Tag Archives: Budgeting

Making the most out of your car insurance


Insurance is a pain, expensive and not the most exciting thing to spend your time or money on.

If you want to save, you’ve got to be smart.

Being approached by car dealership Carspring made me realise that with just some small changes, you can hugely cut your car insurance costs.

Here are eight surprisingly easy tricks to beat the insurers and save your cash for the more exciting things in life.

Read More →

Money habits to teach your children


I can’t believe how quickly my boys are growing up. The years seem to be flying by and they’re becoming fully-fledged little men before my eyes.

While I’m excited to enjoy every landmark, I have to admit I’m starting to worry about getting them into good habits for the future, especially when it comes to money.

Read More →

When is a prize not a prize?


So I’m hanging about on Twitter the other night, joining in the online conversation, generally sharing my views on The Apprentice on BBC1 (my favourite programme)…

…when I inadvertently got involved in a Twitter spat.

It was with this bloke (pretty sure it was a fella) called @VegasBabyUK. He’s not someone I follow, but a retweet of his competition came to my attention, offering a prize of 3 nights in Las Vegas and tickets to a show.

Las Vegas is one of the places I REALLY want to visit (as well as New York), so I couldn’t resist replying.

But I recalled I was almost duped before – Â into entering a contest to win a trip to the Maldives – but when I got to the Ts and Cs, it was spelled out that flights weren’t included, and there was a very small window of time to take up the prize.

So I asked the question…..

Twitter grab 1

Companies like this frustrate me, and since he was asking me a question (maybe it was meant to be rhetorical, but nevertheless) I replied honestly – but without being nasty.

Unfortunately, Mr Vegas didn’t do the same.

Twitter grab 2

So I’m a nutter for seeing through a marketing ploy to get his business all over Twitter? (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, when you’re offering a prize worth winning. Many companies do it.)

I’m a nutter for pointing out that, if he works within the tourism industry, his prize is probably costing him far far less than the flights his winners would have to fork out for?

I’m a nutter for having a mind of my own, and not being a sheep, taken in by his #VegasBaby hashtags and fancy talk?

I decided to open it up to the Twitter community.



Ah the classic technique to dig yourself out of trouble.

Insult someone, then when they stand up to you and start to win the argument, Â accuse them of not having a sense of humour, or not understanding yours.

(And thanks to the lovely Tattooed Mummy who was one of many bloggers who came to my aid, and said how rude this guy was. Sorry you got dragged into this mess).

I sat back as he furiously shovelled himself out of the shit.


Twitter grab next Twitter grab next2 Twitter grab next3Twitter grab next4


Well he asked if I would agree his competition was wonderful. I didn’t.

So I’ll happily take a slug of vodka – if he’ll go back into anger management. I’m not the one who went on the attack in this little conversation, baby!

And as for whether I’ve given anything away, yes I have (and Tattooed Mummy has run competitions on her blog too).

Every competition on Mummy Central – except one – has involved my winner getting their prize at no personal cost.

I say except one, because in the early days we offered a weekend stay at a country guest house in the Lake District. That would have involved travel costs – but hardly anything like flights to the USA.

I wouldn’t offer prizes that my readers couldn’t or wouldn’t take.

But it seems not all of Mr Vegas’ followers agree with me.

Some of the retweeted comments by this charming fella included the following:

Twitter grab next7

Twitter grab here here

Twitter grab screw

*falls off chair laughing*

Now this guy accuses me of not having a sense of humour?

Being insulted by a bunch of halfwits who can’t spell – or in one case string an eloquent sentence together – is actually hilarious. And I have to thank them for the entertainment.

But let’s look at the bare facts here.

The Tower King Room at the Excalibur hotel, for 3 nights at the start of November 2013, costs around £240. The same hotel is offering tickets for 2 shows for around £48 per person.

So let’s round that up to £340 for a room and tickets to 2 shows, for 2 people.

Lastminute.com is offering return flights with Virgin from Gatwick to Las Vegas for £674.17 per person – for 2 people that’s £1348.34

So based on my costings, that would be £1688.34 for 2 people.

This is a good prize for people planning a visit to Vegas in the next 12 months. And I’m sure Mr VegasBaby has many Twitter followers who are.

For them, it takes care of about a fifth of the price of their holiday.

For the rest of us, not so much. And that’s all I was saying.

As I stated in my tweet #justanopinion. No name-calling. No mudslinging.

Until now.

Because, Mr Vegas, you showed yourself up for the big Baby you really are, spitting your dummy out when someone didn’t play along with your game.

And I for one won’t be coming to you when I’m ready to book my trip to the bright lights of Sin City.

Gambling with your moodswings is not my idea of a good time.




Disclaimer: My costings for a 3-night stay in Vegas were taken from a random search on the internet. I’m sure some elements can be sourced cheaper – but my point that flights cost 3, 4 or 5 times the worth of the hotel room and tickets are still relevant

Who makes our material world?



What did your little ones get from Santa?

Our boys both got a Nintendo DSi.

Not because they asked for them. Nope.

Because me and their Dad thought it was time for something to keep them quiet – on long journeys, during meals in restaurants, at formal occasions when they’re expected to sit still.

And because we’re fed up wrestling them off the laptop, because they’re playing games on the CBeebies website

Or the CITV website.

Or the CBBC website (aaaarrrrrrghhhhh!)

A few lessons from cousin Aimee and they're off

A few lessons from cousin Aimee and they’re off

So we’re not complaining about the expense of Christmas.

Especially after I wrote the post below, as a guest post for Ruth at Dorkymum last month.

(I’m sure she won’t mind me borrowing it back, since I seem to have my head stuck in the Quality Street)

headfirst in the quality street



The moaning started at the school gates weeks ago.

Once thoughts turned to Christmas shopping, it was the usual stuff you hear at this time of year.

“I just don’t know how I’m going to afford it.”

“We’ve bought out the entire toy shop.”

“I’ve never known such a spoiled child.”

All from mums and dads, complaining about how much they are being forced to spend on their offspring.

Blake is still in nursery. Brodie is six. I’m not hanging out with the parents of demanding teenagers.

Nor is my town the kind of place where kids hold guns to their parents’ heads.

Yet all of us blame our primary school children for brainwashing us into overspending.

Have we lost our baubles? Are we a few tinsel strands short of the full tree?

When I take a good long look around my children’s bedroom, there’s not that much stuff they’ve actually asked for.

Most of their toys are things I’ve seen and thought they’d like. Or I’ve tried to keep up with what their friends have.

Then I complain if they don’t play with these gifts.

And I’m not the only one.

My friend Emma is a single mum, who got her five-year-old son a Nintendo Wii last year. He got an Xbox 360 at his Dad’s house.

This year, she wants to cut back.

“But I know what I’m like. I always wrap his presents – then worry that it doesn’t look like much, so I rush out and buy more.”

In a year or two, our kids will be writing lists as long as our overdrafts for stuff they want Santa to bring.

But I can’t help feeling parents set the precedent, by piling up the goodies early on.

A report by UNICEFÂ agrees our kids don’t want half the stuff we buy them.

They want time, attention…

And probably an expensive toy as well, if you’re offering. But if you’re not, they’ll settle for the first two.

This study on materialism states: “We observed within UK homes a compulsion on the part of some parents to continually buy new things, both for themselves and their children.

“Boxes and boxes of toys, broken presents and unused electronics were witness to this drive to acquire new possessions, which in reality were not really wanted or treasured.”

UNICEF scored kids in the UK lower for wellbeing than children in Spain and Sweden – where parents don’t cave in to pressure to keep up with trends and status symbols, preferring to put the focus on quality, family time.

So what’s the answer?

One local mum has a novel way of teaching her kids a lesson about materialism.

She allows her son and his big sister to ask for three things each at Christmas – and they don’t get one of them.

“It’s to teach them you don’t get everything you want in life,” she told me, as my jaw dropped lower than my struggling bank balance.

It’s an admirable idea. But not one many parents could bear to carry through – we’re so worried about disappointing our little ones.

Old habits die hard. We can’t change overnight.

But at the very least, let’s stop blaming our children for clearing us out at Christmas.

Because that little voice which guides you towards the pricey presents?

It’s got nothing to do with the little person you tuck into bed every night.

Thinking beyond the here and now

Money never used to be an issue for me.

Not that I had much of it.

But if there was enough to live on, that was fine.

Having kids and getting a bit older (just a bit!) means money for the here and now is no longer enough.

Thinking about setting something aside for my boys’ futures – but having enough for my own – can make my head spin.

So when Now Pensions challenged me to answer 5 questions about finances, I thought I might just learn something (and I did!)

Read More →

Needing some linky love


Elizabeth is on holiday just now, frolicking through the Loire Valley.

Leaving me in charge of the blog *evil cackle*.

And so, as she takes a break, we’ve decided it’s fitting that Parentonomy should do the same.

At least we won’t be coming up with any new topics for a bit.

But that doesn’t mean we’re letting you lot off the hook.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be recapping on the subjects we’ve covered so far – and asking if you have anything to offer.

Especially since some of our Parentonomies are in serious need of some linky love.

So I’m kicking off by revisiting the five least-loved subjects we’ve covered.

We started Parentonomy six months ago, as a way of gathering together the knowledge and experience of the parent blogging community.

We wanted to give mums and dads a fabulous library of resources. A place to look up subjects like breastfeeding or potty training, and read about our successes, our failures, funny stories, lessons learned etc.

Because the real parenting ‘experts’ are the ones who’ve been there, done that (and have the mental scars to prove it).

And speaking for ourselves, parenting books were never as useful to us when our babies were small, not as much as the advice from other mums who’d gone before us.

So far we’ve covered 14 topics, held 12 carnivals (two more to come) and had 105 blog posts linked up to Parentonomy.

And we’d like to thank everyone who’s shared their posts with us in the last six months.

But (and isn’t there always a but?)….

… if you could check out these subjects and see if you have any words of wisdom to add to even one of them, we’ll be forever in your debt.

Or at the very least, we’ll stalk you on Twitter, declaring our undying love.

Go on, look at these… and link up if you can.



This is a subject which got zero entries.

ZERO. NADA. Or as they say where I come from… NOWT.

What’s going on?

This is such a loose topic. Any posts about being at home with your children – even during the holidays – fits.

Survival tips, keeping them occupied, being a stay-at-home parent versus a full-time working one.

It all works here people. So jump right in.




Pocket money, saving cash, spending it, budgeting as a family, earning as a parent, buying stuff for baby.

The possibilities are endless.

So why do we have only one post about this?

As Tom Cruise would have said if he was a blogger: “SHOW ME THE MONEEEEEEY….post”.




Rabbit rabbit, chatter chatter, gossip gossip.

We all talk.

Yet we only have four link-ups to speech.

Funny things your kids say, their first words, the stuff you wish they wouldn’t say, the things you find yourself saying to your kids (that make you sound like your mother).

Take your pick. If it involves words coming out of your mouth, we want to read about it.




Everyone assumes this topic has to be about learning through play, or the science of play and what it does for children.

Not at all folks.

Favourite toys, games to keep them occupied on long journeys, kids addicted to playing games consoles.

There are many possibilities. So come on, play the game and boost our entries from four to a bit more.




Do you have more than one child – or brothers and sisters of your own?

Then chances are, more than five of you have written about siblings.

How they get along, how they fight, how they’re similar, how they differ.

Perhaps how you are affected by your own sibling relationships – good or bad.

Link up sista (yeah, I’m not so good with the street talk. Sorry)



Go on, we can’t do this without you.

Have a root around on your blog, and give us a link.

In return, we’ll give you some carnival love, when we resume normal service after the Summer holidays.

And each linky will remain open for 12 months, so we can revisit them early next year, and give you a shout-out again.

Five cheap but cheerful end of term gifts for teachers


While an apple just doesn’t do the job any more, a thank you present for your child’s favourite teacher still doesn’t have to be costly.

When it comes to end of term gift-giving, competition can be fierce – among the parents as much as the pupils.

In the past, I’ve purchased scented candles, jewelled brooches and even fancy scarves.

But I’ve watched mums bring bouquets of flowers, bottles of wine and posh chocolate truffles into class on the last day of term.

I can’t say I feel the need to be flashy, but I do want to be original when giving something to a teacher.

Considering we’ve got a boy at school, and another who divides his time between nursery and playgroup, that makes at least four members of staff to buy for – six if I include headteachers.

So this year we’re going more down the home-made route.

Ask teachers what they most appreciate, and it’s not the expensive offerings (hopefully) but the gestures which show a lot of thought and heart went into them.

So get the creative juices flowing, or select a present which will stand out and suit your teacher’s personality.

Here are five gifts which are sure to be memorable, and prove you’ve gone the extra mile – without costing extra pennies.


Say cheers

A ceramic cup or mug, decorated by your child to say Thank You or Best Teacher is a perfect present for sipping coffee in the staffroom at break times.

A pack of four mugs costs as little as £3.96 from Baker Ross, which also sells porcelain pens for £7.99.

If you have four gifts to give, that’s less than £3 each. If you don’t use them all up for teacher, save them for Mother’s/Father’s Day.

If you’re not too confident of your artistic skills (or your child’s) you can splash out a little more on decorative porcelain transfers for £4.98.

This would take your total up to £4.23 per gift.


Frame it

Give a photo frame, containing a picture of teacher with their favourite pupil – your child, obviously.

Use a school event such as sports day or an end of term show as an excuse to get snappy.

There are lots of best teacher or world’s greatest teacher frames to buy online.

Or again you could decorate your own frame for your child to show off their craft skills. Check out this great crayon frame which is both easy to make and a unique idea.


Sweet treat

Cook up something in the kitchen to show teacher how much you care.

These delicious mint chocolate truffles are so simple to make, and the ingredients cost around £3.

Or these vanilla star biscuits are just as easy, and could be decorated with your teacher’s name in icing. Ingredients cost around £3.50. Don’t worry if you’re without a star-shaped cookie cutter – cutting around a cardboard template will do the trick.

Wrap up a batch in cellophane and tie with a ribbon. Together with your fancy wrapping, this delicious gift will cost around £5.


Let’s get ethical

A charity gift in your teacher’s name is the ultimate show of kindness.

For £10 Save The Children can provide a school bag kit to a child affected by poverty or conflict in the Third World. For £6 Oxfam can provide a health check, or £8 will buy a Unicef emergency water kit for a family.

Your teacher will receive a card with your personalised message and details of the difference their gift is going to make.


Make your mark

A stylish personalised bookmark means your child will be remembered with every turn of the page. There are some great silver ones on ebay for under a fiver, featuring Swarovski crystals and beads. Check out ebay shop Jewels 4 Angels for a good selection.

If you’re feeling crafty, there are more than 50 great ideas for making your own on Tipnut. These Chic Chicks are bound to be a favourite.


This is an updated version of an article I wrote for MyFamilyClub – a great website if you’re looking for practical advice and money-saving ideas.



Do you give end-of-term gifts to your children’s teachers? Or perhaps you don’t believe in it?

What original ideas have you had, to show your appreciation?



Five things your new baby doesn’t need

Since the New Year, we’ve had three babies arrive to first-time parents in our street.

I’ve spotted the Dads coming and going, wearing that glazed and terrified look of when you have no idea what you’re doing – but it’s costing you a lot of money.

Apart from a live-in nanny, what I wanted most when I was a brand new mum was guidance on what to buy.

The amount of useless stuff we picked up, thinking it was necessary, was so frustrating.

But the baby industry is like that. It has you convinced if you don’t buy the fancy gadgets and matching furniture you’re jinxed and your child will never sleep or eat.

And you buy everything before baby arrives, so you’ll be prepared. When apart from the essentials, you really should wait and see.

Here’s the stuff I consider the biggest waste of money when you’ve got a new baby:


1. Changing table

There’s always a matching one to go with your baby’s cot. But what’s the point? They cost anywhere from £60 to £100 – and some people consider them dangerous once your baby starts rolling. A foam change mat can be picked up for less than a tenner, and can be used anywhere in the house. Put it on the floor to change baby, and it doesn’t matter if you’re distracted and he rolls off along the carpet (although make sure you’ve wiped his bottom first. Yeuuuurrrrrgh!)


2. Moses baskets/bassinets/rocking cribs

At any other time in your life, would you buy a bed you know you’ll need to replace in 3-6Â months? Unless you can borrow one to get you started, I’d buy a cotbed and invest in a cot divider which will make it cosy enough when baby is very small. Swaddling with a blanket will also mean the little one doesn’t feel too exposed.


3. A pram

This is the travelling equivalent of the moses basket. Something the little one will grow out of and then you need to buy a buggy. Not only that, but it’s bulky and not the kind of thing you can easily get in the car boot or on the bus. A buggy which reclines, or a travel system which allows him to stay in his car seat, is a much better bet.


4. Baby shoes

Who are you buying these for? Barefoot is best for a baby until he starts walking – and even then going bare indoors is still encouraged while the feet are developing. Socks are enough to keep an infant’s feet warm, or an all-in-one sleepsuit under a jacket. Baby shoes can be restricting and they’re purely for decoration.


5. A free-standing highchair

Now I know what you’re thinking. And I must admit we had a highchair (a gift from my Mum) which saw us through feeding times for both our boys when they were little. But thinking about the cost – more than £100 – and the fact we couldn’t get it close to the dining table, I’ve realised it wasn’t necessary. This great highchair-style booster seat is less than £30 and means baby could sit with the rest of the family.



What do you think? Would any other items make your top five?

Would you argue any of these are essential for a baby?



For a definitive list of what you will need for a newborn, check out this article written by yours truly for MyFamilyClub.

Hold the phone, a great stocking filler for your (and their) inner geek

I never would have imagined I would want or need a mobile phone holder.

It’s true I love my phone. Even more than some members of my family (distant cousins of course!) But mobile phone holders are neon plastic mouldie things, aren’t they?

Then two things happened.

Firstly, I smashed the screen of my beloved gadget – not a pretty site – and then Carla from ideasbynet sent me the What?Gravity Mobile Phone Holder to try from their range of Christmas stocking fillers.

For an item claiming to defy gravity,  it did not look like much at first. There were no magnets, grippers, catches or ledges just a “jelly pad”.

When I placed my phone – a Samsung Galaxy – on the pad though, it instantly gripped and held the phone securely. I also tried it with hubby’s iphone with the same result.

In fact, according to the manufacturer’s it will hold any mobile in place and they’ve created a video to prove it.

Video By Ideasbynet

I left my phone on the holder from the moment I returned from picking up the kids from school to bedtime and loved the fact that I could glance across at it, while doing other things, and clearly see messages, tweets and calendar dates. Then I let my eldest watch some an episode of Charlie and Lola as a treat before bed and the holder was at the perfect angle for her to sit and watch.

Who would have guessed a mobile phone holder would release my inner geek?


What?Gravity Mobile Phone Holder

Available from ideasbynet

Around £5


The jelly pad is made of soft-touch silicone and is really easy to look after. If it gets a bit dirty or dusty just wash it in soap and water, then dry it. Great when little hands are at play.


Your other half may attempt to sneek your holder away. Mine ended up in hubby’s office.

Also worth knowing:

The holder is in two pieces and can be taken apart easily if you are planning to travel with it. We are likely to take it on holiday with us so that our children can watch videos or play games together.



Posted by Elizabeth




Save Me The Money

If you’re anything like me, you’ll often wonder where all your money goes.

I’m hardly swanning around in designer clothes, lugging my Harvey Nics shopping bags to my next manicure appointment (oh, if only!)

But my bank balance diminishes faster than Katie Price’s last marriage.

Where does it all disappear to?

I suppose on treats and days out for the kids – on top of the spiralling costs of living.

A few essentials from the supermarket, filling the car up with petrol, clothing two boys who are on a never-ending growth spurt…….

It all takes a financial toll.

So I feel honoured to have been involved in writing for a new online club for parents – MyFamilyClub.

Offering up to £1,000 of savings per year, it’s free to access and gives guidance to parents on saving time and money.

“MyFamilyClub is all about helping UK families manage their time and money throughout the various stages of their children’s lives, from preparing for a baby to when that baby leaves home.

The website has interactive budgeting tools (which I’m already finding useful), weekly meal planners, and informative articles, blogs and guides to help families save money and time.

There’s the option of paying an annual fee of £9.95 to gain access to instant savings.

Members can choose up to five pay-as-you-go gift cards from a selection of 10 top high street retailers and supermarkets, offering s

avings of up to 10%, as well as around 50% off advance bookings at theme parks and attractions such as Warwick Castle, Alton Towers and Legoland.

Mum of two Gemma Johnson is the woman who dreamed up the site.

She explains: “MyFamilyClub is all about helping UK families manage their time and money throughout the various stages of their children’s lives, from preparing for a baby to when that baby leaves home.

“We want to create a positive, non-judgmental and practical support network around money and time saving.”

 To celebrate it’s launch, MyFamilyClub is running a competition where you can win a bumper bag of this year’s most popular Christmas toys.

How to win a bumper pack of this year’s most popular toys:

From their lovely friends at Spinmaster, you could win:


  • Bakugan Dragonoid Collossus
  • Zoobles Nursery Playset
  • Fab Effex Variety Pack
  • Bizu Style Studio
  • Air Hogs Vectron Wave
  • Moon Sand Bake Shop
  • Disney Cars 2 AppMate


To enter, go to MyFamilyClub’s Facebook page and once you are a fan, click on the competition’s tab to enter.

Or on Twitter, follow @MyFamilyClub and tweet #mfcwintoys

The competition is running until November 24.

Posted by Donna

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