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Money-saving tips

9 Jul

The lovely folks at Moneysupermarket.com, one of my favourite money-saving sites, have asked me if they can guest post some of their hottest money-saving tips here. Those of you that know me well, know that I *love* getting a good deal. I like to equate almost every saving going, into the next little treat. A pedi, a bottle of bubbly, a night out with the girls. The savings all add up. My favourite pages on their site, are the shopping page, and the vouchers page which are well worth a look if you get the chance.

Saving moneyinahurry

So, over to Rachael at Moneysupermarket.com.

Being a parent can be very expensive! This is why it’s important for mums and dads to save money where they can. The recession has had a negative impact on many families’ finances, and many of us are finding that we have less and less money to spend on ourselves at the end of the month. We at moneysupermarket.com are experts at saving money and love sharing a few of our ideas to help you make your money go that little bit further…

Food shopping

For many people, the weekly grocery bill is a major expense, especially if you have a large family. Food prices have increased dramatically over the past few years, and with many incomes being squeezed, it’s more important than ever to make savings where you can (a mummyinahurry speciality!). There are the obvious tips like never shop when you’re hungry and always stick to your shopping list, but sometimes that’s just not enough. To make real savings on your weekly shop it’s worth considering shopping in local independent shops, such as the butchers and fruit and veg shops. Meat from the butcher tends to be cheaper (and tastier) than from the supermarket and it is likely to be from a local source. Local suppliers means less food miles too, so great for the environment too. Your butcher is unlikely to use fancy packaging, which means they can pass those cost savings on to you. Greengrocers work on the same principles, so you’re more likely to get more for your money when you shop locally. And if you walk  to the local shops, rather than driving to the local supermarket, you will save on fuel, and get some free exercise (who needs to pay for fancy gym memberships?).

Another option, which is a Mummyinahurry favourite, and the stalwart of many time-pressed parents is to shop for groceries online. Not only is it easier to stay away from those calorie-laden treats and refrain from the smell of freshly baked bread, but there are always an abundance of vouchers and voucher codes available on the internet for most major supermarket chains. An internet shop can also help you stick to budget, as if you overspend, you can simply edit your basket. Much easier than trying to edit a trolley full of groceries at the supermarket!

Utilities
It is shocking how expensive necessities such as gas, electricity and water can be. Rising energy costs have eaten into family budgets everywhere. One quick and easy way to make savings is to  compare energy providers online. Often, switching can save substantial sums, or you can use the threat of a move to get your current provider to give you a better rate. Another way to save money on utilities bills (and gain ‘eco-points’) is to be more aware of the energy you’re using. You can buy an energy monitor which tells you exactly how much energy you’re using in real time, allowing you to see which are the most expensive appliances to run. Even small changes such as turning off all electronic appliances when they’re not being used, can lead to noticeable savings.

Vouchers
Thrift is chic. Money-off vouchers have lost their stigma and have become increasingly popular during the course of the recession. Everyone loves a bargain, and vouchers give you the chance to buy things you may have been looking at anyway at a discounted price. Whether you’re out and about or shopping online, you’ll more than likely be able to find a printable voucher or voucher codes to use on that product. Before purchasing anything, do a quick search on moneysupermarket’s vouchers channel to see if you can get money off, or if not, consider looking for an alternative product or brand who offer discounts on their merchandise. We recommend spending a few moments printing off the vouchers for your regular stores and restaurants and keeping them in your bag or purse in case you need them while you’re out and about, so you never miss out on an opportunity to save some cash, (or treat yourself to a glass of wine or dessert with the savings).

Sell things you don’t need
Ever received a Christmas or Birthday present that you don’t use or like? Dig out all of the items that don’t use/wear anymore and sell them. There are countless online trading stores you can sell items on, such as the online auction house Ebay which allows you to sell or buy items, usually at a much lower price than in the shops. Sell that unused footspa that your aunt bought you for Christmas, along with that dress you’ve never worn and earn yourself some extra cash, for a rainy day treat.

Organise your direct debits
Keeping track of your bank account can be tricky, especially if you’re always on the go and buying things for the house or the kids. Its may be worth considering altering your organising all of your direct debits so they come out of your account around the date that you get paid, then after they’ve been taken out you will know that the money left is yours to spend. It may not be possible to get all direct debits to come out on the same day, but aim to get them taken out of your account within one week. Alternatively, set up a second account. Have your salary paid in to the account that your bills get paid from, then transfer a set amount into your spending account, operated on a debit card. Then when you check your balance, you will always know where you stand.
For many ‘mummysinahurry’, 24 hour online banking is the answer to that ‘can’t get to the bank in time’ dilemma. You can post/email/phone and fit your banking around your busy life. As mummyinahurry would say, whats not to love?!

The fast route to fabulosity

27 May

When it comes to exercise, I hold the same view as with cooking. I want the maximum return from the minimum of effort.

My reluctant and erratic gym attendance came to an abrupt halt once I was pregnant, with no hope of a resurrection once I was a working mum. All well and good, but I had gone more than a little ‘soft around the edges’ and needed something to tone me up fast.

That was when I discovered Power Plates. They are, in my opinion nothing short of a miracle cure for every time pressed gym phobic.

It was quite by chance that I stumbled upon the Good Vibes Power Plates studio in Covent Garden. It is a world away from your average gym. It’s the anti-gym!  A friendly and relaxed studio set in a converted warehouse, slap bang in the middle of Covent Garden. The staff couldn’t be more friendly. After a few visits, they remembered me by name, even Nahid, the owner* whom I had only spoken to a couple of times. *(Nahid is otherwise referred to as ‘Mistress of the Good Vibes Universe. Don’t you just love it?!)

A concise explanation of a Power Plate is a large vibrating platform that you exercise on. Sounds weird, and if I am honest feels a bit weird too, but you get used to it. Each class has no more than 5 participants, and lasts a mere 25 minutes. The instructors ensure that you are performing the exercises properly. It’s not easy, but none of the exercises last more than 1 minute. (If you want the longer explanation from the people who make them, then click here)

I was a very sceptical when I started. My scepticism soon turned to elation when after 6 sessions (over 3 weeks) I had dropped a whole dress size. To have achieved the same result at the gym would have taken months (and a lot more committment than I had to offer!)  If you are reading in disbelief, then I would point you in the direction of the testimonials on the Good Vibes Website. Everyone I have recommended this to has loved it, and reaped the benefits.

They have to my mind, a wealth of benefits over traditional gym membership

  • Speed. The classes are only 25 minutes so you can easily pop out for a class at lunch or first thing before a day out in the West End.
  • No membership fees. If you don’t go you don’t pay
  • No Sweat. It’s not so intense that you are puce faced and dripping at the end of a session.
  • Fast Results. 6 sessions over 3 weeks and I had dropped a dress size.
Once I had got back into shape, I only went once a week for maintenance, and it still kept me toned. So if you are looking for a quick fix to looking and feeling fabulous this summer, look no further. Power Plates are the answer.
At the moment, Good Vibes are offering a free session if you have not tried them before. Click here for link.

DISCLAIMER

Can I just say that I do feel slightly hypocritical writing this at the moment. It is a case of do as I say and not as I do. Since I stopped work last summer, I can no longer pop out for a quick session at lunch. We now live in deep suburbia which means the chances of childcare for a journey into town and back are few and far between. Couple that with a bad back and my inability to ‘step away from the cake tin’ I have slipped back into my pre power plates ‘soft around the edges’ state. But I know that if someone was to give me the childcare, and few sessions on these and I would be slipping back into my ‘just married’ jeans within the month.

I have not been paid or given any incentive to write this article. I just wish I had discovered them in my 20s instead of wasting all that time in the gym.

Batiste Brilliance

2 May

Today I woke at 9am. Nothing wrong with that you might think. Unless like me, you have 2 children under 4 who are not fed and not dressed, and you need to be in the car by 9.30 to get to a Christening that you know is the other side of the M25 but you cannot even find the directions! Then you look in the mirror and the sight that greets you is in dire need of a hair wash. This is where the brilliance of Batiste, can be a complete lifesaver.

I have the sort of high maintenance fine flyaway hair that needs a wash every other day. Which, quite frankly, is a bit of a drag and I don’t always have the time or the inclination to do. Especially if I have been up several times in the night and really need that last extra 15 minutes in bed.

Batiste is dry hair shampoo. Does exactly what it says on the bottle. Cleans your hair while keeping it dry. Spray it all over your lank greasy looking hair. Give it a rub through. Brush out. Look in mirror. A miracle. Your hair will look freshly washed and ready to go.

This amazing product costs only £2 a pop (that tends to last me for about 4 bad hair days)

There are a number of other products on the market that offer to do the same thing. I have tried the Boots own version. It didn’t give the same result and I didn’t like the smell. Once when I was feeling a bit flush I went into SpaceNK to buy bumble&bumble version. Guess how much it cost? (I made the fatal mistake of failing to ask until I got to the till). £27. Thats right £27. For pretty much the same thing as batiste, that costs about £2. Needless to say, I didn’t buy it, and hot-footed it straight back to Boots to buy more Batiste. And then with the ‘saving’ I had made by not buying the bumble and bumble version, I could happily sink into the sofa that night, with a well-earned glass of bubbly, and a stash of Batiste for the bathroom cupboard.

Cordless Cleaning

29 Apr

When it comes to housework, I am firmly in the camp of less is more.  I like the place to look clean and reasonably tidy, but I am not going to give up my very limited free time to achieve Bree Van der Kamp style perfection.  I am always looking out for shortcuts and time savers.

I loathe the seemingly endless household chores, but there are some things that cannot be ignored. My little treasures are so talented and capable at ensuring no surface is left untouched with their own unique blend of  crumbs, dirt, and unidentified sticky patches, that if I leave the cleaning of floors for more than two days it bears a striking resemblance to an advert for the before shots in ‘how clean is your house’.  But getting the Hoover out always seems like such a big committment, and should not be entered into lightly, in my book at least.

In December last year, I had an episode of back pain that resulted in a trip in an ambulance, wearing only a swimming costume (not my finest moment). At first I was rather buoyed by the silver lining in that particular cloud, which would mean, sadly, I could no longer risk my back with any sort of heavy housework.  It wasnt long before that initial joy was replaced by the slightly less euphoric realisation that the floors were not going to clean themselves, and that we were not suddenly rich enough to employ daily help.

The answer to this dilemma, I soon discovered was a cordless cleaner. After extensive online research I found mine on Amazon for a very well spent £38. It is lightweight (approx 1.6kg), powered by a rechargeable battery. It has a small drawer that collects the dirt that you empty into the bin. This means you can retrieve the toy pieces you have hoovered up, stray money etc. It even works on larger things like rice krispies and shreddies (if they are not soggy).  In under 5 minutes I can pretty much cover the entire downstairs of our house (5 rooms) and leave them, not spotlessly perfect, but very respectably clean and tidy.  It does not give the same finish as a thorough going over with the Hoover, but if you are pressed for time with visitors about to descend, it comes a pretty close second, and at that price, who is complaining?

The model that I have is the GTECH Cordless Sweeper 7.2v NiMH SW02

And if you are not already persuaded, an unexpected upside of this purchase, is that children of all ages seem to love it. It has an adjustable length handle so you can make it small for the little ones and get them to help out too. Even my domestically challenged  nephews ‘volunteered’ to help with the cleaning with this.

(ps I have absolutely no connection to Gtech. If you know someone who is, then please show them this and maybe they will send me some freebies?!)

Microplane Magic

28 Apr

In case you are wondering how I managed to get the grated parmesan looking quite so professionally fluffy, it is all thanks to my Microplane grater. Almost every guest we have had who has tried this out has asked where we got it and has bought one. Even my mother-in-law who can be very hard to please!!

I first discovered them at a cookery demonstration many years ago. They make any sort of grating almost effortless.

The first one I bought had a rubber handle and a plastic frame. After many washes in the dishwasher, the rubber deteriorated and the plastic casing began to crack (probably something to do with the fact that I think it is not dishwasher proof). So I replaced it with the current all stainless steel version, which is in my opinion, nothing short of fabulous.

I bought mine from a kitchen shop, but they are widely available on the High St, and at the online shopping store of choice for this mummyinahurry, Amazon.

If you want to know the science behind the magic, they explain all here

http://microplaneintl.com/english/mpprocess.htm

My stainless steel microplane grater

? Which ?

23 Apr

One of my secret pleasures is the monthly arrival of Which? Magazine (like I said, doesn’t take a lot to keep me happy these days).

I used to think it was a bit middle-aged, but after a recommendation by a friend, I signed up for a trial period.  It’s brilliant. When you are pushed for time, this will guide you in the right direction for almost any purchase related to the home, be it big or small.

I find that consumer choice these days can be throughly overwhelming, and when you are juggling a million different things, often the last thing you have time to do is then spend hours wondering which new washing machine is the best value/most reliable etc.

Which thoroughly product tests and review everything that is featured in their magazine. Quite a random selection. Best supermarket, new kitchen products, cars, lipsticks, washing powder, electrical goods, big and small, baby stuff. The great thing about them is they are completely impartial and funded by subscribers not adverts, and they have a convenient online tool that you can use to check past reviews so you don’t have to search through all your old magazines when you need a new washing machine but can’t remember which month had the review in. Quite often they offer a free or £1 trial of the online service.

If you haven’t tried discovered it yet, then give them a whirl. What have you got to lose?

http://www.which.co.uk/

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