Thursday 18 January 2018

Living Solo

Living Solo

When you live on your own there are certain things that you need to know, when we first moved in I fumbled my way around the house having a list of jobs to do that I had never had to do before, and I had never had to do them because I lived with my other half. 

One of the first things I had to do as soon as I moved in was sort the gas and electric, I remember being asked to give them the meter readings and suddenly realised that this was something that I had never had to do before, and the lady on the phone must have taken the silence on the line as confirmation of this, because in her next breath she was talking me through how and where to access the information she needed.

When you live on your own, jobs that are usually split (Into Pink and Blue jobs if you're talking to my other half!) all become yours, and after a slight settling in period, I eventually began to remember that bin day was every Friday, and I am pleased to report that I quickly adjusted to the demands of my new home.

I have had to get accustomed with the fuse box, heating system and become the responsible adult within the home (stranger things have happened right?), but I wouldn't be true to myself if there were not a few bumps along the road...By bumps I do mean having a major blonde moment that makes it hard for anyone to forget you...

It was 5am and I was heading to London for a press event, I ran the water for the shower so that it was nice and hot when I stepped in, but boy did I have the shock of my life when I did. The water was ice cold, not something that you want to experience at such an unholy time in the morning. I ran downstairs to check the boiler to find that nothing was working, there was no sign of life, no boiler light and definitely no hot water.

One ice shower later and I was out of the house on my way to the capital. I called up the maintenance team and they arranged to send someone out the following morning (it would have been sooner but as I was out of the house all day, nothing could be done). The following morning the young man arrives, I offer him a warm drink, which he politely declines and tells me that he won't be here long. Hi simply flipped a switch and my boiler sprung back to life. 

'It was just switched off love he said. I had to laugh or I might have fallen off the edge of the world in embarrassment, he couldn't help smiling and I imagine that he was just relieved that his first call out of the day wasn't going to give him a headache.

I was relieved really, because in my mind I had already narrowed it down to either needing a new boiler or a zilmet ultra pro heating pump, so really it simply being turned off at the wall (we are still not certain which one of us it was, it doesn't help that the on/off switch looks just like the kitchen light switch and they are right next to each other...).

My advice to anyone who is going to be moving out on their own for the first time is to always lead on the right side of common sense (if you think the boiler is broken, make sure you check that it hasn't simply been turned off...), and as long as you realise the following... You should be just fine...

- You will have to go shopping, there is no such thing as a food fairy and your fridge won't magically replenish.

- A light bulb blew... YOU will have to change it.

- You have post? I hope you like bills!

- A morning cup of coffee is one of the most expensive habits in the world, wave goodbye to your Costa and say hello to instant!

- Some months you have to decide what's more important... The new clothes that you NEED or eating.

- Some months it may come down to fuel in the car...or food in your belly.

Above all else though, you will become independent, and you surprise yourself with what you can achieve on your own. You learn how to budget your money and eventually you will be able to fuel the car and keep food in the fridge.

It's all about baby steps, just try not to call out help for your boiler when you don't really need it, because there is a call out charge!

Friday 5 January 2018

New Year, New Challenge?

Training for your first triathlon

Something has changed within me over the last few years, there was a point not so very long ago where my evenings would consist of Netflix and a great deal of junk food and fizzy pop. I didn't spare a single thought for the calories that I was consuming on a daily basis, nor did I burden myself with the drastic lack of exercise.

None of it concerned me, I didn't care. But you see... That is what went on to change. Suddenly I was eating better and getting out of those sedentary foundations that I had built. I was going to the gym, I was trying classes, heck I even found myself trying my hand at Crossfit and Pole Dancing! 

I was throwing caution to the wind and completely throwing myself out of the comfort zone, because I have to be honest here, before I decided to stop caring about what everyone thought, the idea of going along to the gym or anything new (that I would have to attempt alone) filled me with dread, and I would always bottle it before I had chance to go.

With a New Year in sight I have started thinking about how I can throw myself out there once again, something new and fun that will be sure to get my juices flowing. I love anything really that will provide me with a good workout and get my heart thumping, and that's when I started thinking about triathlon bikes!

Now that might sound crazy for someone who hasn't actually ridden a bicycle in years, but I have been considering a new bike for a while (Yes I am aware that there is a massive difference between a typical bike ride and a triathlon!).

As with anything though, if you don't try how will you ever know if you can do it?

Training for your first triathlon 
(Or training in general!)

So you have made a decision but how do you stick to it?

- Tell people - You are more likely to stick to something if you talk about it, tell your friends and family and their support is going to push you forward to the next step. You might even find yourself a training partner if you're lucky!

- Set a goal - Think about what you want to achieve long term and short term, set goals and milestones. I believe that it is always very important to acknowledge the smaller steps too, because they are all steps in the right direction right? Celebrate all of it, give yourself a pat on the back with every momentum in the right direction.

- It's ok to go slow - Don't beat yourself up about what you can't do yet and focus on everything that you can do. Use those smaller goals to put your best foot (or wheel in this case!) forward, because they are going to amount to some of your bigger goals later on. Give yourself time to build up in your training, if you are like I was (I believe a coach potato is the term?), then you aren't just going to get up and go and run a 5k are you!? You have to set a steady pace and build on the foundations that you have already, and make them stronger.

- Sign up! - Yup you read that right! I always find that I am more determined and dedicated if I have a goal with a expiration date. Sign up for a sprint or triathlon that is a few months away (6-8 weeks!), it is sure to light a fire in your gut, and that upcoming date in your calendar is going to be the most amazing motivation! It is going to help you train and it is also going to provide you with valuable experience that you will need moving forward.  

- Follow a beginner's training plan - There are some great tips online, have a look and see what works for you.

- Start as you mean to go on - As with anything in life, consistency is the key, if you strive for success and put in the graft, you will never be disappointed.

- Eat good food - I always believe that the basis of any training plan is what you are fueling your body with. There is always confusion around diet plans and what not, but I believe in eating good wholesome foods (and never cutting anything out!) is the best practice. I always point people in the general direction of The Bodycoach because he has some fantastic recipes that are sure to hit the spot!

- The bike - You don't need to go out and spend a bomb on a bike, if you already have a bike then you can always start training with that, or if you are in the market for a new one, then buy the best you can afford. 

I keep coming back to cycling, whether or not I end up trying my first triathlon or not is another thing... but cycling with the dog could be a fantastic challenge for the new year (and a great way to tire the pup out!).

I will most definitely be getting back into my gym routine (the festive period always seems to appear and knock my motivation from beneath me!), but when the New Year rolls around, I will be back with my motivation ready for another fun year!

Monday 1 January 2018

5 Ways you can save money without even trying

5 Ways you can save money without even trying

With the cost of living going up, more families are looking for ways to save money. So, we’ve compiled a list of some of the easiest ways you can save money, put it away for a rainy day, or put it towards something worthwhile. Not all of these will be life changing, or perhaps apply to you, but a step in the right direction can change your financial habits for good! 

Obviously, if you have issues with your plumbing or gas appliances then of course you need to get a professional in. But when it comes to the little things, it may be much more cost effective to do it yourself? Take your skirting boards for example, if they’re looking tired and need replacing then you can speak to your local skirting board specialist about the most cost effective way to replace them. 

Or you can break out the brushes and freshen them up with a lick of paint – it really is that simple. You don’t need to hire an expensive tradesman to do it for you. 

Make your own gifts 
Ideal with Christmas or any birthdays that might be around the corner. If you want to save money while also giving generously, creating your own homemade gifts is one way to accomplish both goals. You can make food mixes, candles, fresh-baked bread or cookies, soap, and all kinds of other things at home quite easily and inexpensively. 

These make spectacular gifts for others because they involve your personal touch — something you
can’t buy from a shop — and quite often they’re consumable, meaning they don’t wind up filling someone’s drawers with rubbish! 

Make a list – and stick to it! 
One of the easiest ways to save money is to only shop when you have a list. Because when you’re without one, you typically end up making impulse buys and unplanned purchases – all things that cost money. Creating a list before you go to the supermarket is especially important. Not only can it help you buy items that fit with your meal plan, but it can also help you avoid buying food you might waste. 

Always create a list and, more importantly, stick to it! 

Staying in is the new going out 
Going out to eat or “out on the town” has a way of completely destroying both your food budget and your entertainment budget in one fell swoop. It is always cheaper to stay in with friends and come up with your own entertainment. So, try hosting a meal with your friends where they all bring some food, play a board game, watch a film or just sit and reminisce! You’ll all save money – and have a blast. 

Entertaining the kids
Remember the saying that kids would rather play with the box? Its true! Most children, especially young ones, can be entertained very cheaply. Play in the garden. Head to the park. Bake something. What your children want is your time, not your stuff, and you’ll find money in your pocket and joy in
your heart.