It will be 6 years ago in January, that we went to Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, for our honeymoon. Just before we got married I was living down in Surrey as I’d started a new job there and Mike was studying in Guildford. The wedding was going to be back in North Yorkshire so there was a lot of weekend trips and travelling here, there and everywhere!
After the busy times leading up to the wedding and then the wedding day itself, whilst fabulous and lovely, its very long and tiring, it was so nice to know we would be heading out, the very next day, for a two week stay in the Caribbean. It was also pretty nice to be getting away to somewhere hot when it was otherwise a cold and wet January in the UK.
The flight was around 8 hours which was totally fine by us – meant lots of time to sleep and watch films. We both enjoy flying quite a lot (for me in particular, the plane food – I love all the little trays and boxes it all comes in – sad)? The 5* all inclusive resort was amazing and I would love to go back there again with the kids. As it would be the kind of thing we’d have to save up for to go, the kids would be a bit older so would hopefully appreciate it more! There were lots of different kinds of restaurants, including Chinese, bbq grill, buffets and French. No wonder we both put on nearly half a stone on that holiday – ha! There were several pools to use and swim-up pool bars, all set close to gorgeous beaches. Literally paradise.
We did a few little excursions too (two weeks of pure pool and beach would be a bit much for me). We took a boat trip to ‘Paradise Island’ where we went snorkelling and you could see Haiti from it. A really small island, with super white sand beaches. This place was amazing and the guide would swim really far down and bring up cool shells or anemones.
There was another boat trip we took out to the banana plantation areas. We also went to a ‘Sea World’ type of place (Ocean World) and we swam with sting rays and sharks and were part of the shark show. Literally, one of the scariest things I’ve ever done! Ticked off on the bucket list though. We also went quad biking out in the sugar plantation areas and along the beach. I remember just laughing my head off nearly the whole time – it was so much fun!
I would recommend this type of holiday to anyone. I will remember this holiday forever. So nice to chill in such a beautiful surrounding, with my hunky hubs, and not have to think about cooking or cleaning, for two weeks anyway!
*This post is an entry for the #Flying100 Family Holiday Challenge, celebrating how flying allows us to make memories and ‘be there’, in association with #Flying100. Find out more at http://bit.ly/flying100
So this is literally the quickest (minus the cooking part) and easiest thing ever. I just put it all in the slow cooker before going to bed and then yummy warm porridge is all ready for me as soon as I wake up. Nothing better in these cold mornings, and bonus that it saves time. With only two ingredients, that you probably already have in the cupboard, its super cheap too.
Slow Cooker Porridge
- 1 cup wholegrain porridge oats
- 4 cups water or milk
- Optional: sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg or dried fruits
I don’t mind porridge with water so have made it with 4 cups of water. Sometimes though I do 2 cups almond milk and 2 cups water. Use whatever combination you like and whatever milk you usually use.
- Measure out the oats and put in the slow cooker.
- Pour in the 4 cups of water / milk and stir.
- Add the spices if using and / or dried fruits if using and stir again.
- Cook on low for 8 hours overnight.
- Serve as is, or add berries and maple syrup, to taste.
Simples! It is always a big hit in our house. What is your favourite thing to have for breakfast?
With kids it can seem that the spending is endless. Nappies and what feels like buying new clothes every other week to accommodate growing little people. It can feel like you will never be able to save any money for a rainy day, let alone a mortgage.
We are in a very lucky position to be able to own our own home so I thought I would share ten little things, that can be big things, to help you to save money with a growing family and help to get on the property ladder.
- Prioritise – I know it can be easier said than done but you really have to think about what is important. Of course there are certain necessities but there are a lot of things that aren’t. Yes, it’s lovely to be able to go on holiday and have your highlights done every month but if you are serious about saving for a mortgage, perhaps you go without for a few years. Or, once you’ve worked out how much you can set aside each month for savings, then use that for ‘fun stuff’. But it should be prioritised and if saving more is important to you, budget for your savings first.
- Needs vs Wants – It can be so hard, when you’re out and about and see that killer pair of heels that just have to have. But, if you are serious about a mortgage, then something like that is just a want. I’m not saying never buy new shoes here, but unless you have some that are falling apart, and therefore you need new shoes, then just walk on by. This goes for things like Christmas and birthdays too. If you haven’t got enough in the budget for a ‘big’ birthday party, then simply, don’t have one. Imagine how nice it will be when you’re sat in your own home instead :)
- Open a Savings Account for Your Kids – It’s a common myth that kids don’t pay tax. This isn’t true, as they are taxed in the same way as adults. This means in the tax year each child can earn up to £10,000 tax-free from savings or investments (or salary if they’re teenagers). The thing is though, unlike most adults, most children don’t use up their allowance, so their savings interest is tax-free. Make sure you shop around for the best account and you could be earning up to 4 – 6% interest.
- Be Thrifty – there are lots of things that around the home you can be doing cheaply. I’m not talking mega-bucks here but think for example, cleaning products. Buying cleaning wipes and various different cleaners can cost several pounds a month. However, using distilled white vinegar as a surface, floor and mould cleaner, can cost less than 50p per month. Pinterest has some great links for homemade cleaners and fabric softeners. This can also go for food shopping – homemade will cost a lot less in the long run.
- Which Type of Mortgage – there are three different kinds of mortgage so its good to know which one will work best for your family and before setting your family budget, it will determine how much you will need to save.
- Repayment Mortgage – you pay the interest and part of the capital off every month. At the end of the term, typically 25 years, you should manage to have paid it all off and own your home.
- Interest-Only Mortgage – you pay only the interest on the loan and nothing off the capital (the amount you borrowed). You will have to have a separate plan for how you will repay the original loan at the end of the mortgage term.
- Combination Mortgage – You can ask your lender if you can combine both options, splitting your mortgage loan between a repayment and interest-only mortgage.
- Register to Vote – I didn’t know this until we were looking at houses our self, but even if you have a perfect credit score, if you aren’t on the electoral roll, it will pretty much be impossible to get a mortgage. Lenders use electoral roll data in identity checks so they know you are who you say you are, and live where you say you live etc.
- Single Parent? – if you are saving and have split from a spouse or partner, your ex’s credit score can still affect yours. If you are completely split from each other then make sure you write to the credit agencies and ask for a notice of ‘disassociation’. If not, any late payments they make on a credit card for example, will reflect on you too. Shame but it’s true.
- Check Your Credit Score – there are several free ways online to check your credit score which I think is of paramount importance. Then if there are any errors, you can have them corrected or at least have your say, which will be noted.
- Use Free Selling Sites – there are lots of free selling sites so have a clear out of anything you don’t use anymore. Baby clothes and equipment you won’t be needing again? An old exercise bike working as a clothes horse? Get them sold. You can search on Facebook for selling sites in your town or area – I think these are great and think more and more people are using them over something like eBay. The important thing though, is to put that money aside and straight into your savings.
- Use Childcare Vouchers – this is a tax efficient way of paying for pre-school or nursery care as it it taken from your pre-tax income. Speak to your employer about the vouchers as pretty much most companies are part of the scheme.
When you are finally looking at mortgages, ‘shop around’ for the best rates, including a lender like Santander, and see what suits your family best. Getting at least three ‘quotes’ is recommended, then you can choose what is the best option for you.
Good luck saving!
*Post in collaboration with Santander.