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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Kitchen Culture in the UK*

You should know by now that I love to bake, and more recently I’ve got back in to cooking. When I had my brief spell in my own flat the kitchen was by far the best equipped room in the house and whilst looking to move out again in the future it’s always the kitchen gadget section of any shop that draws me in first.

Today I’m bring you some interesting insights in to the UK’s kitchen culture thanks to five-star acrylic sheet supplier The Plastic People who create kitchen splashbacks to add a stylish touch to any cooking area.

From the most purchased kitchen items through to a look at the country’s cooking habits I thought this made for an interesting weekend read.

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According to research carried out by Mintel sales of small kitchen appliances have increased by 41% between the years 2011 to 2015 (from £635 million to £897 million for those who were wondering). Sales of food preparation gadgets increased by 145% in the same time frame and hot drinks appliances such as coffee machines increased by a not too shabby 89%.

The same piece of research has also revealed that in 2015 42% of Brits purchased a kettle (guilty), 30% bought a toaster (also guilty), 15% of Brits bought a sandwich maker or grilling machine, 13% of Brits bought a smoothie maker or juicer (yep), 13% also bought a coffee capsule or pod drinks maker and 11% bought a filter coffee machine- that’s a lot of gadgets!

When it comes to upgrading appliances the following is the frequency of upgraded appliance types in the kitchen from homeowners who either renovated their kitchen in the 12 months prior to the release of the 2017 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study — UK, are currently renovating their kitchen, or who are looking to do so over the three months after the release of the research:
Dishwasher(s) – 82 per cent.
Fridge/freezer – 78 per cent.
Extractor fan – 77 per cent.
Hob(s) – 75 per cent.
Wall oven(s) – 56 per cent.
Microwave – 53 per cent.

This same study also revealed that stainless steel was the most popular colour when upgrading appliances (47 per cent opted for this), followed by black (22 per cent) and then white (10 per cent).

The 2017 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study — UK delved into the following details about how and why Brits are going about upgrading their kitchens:
The frequency of increasing kitchen sizes sat at 63 per cent in the 12 months prior to the release of the research, for those currently renovating their kitchens and for those planning to renovate the space over the three months after the release of the research.
The most popular events that triggered Brits to update their kitchen were:

42% were recently purchased homes and owners wanted to make their kitchen their own.
32% had wanted to update their kitchen all along and finally had the means to do so.
30% could no longer stand their old kitchen.
26% acknowledged that their old kitchen had either deteriorated, broken down or became unsafe.
14% were adapting to family and lifestyle changes.

Again making use of the 2017 Houzz Kitchen Trends Study — UK the top kitchen storage solutions that homeowners opted for were:

77% added a cutlery organiser
61% updated their kitchen with deep drawer organisers.
51% added pull-out waste or recycling cabinets.
41% cent updated their kitchen with a corner carousel.
39% updated their kitchen with a pot and pan organiser.
36% included pull-out trays and/or shelves.

I’m a bit of a kitchen storage freak and love the kitchen at my parents’ house as it has so many nifty storage solutions! #KitchenGoals

According to the Houzz study the reasons why homeowners looked into new storage solutions for their kitchen are as follows:
79% were motivated as they wanted to make better use of the space.
57% wanted to reduce clutter.
55% wanted to make it easier to find items in their kitchens.
36% were motivated as they wanted to utilise awkward spaces
21% wanted to make it easier to cook and bake in their kitchens.

Again referring to the Houzz study we can see that modifications to the kitchen can have a significant impact on how people are utilising the room. Interestingly…
69% spend more family time in their kitchen.
56% now find themselves working and/or studying for longer in their kitchen.
51% are hosting more dinner parties/other forms of entertaining guest in their home.
49% are baking more
43% now cook or prepare more meals at home.
42% now have more sit-down meals.
36% of people reported that tehy now order less takeaways.
23% now eat more fruits and/or vegetables.

I hope you find this post as interesting as I did, as I’ve mentioned I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to kitchens and I cannot wait for the day where I own my own home (I can dream right?) and have free reign over the design of my kitchen. My parents had theirs done just over a year ago and the difference it has made is incredible- even my Mum is cooking more which kind of says a lot really!

Tell me about your kitchens…

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How to Arrange a Record Breaking Wedding*

Wedding season is just about to kick off and whilst I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever find someone crazy enough to want to marry me I know plenty of people are in the throes of arranging their big day. If you’re a bride to be and looking to make an impression Wyboston Lakes, home to remarkable wedding venues in Bedfordshire has created this list of record-breaking wedding feats so that you can get inspiration to make your big day unlike anything seen before.

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The largest wedding banquet or reception

Record holder: Former Tamil Nadu chief minister and movie star Jayalalitha Jayaram.
Date and location: September 7th 1995 in Madras, India.
The feat: Over 150,000 guests attended the wedding banquet/reception which Jayalalitha Jayaram hosted for her foster son’s wedding.

The oldest person to conduct a wedding ceremony

Record holder: UK reverend William Noel Tavernor.
Date and location: August 15th 2015 in Bettws-y-Crwyn, Wales.
The feat: William Noel Tavernor was 98 years and 227 days when he conducted the wedding ceremony of his grandson Jack Thomas Tavernor and Rebecca Jane Floate.

The most expensive wedding dress

Record holder: Martin Katz Jewellers and bridal couture designer Renee Strauss.
Date and location: February 26th 2006 at the Luxury Brands Lifestyle Bridal Show.
The feat: Martin Katz Jewellers and bridal couture designer Renee Strauss’ dress was priced at $12 million and featured 150 carats’ worth of diamonds.

The most crystals on a wedding dress
Record holder: Özden Gelinlik Moda Tasarim Ltd of Turkey.
Date and location: January 29th 2011, where it was presented at the Forum Istanbul Shopping Mall.
The feat: Özden Gelinlik Moda Tasarim Ltd of Turkey’s wedding dress featured 45,024 crystals.The most pearls on a wedding dress

Record holder: Yumi Katsura of Japan.
Date and location: February 21st 2012, where it was presented at the 2012 Yumi Katsura Grand Collection event in Bunkyo, Tokyo.
The feat: Yumi Katsura of Japan’s dress featured 13,262 pearls — all of which were genuine Akoya cultured pearls.

The longest wedding veil
Record holder: Vivian Shun-Wen Cheng of Taiwan.
Date and location: December 10th 2016 at Papago International Resort in Chihshang, Taitung County, Chinese Taipei.
The feat: Vivian Shun-Wen Cheng’s wedding veil measured in at 6,072.23 metres long and took three people over three months to make by hand. It was a gift from the bride’s father.

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The longest wedding dress train

Record holder: Shililanshan of China.
Date and location: August 20th 2015 at a ceremony in Xiamen, Fujian, China.
The feat: A wedding dress train measuring in at 2,599 metres long was worn to the ceremony, with the design inspired by a sea of flowers in Shililanshan.

The largest wedding bouquet

Record holder: Christa Rasanayagam. 
Date and location: September 6th 2003 in the Canadian city of Ontario.
The feat: When Christa Rasanayagam married Arulanantham Suresh Joachim, the bride held a wedding bouquet measuring 60.09 metres long and weighing 92kg. It was made up of 1,500 flowers divided into 500 roses, 400 carnations, 340 baby breaths, 200 daisies and 60 lilies. An array of bear grass, Italian Ruches and Ontario Cedar completed the bouquet.

The most bridal bouquets caught

Record holder: Jamie Jackson of America.
Date and location: Between June 15th 1996 and April 30th 2016 at various locations.
The feat: Jamie has caught 50 bridal bouquets when attending various weddings of friends and family. It has made her a local celebrity in her home state of Utah and earned her the nickname “The Bouquet Slayer”.

The most bridesmaids to one bride

Record holder: Tina Ackles of America.
Date and location: April 18th 2015 in the US state of Florida.
The feat: Tina was accompanied by 168 bridesmaids when she tied the knot.

The largest wedding cake

Record holder: Chefs at the Mohegan Sun Hotel and Casino.
Date and location: February 8th 2004 for the New England bridal showcase at the Mohegan Sun Hotel and Casino, in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA.
The feat: The cake weighed in at 6,818 tonnes.

The first zero gravity wedding
Record holder: Erin Finnegan and Noah Fulmor of America.
Date and location: June 23rd 2009 aboard a modified Boeing 727-200.
The feat: By tying the knot aboard a Boeing 727-200, Erin and Noah was credited with having the first zero gravity wedding.
The deepest underwater wedding

Record holder: Hiroyuki Yoshida of Japan and Sandra Smith of the USA.
Date and location: September 30th 2013 at Song Hong Lake, in Trang, Thailand.
The feat: Hiroyuki Yoshida married Sandra Smith at a ceremony which took place 130 metres below sea level.

The largest underwater wedding

Record holder: Polish couple Ewa Staronska and Pawel Burkowski.
Date and location: August 27th 2011 at the Koparki Diving Base, in Jaworzno, Poland.
The feat: Organised by Orka Group Ltd, the marriage of Ewa to Pawel saw 303 divers present for the ceremony. Communication came in the form of waterproof texts and sign language.

The largest motorcycle wedding procession

Record holder: Peter Schmidl and Anna Turceková.
Date and location: May 6th 2000 in Bratislava, Slovakia.
The feat: When Peter married Anna, the pair enjoyed a wedding procession of 597 motorcycles.

(source for records)

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Baking- Mini Egg Cookie Bars

I have fond childhood memories of eating mini-eggs around Easter time, they were definitely a favourite and whilst these days I’m not such a fan [the recipe changed last year and I don’t care what anyone says, I can tell the difference!] my best friend still loves them, and I love my best friend so when I saw a recipe for Mini Egg cookie bars I decided to treat her.

I’m not going to post the actual recipe for it is not mine to post, instead I’ll direct you to it’s creator- the frankly genius Jane of Jane’s Patisserie [recipe link]. This woman’s blog has some of the best recipes I’ve seen and it’s an endless source of baking inspiration for me. I’ve made a few of her recipes now including the chocolate orange cookies and each and every thing turns out perfectly each time.

Anyway, I thought I’d share some pictures of the Mini Egg cookie bars as when I posted them on social media people went crazy for them- my best friend went on to declare them the “best cookies ever” which is high praise indeed and they really are so simple to make, perfect for any Easter themed gatherings you might be going to [even if that gathering just happens to be you and a pot of tea].
The basic recipe would lend itself beautifully to pretty much any chocolate addition and I’m tempted to give it a go with Rolos sometime for a soft and gooey caramel experience. I’ll definitely be making the Mini Egg version at least once more in the run up to Easter though and will be keeping a close eye on Jane’s blog for any other Easter themed bakes she comes up with- these Creme Egg cupcakes look amazing!
Have you got any Easter baking planned? Which are your favourite baking blogs to visit?

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