renovating your home
Renovating your home and buying a holiday home are both wishes are mine that I’d like to make come true.

We moved into our home just before the twin’s second birthday and when we viewed the house for the first time, I already had a plan to renovate it and make it ours. My plan is to knock through a wall, opening up the lounge right through to the back garden, bifold doors on to the garden and a lovely homely open space for us to live in. It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? However, when we did have the available cash ready, we decided to spend it on our wedding and what a great decision that was! A wonderful day with our family and friends but it meant the renovation dream was put on the backburner for another few years.

The second time we had the cash available we decided to spend it on a caravan and a car. It was a fabulous time in our life, we went to Devon, Cornwall, West Bay in Dorset and lots of occasions closer to home; Rye and Thanet to mention a couple.

Then a couple of years ago, we swapped the caravan for a static in Birchington Vale. A decision we have thoroughly enjoyed and still do but of course, the renovation dream gets put back further and further.

There are other ways to raise the money to consider like releasing equity for example and I guess, depending on where you are in your life it could be a very valid option. Many people have taken advantage of this scheme and have made their dreams come true.

Buying a holiday home

la manga strip spain

Paul and I both have the dream to move to a sunnier clime in our old age, once the girls are settled in jobs and are living stable lives. Somewhere not too far away, so the twins can come and join us regularly. We like the idea of Spain as Paul has family there and it’s a quick easy flight away. We’ve also decided to keep a small place to live back here in the UK should we ever be able to make this dream come true. It would make visiting so much easier and I really don’t want to lose contact with the girls.

Paul spends lots of his spare time watching A Place in the Sun and other property programmes where people are viewing abroad and he has bookmarked sites on our browser. This is one wish I can wait for but definitely would like to make come true. I think we’d probably sell our family home and divide the money between two properties, one in the UK and the other in Spain. This dream has still a long way to go before being realised so in the meantime I’m focusing on the house renovation and of course, once that’s done our home will be worth even more! Maybe we’ll get a swimming pool too.

make the most of freezer

I love my freezer, it is always stuffed with goodies and the only time I have ever let it run to empty was the time I needed to defrost it and clean it.

Sadly (for me), I only have three shelves at the bottom of my fridge freezer so I have to be diligent in what I store to make sure I make the most of the space. Thanks to my three shelf limit I have become quite the expert at packing my food in. Some may call it OCD but I place my food in certain areas so I know I can go in and quickly nab what I need. The smaller bottom tray is reserved for ice cream, frozen vegetables and pastry blocks. The middle drawer is used for loaves of bread, chips, wedges and fish fingers, chicken nuggets and the top tray is for my meat, fish and ice cubes resting on top of the week’s meals ready for the weekend gin and tonic.

I make it a habit that when I shop I buy up the special offers purposely to put in the freezer to use at a later date. I have bought a whole salmon on Christmas Eve for £5 before, a bargain I am particularly proud of.

I also like to double up on recipes when I am using my slow cooker or the pressure cooker, for example, I make a huge casserole and freeze half of it for another meal in the future.

I have got into the habit of deciding what we are going to eat the night before and if it is something in the freezer, I take it out to defrost overnight so I can place it in the fridge in the morning. This is working really well and it also helps with my shopping list when it’s time to place my weekly order.

Often my thoughts turn to the day we will knock down walls and purchase a new kitchen. I have plans that I can’t wait to put into place and one of them is a utility room. In my future utility room, there will be a sink and the dishwasher. I will home the washing machine and the tumble dryer and on top of that, I will make room for an upright commercial freezer.

This would give me a total of 7 shelves to use, can you imagine my excitement of organising the chilly shelves?

It would be marvellous for freezing fresh fruit in the summer to use throughout the winter. I could have an infinite source of burgers and bangers for my barbecue-loving husband and I could hold multi tubs of ice cream for the kids to choose from as opposed to the one or two I can squeeze in now. I could even stock up on commercial ice creams and all manner of treats for us to enjoy.

I could even reserve a shelf for my Limoncello from Sorrento, to serve chilled after a meal.

What product will I always find in your freezer?

Disclosure: A collaborative post.

money cashA budget is an incredibly useful financial tool. In basic terms, it’s a plan that provides an in-depth overview of your spending habits and earnings, so that you can establish a good idea of where your money is going. Provided you stick to the plan you make, you should find that your budget helps you to stay on top of your spending, and avoid using more money than you earn.

The problem with a lot of modern budgets is that they aren’t designed to work. While many people look at their typical monthly spending, they forget about extra expenses like your weekly coffee, or the newspaper you pick up on the way to work. With that in mind, it’s worth starting 2018 with a closer look at your budget, so you can make sure it’s as accurate as possible.

Organise Your Information and Take Your Time

The first thing you need to do when you’re getting an in-depth look at your budget is set aside at least an hour where you can examine the information you have carefully. Rushing your way through the experience makes it more likely that you’ll make mistakes. It’s a good idea to gather all the paperwork you’re going to need before you get started, so make sure you get hold of a few months of bank statements, along with copies of household bills, credit card bills, and savings.

Some people also find it helpful to look at their pension contributions and regular savings accounts too, as this gives a more complete overview of your financial situation.

Evaluate your Income

Once you’ve got all the information you need handy for creating a budget, make a note of your typical earnings from your employment. You should take off any of the money you don’t get to see, such as the amounts used for tax, student loans, pension contributions, and so on. Then add your additional sources of income from investments, savings, self-employment or anything else.

Give yourself an average of what you’ve earned over the last three months, and use that to give yourself a rough idea of what you can expect to earn in the coming months.

Track Your Essential Spending

Now it’s time to start thinking about how much money you spend in a critical way. Categorise your payments so you have an idea of where your cash is going. For instance, you might have categories that include your mortgage payments, childcare, groceries, utility bills, and travel. Then gather your bank statements, credit card bills, and household bills to check you’ve got all the numbers right.

As you did with your income, calculate the total amount spent on essentials over the last three months, then subtract that from your monthly earnings. This will help you to see what your “disposable” income should look like.

It might also be worthwhile to consolidate some of your essential spending into one lower, affordable payment. Particularly if you have a lot of priority debt payments. Sites like Readies.co.uk can advise you on this and help you make an educated and informed decision.

Review Your Disposable Spending

An accurate insight into how you’ve spent your disposable income up until now will help to prevent you from over, or under-budgeting in certain places. Keep track of how much you’ve spent of your disposable income over the last three months so that you can calculate an average. If you put money into savings or an emergency fund, you should keep a note of that too.

This is the point where you might start to discover that you’re spending more than you earn. If this is the case, you need to start re-thinking the way you use your disposable income.

Choose a Budget You Can Stick to

Now that you have an accurate picture of your spending habits, you should be able to draw up a budget that feels more realistic for you to stick to. Use your spending figures for the last three months, and you could even calculate how much money you could potentially save if you can cut down on unnecessary spending.

Just remember that life is an ever-changing thing, and once you’ve drawn up your budget, you’ll need to keep an eye on how faithfully you’re sticking to it and adjust your expectations accordingly. Most experts recommend revisiting your budget every month, as this way, if you’re constantly overspending, you’ll be able to readjust your strategy before it has too much of an impact on your financial goals.

If you have trouble keeping track, you could always try downloading a budgeting application onto your phone or computer that will help you to assess your finances each month.

winter sun

This month has flown by, I am surprised by how one week rolls into the next and before I know it, the month of January is on it’s way out!

Last time I wrote, I spoke about my choice of word to guide me through 2018, Willpower. This post is a catch up to see how far I have got and what changes, if any, to make.

My biggest achievement to date is my Couch to 5K efforts. I am so surprised at myself – pleasantly surprised. Let me explain …

I have always been one of those people who sniggered when they saw runners struggling up hills – why would you do that when you can sit comfortably at home? Who raised eyebrows at the sight of runners out in the rain and I have always declared – I am not a runner. I don’t like running. I will never run.

Fast forward to January 2018 and I have had to eat my words – every single one of them.

Oast house Ifield

I have joined our local SLGR (So Let’s Go Running) group who meet on a Tuesday evening, which conveniently ties in with the twin’s Brownie session, and I take part in the C25K training (Couch to 5k). This is all part of my Willpower challenge with myself. I have notoriously, all my life, started activities and then religiously dropped them a few weeks in for all manner of ridiculous reasons. I am determined to change this even and complete the C25K even if I don’t know what will happen once I reach the 5k (if I reach the 5k).

To give you a better insight into what the C25K challenge is I have copied the program below, I have completed two weeks and on Tuesday will be tackling Week 3 – a two minute run with 90-second walk intervals.

Weeks 1-6 start with 5 mins walking warm-up

Weeks 1-5 = 4k
Weeks 6+ = 5k

Week 1 – 30 sec run/90 sec walk
Week 2 – 60 sec run/90 sec walk
Week 3 – 2 mins run/90 sec walk
Week 4 – 2 mins run/1 min walk
Week 5 – 4 mins run/1 min walk
Week 6 – 5 mins run/1 min walk
Week 7 – 7 mins run/1 min walk
Week 8 – 10 mins run/1 min walk
Week 9 – 15 mins run/1 min walk
Week 10 – 5k run

It’s advisable to repeat the run at least once every week, so last week I took part in my first Park Run and this morning, Sunday, I went out on my first solo run and re-ran the course we complete on a Tuesday. I was amazed that I did it and I had a better time too. I am incredibly proud of myself as I have always been so anti-running and yet, here I am doing exactly that.

I am using the Strava app to record all of my runs, connect with me if you’re on there too.

my strava runs

For now, I can safely say I am on track with this aspect of my Willpower challenge. Other areas included

Writing – and on this, I am slacking but for all good reasons that, if they come to fruition, I shall be more than happy to share with you.

Reading – I am on my third book this year, a good Patricia Cornwell. I used to read her books when I lived in Italy and discuss them in minute detail with my friend Nicoletta so reading this book takes me back to those times too.

Getting fit and losing my baby weight (yes I know it’s been 9 years!) – There hasn’t been much movement on the scales to date but I have been trying to work my way through all of the Christmas chocolate. I am nearly done with it and so hopefully this will start to improve too. Half a stone off and a tighter tummy by June – here I come.

Let it be said I am happy with my willpower progress, it might not be 100% but so far so good. Well done me!

The photos above were taken on a recent family walk ;)

Marianne Weekes

marianne weekes

Willpower.

That is the word I have chosen to take me through 2018. I have a feeling I’m going to need a lot of it as I have set myself some high goals to attain and, knowing myself well, I will need constant pushing, coercing and chivvying along until I reach where I want to be.

2017 has been a year of enormous unforeseeable change for me, I went from a part-time job to a full-time role in January and discovered it was increasingly difficult for me to juggle the work-life balance. When school kids have 13 weeks holiday, the 21 days I had this year went nowhere. I am all too aware that this moment in the twins life will flash by in front of my eyes so I’m determined to make the most of it and get to spend some quality time with them that, they can learn from and carry through in life.

I changed job in November. I started as a TA in our local primary school, a job I have never previously considered. I quickly discovered that I loved it and recognised so many possibilities to make this role work even better for me. Studying will most definitely be a part of my 2018, I’m not sure which course or direction but anything from a 1-year course to a full-blown degree. More on that news to follow.

A second idea I have been toying with is a Couch to 5k running class, I know – ludicrous. Me, who HATES running. But, I’m unhappy with my figure, I’m unhappy with my fitness levels and my general health so I need to do something about it whilst I am still able to. My only concern is for my knees which I can only assess once I start running.

I have found a local running group and should start my first lesson in January, plus it’s free!

I want to start practising yoga, I want a stronger core and a clearer mind. I’m searching for a Saturday morning class to attend.

Finally, I’ve convinced myself to pick up a project I started with great enthusiasm a couple of years ago and then left to one side for lack of time available. I believe this project still has legs so I’m determined to complete the first stage in 2018. Then I will be able to see if it has legs to go further or not. I hope it does. I have spent many hours dreaming of how far this could go and I will only know if I set the wheels in motion. Wish me luck!

I am very aware that I will need great discipline to achieve the above. I am also conscious that this is the area I let myself down in most, therefore I call upon my chosen word WILLPOWER to be my guide this year.

And you? Do you have plans for 2018? Have you a chosen word to accompany you?

Maybe Willpower isn’t the word for you; take a look at what some of my friends have chosen as their word of the year for further inspiration…

Tanya  chose Enough

Michelle went for Believe

Becky seleted Choice

Kate has settled for Mind