Little Ways I Manage my Money*

I’ve always been pretty good at managing my money (thanks for that skill Dad!) so although I’ve been off from work for almost a year I’ve managed to cope without running up heaps of debt. Obviously this in part is due to moving back home to my parents following the end of my relationship- there’s no way I could have kept the flat on myself, or moved in to another no matter how much I loved it. I’ve always been very fortunate that financial help from my family has been available to me. But it would have been all too easy to bury my head in the sand and continue spending like I was on a full time wage. As it stands I’ve still managed to build up a modest amount of savings whilst still living a life so I thought that today I’d share some of the little ways in which I manage my money.


1.: Alongside my main current account I have several other accounts that have all been given a specific role. One of these is for buying gifts, another is to fund a social life and another is my savings. Whenever I find myself with a bit of extra cash- any income generated from my blog for example the first thing I do is divide it up- a portion gets put away for end of year tax return (so I’m not left having to find a big chunk of money), and I also add a bit to each of these accounts so I’m constantly building up resources so I can accept a coffee invitation or pick up a birthday present without needing to dip in to my current account funds.
2.: For my day to day spending I use cash, my debit card rarely gets used in a shop. It’s far easier to face up to an empty purse than it is to keep a regular eye on your bank account and once my weekly “allowance” is gone it’s gone and I have to put serious thought in to whether I withdraw a bit extra to tide me over. If I don’t carry cash it because far too easy to fall in to the “oh I’ll just pay for that diet coke and magazine on my card” mindset- a quick swipe of the plastic doesn’t feel like spending money and it quickly adds up.
3.: Every pay day I put aside a certain amount of cash for shopping trips- usually £50 per month and this pays for my bi-monthly shopping trip with mum and funds a few purchases in Monki along the way. I find that by doing this I a) have something to look forward to and b) don’t tend to buy clothes outside of these trips because I know the next one isn’t too far away.
4.: If I do want something outside of these shopping trips I try and sell something on e-Bay first to fund it. This has the added bonus of a “one in, one out” effect on my wardrobe and makes me address my hoarding tendencies!
5.: I like to treat myself as much as the next person but before making a purchase I do force myself to think long and hard about whether I really want/need it or if I’m just caught up in an “ooh, shiny” moment. As I’m fortunate enough to make some money through my blog I tend to use what I haven’t filtered off in to my bank accounts to fund these purchases and often find that by the time I’ve amassed enough to make a purchase I’ve realised that it was more of a whim and stopped myself from making an impulse buy of something I’d later regret.
It might sound pretty boring and rigid but I’m convinced that this is what has helped me through the last year and being forced to be more mindful of my money means that when I am back earning my full wage through work (first day back today, woo!) I’m fairly confident that although I’ll be feeling flush I’ll make sensible decisions and focus on re-building my savings rather than splurging as soon as it hits my account. Of course I won’t deny myself and there will be treats along the way but with wanting to move out again as soon as my health and finances allow I have more reason to save than ever.

Although I’ve managed to keep myself afloat it’s good to know that had it have been needed a short term loan from a reputable company such as Cash Lady would have been a short-term solution. I’m not suggesting, or advocating this kind of loan as any kind of solution, but in an emergency it’s reassuring to know that there is a regulated website out there to bridge the gap.

I’d love to know the little ways in which you manage your money, or if any of my habits have helped…leave it all in the comments below!


Driving Theory Test FAQ*

I’m currently getting myself geared up [pun only slightly un-intentional] to sit my driving theory test for the third time. Annoyingly it’s not because I’ve already failed twice- quite the opposite as I sailed through both previous tests with flying colours. I sat the first test when I was 17 but after five disastrous practical driving tests threw the towel in for 10 years and by the time I picked up my driving again my theory had long since expired. I sat it for the second time just over two years ago at the same time as booking more lessons. Two more failed practical tests later and a decline in my mental and physical health saw me take another break and now I’m ready to pick things up again I realised that rather than having five years before the theory expires it’s actually only two…so yep, time to get practising that hazard perception again! For anyone else looking to sit their theory test (be it for the first, or third time) here are some answers to frequently asked questions in association with Pass ‘N’ Go – if your question isn’t answered in this post then do feel free to drop them a line yourself.


Booking your theory test

How much does a theory test cost?
A car theory test costs £23. If you have a Safe Road User Award you can sit an abridged version which costs £18.

Can I book multiple theory tests?
In a word, no. You must rebook your theory test if you fail it the first time and this must be booked at least three working days ahead of the resit date.
You also have the option to change your booking in the following ways:
You can find an earlier date for your theory test.
You can move your theory test to a later date.
You can change the test centre where you would like to sit your theory test.

Can a theory test be done online?
No, it must be taken at a theory test centre
There are free mock tests of the multiple choice portion of the theory test on the GOV.UK site. This consists of 50 questions — the same number that will be provided in the actual driving theory test.
There’s also The Official DVSA Guide to Hazard Perception DVD-ROM for learner drivers to get to grips with hazard perception skills on their PC or Mac- I can’t emphasise enough how beneficial this is in order to prepare for your test- hazard perception is where most people end up failing.

What age can I sit a theory test?
You can sit the test as soon as you turn 17 years old.
If you receive or have applied for the enhanced rate of the mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) you can sit the theory test as soon as you turn 16 years old.

Theory test centres

Do theory test questions change?
The questions will change from one test to the next. However all of the questions are based on the following three books which make useful revision tools:
The Highway Code by the Department for Transport
Know Your Traffic Signs by the Department for Transport
The Official DVSA Guide to Driving — The Essential Skills by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency

How do theory tests work?
Each theory test consists of the following sections:
A set of 50 multiple-choice questions, some of which will be presented in a case study whereby a short story is shown and then five questions will be given based on this. A real-life situation that you could come across while driving will be detailed.
A hazard perception test consisting of 14 separate video clips.
At the end of the test you must score at least 43 out of 50 for the multiple-choice questions and 44 out of a possible 75 points for the hazard perception test and you must pass both sections of the test.

How long do theory tests take?
You have a maximum of 57 minutes to get through the 50 multiple-choice questions. Additional time can be requested if you have reading difficulties- see website for details.
Up to three minutes can be taken as a break between the multiple-choice portion of the test and the hazard perception test. There is no time limit as such for this part as this is based on how long it takes for all 14 video clips to be shown.

The hazard perception part of the theory test
This is probably the part most people have questions about!

What are hazard perception tests?
The hazard perception test is a video assessment which tests your effectiveness at spotting hazards on the road through a series of 14 video clips.

Each video clip consists of the following:
Everyday road scenes.
At least one ‘developing hazard’ — this is something that would cause a driver to take an action such as changing their speed or direction — though one clip will feature two developing hazards. Points are scored if you spot the developing hazards as soon as they begin to occur.

What is the hazard perception pass score?
You need to score at least 44 points out of a possible 75.

How does the hazard perception test scoring system work?
Each developing hazard within the hazard perception test earn up to five points. The sooner you click your computer mouse to indicate that you’ve seen the hazard is starting to develop the higher the score you will be.
Take note that you can’t lose points if you click your computer mouse and get the timing of the hazard developing wrong. However it’s important to note that no points will be scored for a developing hazard if you click your computer mouse continuously or in a manner that is seen as a pattern.

Once you’ve passed a theory test
Do theory tests expire?
As I found out, yes they do! When you pass your theory test you will receive a letter that contains your pass certificate number. This number is needed when you book and take your practical driving test but it only lasts for two years from the date you pass. Failing to pass your driving test within those two years and you will be required to pass your theory test again.

Where is the theory test pass certificate number?
The theory test pass certificate number will be recorded within a letter that you will receive at the test centre as soon as you pass your theory test. You must keep this number safe as it is required in order for you to both book and take your driving test.

I really hope you found this post helpful if you’re yet to sit your driving theory test. If you have any further questions, funny stories about driving tests or some hints and tips of your own then please do leave them in the comments!


Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2017

Tomorrow marks the start of Eating Disorders Awareness Week 2017 which is run by the UK’s Eating Disorders charity Beat. I’ve never really written about the event before and I can’t quite explain why I feel so compelled to do so now- it could be that as I approach 30 the realisation that I have now spent half of my life living with an eating disorder, or it could be that I feel especially strongly about this years campaign on early intervention. Either way this is a post that has been on my mind for quite some time, with no clear direction on how I want to write it, so please bear with me as I muddle through.
As I mentioned above my eating disorder started when I was 15 years old, however it took a good two years (perhaps longer) before I was diagnosed by which time the illness and it’s deep rooted beliefs were well entrenched. Sadly the main obstacle my desperately worried family came up against was getting medical professionals to take us seriously, you see, I went from a very overweight teenager to one who was only just on the low end of the healthy BMI scale and as such nobody saw it as a problem. It didn’t matter that I’d lost 5 stone in four months. That my food intake was minimal and I was exercising compulsively. It also didn’t seem to matter that I was becoming more and more depressed and withdrawn. I somehow managed to pass my GCSEs but never did get to even sit my A-levels. I went on to develop severe bulimia which resulted in my first inpatient admission aged 19- but because throughout all of this I barely fell in to the “underweight” category getting help and support was an up-hill battle. My underweight years didn’t start until I was in my twenties and even then were extreme before I could access the help I so badly needed. Waiting lists and lack of funding mean often it takes a patient being at a catastrophically low weight before they can get an inpatient bed, or they become seriously medically compromised whilst waiting. People have and still do die waiting and this needs to stop.
Accepting that you have a problem is hard enough and making those first steps to seek help and support is one of the most difficult steps you will take and yet I still hear about people being turned away because they don’t present as “typically” unwell. Just because someone isn’t emaciated doesn’t mean they aren’t at serious risk both mentally and physically. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness- there are the physical risks such as heart failure, osteoporosis, the damage to organs and teeth. There’s also the high rate of death by suicide. Any of these risks can and will strike at any weight and at any time- I’ve lost far too many friends this way and I fear that as time passes I will lose more.

This year Beat are campaigning for increased awareness of the importance of early intervention and it’s a cause I can and will strongly get behind. I’ve pulled a couple of infographics from their website to show you, in simple terms just what a difference it can make.

If you want to read more about the importance of early intervention then please do visit the Beat page all about it as I would be here long after the week has ended trying to write about it myself.

A major part of what Beat are looking to achieve with this year’s campaign is increased support and training for GPs and this is something that I think is 100% vital. I have struck gold with my own GP, I can honestly say that I would not be alive without her care and support- she has gone above and beyond for me time and time again and I wish everyone could have a GP like her. Likewise the GPs I work with are all wonderful when dealing with these things but I appreciate that this isn’t the case everywhere or for everyone. By increasing the support and training available to GPs the delays in getting treatment can be greatly reduced and patients on the (what can feel never-ending) waiting lists for specialist treatment can get the immediate care that can really help tip the balance between full recovery or becoming trapped in the recovery/relapse cycle.

If you are struggling with your relationship with food and your body, or if you notice worrying changes in someone you are close to then please do seek help sooner rather than later. It will probably be one of the hardest and scariest steps you take in getting better but the sooner you can get in to the system the higher the chance of full recovery is.

For more advice on what signs and symptoms to look out for, how to seek help, or on how to support a family member or friend then again I refer you to the Beat website which is a wealth of information and resources to make you feel less alone.

Over the course of the next 7 days there are a few ways in which you can help raise vital awareness and funds for Beat to support and enable their campaigns to get early intervention happening far more than it currently is. The easiest ways are to take part in to Sock it to Eating Disorders day on Friday (3rd March) or help spread the word by signing up to the thunderclap campaign on social media.

Again please do forgive me if this post is a bit all over the place or poorly written. It’s so hard to turn a cause you feel so strongly about in to a work of art (it’s not a subject that lends itself to flowing eloquently) but I hope that I’ve managed to get my message across. If we all pull together I really believe we can make a difference.

As for me, well, I’m getting there. I’m determined that this is the year I will defeat anorexia once and for all. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, indeed it still IS a rollercoaster ride but finally I can see a light at the end of the tunnel and for the first time perhaps ever I am starting to imagine a life that isn’t dominated by the food I eat or how much I weigh.


The Car Finance Calculators from Motorparks*

Top of my list of goals for next year (or which there are many because I have lost time to make up for) is to FINALLY pass my driving test. After seven attempts spread over almost 12 years I am determined that I only have to sit one more. The truth is I CAN drive, and drive well. The reality is that as soon as I’m in a test scenario my anxiety goes in to overdrive and gets the better of me, I’ve tried every suggestion under the sun to combat it and it hasn’t worked- on my last test I actually didn’t make it out of the car park!

Anyway, I digress. With passing my test will come the excitement of FINALLY buying a car. I don’t know much about the world of cars but what I have learnt from being chauffeured around by friends and family is that they cost a lot more than first meets the eye. It’s easy to overlook certain costs, things you don’t necessarily think about when caught up in the excitement of test drives and purchases. I’ve been playing around with the car finance calculator and motoring cost calculator from the folks at Motorparks.

The car finance calculator is there to help once you know what car it is you want to purchase…it takes interest rates, loan terms and deposit in to account and tells you what your monthly payment will be and how much you’ll pay for the car in total (don’t forget the interest adds up!)
The motoring cost calculator will walk you through how much your fuel is costing you per day. This was a real eye opener when Ben started driving as his mini guzzled fuel and he ended up trading in for a more economical vehicle after a while with dramatic savings.

The calculator will also help you keep tabs on general motoring costs- road tax, insurance, breakdown cover etc to show you how much your car is actually costing you per month. There are also plenty of tips and advice on how to get those costs down.

What costs surprised you most when you first started driving? Any tips for driving test nerves?


Buying the Correct Car Tyres Online*

I’ll preface this by saying that at first glance this might seem like an odd post for me to be sharing on the blog. However I’d beg to differ as it’s something I know that I’ll be referring to myself in the future (you know, when I eventually get round to passing a driving test) and therefore I’d like to think that some of my readers might benefit too. Road safety, specifically tyres is something I know very little about but I do know that it is of upmost importance once you own a set of wheels…

Justification over, let’s get on to it.


These days, modern consumers are more used than ever before to making their key purchases online. The internet offers a great deal of convenience for shoppers of all kinds and it is often a good deal cheaper to buy products too. This is because staffing and rental costs associated with traditional shops are often done away with. However there are still many of us who refuse to buy car tyres and parts for our vehicles from anything other than the local retailer. This means that we fail to shop around effectively and sometimes the outcome is that we pay through the nose for standard or even inferior products that the retailer wants to shift on. Instead of opting for what happens to be available when you have your tyres checked at the local garage take the time to look online to see what else is available.

One of the major advantages of shopping for car tyres online is that you can compare the premium brands side by side. Retailers of the bricks and mortar type will usually only stock one or two premium tyre brands with exclusive deals to sell their products only. By using the internet to shop for you car’s new tyres instead it becomes possible to view all of the major brands in one go. Manufacturers such as Bridgestone, Avon, Continental, Nankang, Kingstar and Yokohama – among others – will produce high quality tyres that last much longer than budget tyre brands. Crucially these will often be available with special offers or at reduced pricing from time to time but only from online retailers and tyre specialists.

Among the other advantages of shopping online for tyres is that nationwide tyre dealers can be sought out. This means that you can order your car tyres online from a reliable tyres dealer such as Point S, and then have them fitted professionally no matter where you happen to travel to. If you are driving from one side of the country to the other on business or for a break, then you can order your tyres at one trusted location and have them ready for you at your destination. Local retailers can rarely offer this sort of flexibility in terms of locations and of speed of delivery.

If you think that the increased choice of shopping around is for you but prefer the traditional method of ringing several mechanics and garages to see what tyres are in stock locally then so be it. However, you should bear in mind that an online search compared to one that is made by phone is commonly much more efficient at tracking down the best tyres for your car. All too often you can find a deal by phone but go on to check at other retailers. By the time you ring the best garage back your tyres could have been reserved by someone else or even fitted already. Conversely when you shop online and find your preferred tyres you are able to reserve them with a simple click of the mouse.