Monday, 30 June 2014

Making money go further: Tips from your mum

Many have heeded their Mum’s advice to be more frugal. Implementing the penny jar for loose change and cutting down to one takeaway coffee per week can make a big difference, but most mums are savvy enough to know many more tips to help make your money go further. These days there are a whole host of things you can try to get the most out of every pound that comes your way. That said, some of the tried and true money savers that worked for your Mum and her generation are still good to today, even in our fast-paced, technology-heavy world. The speed and mediums of information exchange may have changed, but the fundamental principles of good money management haven’t. Earn It, Save It, Invest It – this is the mantra of many mums, some of whom remain the most successful financial wizards in the world. For more information on how to get most out of your money you can also try the websites of wealth creation education organisations like Learn to Trade.

Here are a number of other tips that will help you spend less and invest more -

Cook at Home

That’s right, one of your mum’s top money saving tips is to spend less on eating out. Cook at home and invite friends to your place rather than going out. If everyone brings a course or a side dish, it can cost you very little to host – you may only have to make the main course. Try sticking to easy-to-freeze meals like pies and pastas with homemade sauces so you can reuse any leftovers easily, plus you can freeze it and thaw later in the week to use as a base for a soup or a great sauce for pizza. Vary your condiments and herbs and you can have a few lovely nights in for very little outlay. Work out how often you eat out, what you spend, and how much this might save you per month. Now think about that money doing something besides sitting in a savings account. Can it pay down some debt? Can it be added to an investment fund you’ve got going? How hard can you make your money work? The harder it works, the more return

Avoid Debt Like The Plague

You’re already ahead if you’re not carrying any personal debt, such as credit card debt, personal loans or store cards. Should you have any accumulated personal debt, cut your expenses to the bare minimum and make it a priority to clear that as quickly as you can. If you’re storing stuff you don’t need or want, see what you can sell it for on second hand sites like eBay or Gumtree. Look for savings on phone data plans and insurance – anywhere and everywhere you can find a spare pound makes a difference. You might even consider selling your car and taking public transport for a while. Put everything you can spare towards that debt until it’s gone. Move forward with a clear household budget that will help you steer clear of the debt treadmill in future.

Invest

Once you’ve paid off your debt, see if you can keep tithing a similar amount of money into an investment account. This is when all your careful money management really starts to be fun, as you can drive your money to work as hard as it can for you. Set some investment goals and track your progress. You’ll find taking a proactive interest in your money pays dividends.

In the end, most mums know that investing is all about making the money do the work. The more you save, the more money you have to invest. And you can take it a little easier if you’ve got your money doing a lot of the hard work.

But what about you, do you have a top tip for making your money go further? Don’t keep it a secret – share it in the Comments box below.





Thursday, 12 June 2014

JJ Reviews Minecraft Figures - Steve with Diamond Armour and Animal Mob 6 Pack

JJ was super excited to receive some Minecraft action figures last week.  Take a peek at his video review to see what he thought -



Disclosure: We were sent these 2 packs of Minecraft figures free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Review - Karcher WV60 Window Vac

As part of my duties as a Karcher Ambassador I was sent the WV60 window vac to review. I have to say that window cleaning is probably my least favourite of jobs and thus it often gets left. The external panes to my windows (even the downstairs ones which I can reach) I'm ashamed to say have never been cleaned since I moved into my house last August.

I do the insides but for some reason it always seems too much effort to do the outside and as we live in the middle of no-where there are no window cleaners that I can engage to do it, so they just remain dirty!  High time to put this right I feel!

Luckily Karcher sent me through their WV60 window vac, which has an RRP of £79.99 but I saw it for sale as low as £58.00 from ASDA direct.  For this price you receive the window vac, charger, 2 different length blades, spray bottle with special cleaning pad attachment and a sachet of cleaning fluid. Fully charged the window vac lasts for about 20 minutes and Karcher estimate it cleans 45 windows.  I have to be honest I can't imagine that I could do that many in the time!

The product was very easy to set up as you can see in my video and my 10 year old son JJ and I got to work on a mirror and window to see how the Karcher window vac worked out for us.



I definitely found that I got better as I went along, practise makes perfect.  My tips would be to not scrimp on the amount of water you use to wash the window and to pull the vac down in one swift and not too slow movement. Our windows were definitely of an acceptable standard afterwards, not every one was streak free, as you can see in the image below but I just re-did the odd one that I seemed to streak!



What we liked -

  • Very lightweight, at just 0.7kg it does not cause any issues holding it and using it for a long period of time
  • Really easy to set up and the blades go on and come off easily
  • The spray bottle with cleaning pad head is very nifty and you can take the pad off and put it in the washing machine
  • No drips or mess whilst you clean the windows
  • As it charges you don't have to be close to a plug socket. I'm looking forward to using this on my car windows
  • Picks up spills and removes water from shower screens and windows with condensation.  This will be so useful in the winter as with older windows we get lots of water on the panes and window sills
  • The water that collects in the reservoir is very easy to empty into the sink
  • You can buy an extension kit so you can do your upstairs windows easily too
Points to consider -
  • It is an investment product, the price of course has to be considered
  • It is yet another charge to store.  I do wish all products had a universal charger
  • In my opinion it works far better on large glass areas than on little panelled windows like mine


Disclosure:  I was provided with the window vac free of charge for the purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.


Monday, 2 June 2014

Review - Scotland Yard board game



As a child I recall a friends big brother having the Scotland Yard board game and we always wanted to play it but he used to tell us we were too young and it was not for girls, so I never got to play sadly.

I then don't recall seeing the game anywhere else for quite some years so you can imagine my glee when I was offered the Ravensburger re-released version just recently.  Would we like to review this?  Easy, yes please! JJ was super pleased when it arrived as he knows what Scotland Yard is and he is a little obsessed with cop and spy programs, he seems to be think he is a bit of a super sleuth.

He announced that he could not wait for me and he would start to unpack the game and read the instructions and get on with it himself.  I did of course advise him one person could not play this game alone so he roped in his 6 year old sister. Now this game is aimed at children of 10 years plus and whilst she is a bright little thing it was a bit hard as a first attempt with a bossy 10 year old trying to teach a bossy 6 year old!


Getting Ready
Getting the board and pieces ready for play was easy, all the transport tickets had to be popped out and they are a nice thick laminated cardboard so I think they will last well. The board itself is really up to date and has all the popular London landmarks like Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, the London Eye and even the Shard. It is probably the thickest and most durable board to a game I've ever seen. I'll certainly say that for Ravensburger they know how to produce something that will stand the tests of time.

The Instructions
For some reason you get two instruction booklets and it really was not clear to me why this is. The English text is buried at the back behind 5 other languages and even the main writing on the box is in German, which feels a bit odd when the game is being sold in England and is about our capital city.

You need to prepare yourself to take some time to read these and absorb. As someone is playing Mr X and then others are playing the detectives, there are two different sets of instructions to grasp, so this is not a game you can pick up in 5 minutes.

Objective of the game
Notorious criminal Mr X is on the run in Central London. Can Scotland Yard’s finest detectives track him down, or will he escape forever? One player takes on the role of Mr X, whilst other players take on the role of detectives and work as a team to try to find him. Mr X only reveals his location every 5 moves, but the detectives can get clues as to his location by looking at his travel log, which reveals his chosen method of transport. The detectives also move around the board using taxi, bus and underground tickets, and must try to surround Mr X, and then move to his hidden location to catch him and win. But the detectives don’t always win and Mr X can escape to any of the 199 locations shown on the detailed map of Central London!

Did we enjoy it?
In a nutshell, yes. Once we had got the hang of it but it did take us a few goes to feel as if we knew what we were up to. We have also only played the beginners version of the game so far and we have yet to move to the more advanced or the two person game.

I love the fact that this game teaches kids to strategise and really think about what moves Mr X has made and how they should go about finding him and it also encourages team work as the detectives which is super and well needed in our house!

Another plus point is that no game is ever the same and that keeps it really fresh and means the kids want to come back to it again and again. I'm told that next time Miss M wants to try and be Mister X, so I think we will be roping Daddy in to help her.

How long does it take?
It took us about 5-10 minutes to set up the game and then with 4 players it was about an hour long and that is a real bonus as games like Monopoly can go on forever and ever.

Where can I buy it?
Scotland Yard is available from Ravensburger on Amazon and the price is just £17.99 currently.  I think this is a fabulous deal and real value for money. You can also watch a short video about how to play Scotland Yard on there too.

Disclosure:  We received this game free of charge for he purpose of this review. I have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.