sagaspendingdiary

My #Sagaspendingdiary Challenge – Can I Budget and save money?

#Sagaspendingdiary challenge

As you will know from reading my blog posts I like to save money. I also like to spend money. I like to think that most things I buy, maybe 80%, I get a discount or I save some money somehow. I like to find a bargain but I also like to splurge.I have always been slightly uncomfortable with my lack of control with spending. I wouldn’t describe it as out of control but I won’t really know how much I’ve spent every day. It’s easy to spend the odd £20 here and there at lunch with the boys or a bottle of water on the way home from London. It all adds up. So it was a welcome challenge to receive from Saga who asked me to keep a #sagaspendingdiary. Saga are currently looking at equity release can help with debt management, take a look here for more information Equity Release branch.

#sagaspendingdiaryI was sent an exciting bundle of goodies, including a great book about money and some budget stationery (I am a sucker for stationery!). My task was to spend a few weeks keeping a spending diary and to think about how it felt and what difference it made to my spending habits.

My Spending Diary

I tracked my spending for 2 weeks before I went on holiday and then again for 2 weeks after holiday. I thought this would be an interesting comparison to try it when I was a bit more frivolous and then again when I had created a habit and was more conscious of my spending.

Pre-Holiday Spending

In a 14-day period my spending was quite high. In total I spent £1,144. Wowzers that a lot of money.

So let’s break it down a bit as there are some business expenses in there and some big holiday costs

  • Easy Jet bags and seat booking                 £138
  • Aldi & Waitrose Shopping                          £165
  • Petrol                                                               £72
  • Business Expenses                                        £80
  • Dinner out in evening                                  £75
  • Beauty/Well-being treatments                  £130
  • Lunches/coffee/snacks                                £90
  • Shopping for Holiday clothing family       £394

#sagaspendingdiarySo there is quite a bit in there that I had to pay for, namely Easy Jet holiday costs & petrol. There are some costs where I know I have worked hard to cut costs namely £165 for 2 weeks’ worth of food shopping. That’s much less than I used to spend at Tesco!

My problem areas could be beauty/well-being. This was gel nails for my holiday. A treatment to help with my gall bladder and 2 Pilates sessions. I am not giving up the Pilates and the gall bladder treatment was worth every penny (colonic treatment which made me feel amazing). The nails are a luxury. But they make me feel good.

Shopping for holiday, £394 sound excessive. But £230 of this was a huge shopping haul for hubby who got trainers, 6 t-shirts, 3 pairs of short and socks for holiday from the Nike discount outlet. £51 was trousers, skirt and sunglasses from French Connection outlet store. There is also spends at Primark & Poundland for the boys.

£90 on lunches and coffee is excessive in 2 weeks when I could be taking packed lunches and bottles of water out with me. And the dinner for £75 this was for a birthday and was for all 5 of us to eat.

So in summary I could cut back maybe £2-300 of this spending with a little thought, planning.

Post-Holiday Spending

So we have spent slightly less but not much less £1,100…the distribution of spend is different though.

  • Day in London with hubby and friends £270
  • Replacements for our dinner service     £138
  • Clothes Boys & Me                                     £120
  • Petrol                                                            £200
  • Food Aldi/Tesco/Co-op                            £155
  • Lunch/Snacks                                             £80
  • Business Expenses                                     £50
  • Cash for Night out                                      £50
  • Gifts                                                               £40

A very different spending pattern here. The day out in London cost a lot I know but it included a beautiful meal at splurge restaurant. Cut, 45 Park Lane. It is amazing and was a special treat for us whilst we had a child-free weekend.

I have a set of white square Denby dinner service. Quite a few bits over the years have been broken and the range was discontinued. It’s just been re-introduced at the Denby outlet store, so I bought 4 plates, side plates, cereal bowls and pasta bowls. Full price should have been £250ish and I got them for £138. They are classed as seconds, but I can’t see any imperfections.

I have big issues with clothes, as in none of my clothes fit me from losing weight. So I went to H&M and got myself a few new bits. I love H&M, really stylish and bang on trend for a bargain price. I got 7 things for £89.

The Aldi & Tesco bill was too high. We did too much convenience shopping in Co-op. I should have gone to Aldi and done a full shop but I hadn’t got around to it. I did a quick Aldi shop to get a tasting selection of wines for a friend as a gift.

Again £80 spent on lunch out and snacks…considering that its summer holidays this is not too bad. But it could have been avoided. And I have spent less on business expenses, mainly because August is a quiet month and I have only been into London once.

Petrol has cost loads as we have had several football games miles away, Manchester, Norwich, Colchester, Newmarket & Huntingdon. We are now thinking about getting a smaller, much more efficient car that we can use for these football journeys.

Am I going to carry on?

Absolutely. This is a brilliant exercise that I encourage everyone to do. No need to have a fancy budget planner, there are loads of printables available for free or write it on a bit of paper. But do it for a few weeks so you create the habit. Then reflect back on what you have spent like I have done. I can totally see now I’ve gone back through my spending where my issues lie and where I can save some money. I will update the story in a couple of months time to see if I can improve my spending habits and spend less!

This was a collaborative post with Saga, where I received stationery products, a book and a gift voucher.

Aldi Lacura

Aldi Lacura Skincare & Make Up Range Challenge

Aldi Lacura

I met the Aldi health and beauty team back in July and got to see the full range of Aldi Lacura exciting products coming up for the remainder of the year and for Christmas. We had a great chat about my skincare regime and the amount of money I spend on my products. I am a Bobbi Brown and Lancome girl and have spent a small fortune on my make up collection. But is it worth it, how much am paying for the branding? Do they really make me look younger, do they really cleanse my skin properly?

So I am doing an challenge with the Aldi Skincare range. From wed 24th Aug I am trialling Aldi products only for one month to see the impact on my skin. Do the products make my skin look younger, fresher, softer? Are these great value products equivalent to the much more expensive products. I have recorded a Youtube video to show you my skin before the challenge begins. I then show you the products and my skin afterwards. I think it looks A LOT better, take a look and see what you think.

Here are the high end Bobbi Brown/Lancome products to the left and the Aldi Lacura Products to the right.

High End Skin Care & Make Up (Quoting John Lewis Prices)

Bobbi Brown Hydrating Tonic (£22)

Genefique Eye Cream (£40)

Genefique Serum (£80)

Bobbi Brown Extra Repair Moisurising Cream (£65)

Night eye cream Estee Lauder (baby post £15)

Night moisturiser Estee Lauder (baby pot £20)

Bobbi Brown BB Cream (£29.50)

Bobbi Brown Colour correcter (£19.50)

Bobbi Brown Concealer (£24)

Bobbi Brown Eye Shadow (£17.50 each)

Bobbi Brown Mascara (£21)

Estee Lauder Eye Liner (£17)

Total Cost of £388…WOW is all I can say

Aldi Lacura Products

Caviar Day Cream (£6.99)

Caviar Night Cream (£6.99)

Expert Wrinkle Smoother (£4.99)

Caviar Serum (£7.99)

Lacura Multi Intensive Serum (£2.99)

Lacura Mineral Powder (£3.79)

Lacura Concealer (£2.99)

Lacura Eyeliner (£1.99)

Lacura Face Wash (£0.99)

Lacura Mascara (£2.39)

Poundland Eyeshadow (£2)

Total Cost £44.10

The Expense of Make-Up

So I have never done that before and added up what I have spent on skincare and make up and that is extremely scary. £388 just on this lot…and I actually have way more than this at home. And then the Aldi skincare and make up costing £44. I am truly shocked by the difference in price here.

My thoughts on the skincare after day 1

As I said in my video I think my skin looks a lot better after day 1 application. It looks fresher, less wrinkly (HURRAH) and more glowing. The serum I love, it smells devine, I love that it comes out black which disappears!!

28-8-16 Aldi Lacura After faceI am really looking forward to this challenge and understanding the difference between expensive and value branded make-up. I will be back again with another video in 2 weeks and again in 4 weeks. And please let me know if you think my skin looks better from the video in my comments below.

If you want to buy the products, you can from the Aldi website.

I would love it if you could subscribe to my You Tube channel:-) I’m trying to get up to 500 subscribers and I have a LONG way to go:-) Thanks MMP xx

Switching Utilities – Gas & Electricity – I saved £320

Switching Utilities

It is that time of year for me where I have the joyous task of switching utilities. I have gas & electricity, broadband, phone line and TV package. It’s a lot to sort out but it also handy that it all happens at the same time as once I am in the mood to save I just get it sorted out.

24-8-16 Switching Utilities houseNow let’s be upfront, this process is going to take a bit of time and research, but let’s turn this time into cash. If I can save myself maybe £300 for 2 hours’ work, is it worth it? Of course! What job would you ever earn £300 in 2 hours? I have borrowed that clever analogy from Debt Camel, one of my blogger companions in this personal finance world. If you are reading this and are stressing about debt, please do take a look at her website for more help. She is a brilliant CAB adviser and can help you.

Switching Gas & Electricity to save money

So it’s estimated that 70% of the UK population have not recently switched their utilities. WHY NOT?  You are within every right to switch suppliers. And get this, no utility company will reward you for your loyalty. Sounds crazy you are thinking, if I have been with British Gas for 10 years they will be repay me with cheaper bills? No they will be laughing all the way to the bank/dividend payments to shareholder with the extra profit they cream off most of their unknowing customers.

I am being hard I know, I REALLY WANT YOU to look into your energy bills and check you are on the best deal. Every time I write a post like this, once a year, I get many people drop me a message to say, “Thank you Mrs Mummypenny, I have just saved our family around £300 per year”. PLEASE DO IT and save some money.

Introducing Be An Energy Shopper

Be an Energy Shopper will give you any information you need, especially useful if this is the first time you have 24-8-16 Switching Utilities Sunflowerswitched. The website was set up by OFGEM, the energy regulator, so can be trusted to contain the correct impartial information. Its clean and clear and easy to navigate. A great start! The first information they give you is that they can help you find the best deal for your gas & electricity.

Understanding your bill

There are 3 areas of information on the site, the first being understanding your bills . I have a direct debit pay monthly duel fuel (same company for gas & electricity) with SSE. Their bills are super clear, but not all companies are. The info you need to get at is electricity and gas usage. You will need to see how much you are in credit by (have you over paid?) or in debit by (underpaid) to understand your current position. If you are in a large credit yippee, you have some money due back and you have been overpaying every month. You may have a debit, best to give your company a call to understand this and how to sort it out.

I was on a 1 year fixed deal with SSE with a monthly direct debit of £90. As a comparison to what you may pay I live in a 4-bedroom semi-detached house. 5 people in house who use a lot of devices, tablets, phones, TV etc. 4 out of 5 people are boys so A LOT of washing goes on.

Energy Tariffs & Deals

The second section tells you about energy tariffs and deals. Click here to see the different comparison sites accredited by OFGEM. And the final section gives you more information about switching supplier. Last week I used Uswitch for my comparison but there are 11 other sites you could use.

Just click on the link and hop on over to the site. You just need to plug in your monthly usage or monthly direct debit information. If this is an unknown to you give your current provider a call and ask them your annual gas and electricity usage. They will be super speedy with the exact number to pop into the comparison site.

My Savings

Back to my savings. SSE was costing me £1,080 per year. The renewal quote from SSE was going to be £1,200 per year (I did call them; this was the best they could do). Affect Energy have recalculated my usage to cost me £880. So a £200 saving last year versus this year. Or £320 saving on renewal price from SSE versus new company Affect Energy. No hesitation I have swapped:-). I have just had an email from Affect asking for my meter readings, just 10 days after the request to swap. All switches should be completed within a 21-day period. My switch was carried out in 17 days.

I am a happy bunny with my £320 saving, and am really impressed so far with the customer service from Affect Energy. It appears to be good, their emails are simple and everything seems to be moving quickly and simply.

Please, please, please check your energy bills. Find out how much you are paying, how much energy you are using and do a comparison using one of the approved and  price comparison sites listed on the Be an Energy Shopper site. I would LOVE to hear how much you have saved. Leave me a comment let’s see if you can beat £320.

Next I’ll share my swapping of Broadband, Landline, TV package with you. I wonder if I can get my annual savings up to £500?

This post was written in collaboration with the helpful guys at Be An Energy Shopper.  

23-8-16 Gravity Force Trampoline the boys

Gravity Force Trampoline Park – St. Albans

Gravity Force Trampoline Park

I have seen these parks pop up all over the country and have been really keen to see them in real life and try them out. So how cool is it that two have opened within a week both local to me in Hertfordshire and I get to review both for Mrs Mummypenny. This week I review the new Gravity Force Trampoline park in between St. Albans and Hatfield.

Launch Day Fun

Last week I was invited along with buddy Anita and our 4 boys (8,7,6 &5) to the launch day to experience the brand new park. It looked spotless and huge. Everywhere you looked there was trampoline after trampoline. Apparently 200 in total. There were a lot of mats where you jump from one to the next, dodgeball, basketball, sponge pit jumps, trampolines on wall, trampoline runs. Basically I have never seen so many trampolines and all in my favourite colour purple:-)

23-8-16 Gravity Force Trampoline dodgeball and basketball 23-8-16 Gravity Force Trampoline wide shot

So the boys went mental as soon as we got there and bolted off to give everything a try. Anita and I got a drink and chilled in the coffee shop overlooking the trampoline park, we know how to live;-). We chatted and tried to keep an eye on the boys, which actually we managed to do. The viewing gallery has a great view overlooking the whole park. They spent a lot of time in the dodgeball area, working as a team to take down the other children. They then moved to the trampoline runs. We wondered down to do some filming.

They loved the sponge pit jumps where you can jump off a ledge onto a trampoline then flip into a huge sponge pit. Take a look at the video where I managed to get them all in quick succession jumping in.

Us grown up didn’t have a go. The boys were having such a great time so we didn’t feel the need to, I definitely will next time;-) But only if I wear a decent sports bra and some sporty clothes.

At the launch party there were lots of very clever gymnast people, flipping about showing us all how trampolining is done. There was a free runner who was super talented and Anton from X-factor. That was a bit random??

The Cost

It’s going to cost you £9.95 per child age 5 and over for 1 hour of bouncing, this is more than enough time! You are also going to need special socks (£2) so make sure you keep them if you buy them first time around or from another park. This is not the cheapest of activity but it is a lot of fun and the children are going to be grateful for the experience, Josh claimed its his second favourite activity in the UK after football. They will be so tired out that 7pm bedtime should be fine;-) For the tot’s session it half the price at £5 per child and £5 per adult, and the adults have to accompany the tot.

Age Range

There are 2 age groups that can visit. The under 5’s can go to gravity tots first hour of the day every day. Then aged 5 and older can go to Gravity Jump. This is nice to split up the ages as it can get quite full on with the older children. I know Jack would love to come along with his little 3-year-old friends.

Other Activities

There is keep fit for grown up on a Sunday morning at 9am. I am absolutely giving that a try as I have heard 10 minutes of trampolining is the equivalent of 30 minutes running calorie wise.

There are also birthday parties. These cost £16.95 per child with a minimum of number of 10 children. This includes a party leader, food, drink.

Overall I was really impressed with the trampoline park and will return with the boys. I love an activity where they have brilliant fun and there is some tiring activity involved. This ticks the boxes.

Bouncing mad at Air Space Trampoline Park Stevenage

Air Space Trampoline Park in Stevenage

A huge thank you to Sam Buckley, who reviewed the brand new Air Space trampoline park in Stevenage for Mrs Mummypenny whilst we were on holiday. As you will see and read, she done a fantastic job and had a great time at the launch day. Over to Sam.

19-8-16 Air space trampoline Stevenage familyIndoor trampoline parks are popping up everywhere, and I really wanted to know what all the fuss was about.   I was expecting a good fun hour for the 8 and 5 year old, and I could leisurely have a cup of tea (and possibly cake) and watch them have fun.

On Arrival

As you walk in to reception, you have to fill in a couple of forms.  The friendly staff make sure you have read the safety notices, as well as signing to confirm you’ve read them for yourself and any children you have with you – they also ask you for your age, yep, even mum’s!

More about safety

We all get a pair of bright Orange socks, and taken through to the safety video (yes, I know I’m going to sit down and have a cup of tea, but I’ve picked up the socks just in case I change my mind). It’s only a couple of minutes long, and it’s a repeat of what I’d just read at reception, but to be fair, I’d already forgotten that, so this wasn’t such a bad idea.

The 8 year old is sort of listening….and the 5 year old is more interested in her slush puppy, so in terms of the impact of the actual video, I’m not sure if anything was really taken in, but I can tell that these guys really are serious about keeping you safe and following the rules.  The scariest part was when we were tested with a couple of questions at the end.  I really should pay more attention!

So what’s it all about?

There are a number of sections within the huge warehouse of trampolines – including:

  • Basketball – A strip of trampoline leading to a basketball hoop (only one of these, so not sure what it will be like when busy)
  • Dodgeball/volleyball – this is a netted off area, and the only space where you can end up being on the same trampoline as others
  • A performance wall with trampolines – more of a place for the older kids to learn techniques and tricks
  • Air bag space – two strips of trampoline leading to a huge airbag.
  • The main trampoline section – with over 50 trampolines – as well as wall trampolines.

Now that’s a lot of bouncing!

19-8-16 Air space trampoline Stevenage small trampolines19-8-16 Air space trampoline stevenage long bounce

Both the 8 and 5 year old were excited, but a little reluctant at first and wanted to just try the main trampolines – building their confidence through different bounces.  After a while they warmed up and started bouncing against the walls and seeing how fast they could bounce.

Favourites

19-8-16 Air Space trampoline Stevenage crash matThey both loved the long trampoline at first – seeing how quickly they could bounce.  However once they both mastered the air bags, this was the definite favourite – even after the actual bounce, trying to crawl off the airbag was half the fun.

The performance wall was a little much for them, so they ignored that, maybe next time….

Other bits…

They have lockers within the toilet areas and near the trampolines, so no worries about storing your stuff, and they also have a balcony area, so if you really do want just a cup of tea, you can watch from up there and keep an eye on things.

No under 5’s allowed

I’d seen on Facebook that there was some criticism about 5-year-olds not being allowed to take part, and I did think that was a little unfair. However, after seeing how boisterous it can get, and how serious they are about safety, I can see why they would want to err on the side of caution – my 5-year-old is on the smaller side, and she did struggle with the wide gaps between each trampoline.

Is it for grown-ups?

I loved it, although I was a lot more cautious than the kids and I ended up taking longer to try the different stages long after either of mine did (I seem to get scared of more things as I get older…) However one surprise was, 10 minutes trampoline is the same as a 30 minute run!  They are going to start exercise classes soon, and will be around 45-60 minutes long – I’ll be keeping an eye out for sure. Just a word of warning to mummies…try and practice those pelvic floor muscles before you go!

What’s the verdict?

You only get an hour entrance on the trampolines, but this really does tire the kids out, and they have a huge amount of fun.  The staff are friendly, encouraging and they’re there to help you keep safe but also to have fun.  If you want to wear the kids out this summer, Air Space really will help you out. The cost is £9.95 per child for an hour. This initially feels like a lot of money until you compare it to places like 360 play which are very similarly priced.

Next time, I’ll make sure I’m in my sports gear, hair tied back and Tena lady ready!

To see exactly what its all about check out this YouTube video. And to book tickets click here

One last thank you to Sam Buckley for writing this review and attending the opening day of Air Space trampoline park with her children. We have both received tickets to Air Space free of charge for our families. 

Compare the Market – New Simples Product

Compare the Market – Making Life Easier/simpler/less hassle.

I love a new time saving and hassle removal bit of technology. So I was very intrigued to learn more about the new Compare the market Simples proposition. Just before holiday I was invited to my favourite bit of London, Shoreditch (check out this amazing graffitti!) 16-8-16 shoreditch compare the marketto spend a few hours understanding and then reviewing the product. It’s in test mode (beta) at the moment with a few gremlins being ironed out, and I got to have a go at testing and breaking it! I am a good tester of technology. I used to do it a lot at EE, one day when we launched the new website we all did an over-nighter, spending 12 hours tearing the website apart trying to break every page, process and purchase journey!

What…Homework??!!

I had a bit of homework before attending the workshop. I had to dig out all my insurance document for home, car and travel insurance. I have all 3 somewhere. As you can see from this picture my filing is not at its best. And it took me some time to locate the insurance docs. Although handily I did find car insurance docs from 3 years ago;-)

16-8-16 Insurance filing boxes compare the market 16-8-16 Insurance filing mess compare the market

My insurance documents were located, either in paper or email format. And I had to recall without cheating and looking who my insurers were and how much I paid for the premium. Um this wasn’t easy…and I had only just renewed them all!!

Recalling my Insurance Companies & Premiums Paid

For my home insurance I knew it was renewed in March, but could not remember who with. It cost around £200 I thought. My travel insurance had just been renewed with Debenhams insurance and I knew that cost around £40 for annual policy. Car insurance, I thought it was Admiral costing £220. Renewed in March.

I got most of it wrong LOL. It just goes to show insurance is one of those things that you have to have, but you go through that process sometimes automatically, and particularly me, recall nothing about it. I find insurance renewal a boring task!! Boring but I never auto-renew and spend some time searching for a better deal to save some cash.

Simples from Compare the Market

The Simples app is ‘simply’ described as a cloud/virtual based holding place for all your insurance documents. And its uses clever technology, artificial intelligence, to pull out the key details and gives you a handy summary of key information.

You upload the information either scanning it in or sending it via email. Easy or rather simples.

The clever stuff – Car

I loved the summary pages, it gave me the policy number, renewal date, premium paid. What’s included and what’s not included. It also told me my insurance Debenhams was £283 (but I know I got £65 cash back when I took out the policy). SO I remembered the price but not the insurer. We have a Ford SMax BTW. And live in Hertfordshire. 10 years no claims discount for you to compare:-)

It also told me how many days until MOT due, as its checks with DVLA database. Clever stuff. And it shows the telephone number if you need to call them.

I also gave me a defaqto rating, a rating of how strong the policy is. My policy has been rated as just 2/5 stars. This didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy, I’m guessing my policy is low because it doesn’t include legal and breakdown cover? I fed this back to the team, the lack of warm & fuzzy feeling and lack of understanding what defaqto meant.

Clever Stuff – Travel

My travel policy also with Debenhams shows all the included people my family. I have a 3/5-star rating for policy. A bit better than car. This policy cost £42 per year (including USA). Chatting to the other personal finance experts in the room I have a great deal here. An annual policy is a great idea if you do maybe 2 or more trips abroad. We tend to have 1 family holiday, 1 holiday by ourselves as couple and maybe another with our girl or boy mates for golf/ibiza etc.

Clever Stuff – Home

My home policy is with Towergate (not sure who they are??) and looking through the details again it’s a bit of a rubbish policy. It has a lot of exclusions. I went for cheap here and it’s not good. So I will review this properly. As a comparison though its contents and buildings, includes accidental, and is for a 4 bed semi detached house in Hertfordshire.

Peace of Mind

I have set up reminders so I get a text when all policies are up for renewal. And I feel very much empowered that I now know more about my insurance policies, costs and inclusions. Anything that gives me peace of mind and removes hassle is a winner for me.

Give it a go yourself

Why not have a go yourself. Sign up to an account and add in your insurance documents.16-8-16 alexandre meerkat compare the market

  1. Visit simples.uk.com
  2. Sign up for Simples with your Comparethemarket.com login
  3. Add a car, travel and/or home insurance policy
  4. Use the text message chat widget to speak to and ask questions of your policy

This post is a collaborative post with Compare the Market. Meerkats were involved, but were not hurt in the process;-)

13-8-16 Eatiing clean after shot

Eating Clean – My Health, Gall bladder & Wellbeing

Eating Clean Journey

It’s another early morning in Spain. Today I have been awoken at 6am by 2 hungry children who fell asleep before eating their dinner last night. I thought I would write today about my eating clean journey since my last health update post, I wrote at the end of June about my gall bladder diagnosis and my plan. Here is that blog. From then until the end of Aug I went for it big time with clean eating and the results were amazing. I want to share with you what I did as it may help you. The health effects have been really incredible.

Eating Clean

My mentor has been guiding me. When I was pregnant with Jack I met Helena on my mama baby bliss pregnancy yoga classes. An incredibly calming and caring influence then who helped so much when pregnant. I can put a lot of my pleasant third pregnancy down to her. She also helped after Jack was born with diet/colic/what to eat when breastfeeding etc. We have kept in touch over the years via Facebook and I attend her super-yoga class whenever I can every few months or so.

Helena is one of these multi-talented people who can sort out the bigger picture, mind, body and spirit. I contacted her as soon as I got the gall bladder diagnosis to get her advice. We had a very powerful skype session the morning before I went off to a spa weekend.

Nutrition

The advice here was quite simple. Eat clean for 6 weeks. And start with an extreme detox for the first week. This meant no to the big 7. No dairy, no gluten, no alcohol, no red meat, no acid, no caffeine, no sugar. A lot of no’s there. And most people’s reaction is ‘wow I could never do that’. But there was something in me, fear of ill health maybe that made me think, I can do this. I can eat clean for 6 weeks and make myself better.

It might be simpler to say what I could eat in week 1. Fish, chicken, turkey, brown rice, rice noodles, green veg, pears, blueberries, papaya, green tea (30 second dip of bag only), water, lemon, lime. I could cope with that. I also had a few vitamins etc. to buy, mostly to take down inflammation of the internal organs, gall bladder, liver, kidneys etc. I had milk thistle, pro-biotics, magnesium, turmeric and aloe vera.

Week 1 was of course a super busy week with 2 business lunches, a wedding, children’s party and bbq. As I have now found though, if you are friendly and have a chat to chef or a nice waiter, restaurants will do anything for you. Or just take an emergency supply of what you can eat. I was mostly fine that week with food. The wedding was particularly hard. The buffet killed me, I love a buffet, and all I could eat was veg sticks and the salmon from inside the bagels. I was on water all day. As people got more and more drunk I was more and more desperate to leave.

Week 1 Side Effects

So I lost 7 lbs in the first week!! Not that one should obsess about weight, but I do. My no 1 goal of #40thingsb440 was to get my weight under 11 stone by March 29th 2017. My skin was glowing. My sleep was deep and refreshing. My energy levels in the morning were incredible. My body changed, I developed a waist. The internal organs swelling went down.

But I was lacking energy in afternoon/evenings. I went to bed early. Exercise was too much that week. I was snappy and irritable. I had sugar withdrawal headaches. They say it’s harder to withdraw from sugar than it is from cocaine. I can believe that! I was slightly desperate for sugar, I got the kick from pear juice and coconut water. And I was desperate for savoury like bread, which I don’t eat anyways! I got constipated as I ate too much white meat. Upping the aloe vera cured that. And stopped eating meat. Helena was on hand on Facebook messenger whenever I had a question for the 6-week period.

Week 2 onwards

There was myriad of events to navigate. Christmas in July with Aldi, they found me gluten free. I tasted the wine and spittoon it thanks Mistress of Wine. A pizza night with bloggers reviewing an app, I drank green tea. Any PR events with food I pre-warned the agency and they got me special gluten & dairy free alternative food. Lovely lovely people.

I slowly introduced new food, humus, avocado, tomatoes, apples. But I was very strict to stay away from alcohol, red meat, eggs. I did have the odd Americano. And I did occasionally try a bit of sugar. I had an Oreo ice-cream on a really hot 30-degree day when I was in London for meetings. It made me poo a lot. I liked this after the constipation issues.

Let’s talk Poo

I talk about poo a lot, with my friends, with my boys, with Helena. We all poo so let’s talk about it! I have always had problems with digestion, constipation, piles, fissures. You name it I’ve had it. Anyways this eating clean should in theory mean your digestion is sorted out and pooing should come naturally every day. It didn’t for me. I would maybe go for 5 days without a poo. Maybe I wasn’t eating enough? No Jack eats anything and does the biggest poos in the world. So I had a colonic done.

You know what I had a very old blockage right at top of my colon under my right boob. It took ages to come out in the colonic and we saw it some out. Old, dirty, blocking poo. That colonic removed 2 lbs of waste from my body! I highly recommend them for a clean out. I felt lighter afterwards and just well clean. I was a bit emotional the next couple of days, angry mostly, apparently the psychological effects of colonic are great. A physical blockage removal is also a psychological one.

Exercise

I have been doing Pilates every week and I have had 3 personal training sessions, all with Victoria Wells. The PT sessions have killed me but in a good way. I am stronger, fitter, more flexible and able to lift more weight and do more repetitions. My stomach fat is reducing. It’s still there and I will always have the nasty loose skin. Good underwear sorts that out.

6 weeks later

29th July marked the start of our official summer holiday. We started with a festival and camping in the UK, then 2 weeks in Spain. I had my first drink at the festival, an Aspalls organic cider. It went down okay. I felt very lightheaded. I ate a rib eye steak brioche bun. This tasted like heaven. I ate a huge slice of chocolate cake which made me feel sick and then gave me the worst ever sugar hangover the following day. It was like the worst migraine ever and it went on and on for days. Lesson learnt, eating that much sugar is not worth it.

Since I have been on holiday I have eaten mostly clean. I have had a gin and tonic most days, maybe a couple. Spanish measures are a lot bigger than UK. I’ve avoided sugar mostly but I have eaten crisps and some pastries. I have been eating fresh baguette most days. I have eaten fish most days, salad and fruit every day, tons of water. So I’m doing good.

The booze is an interesting one. I didn’t miss it at all. And was quite proud of the fact that I was clean for 5 and a bit weeks. But it also got me thinking about how reliant I was on booze for a good night out/to relax/to celebrate/to forget. Alcohol was my coping mechanism, a socially acceptable thing. I would binge drink terribly, from the age of 15 to 39. 24 years of constant destruction of my liver, kidneys and gall bladder. Binging would be 2 bottles of wine and a few shots. I would lose my memory, do really stupid things, get into trouble, embarrass myself. I keep having flashbacks to terrible things I have done when drunk. I am known by my friends to be a bad influence for drinking. Alcoholic?? I don’t know if I was an alcoholic, hopefully not as I have got rid of the monkey relatively easily. But I definitely had an issue.

I weighed myself on 29th July and I have got to 10 stone 11 lbs. This is a 13 lbs weight loss from the beginning of clean eating. 13 lbs in 38 days, not bad:-)

These are pictures before eating clean.

13-8-16 Eating clean before13-8-16 Eating clean early picture

And these are during then after eating clean.

13-8-16 Eating clean mid picture 13-8-16 Eatiing clean after shot

I am pretty chuffed with the after picture take earlier today. I posted on Instagram, its pretty popular:-)

Contact details of Helena and Victoria

I was helped by Helena Bingham, a nutritionist and yoga guru. Her website is here. All contact details are available on there. She offers many services over skype or on the phone.

Victoria ‘at Future Fit’ Wells can be contacted by going to her Facebook page. She specialises in PT, Pilates and swimming coaching and covers Hertfordshire.

Please mention me if you speak to either of them, we would all like to know about any recommendations and where they came from:-)

Gall bladder Thoughts

I am still not 100% sure what to do about this. I have had no pain since eating clean. But it could come back with the introduction of anything fatty? Who knows. I spoke to my NHS consultant about the operation who explained the risks of having the operation and risks of not having it. They tip slightly in the favour of having it. I am stuck a bit between the devil and the deep blue sea. No op=pain forever. Have the op = pain with op. 1-2 weeks rest. Either way I will be eating clean for the rest of my life. But thats really not a bad thing. Look at me, healthy, fit, balanced.

Mobile Phone – How to get a cheap deal & contract

Mobile Phone Contracts

I used to work in the world of mobile phones. I spent 5 years working for EE until June 2015 in various roles working with the retail shops, call centres and website looking after all sorts of products from pay monthly contracts, pay as you go contracts, mobile phone, free sim cards to go-pro cameras and broadband. When I first started in 2010 I had PAYG Nokia talk & text only phone and when I left 5 years later I was a technology expert with the best Samsung phone and tablet. I learnt a lot about phones, and also how much money mobile phone companies make out of mobile phone contracts! EE makes a lot of money girls and boys.

Life without a mobile phone? No thank you!

I would struggle without my phone. Its goes everywhere with me, even to the toilet sometimes! My business revolves around my website, email, social media so there are forever emails to reply to, people to chat to, social comments to reply to. Sometimes I enjoy queuing for things as it gives me time to go through social media and clean it up.

10-8-16 Mobile phone steps & sleepMy phone monitors my step count (not a great day on 8th Aug!), my sleep, my weight, my mental health, gives me personal finance tips, health coach tips, makes me laugh, makes me cry, holds my books, gets me to places via google maps. I feel very lost when battery is low, so I invested in a super battery pack that hold 2 phones worth of charge..LOL. Thanks EE Moorgate for helping in my hour of need. A dead battery when I needed to find an office in old street for a meeting. Battery pack sorted. Brilliant customer service.

A Great deal – and cheapest way to pay for mobile phone

I know a good deal when I see it in the mobile world and I know the cheapest way to get a decent phone;-). Those £45/50 a month contracts on the latest iPhone or Samsung are expensive peeps. Think about it. It’s a 24 month contract where you are spending say £45 each month, that is £1080. An iPhone does not cost EE that much money. No where near.

A much better and cheaper way of getting your phone if you want it brand new is to buy it outright on Amazon maybe or Ebay if you wanted second hand. Then get an EE Mobile SIM only contract. EE have a fabulous deal at the moment for a 12 month SIMO plan which is £19.99 per month (reduced from £34.99 which seems very steep!) including a ton 16 GB of data. Unlimited calls and texts. Now I am a heavy user of data and use my 10GB limit every month so 16GB is an amazing deal. This is only around for a short time. Only available until next Tues 16th Aug. Be quick snap it up:-)

Need a new phone?

Its nice to get a new phone but it not essential. Why not buy one from a mate, or check out Ebay. Hubby sold his iPhone 5S last week for £100 to a mate. Lots of people will have a handset lying in a drawer somewhere still working perfectly. Although I don’t advocate this, you should be selling them on Music Magpie and getting yourself some extra cash!!! I sold my used Samsung S4 on there last year and got £80. Bargain. Here is the link to them, also useful for selling CD’s, DVD’s, tablets, books, all sorts of stuff you have hanging around.
Music Magpie

If you want a brand new phone, check out trusty Amazon. I have just done a quick search and have found these options. iPhone 6S, iPhone 5S, Samsung S7 and S6. Massive difference in price for phones that all do the same thing!




Price comparison over the 12 months

Its nice to see the savings over a 12 month or 24 month period. Lets compare

iPhone 5S

I don’t need a new model iPhone I am happy to get a new iPhone 5S.

Cost of phone is £265. plus SIMO £19.99 * 12 = £239.88. Total cost of £504.88. This is £42.07 per month for 12 months or

£265 for phone + SIMO £19.99 * 24 = £479.76 = £744.76 = £31.03 for 24 months.

Samsung S7

Phone cost is £510.36. plus SIMO £19.99 * 12 = £239.88. Total cost of £750.24 = £62.52 per month for 1 year.

Or £510.36 + SIMO £19.99 * 24 = £479.76 cost of phone = £990.12  = £41.26 per month. Compared to a PAYM plan on EE website with is 50.99 per month (slightly more data 20GB) with £29.99 upfront for the phone = total cost of £1254 over 2 years. £263 more expensive.

So there you have it. A Sim only plan and a slightly older phone model is the way forward. Or even buy a brand a new phone outright with the SIMO plan and you still save money. Plus the phone is worth maybe £100-200 at the end of the 2 years or whenever you are done. Simple money saving from Mrs Mummypenny.

A reminder of the EE SIMO deal again is EE Mobile SIM only contract. Click on the highlighted word to be zipped through to the EE website to sign up.

This post contains affiliate links and I will be paid a small commission if you decide to buy a new SIMO contract or any of the phones from Amazon. Thank you.

 

19-15-16 Jane Raising children

The No Word – Raising Children – by Jane Batts

Introducing Jane Batts writing about Raising Children

Occasionally I have the odd guest post appear on Mrs Mummypenny. I get asked most days to feature content written by others about health & well-being or personal finance or whatever they are trying to sell. I 99% of the time say no. On the odd occasion I am contacted by writers who I love and read myself. These are the guys I say yes to – The No word- Raising Children -by my wonderful friend Jane Batts. She has guest posted before writing about the reality of summer holidays and the eating habits of her children. Plus it helps at the moment when I am on holiday and I don’t have time to write a new post every couple of days as I would lets face it rather be sat on the beach with the cool sea lapping at my toes;-) Over to Jano.

Judgemental?

Before I had children myself I was extremely judgemental of parents. Terribly. Always tutting under my breath when I saw parents giving in to the screaming toddler. Nodding my head to myself with the thoughts that I would never be so weak with my kids. My own sister can vouch for this behaviour as I once criticised her in public ( yes I know!) for surrendering and giving her youngest exactly what she wanted at that particular time. Whops. Big mistake. Don’t worry, it has since bitten me on the ****, several hundred times since.

Now I am a Mum

I thought I would be a cool mum. My children would adore me but fear me in healthy, respectful fashion that would mean I would never be embarrassed whilst out and about or at children’s party’s, restaurants, wedding’s, cafe’s, playgroup’s. Never happened.

With one at just turned 5 and one at 3 1/2 I am constantly reminded of how little control I actually have once they decide to turn on the gremlin mode.

I gave up the obligatory ” counting warning” from 1-3 as my daughter would just go on with 4,5,6 whilst her and her brother would laugh hysterically while I wanted the ground to open up and drag me down. 

No means No?

I have laid down the rules in my head. No means No. Well it does until they peck at your brain for so long you have to cave just to cling onto some form of sanity. In fact, and I am not proud of this but more often than not I will go to say no. But think about the reaction I am about to have to deal with and stutter out the word yes, just one more cookie, knowing that there will be at least another 5 given just to be certain of no tears and tantrums.

Terrible isn’t it. What can I say. My children have me by the *****.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a firm believer in discipline. My children have respect and manners. They also have the ability to turn me from a sane, strong confident woman to a gibbering wreck begging with them to please stop punching the **** out of each other whilst mummy’s trying to stick to the highway code. 

I caught myself just last week moving my sons car seat to the front as his sister had sat there on the way to school and he had “expressed ” his desire to also sit in the front. Ten minutes of bribing him that he too could sit in the front later and there I am in the pouring rain pacifying my son before he has even come out of school!! Wth!!??? Oh and please help me if I forget his Sausage roll.

As well as all the many things us  parents have to remember I also have to remember which child was allowed out of the car first last time. This can cause a huge punch up and I find it helps keep the peace.

I had to break the devastating news to my daughter at pick up that I had forgotten her scooter. The fear of dread came over me. So I texted my dear friend at her bakery and asked her to put by a doughnut so I could soften the blow. It worked! Thanks Trace. Phew

How to Cope

You may think my children sound like horrid little *****. They are actually very funny, loving kids. But they are kids. So if you find yourself letting them watch 20 more minutes of TV or YouTube rather than the original 5 minutes…..I wouldn’t worry about it. We all do what we can to stay sane and have a little extra peace and calm in our lives!

Thank you

Thank you to the lovely Jane, the queen of multi-tasking. I thought I was pretty good, but she is better. She is the best person I know at turning her hand to anything and doing it well. Here are a few of her jobs currently, radio DJ for SG1 radio (click here to listen in to recent shows), barmaid, gardener, dog walker, podcast editor, occasional writer for Mrs Mummypenny, truck driver. And single mummy to the 2 kids aged 5 and 3. Hats off xx.

6-8-16 Standon calling car shot

Standon Calling Review, Pictures and The Good & Bad

 

Standon Calling Festival

I have been wanting to go to a festival for years now, I watch Glastonbury, V festival longingly every year on TV but never do anything about it. I suppose the fear of the unknown and camping has maybe put me off. I wrote my #40thingsb440 list and included festival and camping as things I wanted to do. I was very excited to be contected a few weeks ago and was asked to go to Standon Calling festival and to experience it as a family.

We jumped at the chance. I showed the boys the pictures of camping, under the sea theme and swimming pool and they were in. Hubby not so keen as he is not a fan of camping and not a fan of the unknown which I will explain more about later.

6-8-16 Standon calling car shot

Packing for 2 days Camping/Festival Life

So off we trotted last Friday with a car packed to bursting point of stuff for camping and festival life. Lovely Mrs Mummypenny readers (thank you Gem, Sarah, Natalie x2, Shelly, Laura, Andy) offered lots of advice on tips and tricks and what to take, which enabled me to write this post last week of our packing list. We were very well prepared.

 

The BEST Bits

  • The atmosphere. Standon Calling in a smallish festival around 30 minutes drive from home in Hertfordshire, near Ware. Despite the small festival point, the headline acts were Jess Glynne, Suede and Kelis! Everyone was super friendly, chilled, chatty, smiley. It felt really safe. It almost felt like an alternative universe were there was none of the nastiness of the world today. From the security staff to the catering staff to the acts to the PR guys, everyone was lovely.6-8-16 Standon calling nightshot of festival
  • The food. This was hubby’s favourite bit and he got to try a lot of different food. There was vegan, pizza, smoothies, burgers, ice-cream vans, waffles, cake shop, coffee shops, Kelis Pop Up ‘Le Bun’. You name it they had it. Even a pop up sit down restaurant. A great selection of food to keep all members of the family happy. For dinner on the Saturday there were 3 of us eating. I had ribeye in brioche from Le Bun, Dylan had a beautiful burger and Josh had bacon, egg muffin bap. From 3 different places and everyone was happy.6-8-16 standon calling le bun
  • The music. I loved the bands and you got to be really close to the stage. On Friday night we were front row for Suede. At one point Brett Anderson climbed into the crowd and stood like 50 cm away from Dylan and I and sang. It was a surreal experience that we both really enjoyed. I really liked Everything Everything on Saturday, and the Hives put on a great show before Suede on the Friday night, although they were a bit shouty. Jess Glynne sounded amazing but at 10:15 start time on Saturday the boys 6-8-16 Standon calling brett anderson seudecar shot 6-8-16 Standon calling asleep for jess glynnecouldn’t keep their eyes open and were shivering so we had to retreat to the tent…slightly gutted about that.
  • The pool. The festival is held in the grounds of the Lordship of Standon and part of the festival is in his garden and pool. It was very safe with limits on number of people in the pool and 2 lifeguards at all times. The boys all loved the pool, really loved it. The queues were annoying, but hey you could sit and chill in the queue whilst the boys ran around playing football/making friends.6-8-16 Standon calling swimming
  • The fancy dress. I wasn’t quite prepared for this. I had brought suitable festival wear. Summer hippy style dresses etc but that was it. So I got glittered up with Go Get Glitter. If you see them at a festival ( I know they will be at Reading) do pop along and get glittered up. And there was face-painting/hair dos galore. My hairdressers Farley’s from Hitchin were there coincidentally and did the most amazing mermaid style up do for me, thank you Michelle. Everywhere you looked people looked so cool from pirates to mermaids to jellyfish to sea monsters. You name it, it was there. The boys and I had fun playing spot Nemo.6-8-16 Standon calling mermaidhair 6-8-16 Standon calling glitter face & DJ
  • The camping. The boys loved it. The adventure, the sleeping arrangements. All the free stuff we got from Aldi from sleeping bags (£19.99) to hammock (£29.99) to blow up sofa (£19.99) to rucksacks to lights. Thank you so much Aldi. We can confirm all items sent were extremely useful, brilliant value and easy to set up. The hammock provided much camp site jealousy. And a place for me to have an afternoon nap on the Saturday and a place to sleep on the sat night. We borrowed a cool blow up tent from friends Gerry & Tracy. No poles, just inflatable bits.6-8-16 Standon calling inflatable tent 6-8-16 Standon calling inflated tent
  • Entertainment for children. There was an amazing children’s area where there was circus skills, walking the plank, street dance, face-painting. The boys spent hours there. All 3 loved it. There was a big wheel and big merry-go-round ride. 6-8-16 Standon calling hammock
  • The well-being area. Had I had a bit more child-free time I would have made full use of this with yoga, massage, reiki and meditation. Next year I will deffo check it out.6-8-16 Standon calling big wheel 6-8-16 Standon calling circus
  • The weather. Apart from a brief downpour in the middle of the Friday night (which did leak into tent) it was a beautiful weekend with sun and warmth. There was no mud, flipflops were fine:-)

The Bad Bits

Life is all about balance and of course not everything was going to be perfect..so here are the bits that we didn’t like.

  • I’ve read lots of stuff about camping, so was prepared for it to be a challenge. But hubby did not enjoy the camping bit. From the carrying of stuff from car to pitch (which wasn’t even that far as we had special press parking tickets). The putting up of tent, apparently the tent pegs were not strong enough. And the sleeping arrangements, hubby did not set up the hammock or yoga mats so ended up sleeping on floor with just sleeping bag. With a hammer through fear of someone coming and attacking us all. The only way hubby would return is if we did glamping/or he just drove back home. Which he did do on the Saturday.
  • The cost of stuff at the festival. We spent around £250 from Friday afternoon to Sunday lunchtime. Everything you bought was expensive. The food was maybe £8 per burger. Coffee was £3. Icecreams were £3. Water was £2. Pint of beer was £5. Fairground rides were £3 a go. We didn’t budget,  we just spent as we wanted and therefore spent a lot. We had however received the tickets free of charge (full weekend camping tiks for 2 adults and 2 children would have been £300, infant was only £5) and the camping stuff was gifted by Aldi (cost of around £150). So we actually had a great weekend for £250, we would have spent more at Haven. They had a great cashless wristband thing which reduced queues, but also made you think less about the cost of things and therefore spend more.
  • The queues for the pool. Luckily we got to the pool as soon as it opened Saturday and Sunday mornings and only had to wait 1 hour to get in. But if you joined at 10 am on the Sunday morning you would have been waiting for 2-3 hours to get into the pool for your 30 minute slot. Not great, but it was very popular. And no one was annoyed about the queues, just chilled out and relaxed!
  • The toilets. Okay so I expecting these to be bad. And they weren’t as bad as they could have been. They were proper toilets with loo roll. But they were smelly and by the afternoon and def evening they were not nice. Dirty/stinky. The cleaning staff did a great job at getting them cleaned up in the mornings, not a nice job.
  • We could have been better prepared food wise. We did take a good supply of Aldi snacks, sausage rolls, crisps, chocolate, fruit, water, beer, cider. But not enough of the right stuff, as the temptation of the food stalls was far more. Lots of people had camping stoves and were boiling up water for tea and cooking bacon. We had none of that. And probably spent £60 on breakfast food! I went on a sugar rampage on the Saturday and ate a huge slice of chocolate cake. This was a huge mistake after eating clean for 5 weeks. The sugar hangover on the Sunday was the worst ever and actually lasted 48 hours. Not great when we were flying to Spain very early on the Monday morning. 48 hours of migrane pain killers were the only solution. And I have learnt that having a huge slice of chocolate cake is so not worth it.
  • 6-8-16 Standon calling octopus 6-8-16 Standon calling jellyfish

Overall all we loved it a lot more than the bad bits. Particularly me and the 2 eldest boys Dylan and Josh. We will absolutely be back, but maybe glamping;-)

A huge thank you to Full Fat media, Molly, Tom and co for the tickets. And thank you to Clarion and Aldi for the camping gear which we couldn’t have done without. If you want to get tickets for next year..join the waiting list for more information. I have added my email address.

Please do share your camping/festival experiences, what was your favourite bit and least favourite bit?