to get some experience.

The catering world is growing, which means there are more opportunities for younger chefs to enter the profession. That does not mean you will walk into just any role, the market is quite competitive. Before you start your search you should be sure you are as employable as possible – the best way to do that is with adequate work experience.

You should start by contacting a local restaurant or café to see if they will give you a couple of shifts here and there, with a view to giving you something part time. It doesn’t matter if you are just washing dishes for a while, that could be the gateway into preparing some cold dishes. More importantly than anything else it will give you an important glimpse of the environment you will be working in.

Working in a kitchen is unlike almost anywhere else, the hours are long and hot. It is also very stressful. Although that can be said of many jobs, there is a certain mentality required for kitchen work and it is good to get used to the camaraderie and the atmosphere. For example, even the best head chef in the world will be inclined to bawl and shout at you during the busiest dinner services. If you buckle under the pressure or a good rollicking, and take it personally, you may struggle with kitchen life. Once you have learnt to deal with it, and not take it personally, the hard skin will make life in the future much easier. Future employers will also know this. They are unlikely to take someone on cold.

If you have all the experience you think you will need, it is time to start looking for a job. Not all catering companies will list their vacancies on a job site. Although most do, it may be worth calling up a restaurant nearby to see if they have any positions available. If not, leave your CV with them – along with a good impression – and hope they may be in touch next time they are looking for someone. You will most likely be required to go for a trial shift; your past experience will help you immeasurably if this is the case.

Job sites are most likely the place you will find a job, and there are some sites specifically tailored to the catering industry. At the same time, if you live in a city or large town, take a walk around to see if any places are advertising on a board outside.

Make sure your CV looks as good as possible. Detail clearly what you have done and what you have achieved. Do it succinctly, try not to blabber on and train it to what will be expected of you. If it is an Italian restaurant, experience with Italian food will obviously do down well. If you do get an interview, just because you’ll be working in chef whites does not mean you can turn up wearing whatever you want. Dress smartly.





What you should look out for when picking out kitchen tiles

11 07 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Wonderlane

If you’re a bit of a dab hand at DIY, you might be wondering just what your next project should be. Maybe you’ve recently finished a DIY job and you’ve got the taste for more. Perhaps you might want to consider fitting kitchen tiles. Obviously, it’ll take a degree of skill and diligence – so it helps to make sure you’ve got the right tools and that you’ve made the right preparation. You really need to know what you’re getting yourself into when you start DIY work. There are many homes which have been left ravaged by inept attempts at DIY, so you need to make sure you avoid falling into the same pitfalls.

There are several different types of kitchen tile that you can choose from, so it’s really worth looking around to find the one that’s best for you. It might be worth looking online to find design ideas – you can find pictures which will give you a good idea of how you can expect your kitchen tiles to look in your kitchen. According to an article from Freshome.com, there are a few things you’ll need to think carefully about before you decide which kitchen tiles you’re going to install. Firstly, you need to consider where you’re going to install your tiles – whether on the walls, the floor or perhaps even the countertop.

It’s also worth taking a look at the different varieties of tile to see which one is likely to work best in your kitchen. There are ceramic, quarry, stone, cork, vinyl, bamboo, porcelain and a number of other kitchen tiles for you to choose from. Some different materials may work well in combination with one another, so this is something else which is worth considering. You also need to think about your family’s lifestyle, and how often you’re likely to use the kitchen – and you need to make sure you choose kitchen tiles which are suitably resilient to withstand the rigorous of everyday kitchen usage.

Furthermore, you should also think very carefully about your budget. It should go without saying that millions of households are currently feeling the financial pinch – and this is likely to be the case for some time to come. It makes sense, therefore, to ensure that you get the very best deal you can. It’s a good idea to consider just how much money you have to spend on your kitchen tiles before you go out and buy. This should help narrow down your search and it should also help you avoid the temptation of overspending.

An article from Channel4.com points out that handmade kitchen tiles can be very expensive, but there are plenty of other options for those who are looking to stick to a fairly restrictive budget. It helps to carry out a bit of research into what kitchen tiles you can choose from before you buy. You can find out a great deal more about kitchen tiles simply by taking a look online. It’s also worth browsing in a few different places rather than simply opting for the first deal you come across.





What to do if your phone or tablet is exposed to water

11 07 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from squeezeomatic

If you’ve ever damaged your phone or tablet, you’ll know just how frustrating it can be. You might, if you’re lucky, be able to get it up and running again – but you may find that your device is beyond repair. Of course, there are accessories you can buy to help provide your phone or tablet with robust protection from the elements. That’s why so many phone and tablet users choose to buy cases from theSnugg, for instance. However, if you drop your device in water, you need to move quickly to ensure that any damage is minimised. There are some steps you should take if your phone or tablet is exposed to water.

According to an article from WikiHow.com, the first – and perhaps the most obvious – thing you need to remember is to remove your phone from the water or other liquid as quickly as possible. Even a few seconds’ exposure to water damage can leave your phone or tablet irreparable, so you really can’t afford to wait around. Water can seep into the insides of your device through the various ports, however small they are. Make sure you switch your phone or tablet off as quickly as you can after it’s come into contact with water.

Once you’ve removed the phone or tablet from the liquid, place it down on some soft cloths or a towel and then remove the battery. The longer a device’s internal circuits are connected to a power source when wet, the more likely they are to succumb to water damage. However, if you remove the battery quickly then you may yet be able to save your phone or tablet. You should also make sure you remove the SIM card from your phone, seeing as this is where your contacts are likely to be stored. The chances are your SIM will survive water damage unscathed in any event, but it makes good sense to be quick about removing it from a phone that’s been exposed to water.

Then, take a soft rag or towel and make sure you dry your phone or tablet thoroughly. You really do need to be thorough about this – make sure there isn’t even a single drop of water left inside your device, as this can start to corrode or short out internal circuits. However, when you dry your phone or tablet off, be careful not to treat it too roughly. If you use a paper towel, make sure you don’t inadvertently leave bits of paper stuck in the gaps of your device.

Another article from Makeuseof.com also suggests that you could use a hairdryer to dry your phone or tablet after it’s been exposed to water. Make sure you keep the hairdryer on a low setting if you choose to do this – you don’t need to blast your phone with heat – and focus on your phone’s ports as this is where water is most likely to gather. Alternatively, you could simply disassemble your phone and leave it in an airing cupboard for a few hours to dry off thoroughly.





Why it can make sense to go for generic medication brands

10 07 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from ell brown

There’s been a lot of discussion in the media over the last few years about the increasing use of generic medications. Unless you follow developments in the pharmaceutical world fairly closely, however, you may not know what generic medicines actually are. When a drug patent expires after a certain period, other pharmaceutical companies can then start to produce their own version of the drug – and these copies are referred to as generics. Cheap toiletries and medicines can really lighten some of the load on strained budgets, so it’s not hard to see why they’re proving so popular at the moment. But just what are the advantages of generic medication?

According to an article from Yahoo Voices, generic medications have now come to account for more than half of drug sales in the US. You may be a bit apprehensive about whether these drugs are as reliable as the original medications they’re intended to emulate, but it’s worth noting that generic medications are also subject to stringent control and monitoring by various regulatory bodies – although, obviously, the extent of regulation will vary from country to country. This means that you can have confidence that when you buy generic medication, it’s perfectly safe. What’s more, regulators insist that generic drugs must be as effective as their patented counterparts.

Perhaps the most obvious advantage of generic medication is that it’s considerably cheaper than patented originals tend to be. Patented drugs are often considerably more expensive as developers seek to recoup development costs – as well as other costs such as marketing – in addition to making a profit on top. Generic manufacturers, on the other hand, don’t have to invest in developing new drugs from scratch and can simply imitate those medicines designed by others. This means that they can therefore deliver considerably lower prices, benefiting the purchaser.

An article from eHow.com notes that there are also a number of other benefits to generic medications. It points out that the cost of manufacturing original drugs often spirals to hundreds of millions of dollars, and the fact that the cost of developing generic equivalents is far cheaper also benefits healthcare providers – providing wider economic benefits. Obviously, funding of healthcare systems can vary widely from country to country. Some are funded primarily by the state from borrowing and general taxation, while others are funded largely by private health insurance. Generic drugs help to deliver savings for both, which can be particularly noticeable among those who have to cover the cost of health insurance themselves.

This is the case as much in developing countries as in developed countries, if not more so. In fact, the considerably lower cost of generic drugs means they’re more affordable for people who would otherwise never have been able to access them. So the benefits of generic medication are both economic and medical. You should be able to find a wide range of generic medications on offer at your local pharmacy, and it might be worth speaking to a pharmacist if you have any other doubts you want to clear up.





Why It’s Wise To Carefully Calculate The Value Of Goods When Buying Fully Furnished

8 07 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Appartments to rent Missingauga

If you’re preparing to move into a new home, there are plenty of things you’ll have to consider. One of the first decisions you’ll have to make is whether you want a property that is already fully-furnished or whether you’re happy to bring in your own furniture and start off with a blank canvas. But what are the reasons for buying or renting an unfurnished property and could it really save you money? Read on to find out!

Fully-furnished homes

When it comes to renting, many homes come furnished, meaning tenants have no need to buy their own items, from beds to wardrobes and crockery. It is also possible to find fully-furnished homes to buy. Again, this allows people to move straight in and not have the worry of finding and purchasing furniture or hefting pieces into the new property.

Paying over the odds

It’s important to remember that you’re going to have to pay for the convenience of being able to walk into a fully-furnished home. When it comes to renting properties, it is likely that you’ll pay less for a house that has no furniture. And that’s not just a one-off saving – every month you’ll be paying less in rent than you would for a similar fully-furnished property. What’s more, the money that you save each month on rent payments can be used to purchase new items of furniture that are actually yours – you’re making an investment rather than simply handing over money that you won’t see back.

Low-cost furnishings

Calculating the cost of buying items such as beds, wardrobes, dressers and dining table sets is very important before you make a firm decision on what type of property you’re going to go for. Thanks to discount online retailers such as www.furnishinghomes.co.uk it is now possible to pick up many items of furniture at heavily discounted prices, meaning furnishing a home is possible without spending lots of money.

The creative consideration

When buying or renting a property that comes fully-furnished, what you’re doing is having items that someone else has chosen in your home. You’re getting the convenience factor, but also another person’s creative stamp on your home. Given the choice you might have a different coloured sofa, or perhaps oak furniture instead of mahogany. When you choose to furnish a property yourself you have the chance to give your own creative juices room to breathe and can construct the ideal home that you’ve always dreamed of. Think about how much time you spend at home and then consider whether living with someone else’s furniture sounds like the right plan. There are also plenty of home design websites and resources out there to provide you with ideas to get you started too.

The part-furnished option

Of course there is a happy medium between furnished and unfurnished properties – and that’s part-furnished. Now admittedly this term is completely open to interpretation and it will depend on the landlord as to what is included in a home described as part-furnished. It could be simply white goods such as a fridge, cooker and perhaps a dishwasher, or it could extend to items including beds, sofas and other items of furniture – each case is different.