Florida Prep

I love to read and research about places we are going to go on holiday, and even places we may never end up going! I love to read about what amazing places, eateries and things there are to do, and make lists upon lists of must do’s, if we get time do’s and fantasy do’s!

So it will be no shocker than when we decided to go to Florida, I researched the poop out of the holiday! I was aware we would never be able to do everything that I had read about or listed so we narrowed it down to must do’s:

  • Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure- this comes with Volcano Bay, the new water park, and ticked off hubbies must do of a water park visit!
  • Halloween Horror Nights, they would be on when we went, and we needed to go!
  • Hollywood Studios- New Star Wars land, Galaxys Edge for hubby!
  • Old Town for the American Muscle Car show on a Friday night
  • NASA

We were initially only going to go for 8 nights, but we found a kennels we liked (dog boarding but seperate areas- we will never use them again, as when we got back dogs were all stressed and the people said the little dog was aggressive. There is a whole other story here which basically boils down to the kennels not doing what they said they would). So I got in touch with the airline and paid £100 to move both our tickets from the Tuesday to the Friday. I was happy to spend this, but to be fair could have been avoided if we hadn’t prebooked the tickets!

We booked our flights 18months out, with Thomas Cook, we were flying out with 8 other people in total and my mum wanted to lock in the early bird prices and they seemed perfectly acceptable so I happily agreed. They all went for 14nights, too long for us to be away from home! I feel our 11 nights was just the right amount of time, any longer I would have been homesick!

The rest of the folks all got a taxi to the airport, we didn’t, obviously, as we came back early and there was no way a taxi for 2 would be cost effective. We got a hotel and parking in one for a good deal (IMHO). I will go over prices towards the end of this epic tale!

We prebooked Universal, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay and Halloween Horror Night tickets with attractionticketsdirect. No affiliated links here, just that they were offering the best deals at the time! We got 14day unlimited tickets for all three parks which was great. And Halloween Horror Nights came with buy one night, get one free! Love it! W bought NASA tickets direct from their website on a day where they were offering a 10% discount, another win!

Old Town was cost free in theory, any spends would be our choices and we would get to see some authentic american muscle cars- hubbies favourite!

We debated getting our own car- ultimately would have been more convenient on reflection- but we hired out a 12seater mini bus instead, hubby and step dad were the drivers on it and everyone chipped in!

Accomodation was ‘free’, as my mum and stepdad have a timeshare and points to spend. We did pay to upgrade our room from a one bedroom with settee bed, to a two bedroom as we were sharing with my little sister and her boyfriend, and to be honest, we live alone usually! First world problems, I dont want to sleep on the couch, or have someone sleep on the couch, I want to be able to unpack and make myself at home- not possible in one bedroom and I am not used to sharing closed spaces with others! Money well spent, we got a huge two bedroom, two bathroom apartment, with a balcony overlooking the golf course with a beautiful lake. We got a massive room and the ensuite was insane! Huge bath and massive shower! Brilliant kitchen and lounge area and washing machine and drier. The complex itself was also beautiful, lots of swimming pools, couple of places to eat and lots of beautiful lakes. Lots of wildlife too, which I find very exciting!

The only downside for hubby and myself about the complex, was you had to drive everywhere, there was a walmart and restaurants 10minutes away in the car, this meant taxis to eat out every night. I think if we were going alone, we would have forgone the beauty of this complex for convenience. For others in the group, this was also a relaxing and rejuvinating holiday, so this was great for them. I think we only spent one whole day next to the pool!haha.

We got a great deal on exchanging money as hubbies work had USA dollars that they no longer used, so they sold it to staff at previous rate of 1.42 dollars to the pound. We changed all our money to cash, we are heading to New York next year so left overs are fine!

It was agreed that this holiday was all about theme parks, so that is where we would channel our times and efforts! Most people had been before except hubby and sisters boyfriend. I hadnt been since I was a teenager and couldnt wait to go back!

One thing I found frustrating, was that people wanted to go with the flow, I like to plan the crap out of things like this, so I did struggle there! I think it would have been a very different holiday if we went alone, but there are so many aspects of the holiday that were made great by having a group of lovely people with us that I wouldn’t change it!

Money breakdowns (warning, though I attempted to be money saving, we did spend a lot of money 🙂 )

  • Thomas Cook Flights- £980 in total, this includes the date change and booking seats in advance, as I like to pick my seats, I am sad! We flew back on the Friday before they went bust. Sad about this, they were great. The rest of our group flew on the Monday, the day they went bust, luckily they were brought back with no issue
  • Hotel (Radisson) at the airport with two weeks secure parking- £179.10, could have been cheaper, but very happy with the service!
  • Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay, 14 day unlimited tickets- £548 for both of us. Best deal we could find at the time
  • Halloween Horror Nights- £135 for two tickets, and we got a night free- sadly didnt get time to use the extra night. The people in the group that came with us bought tickets online just before we went and paid about £10 more per person, on the doors was so much more expensive!
  • Travel Insurance- £65.39 for both of us, for multi trips so cover a couple of local holidays this year and New York next year
  • ESTA- $28, for both of us and will cover New York next year
  • We last minute decided to buy a park hopper for Disney, instead of just Hollywood studios, we went onto the website the day before and paid around £400 for both of us, I cannot remember the exact figure, cheaper than on the door
  • NASA- £78 for both of us, such a fantastic place!
  • Orlando Eye and Sea Quarium- $70
  • Car Hire- £250 including extra payment to make hubby a named driver, that was the highest cost!
  • Room upgrade- £200
  • VIP lounge- £40 for both, loved this, drinking fizzy wine and eating snacks before the flight!!
  • Eating out and taxiing- disgusting amount of money I don’t want to think about!Haha.

I think that is most of the costs, but if I think of anymore I will add them on! I am not adding this up- I think I will cry. I loved the holiday though, hubby also built himself a lightsaber- so expensive, but he paid for it himself- and it was a great experience and the lightsaber is often twirled around even now! I would definately go back to Florida, not sure I would be bothered about the Theme Parks, kind of been there done that, but we only saw one alligator, I wanted to see Manatees, I wanted to go walking to find bears, go to the Florida Keyes etc! So that can be a future adventure!

November 2019 Mortgage Stats

November Mortgage Stats:

Was: £153,420
Now: £152,973
Monthly Payment: £666.72 + £50
Capital Paid: £447
Interest: £270

I am disappointed to not be dropping into a new thousand bracket every month, but am glad that we are still heading in the right direction! And this money does see us in the 152’s! We have had some unexpected bills pop up, so its really useful to have reduced this overpayment at this time as we have some more flexi money to cover.

We will defeat this mortgage, one overpayment at a time!

A bit of DIY

I am not a DIY person by nature, I am quite sedate in my hobbies, reading, watching films, researching on the internet…Though I love a good session on Pinterest, getting lots of amazing ideas and feeling inspired to do anything!

Pre paper!

Over a year ago, I bought some beautiful wallpaper which was on sale, 3 rolls for £40. I could visualise my dining room alcoves with this paper, with beautiful shelves built into them for all my books!

Pre paper!

Rock on to over a year later, my mum has come round and has papered them for me, I helped by passing things and generally looking confused! It looks amazing, and all it cost me, was lunch and cups of tea! I did offer payment, as to be honest I have no urge to try this myself, but this was declined. It is amazing how much one room can change with some wallpaper, it looks like a new room! All I needed to buy was wallpaper paste for £2.50, we have a wallpaper table and the other bits and bobs already from when other half and his mum wallpapered the lounge wall!

Both alcoves all papered! We will be painting the chimney breast, and replacing the lovely artwork!

In the picture, it looks quite dark, but I took the photo last night, the rest of the room is painted white and we have a very large window, so this looks lighter in the daylight!

Next steps, we have the sizes of the alcoves, cant afford bespoke shelves, so will be researching the best ways to make our own! And deciding on the colour to paint the chimney, I am thinking a dark green- there is some on the paper- or dark blue! We are also looking into the cost of getting the chimney reopened and the small fire we bought when we first moved, installed!

Exciting times!

October Mortgage Roundup


October Mortgage Stats:

Was: £153,817
Now: £153,420
Monthly Payment: £666.72 + £50
Capital Paid: £397
Interest: £319.72

Another month, and it is good to see that even with a reduction in overpayment, the money is still going down!

Mortgage Yearly Roundup!

So, we started off the fixed five year mortgage with £159,975 borrowed against our home, which is valued at £210k. This is over 25years.

At year end our mortgage stood at £154,262.28

We paid a total of £3,599.52 in interest

Which means that we paid £5,712,72 off the capital!

I feel very pleased with this over a year, especially since the interest is so much less than the capital reduction now!

Only downside, which may not actually be a downside, is Tesco are stopping mortgages. They will be sending us over the Halifax any day now, we will still keep our fixed rate etc thankfully. Wondering if Halifax may have a cleverer OP system!

Hurrah over all, great years work!

Northumberland

I love getting away, I love exploring new areas, and I love to go away for my birthday! Yesterday, we arrived back from a three day trip to Northumberland, we stayed in an airbnb property, which was small but perfect for our needs- also a great price of £50 a night! It was in a lovely little village, with a nice pub opposite.

We spent time in Chillingham Castle, it was pretty quirky and interesting. It is apparently one of the most haunted castles in England- and I can believe that! It was taken over by Sir Humphrey Wakefield after it had been left to decay and rot for over 50years, he took the time to fix it up, including the ceilings in some rooms and get it back to its functional self. Sir Wakefield is a hoarder of interesting and random historical items, but as he has so much space to fill, he becomes a collector! We enjoyed the uniqueness of this place, it was much more than a castle and has such a rich history. I believe you can stay in the grounds and they do ghost tours, I didnt fancy that, I am a baby! The grounds are beautiful and we wandered through the woodlands, we saw a fox but no deer sadly. I also got serious garden envy!

Chillingham also has the only wild cattle in the UK, we went to see them as part of a secondary tour. It was certainly interesting and the cattle look interesting, smaller than a lot of other cattle. We heard bulls rutting and having fights up on the hill and saw some calves. The tours are only at set times on certain days. I loved the castle, the cattle tour was interesting but not as much as the castle!

We also went to Alnwick gardens, I love this place! It is the best gardens I have ever been too, and I love going to gardens! I think it was because the space was filled with interesting things, like the corridor of cherry blossom, which of course were still beautiful at this time of year, tulips and daffodils lined the paths and giant swings were dotted all over. The walled garden was incredible- walled gardens are the sexiest things in my humble opinion- the symmetry was just so eye catching. The way the trees were trained to espalier looked awesome and the water features, which again reflected the symmetry just felt so inspiring! There is a massive water feature right at the start which has fountain shows, and a corridor made of trees on either side. The serpent garden has the most amazing water features, and the bamboo maze is just fantastic! The rose garden was sadly not in bloom but still great, and the Poison garden was just fascinating!

The Castle at Alnwick is interesting, but a bit too perfect for me, I do like Castles to be falling down a little, or quirky ala Chillingham, though the views were stunning. We got to see a quidditch training session taking place!

We drove past Bambrough castle which was very picturesque and went along the coast for a drive, then on to Rothbury which is a sweet little town. We also went to Dobbies garden centre where I bought a Bonsai tree! So exciting!

The dogs stayed in kennels, this cost us just over £80, we payed for the Alnwick castle and gardens tickets in advance, this cost just over £50 with the online discount, airbnb cost us £150 for three nights, we have an economical car so that helps with carbon footprint and cost! It was £35.50 for Chillingham Castle and Cattle for both of us, which we paid when got there. In total we spent an extra £395 on the castle, fuel, eating out lots, and shopping! I am quite happy with this! I love a get away and we dont like to skimp, the room we had only had a small fridge and no cooking facilities, so great excuse to eat out and about!

May Mortgage Stats

At the beginning of April after payments, the mortgage was: £156,834
As of the 1st of May, the mortgage is now: £156,193
Our monthly payment as of 1st May: £666.72 + £250.28
We paid this much off the capital: £641
Which means that our interest for the month was: £276
Therefore, £276 divided by the 30 days of April, indicated we paid: £9.20 a day in interest!

This is very exciting, I really hope that these overpayments can continue!

Mortgage Overpayments, Take 1001

So, the title is an exageration! I have played with overpayments many times since getting a mortgage for the first time in June 2011, but I wouldn’t hit the 100’s let alone 1000’s really…

After my last post, I was inspired to talk with the husband about re-starting the overpayments on the mortgage. We stopped as we bought a car on finance- good apr though- and we have been doing things to the house- had a patio outside the back and have saved for the driveway to be done at the front- and now, even though we have some holibobs coming up, I have noticed we should be able to spend an extra £250.28 a month on the mortgage without it having a huge impact on other things.

Bearing this in mind, I have today, increased our payments by £250.28! Taking us to £917 a month in payments, I can stop these at any time should I need to and even if I only manage to overpay a month it will still save a good amount ultimately!

So, with the overpayment we should be able to pay the mortgage of in 17 years- this still feels too long right now- I will be 48 and hubby will be 49. This is great progress really, but the problem with overpaying and looking into mortgages, is that it opens your eyes to the real cost of a mortgage,the interest is truely shocking!

I am looking forward to seeing what my wage will be in May, I have started a new job and this is 36hours a week so less unstable than working agency, plus I get paid my holidays! Hooray!

Looking forward to seeing the mortgage on May 1st….

Overpaying the Mortgage

Today I am playing with the Overpayment (OP) calculator on Money Saving Expert- I love doing this, its amazing how even a tiny OP can make a huge difference to the mortgage!

We currently pay £666.72- I like the 666 number, shame the pennies weren’t 00!

If I were to increase our monthly OPs by £333.28, for example, taking us to £1000 a month, we would save £19,964 in interest over the term of the mortgage, and we would pay the mortgage off 10years and three months earlier. Thats amazing! It would also be a lot of money extra to find to throw at the mortgage…

Even rounding the amount up to £700 a month- £3.28- would see us save £337 in interest and we would pay the mortgage off two months early, this would still be fantastic in the long run! Every penny really does count, and this is based on our fixed rate and the current base rate so this would fluctuate.

I *think* that we might be able to afford to OP 250.28 a month- the 28p is to round it to a whole number, sad I know! Hubby may not agree with this though!Haha. If we were to OP that amount, it would save us £16,742 in interest and we would knock 8 years and 7 months off the mortgage.

Playing with the calculator is addictive, I totally recommend anyone who is considering overpaying has a look at this, it really shows that every penny/pound counts when paying down the mortgage.

My aim is too have a good discussion with hubby and see if he agrees we could start OP the mortgage again, as we used to!

Below is the links to the basic mortgage calculator and the overpayment calculator:

https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/mortgages/mortgage-rate-calculator/

https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/mortgages/mortgage-overpayment-calculator

Groupon, Wowcher etc

I have gotten some great deals using Groupon and Wowcher- I am sure there are other similar sites as well but these are the two I have used! If I want to go for afternoon tea, a Spa day or a day out locally, I will always check on these sites for any deals. This has definately lead to some great savings on something I would have done anyway. Most recently I got a great deal on a local festival I planned on going to, I got the VIP tickets for the same price as the normal entry fee, this got me lots of free items including rum and cake- perfect!

Though, not all deals are as good as they look- for items, furniture etc, they can be found for the same price or cheaper online on sites such as Amazon, so it is always worth shopping around before you buy.

I have used groupon for Las Vegas- I signed up with the hotel address of where we were staying. I got buy one get one free on yard length margaritas and unlimited alcoholic drinks on the Linq Hotel’s big wheel, the High Roller for a bargain cost for three people! So it often seems that local bargains, even abroad can be found.

I tried when we went to Paris, but it was in French- unsuprisingly really- so I wasn’t able to understand it at all!

We are off to New York next year, and one of the places we want to stay is often on Groupon so I will be doing the same again closer to the time!

These type of sites are also a great way to discover what awesome and interesting things are in an area, I learnt new things about where I live by looking through the deals, some great finds to be had- but be sensible, you dont save by buying something you dont want, or if you dont check that you are getting the best price!