How to travel stress free this Christmas


Travelling at Christmas when you're spending the festive season with loved ones can be an apprehensive time as no-one wants to miss out on Christmas day. No matter how prepared you are, there's always something that can go wrong when you're relying on different modes of transport and with Christmas being the busiest time of year, you're competing with thousands of other people all wanting to get home to their families too. 

Today I've put together a short guide on how to travel stress-free this Christmas so that you can sit back, enjoy your journey and spend more time thinking about the things that truly matter.

Book in advance

When you're travelling at busy times, always book as much as possible in advance so that you don't have to waste time waiting around or miss out due to people queuing in front of you.  Booking in advance is particularly important during the festive time as there might be limited services due to restricted opening hours.

Give yourself plenty of time

Give yourself plenty of extra time in between your bookings to allow for any delays that may occur in between your journeys.  It may mean waiting around if you're earlier, but it is better than missing your connection altogether.

Check your flights regularly

If you are flying, make sure you check your flights regularly for any delays or cancellations. Ryanair has already announced that they are going on strike this Christmas and with the UK experiencing severe weather warnings regularly at the moment, there's a small chance that flights could get disrupted over the next few weeks.

Research the area you are travelling to

Research the area that you are travelling to so that you can see where will be open around Christmas to avoid any disappointment. Each country or area will have their own Christmas traditions, many places will stay open, but some may have limited open hours or shut entirely so that people can celebrate the festivities with their families.

Have a backup plan

Although the chances of your travels being cancelled are very slim, it's always important to consider the 'what ifs' when travelling at busy, wintery times.  Consider having a backup plan if something does go wrong so that you still have a way of spending Christmas with the ones you love.

Have you flown over Christmas before?
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How to get financially savvy in 2018 with Squirrel


When you're looking to save money, it can be really difficult to get started, especially when you're so used to having easy access to your debit or credit cards and there's peer pressure from the people around you to spend, spend, spend. It takes so much determination to fight back and say 'I can do this', but believe me, you can do it. A year and a half ago, I was a completely different person to who I am today financially. I would spend hundreds of pounds on clothes I would only wear once, I only cared about labels and going more than a week without a meal out or a night out would seem like an enternity. I was given a considerable amount on my 18th birthday from inheritance and although parts of it went towards university and my car, a huge amount of it was wasted on frivilous items.

One day it just dawned on me that I really needed to get my financial act together - I was surrounded by friends who were suddenly getting mortgages and I had £1 in my savings account. Together with my husband, we have saved harder than ever over the last twelve months and our determination has paid off so much that we have enough savings to potentially purchase our first new home. It has been easier than both of us expected and we were still able to buy clothes and eat out on a regular basis, we just learnt that everything is about moderation.

Squirrel is an easy to use bank app that keeps your savings safe so that you don't dip into them when you feel like impulsive spending and today I've teamed up with them to create this guide on how to get financially savvy in 2018. Below are just a few tips that will hope inspire you to start saving and show you that it really isn't that difficult once you get into the swing of things.

Set a goal

Firstly set your goal. Although you don't necessarily need to be saving up for something particular, it does help when you have a goal in mind. Maybe you need to start driving lessons or fancy a holiday? Or it could be something bigger like a house deposit. When you're saving for something that is potentially life changing, it's so exciting watching your savings account going up.

Make small changes each month

You don't need to rush head first into saving and cancel all your plans for the next month, making small changes such as cutting back on your weekly coffee will soon add up. Have a look at all your outgoings each month and pick a few things that you could possibly live without and try to cut back on a few of them, gradually building up as each month goes by.

Set up a direct debit on payday to your savings account

To stop yourself from immediately spending all your wages, set up a recourring direct debit on payday to your savings account. You can always start small and gradually increase the payments when you feel like you are getting used to saving. Alternatively, if you have a Squirrel account, their app will automatically deduct your savings for you, saving you the hassle. All you need to do is get your employer to send your wages to your squirrel account, input your incomings and outgoings and then Squirrel will release your spending money and keep back your allocated saving money.

Set a realistic deadline

Set yourself a realistic deadline for your savings by evaluating how much money you need, when you need it by and consider how much stress you would be putting yourself under saving the money.  Trying to save money too fast could put a lot of financial pressure on yourself and saving money too slow can distract you and make you more tempted to spend.

Give yourself monthly challenges

To give yourself the best chance of succeeding in your savings goals, regularly check your account and set yourself monthly goals and challenges. If you account is at £50, try and encourage yourself to make it up to £100 by the end of the month. It will make saving fun and test your money saving skills.

Reward yourself

Life is too short to not allow yourself to go out once in awhile or buy the odd dress. If you don't allow treats when you're saving, it will make it feel like a chore. Consider treating yourself when you get to certain milestones so that you are actively trying to save, but you can  have the pleasure of shopping too.

What are you financial goals next year?


*Collaborative post


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How to deal with first time buyers anxiety


Buying a house is a life-changing decision and although for the most part, it is exciting, it can also be very overwhelming and incredibly daunting. However prepared you are, there's always going to be moments where you doubt yourself and when you're buying a house, you're constantly leaping from one obstacle to another until the final documents are signed. From saving the deposit to weighing up fees, it can be a lot of pressure and it takes a lot of true 'adulting' to get through it.

After twelve months of saving like crazy and being total recluses, my husband and I have finally reached the point where we are ready to buy a house. We have been to the bank and got 'our mortgage in principle' and the wheels are now in motion with the house we are looking to buy.  It has been a few months of leaps and hurdles with worrying about saving enough cash to wondering whether everything will fall through at last minute, we really have been through the motions of 'first-time buyers' anxiety and we're only inches into the process.

Anxiety is nothing to be afraid of speaking about and when you're dealing with such a big decision and parting with a lot of money, it is completely normal. However, it is not spoken about as much as it should be. Today I thought I would share with you the emotions that I have been feeling during the preliminary stages of buying a house and a few tips on how to make things easier. 

Talk to other people around you

If you're feeling concerned or worried, talk to those around you who have recently bought a house or own their home. My friends and family have been incredibly supportive and given me so much advice from their experiences that I wouldn't have been able to find out via Google. 

Believe in yourself

It's easier said than done, but try to believe in yourself and tell yourself you can do this. If someone said to me that I would be able to go from having zero savings to a house deposit in a year, I would have laughed at them, but we did it.

Stay organised

Whether it is saving the deposit or trying to organise bank appointments, try to keep on top of your workload by writing to do to lists and checking each one off at a time. Always make sure you have printouts of where you are financially and keep a check on your records.

Focus on what is important

Everyone has different circumstances when it comes to buying a house and different things they are looking for when buying their dream home. Always focus on what is important to you and follow your gut feeling.

Don't let the fear jeopardise your excitement

A few weeks ago I said to a friend that I was anxious about starting the buying process and she turned around and said 'it should be one of the most exciting times of your life' and she was right.  Buying a house will always be stressful, but you should always focus on the excitement too - after all you're buying your dream home and starting a new future for yourself.

What are your tips for nervous first-time buyers?










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Four ways to give your home a luxury hotel vibe


When I walk into a hotel room, the first thing that often pops into my head is 'I wish I had a room like this at home." Hotel rooms are designed with comfort and luxury in mind to allow the visitor to escape from their troubles and have a nice and relaxing stay at their new home from home. Luxury boutique hotels focus heavily simple, yet unique interior design pieces so you will look back on your visit and remember the hotel fondly.  

Although luxury hotels may have a hefty price tag, you don't need to spend that much money to recreate the look at home. Incorporating a few new accessories into your interior design will help you get that 'boutique hotel vibe' on a budget.

Add Pillows and throws

To give your home a luxury hotel vibe, accessorise with pillows and throws to add texture and create a cosy, comfortable feel. You can experiment by adding pillows with different prints on them to give each room character.

Give your room a detox

When you're at home it is very easy to for rooms to get cluttered and for us to throw things in different corners and hoard items we no longer need. Give your room a detox and get rid of the items you no longer use so that you're able to create sleek, minimalist surroundings.


Freshen the room with candles

Hotel rooms are cleaned on a daily basis, therefore they always smell and feel fresh. To give your room that 'just cleaned' feeling, opt for candles or room diffusers that will fill the room with fragrance. Voluspa candles are used in hotel rooms worldwide and are known for their powerful scents. This Amarantha and Jasmine candle from Amara smells floral fresh and exotic and would be the perfect addition to any home.

Look for statement pieces

To add character to each of your rooms, look for statement pieces to brighten up corners of the room that look overly spacious or empty shelves that could do with a bit of attention. You can do this by looking for antiques, recycling old furniture to give them a new lease of life, adding different ornaments or by adding flowers. One of my favourite new household items is this Cote Noire faux flower ornament, again from Amara. This particular ornament has a really luxurious look with gold detailing on the front and glossy black vase. Not only does it look good, but it also smells fantastic too as it comes with two little bottles of perfume to freshen up the flowers.


What would you do to recreate your favourite hotel room?

*contains pr samples






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A Vegan Christmas Gift Guide


Buying Christmas presents can be challenging on the best of days, nevermind if someone has a specific dietary requirement or request. Veganism is growing in popularity amongst the UK, but there's still quite a lot of people who don't quite understand what it is, therefore buying a vegan gift can be difficult. There are lots to consider when buying a vegan present from whether it has any animal products in it to whether it is ethical or cruelty-free. It can also be quite daunting for vegans telling their non-vegan family members what to buy them as we don't want to come across as unappreciative, but we also don't want people buying us items that we wouldn't use. 

In this post, I've put together a few gift suggestions for vegans based on my favourite all time products, as well recommendations from a few vegan brands. 


Chocolate
When buying chocolate for someone who is vegan it is always important to check the ingredients to make sure that the chocolate does not have milk, lactose or honey in it. There are quite a few dark chocolates on the high street such as Green and Blacks that are vegan but always look at the packaging to make sure. My favourite budget-friendly chocolate at the moment is the online confectionary brand, Goupie*. The brand has 13 out of 17 flavours on their website that are vegan, including two Christmas flavours and prices start at £4.00. The chocolates are incredibly chewy with a lovely crunchy centre and they are perfect for those who are not overly keen on dark chocolate as they are not as rich as other chocolates on the market.


If you're looking for a luxury chocolate brand, these Paxton Chocolate* 'Deliciously Dark Thins' would be the perfect treat. These chocolates are vegan and gluten-free and include a selection of thin chocolates coated with apple and ginger, mango and paprika, raspberry and mint and strawberry and black pepper. Prices start from £7.50 for a small box and go to up £25 for a large box.


Vegan hampers

Hampers are always a great present choice and you can make your own hampers from scratch incorporating a few of your friends or loved ones favourite items or buy them pre-made.  Traditional pre-made hampers won't be vegan as they usually include milk chocolate and honey, however, there's a lot of brands online that are now doing vegan specific hampers. If the person you are buying for loves cooking and Italian food, the five-minute meal kit from Vorrei* would be the perfect present to put under their tree. The hamper costs £55 and includes authentic Italian pasta, risottos and sauces. The kit is quite extensive with three different types of pasta, two risottos, dried vegetables, basil pesto, pasta sauces, chilli oil, truffles and it comes in a presentation box topped with a green ribbon so that you don't need to do any wrapping. This kit is perfect for those who love cooking but don't have enough time spare to do it.


Vegan slogan t-shirts

Some vegans are really passionate about their diet and animals, therefore a t-shirt with a slogan on it could make the perfect Christmas presents. Slogan t-shirts allow the wearer to showcase their personality and shows that the gift-buyer has put a lot of thought into what they have bought you. I picked up this one recently at a vegan fair and it really sums me up in those few sentences. This particular t-shirt has been made from organic, fair trade cotton and cost me £25.


Vegan cookbooks

Whether the person that you're buying a present for has just turned vegan or they have been vegan for several months or years, everyone still needs recipe inspiration from time to time. My all-time favourite cookbooks are by Masterchef finalist Jackie Kearney. These recipes are packed full of flavour with dishes she has put together from her travels around the world. I use these cookbooks at least once a week and wouldn't be without them. The books cost £16.99 each and they are full of meals that your friend or loved one will never get bored of. These books are my best purchases in a long time.


Alcohol

Not all alcohol is vegan and in fact, not all alcohol is vegetarian either. A lot of booze is filtered using fish bladders, but legally they don't have to declare this. If you're looking for a boozy vegan gift this Christmas, check out Barnivore where you can check out which alcohol is vegan and which isn't. As a general rule, most Gins are vegan and therefore I decided to add this little Sipsmith Gin kit to the Christmas list. There are three types of Gin in a beautiful gift set and this is only £10.



Experiences

Experiences are a great gift to give someone as it allows them to do something that they may not have the money or chance to do and the memories from that gift will last a lot longer than a box of chocolate. These days there are lots of different experiences you can buy from spa days to skydiving, afternoon tea to weekend breaks, available from websites such as Prezzybox*. If you're buying an experience day for a vegan friend or family, just remember to check to see if they have vegan alternatives if it is to do with food or that the activity is cruelty-free.


Are you buying any vegan gifts this year?



*This post contains some PR samples





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