The Best Tips For How To Host Christmas Day

Christmas season, is here, which means it’s time to celebrate and to party! We know you just can’t resist a seasonal get-together! However, you might not be confident at hosting your family and friends and would rather keep the stress involved to the minimum.

Whatever your budget is, we’ll share with you on how to get that perfect balance between entertainment and hospitality which you can enjoy with your guests. Whether you are looking for ideas and tips to host a cocktail party or a fabulous Christmas dinner, this guide will make sure you’ll have every detail under control.

Invitations

There’s no need for cards or overly traditional invitation formalities. Just send a WhatsApp or an email invitation. It’s the fastest and simplest method. If you are looking for something more original use a free online designer such as Canva to create your unique invitation.

The Budget

Think ahead! Don’t make too many plans before you actually come up with a budget. It will determine the size of the party, what you will serve to drink and eat as well as the decorations and entertainment.

The Food

Cook your ultimate favourite dishes and those you feel confident in or practice before-hand. It’s not a good idea to try out new recipes on the day of the event especially if you don’t have a plan B.  Why not also make larger batches, anything left over you can freeze and use as meals for another between Christmas and New Year to save those extra pennies!

You don’t feel like cooking? Our hack is to get some goodies from your local deli and serve it with home-made salad, this way no one will suspect your little trick. If you’re hosting a cocktail party rather than a dinner, place some snacks like olives, cheese cubes, grapes, hummus and carrot sticks etc. on the table. Another great trick to avoid too much cooking is to share hosting duties. You can ask your guests to each bring a dish.

If you want more time to prepare your delicious dishes serve an aperitif which will give you the breathing space you need. It will also help your guests relax and liven up the mood before the highlight of the evening.

Think about how you’ll serve the food. Our personal favourite is laying the different dishes in the middle, so that everyone can share and have as much as they want. It definitely, gets people closer together, but could be problematic if the food runs out before everyone gets their fair share.

Christmas Drinks

For that extra effort, offer some alcoholic and virgin cocktails. Some of your guests might be driving or just prefer not to drink and they will definitely appreciate this gesture. Our favourite is the London Calling, perfect for this season. Here are the ingredients:  

London Calling cocktail recipe

To save money look for the appropriate discounts and deals. You can get plenty of ingredients and even a couple of bottles of Prosecco and Cava for a very good prize. Another way to save money is to buy in bulk, especially if you’ll be cooking for a lot of people. Finally, try to buy some ingredients from the reduced section. Depending on the shop the times when these sections are filled can vary, but generally speaking around 7 pm is your best option.

Easy Christmas Dinner Recipe

Now, if you really want to impress and uphold the Christmas tradition, there has to be a Turkey on your table! This could feel like a challenge especially when you have a massive naked bird staring right at you and you’ve never cooked one before.

Here’s our favourite Turkey recipe:

Easy Christmas Roast Turkey

Time: 30 minutes prep, 1 hour 30 minutes cooking

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 1 Onion
  • 4kg Turkey
  • 60g Butter
  • 6 Servings of Stuffing
  • Glass of Red Wine

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C fan or 180C gas. Prepare the stuffing and then pack the bird with the stuffing through the neck.
  2. Take a large sheet of baking foil line a roasting with it and then place the bird inside it. Melt the butter slightly then coat the turkey with it and red wine. Season well.
  3. Put another sheet of foil over the turkey and seal it. Roast in the oven for 90 minutes. After 60 minutes, you can add any vegetables you want with your turkey.
  4. After the 90 minutes of roasting, test to see if the bird is cooked through. If not, cook for a further 10 minutes. Repeat until it’s cooked through.
  5. Once cooked, take out of the oven and wait 10 minutes before carving to allow the juices to settle. Serve immediately.

Make sure the tin you choose, is big enough for the bird and deep enough to catch all the yummy juices and fat. Remember to give your turkey some resting time, before serving.

The Table

Have a holistic approach when it comes to choosing the decorations. Sometimes less is more! Focus on a festive cloth, napkins and obviously, candles are a must. If you are feeling fancy you could think about placing some vases, flowers or foliage. Feel free to experiment with colours, if you feel it will suit the personality of the party more, or your interior. Then just place the essentials on the table like, plates, cutlery, glasses and a jug of water and you’re good to go.

Dinner Table

We suggest you let your guests choose where they would like to sit, especially when it’s an informal, small party. This way you won’t feel responsible if someone won’t like their immediate neighbor.

Playlist

Depending on the atmosphere you want to create you will have to design your playlist accordingly. Think about the volume, your guests tastes and the rhythm. There’s not point of playing loud and upbeat tunes if you want people to stay seated and relaxed. Feel free to adapt the playlist if the mood changes. This is why downloading spotify or creating multiple playlists on YouTube is a good idea.

Playlist

Try not to be over-protective of the music and let your guests tryout their music selections.

You want to make your party more adventurous? How about karaoke? This can be a very fun activity for everyone who enjoys music, and don’t worry, you don’t have to be a professional singer to be able to chant to some tunes.

Lighting

If you combine the music and the lighting you can truly achieve the perfect atmosphere. However, you don’t have to have a fancy fireplace or a chandelier to create a magic aura at your party. So, don’t panic it doesn’t have to be a nightmare before Christmas!

Dim your lamps, switch on your fairy lights, light the candles and you’re good to go.

Dress to Impress

Match your outfit with the atmosphere of the party! If you are hosting a cozy little get together don’t pull out your tux. If your party is an upscale affair, we advise you mention the evening dress code on the invitation. No one likes to feel out of place because of what they are wearing, so make sure your guests know what to expect.

Entertainment

If you want to provide more than just good food, drinks and the right company, invest in some board games! Alternatively you could organize secret Santa before-hand and use this get together as an opportunity to exchange gifts.   

If your budget allows it, you could provide a photo-booth or a DJ. If you print the photos on sight your guests will also have something to remember the party by.

If you are looking for cheaper entertainment, but just as fun, you could play charades, carol pictionary or pin the nose on Rudolph.

Christmas Charades

Christmas Pictionary

Pin the nose game

Don’t forget to reward the winners!

Souvenirs

This final touch will put you in the pro-category when it comes to party hosting! To make sure your magnificent evening is long remembered leave your guests with a gift. It doesn’t have to be expensive or large, if you feel up for the task you could even hand make it.  A little thank you gift bag would be the best option especially if your guests aren’t coming empty handed.

It’s not an easy task to host such a special celebration as Christmas, but you can definitely do it. With our tips and tricks you can be certain not to forget any important steps and have everything planned to the smallest detail. Try not to worry too much, after all it’s a party, so go and have some fun!

Health

How To Get Healthy On A Budget

Choosing the healthy option may be hard especially if it also has to fit your budget. This blog post will take a holistic approach to health focusing on healthy eating, exercise and mental well being.

Healthy Eating

You don’t have to eat the trendiest superfoods like goji berries, kombucha or manuka honey, to stay on top of your healthy eating! Here are some simple ways of making sure you don’t exceed your food and drinks budget.

healthy food

Meal Plan

Make sure you buy only things you will definitely eat during the week so you don’t waste any food. Plan your meals in such a way that will be varied so you don’t get bored and freeze your meal prep to make it last longer. We often get discouraged with our new diets if the taste is bland or we constantly eat the same thing. You don’t have to eat chicken, rice and broccoli to stay fit! Variety is key as well as seasoning and some healthy treats. Before you make your meal plan and shopping list, make a mental note of the things you already have.  There are many ways to repurpose leftovers. For example, put your left over salad in a wrap or your baked mushrooms on a bed of spinach. Get into the habit of asking yourself, what is actually necessary to purchase.

Shopping

Now we know we said make a shopping list and stick to it, but if you see something on sale, in the reduced section or a deal don’t be afraid to switch it for your original item. The key is to make sure it’s just as healthy and it is actually cheaper. Don’t get fooled just because it says it’s on sale doesn’t mean you’ll save money. Compare and make common sense choices. If possible buy local fruits, vegetables and eggs, especially in-season foods. Another trick we would recommend is buying in bulk. Not only is it cheaper, it decreases the amount of times you have to go to the supermarket reducing temptations. Don’t forget to get a customer card, collect points and save on future shopping trips.

Protein

We all know that you’ll probably want to increase your protein quantities on your new healthy diet, especially if you’ll be working out or want to increase your muscle mass. However, meats and fish are one of the most expensive foods… The answer is legumes! Consider items such as: lentils, chickpeas and beans, not only are they high in protein but they will help you feel fuller for longer.

Frozen

Frozen foods are not only cheaper but also more convenient and last longer. Great frozen choices are: berries, avocados, green peas and mango as you can add these to your smoothies, as well as fish, vegetables and herbs which are great in stir fries. If you are running out of time to eat what you prepared before it goes bad, label it and place it in the freezer.

Drinks

On your healthy lifestyle all you really need to drink is water. Just think of all the money it will save you, this should be motivation enough to put down that beer bottle, gin or chocolate milkshake. If you feel like having tea or coffee choose their own brand product, they will be cheaper and you might be positively surprised with the quality.

Fitness

Forget about a Personal Trainer or soul cycle, focus on alternatives such as at home workouts or outdoor activities.

Running

Wardrobe

The most common step we all take when starting our fitness journey is buying new clothes, fit for the occasion (see what we did there?). It’s true that exercising requires proper gear, but you can look great for less. Check out the clearance section, or find good workout clothes in H&M or Primark. Steer clear of brand names to save the most.

Equipment

You don’t need a gym membership or fancy equipment to get fit. It’s possible to get in shape with just your own body weight. Use your environment, instead of expensive workout machines. You can do bench dips using your sofa or lift heavy water bottles as an alternative to dumb bells and weights. You can have a good workout regime just purchasing a resistance band and a skipping rope. If you do have some extra pounds to spare and enough space at home, you could invest in a second hand treadmill or elliptical.

Exercise

The best way to get fit and healthy is to go out doors. Walk, run, swim (if possible) or do some simple exercises in the park. If you are shy and don’t want a nosy audience, jog in the early mornings. The fresh air definitely won’t harm you!

If you prefer to stay home try running up and down the stairs, it’s a great leg workout as well as a cardio session. YouTube and Pinterest are free platforms which are filled with workout routines, videos and inspiration. Follow a HIIT workout without having to leave your bedroom and save on a gym membership.

If joining a gym is in your budget, compare different deals and choose the one that suits you the most. It’s also a good idea to have one trial session (these are normally for free) to see if you like the place before committing yourself to a contract. Some gyms offer discounts if you refer a friend, so perhaps it’s time to get a gym buddy.

Mental Wellbeing

Meditation

Money and mental health are often linked. Poor mental health can make managing money harder and worrying about money can make your mental health worse.

Understand Your Behaviour

The WOOP it up method can help you overcome negative emotions and procrastination. It works like this:

Set a goal

Your aim should be important to you and challenging. For example:

“I won’t eat any refined sugar.”

Imagine the outcome

Picture the goal coming true, what do you feel? For example:

“I feel good about myself. My energy levels are higher, my thoughts clearer and I’m more positive.”

Identify the obstacle

Identify the main inner obstacle that stands in the way such as an emotion, irrational belief, or bad habit. What is it within you that holds you back from fulfilling your wish? For example:

“In the evening I’m tired after work and I crave chocolate or cake, then I beat myself if I don’t resist the temptations.”

Make a plan

Now create your contingency: If faced with (obstacle), then I will (take this effective action in response). For example:

“If I find myself wanting something sweet I will eat a fruit or a naked bar instead of candy.”

The WOOP method will help you build an emotional contingency plan. By reframing obstacles as opportunities — not devastating roadblocks — you internalize failure less and can easily move past difficulties by following the action steps you’ve laid out.

Good health is priceless. Having determination and motivation to get healthy is much more important and doesn’t have to be expensive.

Stress – How do You Keep it Under Control?

Over 44% of us suffer from stress on a regular basis. And according to the latest stats from the Health and Safety Executive show that over 488,000 people had work-related stress last year – especially those who work in healthcare, education and the armed forces. So how can we keep stress under control? How can we spot signs of stress? Here’s a mini guide to recognising and coping with stress.

What causes stress?

The things that cause us stress in life can be split into five categories: Personal, Money, Housing, Job / School and Relationships. Stress can be triggered by anything such as a huge life-changing event or a series of smaller incidences building up. Take a look at this quick summary on how these areas of your life can cause stress:

  • Personal: Bereavement, long-term illness, short-term illness, having a baby, organising a big event.
  • Money: Debt, income, poverty, paying rent on time, covering bills on time.
  • Housing:
  • Job / School: Redundancy, being dismissed, long-term unemployment, bullying, deadlines, starting a new job/career path, retirement.
  • Friendships / Relationships:planning a wedding, moving in together, being controlled by a partner, breakups/divorce, tricky relationships with relatives, providing care for a sick, vulnerable or elderly relative

As you can see, even the ‘good events’ such as getting married, having a baby, starting a brand new job and planning a family holiday can all cause stress if you’re not careful. That brings us to the next section – how do you know you’re stressed?

The signs of stress

There are actually three different areas of stress symptoms: Behavioural, Feelings and Physical. Here are a few of the more common signs of stress:

  • Behavioural: difficulty in making decisions, can’t concentrate, loss of appetite, bigger appetite, smoking, taking drugs or drinking more, nail-biting, picking at your skin or pulling your hair, avoiding people, crying.
  • Feelings: Hopelessness, depressed, lack of interest in activities you normally love, dread, anxiousness, nervousness, irritable, aggressive, impatient, tense, can’t switch off, lonely.
  • Physical: Insomnia, tiredness, nausea, headaches, high blood pressure, heart palpitations, digestive problems, hyperventilating, lack of libido.

We know this doesn’t exactly sound like a barrel of laughs, but there are so many ways you can prevent burnout or stress before it even happens.

How can I keep stress under control?

The first thing you should do is identify what is causing your stress. Just take a look at the causes of stress above and identify which ones are a regular occurrence in your life or even just one-off events that always seem to be niggling away at your mind.

Realising what your ‘trigger’ is can show you just how much you’re stretching yourself or spreading yourself thin. That’s why you should make a plan to organise your time, work out what time of day you’re most productive and create a to-do list or schedule around that. Make sure your list is varied so tasks don’t get too monotonous and make sure you’re only doing one thing at a time. Give yourself regular breaks and you’ll find your to-do list is done in next to no time!

But if you’re stressed about things beyond your control – you need to remind yourself that there are some things you can’t change. This might sound negative – but it’s actually a very positive thing to do when combatting stress.

Top tips on dealing with stress

Here are a few tips and tricks that can work very well at preventing stress or de-stressing if you’re already stressed!

  • Listen to particular playlists. Studies show that listening to music that makes you feel ‘positive nostalgia’ can be a great way to de-stress. Discovering new music is also a great way to take your mind off your worries.
  • Shower or bath. We know most people will tell you to relax with a nice big bubble bath but showers can also reduce stress too. Apparently, the scents of soap and shower gel can calm the mind – and feeling fresh and clean can boost your mood overall, making you feel a lot less sluggish.
  • Meditation. We know it doesn’t work for some, but meditation can help you breathe properly. Stress can cause shallow breathing, which just makes you feel even tenser than ever before. Meditation encourages you to be conscious of your breathing and gives you a natural rush after as little as 7 minutes. Start with the Calm app, a guided 10-minute meditation tool. You can also check out Health ambition. They have written a fantastic article with 15 ways to relax under 5 minutes. You can check it out here.
  • See friends. As they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed. It might seem like you don’t have the time to see friends because you’re so stressed out about everything. But hanging out with friends can reduce stress, help you improve your mood and make you more productive in the long run – especially if you tend to laugh a lot with your friends!
  • Be more active: We don’t mean hitting the treadmill every day, (but if you want to then by all means!) but going for a walk every other day can really clear your mind and help you balance your life.
  • Don’t be hard on yourself. Stressed people tend to berate themselves for being stressed, which makes them even more stressed in the long-run. Treat yourself to your favourite magazine, food or movie because you deserve it.
  • Try and make up with people. Stress can cause a lot of arguments with loved ones. Try and sort out any conflicts you have, admit your mistakes, apologise and move on.
  • Let your employers know. Work-related stress is a huge one for the UK – so letting your boss or HR manager know you’re stressed can go a long way. Most businesses are making an active effort to support their employees suffering from mental health problems.
Mothers Day

Unforgettable Mother’s Day on a Budget

Mother’s Day is a beautiful celebration in the name of the matriarch of your family as well as a general honoring of motherhood and the influence of mothers in society. If you want to make this day extra special for the woman who raised you, but you’re worried about your budget, we got your back! Follow our simple tips and tricks and we guarantee you will make your mother feel special and won’t over spend.

Gifts

Finding something meaningful and special for your mother doesn’t have to cost you much. The key is to make the present as personal as possible. Having trouble finding inspiration? Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your mum’s hobbies (tennis, pottery, DIY)?
  • What does she like to do in her spare time (baking, gardening, shopping)?
  • What relaxes her (candles, music, watching movies)?
  • What’s her favourite room in her house (bathroom, bedroom, living-room)?
  • Does she have any pets?

Do you see where we’re going with this? That’s right, combine the answers to find the most suitable gift! If the bathroom is her sanctuary and she loves to take long relaxing baths a few scented candles would be the best present. The first step is behind us, now it’s time to think about how to cut the costs.

Candles

Candle

You can get personalised candles saying mum for just £3.99.

Alternatively you can buy the cheapest candles and personalise them yourself, using your DIY skills.

Flower jug

Flower jug

You can get a great flower jug for £3.99 specially designed for Mother’s Day.

On the other hand you can buy a jug from a charity shop and with some paints transform it with a design your mum would like.

Photo album

Photo album

Probably nothing screams personal as much as a photo album does. We are sure your mother will be touched with this present whether you assemble it by yourself or buy one.

Key ring

Key ring

It’s a wonderful gift if you want your mum to have something from you she can keep close to her. There’s plenty of personalisable key rings out there, that will cost you only £9.99. Alternatively you could try your strengths in sewing and threading.  For an easier design a great idea is to use a cork which you can paint to your liking.

Cake

Cake

Bake your mum her favourite cake! It’s one of the cheapest gifts and you can enjoy it together.

If it’s already the 31st of March and you still don’t have a gift opt in for a box of chocolates, a fancy cushion or a bottle of wine.

We wouldn’t recommend purchasing cheap jewelry or flowers. Bad quality items won’t be appreciated as much as something you put thought into and the latter is very expensive for the time she’ll be able to enjoy it for.

Celebrations

There are plenty of ways you could spend this day with your mother and not spend any money or very little. All our suggestions are budget friendly but we further divided activities you can invite your mum for into 3 categories: Inexpensive, Cheap and No money necessary.

Mothers Day

Inexpensive

  • You could invite your mum for a meal. If you want to save money brunch would be a better option than dinner
  • Take her to the cinema to watch a movie   
  • Go out for drinks. Every woman likes to be spoiled from time to time and an evening spend with a glass of wine or a fancy cocktail will do the trick

Cheap

  • Cook your mum a meal. We’re pretty sure it was the other way around for many years and it would be a thoughtful way of showing her your appreciation
  • Go for a coffee. Getting out of the house and spending some time with your mum in her favourite coffee shop will make her day that extra bit more special
  • If your mum is an artistic soul, invite her over and try out some new DIY projects together
  • If you live with your mother, you could surprise her with breakfast in bed or come over very early and prepare it before she wakes up. An idea scoring 10/10 for effort.
  • You can also invite the whole family over, to have a bbq or a picnic. To share the expenses, tell all members to bring some food and drinks with them.

No Money Necessary

  • You can invite your mum for a long walk or a hike. Try to pick a location you know she is fond of and she will definitely appreciate your gesture
  • Help your mum around the house, whether it’s cleaning or gardening. It will give you a great opportunity to spend some quality time and it will save her some time, to sit back and relax  
  • A great activity you could enjoy with your mum is going to a museum or free art exhibitions

Card

Card

One of the staples of Mother’s Day celebrations is giving your mum a card. Whether you decide to buy one or make one from scratch the most important is the message and matching the card style to her tastes. If she likes humour opt in for a funny card, however if she prefers a more sentimental style choose a card accordingly.

Now think what you would like to say to her. Do you want to thank her, tell her you love her or both? Go for it, make it cheesy and mushy we’re pretty sure it will put a big smile on her face.

Trying to show how much you appreciate your mother during this special day might be hard enough as it is, yet alone when you are trying to save the pennies! However, we hope that with our gift and activity ideas you feel confident enough to show your mum how much you care. Remember, the most important thing to her is your presence and your happiness so try not to overshadow some quality time with lots of gifts.

 

Houses

How To Find Your Perfect First Home

This is one of your biggest if not the biggest purchase in your life, so you really want to get it right. Therefore, it is essential that you think about this long term. You will have to come head-to-head with additional costs, property research, squeezing information out of the seller and much more. Keep reading this blog to find out all our tips for first-time home buyers.

Research

Keep your eyes peeled because a great opportunity to purchase your perfect property might occur in places you never imagined it to. Gone are the days where you could only find your new home on a picture put up in an estates agent office window. Now there are plenty of websites that have property for sale. The most popular sites are:

They allow you to compare properties, living expenses and home descriptions as well as including local information and street maps. You can even set alerts if you have a specific location and property requirements and the app will inform you when an opportunity appears. To further improve your research, take time looking through property magazines or newspapers to see what sort of homes are available, and for how much so you can get a good understanding of the general market values.

All this being said, estate agents aren’t dead, so don’t cross them out from your research stage. You can subscribe to their email lists and specify what you are looking for to hear as soon as possible if your perfect property is on the market. Having a conversation with an estate agent can also provide you with valuable information about the chances you have of finding what you want with regards to your budget and other factors.

Research

Visualise

It’s good to visualise your perfect property. Ask yourself what exactly it is you are looking for, a semi-detached house, a flat? How many rooms do you want? How many bathrooms? Will you want a parking space, double glazed windows, or outside space etc.?  You could divide your criteria into essentials and preferences.

It’s easy to repaint the colours of the walls but you can’t do much to change the total floor space in a flat. Think how feasible it would be to get rid of any displeasing features. They make the property less attractive on the day but it might be just a temporary issue. Try to strike compromises otherwise you’ll have a hard time finding your property.

Do The Math

You will have to do some serious calculations to figure out how much getting your home will cost you. We’re talking here about the mortgage fees, valuation and legal fees, stamp duty, moving costs, home repairs and furniture costs.

We strongly recommend you don’t take the maximum amount you are allowed to borrow.  Your mortgage is going to be your biggest monthly expenditure, so make sure you don’t overstretch yourself.  Calculate all of your other outgoings and ensure you allow a buffer for unexpected bills and additional saving.  Once you know how much you can comfortably afford, you can then work out your mortgage repayments and how much you can realistically borrow. It’s a good idea to have this in place before you really go house hunting. Try this mortgage calculator to see the reality of the repayments. It’s best not to look at properties above your budget as this will only result in disappointment and set unrealistic expectations.

To give you a rough guide of the prices visit Rightmove, which provides a map with average prices.

House

Neighbourhood

Make sure you like the area around your property. Consider things like:

  • your neighbours
  • traffic
  • safety
  • physical location

Visit the area at different times and see if you like the local pubs, the level of noise, playgrounds for your children among other things. Another thing to find out is the building plans for the area, you don’t want that lovely coastal view to be replaced with an apartment block.

Think about what you value in an area before buying the property, is it near your work place, schools, the hospital? Do you want it to be in a location with nearby pubs or entertainment?

Neighbourhood

Climate Safety

Watch out for flood risks or subsidence in your potential property area.  Flood risk has a significant impact on insurance premiums, a property’s value and your quality of life if you’re unlucky enough to be hit by water damage. Avoiding property purchases in flood zones can save you a lot of stress.

Flooding

Ask Questions

Before even putting down the deposit ask as many questions as possible. Some of them should relate to:

  • your potential competition for the property
  • installation reports
  • information on lease
  • renovation details
  • what’s included in the sale
  • parking places
  • council tax band

Certain rival estate agents will overly criticise a property, especially when they previously had it on their books and failed to sell it, which means their comment has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Sometimes you can contact previous owners, who no longer have a vested interest in talking it up – this can be particularly informative if you suspect there might be problems with the property. It is also a good idea to take an experienced home buyer with you for support and advice and if you have any doubt about the condition of a property, always ensure you get a full structural survey carried out.

Flat

Take Pictures

Photos are a great reference point especially when you are looking at multiple properties. They will help you spot things you might have missed previously. Really think about the space you’ll need. After a few years you might need more than you are initially looking for and it’s good to be prepared for this change.

If you are planning to renovate or make a few improvements to the property, plan where you could build into and how easy is it will be to manipulate the property layout and maximise space not only for longevity but to add value as well.

Flat

Viewing Checklist

Make sure you check the property for all these aspects:

  • mould and dampness
  • cracks and other imperfections on the walls and ceiling
  • open a few windows to see if they work well
  • count power points
  • turn taps on and off and flush the toilet to inspect the plumbing
  • check the heating by switching the radiator on and having a look at the boiler
  • ensure door locks work well
  • check the rugs and carpets

checklist

Resale

Think about the ease of resale when you come to sell the property in the future. If you aren’t happy with the property, or if you outgrow the property and want to upgrade, after all you’re not planning on living there for ever. Make a list of all the potential problems future buyers might have with the property and evaluate carefully before you decide to buy.

Remember that certain “negative” aspects of the property might only be an opportunity for you. For example many people won’t want to live next to a school because of the noise levels, but if you’re not home during these hours this will not affect you and it will lower the price of the property. This might suit you but not others, and you have to account for that if you are planning to sell your home.

Property for sale

 

Estate Agents

Beware of certain unethical methods estate agents might use, these include:

  • testing the market with hyper-inflated prices to see if it will sell
  • hide important drawbacks coming with the property
  • are overly optimistic about building plans
  • aren’t fully honest about the area

Researching Estate Agents

Choosing an estate agent is an important process as well as a tricky one. Some will offer you low fees or give an impressively high property value, but these can be warning signs. Pick an agent who is experienced in selling the sort of property you are looking for and don’t settle on just one. You can use comparison websites such as Which?  Also, speak to friends, family members and neighbours to see if they can recommend an estate agent. Make sure you know in detail their commission rates or fixed fees.   

Remember no one can tell you with full confidence what will happen to house prices. Just like with the stock market, property is an asset  with an unpredictable value, but what is guaranteed is it’s a great investment. There are however multiple sources that suggest waiting for after Brexit to purchase your new home.  

Keys

Take your time looking for your new home, don’t rush into anything, make sure you do your homework and stay true to your budget and requirements. The right property will be out there.

Microphone

The Brit Awards 2019

Here’s the full list of the 2019 nominees. Read till the end to find out the favourites!

British Artist Video

  • Anne-Marie – ‘2002’
  • Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa – ‘One Kiss’
  • Clean Bandit feat. Demi Lovato – ‘Solo’
  • Dua Lipa – ‘IDGAF’
  • Jax Jones feat. Ina Wroldsen – ‘Breathe’
  • Jonas Blue feat. Jack & Jack – ‘Rise’
  • Liam Payne & Rita Ora – ‘For You’ (Fifty Shades Freed)
  • Little Mix feat. Nicki Minaj – ‘Woman Like Me’
  • Rita Ora – ‘Let You Love Me’
  • Rudimental feat. Jess Glynne, Macklemore, Dan Caplen – ‘These Days’

British Breakthrough Act

  • Ella Mai
  • IDLES
  • Jorja Smith
  • Mabel
  • Tom Walker

British Male Solo Artist

  • Aphex Twin
  • Craig David
  • George Ezra
  • Giggs
  • Sam Smith

British Female Solo Artist

  • Anne-Marie
  • Florence + The Machine
  • Jess Glynne
  • Jorja Smith
  • Lily Allen

British Group

  • The 1975
  • Arctic Monkeys
  • Gorillaz
  • Little Mix
  • Years & Years

MasterCard British Album of the Year

  • The 1975 – ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships’
  • Anne-Marie – ‘Speak Your Mind’
  • Florence + The Machine – ‘High As Hope’
  • George Ezra – ‘Staying At Tamara’s’
  • Jorja Smith – ‘Lost & Found’

British Single

  • Anne-Marie – ‘2002’
  • Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa – ‘One Kiss’
  • Clean Bandit feat. Demi Lovato – ‘Solo’
  • Dua Lipa – ‘IDGAF’
  • George Ezra – ‘Shotgun’
  • Jess Glynne – ‘I’ll Be There’
  • Ramz – ‘Barking’
  • Rudimental feat. Jess Glynne, Macklemore, Dan Caplen – ‘These Days’
  • Sigala & Paloma Faith – ‘Lullaby’
  • Tom Walker – ‘Leave A Light On’

International Male Solo Artist

  • Drake
  • Eminem
  • Kamasi Washington
  • Shawn Mendes
  • Travis Scott

International Female Solo Artist

  • Ariana Grande
  • Camila Cabello
  • Cardi B
  • Christine and the Queens
  • Janelle Monáe

International Group

  • Brockhampton
  • The Carters
  • First Aid Kit
  • Nile Rodgers & Chic
  • Twenty One Pilots

Critics’ Choice

  • Lewis Capaldi
  • Mahalia
  • Sam Fender

So far the leading nominees are Anne-Marie and Dua Lipa!

Valentine's day

Very Wallet Friendly Valentine’s

Are you looking forward to Valentine’s Day, but you’re worried about funds? You don’t have to compromise romance for money! This blog post will give you plenty of ideas on how to spend your Valentine’s Day in the sweetest way possible and not over-spend.

Home Rendez-vous

You can start by spoiling your partner with a breakfast in bed! To make it extra fancy, add a rose on the tray. Find out your partners favourites and treat them to those.

Dinner at home can be just as romantic as in an expensive restaurant. Surprise your partner and prepare something special for that day, including a lot of aphrodisiac foods like chocolate and strawberries, however, maybe stay way from oysters 😉

Breakfast to bed

You can even cook a meal together to spend some more quality time. Chances are you will both be glad to save a couple quid in the current climate so who can complain? Then just light some candles and open a bottle of wine. Celebrate an amazing V-Day with no worries about your budget.

If neither of you feel like cooking, we have a solution! Tesco and Waitrose are here to help. A Valentine’s dinner for two including a starter, a main, 2 sides, dessert and wine/fizz will only cost you £20 at Waitrose and 3 microwavable dishes for £20 at Sainsbury’s.  You can also cut the cost of chocolates by visiting the Thorntons website. There are also some humorous gifts you can get from Hotel Chocolat., if you want to make the occasion a little light hearted. Now just stock up on wine/fizz from Tesco Finest for around £8.50 a bottle.

Dinner

Flowers

Flowers can be expensive but compared to other Valentine gifts they can make the most impact for the lowest price. You can get the Paradise bouquet for only £15.99 deviled with chocolates from eflorist. A lovely way to treat your partner on this special day is flower decorations. You could create a tail of rose petals leading your loved one to further surprises like stuffed toys or other gifts. Alternatively create a heart shape with the flowers. It’s so simple, so inexpensive but it will make both you and your significant other feel very special.

rose petals

Handmade gifts

You want to spoil your Valentine’s date with some gifts, but lack the funds? Try a DIY project or vamp up a in-expensive item from a charity shop. Avoid buying cheap items from shops like Poundland, it’s going to make a better impression if you spend some time creating something by yourself. This way your other half will get a unique gift which will have much more meaning than mass produced gifts, even if they are more pricey. Some of our favourites are: picture scrapbooks, baked goodies in handmade boxes, paper flowers and scented soaps.

Hand-made giftYou could even organise a drinks and crafts night where you can both have some fun trying out new DIY projects. These could include: painting, sewing, ceramics, your only limitation is your imagination. For extra points, make it heart shaped!

Cards

Hobbycaft has card making sets which you can purchase if you want your card to have a more personal touch. Paperchase also has some great offers for Valentine’s with objects that could complete your decorations including balloons and confetti. Handmade presents with love are one of the best valentine’s day gifts.

Hike

This is a perfect way to celebrate V-Day for a sporty and active couple and it doesn’t have to cost you anything! Pick a spot with a lot of beautiful views which you can admire together. If the weather permits it, you could even have a picnic once you get to your destination.

Hike

Treasure Hunt

This Valentine’s Day idea is for the adventurous ones out there and it will take some preparations, however the outcome is movie like. Your aim is to create a treasure hunt where your loved one has to follow clues and solve riddles to finally get to the designated destination where you have prepared a surprise.

What you’ll need:

  • Cards
  • Envelops
  • Sellotape
  • Task ideas
  • Riddles
  • Final destination/ surprise

All you have to do is write a few clues or tasks they have to perform in order to get to the final destination. Lots of fun is guaranteed and an unforgettable experience. A+ for effort and barely any impact on the wallet.

Couple

Spa Night At Home

Giving your loved one a massage doesn’t sound like a bad idea, especially if it doesn’t cost you any money and you get to see the smile on their face. We guarantee it’ll be a cheap valentine’s day for you.

Spa

Free Events

Look for free events in your area or even plan a day trip close by attend some free activities. You could go for a stroll in the park, on the beach, visit museums or craft stores. Here are some examples of free events you might want to check out:

It isn’t the epitome of  romance to be thinking of your bank balance when you are celebrating Valentine’s Day with your loved one, but lets be practical! It’s very likely that your partner wouldn’t want you to over-spend during this occasion, so there’s no shame in keeping it low-cost. Hopefully our V-Day ideas showed you that low-cost doesn’t necessary mean low-key or low-effort and they definitely won’t break the bank!  

Pig Year

It’s The Year Of The Pig, Find Out Your Fortune

Were you born in 1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983 or 1995? This means your Chinese zodiac sign is the Pig and 2019 is your year! Keep reading to find out all you need to know about your fortune,  what brings you good and bad luck according to your zodiac animal as well as how to celebrate the New Lunar Year.

Chinese New Year Celebrations

Since its foundation over 3,800 years ago, Chinese New Year also known as the spring festival has grown in importance and popularity in China as well as across the globe. It’s a grand celebration that starts on the first day of the lunar calendar (this year it’s on the 5th of January). 

Food

The “Reunion Dinner” which is the New Year’s Eve feast known as (年夜饭- Nián yèfàn) is one of the most important traditions in celebrating the new year. It originates from the myth of the monster Nian which terrorized villages and forced people to hide in their homes preparing elaborate meals to appease the gods and their ancestors. Therefore, a lot of pride and care goes into preparing the food for these festivities. Here are some of the most common items you’ll find on the table:

Spring rolls

Spring rolls

Dumplings

Dumplings

Noodles

Noodles

Steamed Fish and Meat

Chinese food

Activities

Chinese New Year activities can be divided into two sections: the private and the public.

Private

Private celebrations include: putting up new year decorations, family feasting, firecrackers and fireworks, exchanging gifts and red envelopes. These envelopes usually contain money and are the symbol of good luck.

Public

In the public domain you can experience: street parades and performances, including the dragon and lion dance. There are plenty of little stores set up during this period that offer traditional foods and beverages. It’s a public holiday including many lanterns and lucky colours decorating the streets.

Lion Dance

Outfits

New year, new clothes! The festival is a time of change and new beginnings and it’s a Chinese tradition to remove the old and embrace the new.  Furthermore, new clothes can protect you from evil spirits and bring you good fortune.

The good news is you can wear anything you like, there are no special requirements. However, if you want to wear something more stereotypical opt-in for a Qing dynasty outfit, like a Tang suit or a Qipao.

Chinese outfit Pig’s Personality

If you were born in the year of the pig as you animal sign, you are most likely a diligent, compassionate, and generous person. Your strong points are: great concentration, helpfulness and independence. However people with this zodiac sign are less likely to suspect trickery and are easily fooled.

Generally speaking pigs are realistic, calm people who enjoy entertainment. Despite being a little materialistic they work hard for what they purchase and they don’t have tendencies to over-spend.

Chinese pig

Lucky

Things that bring pigs luck:

  • Colours: yellow, gray, brown
  • Numbers: 2,5,8
  • Flowers: hydragea, daisy
  • Mineral: agate

Unlucky

Unlucky things for pigs:

  • Colours: red, blue green
  • Numbers: 1,7,9
  • Directions: southeast
  • Months: 4th, 9th, 12th (Chinese lunar months)

Lunar year

Professions For Pigs

Charity work as well as fundraising is the perfect profession for a pig who is calm, seeks harmony and compromise. People born on this year are gentle, patient and understanding, that’s why they make great teachers and coaches. However, 2019 isn’t the optimal year to be changing carers if you’re a pig.

Pigs will have a small setback in their professional life this year. Everything will improve once you gain motion. For entrepreneurs, it’s a good year to develop their businesses. The last months of 2019 are the best time for pigs to achieve their goals.

If you were born in the year of the pig, you will experience a good financial year. Pigs will do well in their investments and can expect some great rewards.

Romance

2019 is a lucky year for male pigs in their relationships. Female pigs on the other hand will find it harder to find a suitable partner and should not be surprised if they experience a lack of progress in that department.  The best matches for pigs are: Goat, Tiger, Rabbit. These zodiac signs are the most compatible with pigs as they can easily form a deep connection and appreciate the pig’s qualities. For pigs who are already in a relationship it is important to focus on communicating their desires to their partners.

This year will be perfect to find out what you are looking for in a partner if you are a pig. The lack of drama in the relationship this year will give you the opportunity to focus on your friends and making new connections.

New Year

The year of one’s zodiac sign is their 本命年 (ben ming nian). It is a special year for their sign with both ups and downs. If you were born in the year of the pig you will have the opportunity to consult some reoccurring problems this year and perhaps finally find a solution. In order to bring as much good luck as possible to your year, it’s a good idea to attend happy events such as weddings or family gatherings.

 

 

Check Out These Hacks To Stay Warm This Winter!

Heavy snow has been a regular occurance in the UK in the last few years , causing its usual disruption to commuters and services. Temperatures in the UK fall to near freezing, leaving many people suffering from the cold in and outside of their homes.

While some of us might be tempted to have the heating on all day to stave off the cold, many of us would rather refrain from taking out quick small loans to afford the prospect of higher energy bills.

While it is still extremely cold- here are our tips and tricks to keep warm in these sub-zero temperatures!

Wear Layers

This may seem obvious but the more layers you have, the warmer you will be. There’s no shame in looking like the Michelin Man  to keep you body temperature at a good level.

Use electric blankets and throws to keep the cold air at bay, wrap them around you when the temperature drops. Pets are walking radiators, if you’re a pet lover grab your cats, dogs, hamsters, rabbits and other furry friends and give them a hug— their body heat will help keep you toasty.

You may not know this, but you have been using a hot water bottle wrong your whole life. Most people hold a hot water bottle close to their chest or stomach but according to research, to feel the full effects of it you need to grip the bottle in between your thighs. This is because it heats the blood located in your major femoral arteries which then circulate around the body.

Stop The Heat Escaping

Stop the cold weather coming into your home by plugging the gaps under doors and older windows. Wrap a large cardboard sheet with regular tinfoil and sticking it behind the radiator will reflect the heat back into the room. If you don’t fancy get crafty, you can also buy them. 

Stop the cold weather coming into your home by plugging the gaps under doors and older windows with draught. You can buy draught excluders, but you could also make them by filling a pair of tights with rolled up socks or old towels and clothes .

Try to close off the rooms in your house that you’re not using, the smaller the space the easier it is to get the room temperature to a comfortable degree.

When the sun is (rarely) out, make sure you open the curtains to let the light through. When its gone or set, draw them again so the heat can’t escape. You can even get thermal curtains!

Make the most of the heat

When you take a hot shower, leave the door open to allow the warm air travel through your house, making it nice and warm. A word of warning, don’t do this too often as you will make the walls damp and thus prone to mould! Perhaps avoid this one if you have a house share.

A better option is leaving the oven door open once you’ve finished cooking dinner, this air is dry so it won’t make your walls wet and is another way of heating up your home without spending more money on heating.

You can do the same with your oven, once you’ve finished making something, leave the door open to allow the generated heat to fill the kitchen.

Get Cheaper Heating Bills

The most efficient way to keep your home warm is to consistently keep it at the same temperature, which means leaving your heating on. This could obviously incur huge bills, which is not ideal.

If you do need the added warmth from your radiators and heaters then the best thing to do is ensure that you are getting the best energy deal. Use comparison sites like Compare The Market and consumer finance sites like  Money Saving Expert’s Cheap Energy Club to help you find the best deal.  You could save hundreds of pounds a year just by switching your utility provider!

By switching your heating bills you could save yourself money on your monthly utility bills, meaning you may not need to apply for short term  loans to help you with your monthly finances. If you do have an unexpected circumstance, you can apply for a quick cash loans with PiggyBank.

You Don’t Need To Travel Far For A Winter Break!

For many people the idea of a winter break abroad is an absolute dream. When the temperature drops in the UK and the possibility of snow turns into the threat or rain and sleet instead, it is a nice idea to get away to somewhere warmer for a short break. You might worry that it isn’t always practical financially to book a holiday abroad at any time of year, but in the run up to Christmas and into January and February there are some fantastic deals on offer that can get you some of that much needed Winter sun.

 

In recent years there has been an increase in budget holiday providers and with the way we can all access different aspects of a holiday with ease, without having to rely on a travel agent to book the entire package of travel and hotel in one purchase, we now have more control over the holiday chosen. Budget airlines provide routes to many different parts of Europe at a good price that suits many different types of budgets, and with Air BnB and other online accommodation providers it is easy to find a suitable apartment, hotel or hostel to suit our needs and budgets when booking a winter holiday.


Now you know how to book a winter holiday without spending a fortune, where should you travel? Let’s take a look at a few attractive, and budget-friendly winter city breaks in Europe.

 

Barcelona

One of the most attractive and popular destinations in the World, the Catalan capital of Barcelona really does offer something for everyone. The mild winter climate makes it a tourist hotspot year-round, but during the winter months you can pick up a bargain in terms of travel and accommodation. In Barcelona you can visit the Camp Nou and witness the majesty of the footballing behemoth of FC Barcelona. Look around and experience the Gaudi architecture throughout the city, take in fantastic views from the top of Park Guell, or ride the cable cars down to the beach and seaside. The Gothic quarter provides the dark and welcoming cobbled backstreets to experience friendly-vibes and wonderful tapas.

Lisbon

Compared with other European capital cities Lisbon is affordable, with great food (buy as many Pastéis de Nata as you can!), beautiful architecture and an exciting nightlife. It has a laid-back vibe that offers a relaxed short city-break and is mild during the winter months. With the waterfront, the largest indoor aquarium in Europe, two large football clubs and a whole host of other attractions, Lisbon is a city to wander around in, get lost on the cobbled streets and make new friends.

 

Prague

Prague offers that scenic winter wonderland, a fairy tale romantic notion of a city. With the magical cobbled streets and extravagant squares, to the Baroque palaces, Prague offers something for everyone. The Old Town is beautiful and has a wide range of designer shops, art galleries and local cuisine, and during the winter months it is perfectly achievable to book a fantastically priced apartment or hotel.

Athens

The birthplace of democracy, Athens provides a mild winter getaway with as much history as you are likely to see anywhere else in the world. The streets are filled with historical artefacts and archaeological sites of interest, with the iconic Acropolis the centrepiece of the city that can be viewed from miles away. The people of Athens are very friendly, with art and music in the squares and side streets, the prices are reasonable and the food incredible.

 

As you can see, there are plenty of enticing, affordable options for winter city breaks on a budget in Europe. Make sure you have a wonderful wintertime, wherever you choose to visit.