Friday, 22 July 2016

How To Keep Your Prized Possessions Safe

How To Keep Your Prized Possessions Safe

We all have possessions that we’d be devastated to lose, either because they have sentimental value to us or are actually worth a quid or two. But how do we keep them safe? Ideally we would have them on us at all times, keeping them in sight to know they are safe, but this wouldn’t be very practical, would it? Instead, you could find them a hiding place so safe that not even you can remember where you last saw a belonging. No good either?  Consider these ideas instead…

The first thing to do is make sure you have insurance. Unfortunately, this won’t replace the ring left to you by your late Grandma, but it will guarantee that expensive items are replaced or compensated for if they are damaged or stolen. Make sure you keep your insurance details handy incase you need to contact your insurer.    

Security when out and about
There are some valuables that we will take out and about with us such as phones, cameras, laptops and so on. Make sure these are security marked as this will make it harder for thieves to sell on and easier for the police to return to you if they are found. You can also record details of your prized possessions here. Don’t leave items unattended, and try not to display them too overtly if you want to avoid them being taken in the first place.

Security at home
Your most prized possession could be something you have on display in your home. Of course, you’ll be reluctant to hide a beloved item away just to make sure it’s safe…else what’s the point in owning it?! But, you do want it to be secure, so consider your home as a first line of defense.

Houses without security measures in place are five times more likely to be burgled than those with simple security measures. Install a visual burglar alarm and a security light, hide all keys out of sight, and keep keys away from letter boxes. Lock all doors and windows whenever you leave the property too.

If you leave the house for any length of time, leave radios and lights on a timer to make the property appear occupied, and remember to remove any valuables from the view of ground floor windows.

Clever home storage
There are many ways to keep your belongings safe within your home with clever storage, such as this product which looks like a dictionary and would fit seamlessly into your bookshelf. It actually secretly stores irreplaceable possessions!

Alternative Storage
Whilst you might want to store some things in your home, you can get storage outside of the home as well. Storage facilities store your items safely and securely – providing 24/7 CCTV security to give you peace of mind and round the clock access so that you can access your items whenever you want to.

There is no way to guarantee that your prized possessions will never get lost, stolen or damaged. However, implementing the ideas above should give you a much better chance of keeping them safe. 

Thursday, 21 July 2016

How to Afford Your Dream Car On a Budget

Mini Cooper S

There are often moments when many of us yearn for our dream car. Maybe it’s when our old banger refuses to budge from the drive in the morning, or when you pull up in the car park next to the boss’ shiny new motor. Whatever we own, the likelihood is that our car is something that we’d love to upgrade. It’s why 3,000 National Lottery-winning millionaires have splashed a collective £460 million on cars.

But you don’t have to win the lottery to afford your dream car. Here are some tips to help you achieve your dream on a budget…

Budget properly
There are two important elements to affording your dream car on a budget: your dream and your budget. Your dream is an emotional decision based on the car that you’d love to be able to drive.

The budget, however, is something that you can work out and improve. Go through your finances with a fine tooth comb. Weed out any unnecessary expenses, trim any bills that you can and make sure you’re fully aware of the disposable income and savings that you have to play with. By making some cuts here you may well free up vital funds that can go towards your ideal motor.

Then you need to work out the cost of your dream – not forgetting the £3,500-a-year running costs this entails – and come to a proper, thorough conclusion about the gap, if any, between your budget and the cost of your dream.

Search for a bargain
Patience and persistence should be your watchwords. Be prepared to wait until the right car comes along with the right deal for your budget. That might take many months, but it’ll be worth the wait.

Also, search as far and wide as you can. Look at dealerships and private sellers and be prepared to travel. What’s 50 or 60 miles if it means landing on your dream vehicle?

Consider all financial options
Weighing up all of your options refers to finance as well as places to buy your dream car. Don’t think that you have to take up the finance packages offered by dealers. A personal loan might offer you a lower rate and be a better option for your circumstances. Borrowing at an interest rate that is two or three per cent lower could save you a lot over the course of your agreement.

Lease don’t buy

The type of seller and finance package are important, as is the form your ownership of the vehicle takes. Leasing a car can be a great way to get access to your dream car, without the need for a big up front cost. It’s also great if you know you’re the type of person who is likely to want a very different dream car in just two or three years as technology and tastes change. Lease Car illustrates this with the example of an £18,000 car. It shows how buying this requires you to find that £18,000 upfront (or more over the course of the loan). In three years this car might well be worth about half of its original price. By leasing for £250 a month you’d spend just half of the price of the vehicle in three years, with maintenance and MOT costs covered and no need to keep a depreciated asset.

How To Maximise Storage In Your Small Home

Small home

Does it feel like the walls are closing in on you?  If you live in a small home, then it probably does.

Perhaps you have finally saved enough money to get on the property ladder but, due to high house prices, you have had to sacrifice space in order to own your first home. Or maybe you are renting in the capital city in a studio apartment where your bed is practically next to the oven or, even worse you have a cupboard for a room.

Either way, you need to maximise storage in your small home – giving you the space and organisation that you need – to avoid becoming stressed and claustrophobic as the space gets smaller and smaller.

Here are some ideas for doing this…

Multi-functional and foldaway furniture 

The bedroom is often the room that needs the most storage, but has the least amount of space for putting things away. Your bed takes up a huge amount of the room, doesn’t it? Simply swap your current one for an ottoman and you suddenly have a lot more storage space in this room. These beds lift up to reveal a large storage space; perfect for anything you need to tidy away.

Likewise, there are other items around the home that can double up as storage – such as tables and seating. Alongside this you can get items that fold away when you aren’t using them, such as kitchen tables, chairs and nests of tables. 

Think before you buy!

If you don’t have much space in your home then you need to think carefully before you buy anything. Do you really need it? Could you buy something similar that would also give you extra storage space?

Think vertically

In a small home you need to make sure you are making the most of the often wasted wall space, rather than the much needed floor space. This could be shelving or stacker boxes or something a bit quirkier such as side table that hangs from the ceiling.  

Clear stacker boxes

Clear stacker boxes are perfect for storage because you can see what is in them without having to rummage through them all each and every time you need something. Plus, you can easily add to them whenever you need to.

Think outside the box

When it comes to storage you can get as inventive as you like – so think outside the box. Take this piece of art, for example, it is a great addition to your wall but it also opens up to reveal a large space, ideal to neatly organise all your jewellery.

Take advantage of storage outside of your home

While you are working out how to maximise the storage within your small home, have you considered using storage outside of the home to help? You can find storage providers across the UK, which will enable you to remove a large amount of your belongings from your home, without having to throw anything away.

You will be surprised how much space is actually hidden within your small home. 

Preparation is key

Mario Birthday Party

When it comes to organising an event, who you will invite and the guest list are only the very tip of the iceberg, there's the venue, music, tables, chairs and of course the food that will be served. So you have your list and you know exactly who will be joining you on your special occasion, but what are you going to feed all of these people? For me this is always the most stressful part. Do I attempt to cater it myself? Or do I hire someone to take the stress out of the situation so I can just sit back and enjoy the party?

Whatever you choose to do, it is always worth baring these general tips in mind to help you get the most out of your special occasion:

- Think about the different flavour combinations you want to present as people usually want to try a little bit of everything.

- Carefully select different colours and textures to create a full looking spread.

- Do as much as possible in advance as once the guests arrive, there will be plenty more to do!

- Be smart with your budget.

Mario Birthday Party

Over the years we have done it both ways, we have catered our own gatherings from my own 21st Birthday Party, through to Leo's Christening and most recently Leo's 5th Birthday Party, sometimes it is nice to play a hand in the catering and be able to take the credit when everyone loves the end result. Of course there are instances where you cannot cater the day yourself, and moments in time where you really just wouldn't want to, and then it is a necessity to bring someone in to do it all for you. cater for absolutely every occasion you could imagine, from weddings, holiday celebrations, corporate events, birthday parties, engagement parties or even a family reunion. They can create a menu that entails all of the details that you request, and really help you to achieve the objectives you have set for your event.

They do everything from:

- Canapes and Finger Food
- Breakfast, Morning and Afternoon Tea
- Fresh Fruit
- Sandwiches
- Lunch Packages and Salads
- Feasting Platters and Buffets
- Themed Stations
- Corporate Day Packages
- Cocktail Party Packages
- BBQs
- Sit Down Dining

Mario Birthday Party

When I was putting the preparation's for Leo's party last month, as much as I loved getting it all together and watching it all take shape, it took me a long time to get everything together. Of course seeing all of the children's excited faces when they saw all of the Mario bits and pieces made it all incredibly worth while, but it would have been nice to direct a catering service and being able to concentrate completely on the Birthday Boy!

However you choose to cater your event, it all comes down to what works for you. I know there are occasions where I just want to do these things for myself, just to see if I can pull it off. Take Leo's Birthday Cake for example, it was far from perfect, but I slaved over it for 2 days trying to get it right. I put all of that time and effort into it, and even though it wasn't the best cake in the world, he still absolutely loved it, and he loved it because he knew how much I had wanted to do it for him.

Friday, 15 July 2016

The MX Trixx Micro Scooter Review

Micro Scotter 3in1

All of those years ago when Leo had not long turned 1, Micro Scooter sent him his very first scooter. A Micro Scooter 3in1, a scooter that he still has to this very day. A scooter that has been a source of great fun and joy over the years, a scooter that has grown with Leo as he has grown. 

As they say though, all good things come to an end, and despite the scooter seeing him through to the age of 5 (and still has life left in it yet!), Leo has decided he now wants a 2 wheeled scooter to take him to that next level of scooting.

With this announcement though I suddenly realised that I had no clue about what to look for in a 2 wheeled scooter, was he even ready for 2 wheels? He had spent his entire life on 3 wheels and the 3in1 was such a great scooter that I just took it for granted that he would use it until the very end of time. I began looking online at the Micro Scooter website as I knew without a shadow of a doubt that we would be staying with the brand because of the quality of the products. You see both Leo and I have our own scooters and we often scoot into town together, it's safe to say that Micro Scooter has stolen both of our hearts.

MX Trixx Micro Scooter

If you are in the same position and are currently looking to upgrade the 3in1 Micro Scooter to the next level, then make sure to take a look at the Micro Scooter guides, I found this incredibly helpful in making the decision for Leo's new model, and finally I decided on the MX Trixx Scooter.

I chose this particular model because I thought it had the most potential to grow with him over the next few years. It is suitable from the age of 5 years old and should see him through until he is 12 years old, I took into consideration that he might very well want to learn some new tricks on it eventually, and as we have a skate park so close to home, I thought that opting for a light weight aluminium model, it is an option that we can explore together as and when he wants too. While it has the capabilities of a stunt scooter, it is also perfect for the school run or trips into town, which was an essential feature for me as Leo absolutely loves to ride everywhere these days, it makes my life so much easier as he walks so incredibly slowly, and at least when he is on wheels I am the one trying to keep up with him!

MX Trixx Micro Scooter

MX Trixx Micro Scooter

In the past Leo has headed out on his scooter while I have opted to run along side him, it's been a great way to get out and complete my daily cardio while having Leo with me, We got some amazed looks as I jogged along side him scooting, but I like to think that they were pleased to see us out and being active together! In fairness though, I get some equally amazed looks when people see me out on my own Micro Scooter!

Leo has been using the MX Trixx Scooter since his birthday at the end of June, his face when he first saw it was the most amazing thing. All he had been asking for was a new 2 wheeled scooter, he had told me that now he was turning 5 he was a big boy and he NEEDED a new scooter. As we are in the process of preparing for a move, I told him that we would look into a new scooter once everything else was sorted, but secretly in the background was working on the grand unveiling of the MX Trixx!

5th Birthday

The scooter was easy to put together, and the night before Leo's birthday, his Granddad put it together for me so I could get it wrapped up. I wrapped it so he could guess exactly what was inside it, and that next morning when he walked into the lounge, his face was a picture. Leo could not have been any more excited than he was in that very moment. In fact as soon as all the paper was torn away, he insisted that we both go outside in our PJs and ride around on our scooters. 

Leo took to two wheels like a duck out of water, and we haven't looked back. Leo is so over the moon about his new stunt scooter, and when we scooted to the park last weekend, he insisted that we have a look at the skate park for the first time. I haven't been to the skate park since I was in high school (In fact that is when they opened the skate park!) and I was amazed to see the stunts that all of these young boys were performing.

MX Trixx Micro Scooter

MX Trixx Micro Scooter

MX Trixx Micro Scooter

Leo stood and watched in awe at the bigger kids as they rode up the half pipe before placing the scooter plate on the rim at the top, before jumping it back up and rolling back down at serious speed! You could see the admiration in Leo's eyes and he told me how cool he thought these boys were, what was really lovely was that these same boys saw how interested Leo was, and they saw he had his own scooter and they told him how to get started. They told him that they weren't much older than him when they first started scooting around the skate park.

This vote of confidence was all Leo needed to start scooting around the bottom of the half pipe, and he has decided that he wants to start learning a little more and getting his confidence built up. We have been back to the skate park since this and for the moment Leo is perfectly contented scooting around the bottom of the ramps and watching the bigger boys as they do their flips and scarily amazing stunts!

MX Trixx Micro Scooter

MX Trixx Micro Scooter

MX Trixx Micro Scooter

MX Trixx Micro Scooter

MX Trixx Micro Scooter

The next thing we will have to look into is some brand new protective gear for him, because there is no way he is doing anything without the appropriate gear!

Disclaimer: We were provided with the MX Trixx Scooter for the purpose of this review. All views and opinions expressed are completely honest and my own.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Is the current UK Financial Education Enough?

Everyone needs to be able to manage their money, but for young people the inability to do so has serious consequences. For them, it is easier to fall into debt, be scammed, make uninformed decisions and establish bad money habits.
New research from icount shows that the majority of British adults think that children should learn the value of money from age 5; however, in the UK, financial education starts at age 11.
What is financial education?
Financial education is a programme of study that aims to equip young people with the knowledge, skills, and confidence to manage their money well. 
The idea behind teaching financial education as part of the national curriculum is to encourage children to make smarter financial decisions as they get older and have more money to manage.
The majority of the UK’s adult population never received any money management lessons
Why do we need financial education?
The shift towards an increasingly cashless society, and more financial products and services than ever before, is making it harder for young people to navigate their personal finances and make good decisions where money is concerned.
Financial education became part of the national curriculum in September 2014 which means that every child since that date will have had some form of money management training.
Should we be teaching children about money sooner?
The new study from icount showed that just 10% of parents think that age 11 is early enough to learn the value of money. It does seem bizarre when you consider that nearly 25% of GCSE maths papers contain questions with a financial context, with words such as VAT and APR; terms children have never been educated about.
How can you teach your children about money?
As the national curriculum is only compulsory for around half of schools; the rest are academies or free schools, therefore they don’t need to follow it.
Involving your children in some of the decisions you make about money is one really easy way to help develop the right financial behaviours for the future. For example, you could sit them down and show them how you budget the weekly food shop and ask them to have a go.

Another great way is prepaid cards. Most children’s bank accounts come with a debit card, but the worry is that they can spend all of the money in the account. Prepaid cards let you load cash on them and spend anywhere credit or debit cards are accepted. They're good to get if you want to help teach teenagers how to spend responsibly. If you haven’t loaded money onto it, you can’t spend it, forming a safe barrier.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Raw Food for Dalmatians

Dalmatian low purine food

July and August are two very expensive months in this household this year. It seems that everything always happens together, and as I prepare for a move that should begin to happen next week, I have suddenly realised that my car tax is about to expire and I have that on my plate too. If a move and a rather expensive car tax in the region of £300 for the year are not enough to contend with, you may have also seen that I am finally getting the puppy of my dreams.

I have wanted a dog for as long as I can remember, right from a young girl, my own dog has always stolen the top spot on my Christmas list, but it was never going to happen because my family have always had cats. I swore to myself that one day, when I was in a position to take on a puppy, then that is exactly what I was going to do. 

As with anything puppies and dogs are not cheap, they come with a price tag that extends far past the initial cost of buying a puppy. Puppies need their jabs, they need microchipping, they need defleaing and deworming on a monthly basis, and they need to eat multiple times a day. Taking on a dog is not a cheap thing to do, but oh my is it worth it. I am not sparing any expense when it comes to making sure this pup has everything he needs, and I am considering cash lender Vivus to pay the annual pet insurance off in one lump sum.

We pick Lux up on the 6th August and I cannot wait to bring him home. We have picked a Dalmatian Puppy, and that alone has caused some people to think I am crazy (more so than usual). Dalmatians have an array of health issues, some that can be levitated by the diet that they eat, other's such as deafness which of course is a life long commitment.

I have spent the last few months researching the Dalmatian breed, and when I say researching I mean extensive. I know what I am taking on, one of the ways in which I am demonstrating this knowledge is by making the executive decision to stay well away from manufactured dog food. The reasoning behind this is because I need to provide little Lux with a low purine diet, since it is the purines that have the potential to make him sick. 

Dalmatian low purine food

You see Dalmatians carry a genetic mutation that alters the way in which they metabolize and pass purines (Similar to gout). Purines are found in many foods, food that we all eat, but higher levels of purines are found in meats. Normally purines are broken down in this way: 
  1. Purines are converted to hypoxanthine.
  2. Hypoxanthine is converted to xanthine.
  3. Xanthine is converted to uric acid.
  4. Uric acid is converted to allantoin, which is excreted in the urine.
When some humans ingest foods high in purines, they develop gout or kidney stones. When some Dalmatians ingest those foods, they develop urinary stones and in particular those known as "purine" or "urate" stones.

Dalmatian low purine food

It is safe to say that the majority of the Dalmatian breed cannot perform step 4, which is exactly why their urine contains very high levels of uric acid. This might be enough to scare some people away from this beautiful breed, but I believe it is all about balance. I will be feeding Lux a range of home cooked meals that will all be lower in purines and high in protein. Some people seem to get confused and think that they need to withhold protein, but that couldn't be further from the truth. In fact refraining from including protein in their diet will do more damage than it will good. It's all about making conscious choices and opting for protein sources with lower purine content like chicken or turkey as opposed to liver and organ meats.

My aim is to essentially provide Lux with a clean eating diet for dogs, many people have opted to avoid the manufactured dog products for their Dalmatians, with the majority opting for a raw food diet that consists of raw meat. Now although I am going with this, I wont be letting Lux eat raw meat, I will prepare it and cool it so that I know it's cooked through for him. The meals will be consist of many things you don't usually associate with feeding dogs:

- Eggs - Hard boiled, scrambled
- Porridge
- Weetabix 
- Tuna
- Turkey
- Chicken
- Vegetables - Broccolli, Sweet Potato, Potato, Carrot
- Fruit - Apple

Dalmatian low purine food

It might all sound crazy, but realistically I think it's going to be really beneficial. You can of course buy specially made food for your Dalmatian but I fail to see the point, when you can provide everything you need without throwing all that money at a food that could be made out of pretty much anything. 

So that's my latest mission, clean eating for dog's! I might not be able to get my 5 year old to eat vegetables, but I don't think getting Lux to play ball is going to be to difficult.

I'll be sharing his eating with you all in the next month or so, and you can witness first hand how he is getting on!