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!

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!

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 🙂

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!