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!

Some ways I have been working towards Mortgage Freedom and things I have noticed!

Just a reminder, I am a Nurse, and in no way should what I say/do be taken as proper advice, I am merely sharing my novice ways of heading towards mortgage freedom! Any financial choices should not be based on my ramblings!

Always look at debts as a whole- if you have expensive debts, the advice would be to pay these off first. For us, the most expensive debt we have is the mortgage. We do have a loan, which is 4%, but this has set interest and we will pay the same amount regardless of how soon we pay it off! The mortgage is at 2.99% and our credit cards are all 0%- we TART our cards to ensure we dont pay any interest on them. This has been working well for us, we currently have a 0% spends card and a 0% balance transfers card. We make note of when these run out to ensure that we don’t get charged interest!

Martin Lewis from MSE (Money Saving Expert), points out that if you can get more from savings than OP (Over Paying) the mortgage, then that would make sense. For some people being MF (Mortgage Free) is the overriding desire- but bear this in mind, your money may work better in other ways. We are saving in a 1.5% current account and have a 5% savings account, there is a cap on this for £250 a month and we can’t touch this for a year to get the interest. As it stands, the mortgage rate is now much better for us, our first mortgage was over 5%! So some savings accounts are better than OP now.

OP my morgage helped when remortgaging, for example, I was able to get a better rate once I hit 10% comparative to 5%LTV. This is the same with other key LTV points, namely 90%, 75% and 60%, though when we most recently remortgaged and hit 80% and this made a big difference to us!

We are only able to OP 10% of our mortgage a year this has always been the case- there isn’t any chance we will reach 10% in a year currently. But as the mortgage decreases, 10% wont be as much, so maybe one day this could be an issue! For our first mortgage, we kept the term as long as possible as it was more affordable, then chucked OPs at the mortgage on top of this. Meaning the outcome is similar to a reduction in years, but we had flexibility with regards to our standard monthly payment being affordable. For our latest remortgage, we could afford the payments over 26years, shaving years off the mortgage. We then plan to OP on top of this when possible.

We have had a great mortgage advisor. I look on Money Saving Expert as well to see the kind of costs we would be looking at, and she always gets us a great deal. Having an expert you can trust is definately helpful, she was very impressed at how much we had taken off the mortgage! The second time we remortgaged, we did it by ourselves with the same bank- the deal was fine and incured no fees. When we were looking at remortgaging with another bank and a different term, I let Fiona lead the way!

When we first got our big mortgage, paying it down was the most important thing. I knew in the long run we would thank ourselves for two years of frugality in other areas when we could remortgage and the house would be a lot more affordable. Now, in theory, we can afford the house and bills with one wage, which is reassuring! I have been reading about mortgage neutrality recently, but we have other things to save for and do now, so OP the mortgage when we can fits better these days!

Remember, with OP, every penny/pound counts! For every pound borrowed we pay £1.51 back therefore everytime you pay off an extra £1, you save 51p in the future! That’s a motivating thought! A diary on MSE introduced me to Tilly Tidies- namely someone called Tilly, started to skim down their accounts. Rounding down to a whole number, what was skimmed was then OP or sent to a savings account to build up to be OPayed! This is something I am doing now as I have to save £1000 before I can send an OP, I am also considering setting up a regular overpayment again… get itchy not seeing any extra change to the mortgage!

WARNING- Mortgage overpayments can be seriously addictive and cause others in your lifes eyes to glaze over! Find other like minded folk to share with 🙂

Hobbies

I think it is really important to have hobbies, they can come in many different forms and at a variety of different costs. Some hobbies can be pretty much free. I say pretty much free, as, if you think of walking, you still need shoes and clothes that are appropriate. Most people already own these so, therefore, walking is pretty much free. You could also spend a lot of money on walking should you wish!

My hobbies are pretty sedentary overall, I love reading! Libraries are great for this- though our local one shut down a few years ago, so not as convenient for me- book shares in work places, with friends and family are cost effective and also looking out for bargains in charity shops and online. I have had some great deals on my kindle via amazon, I made use of the free month borrowing scheme and read a bucketful of books all in one series and it was great! Just remember to cancel again after!

I love watching TV and films as well, we got rid of Sky a few years ago and now use Amazon Prime- great for deliveries, Alexa and music, though hubby pays extra for even more music, not just watching stuff! We also use Netflix, this has been great recently and I have been very pleasantly surprised by some of their own creations! I like to read blogs, pretty much free, I already have a laptop, desktop and smartphone. I play the Sims, not free, but given the amount of hours I spend on it, well worth the cost!

Mr Money Mustache talks about cost versus use as a way to look at spending money. If you buy some fantastic walking shoes, for £100, you could work out the cost per mile. So therefore, the more miles you walk the more cost effective the purchase is. I definately get my moneys worth from Netflix and Amazon, not so sure about my TV license for BBC though!

Hobbies are great for our mental health, they keep our brains occupied and they can give us purpose. They come in many forms, hubby did archery for a while, got really into it and bought lots of equipment. He still has a play around every now and then, so I think it was worth the inital outlay. He has a new hobby at the moment, with my encouragement, he bought an imported Americal Ford F100 1974 truck, all the way from California! It is AMAZING!!!! This hobby cost £4900 to buy, but I believe that this is actually a steal for this vehicle. I choose to look at this as an investment as well as a hobby. If looked after and fixed up- as hubby is doing- then this vehicle will only increase in value. Smashing!

Betty, the truck, is currently at a local garage- how random in this semi rural area, that we have a classic car specialist garage fifteen mins away! Where she is being looked after, she actually broke down on the garage driveway, and the guy has said to hubby he is impressed she made it that far. We trust the garage, they are very clear and upfront about everything, telling us what is imperitive to be done, what hubby could have a go at and what can wait. They also have loads of cool cars up there, I got to have a nosy the other day.

I am in love with her colour!

Some of my family, and one of my best friends are horse people, now, horses are expensive hobby. Very fulfilling though I am told! I also love researching the crap out of things, holidays are my biggest obsession! Pinterest is a wonderful place to while away hours of your day, getting inspired and obsessed!

I would love to hear about any hobbies readers have, how do you balance costs etc?

Super King Size Bed!

Something that I find difficult, is the desire of wants versus needs. I wanted a King Size bed, mostly because we allow our dogs up on the bed and more space would be wonderful! This was not a need, and when looking at costs, it was starting to look like a big expensive when we had a perfectly usable double bed.

So i started looking on Facebook and Ebay. Sure enough, just 20 minutes down the road we found someone selling, not a King Size bed, but Super King Size for £50! It was a bargain that we couldnt turn down!

We went to collect it in a borrowed van- no cost. It was in great nick so we payed the £50 and came home.

We payed £12 to buy paint, then I started painting the bed and hubby finished it. We found two sheets for £11.99 each at the Range, already had a King Size duvet which fits great so no extra cost and the biggest expense was finding a mattress! We trawled around lots of stores, it got tedious and I couldnt believe the cost of mattresses! In the end, we found the perfect mattress in Carpet Right of all places, £350 including free delivery!

The bed is amazing, so much space! I love, love, love it! The paint was just to freshen it up a little and help it fit in our room, it wasnt necessary but looks great! Looking round for second hand items is so underrated, we could easily have spent double what we did buying everything new and not as good quality!

Costs:

  • Bed frame £50
  • Mattress £350
  • Paint £12
  • Sheets £23.98
  • Van borrowed so no cost

Overall cost: £435.98

12 Tips for Buying Online

  1. Shop around- if you know what you would like, check different websites to ensure you are getting the best deal. Very and Littlewoods often have the same items, yet sometimes one can get you a cheaper deal on the same item than the other
  2. Check for cashback- this is something that I need to get on top of, I read about people getting money back on things they were buying anyway!
  3. Leave items in the basket for at least one night- if you aren’t desperately in need for the item, or if it isnt already in the sale! I did this recently, partly to manage impulse purchasing but also to see if any offers would be sent through to my email to tempt me back. I got an email the next day to say the items in my basket were now in the 25% off sale, perfect!
  4. Always check what the returns policy is, if you will have to pay for a return, then ensure that you will be happy to stump up those costs
  5. I recently got 20% discount on a gift by signing up to the website- River Island, then referred a friend- my husband- and then bought another item using his email, another 20% discount on a gift! It is easy to unsubscribe after you have made use of the discounts, or stay on the mail list and see what else will turn up
  6. I paid £9.99 to join a VIP package on a website I use regularly, this ensures ‘free delivery’, delivery is £3.99 usually so I only need to buy on three occasions and I have recooped my costs on delivery alone, I will also get early access to any sale items and special discounts
  7. Consider where you want the item delivered, you can get some good savings by having items delievered to store or pre-destined places rather than to your home
  8. Read reviews, either about items or websites before you buy to make sure you wont get any shockers!
  9. See if you can find any coupons or vouchers online, also check about student discounts or NHS discounts, perhaps you could ask someone you know with one of these discount cards to purchase on your behalf
  10. We have Amazon prime, I will sometimes get my friends items via this service as the delivery is quick and ‘free’ within the package, it also helps me too feel that we are making good use out of the prime aspect!
  11. Look out on second hand sites, facebook’s online marketplace is really good, I have bought some great items for cheap there! As well as Ebay, Preloved etc
  12. Consider if you really need the items/item, if you dont, thats a saving right there!

Pets- at what cost?

If you have read any other posts in my blog, you may well have seen pictures of my two rescued furchildren. I love my dogs, I love all dogs, in fact, I am a self confessed animal lover! Having my dogs in my life feels like a non option, I have grown up with pet dogs, in both my seperate family homes we had two dogs (per household), as well as cats, horses and chickens.

I remember a few yeas ago, when I read through Mr Money Mustache’s blog post great-news-dog-ownership-is-optional, and I liked the fact he pointed out some of the realisms of dog ownership. Such as the fact people will adopt/buy a pet when they have little income, not taking into account the true cost of owning an animal. That true cost, covers the responsibility we have as dog/pet owners, this is covered by the five freedoms: The first part is Health– we should protect our pets from disease, illness and injury, and if they should become injured or unwell, we have to seek treatment. We should allow our pets to be natural in their behaviours, when looking at companionship as a freedom we should be considering if that animal is social and whether it should be kept alone or with others. Dietary needs- this includes preventing malnourishment and obesity as well as access to water. The last freedom is access to a suitable environment, this would include access to a shelter and a safe space to be, away from harm.

Pet ownership feels more complex these days, there are so many different opinions out in the world about how we should do things, how we should treat our pets and what we should feed them for example. It is a minefield! Do you buy pet insurance, is it worth the cost, what if your pet has health needs that would invalidate insurance, or the breed means an unfair hike in costs? Buying pets is a huge deal, I wont lie, I rescued my babies, I will always rescue and will never ‘buy’ a pet. This is personal to me and is part of my moral code, I will always advocate adoption! As it stands, my dad and stepmum have two rescued dogs, and my mum and stepdad have two bought dogs, I love both sets of parents and both sets of dogs. If people are to buy puppies, then I will heavily and wholeheartedly advocate for buying from a proper breeder. Always see both sets of parents, check that the breeder will/has vaccinated, ensure to the best of your abilities that they are not from a puppy farm. My mums Jack Russells are from a local breeder, whom we know well and in fact I am now related to via a marriage!

I guess the point of this post, is to highlight that pets are optional. You should take into consideration the cost of time and money that is needed to ensure that any pet has the best life it can, and the possible things in your life that will be impacted upon by this. As a sidenote, I think I will do a couple of blogs introducing my furchildren, I am a very proud parent who will gush about them at any time!

Savings

When I look into ways to be better with money, making money work is something that comes up often, as well as ways to make money last longer.

So, savings are twofold. You can save money by not spending and you can save money by buying items for less. I am still a materialistic person. I recently kon-mari-ed my clothes, I HAD LOTS. I went through them and for each one I checked for that spark of joy, those that didn’t, I thanked them and they have been sent to Barnados Charity shop, to be joyful for someone else. For those that did, I carefully folded and placed them into drawers and the cupboard. This felt so good, but I also acknowledged that there was a lot of wasted money right there. I made a pact with myself to only buy items that are needed and I truely love from now on…I am already wavering on this. I need work trousers as I am down to one functioning pair, I need a new pair of leggings- I am down to one pair, we are off to Florida later in the year and I dont have a lot of hot weather clothes. I live in the UK its not that hot! So, some clothes are actual needs, some are wants and desires.

I went on to Evans last night. I am a plus size girl and its hard to get bargains. We live relatively rural and our charity shops dont seem to have any clothes for big lasses. I left the items in my basket, and this morning the three items in my basket are in the 24% off sale. I still like all three items as much as yesterday and my leggings are down from a tenner, so even better! Now, the other two items are lovely, beautiful, hot weather clothes- they may not suit me and I can return them if they don’t. Evans is pretty happy with that, but the fact I have waited instead of purchasing meant I got them with 24% discount, ergo, I have made a saving. I could argue with myself that not buying the items would be a better saving though!

I also found two pairs of trousers for work on Amazon for a great price, again, if they aren’t right, Amazon are pretty good about returns. One really bad thing, is that Amazon seem to be offering lots of plus size clothes for a great price. Noooooooo! My plan to manage this impulse to buy, is to leave items in my basket, see if I still like them, and then check if funds can cover it this month. If not, I will save them for later, when I have the funds!

As to the other part of saving (the not spending part) we currently use Santander and get 1.5% on the money in our current account. This is better than a kick in the teeth, but not great. I also have an M & S account, and have opened a 5% savings account. To get this rate, we have to leave the money for a year and can only pay-in up to £250 a month. This means in a year that account will be £3k and we will earn over £81 in interest. This is where that money will be working for us. Depending on my variable income, this money will either be entirely new savings or a mix of new and some other savings we already have. Making money work for us is a concept I am new to, and I am still trying to get more into this mindset, including investments etc. as well. One day at a time! 🙂