5 things that new parents forget to budget for

5 08 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from Tax Credits

Becoming a parent isn’t cheap or easy. For the next 18 or more years of your life you are going to be paying through the nose for baby food, toys, childcare, trainers, driving lessons and education. The list is pretty much endless.

No matter how prepared you think you are to become a member of the fully-fledged adult group, there will always be something you have forgotten. It happens to everyone so you are not going to help anybody by worrying about it.

According to the latest estimates, the price of raising a child will smash through the £200,000 mark. So to help you on your way, here are some of the things people forget most often.

Don’t buy too much

Parents to be can get swept up in the excitement of an imminent new arrival and shell out loads of cash on baby clothes and accessories. You will always have more than you need. However much you may fear the baby will get bored – don’t. It’s a baby. Once it has managed to get up on its own two feet and totter about the place, it will find everything interesting. You will sit, exasperated, as little Johnny or Jenny finds the cushions on the sofa more interesting than the £150 stroller you splashed out on.

Childcare is expensive. Very expensive

Even is childcare costs is something you can plan to pay for well in advance, it can be a shock how expensive it is once you come to pay for it. In some cases it can cost upwards of £1,000 a month. Luckily, if you are in full time employment you can find help with this through voucher schemes. Have a chat with your employer about things such as Co-op Childcare Vouchers from Midcounties Co-operative Flexible Benefits.

There are Government-backed schemes in which you can get back up to £1,200 of the cost of childcare a year.

There is a lot you won’t be able to budget for

You may think that you have enough nappies. You do not have enough nappies. Your new addition to the family will like to go to the toilet a lot. It may be a good idea to look at getting your hands on some re-usable nappies. They are cheaper in the long run and are also much better for the environment.

There will also be many things that crop up along that way and keep you off guard such as an out of the blue school trip. It may be helpful, if you can afford it, to keep a little slush fund to the side ot cope with these emergencies.

Bigger bills

You may not think it, but your heating and electricity bills will go up. For one, you will be in the house a lot more than you used to be. What was once okay – for you to sit in an extra jumper – will no longer be okay. Your child will have to be warm

Cost to your free time

Raising a child is a full time job. On top of your own full time job. If you previously used your free time to earn a little extra money on the side, you can kiss it goodbye. But, it will be worth it. Honest.


Buying clothes on a budget – what you need to remember

31 07 2013


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.

Why it can make sense to go for generic medication brands

10 07 2013


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


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.

The beginners’ guide to resizing clothes

9 05 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from whologwhy

There’s nothing worse than getting home from the shops and finding that the item you were planning to try on but didn’t have time to, doesn’t actually fit at all. Clothes sizes vary massively between manufacturers and without trying a garment on it can be very hard to tell whether it will actually fit you. For some people however, the search for clothes that fit does not often have a happy ending. It can be that the arms on tops are always a little too long, or perhaps trouser legs always end up in a puddle around the ankles! If you’re always on the lookout for petite dresses or trousers with a short length, then you’re not alone by any means. Some shoppers are always forced to do their own small adjustments at home to create the perfect fit – and here’s a guide on how to get started if you’re looking to make a few alterations of your own.

Hemming pants

One of the best places to start when you are new to making your own adjustments to clothes is with the basics, and there is nothing more straight-forward than adjusting the length of a pair of pants. Of course it might take you a little while to get your first pair exactly the way you want them, but before long you’ll be zipping through the process in no time at all.

Get the right equipment

There’s not much kit you’ll need to adjust the length of a pair of trousers, but it’s worth having the right tools to hand. Along with the pair of trousers that you’re changing, you’ll need to find some good, sharp scissors, some measuring tape, a piece of chalk, a sewing kit or even better a sewing machine, a seam ripper and an iron.

How much do you need to take off?

One of the first things you’ll need to discover is how much you need to take off the trousers. Using your seam ripper, take out the stitching that’s already holding the hem in place and let it hang loose. Now use the iron to put in a ½ inch fold and then repeat with the other leg. Put the pants on, as well as the shoes you’ll wear, and fold the hem up and inside. Once you’ve got the right length, pin the hem in place at the top and bottom.

Mark ’em up

Take off the trousers and turn them inside out carefully. Measure from the bottom fold to the top edge that you folded up and inside the leg and use this measurement to fold and pin the rest of the hem. By measuring in four places around the leg you’ll get an even finish. Chalk is great here for marking up the measurements as it won’t run and damage the material.

Get out the iron again

Iron in a new crease along the bottom edge and remove the pins as you do so. If you’re worried that you’ve made a mistake then try the trousers on again to check. Better to do that now than after you’ve got the needle out!

Start sewing

Now comes the part where you’ll need nerves of steel! Get your needle and thread out, or fire up the sewing machine and sew all the way around the leg, about an eighth of an inch from the top of the hem. And there you are, your first alteration done and dusted! Congratulations!

Five Tips for Saving Money on Wedding Hairstyling

12 02 2013


This image from Flickr creative commons via Bellafaye

Every bride wants to look her absolute best on her wedding day – and of course so she should, because after all, she can rightly expect to be the centre of everyone’s attention.

Not only that, but the photographs taken on the day are likely to be long-lasting souvenirs which will be looked back through in years to come with a great deal of fondness. And there’s nothing more guaranteed to give a bride the shivers for years afterwards than a set of wedding pictures in which she feels she looks anything less than her absolute best.

But, as with every other aspect of a wedding, getting a bride and her party’s hair and make-up absolutely right on the day, without spending an absolute fortune, can be a tough proposition.

So in this article you’ll find five good ideas which could help you achieve the high-quality results you want, but at a reasonable price.

To begin with – as with many aspects of putting together a wedding – you should start your planning well ahead of the day. Draw up a budget and explain to the person you choose to do your hair what this is. They’ll be happy to try to help you stick to it. Alternatively, if you’ve known your stylist for some time, you could call on their goodwill, and ask them whether they would be prepared to do your hair, and possibly your make-up, as a wedding gift.

If you have little idea of how you’d like your wedding hair, it’s a good idea to try to keep it simple. Start by pulling it back and/or curling it. You can practice this yourself at home and you might even find a look yourself which you can create, and then simply ask a professional hair stylist to tweak and add a professional finish.

A simple comb or barrette can help you achieve and elegant look, and if you don’t have these accessories yourself, you could always ask a friend if they have one you could borrow for a day. By the same token, there’s no point in shelling out a fortune for a hair accessory that will only be worn the once, and if you ask your good friend nicely, the chances are they’ll loan you that piece of theirs that you’ve always admired.

No matter how well you know your stylist, it’s likely to work out cheaper for you to go to them, rather than have them come to your house, so make your appointment well in advance – even further in advance than usual, which for some women might be quite an achievement!

There’s no reason why you should also pay for your attendants to have their hair done by your stylist, unless you particularly want to. It could be that your chief bridesmaid and others will be travelling some distance to be there anyway, so will want to make their own arrangements at a salon they know and trust. However, every bride should be sure to make an appointment for their mother. Again, this could be with your regular stylist, or the one your mother usually goes to, but mum is sure to appreciate that she’s been allowed to be involved on the ‘inside’ of all the big preparations.

In essence, successful wedding hair is all about results, and if there are parts of the preparations which you’re happy to take on yourself, or entrust to a friend, and you know the results will be what you have in mind, then you should go for it!





Five Ways to Take Advantage of Duty Free

8 02 2013


Image from Flickr creative commons via nechbi

Taking a holiday and going abroad is all about relaxing, getting away from the daily grind, enjoying some sunshine, eating well and having fun. Of course, all holidays have to end, but by taking advantage of the available duty free offers at the airport, you can make sure you’ve got something to smile about when you arrive back home. Before you start filling up the trolley though, there are a few things to take into account:

Make sure the price is right

Buying duty free is all about finding cheap perfume and great deals on everything from spirits to chocolates, but it is vital to have an accurate idea of how much the products cost on the high street. The one thing you don’t want to do is walk away with a bag-full of products from an airport duty-free shop only to discover later that you could have saved money by buying the same items down at your local supermarket. Most airports offer WiFi access these days, so use a price comparison site to ensure you’re getting the best possible deal.

Go in with a plan!

Wandering aimlessly around a duty-free shop is one of the best ways of ending up with lots of products that you don’t actually want. When you’ve got limited time before a flight there’s a good chance you’ll feel a certain amount of pressure, but by having a list or at least a good idea of the items you’d like to buy, you won’t end up making impulse purchases that represent poor value for money.

Don’t get caught out by the legal limits

When you are travelling within the EU there is no longer a limit on the volume of goods you’re able to bring with you. However, items must be for personal consumption or have been bought as a gift, and if you try to walk through customs carrying 20,000 cigarettes then there is a good chance officials will ask you to prove that you’re not going to attempt to sell them on. Limits remain in place for goods purchased outside of the EU, so the message is simple – don’t get caught out.

Think about how you’ll get your items home

When there are great deals and fantastic value goods available left, right and centre it can be hard to say no. However, it is important to think about how you’ll carry them and whether they’ll fit into your carry-on or hold luggage. No one wants to turn up at the check-in desk only to discover that it will be necessary to pay an additional charge to take an extra bag on board. Without doubt it will wipe out any savings you’ve already made.

Think ahead!

Planning ahead and thinking a bit more long-term is always a good idea when you are shopping for duty free. Remember that you might not be going on holiday again for a while and so it could well pay to stock up on goods that will last you. For example, if you’re a fan of the latest Paul Smith fragrance and tend to go through a bottle fairly quickly then why not buy in bulk and take advantage of any special offers. Sure, it might take you a year or more to go through it all, but you are going to save cash in the long-run.