Monday, 29 June 2015

Saving Money on Family Trips

With three short weeks until the summer holidays commence in earnest I need to start thinking about suitable activities and days out to occupy the boys.  I like to give them some free time to amuse themselves but most of the time I find something structured works best to keep them focused on doing something other than wrestling each other and bickering incessantly!  But the cost of heading to attractions can be quite prohibitive and I cannot afford to spend lots of money each week just to survive!

I think sometimes a couple of trips spread out over the course of the seven weeks can work well.  The rest of the time making the most of what you have in your locality is a good idea.  If you have a park, beach (for sandcastles) or woodland to explore you can wear them out that way!  A scavenger hunt, some geocaching or similar can wile away the time quite nicely and if you get desperate throw in some screen time and put your feet up (or most likely catch up on the housework!). 

A photo posted by Karen (@missingsleep) on

When we are spending our hard earned cash heading off somewhere I like to keep an eye on tripadvisor to see what the reviews are like, they also have deals on hotels which can make a nights stay more affordable if you head to a site like CoupoRando you will find applicable codes there.

We are lucky to have complimentary Merlin Annual Passes through my blog, but if you live close to some of the bigger attractions they work out very reasonable to buy especially if you regularly visit theme parks.  Since we first used ours in May we have been to Legoland, Chessington, Thorpe Park, Warwick Castle, Alton Towers, Blackpool Tower, Madame Tussauds and the SEA LIFE in Blackpool.  During the holidays we have grand plans to cover London next for Shrek’s Adventure, London Eye and the bigger Madame Tussauds there.

A photo posted by Karen (@missingsleep) on

I blogged about our #StayPlayExplore break this is one option to save money you get three attractions, a nights stay, breakfast and car parking all for only £129.  But if your visiting attractions closer to home make sure you make up a picnic to save on eating out, my two are always badgering for more drinks and snacks so pack plenty!!!

There are free attractions dotted around the UK, so look online and see how much you can do without spending a penny!  This Big Pit National Coal Museum is one example and it looks like an interesting day out especially as you can take part on an underground tour.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

One Year Later

This month is a tricky one for us we have to try and find the money to have the front of the house repointed, it’s the 1st anniversary in our new house and rather than celebrate with champagne we are just hoping to stop further water damage from heavy rain in the front rooms…

Buying a house that needs considerable work is a stressful experience, even when the full structural report was damming I still remained vaguely positive but a year later that optimism has waned slightly!!!  Occasionally we have short fleeting moments of regret when the costs keep piling up but we are in for the long run and hopefully it will pay off as an investment for the boys future when we downsize property in our twilight years and free up some capital for them!

We have learnt some valuable lessons along the way like the order you should do jobs, start outside and work in for one… the rooms we have decorated at the front now need a lick of paint because we did things back to front so we have the additional cost of reordering Kent Blaxill decorating supplies to refresh those damaged areas.  Fortunately purchasing them online works out cheaper than our pricey local DIY store.

Stick with your instinct; if you want something done but your builder disagrees get a different builder.  Do not feel steamrolled into decisions you are not happy with.  You are paying the bill so should have absolute control (safety permitting) of jobs you want completed.  We learnt the hard way, but next time I would be firmer.

Keep a tight reign on finances because they can soon spiral out of control when handling such a big project, prioritise the most important jobs and try not to get carried away buying furniture for a larger house when you have so much essential work that needs to be completed.  We have been reasonably good in this respect, with just the very occasional hiccup!  Luckily in my moments of weakness hubbie stays stronger and visa versa.

Finally do your research online, we had a quote for raising damp on the recommendation of our structural survey, which was quite pricey, but on top of that the work required us to take the plasterwork back to the stonework.  But having looked online we found out that most of the problems are rectified when people move into the property and start heating it etc.  This property had been vacant for almost a year so most of the issue has resolved itself.

Hopefully for our 2nd anniversary we will finally get a glass of bubbly but by then we will have probably moved on to something else… like adding a ceiling to this room, well at least we added a new radiator...

Ending Loneliness

I was quite keen to be involved in this latest campaign to end loneliness by the lovely people over at Sunrise.  I think as you get older you can feel lonely at times, especially if the people around you are busy attending to their jobs and children.  I must confess I think I should visit my own parents more, but when we have had a week of playdates, working and taxiing the boys around we are beyond exhausted.  But this campaign made us find the time to cook something for them and play a board game together.

A photo posted by Karen (@missingsleep) on

We settled for the Bread and Butter Pudding recipe, it is not too complicated but the end result was very tasty.  Decent grub can really cheer you up and this Sunrise recipe proved a real hit with everyone, even the boys are now converted to the merits of bread and butter pudding.  My dad wolfed it down, my mum bless her watched on drooling as she is being particularly good right now and abstaining from sugary treats.

Afterwards we brought out a new game to play, Don’t Say It was ideal as it got the grey matter going for us all.  You have to describe a word to your team members without using certain words, some of the cards were quite challenging.  My mum was hilarious to watch as she was very theatrical with her hands and my dad was making the boys giggle by copying her.

It’s lovely having time together as a family, it’s so precious and the boys love their grandparents and are creating lasting memories spending time with them.  So I think we will cook for them more often and continue to play games like we did today.  My mum did not want it to end but after two games it was time for the boys to go to bed.  Next time I might work on hubbie to make the Bailey’s Cheesecake and as Sunrise pride themselves with making each recipe nutritionally balanced I won’t feel too guilty eating it!!!

You can download further recipes from the Dining and Nutrition section of their website.