Friday, 28 September 2018

What you need to know when buying a car

Seven months ago I made a huge life step and finally passed my driving test. I genuinely can't believe it's been that long already it's completely flown by and I've managed to keep myself and the car in one piece - winning! Now back when I did pass the first thing I wanted to do was get in a car and go, but it obviously takes a little longer than that. I sent off my provisional and prayed somewhere along the way they'd find a better picture of me than the current one (I look like casper the friendly ghost but less friendly) but whilst I was waiting for it's return I did so much research on cars so that as soon as it came back through I'd be well informed on what I'd want and what would be a good choice for my first car

Red audi speeding along country roads
One of the most important decisions I had to make was what kind of a car I wanted, did I want to fork out for a brand new car or did I want to take the risks of buying a second hand car. I toyed with both for so many hours because let's face it I had absolutely zilch experience when it comes to cars, If I'm ever asked what car I have it's a 'red one' so looking at lots of models and specs just absolutely flummoxed me. 

So I decided to toss a coin - well I might as well have because when it comes down to it you can never really predict cars I think mines got a mind of her own which is why Car Insurance is your most important purchase. It doesn't matter whether new or used as with good insurance from companies such as Aviva you'll be covered whether your new car gets damaged or whether your older car needs roadside repair, so make sure that whatever route you go down your insurance is top notch

I did weigh up some of the options of new and used cars and I thought I'd share my wisdom:

New cars are pretty aren't they? They're so shiny and have that new car smell, you know it doesn't have any hidden niggles because well no-ones used it at all. You'll always know it's service history and from day one you can make it your own. Insurance is typically cheaper because newer cars are generally safer and more eco-friendly. However that does all come at a premium which can be double or even triple what you can get second hand which is why I went down the second hand route

Second hand cars, you'll hear so many horror stories! About the people who spent pennies and wondered why the car didn't work after a week, what I'd say here is always do your research. Personally because I'm not an absolute car expert I went to a reputable dealer like Car People as I felt a little more reassured that whilst the car was second hand it had been thoroughly checked and tested and was passing with flying colours. I had clear access to the service records and my little run around had only had one previous owner who like me didn't seem to use it all too much. A smaller engine and a smaller car in general meant Car Insurance prices were reasonable and the car price itself didn't break the bank

Being a brand new driver to the road (because when you pass that's when the actual learning starts believe me!) I didn't want a flash expensive car it would have stressed me out completely. I opted for a cheap little second-hand run around and made sure my Car Insurance was the best I could afford to give me peace of mind. My car was planned to last me for a few years, I think maybe once I'm more confident I might opt for a new car that will last me donkeys years but right now I definitely think I made the right decision

Is your car new or second-hand?

*In collaboration with Aviva

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

How to save money without even trying

Once upon a time (around 8 months ago to be exact) I was a carefree 20 something with a lot of disposable income and not a lot of responsibility. Life was great, I didn't budget and just went shopping when I wanted to, fast forward to now and I'm a 20 something year old with a whole heap of responsibility in the form of a house and a car. I can't remember what disposable income is and I spend my days trying desperately to scrimp and save every way I can to be able to afford the nice little things in life too

Pink piggy bank white background

I think I'm pretty money savvy, even when I was carefree I managed to save enough for a house deposit and car so I'm not exactly new to this whole frugal living but it is much harder to save now. I've put together a list of the easiest ways you can save money without even trying, these tips are so easy you won't even notice the money until you've got a nice pot for a rainy day

Where and how to save
Before we start saving well you should decide where's best, some people prefer to save money in an ISA but personally I like the freedom of being able to access it if I need it. I have 2 seperate savings accounts away from my main account, the interest rate is abysmal but I find it the best way to save as I can quite clearly see what funds are for what purpose (holidays and house things). How to save is another personal thing you'll need to work out, I found that I'm not a lump sum kinda girl I always felt like I was losing the money and noticed it a lot. What I do is round up my purchases each day so that any spare change in my accounts goes into savings. For example if I've spent £7.80, I'd put £2.20 into savings. It grows really quickly and I like the satisfaction of my main account being a round number

 Switch and Save
Because I've only just moved into a new home, and had a car since February I implemented this right from the very start but there's always something you can save on. Make sure you don't ever just automatically renew contracts, shop around and compare prices on everything from your energy to your car insurance to your mobile phone contract

I've recently been trialling an app from a start-up company called yboo* and it's genuinely revolutionary in what it does, you download it onto your phone and it monitors your phone usage from the calls you're making to the data you're using to your location. It then uses this information to give you really tailored suggestions as to the best contracts for you. This is based on everything from price of bundles based on your current usage to signal strengths in your area. The app is super simple and very user friendly and can save the average user up to £156 a year! Which is definitely better in your back pocket - check out the video below for how it all works: 

Budget and Plan Ahead
This is probably one of the most important things you need to implement if you don't already. It doesn't need to be all singing and dancing the budget planner I use is fairly basic. But you should at least have a list of all your outgoings and incoming that you know about, plan for any other events such as birthdays that month. By knowing what should be coming in and out you'll be able to work out what you should have left to spend on a daily basis. Just the process of tracking purchases and outgoings can really make you think! I never used to bat an eyelid at buying lunch every day at work, until I realised I was spending upwards of £5 a day

Meal Plan
Which leads me onto meal planning quite nicely, when you go shopping do you just madly run around the supermarket without a plan? Because I totally did for so long. Now I try and set a little time on a Sunday to make a plan of what I want to eat that week, I use Mysupermarket to see where I should shop that week and then I often do the shopping online to help me resist all the treats and things I don't really need but end up in my shopping bag anyway

Vouchers and Discounts
Now even though I meal plan it doesn't mean I don't go out, eating out can be so affordable now you just need to plan ahead, download apps such as Vouchercloud to help you save money, I recently activated my Meerkat meals which gives me 2 for 1 at a whole heap of restaurants, many that I'd already visit so now I get to eat at these places for half the price. It's ridiculously simple to use and you won't even notice the difference apart from the extra pennies in your purse. This concept works for everything! Always google for voucher codes before buying anything because why spend more when you don't have to?

With the money that you're saving, why not gift it to a good cause or someone less fortunate, there's lots of gifts for charity* choices available and let's face it if you didn't have the money before then it's a really good cause to get involved with

What's your top tip for saving money?


Saturday, 22 September 2018

Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake Recipe

Who doesn't love cake? This chocolate and vanilla marble loaf is one of my favourites and never lasts long in my house, it's super quick and simple to make but looks really effective

Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake

You will need:
Vanilla Cake
  • 90g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 113g butter
  • 100g sugar
  • Vanilla Essence
  • 2 eggs
Chocolate Cake
  • 68g plain flour
  • 32g dark cocoa powder
  • 88g sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 113g butter
  • Vanilla Essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 30g dark chocolate chips
  • 3/4 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
Marble Cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C, line your loaf tin with lining paper
  2. First make your vanilla cake in a bowl by creaming together butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add in eggs one at a time and add a drop of vanilla essence.
  4. Slowly add the flour and salt to your butter mix stirring as you go, mix until just combined and leave to one side
  5. Next make your chocolate cake in a bowl by creaming together butter and sugar until fluffy
  6. Add in eggs one at a time and add a drop of vanilla essence
  7. Slowly add the flour, cocoa and salt and mix until just combined
  8. Alternating between mixtures spoon the mixtures into your loaf tin, use a knife to swirl the batters together 
  9. Bake for an hour, remove from the oven and cool completely
  10. While cooling make the frosting by melting the chocolate chips, butter and maple syrup together
  11. Pour the frosting mixture over the cakes and leave to set

Have you made this marble cake? Let me know in the comments I'd love to know how it turned out

Sunday, 16 September 2018

8 Ways to boost your productivity every day

Hands up who needs to be more productive - all of us right? I'm sat here writing a blog post which was on my 'to do list' for over a week, it's so easy to put things off and faff around and never actually get anywhere with your lists and just feel really unproductive despite running around all day long. So I've spent this weekend planning a strategy, a strategy to be more productive and boost that every day so here's my action plan of 8 tips

8 ways to boost productivity

[1] Plan Ahead
Sunday's are perfect days to sit down and plan the week ahead. Grab yourself a weekly planner and make a note of all the fun things you have to do, all the boring work things you have to do and where that leaves spare time. A great way to make sure you use that spare time effectively is time blocking through the Pomodoro method  this gives you a set time period to get tasks done, I've been using an app called Habitica to make sure I tick off my smaller tasks and giving myself a self care reward when I've completed them. As well as blocking out time try to plan smaller things like your meals and clothes for the week, this takes a lot of hassle out of mornings and evenings

[2] Sleep
Sounds counter productive right? Be more productive by going to sleep but getting enough sleep can genuinely improve productivity because it means your brain can function at it's highest. When you're asleep your body goes into super power mode restoring and rejuvenating you so you can perform at your best the next day. Trying to get a solid bedtime routine is definitely the best way to achieve optimum sleep. I've also been trying out Benenox* which aids a better quality of sleep and increased energy levels the next day by reducing tiredness and fatigue. I've actually found this is great for when I have a stressful day coming up to make sure I'm on top form

[3] Fuel Up
Using your brain burns calories, so you need to make sure your brain gets all the food and nutrients it deserves. Now I suck at eating well - you don't get a figure like mine eating your 5 a day and living on water! BUT I'm making a conscious effort to try and increase my healthy food intake and maybe start looking at smaller more frequent meals as that's the best way to keep your mental alertness at it's peak. 

[4] Hydrate
I definitely need to increase my water intake, recommendations are 2L every single day. Water does so much from regulating temperature to aiding  digestion but most importantly is brain function. Not hydrating enough can lead to our thinking and cognition being reduced which does not aid productivity at all! Staying hydrated will keep your mind focused on the tasks at hand. 
Jordan and Judy Honeycomb Glass Bottle

I've currently been trialling the Jordan & Judy Glass Water Bottle* which I adore, the bottle is eco-friendly, durable and toxic free and can hold both hot and cold drinks. The honeycomb design on the sleeve is really stylish and I love the portable handle. I've been keeping it with me as much as possible to make sure I get enough water

[5] Start your day well
Make sure you've had a good nights sleep but also the start of your day can be crucial, make sure you've picked your clothes the night before, wake up to give you enough time to have a nice relaxing breakfast and assess what tasks you need completing that day. Make sure you assess your goals, see if anything needs altering and set a top 3 so that at the very minimum as long as those 3 tasks are complete you've had a successful day

[6] Positive Outlook
The 9-5 can be a hard slog some times and life can leave you feeling drained if that's all you do so really look into ways of improving that, maybe there's a way of simplifying your schedule? Or a new skill that could increase your productivity at work. Staying positive is tough trust me my outlook and depression can often cause  a more negative outlook but understanding these emotions and overcoming them by taking a little time out to refocus and giving yourself some love and positive feedback can have a big impact on your overall wellbeing

[7] Clear rewards
It's an innate response to want to be rewarded for tasks so make a list of cheap self care rewards such as watching your favourite tv show or having a long relaxing bath for when you've achieved your goals each day. Make sure you also have plans to work towards such as a night out or going to the cinema, this way you'll feel like being productive means getting rewarded so you'll be more encouraged to do it

[8] Don't stress
Finally don't stress! Life's way too short to stress, you can't be ultra productive 24 hours a day 7 days a week sometimes you need to just chill out, there's always tomorrow 

How do you stay productive?
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