Friday, 20 April 2018

National Citizen Service - A Summer Of Adventure For Teens

Do you have teenagers aged 16 to 17 years? It may be worth looking into the National Citizenship Service so your teen can embark on a summer of adventure!

My teenage boys are rapidly heading towards adulthood, by which time they will be expected to head off into the big wide world - a scary thought! My eldest son is seventeen and the thought of him heading off to university next September is daunting to say the least. Unless he's going to live on beans on toast at uni I really need to help him gain some much needed life skills. Additionally what about all those problems that crop in life that require solving? Will he be confident in social situations? Will he make friends? Basically, will he cope without mum and dad?!! 

You spend lots of time and effort during your teens childhood trying to equip them with the skills required for this giant step, but as the teenage years approach you find (well in my case anyway) that your child who was once happy to listen to your advice, now listens to their peers much more. This new found independence is fab, as long as they are still gaining skills in the process!

This is where the National Citizen Service (NCS) comes into it's own, as your teen will have the chance to gain valuable life skills, as well as having the chance to spend time with their peers in outdoor team building exercises. 

What is NCS?

NCS - National Citizen Service is a government backed programme which was established in 2011. The aim of the NCS is to bring together young people from different backgrounds for a unique shared experience.

NCS is open to all 16 and 17 year olds across England and Northern Ireland. The programme takes place during the summer holidays for the duration of two to four weeks. It is residential and includes outdoor team building tasks, a community based social action project and an end of event celebration.

To date almost 400,000 young people have taken part. Although I personally hadn't heard of NCS, a lot of my friends with teens have, some of which have booked onto programmes this summer.

It would be a fantastic way to spend the summer for teenagers who are currently stressed with their GCSE exams. An excellent way to let off steam and build valuable skills in the process.

NCS is amazing value for money, as the whole experience, including food, accommodation and travel only costs £50! Bursaries are available for families who need them and if your teen has additional needs support is provided. The NCS is certainly inclusive! 

The Four Phases Of The Programme

Phase One - Adventure

During phase one your teen will really challenge themselves. They will spend quality time away from home, staying at an outdoor activity centre. They will meet amazing new young people from different backgrounds and communities. The groups are small - 12 to 15 people. Your teen will participate in outdoor activities such as canoeing and abseiling.

Phase Two - Discovery

During stage two your teen will be reunited with their group in a university style environment. They will develop confidence, leadership skills and communication skills - all very useful for daily life as well as helping towards university applications and compiling CV's.  

Phase Three - Social Action

During stage three your teen will get the opportunity to really "make their mark" by developing and implementing their own social action project. The skills gained during the previous two phases will really help them to make a difference in their local community.

Phase Four - Celebration

This offers your teen the opportunity to celebrate in style! Taking part in the NCS programme also enables your teenager to get exclusive access to future volunteering opportunities, apprenticeships, discounts and big events. 

I'm definitely going to discuss the idea of registering on a NCS programme this summer with my son. It really is a fantastic opportunity.

NCS is committed to finding a place on one of it's programmes for every 16 to 17 year old. Even if you already have commitments for the summer NCS will find a way. There are no barriers to being accepted onto the programme.

There are still places available to take part in this once in a lifetime summer experience. To sign up or for further information go to the National Citizenship Service  website. 

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Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Our Easter Trip To Blackpool And The Big Blue Hotel

Let's face it, the weather this Easter was particularly worse than usual! We decided therefore to book a night away in Blackpool. Probably a bit brave considering the foreseeable forecast showed nothing but consistent rain.

We booked one night at The Big Blue Hotel on Blackpool's South Pier and travelled on a Monday because it was the best price. Blackpool's Easter school holidays fell on a different week to ours in North Yorkshire, so we paid a really good price of £120 for all five of us.

The Big Blue Hotel lived up to it's excellent reputation and we really enjoyed it. The hotel has free parking, which is always a bonus. Every family room sleeps five people and is really geared up towards children, with bunk beds, TV's and even a PS3. The best part was that we could watch people in the pleasure beach on the rollercoasters, which were literally right outside our bedroom window.

Our view from our bedroom window

We were blessed with the weather as it was gloriously sunny when we first arrived. We spent a lovely afternoon walking "the golden mile" to the tower. We stopped at various arcades on the way and went on the log flume. We ate lots of rubbish - mainly hot donuts, ice-cream, rock, chips and fizzy drinks - all of which tasted amazing!

A bit windy as well as sunny. Got a bit wet on the log flume

Amazing sunset
Later we got the tram back to the hotel and visited Prezzo for dinner. It was the first time the children had been on a tram and it was so cheap! £11 for a family of 5, for unlimited travel over 24 hours. We definitely got our money's worth.

Prosecco in our room finished off the evening perfectly.

Next morning we enjoyed a fantastic breakfast at the Big Blue Hotel and headed off into Blackpool again. Unfortunately it was raining. We visited Blackpool Sea life Centre, which was ok. It was very busy, as everyone had the same idea of visiting in order to shelter from the rain! Numerous arcades and a trip to Costa finished off our break, before we headed back to North Yorkshire.

We are now considering booking a couple of nights in The Big Blue Hotel, Blackpool in summer. We didn't visit the Pleasure Beach on this occasion, as the weather was a bit dodgy, but will do next time. 

Yes, Blackpool could be considered a little tacky, but so much fun! The kids loved it and so did we. My husband and I spent many happy days in our childhood visiting Blackpool - so many memories.  

Take plenty of money though - you'll need it, the 2 pence machines soon start to add up!

Top 3 Family Holiday Destinations This Year

As someone with children, I like to try and take them on holiday whenever possible. Understandably, the main problem with family holidays is the cost. It’s expensive enough to go away as a couple, let alone when you add a few more people to the equation. For some, family holidays come along once per year at the most - with summer being the ideal time as the kids are off school for weeks.

Here is an example of some of the best destinations this year.

Lanzarote (Spain)

Lanzarote has long been one of the most popular places to go on holiday with your kids. This year, it’s become better than ever! One of the main things I love about this place is the number of things specifically aimed at kids. Many of the hotels have suites designed for families and come with tennis courts, football schools, and even a kids club. The grown ups can relax in the sun while the children stay entertained nearby. It provides the perfect balance, and the flights are fairly cheap throughout the UK as well. So, if you want to go on holiday while saving money, then Lanzarote is one of your best bets.

Destin (Florida)

You may have expected Florida to be on this list as it’s regularly visited by families across the world. However, I doubt many of you thought Destin would be the port of call. I’ve chosen it because it offers something a little different to the popular Florida family holiday locations, but it’s just as fun. There are big hotels like the Courtyard Sandestin at Grand Boulevard, which is perfect for families to stay in. Then, you have numerous beaches that are family-friendly and great for taking the kids. There’s a marine adventure park, plenty of shops, and loads of tasty restaurants too. In short; it gives you all the things your family needs from a good holiday. As a bonus, you miss out on the massive tourist crowds that plague Orlando.

Algarve (Portugal)

The Algarve is a region in Portugal that’s highly popular for tourists of all ages. It’s a nice place to go as a couple on a romantic holiday, but it’s also perfect for the whole family! Again, it provides your whole family with many attractions and things to do. There are plenty of stunning sandy beaches, and many of the hotels have kids clubs. One of the best things to do is take surfing lessons with your children. Get the whole family down to the shoreline and learn how to surf on the waves! It’s so much fun and helps create a family holiday you’ll always remember.

All three of these places have one thing in common; sunny weather! When you spend a lot of money on a family holiday, you want to get the most out of it. Enjoy the sun, beaches, and plenty of family attractions in all three of these destinations.

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Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Managing your finances like a professional adult: how to save for unexpected expenses

We often find ourselves spending inadequately, with no real financial education to guide us in the right direction. We all make New Year’s resolutions, but they can often be disastrous, with 80% of people failing by February and regretting it instantly — have you managed to stick at yours? One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to cut down on spending, and although this sounds achievable, if you don’t have a fully-pledged strategy in place, the likeliness of failure spirals out of control.

There are many scenarios that you could find yourself in where you have to pull out cash to fix a problem — whether this is a broken boiler or when you need to make a third journey and you’ve only bought a return ticket. It all adds up. For that reason, we’ve made some assessments on how those extra savings can come in handy if something like that was to occur.


Making small changes can result in huge changes — and you should start off with the way you travel. Using a megarider ticket from Stagecoach, who offer cheap bus pass prices, you will be able to travel as much as you want and can tailor your own needs to the ticket type. Whether you’re in need of a weekly bus pass for your travels, or a monthly one — you will find yourself making a huge saving in comparison to buying a ticket every day.

£168,880 is the price you will pay over your lifetime when owning your own vehicle in the UK. With efficiency growing in public transport, there is no reason for you not to consider making the bold move that could help you fulfil your resolution this year and save you a fortune.

The biggest contributor to this sum is the cost of petrol, and although the price fluctuates over time, the average yearly cost comes to £1,052.04. Servicing a vehicle costs can add up to £441 over a twelve-month period — which can change depending on the individual’s situation. MOTs can cost up to £168.46 annually. Cost of parking is on the rise, and with more vehicles on the roads, there seems to be a higher demand. Over the year, a motorist can find themselves paying £145.80 on parking. When it comes to insurance, this can sway dramatically as younger drivers will find themselves paying a higher cost to be on the road — on average, insurance costs an experience driver £436 every year. Tax can equate to £116.35 on a yearly basis. Car supplies can cost a driver £29.61 and if you were to go abroad and wished to drive, holiday rental cars can leave you £180 out of pocket. Speeding tickets equal £25.12 for the average driver here in the UK. This would cost a driver £2,594.38 in total where commuters find themselves paying considerably less for a significant service — imagine the saving you would make with a megarider ticket!

Lifestyle costs

Making savings by making lunch

Lunch breaks are becoming costly, with many people finding it the easier option to buy lunch on-the-go. But what if we told you that, on average, forking out for lunch every day could cost you £1,288 according to research carried out by VoucherCloud. Evidently, you could make a huge saving by preparing your lunch at home — whether this is making a quick sandwich or taking in a tin of microwavable soup to heat up. When we looked at the total working days in 2017, there was 252 — if we went by Poundland’s price of tomato soup, which is 50p, you would find yourself paying £126! A massive saving for anyone looking to cut down on costs.

Making savings by making coffee

Brits visit coffee shops at a minimum of three times per week on average, according to MyVoucherCodes — and it’s becoming an unavoidable problem, with over 21,000 stores in the country. This means that Brits visit coffee shops around 156 times a year with an average spend of £8.52 — with travel expenses, this could go up to £13.85. This creates an annual average spending of £2,600, a majority of which could be saved if you were to opt for taking your own coffee to work.

People opt for coffee shops because they prefer branded coffee — but calculations show that if you were to buy a 250g pack of Douwe Egberts ground coffee, you could make a total of 30 cups. When looking to see how much a 1kg pack would cost, Amazon has priced the coffee at around £15, meaning that each cup of coffee would cost close to 13p. Try taking a flask to work and even purchasing an on-the-go coffee cup that will see you through your day.

Making savings by quitting smoking
As the average price of a packet of 20 cigarettes is now £10.40, you could make a yearly saving of £3,796 if you smoked one packet every day — this huge saving should be the encouragement for you to quit. has stated that non-smokers pay around £6,309 less for life insurance, which could be something worth investing in for the new year.

Many smokers are turning to the vaping craze, to help them quit for good and safe money in the long run. 10ml bottles of liquid cost around £5 on average — saving those who turn to vaping around £1,900.

Expenses that you could incur

Out of 2,000 people asked on a survey, over half said that they experienced an unexpected expense in the home. On average, these costs totalled £248.70 — showing that any saving is beneficial for occurrences like these. 47% of these issues happened in the kitchen, a room which is essential to the day-to-day running of any home, and if you don’t have the money to pull out instantly, it could cause an everyday stress. Using the savings you would have made by taking your own lunch and coffee to work, quitting smoking, and travelling smarter — you will be able to make life easier. It was also found that 35% of people had to use a credit card to cover the costs of unexpected expenses. With 18% of them not being able to pay more than £100 on their own, 17% had to borrow from friends and family!

How will you be saving money this year?


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Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Five Super Simple Money Saving Tips For Your Family

Everyone knows that children are expensive, but no one knows quite how expensive they can be until they have a houseful themselves. No parent wants to be living pay check to pay check, so it makes sense to find savings where you can and get your finances in order. More often than not, this is a lot easier said than done, but there are a few simple things that you can do to start saving some money. Here are some tips to help your family save some money.

1. Be Organised When Shopping
When it comes to your weekly food shop, it pays to be as organised as you possibly can be. Make sure that you have a list of everything that you need, and stick to your list as much as you can. You should also take any coupons or vouchers you have collected with you, as they could be useful. If you haven’t got any coupons, visit and see if they have any that you find useful.

2. Use Your Loyalty Cards
If you have a loyalty card for your favourite supermarket, make sure that you use it every single time you shop. You might not benefit from it right away, but every time you shop you collect points which can be converted to money off voucher later on. If there is an app for your loyalty programme, make sure that you have it and check it, as lots of retailers put exclusive discounts on their apps.

3. Never Buy A New Car
Buying a new car has a lot of drawbacks, most obviously the huge cost, so, if you really want to save money, you need to realise that a new car isn’t necessary. Leasing a car from a company like is much cheaper each month, so makes a lot more sense. However, buying a used car might fit your family better, especially if you have small children that like to spill things on the seats.

4. Drive When You Travel
If you’re heading off on your summer holidays, have a long think about how you’re going to get to your destination. If you’re not travelling too far away, you might want to consider ditching the air travel plans and go by car instead, especially if you have a few children. This saves you money on plane tickets and means that you have a car while you’re away, so you don’t have to pay out for public transport.

5. Eliminate Non-Essential Subscriptions
If you want to save some serious money, then you need to review what you’re spending money on every single month. If there’s a subscription that you regularly pay out for but rarely use, you should consider giving it the chop. This could be anything from your landline to your gym membership. After all, there’s no point wasting money when you can use it elsewhere.

Saving money while running a busy household can be difficult, but it certainly isn’t impossible, and with these tips, you should find it to be a lot simpler.

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