Managing the Costs for a Family of Four

From personal experience, the costs of living for a family of four can be a struggle at times. My partner Chris works a job which is salaried (and isn't the worst paid!) and although I don't go out to work in the traditional sense, I am registered as self employed with this blog and I do make money from it. The worst thing about this though, is that we know Chris's salary will be the same each month, but my income can vary massively.

Within the past year or two, we've found our outgoings increasing. Our eldest child, C, started his first year of school which meant we had to buy uniform items and I make him a packed lunch every day so we're always spending money on that. Chris also passed his driving test in May last year so we are now paying the monthly payments for a car as well as road tax and insurance. I am a non-driver so we have to factor in the costs for me travelling to the school to collect C each day as Chris works during pick up time.

We try our best to be as careful as we can with money. We keep a list of what payments come out of each bank account. We each pay half of our rent, Chris pays his car payments and mobile phone bill and I pay my own phone bill, TV licence and Netflix and NowTV monthly payments - we love a binge watch at the weekend and can't be without those! We have prepaid gas and electric meters which we just top up when needed so we do need to make sure that we have money for that set aside.

We very rarely splurge and treat ourselves, date nights are few and far between and although I have good intentions when it comes to food shopping, this is definitely where most of our money goes. I would love to be the type of person who can meal plan but it really isn't feasible in our house. C was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (I will write a new blog post about that soon) and part of that means that he tends to stick to eating the same foods (think; Birds' Eye chicken dippers, sweet potato smiley faces, potato waffles, sausages etc) so every evening I am making two separate dinners because he would point blank refuse to eat something that he wasn't familiar and comfortable with.

Obviously, things do happen which are out of your control and we had a nightmare situation like this recently where we had not one, but two massively, unexpected expenses. The first one was a strange ammonia smell in our kitchen which was eventually realised was coming from our fridge. With two young children in the house, our first thought was that we had to get rid of it and get a new one because after a quick internet search, we found that it was toxic. Within about four weeks, our tumble dryer started giving off a burning smell. We did the usual checks, it wasn't anything to do with the lint filter or trap, nor the base roller, exhaust hose or belt rollers. It ended up kicking the bucket too. After paying out for a new fridge, we really panicked about having to pay for this too. I know a tumble dryer isn't a necessary appliance but with work and school uniforms to wash and dry every evening, the fact that we have no outdoor area to dry clothes and the fact that it was coming into winter, we really couldn't be without one.

In my panicked state, I did brainstorm what we could do like try Zippa Loans, sell some of the many things that I have sitting around my house waiting to be listed on eBay or try to wrangle some quick paying sponsored posts but luckily, my dad came to the rescue and was able to lend us some money. Having something like that happen has definitely made us want to be more money savvy and think that we really need to open a savings account for costs like this.

(This is a sponsored post.)

A Guide to Distressing Your Own Denim

Wearing the same clothes day-in, day-out can get boring, so why not get creative and transform some of your old jeans into the hottest distressed denim loved by the likes of Rihanna and Kylie Jenner? It may sound complicated but maxi dresses retailer QUIZ is here to break it down into a step-by-step process.

Before you start
Before you start, you need to carry out some inital preparation. If you don't, you risk acting too hastily and potentially making a mistake that could ruin the overall look of your jeans.

Try on your clean, dry jeans and work out where you want to distress. Pockets, knees and the bum are the most popular parts to modify, as they are the areas of the jeans that naturally wear and tear. Use chalk to mark out where you want to distress.

Creating tears
Inside the jeans underneath where you plan on cutting, you'll need to place a magazine or thick piece of cardboard. This will prevent your knife from slicing both sides of the fabric.

Take a safety knife and carefully cut rips of varying sizes into the denim to create a natural-looking tear. Loosely aim to create a diamond shape using varying sized cuts.

Next, fray the tears you've just made. Along the edge of each cut, gently tease the horizontal white threads using a safety pin, being careful not to break them. Then, using tweezers, pluck out the vertical threads to leave just the white horizontal threads. Repeat this for each cut you have made.

Distressing the denim
At this point, you'll need a piece of sandpaper. Take the sandpaper and rub it across sections of your jeans. Doing so will create a natural-looking colour fade, perfect for adding the finishing touches to your distressed denim creation.

Consider patches
This next step is optional but adding patches to your denim is a great way to show off your individual fashion flair. Bright florals motifs are in vogue and practically leap off distressed denim to give you an eye-catching contrast of grunge and chic. If you want a subtle embellishment, why not go with lace? This is a classic feminine fabric that will dress up your modern distressed denim with retro charm for the ideal smart-casual look.

If patching your denim or distressing it altogether sounds like too much effort, you could head to QUIZ instead to shop their collection of ready-made ripped and patched jeans. However you do it, you definitely need some distressed denim in your wardrobe for the season ahead!

(This is a sponsored post.) 

Kids Spring/Summer 2018 Wardrobe Wishlist

With all the snow that we are currently getting, you'd be forgiven for thinking that we are in the middle of December and Christmas is around the corner. In reality, we're almost into Spring so it's the perfect time to start thinking about upgrading my children's wardrobes - if we start getting some better weather that is!

Spring/Summer is probably one of my favourite times to shop for as I just love the prints available - especially for girls. I'm a sucker for anything with a pineapple or watermelon whereas three year old E is obsessed with unicorns. I've been doing a little bit of window shopping for the upcoming season for both C and E and here are a few of my favourites!

Boys SS18 Wishlist

Even Spring and Summer months in Northern Ireland can be a bit chilly so I always make sure they have a cute little coat or jacket. River Island have some gorgeous boys coats and jackets in at the moment and this blue denim borg collar jacket would match everything plus the collar is detachable too!

I love a pair of chino shorts on C in the summer and I always opt for a beige or stone colour as it isn't too dark and keeps the outfit nice and light. These ones from Next are perfect.

I am a proper money saving type of mum so I love the t-shirt multipacks that I see in supermarkets each season. They are great value, plain so you can style them up however you want and I don't mind if he only wears them for a couple of months because I haven't paid a fortune for them. I love the colours of these four from Tu at Sainsburys - so summery!

I know C is five now and growing up before my eyes but I can't resist anything with a kiddie motif on it and Boden is always my go-to for this. How perfect for summer are these little shark plimsolls?

I always buy the children a new cap every summer and it's always from Sports Direct. They are an absolute bargain and I begrudge spending more than about £5 because we hardly get any sun!

Girls SS18 Wishlist

I find shopping for E much easier as there seems to be a lot more choice for girls. My first stop is always dresses because they are so simple to stick on on a summer's day before a fun day out. This broderie frill dress from River Island is so cute that I actually will cry if I don't manage to get it in E's size!

I absolutely love Disney so have no qualms in putting E in character items and I'm so glad that she shares the love too. The little Dalmatian appliqu├ęs on this Gap jacket are so understated and adorable.

E is a massive My Little Pony fan so my eyes lit up as soon as I saw these on Primark's website under New Arrivals. She would have tons of fun flipping the sequins to reveal either Twilight Sparkle or Rainbow Dash.

Every little girls needs a gorgeous pair of sandals for summer and oh how I love the pom poms on these Boden ones! I was even more won over when I spotted that the straps are metallic too.

Similarly to C, E needs a cap! She is obsessed with princesses and Ariel is her favourite at the moment.

Have you seen anything in the shops lately that I need to know about!? Let me know in the comments!

(This is a PR collaboration.) 

Three Easy Ways to Build Your Credit Score

When I left school I was 'book smart' but I wasn't prepared for life in the real world. I'll admit, my parents did a lot for me as a teen so when I moved out and began living with Chris, bills, expenses and all other "grown up" stuff hit me like a tonne of bricks. I've now been living away from my childhood home for eight years now, raising two children and I'd like to think that I'm doing a pretty decent job! The downside is that back then we were, and still are, privately renting a home but we obviously want to get on the property ladder as soon as we can. Although I had a job and had had a mobile phone on contract for a number of years, my credit score was neutral or average.

A credit score is a tool that most lenders use to determine whether or not you qualify for a particular loan, credit card or mortgage. For us, wanting to be able to get a mortgage is high on our list of things to do especially since having children. An average credit score isn't bad but the higher, the better as creditors will be reassured that you will repay your debts as agreed. Here are three things you can do that can help you build your credit score over a little bit of time but if you have bad credit you could still secure a loan if you are short on time and need it urgently!

1. Make sure you are on the electoral register
This may sound simple - too simple - but it really can affect it. If your name isn't on there, you will find it much harder to get credit. Plus, it's always good to be on there so that you can vote!

2. Pay bills on time 
Again, this might seem like an obvious one but if you have bills such as TV licence, phone and electric, ensure that you have the funds available to pay those bills straight away. My bills usually come out on the same date every month and I always account for them before spending. This is a great way to prove that you are capable of managing your own finances effectively.

3. Get a credit card
I know it may be hard to get a credit card in the first place, but if you shop around you may be able to find a company who will allow you to take one out - we managed to get ours from Vanquis. We use our credit card to pay for our grocery shopping even though we have the cash in our current account, then just transfer the money to pay off the credit card right away. Just be sure that you don't spend what you don't physically have and can always pay back your credit card.

Do you have any tips for building your credit score? I'd love to hear them!

(This is a collaborative post.) 
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